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Alliance forces strengthen control of Kabul



(CNN) -- Northern Alliance troops spread out across Kabul Tuesday to consolidate their control of the Afghan capital, as residents celebrated the Taliban's sudden retreat.

Taliban troops abandoned the city before dawn Tuesday and retreated south, towards their stronghold of Kandahar.

Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah told CNN the alliance did not plan to chase Taliban troops because they did not want to stretch their army too thinly.

The occupation of Kabul was the latest in a series of military gains over the last few days that have given the opposition control of the northern half of the country.

The fall of Kabul left diplomats scrambling to form a broad-based, interim government. The Northern Alliance is made up primarily of ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks and is viewed warily by many Pashtuns, the largest single ethnic group in Afghanistan.

A number of countries, including the United States, had urged the Northern Alliance not to take Kabul until a new government could be formed.

Abdullah said alliance troops had not planned to enter Kabul, but had no choice because "irresponsible people" with weapons were causing disturbances after the Taliban withdrawal.

Abdullah invited United Nations envoys to Kabul to help establish an interim government and called on representatives of all Afghan groups -- except the Taliban -- to participate in the process. (Full story)

A small number of U.S. Special Operation troops also entered Kabul to "try to create order," U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters Tuesday night in Washington that the Taliban may have reached "the break point," military jargon for the point at which an army cannot take any more punishment and runs away in disarray. "Maybe they have reached it; we will know in a few days," Powell said.

Another senior Bush administration offical said he understood that there was a serious fight underway for control of Kandahar, the long-time Taliban stronghold. This official said there are indications the city could fall soon.

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CNN's Matthew Chance traveled with Northern Alliance troops into the Afghan capital (November 13)

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Latest developments

• Rumsfeld made it clear that despite the Taliban's retreat, the U.S.-led military strikes aren't over because the coalition's objectives -- dislodging the Taliban from control of the country and rooting out the al Qaeda terrorist network -- have not yet been met. (Full story)

• A delegation of Afghan tribal chiefs is trying to convince Taliban commanders around Kandahar to defect, factional leaders in Pakistan told CNN. There also were reports that other tribal leaders were massing anti-Taliban forces near Kandahar.

• In a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Bush said his administration will continue to work with the Northern Alliance to make sure it recognizes that a new government in Afghanistan must include representatives of all the people. However, Putin warned against becoming "deluded" by the advances, saying the Taliban are still a threat.

• The State Department is searching for a possible letter laced with anthrax after eight samples taken from its mail-handling facility in Sterling, Virginia, tested positive for anthrax, spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday. Boucher said the results support a theory that a letter similar to one sent last month to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, has moved through the department's mail system.

• Eight mail facilities at Howard University in Washington were closed for cleaning Tuesday after the school's main mailroom tested positive for trace amounts of anthrax, according to a university spokeswoman. This is the first known case of anthrax contamination at a non-governmental facility in the Washington area. Howard receives mail from the same U.S. Postal Service facility that has also tested positive for anthrax. (Full story)

• U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on Tuesday ordered all U.S. attorneys to develop protocols on how to share intelligence reports and other information among federal, state and local officials, declaring that "effective communication is vital" to defeating terrorists. Ashcroft said training sessions should be held for local and state leaders on how to identify foreign intelligence and how to share that information. (Full story)

• Ashcroft also said he has ordered law enforcement officials to question more than 5,000 young males who have entered the United States in the past two years in a search for information about terrorists. Ashcroft said the initiative was necessary to "expand our knowledge of terrorist networks operating within the United States." (Full story)

• In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised the Afghan people "this time we will not walk away from you," promising Tuesday to help the Afghans form a new government while providing humanitarian support. Blair was referring to claims that the West abandoned opposition forces in Afghanistan after the Soviet Union ended its occupation in 1989. (Full story)

• In New York, representatives of the so-called six-plus-two nations -- those neighboring Afghanistan along with the United States and Russia -- were scheduled on Tuesday to resume talks on a post-Taliban government. (Full story)

• The White House said Tuesday that Bush was "very pleased" with military developments in Afghanistan. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the administration was in frequent contact with Northern Alliance forces, urging them to respect human rights and the efforts under way to build a broad-based coalition for a post-Taliban Afghan government.

• Bush has decided to expand the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a precaution, the White House announced Tuesday. The reserve is the nation's emergency supply of oil. Among the reasons for the move was the military campaign in Afghanistan and concerns it could possibly lead to some disruption of global oil supplies. (Full story)

• Western officials told CNN that anti-Taliban forces have killed or executed as many as 600 people since Northern Alliance fighters took control of the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif on Friday. (Full story)

• As they retreated, the Taliban took with them eight foreign aid workers -- four German, two Australian and two Americans -- accused of spreading Christianity in Afghanistan, according to the father of one of the aid workers. (Full story)

• Spanish police Tuesday arrested 11 suspected terrorists who police said were engaged in recruiting terrorists and providing them with forged documents and other logistical support, a senior Spanish government official told CNN. Police said they belonged to the Muyaidin movement and were linked to Osama bin Laden. The leader of the group is a Syrian-born Spanish national, Imaz Edim Baraktiarkas, police said. (Full story)



 
 
 
 



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