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Marines: Kandahar campaign at 'culmination point'

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SUMMARY:

U.S. Marines and Afghan opposition groups were preparing Sunday for a possible final assault on the remaining Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, with the number of U.S. attack and support helicopters on the ground nearly doubling overnight. U.S. warplanes struck Kandahar and the mountains of eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, but the Pentagon said it had no evidence to suggest its aircraft were the cause of numerous civilian casualties reported near Jalalabad.

In Germany, meanwhile, four Afghan factions were studying a U.N. proposal Sunday night for a 29-member ruling council to govern Afghanistan after the Taliban. A senior diplomat at the talks said participants hoped the council could take power by the end of the year.

UPDATE:

Maj. James "Bo" Higgins, an intelligence officer with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said the military campaign for Kandahar had reached "a culmination point." Higgins said no decision had been taken to commit U.S. Marines to the coming battle for Kandahar, but Afghan opposition forces were moving toward Kandahar from the north and southeast. (Full story)

The proposed post-Taliban regime under discussion in Germany calls for an interim administration to rule for six months or until a special commission could convene a traditional Afghan council, U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told reporters Sunday. A multinational peacekeeping force would be stationed in Kabul and possibly other areas as a security measure. (Full story)

Afghan villagers near Jalalabad dug more bodies out of wrecked buildings Sunday in the aftermath of what they say were errant U.S. airstrikes -- an account U.S. military officials denied. "There were 12 persons in our family," wounded villager Ikbal Udin said through an interpreter. "I was outside the house. The airplanes bombed, and when I returned to the house, all the people were killed." (Full story)

The body of Johnny Spann, a CIA operative killed during a prison uprising at Mazar-e Sharif last week, was returned to U.S. soil Sunday. Spann, a former Marine, was questioning Taliban prisoners at the compound when the uprising began November 25. (Full story)

One of the non-Afghan Taliban fighters who survived last week's prison uprising is an American, U.S. officials said Sunday on condition of anonymity. The fighter, who identified himself as John Walker, told CNN he was a convert to Islam and a "jihadi" -- fighter of holy wars -- who joined the Taliban six months ago. (Full story)


  •  Summary

  •  Update

  •  Key questions

  •  Who's who

  •  Impact


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KEY QUESTIONS:

Who are the Northern Alliance and other key players in the political landscape of Afghanistan, and how could U.S. military intervention affect the balance of power there? (Click here for more)

Will the Taliban surrender or will they continue to fight, possibly launching a guerilla war out of Afghanistan's mountains? (Click here for more)

Where is Mullah Omar Mohammed, the spiritual leader of the Taliban?

What kind of government will replace the Taliban if the religious group is removed as the country's government? Will there be a U.N. or international peacekeeping force in Kabul? (Click here for more)

How are the citizens of Kabul reacting to the Taliban abandoning the city? (Click here for more)

How long will the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan last? (Click here for more)

What is the goal of the U.S. airstrikes over Afghanistan? What is the key to the mission's success? (Click here for more)

What is the White House doing to prevent al Qaeda from airing what it calls "propaganda" on U.S. media outlets? (Click here for more)

WHO'S WHO:

George W. Bush: U.S. president (Click here for more)

Osama bin Laden: A wealthy Saudi expatriate living in Afghanistan who U.S. authorities cite as one of the primary suspects in masterminding the attacks. (Click here for more)

Condoleezza Rice: U.S. national security adviser. (Click here for more)

Colin Powell: U.S. secretary of state. A former Army general, Powell also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Click here for more. (Click here for more.)

Gen. Richard B. Myers: Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Click here for more)

Gen. Tommy Franks: Head of U.S. Central Command. (Click here for more)

Donald Rumsfeld: U.S. secretary of defense. (Click here for more)

The Taliban: A group of Islamic fundamentalists, mainly from Afghanistan's Pashtun ethnic group, which is the country's largest ethnic group. The Taliban that gained control of most of the country by 1997 and instituted an extreme form of Islamic law. (Click here for more)

Northern Alliance: A group of former mujahedeen fighters, mainly from minority ethnic groups that oppose the Taliban. (Click here for more)

George Robertson: NATO secretary-general and former British defense minister. (Click here for more)

George Tenet: CIA director. (Click here for more)

IMPACT:

The military attacks that began October 7 mark the start of what the Bush administration says will be a lengthy struggle against terrorist organizations worldwide -- one that could take years.



 
 
 
 



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