- The Washington Times - Monday, December 2, 2002

The United States yesterday sent B-52 bombers to pound suspected hostile forces in western Afghanistan where rival warlords were fighting.
The high-altitude planes dropped seven bombs in response to a plea for air support from a team of American special forces after they apparently came under fire while patrolling near Shindand air base, said Col. Roger King, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The American forces escaped unharmed.
But Ammanullah Khan, a local warlord, claimed that American warplanes had bombed his front-line positions about a dozen miles away, near the large town of Zer-e-Koh, in what he said was an attempt to stop fighting between his forces and those of his rival, Ismail Khan, the Iranian-backed governor of Herat.
It was not clear yesterday whether special forces were involved in the fighting that had broken out between the two longtime rivals, caught in cross fire, or whether they were even near the scene of the fighting.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan frequently come under fire and rocket attack from unknown enemies and routinely call in air support.
Ismail Khan, an ethnic Tajik, has fought several times this year with Ammanullah Khan, an ethnic Pashtun, near the former Soviet air base at Shindand.
Both sides accused the other of starting the latest fighting. In a satellite telephone interview with reporters in Kabul, Ammanullah Khan said Ismail Khan had attacked his positions in Zer-e-Koh Saturday night with tanks, artillery and rocket launchers. The battle had left 11 of his men dead, and seven wounded, though no ground was given, Ammanullah Khan said.
However, Sayed Nasir Ahmad Alawi, a security chief for Ismail Khan, blamed the other side.
The fight "started when Ammanullah's forces attacked our positions and advanced toward Shindand bazaar, but they were forced back to their positions," he said.
Ammanullah Khan said he had telephoned the capital, Kabul, to complain about the attack by Ismail Khan, and seek the intervention of President Hamid Karzai's government forces.
However, the west of Afghanistan, which falls heavily under the sway of neighboring powers from Iran to Uzbekistan, is only theoretically under the control of the central government in Kabul.
Ismail Khan retook the area last year after U.S.-backed forces defeated the Taliban regime.


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