The Taleban confirmed Saturday that it had retreated from the strategically important town of Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan. The opposition Northern Alliance says the Taleban is retreating from towns in surrounding provinces as well.
First the Taleban radio station announced the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif. A spokesman confirmed that the Taleban had retreated from the town it held for the last several years.
The Taleban says this is a strategic withdrawal and that there will be a counter offensive. The opposition Northern Alliance says that it's pushing north and east from Mazar-e-Sharif and that it's capturing surrounding towns and provinces.
There are unconfirmed reports that the Northern Alliance has taken regions north of Mazar-e-Sharif near the border with Uzbekistan, where U.S. troops are stationed. This would enable the creation of an overland corridor from Uzbekistan for the delivery of military and humanitarian supplies.
Northern Alliance troops are also mobilizing in the northeast of Afghanistan, where U.S. strikes have been concentrated over the past two weeks.
Columns of tanks, armored personnel carriers and men moved overnight from their reserve positions up to the battle lines and attacks from this side would open another front against Taleban forces in the north of the country.