Afghan opposition says troops nearly ready
By Mike Collett-White
JABAL-US-SARAJ, Afghanistan (Reuters) - An Afghan opposition leader said Thursday that thousands of fighters would soon be ready for an offensive to the gates of Kabul, but he declined to say when the attack would start.
Abdullah Abdullah, foreign minister of the opposition Northern Alliance, said the opposition could break the lines of the ruling Taliban militia softened by heavy U.S bombing. The opposition has not not moved from its entrenched positions north of the capital since the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan started 25 days ago.
U.S. warplanes have struck Taliban positions on the front line north of Kabul most of the past 12 days, including carpet bombing from B-52s Wednesday. There were no raids seen during the day Thursday.
"In a few days' time our forces in this part (Kabul) will reach the highest level of preparations," he told a news briefing. "We are talking about thousands of new troops. They are mainly the striking forces, sort of elite forces."
"I would say that with the effective intense bombings of the front lines it would be a matter of days to break through any front line," he said, speaking in English. "If any front line is struck for a few days intensely, there could be a breakthrough."
The opposition has maintained that it plans to march only to the gates of Kabul, rather than try to take the city where many of its commanders were involved in factional fighting from 1992 to 1996 in which tens of thousands died.
Abdullah said a major military exercise north of Kabul was expected to be held in the next few days.
Abdullah, who has called for heavier U.S. attacks on the Taliban, said military cooperation with Washington had improved.
He also welcomed the first raids by heavy B-52 bombers. "Since five days ago, at least 15 tanks of the Taliban have been destroyed on the front lines north of Kabul. B-52s were also very effective in destroying Taliban positions in one of the mountains near Bagram air base."
He said U.S. warplanes had also stuck the Taliban-held northern city of Kunduz Wednesday, hitting military bases and the airport in the city as well as ammunition depots. He had heard reports of Taliban commanders ordering that ammunition supplies be moved out of Kunduz to Mazar-i-Sharif, the key northern city the opposition has failed to take despite an offensive that began in September.
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