U.S. Special Forces Battalion Commander
Through the entire move south, [Karzai] was trying to organize and orchestrate
the surrender of Kandahar. The negotiations became a lot more serious as we
moved south. ... As he moved south, the phone started ringing off the hook. Key
members of the Taliban talked with him, to try to come up with terms and
conditions for the surrender of Kandahar. But to Karzai's credit, he would not
[negotiate]. He wanted an unconditional surrender. There would be no terms;
there would be no conditions. "Turn in your weapons. Turn in your vehicles.
Then we'll sit down and talk about prisoners and how they'll be handled."
Ed Note: On Dec. 5, a misdirected U.S. bomb explodes near Karzai's
position, killing 3 U.S. soldiers, and at least 23 of Karzai's Afghani
fighters. Dozens more, including all the members of A-Team 574 and Karzai, were
wounded in the worst friendly fire incident of the war.
Karzai was wounded. It was a very minor wound along the face. I don't know if
it was a piece of shrapnel or a piece of glass from one of the broken windows.
We immediately picked him up and moved him to higher ground, away from the
site. He set up a command post. At this time, the negotiations for the
surrender of Kandahar began in earnest.
While this was all going on, while we're treating the wounded, the Taliban had
decided that they were going to surrender. So he continued the surrender
negotiations, while I and the my soldiers and my staff provided medical care
and coordinated for medevacs and for a follow-on force to replace those that
had been killed and injured. ...
[Right before the incident] we were preparing to put together a plan to move
south into Kandahar in case the Taliban did not did not surrender. You've got
Sherzai fighting from the from the south towards Kandahar.... So I was looking
at a combined attack from the south and from the north, and squeeze the Taliban
between us, because Kandahar sits in a bowl. It's got dominating terrain on a
northern side. We could get up in the mountains and use Air Force air and Navy
air and take out key installations and key targets from those positions without
much chance of the Taliban coming and getting us. ...
Right about the same time, the Bonn conference named [Karzai] interim
chairman of Afghanistan. While this is all going on, though, the Taliban is
sending up a delegation from Kandahar. They know where we're at. They have no
idea that we had this friendly fire incident, and they're coming up the road.
So we got with my security element and told them that we would allow one
vehicle to come across with four folks.
That's when Karzai and these four individuals negotiated for the surrender of
Kandahar. This is on Dec. 5. There was one more negotiation, one more meeting
on Dec. 6 that came back up. On the night of Dec. 7, we moved into Kandahar.
An interesting story, though, in this thing, when the surrender happens -- I'm
sure everyone's read and heard how the Afghans would change sides. Well, we had
a number of Taliban change sides. One minute you're shooting at them, and the
next minute they are now your allies and your friends. ... We've got these
former Taliban looking at us and going, "Oh, this is what an American looks
like," because up to that point, they'd never seen us. Everything had been done
by Karzai's forces, and we had stayed in the background. So they'd never seen
an American. "So this is what an American looks like. Oh, he's got two legs and
he puts his pants on the same way we do." So it was just kind of an unnerving
situation -- one day they were my enemy, and the next day they're on my side
and we're all heading towards Kandahar. ...
[Do you think that Taliban leaders escaped during the negotiations for the
surrender of the city?]
I am sure that key Taliban leaders escaped during negotiations for the
surrender in the south. I am absolutely certain that Karzai knew nothing about
it. What I believe is that the Taliban believed if they kept Karzai at bay in
the north and Sherzai at bay in the south, [with these] negotiations and a set
date to surrender, this gave them the time to pick up, get in their vehicles
and drive off. Karzai set absolutely no conditions. It was an unconditional
surrender: Give up your weapons; give up your vehicles; turn yourselves in; and
then we'll turn you over to the Americans. So Karzai in no way, shape or form
was involved in any type of conspiracy to allow the key Taliban leaders to
I have no hard facts that [Mullah Omar] was there at any time when I moved
south. I assumed that he was. But his facility had already been hit. His home
had already been hit. So I don't know if he was actually in Kandahar during
those negotiations at all.
One of these armchair strategists will say to me, basically, "Look, [in]
Kandahar, the U.S. should have had lots more troops on the ground to prevent
precisely that something like that [from] happening." As somebody who was
there, how practical would it have been to involve much more U.S. ground troops
What we've got to understand is that I believe initially we had the right mix
on the ground, because you still have the Afghan population leery of another
Soviet occupation. If you put large amounts of U.S. troops on the ground at
that time, the Afghan people may have taken it as, "OK, here they come. They're
going to occupy. They're going to take control."
So I believe that the right mix was on the ground for the job at the time. If
there were more soldiers on the ground, could of some of those escapes been
prevented? Probably. But today, there is still no real hard evidence of how
many senior Taliban were there -- if any. So I don't know if we never had any
hard evidence, if we'd have brought more troops in, what we'd have actually
But I think the right mix was on the ground at that time. What you have is
actually the Afghans liberating their country with the assistance of a small
U.S. element, versus the a large American force on the ground, occupying all
the major cities, and making it look an awful lot like the Soviet occupation.
home + on the ground + assessing the campaign + with us or against us? + fighting on two fronts: a chronology
epilogue + discussion + interviews + links & readings + introduction + video + reporter's notebook
FRONTLINE + wgbh + pbsi
photo © reuters newmedia inc/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014
WGBH educational foundation