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US:Taleban Opposition Gaining Ground - 2001-11-07


The Pentagon says opposition forces in Afghanistan, backed by U.S. air strikes, are gaining ground in fighting against the Taleban. That assessment comes as a senior defense official predicts an especially cold winter for the Taleban as their supplies dwindle.

One area where the Pentagon is reporting progress by Northern Alliance opposition forces is around the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Marine Corps four-star General Peter Pace, Vice Chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, calls the situation there fluid. But he tells reporters at the Pentagon anti-Taleban forces are making gains. "We do know the opposition has been attacking," he said. "They have been defending. They have inflicted casualties and with our assistance we have been putting air-strikes onto the Taleban forces."

The U.S. air-strikes usually involve sophisticated precision-guided munitions. But General Pace says U.S. special forces on the ground with the Northern Alliance have reported some distinctly low-tech tactics by the opposition, including horse-back assaults.

"Cavalry charges, and this is opposition forces, riding horseback into combat against tanks and armored personnel carriers," he said. "So these folks are aggressive. They are taking the war to their enemy and ours. We are supporting as best we can."

General Pace rejects suggestions that the campaign is taking too long, especially the ground offensive being waged by the Northern Alliance. "I think it's fair to say that we have not put ourselves on a time-line and we should not put them on a time-line," he said.

In fact, a senior Pentagon official suggests the U.S. strategy in taking the battle to the Taleban and the al-Qaida terrorists inside Afghanistan may be intentionally drawn out.

This official, speaking to VOA on condition of anonymity, says allied efforts to destroy Taleban and al-Qaida fuel, ammunition, food and other essential supplies is taking a toll. He says any re-supply attempts, either inside the country or cross-border, will be targeted.

Noting U.S. assistance to the opposition will continue at the same time, this official is predicting the Taleban and al-Qaida will face a much colder winter this year than the Northern Alliance and other opposition groups.

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