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Afghan Alliance meets with U.S. military

By CNN's Satinder Bindra
Northeastern Afghanistan

EYE KHONHAM, Northeastern Afghanistan (CNN) -- Anti-Taliban forces in Northeastern Afghanistan say they are now in contact and have met with US military officials.

The meeting, thought to have taken place in the last few days, was attended by eight U.S. officials and Northern Alliance commanders.

This first known face-to-face meeting on Afghan soil took place near the key strategic town of Mazar-e Sharif. The northern city has for several days been surrounded by over 10,000 troops loyal to Uzbeki warlord, General Rashid Dostam.

It is believed US forces flew in by helicopter from the neighboring country of Uzbekistan

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"A group of American commanders came, they met General Rashid Dostam and then they went back quickly," says General Baryalai, a senior alliance commander.

At their meeting, commanders from both sides discussed the military situation on the ground and the defense needs of Alliance forces.

Aiding the Alliance

Meanwhile, in what's being interpreted here as an American campaign to give some more help to the Northern Alliance, U.S. planes have been bombing frontline Taliban positions.

Anti-Taliban forces on these frontlines want more such targeted attacks, saying that they will help Alliance ground forces to surge forward and surprise the Taliban.

But for all these new signs of cooperation, Alliance forces say the U.S. has not yet given them any arms.

Furthermore, senior Alliance commanders say the U.S. needs to be aware of Afghan sensitivities -- U.S. ground troops are NOT welcome.

"We have been fighting against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden for six years," says General Baryalai.

"We have not invited U.S. forces to push them back and we have no intention of doing so.''

The Alliance would like to take Kabul and Mazar alone and fears the intervention of U.S. troops would turn Afghan public opinion against them.

It is still not clear if there will be any more face-to-face meeting between both armies, although Alliance commanders say they are now in regular touch with U.S. forces through satellite phones.

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan just a few weeks away and winter approaching fast both the U.S. and Northern Alliance troops are under pressure to make some rapid military gains.

"Nobody can forecast when a place will be captured but it is a fact that the Taliban are getting weaker," General Baryalai says.

Weaker, maybe -- but for all these military maneuvers and their soldier's prayers the fact remains the battle in Mazar has settled into a stalemate.

And the Taliban still control the main prize-- Kabul.


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