Afghan opposition pulls back
The opposition alliance fighting the Taleban in Afghanistan says its has withdrawn its forces from some positions.
Terming the move "strategic", the Northern Alliance says its men are now taking up new positions to prepare for an imminent Taleban attack on an important crossroads which leads to their stronghold in the south-western city of Faizabad.
The new military manoeuvres have been reported amidst the ongoing heavy fighting between the two sides in the north-east of the country.
Thousands of people have been displaced by the fighting and there are indications of even bigger battles to come.
The big battle, should it come, centres on the difficult terrain called the Farkhar Gorge about 50 km south-west of Faizabad.
There have already been weeks of skirmishing nearby, with a number of villages changing hands.
The alliance must control the gorge and its roads network if it is to have a chance of launching its much-heralded fight back.
But the Taleban, which controls more than 90% of Afghanistan's territory, has been pressing home its advantage, giving the alliance no breathing space.
An alliance advance in the area was stopped in its tracks by an apparently pre-emptive Taleban strike early this month.
There are also signs of the Taleban using pincer tactics to keep the alliance penned into its top north-eastern corner of the country, with fighting reported both to the south, near the Pakistan border, and to the north, near the border with Tajikistan.
With hundreds of thousands of people displaced inside Afghanistan on top of more than one million refugees outside, there is an overwhelming need to bring peace.
But the Taleban, stung by UN sanctions, has spurned the UN's mediation efforts.
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