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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Alliance 'Knocking at Doors of Kabul'

BAGRAM/JABAL-US-SARAJ, Afghanistan -- Afghan opposition forces advanced toward Kabul on Monday in a fierce assault on the Taliban front line backed by U.S. bombers and a relentless artillery barrage, and dozens of Taliban vehicles were seen racing out of the beleaguered capital.

"Our troops are knocking at the doors of Kabul. They are waiting to enter Kabul," said Northern Alliance spokesman Ashraf Nadeem by satellite telephone from the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Buoyed by the lightning capture in just 72 hours of about 40 percent of the country, the Northern Alliance was poised to march on the Afghan capital despite the entrenched Taliban positions arrayed between it and the ultimate prize and U.S. pleas not to enter the city for fear of further bloodshed.

Correspondents at the front line said the opposition advanced three to five kilometers toward Kabul in some places.

The assault was the first attempt to take the Taliban front line near the Bagram airport some 25 kilometers north of Kabul after 37 days of blistering U.S. air strikes to punish the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

As darkness fell in Kabul, witnesses saw dozens of Taliban vehicles, including armored personnel carriers, leaving the capital on the main highway leading westward and then south toward the militia's stronghold of Kandahar.

For the first time, the intelligence department was in darkness. A spotlight at its door that is lit from dusk to dawn had been switched off. The house of the chief justice was also in darkness, and his guard was not in his kiosk outside.

A full infantry attack was mounted on the Taliban front line, backed by Northern Alliance tanks and mortars.

U.S. soldiers were also seen in positions near the front lines, apparently helping to coordinate the attacks.

The Northern Alliance, also known as the United Front, said the forces of veteran opposition commander Ismail Khan had taken the western city of Herat and were marching toward Kandahar, power base of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

"Moments before, I spoke to Ismail Khan on the phone, and he said his commanders had reported the whole of Herat has fallen to forces of the United Front," said spokesman Ashraf Nadeem.

He said the opposition also hoped to take Kunduz, the last Taliban-held city in the north, during the night.

But the Taliban said it was still in control of Herat and was launching a counterattack in other parts of the country.

Washington says it does not want the Northern Alliance to enter Kabul, where many loathe the opposition for its internecine squabbles of the 1990s that unleashed savage rocket attacks on the city and killed some 50,000 residents.

But Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah says the opposition may move in if there is a power vacuum.

The opposition has yet to try to take on the Taliban in its ethnic Pashtun strongholds in the south.