A banner headline at CNN.com Tuesday proclaimed that the Eastern Alliance had delivered an ultimatum to al-Qaida fighters in the mountains surrounding Tora Bora: Surrender by 10:30 p.m. ET (8 a.m. local time) or face an unrelenting attack. OK, but what's the Eastern Alliance? Does it have anything to do with the Northern Alliance?
The "Eastern Alliance" is what CNN calls the Eastern Shura, the coalition of three militias led by former anti-Soviet mujahideen that has been trying to root out al-Qaida in eastern Afghanistan. The Associated Press refers to it in lower case as the "eastern alliance," and it's often referred to only as "anti-Taliban forces in Eastern Afghanistan" or simply "America's Afghan allies." The Eastern Shura overthrew the Taliban in mid-November in three provinces, including the Nangahar province that includes Jalalabad and Tora Bora.
The Eastern Shura sees itself as a counterweight to the Northern Alliance. Unlike the Northern Alliance, which consists mainly of Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras, the Eastern Shura consists mainly of Pashtuns.
Bonus Explainer: What's a "shura"? According to Newsday, a shura is a "consultative council of elders": "Shuras have a long tradition in Afghan politics as a tool of reaching consensus among different tribes and ethnic groups." The Washington Post says a shura is a "regional governing council."