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Heavy Fighting Reported North of Kabul - 2001-11-12

Northern Alliance commanders in Afghanistan say their troops are engaged in heavy fighting with Taleban fighters on frontlines north of Kabul. Unconfirmed reports say Northern Alliance troops captured the western city of Herat, consolidating their hold over nearly all of northern Afghanistan.

Northern Alliance commanders say their troops are making progress against heavy resistance by Taleban fighters on frontlines near Bagram air base, about 35 kilometers north of Kabul. U.S. air strikes were reported earlier near Bagram.

Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, says the alliance will respect U.S. calls not to take Kabul, but will try to move within striking distance of the capital.

Speaking in Islamabad, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Khan, says Kabul should be demilitarized until a political solution can be worked out for all Afghans. He says that is not unrealistic, even though the military situation is rapidly changing. "I think because of the developing military situation, one should not become pessimistic about the political solution, because even those who are involved in capturing territory at the moment have agreed to a political solution," he said.

"They have expressed their willingness to cooperate with the international community to find a political solution, and the entire international community is determined to this time pay full attention and to have a final solution in the country so that peace and stability can return to Afghanistan," said Minister Abdullah.

As a sign of how quickly the military situation is moving, Northern Alliance fighters say they have captured Herat. Previously Alliance commanders said it could take days or even weeks to capture the strategic western city, which is near the Iran border.

Northern Alliance commanders also say they consolidated their hold on Baghlan and Kunduz provinces the only majority Pashtun provinces in northern Afghanistan.

Alliance commanders say they have cut off the city of Kunduz, trapping hundreds of Taleban fighters and their foreign allies, a report Taleban officials denied.