New Delhi (CNSNews.com) - The Taliban regime was mobilizing 300,000 men for jihad (holy war) in the country, to fend off an anticipated attack by the United States, the French news agency AFP reported Monday.
AFP quoted a written statement of the Taliban defense minister, Mullah Obaidullah, in which he said, "In the present situation the ministry of defense has registered an extra 300,000 people who are experienced in jihad."
The statement, which was released to reporters in Kabul, said, "They have been registered in the capital, the borders and other important sites."
More mujahideen (holy warriors) were being registered across the country and hundreds of thousands of people had expressed their willingness to fight, the statement added.
"We have instructed the whole mujahed nation to prepare themselves for and to wage jihad at any time they think it is necessary," it said.
The statement said the Taliban still wants to avoid a conflict with the United States and it urged the United States to avoid attacking Afghanistan.
The United States has identified bin Laden as the prime suspect behind the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington that left nearly 7,000 people dead.
The United States has demanded that Afghanistan's ruling Taliban hand over bin Laden or face military attacks for harboring him (bin Laden). Bin Laden has lived in Afghanistan as a guest of ruling Taliban since 1996.
However, some other reports says that the ruling militia is losing its grip on Afghanistan
The Taliban's strict policies have disappointed many Afghans who welcomed the militia when they swept to power in 1996.
The Taliban, which control more than 90 percent of Afghanistan, have prompted international criticism for blowing up ancient statues of Buddha on the grounds that Islam does not support idolatry of any kind. Last year, the Taliban ordered the closure of UN-sponsored bakeries operated by poor widows on the grounds that women working was an un-Islamic act.
Many Afghans have become fed up with the Taliban's continuing war with its Northern Alliance rivals, the strict lifestyle requirements, and the deteriorating standard of living.
US Mulls Backing Anti-Taliban Coalition
Press reports say the United States is planning to enlist the help of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in taking on the Taliban when the time comes for a ground assault.
The United States has increased its contacts with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, the New York Times reported on Monday. Quoting unnamed officials, the newspaper said the U.S. planned to back the coalition with financial support.
The report said an internal coalition of anti-Taliban forces could gather crucial intelligence, provide political support and cooperate militarily in the U.S. war against terrorism.
American forces needs allies inside Afghanistan who can help track Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington that left nearly 7,000 dead.
A US alliance with groups inside Afghanistan would give the impression that the fight against bin Laden is not a war against Afghanistan or Islam. To encourage that cooperation, Washington wants to offer the groups a role in governing that country after the conflict, according to the report.
Senior leaders of the Northern Alliance, including Uzbek leader General Dostum and former Herat Governor Ismail Khan, recently returned to the country, hoping to boost the morale of the rebels after the assassination of their commander, Ahmad Shah Masood, earlier this month.
A delegation from the Northern Alliance has now traveled to Italy to consult with the exiled Afghan king, Zahir Shah, who may be asked to lead Northern Alliance forces, a wire service reported on Monday.
The group left Afghanistan's Panjshir region late Sunday for the capital of neighboring Tajikistan, then flew through Uzbekistan to Rome, according to press reports.
The team was to meet 86-year-old King Zahir Shah, who has lived in Rome since he was overthrown by his nephew in a 1973 coup. The delegation was led by a deputy foreign minister in the opposition government.
The visiting group is likely to appeal to the ex-monarch to return to Afghanistan and may ask him to lead their alliance.
Former Afghanistan King Zahir Shah, who has emerged as a central figure in the US strategy to overthrow the Taliban regime has given indications that he is ready to go home if he could be of help to his people in the current crisis.