GABY RADO: There were visible signs of mobilization amongst opposition forces. We filmed these Mujahadin troops arriving at the key Northern Alliance stronghold of Jabald Seraj from the Panjshir Valley. They were being brought south to act as reserves. General Babajan is the man who commands the anti-Taliban troops of Bagaran, the nearest part of the frontline to Kabul. He took us to the top of his command center to show us how close the capital lay, only some 20 miles away. During two nights of western alliance air strikes, there have been exchanges of fire in this highly volatile area.
SPOKESMAN (translated): Last night, the enemies' troops, vehicles and artillery were grouping on the other side of the line. We fired our missiles at them, and there were casualties amongst their forces.
GABY RADO: The Northern Alliance's hardware is virtually all made up of weaponry abandoned by Soviet troops, as they withdrew from Afghanistan 12 years ago. The Mujahadin, whose guerilla tactics drove them out, have ever since used the aging military stock to continue their civil war. There are, of course, two ways in which the preparations which we're witnessing here could be interpreted. One is that the Northern Alliance are getting ready to push on to Kabul further South. The other is that they're getting their defenses ready for the mass strength of the Taliban, but on the other side. The Northern Alliance admits its troops on this frontline are outnumbered by more than 3-1, but their claim to have intelligence of the recent offer of amnesty to any Taliban forces who defect is already having the effect of destroying the Taliban leadership's trust in its own homegrown fighters. "They are worried about their Afghan troops, that they will use this amnesty to change sides. That's why they put their Arab and Pakistani soldiers here, because this is the most important part of the frontline. This and the strategic mountains overlooking Kabul." The Northern Alliance won't say whether they're waiting for a signal from the Americans before making any move. On this frontline, it may be more a case of holding their ground, hoping the warplanes above destroy the Taliban's will to fight.
JIM LEHRER: Other Afghan opposition groups are also preparing for the future. ITN's Tristana Moore, in Pakistan, reports on some of them.
TRISTANA MOORE: Here in Quetta, police have been out in force today, determined to avoid a repeat of yesterday's demonstrations. They've already banned a march by one of the main Islamic religious parties here, but police couldn't prevent that party from holding a meeting just around the corner. And here they are. "God is great," the crowd screams. "Afghanistan is the graveyard of America." These men are bent on Jjihad, their hero, Osama bin Laden. An Islamic cleric condemns the attacks on Afghanistan, and appeals to support from Muslims around the world to help the Taliban. Although Quetta is a pro-Taliban stronghold, it's also a center for many Afghan opposition leaders. Channel 4 News has learned that even in the early stages of this military campaign, the Taliban are in retreat and have abandoned Kandahar, their headquarters. We were driven to the homes of several Afghan opposition leaders. They have no links at all with Afghanistan's Northern Alliance. Instead, they want a post- Taliban administration made up of a tribal council, or Loya Jirga, headed by the former Afghan king, Zahir Shah. An ex-governor of Kandahar told us he had been in regular contact with his commanders, and said the air strikes had decimated the Taliban's power base.
SPOKESMAN (translated): Most of the Taliban city leaders have left Kandahar. Mullah Omar has gone up to the mountains about 30 miles north of the city. We think Osama bin Laden is with him as well. The Taliban administration does not exist.
TRISTANA MOORE: According to Afghan leaders, the question of how long the Taliban can hold out depends on how quickly the opposition movement around Zahir Shah could capitalize on the air strikes.
TRISTANA MOORE: Are you already now strengthening your contacts in the light of the allied action?
SPOKESMAN: Oh, definitely. We think that the contacts are not only there but actually are being intensified. One of our fear -- is we are really close to the frontline. Our fear is that in case the Taliban falls down, there will be a total vacuum of power. That has got to be occupied or has got to be filled with a way that it should be peaceful without any extra damage to the country, to the social life of the people.
TRISTANA MOORE: But already the air strikes on Afghanistan are damaging people. Reports of civilian casualties only serve to heighten the sense of panic. Aid agencies say hundreds of Afghan refugees are trapped on the other side of the Chaman crossing. Taliban forces are also said to be digging trenches along the border.