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Matthew Chance: Bombing intense on front lines

CNN's Matthew Chance
CNN's Matthew Chance  

NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN (CNN) -- Intense U.S. bombing runs were reported Friday against frontline Taliban troop positions.

But the opposition Northern Alliance hasn't gained control of any Taliban territory. CNN's Matthew Chance is based near the front lines and filed the following report:

CHANCE: There's a lot of activity in the skies over Afghanistan -- certainly from our vantage point overlooking the Shamali Plains, those frontline positions where the Taliban forces are facing off against those of the Northern Alliance.

For the past few hours, we've been seeing very intensive bombardments of those frontline positions. There was a jet roaring overhead just a few moments ago striking those Taliban frontline positions north of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

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From our vantage point, we're able to see the plumes of black smoke billow high into the sky over those frontline positions. We can't confirm from here exactly what's being struck.

Northern Alliance commanders say they're passing on detailed intelligence to the U.S.-led coalition about exactly what tank batteries and artillery and troop concentrations are over there. So I think we can assume that that is at least what's being targeted.

At the same time, though, there is no indication yet of any Northern Alliance push from their defensive positions behind me, deeper into Taliban-controlled territory. Northern Alliance officials say they are reinforcing these positions, moving literally thousands of additional troops north of the Afghan capital, Kabul. But again, there's no sign yet of any offensive on Kabul.

CNN: Are we seeing at least a shift in their thinking? Because up until now, for the last couple of weeks or so, the Northern Alliance had been saying that they were going to wait for a political solution before actually entering Kabul or actually pressing on Kabul. Has that idea totally gone out the window now?

CHANCE: They've said all along that the political considerations would not make any difference to their push on the Afghan capital. What they are saying now is that they won't actually enter the city of Kabul until some kind of political agreement is signed and is on the table.

They say they've been given two options. They say they'll either wait at a point 15 kilometers outside of Kabul while some kind of a political agreement is signed and put on that table, or other than that, they'll simply advance to the gates of Kabul, which of course would place additional pressure on the parties involved in negotiating some kind of future government for Afghanistan.

So there is room for compromise on the part of the Northern Alliance, but they're sending very mixed signals, too, about exactly what they will or will not do if the opportunity arises for them to advance on Kabul.


• U.S. B-52s hit Taliban positions
November 2, 2001

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