|About one month after the terror attacks in NYC and DC, American forces started to attack the Talaban in Afganistan. Osama Bin Laden released a video in which he as much as admitted that he was the source of the terror. It is now one month into the bombing campaign. The northern alliance has just captured much of the north of the country. I hope this winds up soon. (11/12/01 Veteran's Day)|
Taliban flee posts north of KabulKABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban fighters were fleeing positions north of the capital Monday as truckloads of opposition troops advanced, shouting ''God is great.'' Anti-Taliban fighters also seized western Afghanistan's biggest city, the opposition said. Northern alliance fighters waved their green-and-white flags and plastered pictures of slain military leader Ahmed Shah Massood on their trucks, as they shored up gains in the first significant advance by the opposition on the front north of Kabul.
A senior opposition spokesman, Bismillah Khan, said anti-Taliban forces pushed as far as Mir Bacha Kot, about 12 miles north of the capital, and were awaiting further orders. "We are at the gate of Kabul," Khan declared in a satellite telephone conversation. President Bush has urged the opposition to hold off on seizing the capital until a broad-based government can be formed to replace the Taliban, the Islamic militia that rules most of Afghanistan. While some opposition leaders have said they agree, some commanders on the ground were eager to advance.
It was unclear whether the opposition had gained so much momentum that an assault on Kabul was inevitable. The action north of Kabul came as opposition fighters claimed to have entered Herat, the main city in western Afghanistan, and to be closing in on the last Taliban stronghold in the north. Opposition spokesman Mohammed Abil said the opposition entered Herat in the morning. Iranian radio, broadcasting from Herat, said Taliban troops were fleeing or surrendering. An official in the Taliban's Information Ministry said "possibly Herat has collapsed." Herat sits along the main road to Kandahar — more than 300 miles to the southeast — which is the birthplace of the Taliban and home of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and Osama bin Laden. The fall of Herat would build on the opposition advance from the north, where Taliban control has collapsed since the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif to the opposition on Friday. In Mazar-e-Sharif, men lined up at barber shops to have their Taliban-mandated beards shaved off. Women were discarding the all-encompassing burqas and music — banned by the Taliban — could be heard coming from cassette players in shops, according to the Afghan Islamic Press.
Returning refugees streamed back into villages that they had not seen in months or years in a day of celebration across northern Afghan territory free from the Taliban. Abil, speaking by satellite telephone, said alliance forces were preparing to move against Kunduz, the last northern city still held by the Taliban. The area is populated mostly by ethnic Pashtuns — the same ethnic group as the Taliban — while the rest of the north is largely Tajik, Uzbek and Shiite Muslim. Late Monday, Tehran radio reported that the opposition forces had taken control of Kunduz. Opposition spokesmen contacted by satellite telephone said they did not have updated reports on the operation. In Kabul, meanwhile, Taliban Supreme Court judges indefinitely postponed the trial of eight foreign aid workers, saying they feared their anger over the U.S. airstrikes would prevent them from making a fair ruling. The defendants — two American women, two Australians and four Germans — are accused of spreading Christianity in Muslim Afghanistan.
Developments on the battlefield were so fast-moving that many of the reports could not be immediately verified. Foreign journalists do not have access to many of the front lines and have been speaking to opposition commanders by satellite phone. On the front north of Kabul, U.S. aircraft, including B-52 bombers, bombed Taliban positions Monday, drawing only sporadic anti-aircraft fire. Abil said anti-Taliban fighters had pushed the Taliban back six miles along the old road to Kabul. At one point along the front, fighters advanced nine miles in less than an hour, stopping only after meeting heavy Taliban resistance. Opposition forces captured Qarabagh district, 15 miles north of Kabul, Abil said. Trucks of shouting fighters rumbled through Rabat, a town along the route of advance. Asked where the trucks were going, one opposition soldier, Commander Adel, shouted "to Kabul, to Kabul." The fighters had pictures of Massood, the alliance's military chief, who was killed by a suicide attack just before the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.
Jubilant opposition fighters near Jabal Saraj, about 30 miles north of Kabul, said Taliban soldiers in several key strongholds on the western side of the contested Shomali plain were surrendering. In Kabul itself, pickup trucks camouflaged with brown mud raced about, ferrying Taliban fighters to and from the front. Residents could hear the steady roar of jets heading toward the north. The speed of the Taliban collapse, which began Friday with the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif, suggests that many local commanders and Taliban fighters are switching sides rather than offering stiff resistance. Abil said the northern alliance has sent radio messages to Taliban commanders and village elders urging them to hand over Pakistani, Arab and Chechen volunteers fighting with the Islamic militia. "We want to take these foreigners alive to show who is fighting against us," he said. He claimed the greatest resistance was coming from the foreign fighters.
Within three days, the opposition has expanded its control from about 10% of the country to nearly half. It remained unclear whether the opposition could maintain that momentum as they approach Taliban strongholds in the southern Pashtun heartland. In Islamabad, the Taliban's ambassador in Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, acknowledged that the Islamic militia had withdrawn from seven northern provinces. "The Islamic army of the Taliban withdrew from these provinces in an organized way to avoid civilian casualties," he said in Pakistan's capital Islamabad. Washington wants the opposition to hold off on assaulting Kabul to avoid a repeat of factional fighting that destroyed the capital and killed an estimated 50,000 people from 1992 to 1996, when the opposition governed. Abil said the opposition had no plans to enter Kabul, which it lost to the Taliban in 1996. But some commanders said an offensive was inevitable. "We will have to enter Kabul," said Shahabuddin, sitting on an armored personnel carrier in Bagram, two miles from the front. "The Taliban will take people inside the city as hostages. It will be our job to defend the people." Two French radio journalists and a German magazine reporter were killed Sunday when their convoy was hit in northeastern Takhar province, Radio France Internationale and RTL radio announced in Paris.