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Northern Alliance puts on show, threatens new push

Alliance troops
Troops from the Northern Alliance train in the desert in northern Afghanistan.  

NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN (CNN) -- Northern Alliance troops rallied on the plains north of Kabul on Monday as new allied airstrikes rattled the Afghan capital and the southern city of Kandahar.

With plumes of smoke from raids by U.S. heavy bombers in the background, deposed Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani told the troops they must continue to fight the Taliban.

Outfitted in new uniforms, alliance troops put on a live-fire display featuring tanks, armored personnel carriers and mobile rocket launchers.

Rabbani also paid tribute to the alliance's slain military commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud, who was assassinated just days before the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Massoud's successor, Gen. Mohammad Fahim, said Monday's parade "is intended to demonstrate the military power of the Islamic state of Afghanistan."

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"If the order for an attack is given, we are confident these troops will achieve their mission," Fahim said.

On Sunday, Alliance spokesman Haron Amin told CNN the opposition is preparing to move on Kabul and the strategic city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Amin said the offensive could begin in about a week if the heavy U.S. bombing of Taliban frontline positions continues.

However, he said that the Northern Alliance would be better prepared if it had more support in the form of tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons from the United States and other coalition countries.

U.S. strikes on the Taliban front lines have intensified in preparation for a possible opposition assault, said Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, a Pentagon spokesman.

Deposed Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani speaks to opposition troops.  

"We are helping prepare these battlefields by taking down Taliban resistance," Stufflebeem said Monday.

In addition to raids on Taliban positions north of Kabul, there were reports of intense fighting Monday near Mazar-e Sharif. The city lies at a crossroads linking Northern Alliance-held territory with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to the north and the city of Herat to the west.

And U.S. bombers struck Kandahar again after a four-day lull, attacking targets near the airport and a place where the Taliban were reported to have once housed elite commando troops.

Bombers also struck districts around Kandahar's outskirts, where Taliban officials were reported to have been hiding, and hit targets along the Kandahar-Herat highway west of the city.

In addition, U.S. planes dropped leaflets showing the car used by Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, telling the Taliban they are being watched.

CNN Correspondents Matthew Chance, Kamal Hyder and Satinder Bindra contributed to this report.


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