KHAIRKHANA, Afghanistan - Taliban military forces deserted the capital of
Kabul at dawn today after the opposition, aided by well-coordinated U.S.
air strikes, overran Taliban entrenchments north of the city with stunning
Northern Alliance forces began moving into the capital with pickup trucks
loaded with soldiers armed with rifles and rocket launchers. There was no
shooting as the opposition forces took over a military barracks that only
hours before had been in Taliban hands.
loss of the capital, coupled with the opposition's conquest of most of
northern Afghanistan in the last four days after more than a month of U.S.
air strikes, dramatically weakens the Taliban's grip on power in the
Northern Alliance now controls nearly 50 percent of the country, up from
the 10 percent it held late last week before it took the city of Mazar-e
Sharif and started rolling up victories across the northern half of the
country. The province of Kunduz and a city in it by the same name are
reportedly the last remaining strongholds of the Taliban in the north.
Haji Almas, the commander of opposition forces in Rabat, said Northern
Alliance soldiers were waiting for their police forces to secure the
capital. "We are very excited. We have captured the center of
Afghanistan," he said.
of people were seen leaving the city today. Among them was Abdullah, 23
and unemployed, who said, "All of the people of Kabul are happy. The
Taliban left quickly overnight."
leading into the city were devastated by the fighting, with deep bomb
craters throughout the landscape. The fleeing Taliban fighters left some
of their military equipment behind, and it was being scavenged by Northern
Abdullah, the Northern Alliance foreign minister, who like many Afghans
uses only one name, had said Northern Alliance troops would not enter
Kabul, both to prevent a devastating street war with the Taliban and to
allow Afghans to negotiate a political solution to the war. President Bush
had asked the opposition to hold off on seizing the capital until a
broad-based government could be formed.
should try our best not to enter Kabul," Abdullah had said.
that was before the Taliban fighters decided to withdraw from the capital
rather than wage a battle to defend it. As they left, the Taliban forces
took eight foreign aid workers, including two Americans, accused of
spreading Christianity in Muslim Afghanistan, witnesses said.
the Northern Alliance has advanced rapidly in the north, where the Taliban
was effectively an occupation army, it can expect more resistance if it
tries to capture southern Afghanistan. By moving south, the Taliban
fighters seemed ready to fall back toward the last major Taliban
stronghold of Kandahar.
area around the Taliban spiritual capital is rugged, mountainous terrain
littered with caves that are believed to provide hideouts for accused
terrorist Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist organization.
Alliance leaders met last night to discuss the next step for organizing a
multiethnic coalition government. The alliance is dominated by ethnic
minorities from the north - mostly Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. Many
Pashtuns, the country's dominant ethnic group, are worried about a
government dominated by minority tribes.
officials said yesterday that the United Nations hoped to bring together
Afghan representatives within days to make arrangements for the Afghan
capital. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters that the United
Nations must move quickly to develop a political solution.
dismissed suggestions that the United Nations should send in troops to
govern Kabul. "The U.N. is not ready to send peacekeepers to
Afghanistan for the simple reason that there is no peace to keep," he
United States began its air attacks on the Taliban on Oct. 7 after the
rigid Islamic regime refused to turn over bin Laden, who has lived in
Afghanistan as a guest for five years and is suspected of being the
mastermind in the terrorist attacks against the United States.
yesterday, Northern Alliance officials said they captured the ancient city
of Herat in western Afghanistan. The city sits on the main road to
Kandahar. The claims of Herat's capture could not be confirmed
opposition captured nearly all the Shamali Plain, north of Kabul,
a night of heavy bombing by U.S. B-52 bombers and smaller warplanes,
Northern Alliance ground forces launched their attack about 11 a.m. across
the breadth of the front line that stretches across the Shamali Plain, an
undulating farming region.
ranks of troops carrying Kalashnikov rifles and wool blankets on their
backs moved into positions behind the Northern Alliance front lines, the
guerrillas drove squeaky Russian T-54 and T-62 tanks into the narrow lanes
that twist and turn through villages of mud-brick farmhouses.
several American special-forces soldiers directed the air assaults from
the rooftop of a heavily guarded house in Rabat, the planes aimed much of
their assault at Taliban positions near Rabat and Bagram, two villages on
the west side of the Shamali Plain that are near roads that lead to Kabul.
Alliance commanders were able to predict within minutes when the American
assaults would arrive, and as the alliance fighters advanced quickly into
Taliban territory, they frantically got on the radio to make sure that the
pilots did not fire at the concentrations of friendly troops.
advance yesterday was aided by mass defections of local Taliban
commanders, who delivered entire units to the Northern Alliance as village
after village fell without a shot being fired. Radio operators excitedly
shouted out the names of villages that changed hands, one after another.
9:30 a.m., Almas, the commander of forces in Rabat, spoke on the radio to
some Taliban commanders and gave them precise instructions on when to
defect and turn their guns on their superiors.
seemed confident that new Taliban volunteers from Pakistan would not fight
once the cannon and the air strikes began.
new soldiers have arrived from Pakistan, but they don't have the morale to
fight," said Mohammed Arif, a deputy to Almas.
there was fierce resistance on some parts of the front by Taliban forces,
especially outside Rabat. Even after several air strikes, including a
deafening B-52 attack, were directed at Taliban trenches, the defenders
still fired back with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. But
the resistance only delayed the inevitable.
No casualty estimates were available. It appeared that many Taliban soldiers had escaped, and the few Taliban bunkers around Rabat contained no bodies.