"The Russian factor" has become increasingly important as the US and Britain begin their final preparations for war.
Russian special forces are believed to have crossed into Afghanistan from Tajikistan bases in "limited excursions".
Taliban and al-Qa'ida positions being pinpointed by US and British special forces are likely to be attacked using joint direct attack munition bombs, which are satellite-guided and able to differentiate between earth, concrete and rock. The bombs, many of which were moved from Britain to the Indian Ocean base of Diego Garcia at the weekend, can penetrate up to 25 feet of rock. One of the main targets could be a command centre at the Herati Heights, which the Taliban claim is impregnable.
The Taliban continued their defence preparations yesterday, with senior officials trying to recruit more soldiers from rural areas. US and British defence officials maintain that the pool is drying up. There are also reports of Taliban fighters defecting or deserting, and intelligence appears to show that the Taliban have abandoned whole tracts in the west, around the city of Herat near the Iranian border.
An aircraft carrying humanitarian aid, chartered by Britain's Department for International Development, was prevented from flying into Iran on Monday night. However, the load of 400 tents was expected to be able to depart yesterday.Reuse content