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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 22:01 GMT 23:01 UK
Afghan opposition flexes its muscles
Northern Alliance commanders
The opposition is increasing pressure from the north
By Catherine Davis in Northern Afghanistan

A maze of sunken dusty tracks leads to the front line just north of Kabul.

Villagers hover close to their battle-scarred homes as Taleban and opposition forces exchange rocket fire.


There has been limited contact with the United States in recent days

In the lull that follows, life carries on as usual. The road to Kabul is blocked where opposition held territory ends.

A group of fighters, guns slung across their backs, walk along it to start their shift at the front line.

They have been told to expect an attack by the United States at some point and say they will follow developments by listening to the radio.

But opposition commanders stress that more than a missile strike is required if Taleban bases, and those of groups linked to them, are to be destroyed.

MAP

The United Front has underlined the role its forces could play too and has urged some degree of consultation or joint effort.

A key spokesman, Dr Abdullah, said there has been limited contact with the United States in recent days.

What sort exactly is not clear. Neither is it clear who initiated the contact.

Taleban forces meanwhile show little sign of reducing their activities. Dr Abdullah said Taleban attacks on the front line in the area have in fact increased.

Civilian casualties

Their aim, he explained, was to push north east, cut opposition supply routes and secure strategically important territory bordering Central Asia.

Reminders of past conflicts are numerous here. Rusting Soviet tanks and burnt-out military vehicles litter the countryside. Mud brick homes stand in ruins.

There is support for military action by Washington here. But there is also real concern about potential civilian casualties.

See also:

16 Sep 01 | South Asia
Thousands mourn anti-Taleban leader
17 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan - a tough military option
21 Sep 01 | Americas
Taleban face US wrath
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