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Pakistanis face Afghans across Khyber Pass

Pakistani soldier
A Pakistani soldier stands guard along the border with Afghanistan.  

By Mike Chinoy
CNN Hong Kong Bureau

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistani troops stood guard Tuesday in the legendary Khyber Pass after fighters of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban took up positions on the Afghan side of the border.

In Afghanistan, doctors in Jalalabad -- the city closest to the border -- met to discuss how to respond to medical consequences of a possible attack by the United States in response to last weeks attacks in New York and Washington.

"If America strikes, we will stay at our hospital day and night. We won't let our people bleed to death," one doctor said.

Other Afghans are not sticking around. Exclusive pictures of Jalalabad taken for CNN on Tuesday showed a city whose streets were virtually deserted.

CNN's Mike Chinoy says Afghan refugees are massing along the the border in expectation of a U.S. attack (September 18)

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Afghanistan's ruling Taliban has been debating a warning from a Pakistani delegation: Turn over suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden or face a U.S. attack.

Bin Laden has been named by the United States as its primary suspect in the terror attacks on New York and Washington.

Despite being one of only three countries that recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan's government, Pakistan has pledged wide-ranging support to the U.S. war on terrorism, including allowing the United States to use its airspace.

Pakistan rushed large numbers of troops to the border Monday after reports of unusual movements of Taliban fighters inside the country.

The Islamic fundamentalist Taliban, which has played host to bin Laden since the late 1990s, warned over the weekend they will attack any country that offers assistance to a U.S. attack on Afghanistan.

On the road to the border, trucks and cars ferried would-be refugees toward the Khyber Pass.

As fears of military conflict grow, so too does the desperation of the Afghan refugees and the prospect of a full-blown humanitarian crisis along the border.

Pakistan is already home to more than 2 million Afghans, dispossessed by more than 20 years of war and upheaval. Now, international relief officials believe a new wave of refugees could pour across the border.

Refugee movement
An exclusive picture taken for CNN on Tuesday shows would-be Afghan refugees moving toward the Khyber Pass.  

On Monday, an estimated 2,500 Afghans tried to cross here. Turned away at Pakistan's now-closed border, they have disappeared from view. Aid agencies believe many will try again by climbing over the barren and forbidding hills.

International humanitarian aid workers left Afghanistan last week -- like the Afghans, fearing a U.S. reprisal.

Diplomats from the United States, Germany and Australia, who had been seeking the release of eight aid workers the Taliban accuses of attempting to convert Afghans to Christianity, also left the country.

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