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Roberston: Afghan civilians want word on what's next

Nic Robertson reports from Islamabad, Pakistan
Nic Robertson reports from Islamabad, Pakistan  


(CNN) -- Overnight bombing continued into early daylight hours before it stopped Friday in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The CNN workplace was among the locations damaged during the continuing U.S.-led attacks. People there -- including employees of CNN and the Arabic-language TV station Al Jazeera -- were not injured, but the building was heavily damaged.

CNN's Nic Robertson is monitoring military action in Afghanistan from neighboring Pakistan, where he filed the following report.

ROBERTSON: Well, we're hearing that the bombing in Kandahar stopped fairly early this morning, it was an intense bombing campaign through the night. Staff there tell us that it ended at about 10 a.m. local time. In Jalalabad, north of there about 150 miles, we're told that there was a bombing raid.

But also we're getting important information today there from some aid workers. Afghan aid workers from an international organization who came out from inside Pakistan today, and they're saying that they've been going into sites inside Kabul where they've heard that civilians have been killed. They've been going out to try to monitor and find out how many people have been killed.

So far, they say, after 13 days of strikes only 10 civilians have been killed. Now this is somewhat smaller than the figure of 70 that the Taliban have been putting forward. The Taliban ambassador came back to Pakistan on Friday; he had been inside Afghanistan for most of the week. Now he is one of the original 32 Taliban and is widely regarded by his staff as an experienced military strategist -- he was a mujahedeen fighter in the 1980s against the Soviets. And he said he'd gone back to Afghanistan to have key meetings with high officials.

Now the reason he said he'd gone back is because the telephone networks have been destroyed and that satellite communication could easily have been eavesdropped. He did admit, however, that there have been military casualties, but that the Taliban's military strength should not be underestimated at this time.

The aid workers who left Kabul Friday and briefed journalists also told us that the Taliban morale in Kabul was high because the Taliban see that it is military targets that have been hit. They say also they believe the Taliban are reinforcing the front line around Kabul and leaving the rural areas to be defended by tribal chiefs.

However, they say the civilians in Kabul are becoming concerned, because although they are happy to see bombing that could remove the Taliban, they are becoming concerned now because they are not hearing from the international community a new political road map that could fill the vacuum after the Taliban are gone.

And indeed today, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fisher traveled to Pakistan and met with Pakistani foreign officials and aid workers and said that there is pressure on the international community to fill that vacuum.

U.N. officials here say that it's important at this stage that the Afghan people be told quite clearly exactly what role the U.N. would play in the future of Afghanistan and what role (deposed) King Zahir Shah would play in Afghanistan, although they say it's important that the international community doesn't impose any political dispensation on Afghanistan. There is a very fine balance, they say, to get the ball rolling and get confidence of the Afghan people at this time.

CNN: What can you tell us in light of all this bombing, what's happening with the flood of refugees that continues to go from Afghanistan to Pakistan?

ROBERTSON: Well, certainly today we're hearing of some 3,000 refugees UNHCR officials say coming out on the main highway from Kandahar in the southeast of Afghanistan to Pakistan across the border crossing at Charman. Now these numbers are relatively low compared with the high numbers that U.N. officials fear could come out of Afghanistan -- certainly our sources on the ground in Kandahar tell us that people were fleeing the city.

The bombardment that's been going on there the past few days they describe as being very heavy. And certainly there are reports of civilians leaving Kandahar because they're concerned about the level of bombing. So far 3,000, according to UNHCR officials, have traveled to Pakistan. The movement of refugees from Afghanistan seems to have been precipitated by that bombing.



 
 
 
 



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