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October 7, 2001
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Northern Alliance close in on Kabul

Anti-Taleban Northern Alliance forces fired a barrage of rockets on Sunday at Taleban positions, north of the Afghan capital Kabul.

Reports suggested that Northern Alliance troops were pushing towards Kabul, and towards Kandahar, seat of Taleban Supreme Commander Mullah Mohammad Omar.

It is being speculated that Northern Alliance was in the know about the impending US attacks.

Northern Alliance are now poised to the north of Kabul, reports indicated.

Russia was also understood to have sent logistical support to the Northern Alliance troops via Tajikistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan.

Analysts indicated that the Taleban could in fact have been wrong-footed into sending a sizeable chunk of its troops to the wrong location.

In response to reports that Uzbekistan had permitted the US to use its air bases, the Taleban was understood to have moved thousands of its troops, as also long-range artillery and rocket launchers, towards its border with Uzbekistan -- thereby depleting the forces available to it for the defence of Kabul and Kandahar.

Meanwhile, reports indicated that British Prime Minister Tony Blair had, in course of his meeting with Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad on Friday, indicated that the US-led strikes would, as one of its objectives, look to make the path to Kabul easier for the Northern Alliance troops.

The capture of Kabul has been identified as one of the first objectives of the ongoing military action.

Thus, the air strikes are likely to be followed by the dropping of US and British paratroopers, who will link up with Northern Alliance troops now on the ground to the north of Kabul, for a combined push on the Afghan capital.

Once Kabul falls, exiled king of Afghanistan Mohammad Zahir Shah would be recognised as the legitimate head of Afghanistan.

The deadline calls for this to be accomplished before October 10, when an extraordinary meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Conference in Doha.

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