Burns: On the Taliban-Northern Alliance front line
NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN (CNN) -- As U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, on the diplomatic front Tuesday, U.S.-led airstrikes pounded the Afghanistan cities of Kandahar and Kabul.
North of the capital of Kabul, the Northern Alliance sought to capitalize on the strikes against the Taliban by moving closer to the strategic northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif. CNN correspondent Chris Burns was able to travel close to the alliance-Taliban front line, and he filed this report.
BURNS: There's a fierce windstorm going on, portending what's going to happen in the next few weeks as winter approaches. That's complicating things not only for the troops on the ground but also for refugees in the far-flung mountains beyond us.
We walked last night very closely to the front lines between here and Kabul. We heard the U.S.-led airstrikes, the blasting and pounding of various Taliban positions not only in and around Kabul but also north of Kabul on Taliban troop positions just south of that front line.
Of course, the airstrikes have caused a significant amount of damage in the area. Civilian damage and casualties are what the Taliban are claiming not only in Kabul but also in Kandahar and other cities.
The strikes that we saw last night were also very close along the front line as Taliban and Northern Alliance troops were exchanging fire -- not only tracer fire but also artillery, machine gun and border fire.
A lot of that fighting was going on up in the north, where the Northern Alliance is trying to take back the key city of Mazar-e-Sharif. That city's airport was pounded by U.S.-led airstrikes in the past few days. The Northern Alliance is hoping to capitalize on that. They say so far they are five to seven kilometers within the airport, and they say they're closing in steadily.
They also say they have taken some 20 Taliban fighters prisoner and killed 10 others. And hundreds of other Taliban fighters, they say, have defected to the other side. That's very difficult for us to confirm from this point because it's so far removed.
However, we've been watching food shipments and food handouts to needy Afghans. The U.S. airdrops have dropped more than a quarter of a million packets to various Afghans. ... However, international aid officials say they would like to see a cease-fire not only in the airstrikes but on the ground so the food shipments could resume, especially 14,000 tons to the northern areas of Afghanistan, where hundreds of thousands of people are facing starvation if they don't get that in the next few weeks.
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