FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Northern Alliance’s Airport

Deep inside Afghan territory, the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance is secretly building an airbase at breakneck speed, which the US-led coalition will then use to funnel massive amounts of military supplies to the one force that is already taking the war to Osama bin Laden’s protectors.

The new airfield is expected to transform the military balance between the Taliban and its last surviving internal military foe, which has been reduced to holding only 5 per cent of Afghan territory. About 600 workers and engineers have already levelled the stony ground to build a runway on the plain below the mountains outside Golbahar, a small town about 50 miles north of Kabul.

It will allow the 10,000 troops fighting on the front lines against the Kabul government to receive military supplies directly from Russia, Iran and the US. The airport is capable of taking some of the massive air transport planes such as the Galaxy, C-130 or Tupolevs which can carry tanks, artillery and tons of guns and munitions.

Western military strategists hope that once the Northern Alliance has been re-equipped, it will cut off Taliban troops in the north, acting in concert with US air strikes launched from the US aircraft carrier the USS Kitty Hawk in the Indian Ocean.

Moves to bolster the Northern Alliance dovetail with the US military build-up north of Afghanistan in Uzbekistan, where the first US-marked aircraft arrived yesterday, a day after President Islam Karimov granted permission for American warplanes and troops to use Uzbek air bases for military operations. The plane was spotted flying overhead near the airbase at Khanabad, 180 miles south-west of the capital, Tashkent.

The Pentagon has not commented on its troop movements in Central Asia owing to the need to maintain security against Mr bin Laden’s supporters.

The US Army has dispatched 1,000 infantry soldiers skilled at search-and-rescue, humanitarian missions and helicopter assaults to Uzbekistan. Part of the main north-south road in Afghanistan is already held by Northern Alliance troops, which means the Taliban must use poor minor roads to supply its troops in the north. Until now, anti-Taliban forces have been forced to rely on elderly Russian helicopters to deliver arms and ammunition to their men quickly. Heavy equipment is moved by trucks along some of the worst roads in the world.

The Northern Alliance formerly held an old Soviet military airport at Bagram, several miles from Golbahar, but a Taliban offensive has captured the southern end of the airport. Although the 2.5-mile-long runway is intact, the airport buildings have been burned.

As soon as the runway at the airfield at Golbahar is surfaced, the first planes will fly in. This will be crucial in the next few weeks when the winter snows close the high passes in the Hindu Kush mountains, making it impossible to reach the Panjshir valley by road. The valley, protected by soaring peaks on either side, is the opposition’s military stronghold. But because so much of the Northern Alliance’s territory is mountainous it has few landing places for fixed wing aircraft.

The Taliban have enjoyed the strategic advantage of operating over short supply lines. Once the Golbahar airfield is operating and weapons and ammunition can be brought rapidly to the Northern Alliance frontline, the playing field will be more level.

With a support base concentrated among minority Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara (Shia Muslim) tribes, the Northern Alliance has a relatively narrow political base, which appeared to rule it out replacing the Taliban government.

Britain has said it does not want to see the Northern Alliance take power in Kabul because it does not command support among the majority Pashtun population. Instead, Britain and allied western European powers would prefer the exiled King Zahir to decide the future direction of the country.

To pre-empt this, the Northern Alliance is planning to convene a 120-member Council in Afghanistan in the next few weeks to broaden its appeal. Half the members will be chosen by the Northern Alliance and half by the former king, who lives in exile in Rome.

CP

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

January 23, 2019
Charles McKelvey
Popular Democracy in Cuba
Kenn Orphan
The Smile of Class Privilege
Leonard Peltier
The History Behind Nate Phillips’ Song
Kenneth Surin
Stalled Brexit Goings On
Jeff Cohen
The System’s Falling Apart: Were the Dogmatic Marxists Right After All?
Cira Pascual Marquina
Chavez and the Continent of Politics: a Conversation with Chris Gilbert
George Ochenski
Turning Federal Lands Over to the States and Other Rightwing Fantasies
George Wuerthner
Forest Service Ignores Science to Justify Logging
Raouf Halaby
In the Fray: Responses to Covington Catholic High
Kim C. Domenico
No Saviors But Ourselves; No Disobedience Without Deeper Loyalty
Ted Rall
Jury Trial? You Have No Right!
Michael Doliner
The Pros and Cons of Near Term Human Extinction
Lee Ballinger
Musical Unity
Elliot Sperber
The Ark Builders
January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail