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Danger of a Wider War?

While Taliban troops lay down their weapons in the northern Afghan enclave Kunduz, Bush hints at the possibility of a war against terrorism beyond Afghan borders.


President Bush addresses soldiers in Kentucky: "Afghanistan is just the beginning of the war against terror"

Taliban forces in the northern Afghan stronghold Kunduz agreed on Thursday to surrender.

Taliban militia and Northern Alliance forces held negotiations overnight. Senior Northern Alliance commander General Abdul Rashid Distum met with Taliban commanders in the nearby city of Mazar-i-Sharif to discuss terms of surrender.

The Taliban say their troops - an estimated 10,000 - are now ready to lay down their weapons. Reuters quoted Taliban commander Mullah Faizal as saying that all his forces - both Afghans and foreigners - would surrender.

Taliban defectors and Alliance troops have said that Afghan Taliban fighters in Kunduz wanted to give up prior to the agreement, but were made to carry on fighting.

The Taliban troops are thought to include Arab, Chechan and Pakistani fighters. The debate over foreign troops sympathetic with the Al Quaida network is a particulary sore point. The foreign volunteers fear summary justice if captured. But a spokesman from the US-led coalition played down their fears if they agreed to surrender.

Fighting has been going on for a week in Kunduz. But Alliance commander Abdul Rashid Distum predicted that the fighting in and around Kunduz would soon come to an end: "I can say that the question of Kunduz and the whole Taliban, including Arabs and other groups, will be concluded," he said.

The latest developments in Kunduz leave the Taliban militia's southern spiritual heartland around the city of Kandahar the Taliban's last real bastion in the country.

At current, Taliban troops defending their last main stronghold of Kandahar are coming under heavy fire from U.S. air raids and ambushes by local tribesmen.

A war beyond Afghan borders?

But for the United States, there is more at stake than the surrender of the last major Taliban strongholds. During a pre-Thanksgiving visit to a major U-S military base, US President George W Bush vowed that all members of the Al Quaida network would be brought to justice.

"Afghanistan is just the beginning of the war against terror," Bush told thousands of soldiers at a military base in Kentucky. "There are other nations who will not be secure until their threat is dealt with," he said.

His statement is a strong hint that the war against terror could be widened to countries other than Afghanistan.

Still searching Bin Laden

Meanwhile, the US is still hunting down Bin Laden, sealing off any potential escape routes.

A Taliban spokesman said they had no idea where Bin Laden was.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told CBS news that he would prefer Osama Bin Laden dead rather than alive.