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Opposition Forces Prepare for Siege

Pashtun tribes join Northern Alliance and U.S. Marines as they surround Kandahar, the Taliban’s last stronghold.

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The Taliban have said that despite loosing ground across Afghanistan, they will battle to the end to defend the remaining territory in their control

Northern Alliance and US elite forces tightened their grip around the ancient city of Kandahar. Lightly-armed Pashtun tribes on Wednesday joined the preparations for the looming siege of the Taliban’s final stronghold.

More than 1.000 US Marines deployed on an airfield southwest of the city joined the tanks and heavy artillery of the Northern Alliance on Tuesday. The siege forces got further support from local Pashtun tribes, who were being trained and armed by US Special forces at a newly erected base near the city.

A military expert said that without American support, the Pashtun fighters were no match for the estimated 17,000 Taliban fighters holed up in the city.

“I think that the reason these Marines have gone in in the first place is that the southern Pashtun tribes don’t have the military muscle, and they don’t really have the stomach for it either,” Charles Heyman, editor of Jane’s World Armies, said on Wednesday.

The preparations took place as US and British special special forces continued to hunt for Osama bin Laden and top leaders of the al Qaeda network in southeast Afghanistan. US aircraft rained down more bombs on areas around Kandahar and Spin Boldak, a town on the border with Pakistan. Local tribal leaders said that they were trying to persuade beleaguered Taliban leaders in the border town to surrender.

Negotiations amid bombing

Local tribal leaders said that negotiating in the past had brought success. Further evidence that continued air strikes, which began October 7, is beginning to break the will of Taliban fighters.

“It is still a negotiating game,” a local leader said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, military officials announced another successful strike. American B-1B bombers and F-16 fighter jets bombed two compounds southeast of Kandahar that served as a headquarters for senior al Qaeda leaders Tuesday night.

“It was very clearly a command center,” US Defense Minister Donald Rumsfeld told reporters.

Officials said they did not believe Osama bin Laden or suspected al Qaeda leader Mullah Muhammad Omar were inside at the time. The Associated Press quoted sources within the Taliban as saying Omar was alive and well. In a radio message, Omar told his troops to stand firm.

“This is not a question of tribes. This is a question of Islam,” Omar reportedly told his fighters, according to the AP. “Don’t vacate any areas.”

Taliban Uprising Crushed

But things continue to worsen for the Taliban. The Northern Alliance announced on Tuesday that they had completely crushed an uprising by imprisoned Taliban fighters in a 19th-century fort near the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif that began two days ago. British and American air strikes and special forces helped Northern Alliance fighters put down the bloody rebellion.

Five American special forces soldiers were injured by a bomb that went astray and the Northern Alliance reported that one American was killed. The Central Intelligence Agency confirmed that one of their agents was officially missing.

Amnesty International is demanding an investigation of incident where an estimated 450 Taliban soldiers and 50 Northern Alliance fighters died.

As the allied forces continue to wipe out the last remaining strongholds of Taliban power, military officials are beginning to find out just how well the Afghan militia was armed. The commander of American forces in Afghanistan told journalists on Tuesday that the Pentagon had identified 40 Afghan laboratories and industrial facilities, some of them in areas still controlled by Taliban or Al Qaeda forces, that are suspected of having the potential for producing biological or chemical weapons.

"We have acquired a great deal of samples, and now what we need to do is be very thorough in the analysis," General Tommy R. Franks, said a news conference.

  • Date 28.11.2001
  • Author Andreas Tzortzis
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/1QEv
  • Date 28.11.2001
  • Author Andreas Tzortzis
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/1QEv