America At War
KABUL FALLS TO NORTHERN ALLIANCE AS TALIBAN FLEE
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
NOVEMBER 13, 2001 -- Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul fell to the for= ces of the Northern Alliance, America's allies in the wear against terroris= m there, as Taliban troops pounded for days by American bombing runs abando= ned their posts Monday and fled south towards Kandahar.
The quick victory came just weeks after the Northern Alliance controlled= as little as 10 percent of the country, and was preceded by victories in n= orthern Afghanistan's strategic cities of Mazar-i-Sharif in the west, Taliq= an to the north and progress at Herat and Jalalabad.
American commandos worked with the opposition forces as artillery spot= ters and scouts for bombing raids on targets they identified.
The victory= was marred by the sight of Northern Alliance soldiers executing unarmed Ta= liban soldiers as they tried to surrender and looting of their bodies and b= elongings along the road to Kabul.
There was an unconfirmed report that 100 Taliban supporters -- various= ly described as soldiers and as students -- were executed in cold blood. N= orthern Alliance unit commanders reportedly shrugged off the incidents.
I= n Kabul, there was a run on barber shops as hundreds if not thousands of me= n forced to grow beards by the Taliban had them sheared off,often to the so= und of recorded music, which like men's shaven faces werebanned by the Tali= ban.
In recent days, President Bush and the leaders of neighboring Tajikistan= and Uzbekistan had tried via the media to persuade the Northern Alliance n= ot to enter Kabul until an intertnational force was in place there to keep = order and to facilitate the creation of a broadly-based ruling council that= includes ethnic Pashtuns of southern Afghanistan who have been among the m= ost ardent supporters of the Taliban.
The Northern Alliance resisted those entreaties, however, reportedly bec= ause they feared Pakistan's leaders would encourage their allies in Afghani= stan to enter Kabul and seize power ahead of them.
In the end, however, there was little resistance to the opposition for= ce's progress towards Kabul; news reports claimed they lost only eight sold= iers in the final push.
U.S. officials and others were quick to caution that the war against ter= rorism had merely entered a new stage with the fall of Kabul, rather than t= he endgame.
Much of southern Afghanistan is still committed to the Taliban, which = also has the backing of many Islamic fundamentalists throughout the Middle = East, and especially in Pakistan.
More importantly, the task of capturing or killing Osama bin Laden is = no apparently little closer to completion than it was on Sept. 11, when ter= rorists believed to be under his command used hijacked passenger jets to at= tack the World Trade Center towers in New York City and felled them at the = cost of about 5,000 lives, and also killed about 100 Americans by similarly= crashing another hijacked passenger jet into the Pentagon in Washington, D= .C.
That could quickly change, however, in the light of comments repo= rtedly made to Pakistani journalist Hama Mir, who told readers of the popul= ar English-language Pakistan daily newspaper Dawn yesterday that in an inte= rview in a cold region some five hours outside Kabul, the leader of the Al = Qaeda network of terrorists said he was in possession of nuclear weapons. = However, Bin Laden said, according to the reporter, he would only use the w= eapons as a "deterrent."
Whether true or false, such a statement may now spur efforts to find and= disable Bin Laden a hundredfold, aided by the Northern Alliance and presum= ably the resources of the new Afghanistan government.
American officials are certain to take Bin Laden's comment seriously, = even if they have some skepticism about its truth, because they remain awar= e that Russia's nuclear weapons arsenal is not entirely accounted for, and = have documented instances of al-Qaida efforts to obtained enriched uranium = that may be used in nuclear weapons. U.S. forces have also found evidence = of chemical weapon testing at abandoned al-Qaida camps.