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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 09:53 GMT
The war on terror: A key turning point?
The Afghan opposition, the Northern Alliance, have captured the strategically important city of Mazar-e-Sharif, and several other towns in northern Afghanistan.

Taleban Defence Minister Obaidullah Akhund has admitted that Taleban forces have withdrawn from Mazar.

These are the first major victories in the American-led campaign and the first significant defeats for the Taleban.

Mazar-e-Sharif's capture opens a land corridor from Uzbekistan - which supports the United States - into central Afghanistan. It also cuts off Taleban forces in the north of the country.

Washington has said the capture of Mazar-e-Sharif will also make it easier to step up humanitarian aid to Afghans during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Is this an important turning point in the US-led campaign, or just a small step in a war that could last for years?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Mazar-e-Sharif is certainly a very valuable city to hold, what with its two airstrips and proximity to ally Uzbekistan. This will hopefully take some of the pressure off Pakistan and the Uzbeks to host American forces and increase the opportunities to provide humanitarian aid. Mazar-e-Sharif will also hopefully provide a positive example to other cities which are dissatisfied with Talean rule. It is not, however, likely to be indicative of how the rest of the campaign is going to go because Mazar was (comparatively) very difficult for Taleban troops to defend, and the city's inhabitants are probably the most sympathetic to the Northern Alliance. Kabul is a different situation, with mountainside defences that are deadly to ground forces and are difficult to effectively bomb. After Kunduz, I expect the Northern Alliance will either make an unsuccessful rush at Kabul or settle down for the winter.
John D., Boston, USA

This proves that the fighting ability of the Taleban forces has been vastly over-estimated. They are just men, badly equipped and poorly trained. Kabul will fall by the end of Ramadan, and the Taleban will be extinguished as they attempt retreat to the mountains.
Mark C, UK

As the Northern Alliance advances, ordinary Afghans are gradually being thrown from the frying pan into the fire

Sharjil, UK
As the Northern Alliance advances, ordinary Afghans are gradually being thrown from the frying pan into the fire, while the West sings of "liberation". Let's not forget that while the people of Afghanistan are being "liberated", we in the developed world are also soon to enjoy the new "freedoms" of tougher anti-terrorism measures such as: ID cards; detaining terrorism suspects without warrant or trial; loyalty tests for immigrants; restrictions on freedom of speech; and my personal favourite - sentencing to death without trial or evidence, with respect to bin Laden and sentencing to death the Taleban and Afghans who merely played host to this "evildoer".
Sharjil, UK

The people of Kabul fled in such great numbers at the beginning of the bombardment not only because of the bombing itself, but because of the realization that the so-called Northern Alliance might once again take power. When the Alliance took over the city in the 90's, a wave of murder, rape and pillage followed. The U.S. and the U.K. may be responsible for replacing one group of violent, pathological misogynists with others who are just as bad or worse. However, we will look the other way, because they will be "our" violent, pathological misogynists.
Jeff Granger, Chicago, USA

I think the taking of Mazar-e-Sharif is more a big step for USA/ Uk and the Northern Alliance's confidence who until now have not really gained anything from this war and they will gain momentum from this and hopefully move a lot closer taking Kabul. This also gives the US access to a key area within Afghanistan. But I think this must stop for Ramadan or this could see more Muslims joining the Taleban and to some extent rightfully so.
Dave, UK

Small but important step which will provide good base for future victories.
Viji Palaniappan, USA / India

Any victory against an instrument of oppression such as the Taleban is a victory indeed

Neil Fellowes, Great Yarmouth, UK
Any victory against an instrument of oppression such as the Taleban is a victory indeed - having just read the report about the people of Mazar-e-Sharif enjoying freedom, men queuing to have haircuts and most importantly, women regaining their individuality. The Northern Alliance seem to respect the simple principles of freedom and choice, and I hope that the Muslims of the world recognise now that this is not a war against them, it is for them and every one else.
Neil Fellowes, Great Yarmouth, UK

This seems a small scale victory and it may be just a small step in a unwishful war that could last for years. In the past the Afghans have resisted Russian attacks and now these attacks may just be a repetition of a lengthier involvement and more mass killing.
A.R.Shams, Pakistan

We are praising the Northern Alliance's entrance into Mazar-e-Sharif? Sure, people in Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, and Kabul favour easing the restrictions of the Taleban regime. I say with some degree of confidence that these three cities will have a net-increase in human rights. However, this victory marks the end of the rights to life and human security in Taleban-controlled rural Afghanistan, from the resurgence of small militant groups, re-establishment of drug culture, and the possibility of Northern Alliance commanders committing more of the same atrocities of which human rights organizations accuse them.
Henry, USA

So what? Losing one city doesn't mean the end for the Taleban

Rezal Anthony Abdullah, Singapore
So what? Losing one city doesn't mean the end for the Taleban. In fact the war has just started. Don't ever thing that the NA will prevail throughout the whole of Afghanistan. They are a minority. The Pashtuns will not keep quiet and let this divided alliance of convenience rule them. The division of Afghanistan is imminent.
Rezal Anthony Abdullah, Singapore

I agree with Dave from the UK. The Taleban are moving into the mountains. This is the place where they can fight 'their war.' If the USA want to subdue them then they will have to go in and get them, which is something easier said than done. There is a good chance you will get bitten if you try to catch a dog by the tail!
ronnie.w, Taiwan (UK)

Now instead of being oppressed by the Taleban, they can be oppressed by General Dostum instead!

