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US Marines Land South of Kandahar - 2001-11-26

The first wave of U.S. ground troops has landed in Afghanistan, south of the Taleban stronghold, Kandahar. Hundreds of U.S. Marines are moving toward Kandahar to join anti-Taleban Pashtun tribal fighters.

A large number of U.S. Marines arrived in southern Afghanistan by helicopters just south of the Taleban stronghold of Kandahar. Witnesses say the Marines are moving up toward the city. They are expected to be joined by hundreds more deployed from Navy ships in the Arabian Sea.

Anti-Taleban Pashtun leaders near Kandahar say the U.S. troop arrival follows the success of their fighters in seizing an area five kilometers from Kandahar airport.

Backed by U.S. warplanes, the fighters reportedly have taken control of the road between Kandahar and Spin Boldak. The 110-kilometer road is a vital Taleban supply route and a key route to nearby Pakistan.

The tribal leaders claim can not be independently verified, but if true, the attack would be the first significant move by ethnic Pashtuns against the Taleban. The Taleban is dominated by Pashtuns.

Pashtun leaders in recent weeks have tried to persuade Taleban commanders in southern Afghanistan to surrender peacefully. Talks reportedly are already under way in Kandahar for the city's handover to the opposition Northern Alliance.

After swift battlefield success that put about half of Afghanistan in the hands of the opposition earlier this month, the United States is now targeting the leadership of the Taleban's militia and suspected mastermind of the September 11th attacks in New York and Washington, Osama bin Laden.

In addition to the use of special operations troops, the United States has been working with anti-Taleban Pashtun resistance forces, gathering intelligence about Taleban troops and the location of Osama bin Laden and other leaders of his al-Qaida organization in southern Afghanistan.