Wednesday, November 7, 2001
T h u r s d a y ,  N o v e m b e r  8,  2 0 0 1
Friday, November 9, 2001

Anti-Taliban Forces Poised for First Victory

Is the Taleban on the verge of losing Mazar-i-Sharif? Looks that way. Excerpts from two articles describing the current situation in Afghanistan, focusing on the Northern Alliance efforts around Mazar-i-Sharif:

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The Northern Alliance says Taliban forces are retreating from Mazar-i-Sharif. The city's fall would be a major victory for the U.S. and its allies.

... They claim to have killed up to 300 Taliban fighters in fierce fighting since Monday, and that the speed of their advance on the city has exceeded even their own expectations.

But not necessarily because the Tailban forces have been routed — instead, the Alliance commanders claim, the 5,000 Taliban fighters who had been expected to fight to the death to hold onto Mazar-i-Sharif have begun retreating, moving their forces in small numbers so as to avoid attracting the attention of U.S. warplanes.

Explosions rise over the Taliban
positions in the Qala-Cata mountains

The Northern Alliance commanders believe their men may yet have to fight for the city, but against a considerably depleted Taliban force.

... the mood at the Pentagon is more upbeat than it has been for three weeks, suggesting they're hearing plenty of good news from their people on the ground.

Similarly, while U.S. intelligence officials monitoring the offensive can't say conclusively that Mazar-i-Sharif will fall within the next day, they confirm that the Northern Alliance has the tactical momentum at the moment, and that some of its forces are within 8 miles of the city.

"The Taliban had very bad days yesterday and today," a U.S. official told TIME on Thursday. "The Northern Alliance is closing in and is making very good progress." ...

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Nov. 8 — Northern Alliance forces are “knocking on the door” of the strategic Northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif and could take the city within days, a senior Northern Alliance official said today.

Northern Alliance soldiers shell Taliban
positions near Mazar-e Sharif, 11/08/01

Mohammed Hashan-Saad, the ambassador of the Northern Alliance government to Uzbekistan, said in Tashkent that commanders on the Mazar front had told him their forces have advanced to less than three miles from outlying villages and six to seven miles from the city itself.

Saad told Newsweek that U.S. airstrikes had been extremely effective in pounding the Taliban lines in advance of attacks by the forces of the Northern Alliance generals Rashid Dostum, Atta Mohammed and Mohammed Muhaqiq.

He claimed that while the Alliance casualty toll was only three or four soldiers killed and 10 injured in recent days, sources in the Taliban-controlled town had reported more than 300 dead and 500 wounded in the Taliban ranks. “Our people there told [the] U.S. that this morning the Taliban brought in 300 dead Pakistanis, Arabs, and Pashtounis [Pashtuns],” he said.

In at least a partial confirmation of this report, the pro-Taliban Pakistani Islamic militant group Harkat Jihad-i-Islami announced today that 85 of its volunteers had been killed by U.S. airstrikes near Mazar-e Sharif.

... Pentagon spokesmen described the situation on the ground near Mazar as “fluid,” with front lines moving rapidly back and forth. “I have seen reported by many in the media that this is a great gunfight going on in the vicinity of Mazar-e Sharif,” Franks said in a briefing Thursday. “It’s a bit early for us to characterize this as the success ... but yes, there is a big fight going on in the vicinity.”

... But Mazar has not fallen yet. There are days—and probably weeks—of fighting ahead. And as the battle continues, Afghans and Americans alike should remember the translation of the name of Mazar-e Sharif. Its meaning: graveyard of the righteous. ...

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Supercomputers of Today Will Some Day Be Held In Your Hand

How small can computers get? How powerful can they become? These questions, and more, are now in the forefront of scientific research, based on the results of molecule sized computing, as evidenced by excerpts in the following article:

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Researchers in the Netherlands and the United States have constructed simple computer circuits with electrical components many times smaller than those on commercial silicon chips. These ultra-minaturized logic circuits hold out the prospect of hand-held computers as powerful as today's state-of-the-art supercomputers.

... The molecules are carbon nanotubes, tiny tubes of pure carbon just a few millionths of a millimetre (nanometres) wide ...

