- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2001

From combined dispatches
KABUL, Afghanistan Afghanistan's Taliban leaders found themselves further isolated yesterday when the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic ties.
A Saudi Arabian official told the Associated Press that the kingdom may follow suit, a move that would leave Pakistan as the only country with full relations.
The UAE, where some 100,000 Afghan nationals live and work, decided to sever relations after failing to persuade the Taliban government to hand over Osama bin Laden, the global terrorist leader believed to have orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
"It is impossible under such circumstances to maintain diplomatic relations with a government that refuses to heed the clear will of the international community," the local WAM news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said it has no plans to follow suit because Islamabad played a key role in communicating between Kabul and the rest of the world.
Aid groups warned of a looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and opposition forces claimed advances in the north.
Western reporters who were told to leave Kabul yesterday described it as a city of fear bracing itself to bear the brunt of an American attack.
As the thousands of Afghans tried to flee the country, the situation at Afghanistan's 1,560-mile border with Pakistan became more explosive.
Scuffles broke out between groups of angry refugees and Pakistani frontier guards who refused to let them cross, United Press International reported.
The only good news for the beleaguered Taliban came in reports they had shot down an unidentified pilotless spy plane.
But there was no easing of pressure from the United States, which insisted again that Kabul hand over bin Laden, the exiled Saudi terrorist leader.
Mystery surrounded the origin of the spy plane. The Taliban's ambassador in Islamabad, Mullah Abdul Saleem Zaeef, told Reuters news agency the spy plane had been downed while taking pictures over northern Afghanistan. A Pentagon spokesman in Washington declined to comment.
Anti-Taliban forces, although holding less than 10 percent of the country, reported gains yesterday.
"We are busy fighting," opposition Gen. Rashid Dostum told Reuters. "Our advances have been good. We have taken a lot of their trenches, prisoners and seized a lot of their arms."
Conditions in Kabul continued to deteriorate. Patients fled hospitals and doctors rationed dwindling stocks of medicine and supplies.
Dr. Saleh Rahman Rahmani of the Kabul children's hospital told journalists that doctors had been told to go to the nearest clinics and hospitals when the war started.
"The borders are closed, and no medicines are getting through," Dr. Rahmani said. "We have some to keep us going for a week or less, and it is not clear what will happen when the war starts."
In Central Asia, two key republics from the former Soviet Union that border Afghanistan voiced support for the U.S. offensive against terrorism, although details remained vague.
Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmonov said yesterday that his country was "ready to cooperate" with the United States, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reported from the Tajik capital of Dushanbe.
He did not specify exactly how Tajikistan would help.
However, The Washington Times reported Friday that Tajikistan and neighboring Uzbekistan have secretly agreed to let the United States mount raids into Afghanistan by U.S. commandos.
In Uzbekistan, U.S. warplanes have already landed, Uzbek military sources told AFP yesterday.
They said the U.S. jets were stationed just outside the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, and were equipped with surveillance devices, presumably aimed at Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia just to the south.
The sources refused to disclose the number of aircraft or when they had arrived.
It has further emerged that heavily armed U.S. attack helicopters are still stationed on a military base some 25 miles east of Tashkent, following joint NATO-Uzbek military exercises in the region this month.
Use by the United States of former Soviet bases has been busily debated in Moscow.

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