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Northern Alliance Video Confirms Taleban Defection - 2001-10-21


A soldier under the command of the ethnic Uzbek rebel leader Rashid Dostum says he shot the video four days ago. The tape shows General Dostum at a secret base south of Mazar-e-sharif in northern Afghanistan addressing several dozen former Taleban commanders.

The commanders joined Mr. Dostum's forces Monday, taking some four thousand fighters with them. Mr. Dostum tells the defectors that all of the countries bordering Afghanistan, including Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, have joined the international effort to defeat the Taleban. He urges them to fully commit themselves to the upcoming battle.

Mr. Dostum says it is clear that America and other countries are now coming together to work with Northern Alliance forces. He says the allies should use the opportunity to rid Afghanistan of what he calls "the Taleban disease."

The videotape also confirms Northern Alliance claims that Mr. Dostum's forces in recent days have been engaged in intense battles with Taleban fighters on the outskirts of Mazar-e-sharif.

Rashid Dostum is one of several military leaders in the opposition Northern Alliance, also known as The United Front, attempting to re-gain territory lost to the Taleban.

The Taleban's capture of Mr. Dostum's fortress and airfield in Mazar-e-sharif in 1997 forced him into exile in Uzbekistan and Iran. He returned last year to join the Alliance and is now seeking to avenge that defeat.

The re-capture of Mazar-e-sharif has significance for U-S-led forces as well. The city has a strategic airfield that could potentially serve as a forward base for mounting assaults on Taleban strongholds in the South. (Signed)

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