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Chance: A show of Northern Alliance force

CNN's Matthew Chance
CNN's Matthew Chance  

NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN (CNN) -- The opposition Northern Alliance is reportedly planning a "multipronged attack" against Taliban forces in Afghanistan as U.S.-led warplanes continued their air raids Monday on Taliban positions north of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

CNN's Matthew Chance is in northern Afghanistan and filed the following report:

CHANCE: There's a lot of military activity in northern Afghanistan. We're getting a lot of reports filtering down to us from the strategic northern city of Mazar-e Sharif about fears of fighting going on there. Certainly there's been a lot of military activity there in recent weeks, a lot of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes pounding Taliban front lines around that strategically important city.

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Also, there's a lot of military activity in this location where I'm standing now, a short distance from the Afghan capital, Kabul, just to the north. We've seen a big military parade by the opposition forces of the Northern Alliance -- certainly the biggest show of force that we've witnessed being staged by the Northern Alliance in the weeks since we've been here.

Political and military leaders addressed the thousands of troops that gathered along the Shamali Plains overlooking the front lines between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. Gen. Mohammed Fahim is the military commander of the Northern Alliance, and he told CNN his troops were now ready for a fight.

FAHIM: This parade is intended to demonstrate the military power of the Islamic state of Afghanistan. If the order for an attack is given, we're confident these troops will achieve their mission.

CHANCE: There's no indication yet though about when that advance on the Afghan capital may be. Gen. Fahim told us that that hasn't been decided yet. There was a live-fire exercise though. It was staged just after the initial military parade to give us an idea of the kind of rocket and tank firepower these forces of the Northern Alliance have at their disposal.

The big question though is to what extent the Taliban military forces have been weakened by the weeks of U.S.-led bombardments from the air and whether these forces of the Northern Alliance, even though they look pretty strong, are strong enough to advance and to take Kabul.

CNN: Give us a sense of how strong the Northern Alliance is in terms of its unity. I know it's made up of a bunch of different groups. So how united are they as a front?

CHANCE: Increasingly united, it seems over the past few months. They've managed to bring in a very tight-knit coalition of the minority ethnic groups -- the Tajiks and the Uzbeks particularly. They're also Pashtun elements as well.

The big concern for the United States and for much of the international community is that this Northern Alliance of mainly Tajiks and Uzbeks may not be representative enough to form a post-Taliban government. All the diplomatic efforts over the past few weeks have been focused on trying to have the Northern Alliance involved in a post-Taliban government but also to bring in more of the Pashtun tribesmen that make up the biggest ethnic group in Afghanistan.


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