Anti-Taliban Forces Aim to Cut Kabul Supply Line
By Mike Collett-White
Thursday October 25 12:47 PM ET
JABAL-US-SARAJ, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghan opposition forces were locked in battle with the ruling Taliban on Thursday and planned to cut Taliban supply lines from Kabul to the strategic northwest town of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Opposition fighters launched a new offensive on Taliban positions from Marmul district, about 30 km (18 miles) south of Mazar-i-Sharif, and fighting was fierce, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said.
General Ustad Attah, who is leading the fight against the ruling Taliban near Mazar-i-Sharif, said he hoped to take the town soon, although others in the opposition Northern Alliance said victory may not be so close.
``We have a plan to take the main road between Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif which passes through the Bamiyan and Baglan provinces,'' Attah said.
``God willing, we will have victory in Mazar soon,'' he added.
Attah, speaking by satellite telephone, also told Reuters that U.S. aircraft hit frontline Taliban positions at around 8 a.m. (0330 GMT) on Thursday.
Opposition foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, said an attack on Mazar-i-Sharif could be farther off.
``It will be a few more days before we talk about the city itself,'' he told reporters.
Hope of a swift offensive and seizure have been dashed, apparently by strong resistance from the Taliban.
A Northern Alliance spokesman said opposition forces had made advances in overnight fighting in the Shoor Ghar area southwest of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Western warplanes have also pounded the Taliban frontline just north of the capital Kabul for the past four days.
``ALL ATTACKS REPULSED''
``There was no change in our frontlines. We have repulsed all attacks from the opposition,'' AIP quoted a Taliban spokesman in Kabul as saying. No independent verification was possible.
If the opposition cut Taliban supply routes running north and south the hardline Islamic movement could be badly isolated in Mazar-i-Sharif.
The town, which lies 60 km (40 miles) south of the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, has seen the fiercest ground fighting since the September 11 suicide hijack attacks on New York and Washington.
The United States launched what it called a war on terrorism, centered on the Taliban, which is blamed for sheltering Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind behind the attacks.
The opposition says it is within five km (two miles) of the airport, but it has not advanced for several days.
This is despite reports, unconfirmed by the Taliban, that hundreds of its fighters gave themselves up to Attah late on Saturday.
U.S. military officials have admitted for the first time that they have been surprised at how resilient the Taliban have proved in the face of the West's military onslaught.
Attah said 19 U.S. officials were in the area working alongside Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum and his opposition allies, helping warplanes pinpoint targets.
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