U-S warplanes have pounded Taleban positions across much of northern Afghanistan today (Thursday), amid reports the opposition Northern Alliance fighters are within eight kilometers of the outskirts of the key northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
The top U-S military commander in the region has confirmed what he called an ongoing gunfight in the region. But neither army General Tommy Franks nor U-S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would disclose details of the fighting.
Taleban leaders are quoted in the Afghan Islamic Press as saying they have reinforced the area with hundreds of fighters, and their forces have pushed back Northern Alliance troops from several points south of the city. Neither side's claims could be independently verified.
Other U-S airstrikes today (Thursday) reportedly hit Taleban front-line targets (in the Somali Plains) north of the Afghan capital, Kabul, and other targets near the border with Tajikistan.
Earlier today (Thursday), the Pentagon said it has dispatched a fourth U-S naval battle group to the Arabian Sea to bolster the U-S-led offensive against Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network. The U-S-S John Stennis will join three other battle groups already operating in the region.
Also today (Thursday), Pakistani border authorities said more than 15-hundred Pakistani tribesmen and a convoy of 25 trucks have crossed into Afghanistan in the past 24 hours to help the Taleban. Earlier this week, a VOA reporter at the Ghakhi border post said about seven thousand Pakistanis have entered Afghanistan since November first.