Afghan northern alliance fighters march Monday near near Bagram,
a village that is about 30 miles from Kabul. The Taliban later fled the Afghan capital, giving
up control of the city to the opposition.
MARCO DI LAURO / Associated Press
The Taliban retreat, taking with them eight foreign aid workers who
are accused of spreading Christianity.
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Taliban military forces deserted the capital of Kabul on Tuesday after a
series of stunning military victories by opposition forces over the past four days.
At dawn, residents shouted congratulations to one another, honking car horns and ringing
bells on their bicycles.
Northern alliance forces began moving into the capital in pickup trucks loaded with soldiers
armed with rifles and rocket launchers. They met no resistance as they gained control of
that only three hours before had been in Taliban hands.
Associated Press reporters heard sporadic small-arms fire coming from the hills overlooking
the city, but the streets were empty of the Taliban soldiers. Taliban military compounds were
As they retreated, the Taliban took eight foreign aid workers, including two Americans, who
are accused of spreading Christianity in Muslim Afghanistan, witnesses told the AP.
"I saw them with my own eyes. They put them in the truck and then left at midnight. They
said they are going to Kandahar," said Ajmal Mir, a guard at the abandoned detention center in
the heart of the city where the eight had been held.
From the rooftop of the Intercontinental Hotel on a hill overlooking Kabul, columns of Taliban
vehicles could be seen heading south beginning Monday night.
The exodus continued well after sunrise.
"I think it is great news. It means the initial phase of the campaign is going well," U.S.
Army Secretary Thomas White said.
White said he thought that "a combination of well-targeted air power along with movement on
the ground by northern alliance forces" prompted the Taliban to flee Kabul. He spoke on CNN's
"Larry King Live."
Weeks of bombing by the United States weakened the Taliban sufficiently for the northern
alliance to move across enemy lines.
President Bush launched the air campaign Oct. 7 after the Taliban refused to hand over Saudi
dissident Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
The Taliban forces, which took control of Kabul in 1996, were heading toward Maidan Shahr,
about 25 miles south of Kabul.
As they had in the north of the country, the Islamic militia appeared to have decided to
surrender territory rather than fight. By moving south, the fighters seemed ready to fall back
toward the last major Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.
The area around the Taliban spiritual capital is rugged, mountainous terrain that is
littered with caves that are believed to
provide hideouts for bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist organization.
The opposition had broken through Taliban front lines Monday and taken the hills above
Kabul after a string of victories that started Friday with the taking of Mazar-e-Sharif.
Before abandoning the capital, the Taliban circled the mile-high city with tanks to defend
against an all-out assault and had vowed to defend the city.
"We have decided to defend Kabul," the Taliban ambassador to neighboring Pakistan, Abdul
Salam Zaeef, said in Islamabad. "It is true that the opposition breached our front line near
Kabul, but we have erected another one and are strengthening our position."
Shouting "God is great," anti-
Taliban troops had rolled within 12 miles of Kabul on Monday on trucks carrying the green,
white and black Afghan flag and displaying pictures of their slain commander, Ahmed Shah
The anti-Taliban forces, a coalition of factions and ethnic groups, capped their four-day dash
across the north by overrunning western Afghanistan's biggest city, Herat. Commanders said they
were pushing toward Kunduz, the last Taliban-held city in the north.
Haron Amin, a Washington-
based envoy for the northern alliance, had said earlier Monday that the anti-Taliban forces
would surround Kabul, which sits in the foothills of the Hindu
Kush mountains, to prevent the Taliban from reinforcing or resupplying their troops inside.
"We have no intention of going into Kabul," Amin said. The United Nations must first come
up with a plan for dividing power in Afghanistan after the Taliban falls, he said.
At the United Nations, the United States, Russia and six nations that border Afghanistan
pledged "to establish a broad-
based Afghan administration on an urgent basis."
The aim is to put together a transitional leadership that is broadly acceptable, possibly
including Taliban defectors. The United Nations might take interim control of the capital, and
Muslim and non-Muslim nations are likely to join with Turkey in providing peacekeepers, U.S.
officials said. Likely participants with Turkey in a combined peacekeeping force from Muslim
and non-Muslim countries include Indonesia, Bangladesh and Jordan, they said.
In a television interview, Paki
stani President Pervez Musharraf, whose government was once a strong supporter of the Taliban,
said a broad-based transitional government was essential.
"Some progress being made by northern alliance toward Kabul is dangerous to an extent,
dangerous because we are now getting information that there are certain atrocities being
perpetrated in Mazar-e Sharif.
"And that is exactly my apprehension that we have seen a lot of atrocities, a lot of
killings between the various ethnic groups in Kabul after the Soviets left, and that's why we
are of the opinion that Kabul should be maintained as a demilitarized city. That is very
important," Musharraf said on The News-Hour with Jim Lehrer.
Gen. Rashid Dostum, a northern alliance commander, said 15,000 former Taliban troops and
some Taliban commanders had crossed over to the alliance during recent fighting.
In other developments:
Two French radio reporters
and a German magazine journalist were killed when they came under Taliban fire while traveling
with opposition troops, their employers and colleagues said Monday.
In areas cleared of the Taliban, Afghans began adjusting to life
without the harsh rules imposed by the Islamic militia.
In Mazar-e-Sharif, men lined up at barber shops to have their Taliban-mandated beards
shaved, and music -- banned by the Taliban -- could be heard from stores, the Afghan Islamic
Opposition spokesman Ashraf Nadeem said about half the city's women had discarded the
all-covering burqas required by the Taliban. Some retained traditional scarves covering their
hair, while others went bareheaded, he said.
Elsewhere, returning refugees streamed back into villages that they
had not seen in months or years in a day of celebration across northern Afghanistan.