Today's Papers

Condit? Hardly

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Timesall lead with the surrender of the Taliban of the Afghan city of Kandahar. Coverage focuses on the whereabouts and chances for amnesty of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, clashes in the city between rival anti-Taliban groups, and the continuing hunt for Osama Bin Laden. All three papers also report that the U.S. Marines engaged fleeing Taliban soldiers and killed at least seven of them.

All the Kandahar stories mention the reversal by Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun tribal leader slated to become the nation’s interim prime minister, on the status of Mullah Omar. Karzai had initially said that Omar might receive amnesty if he renounced terrorism but reversed his position after Omar failed to surrender himself when Kandahar fell.  

Uncertainty reigns regarding Omar’s whereabouts. The NYT quotes the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who says, “I do not have reason to believe that Omar has in fact escaped Kandahar.” The WP says that he has apparently escaped into the mountains east of the city, while an intelligence source bluntly tells the LAT that the United States has “no idea” where Omar is. Only the NYT notes an earlier report from the London Times that Omar had been captured—military officials said that they could not confirm this report.

The NYT says the Kandahar infighting was between Mullah Naqib Ullah, who was tapped by Karzai to handle the Taliban’s surrender, and Gul Agha Shirzai, a former governor of the province that includes Kandahar, who still views Naqib as a lackey of the Taliban. As Taliban troops fled, Shirzai unexpectedly seized control of the governor’s palace, forcing Naqib to flee, according to the WP. The WP also notes that Shirzai refused to attend a meeting of Pashtun leaders last night to try and settle the squabbles, and mentions that many Afghans blame Shirzai for the Taliban’s rise to power in Kandahar. The LAT mentions that Shirzai is also challenging the authority of the man picked to oversee the city of Spin Buldak.

The papers all briefly mention the ongoing assault on a group of caves where Osama Bin Laden may be hiding—little progress was made, and anti-Taliban forces may actually have given up some ground gained yesterday.

The NYT front page says that weapons convoys from Pakistan were still entering Afghanistan unhindered in October, a month after that country agreed to stop aiding the Taliban. The paper blames the country’s spy agency, which has a large pro-Taliban faction. The most vocal critic in the story is former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who believes that Pakistan’s spies conspired to topple her regime. Other sources say that the quick collapse of the Taliban regime is a sure sign that Pakistan’s opposition is sincere.

The NYT and WP front news that the Senate killed a plan to provide more money for relief to New York and anti-terrorism spending. Both papers call the block a major victory for the Bush administration. New York senators said the state would probably receive around $9.5 million in a compromise proposal. The Bush administration is expected to seek additional money for New York in January.

The NYT and WP front, and the LAT reefers, news that the unemployment rate jumped from 5.4 percent to 5.7 percent, reaching a six-year high and virtually assuring another interest rate cut when the Federal Reserve meets on Tuesday.

The LAT and the NYT front news that the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, which owns around 10 percent of Hewlett-Packard stock, announced that it would vote against HP’s proposed merger with Compaq. The LAT says that the newest opposition may be a “fatal blow” to the deal, and both papers mention that the news further imperils the job of HP’s high-profile CEO. David Woodley Packard, the son of HP co-founder David Packard, said that he opposed the merger because HP is paying too much for Compaq, similar high-tech mergers have failed, and the proposed 15,000 layoffs are antithetical to HP’s corporate culture.

Gary Condit returns to the front pages today with news that he will seek re-election. The story is reefered by the LAT and fronted by the WP, which notes that Condit filed his papers in California just 45 minutes before the deadline. Before the Sept. 11 attacks, Condit had said he was leaning toward retirement, but he now says he’ll let the voters decide. His first challenge is against a former aide in what the WP says will be a tough primary. The pollster consulted by the WP doesn’t think much of his chances: “In all the years I’ve been in polling, these numbers are the worst I’ve ever seen. … I don’t see voters forgiving him.”