THE United States secretly approved rescue
flights by Pakistan into Kunduz that let Taleban leaders and
al-Qaeda fighters escape from the besieged northern Afghan city
before its fall last year, New Yorker magazine reports today.
US intelligence officials and military officers said that the
Bush Administration approved the flights and ordered US Central
Command to set up a special air corridor to ensure their safety to
allow evacuation of Pakistani soldiers and intelligence men stranded
by Northern Alliance victories.
“What was supposed to be a limited evacuation apparently slipped
out of control and, as an unintended consequence, an unknown number
of Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters managed to join in the exodus,” the
One senior US defence adviser said: “Everyone brought their
friends with them. You’re not going to leave them behind to get
their throats cut.”
Mysterious flights into Kunduz were reported by Northern Alliance
officials in mid-November, but US and Pakistani officials denied an
evacuation was under way.
Seymour Hersh, who wrote the report, said that President
Musharraf of Pakistan won US support for the rescue by arguing that
losing the men would risk his political survival.
A US supply helicopter crashed in Afghanistan, killing two
Marines and injuring the other five aboard yesterday. The cause of
the crash was not immediately known.