TOPICS > Nation

Military Campaign

December 3, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT


JULIAN RUSH: John Walker is 20. Originally from America’s capital, Washington, D.C., he now calls himself Abdul Hamid. He studied Arabic in the Yemen. When he came to Afghanistan six months ago, he told his parents he was to be an aid worker. But he wanted to join the Taliban. He went to Kabul, where the Taliban sent him to Osama bin Laden’s training camps for Arab fighters because he didn’t speak Pashtun. He says he saw bin Laden many times. It is an odd journey from Washington, D.C., to surviving the massacre of Galai Jangee Fort in its dank, flooded tunnels, bombed by his own countrymen.

JOHN WALKER: I was a student in Pakistan, studying Islam. And I came into contact with many people who were connected with the Taliban. I lived in the region, in the northwest frontier province. The people there in general have a great love for the Taliban. So I started to read some of the literature of the scholars and the history of the movement and Islam. My heart became attached to that.

JULIAN RUSH: He saw action first on the front line north of Kabul, then in Tahar Province, East of Kunduz. He was part of the Taliban’s disorganized retreat to Kunduz, where he eventually surrendered.

JOHN WALKER: When we withdrew from Tahar, we walked by foot maybe more than a hundred miles. Afterwards, I was very sick for the whole period.

JULIAN RUSH: John walker is one of the lucky ones. He’s now in the custody of American special forces, who will want to question him about the times he met Osama bin Laden. This is one of the men John Walker was prepared to die for. Mullah Khaksar is no zealot, though. He was a senior figure in the Taliban. Now he’s switched sides. The Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, he says, is under no illusion about his fate.

MULLAH KHAKSAR (Translated): Mullah Omar is going to fight the Americans until the end. He’s very committed to that. He knows that even if he surrenders, he will be killed, and some people have promised him serious cooperation if he continues his fight against the United States, but I cannot say who.

JULIAN RUSH: The Americans think Mullah Omar is in Kandahar, leading the Taliban’s last stand. The U.N. says around 2,000 refugees a day are now leaving Kandahar Province. Reports that Afghan Taliban are drifting away seem to be confirmed when we spoke to a resident of the city today.

ABDUL WALI (Translated): There are two or three types of Taliban here: Afghan, Arab, and Pakistan. There are more foreign Taliban than Afghans.

JULIAN RUSH: Around 1,000 U.S. Marines are now in the desert near Kandahar.


JULIAN RUSH: They are not yet involved in the fighting around the outskirts of the city.