Charles Moore, Scotland
It's a turning point for the people of Mazar-e-Sharif. Now instead of being oppressed by the Taleban, they can be oppressed by General Dostum instead! As far as the wider war is concerned it really depends on whether it was a rout with the Taleban running like frightened chickens or an orderly withdrawal with the aim of saving their forces for the Kabul battle or even a counter-attack. For once I agree with the Americans. We have to wait to see where everyone is in a few days time.
Charles Moore, Scotland

Question: Which country sends the most aid to developing nations and others who experience natural disaster? USA. Which country is blamed in part for the lack of peace between Israel and Palestine? USA. Which country has opened its doors to more immigrants for a better and more prosperous future? USA. I just want to know why WE are the recipient of "Death to America" chants and other such pointed attacks? Wouldn't it be surprising if we responded in kind to such hate!? If this is what we receive for our efforts, why should we continue to try?
Sue, USA

The media still have not grasped it. The struggle against terrorism is not going to be defined by instant gratification generation reporters or cynical pundits or the blame America first crowd. It's going to be defined by the 88 per cent of Americans who have brought to this conflict unmatched unity, patient resolution and unbounding faith in our armed forces and political leaders. That is the real turning point, not the capture of a city.
Peter C. Kohler, USA

The capture of Mazar-e-Sharif is certainly a good step in the right direction but its importance shouldn't be exaggerated. You can't win in Afghanistan with only the support of minority groups. The US should make more efforts to get the majority of afghan people, who are Pashtun, on its side. In fact Afghanistan is always been ruled by the Pashtuns
Amin R., holland

Is it justifiable to kill a patient to eradicate a disease?

Dr.Zahoor, Malaysia
It is not difficult for Americans and northern alliance to capture Mazar-e-sharif or even Kabul because they have weapons and all the requirements necessary to win a war. The problem is to establish peace which does not seem to be possible. The Northern Alliance have no roots in the masses and the people of war torn Afghanistan hate America. America can conquer the land but not the hearts of Afghans. If they are really the so-called civilized people they should look for the cause of this anger and hate. Is it the response of a civilized nation to kill poor children and bomb hospitals? Is it justifiable to kill a patient to eradicate a disease?
Dr.Zahoor, Malaysia

As Muslim I am very happy to see that Mazer-e-Sharif has fallen to hands of Northern Alliance. There are many other battles ahead (i.e. Kabul & Kandahar) but I am sure that the Northern Alliance will be able to recapture those cities too. Afghanistan belongs to Afghan people and Taleban is truly the opposite of Islam.
Reza, UK

Yes, this is a pivotal moment. The Northern Alliance and the USA have co-operated magnificently to eliminate the Taleban, Pakistani and Arab terrorists presence in Mazar-e-Sharif. Now we can move on to the next phase and remove the evildoers from Kabul.
Rahul, India

Bush and Blair have been careful to prepare their respective countries for a long war

S. James, UK
It is simplistic to think that one successful engagement will lead to peace. Bush and Blair have been careful to prepare their respective countries for a long war.
S. James, UK

This is not a great step. In fact, if they captured Mazar-e-sharif then this is also not a problem for Taleban as they can easily get it back. If we want real peace in Afghanistan then we should not support the Northern Alliance because only 2 or 3% of Afghans are in their favor. Even if anti-Taleban forces captured the whole of Afghanistan, the Taleban moment can't be stopped.
Syed Salman Jalal Kaka Khel, Peshawar, Pakistan

Without a doubt, this is just a first step. Although it is a very important one, we have to continue until Afghanistan is no longer a haven for terrorists. We have no choice. This is not a war that we can turn our back on.
Jeff, USA

This new development is nothing significant in the war on terror, this city has changed hands many times. The real breakthrough will come in Kabul even then the Taleban will retreat to the mountains and launch a guerrilla war, so if you are looking for peace you have chosen the wrong route. This war will continue for many a year.
Tehseen Khan Barakzai, Bradford(UK)

The Taleban are melting into the mountains - preparing for a long guerrilla war

Dave, UK
Let's be realistic. After three days the Russians entered Kabul. After 10 years and over 45,000 losses later, they were kicked out of Afghanistan. The Taleban are melting into the mountains - preparing for a long guerrilla war.
Dave, UK

The real battle and turning point in the war of Afghanistan is over what will replace the Taleban.
Hugh Turner, Ireland

The fall of Mazar-e-Sharif is a big step of Northern Alliance towards Kabul (which is their main objective). This city has a very important air base, which can be used by US air forces. The fall of Mazar is a big blow to Taleban. There will be an affect on their military activities. It seems that Northern Alliance will advance further in the shadow of US war planes.

