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DATE=8/3/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=AFGHAN FIGHTING (L) NUMBER=2-252423 BYLINE=SARAH HORNER DATELINE=ISLAMABAD CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: An Afghan news agency says Afghanistan's Taleban movement has pushed its forces to the mouth of the opposition's stronghold as fighting continues in the country. As Sarah Horner reports from Islamabad, the Taleban are trying to take control of all Afghanistan. Text: The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (A-I-P) says Taleban fighters have captured the town of Gulbahar, which lies at the entrance to the Panjshir Valley, 90 kilometers north of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul. Opposition forces retreated there Monday. A-I-P quotes an opposition spokesman (Dr Abdullah) who says the retreat to the Panjshir was a tactical maneuver. The Panjshir is the headquarters of opposition commander Ahmad Shah Massood and has many natural defenses. Commander Massood is reported to have blown up the narrow gorge which forms the entrance to the valley and the area is said to be heavily mined. Taleban troops have made a rapid advance since launching a three-pronged offensive one week ago, pushing back frontlines which had largely remained static for the past two years. Commander Massood's fighters had held positions 25-kilometers from Kabul which allowed them to rocket the Taleban- held capital. The Taleban's sweep through the Shomali plains north of Kabul was easier than the task now facing them. The territory taken so far was mostly flat and quite hard to defend. The Panjshir, however, is a different matter. During the ten-year Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, which ended in 1989, Commander Massood repelled repeated Soviet attempts to capture the Panjshir. The Taleban, which controls 90-percent of Afghanistan, have also not been able to penetrate the valley but its fighters will be making a determined bid to finally defeat the opposition. Likewise, Commander Massood will be fighting hard to hold onto one of the last areas under opposition control. Repeated peace talks brokered by the United Nations between the Taleban and the Northern Alliance have yielded little result in the past two years. The Taleban's latest offensive came one week after both sides attended a U-N sponsored meeting aimed at finding an end to the ten year Afghan civil war. (SIGNED) NEB/SLH/PLM 03-Aug-1999 05:57 AM LOC (03-Aug-1999 0957 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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