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Northern Alliance Claims Major Victories - 2001-11-11

The Northern Alliance is claiming major victories in the north of Afghanistan. The Taleban has confirmed its troops have retreated from three provinces in what it describes as "strategic withdrawals."

Following the capture Friday of the Mazar-e-Sharif, the Northern Alliance says Taleban forces are retreating across northern Afghanistan.

The Alliance says it has captured five provinces surrounding Mazar-e-Sharif, with unconfirmed reports that Northern Alliance troops have also taken their former regional capital Taloqan in the northeast.

In the west of the country, Northern Alliance forces led by Commander Ismail Khan say they are 15 kilometers from Herat, a town they lost several years ago. Herat has a direct road to the Taleban southern stronghold of Kandahar.

The Taleban confirms it has retreated from three northern provinces. Troops from the north are believed to be redeploying in the south to defend Kandahar and the capital, Kabul.

The Northern Alliance says its troops are poised for an attack on Kabul, but Washington has requested they do not enter the capital.

Meanwhile in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghans are throwing off the external symbols of Taleban religious control. It is reported that music is blaring in the city as men line up at barbershops to have their beards cut and women remove their head-to-foot veil known as the burka.

The Taleban enforce beards for men and burkas for women, and forbid the playing of music as part of their strict interpretation of Islam.