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Powell reassures allies after strikes

By Andrea Koppel and Elise Labott
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell plans to travel to India and Pakistan at the end of the week as part of the United States' efforts to make sure the international coalition stays together following the joint U.S.-British attack on Afghanistan.

Senior administration officials said their most pressing concern, now that the strikes have commenced, is the continued stability of Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government.

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Pakistan is viewed by the U.S. as critical in the success of the anti-terrorism campaign it is leading. As Afghanistan's neighbor and an ally of the ruling Taliban, Pakistan also is home to many supporters of alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network.

In a written statement from Islamabad, Pakistan, a spokesman for Musharraf said officials there hope the U.S.-led coalition would stick to its anti-terrorism campaign and that "every care will be taken to minimize the harm to the Afghan people."

"We hope the operations will end soon," the statement said, adding that Pakistan "did whatever it could" to convince the Taliban leadership to respond to international demands to hand over bin Laden, the prime suspect in the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Assuring leaders, asserting goals

Powell spent much of Sunday alerting world leaders that attacks in Afghanistan had begun, said a senior State Department officials. Powell also assured leaders that military officials were "very careful" not to target civilians but aiming instead for training camps and Taliban targets, the official said.

Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, also notified key members of Congress, including leaders and members of the Senate Foreign Relations and House International Relations committees, of the military action.

In his talks with leaders, Powell also routinely emphasized U.S. plans to deliver $320 million in humanitarian aid to Afghan civilians.

Reaching Afghans

In the days ahead, the United States also plans to step up what one senior official termed "psychological operations" -- in essence, a propaganda campaign targeting Afghans.

Officials said the United States plans to deliver transistor radios to the populace, drop leaflets and increase radio broadcasts in local dialects telling Afghans the U.S. wants to help them.

At the same time, the Bush administration will focus on retaining coalition members, a senior official told CNN. "How effective this campaign will be will depend on our ability to hold this coalition together," the official said.

Administration officials also said Sunday's military strikes in Afghanistan are only the first step in a long-term, international war against terrorism.

"Down the road we need to see how many extraditions there are, how many seizures of money, how many banks are shut down," a senior administration official said. "That will be the real indication of how successful we are."



 
 
 
 


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