Fear in Kabul as prospect of strikes grows
KABUL, Afghanistan -- With expectations growing of some sort of U.S. retaliatory strike on Afghanistan, hundreds of Kabul residents have begun evacuating the city.
Most aid workers, reporters and diplomats based in the Afghan capital have already left with the UN pulling out its entire international staff Thursday.
Residents left in the city say tensions are running high with any sounds, particularly in the night, raising fears that an attack may have begun.
"In a situation like this, you feel that death is creeping up on you as we don't know when the attacks will take place,” one resident told Reuters.
“I am leaving Kabul with my family and can't wait any longer," he said.
With television banned by the ruling Taliban authorities most Afghans are staying close to radios tuned into international broadcasters.
The country’s few international phone lines are believed to have been cut for security reasons.
Number one suspect
The Taliban are under pressure to hand over Saudi dissident, Osama bin Laden -- the man named by many officials as the number one suspect behind Tuesday’s devastating suicide attacks in New York, Washington and Pittsburgh.
He has been living in Afghanistan for several years as a “guest” of the Taliban, but Afghan officials insist he lacks the resources and the communications to carry out such an attack.
Washington has been urging Pakistan to close its border with Afghanistan and to cut funding routes to terrorist groups it says are operating out of the country.
Pakistan is one of only three countries to have official ties with the Taliban.
The U.S. has also asked Pakistan’s President, General Pervez Musharraf, if he is willing to cooperate with its war on terrorism -- particularly if it is willing to allow U.S. planes access to its airspace in the event of a strike.
Many Afghans, like the Taliban leadership, have condemned the attacks on the U.S. and offered their sympathy.
Taliban officials have issued several statements condemning the action and appealing to the U.S. not to attack the country in retaliation, saying the Afghan people were already in a great deal of misery.
Senior Pakistani diplomats are known to have had at least one meeting earlier this week at which they urged the Afghans to hand over bin Laden.
The Taliban gave sanctuary to the millionaire Saudi dissident in 1996 mainly they say because of his role in war efforts that led to the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan after 10-years of occupation.
With the prospect growing of military action the Taliban leadership are concerned that any attacks could open the door for offensives by the Northern Alliance -- effectively the opposition government in Afghanistan which has been engaged in a long running civil war with the Taliban.
The frontline of the conflict is around 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Kabul and has been more or less static for the past five years.
The Taliban fears that a sustained attack by the U.S. could help push forward forces from the Northern Alliance to retake Kabul.
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