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Nic Robertson: Gearing up for Kandahar

CNN's Nic Robertson
CNN's Nic Robertson  

SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN (CNN) -- U.S. aircraft, military personnel and supplies poured into a primitive desert airfield throughout the weekend as U.S. Marines and Afghan opposition groups prepared for a possible final assault on the remaining Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

CNN's Nic Robertson filed the following report from the nearby Pakistan-Afghan border:

ROBERTSON: Pressure really is beginning to be exerted on the city of Kandahar. Our sources there tell us that two key bridges -- one to the north of the city and one to the east of the city -- have been blown up by bombs.

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They say that only leaves one access, an exit route, to the city of Kandahar. The action basically almost isolates it from the surrounding countryside. Our sources also say there has been really intense bombing throughout the day and in the previous night. Much of this bombing is centered on the airport just to the east of the city.

Villages close to the airport report hearing exchanges of gunfire and artillery fire. Late Sunday we contacted anti-Taliban forces by satellite telephone. They told us they were launching an offensive on the airport. We have not been able to reach those anti-Taliban forces Monday, so it's difficult to verify the claims of the villages around the airport. But what we're being told is that an offensive is under way for that airport. We don't know what stage that offensive is at.

We're also told by our sources in Kandahar that people in the city there are becoming very concerned that the city itself might soon be under attack. And from the border town in Spin Boldak, the Taliban tell us that they're beginning to feel as if they're losing the support of the local people.

CNN: Are there any formal negotiations going on for the surrender of Kandahar?

ROBERTSON: There had been much talk of negotiations last week. Those negotiations, however, didn't appear to get anywhere. And from what we understand, negotiations are no longer part of the equation.

It appears to be very much a military process that's taking place in and around Kandahar -- assaults are taking place not only on the ground from the north and east of the city by anti-Taliban forces trying to take the airport before they try to take the city but from the sustained bombing.

The anti-Taliban forces around the city say they are working with U.S. and British Special Forces on the ground to guide in air attacks on Taliban positions in and around the airport.


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