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assault began Tuesday night, and by early yesterday Taliban had captured Chahar Asiab. south of Kabul, according to press reports. This is the same area it took from opposition leader Hikmaiyar in February; the next month it was routed hy de facto Defense Minister Musood.
Since it captured the western city of Herat early last month. Taliban has repeatedly threatened to attack Kabul if President Rabbani docs not step down, but ihe latest offensive nevertheless appears lo have caught Rabbani and Masood unprepared.
Seasoned government troops reportedly are mobilizing to counterattack. Their ability to repel Taliban's offensive will depend on the loyalty of key commanders in the area and on whether opposition leaders Dostam and Hikmaiyar support Taliban with attacks from the north and the east.
efense Ministry spokesman claims thai Taliban's initial success was aidedovernment commander who abandoned his post to the group. Many of the group's victories have owed more to its ability to woo defectors than lo military prowess.
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