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Northern Alliance: Taliban supply route cut

Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah
Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Opposition fighters in Afghanistan claimed Tuesday to have cut off the main north-south supply route for troops of the ruling Taliban, putting the Islamic government's forces there in jeopardy.

The Northern Alliance said it took control of the route through the western Baghlan province Monday night when 40 commanders and 1,200 fighters allied with the Taliban defected.

"This has put the Taliban in a very difficult situation," Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said.

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The Northern Alliance has been fighting the Taliban for control of Afghanistan for several years but holds less than 10 percent of the country. Its reported success could not be independently confirmed.

U.S. and British airstrikes have cut off the Taliban air supply routes to the north, leaving the Taliban only a long circular route through western Afghanistan to supply the north, Abdullah said.

"They are being stripped off, to a large extent, from air transportation means as a result of today's airstrikes. This will make it even more difficult for the Taliban," Abdullah told CNN.

The Northern Alliance maintains positions about 25 miles north of Kabul and engages in artillery exchanges with Taliban troops, hoping to soften the lines holding the capital.

Some Alliance commanders have told CNN they would like to see the U.S. strike the Taliban forces standing between them and Kabul, opening the way to retake the Afghan capital.

Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon briefing that U.S. air strikes did hit some Taliban ground troops near the Northern Alliance.

Asked if the United States is honoring a Northern Alliance request for close air support, Myers said that was not what the United States was trying to do but "technically it is possible."

"What we're trying to do militarily, of course, is defeat the terrorists, the network and the infrastructure that supports them, not particularly support any particular element," Myers said.

Abdullah said he was satisfied with the level of coordination between the Northern Alliance and the United States forces.

He would not say, however, whether opposition forces were any closer to trying to retake Kabul as a result of the losses suffered by the Taliban over the past three days. For the moment, they are holding their positions and attacking the Taliban from there.

"I cannot comment on that, but I would say that Taliban are in a really hard situation at this moment in Afghanistan," Abdullah said.

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