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Northern Alliance calls for more U.S. aid

By Ian Christopher McCaleb
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Northern Alliance is in desperate need of military, food and logistical aid, an Afghan opposition official said Wednesday, adding that the United States must come through with promises of help before the alliance can launch a successful offensive against the Taliban.

"We welcome what we are receiving right now, but this is not adequate," said Haron Amin, the organization's representative in Washington.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday that cooperation with alliance forces in northern Afghanistan has increased in recent days, with ammunition and food deliveries as well as "liaison" efforts by uniformed U.S. personnel on the ground. The alliance is arrayed against the Taliban along a front near the strategic northern city of Mazar-e Sharrif.

Should that city fall to the alliance, its forces -- and presumably the U.S.-led coalition -- would gain access to airfields and roadways that could open up supply lines from Uzbekistan to the north as well as a route toward the Afghan capital, Kabul, to the south.

Amin said the alliance has no plans as of now to move on Kabul.

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While the alliance may be ready to push forward in some localized areas, Amin insisted a coordinated offensive to dislodge entrenched Taliban forces will not be possible until a steady supply of military equipment reaches its troops. "Some U.S. officials," Amin said, had hinted in recent weeks that provisions of needed equipment would be forthcoming.

"That is something we have not seen as of now," he said.

That supply channel, he urged, needs to be opened up immediately.

"We have gone from active resistance to an active offensive. ," Amin said. "We have not received the promised aid that was mentioned."

The U.S. humanitarian airdrops also have not been adequate, Amin said, suggesting that some 8 million northern Afghans will face starvation if a "Berlin-style airlift" is not initiated.

The Pentagon said that it will have dropped more than 1 million food packets in refugee areas by the end of Wednesday.

Once material starts to flow through the Northern Alliance's rear lines toward the front, the offensive will move ahead, Amin said, pledging that alliance forces would be sufficient to displace the Taliban.

"We strongly believe we have enough fighters on the ground who are competent, who are battle-hardened," Amin said.

"We are on the same side," he said of the United States. "We are both fighting terrorism."

The Northern Alliance, often referred to as the United Front, has battled the Taliban for control of Afghanistan since the early 1990s. The alliance, made up of varied ethnic, tribal and Muslim groups in the country's northern part, controls between 5 percent and 10 percent of Afghan territory. The alliance army is thought to number around 15,000 troops.

The Taliban moved into Kabul in 1996 and founded a fundamentalist Islamic government.

Once the Taliban are dispersed, Amin said, the alliance can take apart the al Qaeda network. U.S. forces, he said, aren't necessary on the ground.

Al Qaeda, he said, already has claimed enough life overseas.

"We believe enough international lives have been lost that not more are needed," he said. "We are simply saying give us the tools, and we shall finish the job.

"There needs to be adequate provision of military supplies to our armed forces and close coordination from the air," he said. "This will pave the way for the handing down of Osama bin Laden."

The Taliban will be dislodged, Amin added, only if the United States continues its air operations through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in mid-November. The Taliban have used Ramadan in previous domestic conflicts to their advantage, he said, and a halt in air raids would only give their forces time to regroup.

Amin also chastised Pakistan for its involvement in Afghan affairs, saying the Pakistani government and intelligence service have bolstered the Taliban and tribal groups opposed to a broad-based, multi-ethic Afghan government.

Pakistan, he said, should cease its efforts to establish a "subservient" government.

"Pakistan has legitimate rights in Afghanistan and deserves a friendly government," Amin said. "What we are saying is cap the Pakistani influence and military ideology that goes on in the region."


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