Taliban in retreat in north

Monday, November 12, 2001

JABAL SARAJ, Afghan-istan -- Opposition forces claimed to have the Taliban on the run across much of northern Afghanistan on Sunday, as the ruling Islamic militia abandoned stronghold after stronghold in a withdrawal south toward the capital, Kabul.

The foreign minister of the northern alliance, Abdullah, claimed the opposition had seized half the country in the past two days and dealt the Taliban a severe blow as a fighting force. U.S. officials warned that a counterattack was possible.

As Taliban fighters fled south, President Bush urged the opposition not to take Kabul before a new, broad-based government could be formed.

However, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged Sunday that "we don't have enough forces on the ground to stand in their way" if the northern alliance tried to seize the capital.

Abdullah said the opposition had recaptured its former headquarters, Taloqan, and three other northern provincial capitals since Mazar-e-Sharif, linchpin of the Taliban defenses in the north, fell on Friday.

In Washington, however, Rumsfeld said that while the opposition had "effective control" of Mazar-e-Sharif, "there are pockets of resistance within the city."

"There could always be a counterattack," he said.

Taliban officials acknowledged their forces were in a "strategic withdrawal."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: