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Bill Delaney: Switching sides in Afghanistan

(CNN) -- With the Northern Alliance in control of Kabul after the Taliban's dramatic retreat from the Afghan capital early Tuesday, attention turned to other towns near Kabul, to the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, and to the humantarian effort in the region.

CNN's Bill Delaney is based in Peshawar, Pakistan. He filed this report.

DELANEY: The unraveling of Taliban authority throughout Afghanistan continues to a degree unimaginable just a couple of days ago. Both Pakistani and Afghan sources now tell us that the key eastern city of Jalalabad in Afghanistan is no longer under Taliban authority, nor is the province where Jalalabad is.

We have separate reports from separate sources of Afghans crossing into Pakistan from Konar Province, that the province is also no longer under the authority of the Taliban.

Now, this is not a result of major fighting of any kind, we are told, but of the Taliban administrations in these provinces switching sides. In Nangarhar Province, it was all settled apparently with a handshake, when Taliban authorities there handed over administrative control to a respected elder. So, there are major developments here, but not from major fighting, we are told.

I'm in Peshawar, in northern Pakistan. Just a couple of hours down the road is the Khyber Pass. That leads, then, on to Jalalabad, and then on to Kabul. This is a key route into Afghanistan, of course, a route used by many humanitarian U.N. organizations over the years. Were all of this to open, that would be enormously significant for the humanitarian effort. We are not there yet, by any means. The Taliban are still in control of border crossings, we are told, although cars and trucks, we are also told, are now lined miles deep at one border crossing.

Here in Peshawar, a city of 2 million, there are a million Afghan refugees. Refugees we spoke to this morning expressed cautious optimism that their long dream of returning home might be fulfilled now in the future. But it was cautious optimism. As I say, they've been through a lot here, and no one is feeling certain that they're going into Afghanistan anytime soon.

And we continue to hear from hard-line Islamic leaders here in Peshawar, there's a lot of defiant talk about continued support for the Taliban.

CNN: One thing that could pave the way for those in Peshawar to go back home into Afghanistan would be the appearance of Northern Alliance troops back in Jalalabad. And now, you were saying that Jalalabad may have changed hands without any fighting. But is there any evidence that there may be Northern Alliance or United Front troops moving into to secure that area, and to make sure that that change does happen.

DELANEY: No, this is not what we're hearing. The military in control there is a group calling itself the Eastern Alliance. It goes under a number of names, and as I say, the military authorities there are the authorities who were there yesterday, except then, they were under Taliban administration, and now they've switched sides. Switching sides, in this case, essentially means they no longer support the Taliban and its leader, Mullah Omar. It doesn't necessarily mean that they support the Northern Alliance, but they no longer support the Taliban.


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