What I have noticed is that US armed troops have done nothing to fight with the Taleban face to face. They haven't also been able to find the correct location of Osama bin Laden's Head Quarter. It seems that US aim is only to destroy the Taleban, which is not the real aim. The US is using the same plan which is "to divide and rule". At first, they tried to find some moderators in the Taleban but failed to do so. Now, they have used Northern Alliance as a weapon to destroy the Taleban..and I think it is working!
M. Jibran Haider, Pakistan

The capture of Mazar-e-Sharif by forces of the Northern Alliance is an important step in the destruction of the Taleban regime, but it may have little impact on the larger battle against international terrorism. The Taleban is an important part of the terrorism support network, but only a part.
Thomas, USA

The capture of Mazar-e-Sharif is a small step in the beginning of a chain of events in which Osama Bin Laden and his forces are going to be defeated. It is basically good news for the world. But, it is only one step while we see more to come. How long will this last? As long as it takes to destroy Bin Laden and his evil forces. But, it will happen.
Dave Adams, USA

This is a very decisive turning point, not only in the war effort but also for distribution of humanitarian aid

Phil T, Oman
This is a very decisive turning point, not only in the war effort but also for distribution of humanitarian aid. There will now be an air link to the outside world and supplies of all kinds can be air lifted into Afghanistan. It should not be too difficult for the allies to maintain a stronghold in this area now with all the sophisticated equipment at their disposal and the relatively good road link to Uzbekistan could also be used to good affect. Other countries willing to participate could be utilised to secure the area and it will now be possible to begin further expansion into other parts of the country. The Taleban are now on the run and could be defeated sooner rather than later.
Phil T, Oman

The capture and control of Mazar-e-Sharif is most certainly a positive step towards winning this fight but the hundreds and thousands of people world wide that are hurting from these terrorist activities will not be happy until Bin Laden and his Taleban henchmen are seen swinging from ropes around their necks.
Ash Newell, USA (Ex Pat Brit)

"This is not the end! But it is, perhaps, the beginning of the end". Patience people.
Mark M. Newdick, US/UK

The fall of Mazar-e-Sharif is not so much a 'turning-point' as evidence that the Taleban cannot really fight off an attack on the scale they are facing. We have heard so much nonsense about how 'tough' the Taleban are, but they are just men at the end of the day. If anything, this should prove their vulnerability once on for all to those strange commentators who have written in awed tones of the Taleban as if they were made of kryptonite.
Michael Entill, UK

This latest victory in Mazar-e-Sharif proves that patience and determination pays off

Jack, Baltimore, MD, USA
To all those who question the resolve of the United States, this latest victory in Mazar-e-Sharif proves that patience and determination pays off. I am so thankful that I live in a country that is willing to do whatever it takes to stand up to the terrorists and defeat them, unlike all these pacifists who want to do nothing and let terrorists destroy everything in sight!
Jack, Baltimore, MD, USA

Although it has been reported that the Northern Alliance has captured Mazar-e-sharif, the Taleban are regrouping on the outskirts of the City. This city over the years have been lost and won by the Taleban many times and while, presently, the anti-Taleban forces are supported by the US air force, I still believe that it will be sometime before one can safely say whether the city has really been lost by the Taleban. The war, and with it the misery to the Afghan people, will continue for a long time to come and with it political instability in many countries of the world.
Arif Sayed, Dubai,UAE

This is a real sign of progress, and perhaps with the great increase in humanitarian aid that will ensue, the Afghan people and the Muslim world will really see that the west is not targeting them, but the fanatics.
James Potter, England

The war against terrorism will last until "the hell no we won't go" lads outvote the "burn the witches" mob.
David de Vere Webb, England

Today is the beginning of the end of the Taleban

Will McElgin, USA
Today is the beginning of the end of the Taleban. As the political situation inside Afghanistan begins to break down, Bin Laden will increasingly be placed at risk of destruction by American forces. Also, the introduction of land-based aircraft into neighboring countries will soon increase the striking power that America has at its disposal by at least an order of magnitude. There are more good days ahead for the United States Air Force. Ultimately the use of U.S. ground forces, despite the fanciful notions that some in the press have about Taleban fighting skills, will expose the Taleban to attack by a military machine that possess a degree of firepower and an ability to destroy the enemy at long range that will make the coming intensified air attacks seem inviting by comparison. Today, a small but significant victory to silence the critics. In the coming months, payback in full. To those who think, or perhaps wish, that America will suffer an ignominious defeat in Afghanistan: pull up a chair, sit back and watch us avenge the loss of our countrymen. Watch us annihilate these murderers in detail at little cost to ourselves.
Will McElgin, USA

This apparent victory in the war against terrorism is, indeed, a significant step towards ousting the Muslim Nazi's from power in Afghanistan. Importantly, this victory will enable humanitarian supplies to reach many suffering Afghans in the northern regions of that country. I am very proud that humanitarian assistance is an important facet of the U.S.-led coalition....and a marked difference between the terrorists concept of imposing terror, starvation and their own brand of ethnic cleansing upon groups that do not view the world as they do. All in all, a wonderful piece of good news for all freedom-loving people who know that the stakes are very high in this war against evil.
Tom S., Chicago, USA

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