Puli Khumri Hill, Afghanistan — Artillery fire cracked incessantly Wednesday at a front-line outpost in northern Afghanistan, and fighters in an anti-Taliban alliance said they were eager to take advantage of the current U.S. assault to advance.
"We're very happy. Now we can go farther and capture more Taliban posts," said 40-year-old Mohammed moments after firing a round of ammunition at a Taliban outpost about 750 yards across a valley.
But the soldiers firing Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-launchers some 150 miles north of the Afghan capital, Kabul, said they have not yet received orders from their superiors to move forward.
Mohammed's commander, Safiulla, who like many Afghans uses just one name, said he and 500 northern alliance fighters in this section of Afghanistan's northern Takhar province are "waiting for orders" to attack.
The northern alliance, a grouping of ethnic minorities and warlords, is considered a key element of the current U.S. assault on the Taliban because of the intimate knowledge it possesses on the disposition of Taliban forces as well as their main bases and command-and-control mechanisms.
Alliance officials have said they would like to move into areas cleared by the U.S. assaults, but their general strategy in the face of the current conflict remains unclear.
So far, there have been no known joint operations between the alliance and the U.S. forces, possibly because disparities in training, equipment, operational procedures and language would make them difficult.
But military analysts say the alliance would be well-placed to offer the United States forward-staging bases and possibly guides to make it through Afghanistan's treacherous terrain in the event of U.S. ground operations.