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Nic Robertson: Action in southern Afghanistan



SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan (CNN) -- U.S.-led airstrikes pounded Kandahar on Monday, the same day that U.S. Marines started to arrive at the southern Taliban stronghold. Heavy fighting was reported on the ground.

Not far from Kandahar, at the border of Chaman, in Pakistan, and Spin Boldak, in Afghanistan, CNN's Nic Robertson is monitoring the developments. He filed this report.

ROBERTSON: We're at the border of Chaman and Spin Boldak. Chaman is in Pakistan; Spin Boldak, a few hundred meters from where I am, is inside Afghanistan. Now, there were rumors earlier today that Spin Boldak had fallen from Taliban control. What we now know to be accurate is that Spin Boldak -- the border town on the main highway to Kandahar, about three hours from Kandahar -- is under the control of the Taliban.

We spoke with a Taliban foreign ministry official who crossed over into Pakistan about an hour ago. He said that at this stage there were no negotiations going on between Taliban and tribal forces to hand over the control of Spin Boldak. He said that the reason there were no negotiations was that the tribal commanders want too much in the surrender of the Taliban. He said that the tribal commanders want the Taliban to surrender all their weapons and their heavy weapons. And he said that this was too much for the Taliban at this stage.

Now, in the city of Kandahar itself, there were reports overnight of heavy bombing -- around the airport of Kandahar, about 10 miles southeast of the city of Kandahar. There were reports of heavy gunfire in the city of Kandahar today.

However, at this stage we understand that in Kandahar itself the Taliban say they are in control of the city, they are in control of the airport and there is some degree of normal life on the streets of Kandahar. People are going about their shopping in the marketplace there. Our staff inside Kandahar say the atmosphere is relatively normal inside the city, at the moment.

CNN: Are you seeing a good number of people fleeing over the Pakistan line there?

ROBERTSON: At this time, there's just the normal traffic between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Usually there are several hundreds of men who cross every day between Pakistan and Afghanistan. These people trade on both sides of the border. The towns here at Chaman and Spin Boldak are both busy trading towns. And we understand from Pakistani officials at the border, this is just the regular movement of people across the border.

Also today at the border we have seen about 30 trucks full of food going into Afghanistan. Pakistani officials here at the border say this is a routine supply of food that's in the regular marketplace. This is not relief aid that's going into Afghanistan, they say, but just regular food products -- a lot of wheat on about 30 trucks going into Afghanistan from Pakistan today.

And the word from truck drivers who are coming out of Kandahar to the border of Spin Boldak and Chaman -- they tell us that on the main highway there is now a detour around a small town that tribal commanders say that they attacked and took control of. Today, truck drivers tell us that the Taliban are now detouring drivers around that town, away from the main highway. So clearly there's the possibility there that the Taliban do not control one part of the main highway linking Kandahar to the border of Spin Boldak and Chaman.



 
 
 
 


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