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Putin's Russia Moving Towards a Pro-U.S. and Pro-West Position

Russia is on its way to becoming a close friend of its long-time foe? Hmmmm, maybe, kinda-sorta, as evidenced from the following excerpts from an article detailing the new Russian-American relationship:

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At an historic moment, it's emerging as a key U.S. ally.

For two weeks after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin seemed to go into a deep sleep. True, he was the first world leader to call President George W. Bush to express his condolences.

Afterward, though, Putin retreated to a luxurious dacha in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, frequented by Kremlin leaders since the days of Nikita Khrushchev.

Leaving the day-to-day running of the government to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Putin spent hours on the phone with global and regional leaders.

Yet he kept silent as hard-line aides publicly set sharp limits on Russia's participation in the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign.

But as it later became clear, Putin was not hibernating. He was hatching a plan to back America.

Some members of his own team, including those in the military, were left out of the loop--though U.S. diplomats at the American Embassy in Moscow, clued to continuing telephone conversations between Putin and Bush, knew where the Russian President was headed.

"He's with us," a senior embassy official said on Sept. 24. "And he is all by himself." In a television address that evening, Putin jolted hard-liners by backing the basing of U.S. forces in former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

TURNING POINT. That was just the start of the surprises.

At an Oct. 3 meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Putin softened his own opposition to NATO expansion to the Baltic states, on Russia's border, and even expressed interest in Russia joining the organization created in 1949 to check Soviet expansionism.

Then came his announcement that Russia would pull out of its cold-war era military bases in Cuba and Vietnam.

Now Putin is headed for a summit with Bush in the U.S. on Nov. 12-14.

The meeting, held while the rubble still smokes at the World Trade Center, could prove an historic turning point in Russian-U.S. relations.

Missile defense, arms treaties, cooperation on fighting terrorism, business deals--it's all on the table.

And Putin is determined to make things happen. After months of warning the Bush Administration against abandoning the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, he now appears willing to scale back the accord. Such a step, controversial at home, would give the green light to the Bush team's key foreign policy aim--to develop a missile defense system.

Bush and Putin would also dramatically curtail the numbers of warheads maintained by America and Russia. The cutbacks--to as low as 1,500 on both sides--could save billions for Russia, which over the next quarter-century may need up to $2.5 trillion to replace outworn Soviet-era infrastructure.

Putin's push for closer security ties to the U.S. is part of a wider gambit. Putin wants to lead Russia closer to the West in a broad and urgently needed modernization--not just of its battered army but also of its economy, schools, and legal institutions.

The goal is to create for post-Soviet Russia a lasting place in the family of nations to which Putin feels his country rightly belongs--even though it now lags behind by just about every conceivable measure.

... As Putin declared on Oct. 21 at a news conference with Bush in Shanghai, "our priority is partnership, a partnership based on the common values of one civilization."

Yet if America is vital to Putin, Russia is important to Washington in a way that hasn't been true since the war on Nazism.

Not only does Bush want a strategic tie-up that will allow the U.S. to move ahead with missile defense, he wants a U.S.-Russian alliance in the campaign against terrorism, which could last years. ...

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Taleban or Taliban?

Excerpt from article describing reasons why different English spellings are present for Afghan words like Tal eh / ih ban, Masar / Mazar eh / ih Sharif, and others ...

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... Afghans do not use Latin script, so the question of the spelling of Taleban/Taliban does not arise.

While most Arabic consonants have a clear equivalent in Latin script there is more variation in how vowels are pronounced.

The discrepancy in the spelling of Taleban/Taliban can be explained as follows: the Arabic word Talib (meaning student) contains the vowel called Kasra between the 'l' and the 'b'. In Arabic this is similar to the short 'i' sound and is written as 'i' for many Arabic words such as hijab (veil).

The same vowel can also be pronounced as a short 'e' sound, particularly by Farsi or Pashto speakers. That is why you will often see the world hijab spelt hejab and Taliban as Taleban.

Pashto and Dari (Afghan Farsi) are the official languages of Afghanistan. Both belong to the Indo-European group of languages.

According to recent estimates, approximately 35% of the Afghan population speaks Pashto, and about 50% speaks Dari. Turkic languages - Uzbek and Turkmen - are spoken by about 11% of the population.

There are also a large number of other languages spoken in the country (Baluchi, Pashai, Nuristani, Aimaq, Azerbaijani, and so on) and multilingualism is very common.

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