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U.S. Pounds Taliban; Northern Alliance Claims a Victory

U.S. B-52s pelted the Taliban front line north of Kabul in at least five waves of attacks today, targeting Taliban pickup trucks packed with troops and some of the Taliban’s fortified positions, according to the Associated Press.

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said Wednesday that the U.S. is carrying out more aggressive raids.

The strikes have reportedly allowed Taliban opposition groups, mainly the Northern Alliance, to seize control of the Shol Ghar district near the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Mazar-e-Sharif is an essential point on the supply line to the capital Kabul and therefore critical in forcing a Taliban retreat from Northern Afghanistan.

The Alliance victory, however, could not be independently verified. Taliban officials denied the report.

In the U.S., Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said an assessment of the opposition claims of gains outside Mazar-e-Sharif would have to wait until the “dust settled.”

Rumsfeld said the Pentagon is committed to aiding the rebels and pledged to add more U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan, to designate targets and help increase the intensity of the air strikes.

The weather is also helping. A spell of warm weather is giving opposition forces an opportunity to move weapons and trucks into position for a ground offensive.

In anticipation of cold weather, the Pentagon announced it is preparing to send winter supplies to Northern Alliance troops.

“Unconventional Warfare”

The U.S. is also continuing to drop leaflets over villages near Kabul. The fliers urge Afghans to listen to the radio for information on the United States’ reasons for the bombing campaign.

Other leaflets depict Taliban guards beating women with sticks, and asks, “Do you want such a future for your wives and children, begging for food?”

The leaflets are written in both Dari and Pashtun, Afghanistan’s most widely-spoken languages.

US officials see the information campaign, also referred to as “unconventional warfare,” as a critical element in their effort to capture Osama bin Laden and dismantle his al-Qaida terrorist network.

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