Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has surrendered the city of Kandahar, the Taliban’s last bastion and spiritual stronghold in Afghanistan. But Omar’s whereabouts, as well as that of Osama bin Laden, remains unknown.
The dawning of a new day for Afghanistan
In the words of Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban’s days as a political force are over.
"I think we should go home," the Taliban’s former ambassador to Pakistan said, announcing the deal to surrender Kandahar.
But there was confusion in Washington about the terms of the deal. An offer of amnesty was given to Mullah Omar by Hamid Karzai, leader of Afghanistan's new interim government.
"Omar must denounce terrorism and make it explicitly clear that terrorism has brutalised Afghan society and destroyed our country. That is our demand", Karzai said.
Karzai then said Omar had missed the deadline to comply with his demands and that he will now hand over Taliban leaders to "international justice."
But he had not discussed his amnesty proposal with Washington, adding that it was "an Afghan question".
US calls the shots
However, the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, made clear, that an amnesty for Omar was out of the question. He said that terms for any Taliban surrender had to have US approval.
"We would prefer to have Omar", Rumsfeld said.
But the whereabouts of the elusive Omar, who had been urging his warriors to fight to the death rather than give up Kandahar, is unknown.
According to a report by the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press agency, Omar has left Kandahar.
Mission goes on
The Taliban-regime has crumbled after two months of relentless bombing by the US. They have been ousted from all but a few remote pockets of the country.
Bin Laden's main base in the Tora Bora mountains has also been captured, Anti-Taliban forces said. But they have so far failed to find Osama bin Laden, the man blamed for the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 4,000 people in the United States.
Military operations will now focus on the mountains in eastern Afghanistan, where many al Queda fighters remain at large and where Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding.
So the mission is far from over. And only when the world’s most wanted man is either captured or killed, can it be considered a success.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council endorsed the Bonn agreement on a interim government, but deferred a decision on authorising an international military force to support it. It is expected to return to that issue soon.