The Philadelphia Inquirer
November 6, 2001
Afghan rebels hint at
War With Terror
SARAJ, Afghanistan - Anti-Taliban forces yesterday strutted their armed
forces amid growing signs of a military offensive and indications that
American forces had improved coordination with the guerrillas.
the top command of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance looked on, its
soldiers staged a mock attack on a dusty hillside here to demonstrate they
are poised to move on the Afghan capital, 25 miles south of the front
is military preparation that shows our highest level of readiness,"
said Gen. Mohammed Fahim, the defense minister for the United Front, a
coalition of ethnic and opposition groups also known as the Northern
if to underscore the growing presence of American advisers here who are
helping airplanes find their targets, U.S. jets dropped three bombs on a
distant Taliban encampment while the guerrilla forces were conducting
commanders hinted that the military exercise, along with the increased
activity of newly uniformed troops and refurbished armor, could presage an
attack on the front lines that stretch across the Shamali Plain, an
undulating farming region surrounded by snowcapped peaks north of Kabul.
alliance commanders were vague about when an offensive would begin or
whether the brunt of the force would be directed at the capital or one of
the other cities held by the Taliban, the fundamentalist movement that
controls most of Afghanistan. The Taliban front line outside Kabul is said
to be the most fiercely defended in the country.
places will be the main targets and we will attack others just to keep
them busy," said Gen. Sayed Hussein Anwari, a representative of the
minority Hazaras and a member of the Northern Alliance central command.
"In a few days, you will see."
commanders, who are prone to exaggeration, have made previous claims of
offensives that failed to materialize - last month they said they were on
the verge of capturing the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif before the
Taliban surprised the uncoordinated offensive with a vigorous
the outnumbered guerrillas attack, the outcome will provide an indication
how much the Taliban forces have been weakened after 30 days of American
bombing, which began Oct. 7 to punish the rogue regime for sheltering
terrorism suspect Osama bin Laden. In the last two weeks, the air strikes
have been concentrated at Taliban frontline positions.
Alliance officials acknowledge that an increasing number of American
advisers have arrived in this area near Kabul to provide advice to the
guerrillas and to help direct bombing raids in the Shamali Plain.
is better coordination with our defense ministry," Anwari said.
"It has made the bombing more effective. We're starting to work out
better arrangements with the Americans."
men who arrived Sunday on a twin-engine prop plane that landed on a new
runway in the northeast corner of the Shamali Plain were also American
advisers, alliance officials said.
Department officials have said they are trying to insert more American
troops into Afghanistan before the onset of winter. The additional troops
are part of a widening U.S. military campaign to undermine the Taliban.
far the guerrillas have shown little urgency to take advantage of the
Taliban's weakened condition. Their front lines are still lightly defended
by poorly trained local militias. Northern Alliance commanders have been
spare in their praise for the U.S. bombing and more than willing to
criticize the limited U.S. air strikes as insufficient to dislodge the
Taliban's crack troops, made up mostly of non-Afghan Muslim extremists
loyal to bin Laden.
in the last week the alliance has called up thousands of what it calls
elite attack troops - the Zarbati or "rapid" troops are more
like regular soldiers than the militias.
about 2,000 Zarbati wearing new Iranian uniforms stood in ranks before a
reviewing stand assembled on a flatbed truck. The soldiers, many of whom
were not armed, squinted as a stiff wind blew grit into their faces and
whipped the outstretched Afghan flags of green, white and black bars.
President Burhanuddin Rabbani - ousted by the Taliban from Kabul in 1996
but still recognized by most of the world as Afghanistan's leader - told
the troops that the rest of the world was only now recognizing their
struggle against the Taliban and terrorism.
didn't listen to our voices," Rabbani said. "Now the world has
recognized that we were right."
told the troops they were on their own in a noble battle against the
you cannot destroy terrorism, no power on earth can defeat it," he
said. "You, and just you, can do it."
shouts of "God is great," several dented Soviet-era tanks and
armored personnel carriers belched black clouds of diesel exhaust and
clattered toward a nearby hill to demonstrate a mock defense of the
Shamali Plain from a Taliban attack.
troops fired cannon and rockets at two positions marked with white painted
rocks stacked in a pyramid to represent an enemy location. After 15
minutes of loud cannon fire and the crackle of rifle fire, most of the
rocks were dislodged.