Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
MARX: A HERO FOR OUR TIME? — Suddenly, everyone from the Wall Street Journal to Rolling Stone seems to be talking about Karl Marx. Louis Proyect delves into this mysterious resurgence, giving a vivid assessment of Marx’s relevance in the era of globalized capitalism. THE MEANING OF MANDELA: Longtime civil rights organizer Kevin Alexander Gray gives in intimate portrait of Nelson Mandela and the global struggle of racial justice. FALLOUT OVER FUKUSHIMA: Peter Lee investigates the scandalous exposure of sailors on board the USS Reagan to radioactive fallout from Fukushima. SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT: Kim Nicolini charts the rise of Matthew McConaughey. PLUS: Mike Whitney on the coming crash of the housing market. JoAnn Wypijewski on slavery, torture and revolt. Chris Floyd on the stupidity of US policy in Ukraine. Kristin Kolb on musicians and health care. And Jeffrey St. Clair on life and death on the mean streets of an America in decline
The military forces of Afghanistan’s opposition Northern Alliance have advanced close to the key strategic city of Mazar-i-Sharif, an opposition official said yesterday. An offensive led by General Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek warlord who once ruled the city, had pushed back the Taliban to within four miles of Mazar-i-Sharif, said Khoji Kahar, an official of […]

The Battle of Mazar-i-Sharif

by Patrick Cockburn In Panjshir Valley The Independent

The military forces of Afghanistan’s opposition Northern Alliance have advanced close to the key strategic city of Mazar-i-Sharif, an opposition official said yesterday.

An offensive led by General Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek warlord who once ruled the city, had pushed back the Taliban to within four miles of Mazar-i-Sharif, said Khoji Kahar, an official of the Northern Alliance foreign ministry, yesterday.

General Dostum, notorious for his frequent changes of side during the Afghan civil war, is attacking from the south. He is reported to be close to the airport though this is already out of commission because America has control of the air. It is impossible to verify the Northern Alliance claims since General Dostum is operating from an isolated mountain bastion to the south of Mazar-i-Sharif accessible only by helicopter. Mazar-i-Sharif is the the largest city in the north of Afghanistan.

The Taliban in northern Afghanistan are largely cut off from the areas of their main support south of the Hindu Kush mountains, with only one road, in poor condition, open to their forces. Although there are communities of Pashtun, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group, living in the north, it is dominated by minorities of Tajiks, Hazara (Shiah Muslims) and Uzbeks.

There was a further twist yesterday in the continuing controversy over a possible Northern Alliance offensive from its positions 50 miles north of Kabul towards the capital. Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the Northern Alliance foreign minister, denied he had promised his forces would not enter the capital until a political agreement with other opposition groups had been reached. He said such an agreement “was ideal, but not a prerequisite”. In practice, a direct assault on Kabul is probably beyond the Northern Alliance’s strength at this stage. It might succeed if backed by US tactical air support. The Taliban have heavily reinforced their front line.

A report on the BBC Pashtu service said 40 Taliban commanders with 2,000 men had defected in Qunduz. This important city, mainly Pashtun, is east of Mazar-i-Sharif. Dr Abdullah has spoken frequently of Taliban defections, but very few real ones have been seen