KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban fighters reinforced defenses around the Afghan capital Monday as their foes consolidated dramatic weekend advances and forged an alliance with northern leader Abdul Rashid Dostum.
The fundamentalist Taliban, rulers of most of Afghanistan for the last two weeks, admitted losing towns along a key road north of Kabul but vowed they would roll back forces led by Ahmed Shah Masoud.
Dostum, a powerful warlord from the Uzbek minority, recognized Afghanistan's ousted government Monday but held back from joining a military alliance with its forces around Kabul.
"We recognized Mr. [Burhanuddin] Rabbani's government," a spokesman for the northern leader told reporters after a five-hour-long meeting at the top of the Salang Pass north of Kabul.
Dostum's recognition of Rabbani as the legitimate head of state during his second meeting with Masoud in a week suggests a ring of hostile forces is being set in place around the Taliban, who are mainly ethnic Pushtun from southern Afghanistan and occupy about two-thirds of the country.
Dostum controls six provinces north of the Hindu Kush mountains. Analysts say his support is crucial to any push by Masoud and Rabbani to recover power.