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Afghan opposition marches into Kabul

A Northern Alliance fighter drinks tea during a quiet moment on the front lines near Taloqan, Afghanistan.  

(CNN) -- Taliban troops began withdrawing from the Afghan capital of Kabul, early Tuesday as opposition forces swept toward the city, sources told CNN.

Independent sources in Kabul told CNN Taliban forces were leaving Kabul, moving along a road to the south and that Northern Alliance forces were advancing into the city.

In Washington, a knowledgeable U.S. official told CNN that "it does appear that large numbers of Taliban forces are leaving Kabul," but said not all Taliban forces were leaving.

Afghan opposition forces had marched to within four miles (six kilometers) of Kabul Monday, but, under international pressure, opted to hold off on marching into the city. However, they took the key western city of Herat and also said they had control of the northern province of Baghlan.

Troops launched a ferocious artillery attack toward Taliban positions north of Kabul, the alliance said. Taliban gunners fired back, but their shelling was less intense, the opposition said.

Northern Alliance fighters met little resistance on the eastern approach to the capital, the "old road" into Kabul, said alliance spokesman Abdullah Abdullah. They ran into some short-lived Taliban resistance on the "new road" from Bagram to Kabul, he said. (Full story)

The United States plans to use a military airfield in Tajikistan that will make it easier for U.S. warplanes to strike Taliban positions and deliver humanitarian aid, Pentagon officials told CNN Monday.

Tajikistan has a 750-mile border with Afghanistan and is the first of the country's neighbors to let the United States use its territory to launch strikes. Pakistan and Uzbekistan have only allowed U.S. planes to use their bases for humanitarian missions.

Until now, all strike aircraft have been flying from Navy aircraft carriers positioned hundreds of miles away in the Arabian Sea. The Air Force bombers used in the attack are based in other countries.

A senior Defense Department official said that the base would be ideal for basing Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles, A-10 Thunderbolts which are used for close in attacks against targets on the ground, and possibly for Navy F/A-18 Hornets as well as surveillance and other support aircraft.

A military survey team reported to the Pentagon that the former Soviet base was "usable" but that it "needs work", according to an informed official.

Using bases in Tajikistan would allow U.S. pilots to hit their targets more quickly, burn less fuel and give resupply missions a shorter turnaround time Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem said last week.

Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir discusses the recent interview he says he had with Osama bin Laden. CNN's Nic Robertson reports (November 11)

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Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah says the Taliban have lost "their main fighting force" (November 11)

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Latest developments

• The United Nations plans to bring together members of various Afghan opposition groups to form an interim post-Taliban government. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, meeting with representatives from Russia and Afghanistan's neighbors Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, stressed the need for "speed, speed, speed" in assembling a broad-based government. (Full story)

• Near the city of Taloqan, Northern Alliance officials said three international journalists were killed Sunday in a Taliban ambush. They were among a group of six journalists riding on an armored personnel carrier when it came under small arms and mortar fire. A survivor contradicted the alliance's description of the incident as an "assassination," saying the journalists were unintended targets. (Full story)

• Aides to Afghanistan's exiled former king are working to arrange the surrender of Taliban members who want to defect, according to the king's principal adviser. Zalmai Rassoul said aides to Mohammad Zahir Shah are having the most success with Afghan units. He also said Arab and Pakistani units of the Taliban appear most committed to fighting on. (Full story)

• In California, about 8,500 U.S. and Canadian sailors and Marines left San Diego for the Arabian Sea on Monday aboard the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier battle group. Pentagon officials said they will arrive for duty after traveling for about six weeks. (Full story)

• U.S. officials have interviewed two Pakistani scientists as part of an investigation into whether Osama bin Laden or his al Qaeda network might possess nuclear weapons, Pakistani officials told CNN Correspondent Tom Mintier. The two scientists, identified as Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majeed, said their visits to Afghanistan involved humanitarian work on a hydroelectric power project. But it also involved high-level contact with the al Qaeda network, the Pakistani officials said. At least one of the scientists, Mahmood, met with a bin Laden lieutenant, they said.

• U.S, officials expect to spend more than $1 billion a month on the beginning stages of the Afghanistan military operation, with the price tag likely to rise, The New York Times reported Monday, quoting congressional and administration officials.

• In Uzbekistan, the World Food Programme began loading two barges Monday with a total of 400 tons of wheat, to be ferried across the Amu Darya River to Afghanistan in a test run scheduled for Tuesday to deliver humanitarian aid. In addition, the program was driving 16 trucks loaded with wheat from Tajikistan to Uzbekistan. The wheat eventually will be loaded onto the barges and taken across the river into northern Afghanistan, where it will be distributed to internally displaced Afghans. If Tuesday's test run is successful, the program said it hopes to begin its full aid operation Wednesday.

• U.S. Capitol Police announced Sunday that traces of anthrax were found in the offices of five more senators in the Hart Senate Office Building but said the offices may have been contaminated by an anthrax-laden letter received October 15 by Sen. Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota. Police spokesman Lt. Dan Nichols said anthrax was detected in the offices of Sens. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland; Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin; Max Baucus, D-Montana; Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania; and Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut. (Full story)

• Iranian President Mohammad Khatami expressed his sorrow Sunday again to the United States for the thousands killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks but said the "root causes" of terrorism must be examined before it can be stopped. (Full story)

• Representatives of Hollywood's major studios, television networks and creative community met Sunday with a White House delegation in Los Angeles, California, for what was described as a "lively exchange of ideas" on how the entertainment industry can help in the war against terrorism. (Full story)


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