The Philadelphia Inquirer
October 15, 2001
Taliban moves raise
said militia members leave Kabul before U.S. strikes each night, return
later. Some suggest a hold-back strategy.
War With Terror
Afghanistan - Every day around dusk for the last week, just before U.S.
bombers begin their nightly assaults on Afghanistan, a peculiar phenomenon
reportedly takes place at this front-line position about 25 miles north of
the capital, Kabul.
for the opposition Northern Alliance say they watch as many as 50 trucks
driving Taliban soldiers out of the capital to Qalaygulay, a village of
mud buildings about a mile from the front line. And every morning, just
after the 5 a.m. prayers, the trucks pack up and return the troops to the
nightly troop movements help fortify the Taliban's lines. But they also
remove Taliban soldiers from military bases around the capital, which U.S.
air raids have struck repeatedly in the weeklong war against the radical
Islamic Taliban for harboring accused terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
a Taliban soldier right now, one of the safest places in Afghanistan is at
the front lines.
bombers have not yet hit the concentrations of Taliban troops along this
crucial front that stretches across the broad Shamali plain north of
Kabul. Opposition commanders do not want to launch any assaults while the
air strikes continue.
so the Taliban are encouraging their troops, or Talibs, to take refuge at
the front at night until the U.S. bombing campaign is over, opposition
officers encouraged the Talibs to go to the front lines for safety,"
Gen. Baba Jan, the commander of the defenses here, said yesterday.
tell their troops that after a few days, the United States will stop
bombing and you can go back and rule Afghanistan."
of the Northern Alliance, a coalition of ethnic and political groups that
the Taliban ousted from Kabul in 1996, denied reports that they had struck
a deal with Washington to delay a push on Kabul until an interim
government was formed.
was said to have made the deal at the behest of Pakistan, Afghanistan's
big southern neighbor and Taliban sponsor, which loathes the idea that an
alliance made up of northern ethnic minorities hostile to Islamabad might
step into power because of the U.S. campaign.
is very unlikely that there is a deal behind the scenes without our
knowledge," Abdullah Abdullah, the alliance foreign minister, said in
an interview Saturday.
Jan said yesterday that he, too, was unaware of an arrangement to spare
Kabul. Yet no attack on the capital appears imminent.
have our priorities," said the general, holding forth with reporters
at an abandoned air base that straddles the front lines and explaining why
his troops had not tried to attack the nightly concentrations of Taliban
soldiers. "Some times are better for attacking than others."
Jan, a legendary commander of the mujaheddin that fought in the 1980s to
oust a Soviet occupation army before its own disastrous rule was ended by
the Taliban, seemed amused by persistent questions about when the alliance
might be expected to attack.
are waiting," said Baba Jan, who wore an olive green uniform and
black loafers without socks. "We have been here five to six years
fighting for our freedom against the Pakistanis, Chechens and Arabs who
are the main forces behind the Taliban. It doesn't depend upon the
Jan expressed the growing frustration that the Americans would not attack
the Taliban front-line positions out of deference to Pakistani interests.
He said he was unimpressed with the U.S. assaults so far.
attacks of the United States don't really have too much effect," he
not enough. The Taliban hide themselves at night and cover up their
military equipment so it can't be seen. The United States should attack
during the day."
perhaps the most powerful political leader in the alliance, was more
diplomatic about the U.S. campaign.
Americans are doing the right thing so far," he said.
makes sense that they would start by bombing targets in the center and
then move out toward the front lines."
is unclear whether the U.S. attacks have targeted any Taliban front-line
positions, which would make it easier for the anti-Taliban rebels to
recapture towns lost in recent Taliban offensives.
said U.S. bombers on Saturday hit Taliban positions near Taloqan, the
former alliance capital in Takhar province.
Baba Jan said the air strikes were not directed at Taliban entrenchments
speaking Saturday at a bunker in Jabal Saraj, said the bombing campaign
had weakened the Taliban. "They have lost their capacity to launch
a small stream of refugees continues to leave Kabul, traveling by foot
over mountains to Northern Alliance territory.
the people in Kabul are in a panic," said Mir Asamshur, 35, who was
among 17 adults and six children packed into a pickup that fetched
refugees after their mountain trek. "Nobody can sleep at night
because of the bombing."