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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 05:54 GMT
Who are the Northern Alliance?
Northern Alliance soldiers outside of Kabul
The Northern Alliance has been buoyed by the US campaign
The dramatic advances by the Afghan Northern Alliance are a great boost for the US-led campaign against the Taleban but it may make the search for a stable post-Taleban government more difficult.

The Alliance is a multi-ethnic opposition group, which was plagued by internal dissent when it governed, but is now united in its desire to topple the ruling Taleban.

It was thought Masood's death could mean the end of the Northern Alliance
The alliance is primarily comprised of three non-Pashtun ethnic groups - Tajiks, Uzbeks and the Hazaras - and in the past relied on a core of some 15,000 troops to defend its territories against the predominantly Pashtun Taleban.

In early September the alliance was dealt a critical blow by the assassination of leader General Ahmed Shah Masood, who had been integral in forging alliances with former opponents and maintaining the co-ordination of a patchwork of guerrilla fighter units.

But General Masood's skill had not translated into significant military achievement on the ground. The alliance had controlled just under 5% of Afghanistan - the Panjshir valley, stronghold and birthplace of General Masood, and a small enclave in the mountainous north-east.

It was the US decision to back the Northern Alliance in its efforts against the Taleban - including the bombardment of Taleban front line positions - which marked a major reversal of the alliance's fortunes.

Who's who in the Northern Alliance:

Burhanuddin Rabbani (Tajik):
Burhanuddin Rabbani
Burhanuddin Rabbani is still recognised by the UN as president
The political leader and nominal head of the Northern Alliance. He was elected president of the nation's Islamic Council in 1992, and stayed on until 1996 when the Taleban occupied Kabul.

He is still recognised as the president of Afghanistan by the UN and several countries.

General Mohammed Fahim (Tajik):
Fahim faces a tough task in following Masood
Former head of intelligence who replaced General Masood following his assassination. Fahim faces a difficult task.

Masood was regarded as a charismatic leader, and a stabilising influence on the often fractious Northern Alliance.

Abdullah Abdullah:
Acting foreign minister who has become the alliance's principal spokesman. He is a qualified doctor and fluent English speaker.

Rawan Farhadi:
Permanent representative of the ousted government of Burhanuddin Rabbani to the United Nations.

General Rashid Dostum (Uzbek):
Head of Jombesh-e Melli Islami (National Islamic Movement), a predominantly Uzbek militia forming part of the Northern Alliance.

It is believed that Dostum receives the majority of Turkish assistance because of a common cultural heritage between Turks and Uzbeks.

Click here to read a full profile.

Ismail Khan (Tajik):
Ismail Khan
Ismail Khan: Taking on a greater role
Former governor of Herat and Mujahideen commander during the Soviet occupation.

When the Taleban finally took over Herat he was handed over to the Taleban. He escaped three years later.

He is technically part of the alliance, but until recently had not played much part in the fighting.

Click here to read full profile.

Karim Khalili (Hazara):
Leader of the Hezb-e-Wahdat (Unity Party) which represents the Shia ethnic Hazara minority. Khalili is the main benefactor of Iranian support.

Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf:
Leader of Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan which is part of the Northern Alliance.

The BBC's Peter Greste in Charikar
"The Northern Alliance is a collection of former allies and foes"
See also:

24 Oct 01 | South Asia
Afghans discuss political future
22 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: The world's plans for Afghans
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who are the Taleban?
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