Northern Alliance Wants U.S. Ground Troops

A day after the heaviest U.S. bombing yet in their sector, anti-Taliban fighters on Thursday called on the United States to bring in ground troops and quickly liquidate Afghanistan's ruling militia.

"If America wants to finish off terrorism and the Taliban in Afghanistan, they must bring in ground troops," said Eztullah, leader of a small group of opposition fighters near the front line north of the capital Kabul.

"This should be quick," said Eztullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name.

Northern alliance officers in the Bagram district, where the anti-Taliban opposition has control of a former Soviet air base, said they had seen 12 U.S. jets dropping two bombs each along the front lines in the Bagram and neighboring Rabat districts on Wednesday afternoon. They said the bombardment ended around 6 p.m. but that U.S. jets could be heard screaming overhead all night long.

Opposition commander Haji Bari told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the northern alliance was bringing in thousands of new troops and weapons in anticipation of a green light from alliance leaders to march on Kabul.

"We're waiting for the order," said Bari, deputy brigade commander in the Rabat district.

President Bush ordered airstrikes against Afghanistan after the ruling Taliban repeatedly refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, the main suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist bombings in New York and Washington, and his followers in the al-Qaida terrorist network.

U.S. attacks this week have focused on al-Qaida and Taliban positions facing Kabul and on the key northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, in hopes that the northern alliance can advance on those cities.

So far, the U.S. strikes have not brought an opposition advance.

The northern alliance is also fighting to dislodge the Taliban from the northeastern town of Taloqan to open up urgently needed supply routes.

The opposition fighters say they are short of weapons, ammunition and the most basic necessities including food. With winter around the corner, supplies will become even harder to transport, and a new airstrip that the northern alliance is building is still unfinished.

"It's our main problem: We don't have enough supplies," said Gul Mohammad, a commander at the front line in Bagram.

"If our stomachs were full, we could capture Kabul easily."

Eztullah said it was imperative for the U.S.-led anti-terrorist coalition to defeat the Taliban quickly, arguing that the Islamic militia could gain sympathy abroad if the bombardment drags on.

He also said that Taliban fighters were taking refuge in civilians' houses both in Kabul and along the front lines, finding ways to hide among civilians.