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Marines Land Near Kandahar, N. Alliance Captures Kunduz

President Bush this morning said the Marines’ new mission centered around “hunting down” those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

“We’re smoking them out, and they’re running and now we’re going to bring them to justice,” the president said.

On the ground in Afghanistan, Gen. James Mattis told reporters the operation proceeded according to plan.

“The New York school of ballet could not have orchestrated a more intricate movement more flawlessly,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

Although Pentagon officials confirmed the operation encountered no immediate resistance, Mr. Bush cautioned Americans “must be prepared for loss of life” in the new endeavor.

“Obviously no president or commander-in-chief hopes anybody loses life in the theater, but it’s going to happen,” he said.

U.S. air strikes continued on Kandahar this morning, with AC-130 gunships pounding several sites within the ancient walled city, Reuters reports.

Taliban spokesman Maulvi Abdullah today said the militia group’s supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, was still in Kandahar, despite reports to the contrary. Abdullah said Mullah Omar was still in control of the city and the Taliban would fight to the death to keep it.

“We have decided to fight U.S. forces to our last breath,” Abdullah told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press.

Northern Alliance captures Kunduz

To the north, fierce fighting broke out when Taliban soldiers ambushed Northern Alliance troops as they entered the city of Kunduz..

Alliance officials told the Associated Press an estimated 100 Taliban died in street fights early today, with around 10 dead in the opposition camp. Those numbers, though, have not been independently verified.

Alim Razim, an adviser to alliance commander Rashid Dostum, said around 5,000 Taliban surrendered and alliance forces moved into the city. Most of the local Afghan fighters were released, but opposition leaders imprisoned some 750 men suspected of being foreigners.

A surrender agreement between the opposition forces and Taliban leaders in Kunduz called for Afghan Taliban to be granted amnesty, while Taliban from foreign lands would face trial.

But reporters in Kunduz say opposition treatment of Taliban captives has been more extreme than expected, with alliance fighters reportedly shooting captured Taliban in the streets and beating others. Alliance forces have also reportedly looted some areas, in some cases commandeering cars that once belonged to Taliban fighters.

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