Some military commanders of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan say their units are preparing for an all out assault against Taleban forces, as a result of the U.S. bombing of targets in key Taleban-held cities. But the military situation is still difficult for the Northern Alliance.
It is not a cliche to say making the journey to the front lines in Afghanistan is easier said then done. Years of war and neglect have left most roads impassable. Many cars and trucks simply carve their own path through the desert, blowing enormous clouds of stinging dust into the faces of people walking nearby.
About 35 kilometers from a journalist base camp in Khuja Boudin, a bombed out village in Kukcha, in the Northern Alliance-held area, is the headquarters for Abdul Qayoum, a rebel commander who has been leading a desperate fight to recapture the territory that has been held by the Taleban.
Commander Qayoum says he is pleased to hear that the U.S.-led airstrikes were pounding the capital Kabul and other Taleban-held areas in Afghanistan. But he hinted, in some frustration, that no bombs have been dropped on Taleban positions in Kukcha and his fighters have not been able to advance.
To demonstrate his point, the commander gave VOA permission to travel to the front lines, a 10-kilometer stretch on top of barren hills high above the Kukcha river, which forms the second line of defense.
Young boys wearing tattered clothing and armed only with battered Kalashnikov rifles, are manning the hilltops, the river front and the half kilometer wide river basin. There are just 346 of them defending the entire area and hundreds of others have been killed doing so.
Commander Qayoum's deputy, who did not want to be identified, points to a row of trees in the distance that marks the enemy's position. He says the forces there are mostly foreigners who are fighting on the side of the Taleban - Chechen and Pakistani fighters, and soldiers under the Uzbek Islamic radical, Juma Namangani.
They number somewhere between 5-7,000. Far too many for the Northern Alliance fighters in Kukcha to engage at once, the deputy says. He points to a rocket propelled grenade launcher, the heaviest weapon in the Kukcha arsenal. He says they have no tanks, no artillery and no mortars. But he says his men will attack and win if the United States begins bombing Taleban positions in the area.