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Context of 'November 9, 2001: Taliban Loses Control of Northern Afghanistan'

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Five days before the 9/11 attacks, US citizen John Walker Lindh arrives on the front line of Taliban forces in the region of Takhar in the north of Afghanistan in order to engage in battle against the Northern Alliance. (Prepared Statement of John Walker Lindh to the Court. United States of America v. John Walker Lindh 10/4/2002)

The Northern Alliance, under the direction of General Dostum and with US support, manage to break through the Taliban line in Kunduz, eventually leading to the surrender of Taliban forces. (United States of America v. John Walker Lindh 6/13/2002 pdf file)

The Taliban abandon the strategic northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, allowing the Northern Alliance to take control. (Kugler 8/19/2002) The Taliban abandons the rest of Northern Afghanistan in the next few days, except the city of Kunduz, where most of the Taliban flee. Kunduz falls on November 25, but not before most of the thousands of fighters there are airlifted out (see November 14-25, 2001). (Hersh 1/21/2002)

Northern Alliance forces entering Kabul. One holds a poster of recently assassinated Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud.Northern Alliance forces entering Kabul. One holds a poster of recently assassinated Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. [Source: Getty Images] (click image to enlarge)Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, falls to the Northern Alliance. The Taliban will abandon the rest of the country over the next few weeks. (BBC 11/13/2001) The US and Pakistan did not want the Northern Alliance to conquer Kabul for ethnic and strategic regions. But after a change in US bombing tactics, the Taliban front line unexpectedly and suddenly collapsed, making this conquest all but inevitable (see October-Early November 2001). It is later reported that the US paid about $70 million in bribes to get dozens of Taliban leaders to surrender or change sides. This is credited with assisting the sudden collapse of Taliban forces. (Bushell 2/7/2002; Woodward 11/18/2002)

At the request of the Pakistani government, the US secretly allows rescue flights into the besieged Taliban stronghold of Kunduz, in Northern Afghanistan, to save Pakistanis fighting for the Taliban (and against US forces) and bring them back to Pakistan. Pakistan’s President “Musharraf won American support for the airlift by warning that the humiliation of losing hundreds—and perhaps thousands—of Pakistani Army men and intelligence operatives would jeopardize his political survival.” (Hersh 1/21/2002) Dozens of senior Pakistani military officers, including two generals, are flown out. (Hersh 2/21/2003) In addition, it is reported that the Pakistani government assists 50 trucks filled with foreign fighters to escape the town. (Filkins and Gall 11/24/2001) Many news articles at the time suggest an airlift is occurring. (Huggler 11/16/2001; Filkins and Gall 11/24/2001; George 11/26/2001; Tanner 11/26/2001; Campbell 11/27/2001; Moran 11/29/2001) Significant media coverage fails to develop, however. The US and Pakistani governments deny the existence of the airlift. (US Department of State 11/16/2001; Hersh 1/21/2002) On December 2, when asked to assure that the US did not allow such an airlift, Rumsfeld says, “Oh, you can be certain of that. We have not seen a single—to my knowledge, we have not seen a single airplane or helicopter go into Afghanistan in recent days or weeks and extract people and take them out of Afghanistan to any country, let alone Pakistan.” (MSNBC 4/13/2003) Reporter Seymour Hersh believes that Rumsfeld must have given approval for the airlift. (Hersh 2/21/2003) However, The New Yorker magazine reports, “What was supposed to be a limited evacuation 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.” A CIA analyst says, “Many of the people they spirited away were in the Taliban leadership” who Pakistan wanted for future political negotiations. US intelligence was “supposed to have access to them, but it didn’t happen,” he says. According to Indian intelligence, airlifts grow particularly intense in the last three days before the city falls on November 25. Of the 8,000 remaining al-Qaeda, Pakistani, and Taliban, about 5,000 are airlifted out and 3,000 surrender. (Hersh 1/21/2002) Hersh later claims that “maybe even some of bin Laden’s immediate family were flown out on those evacuations.” (Hersh 2/21/2003)

A mass grave dug up near Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.
A mass grave dug up near Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. [Source: Physicians for Human Rights]Even as the US is allowing some Taliban and al-Qaeda to secretly fly out of Kunduz, Afghanistan (see November 14-25, 2001), it allows a brutal massacre of those who had to stay behind. The Glasgow Sunday Herald later says, “It seems established, almost beyond doubt, that US soldiers oversaw and took part in horrific crimes against humanity,” which resulted in the death of thousands of Taliban supporters who surrendered after Kunduz fell to the Northern Alliance. The documentary, Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death, exposes this news widely in Europe, but the massacre goes virtually unreported in the US. (Mackay 6/16/2002)


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