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January 22, 2002
1440 IST

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Thousands of Pak officials in Kunduz evacuated: Report

Pakistan, with the approval of the United States, evacuated from Afghanistan's Kunduz thousands of its military and intelligence advisers who had been working with the Taliban last November, a news magazine report has said.

President Pervez Musharraf won American support for the evacuation by warning that losing a large number of Pakistanis would jeopardise his political survival, the New Yorker Magazine, quoting US officials, said.

The evacuation, the report said, had been conceived of as a limited operation, but it "apparently slipped out of control" and, as an unintended consequence, an unknown number of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters managed to join in the exodus.

One American defence adviser said: "Everyone brought friends with them. You are not going to leave them behind to get their throats cut."

"Dirt got through the screen," another US official said.

Indian intelligence official put the number of escaped Pakistani officers and fighters at four or five thousand. American intelligence officials put the total far lower, but they added that "the Bush administration may have done more than simply acquiesce in the rescue effort".

The evacuation occurred in a series of night time airlifts via a corridor left open by the US for the Pakistanis, according to a military analyst who had worked with the Delta Special Force.

The flights occurred, the report said, from Kunduz to the northwest corner of Pakistan.

PTI

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