Afghan Opposition Poised For Western Offensive

Opposition Northern Alliance troops are poised to launch an offensive against Taliban forces in the western city of Qala-i-Nau in the Afghan province of Badghis, Northern Alliance spokesman in the Western front, Sayed Naseer Mohammad, announced. According to him, troops led by veteran Afghan mujahideen commander Ismail Khan were poised 2-4 kilometers away from the city and were waiting to join up with the forces of General Abdul Rashid Dostum advancing from the north. Capturing Qala-i-Nau would clear the way for the Alliance to advance to the key city of Herat. Sayed Naseer Mohammad said 31 Taliban fighters had been killed and another 27 captured in the past 5 days on the western front. However, in remarks quoted by the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press Sunday, a Taliban spokesman denied reports that Dostum's forces had overrun four provinces in the north -- Samangan, Faryab, Jowzjan, and Sara-i-Pol. He said the Taliban still controlled the provinces. His statement also said the Northern Alliance forces "did not capture a single Taliban fighter" when fighting their way into Mazar-i-Sharif and rejected reports of 1,500 Taliban surrendering to the opposition. The Taliban has claimed the retreat from Mazar-i-Sharif was "a planned strategic move" to allow their forces to regroup for a counter-offensive.

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