The Northern Alliance has swept triumphantly into Kabul. Though the move is in defiance of the US, the march on the capital tilts the war in favor of it.
Northern Alliance rolls into Kabul
Fighters of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance entered Kabul early on Tuesday in defiance of America’s repeated warnings not to move into the capital.
Opposition Defence Minister General Mohammad Fahim and Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah drove into the Afghan capital, followed by military police dressed in dark green uniforms and armed with rifles. They were accompanied by hundreds of Northern Alliance fighters, dressed in camouflage and carrying Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers.
They were welcomed by dozens of children and youth from the Shomali valley, in the north of Kabul from where the alliance draws most of its support.
"We praise your victory," they chanted. "Down with Taliban and Pakistan."
The vehicles of the Northern Alliance were plastered with photographs of their assassinated leader, Ahmad Shah Masood.
Masood was killed in a suicide attack just two days before the September 11 attacks.
The fight against the Taliban seems to be now tipping in favor of the US which is supporting the opposition Northern Alliance with their bombing campaign.
Since Friday, Northern Alliance forces composed mainly of ethnic minority Tajiks and Uzbeks have swept into the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the western city of Herat and now the capital Kabul.
Kabul residents are said to be nervous and fearful of a return of the alliance following bloody power struggles in the 1990s when they last controlled the city.
"We have taken key government buildings," one Northern Alliance fighter said. "We are chasing the Taliban to the west."
Small-arms fire erupted in parts of the city, apparently coming from Taliban who had not managed to leave or had chosen to resist.
Many of Afghanistan's Taliban rulers appeared to have slipped away under cover of night, abandoning a city they had held since winning a civil war in the mid-1990s and imposing their own strict interpretation of Islam on the country.
The streets of Kabul were also littered with bodies of Taliban fighters.
Taliban tanks, armored personnel carriers and battered pickup trucks streamed out of Kabul on the highway leading west and then south to the militia's stronghold of Kandahar.
Several houses were robbed in the night, supposedly by the retreating Taliban as law and order began to break down. Witnesses reported looting of government buildings and residents said some prisoners had also broken out of jails in the city.
In the west, an anti-Taliban spokesman said that opposition commander Ismail Khan had entered the ancient city of Herat, his former powerbase, with 4,000 fighters at dawn on Tuesday.
The White House said it was studying reports from Kabul and monitoring the situation.
"At this point, the situation on the ground is very fluid," White House National Security Council spokesman, Sean McCormack said.
The Afghan opposition based in Pakistan on Tuesday also predicted that the Taliban's southern stronghold of Kandahar could fall within 24 hours as moderate Taliban forces abandon the hardliners.