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Walter Rodgers: Public relations woes for U.S.

Walter Rodgers
Walter Rodgers  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The flight of refugees from Afghanistan and injuries to Afghan civilians from the U.S-led bombing campaign are complicating American efforts in the Islamic world to justify its war on terror.

CNN's Walter Rodgers reports that United States may face problems in the public relations battle over the campaign.

RODGERS: There has been, according to CNN sources in Afghanistan, some letup in the bombing around Kandahar, but any continuation of the bombing at this point is greatly compounding the Muslim sense of grievance against the United States, and this is only going to put the United States in a more troubled position with the Islamic world.

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There are fresh pictures now coming out of the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those pictures are showing an unstaunched stream of Afghan refugees fleeing the bombing, risking crossings of dangerous mountain passes before the onslaught of winter snows, crossing these high passes trying to get into Pakistan, fleeing, as I say, that American bombing.

All this week they have crossed these mountains because Pakistan has closed its border with Afghanistan because Pakistan is already overflowing with Afghan refugees. They've also crossed in the desert as well.

Worse in terms of a public relations nightmare for the United States are fresh pictures from Al Jazeera, the Arabic-language television network, which show Afghans picking through the rubble of what used to be their homes. This is exactly the kind of image that contradicts President Bush's claim that the United States is involved in fighting a just war.

A short while ago there were new reports of at least 13 civilian casualties in the Kabul area. Again, we have pictures of civilians who were injured and killed in the bombing. We cannot confirm the numbers.

The Taliban is claiming the numbers of civilian casualties are much, much higher at this point, but all of this is making it very, very difficult for the United States to sell its friends in the Islamic world on the justness of the American fight against Osama bin Laden despite the fact that Afghanistan continues to harbor bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization.

Here in Pakistan we are having demonstrations Sunday, anti-American demonstrations calling for an end to the bombing, calling for the resignation of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf because Musharraf supports the American war on terror.

The organizer of the demonstrations here, Qazi Hussain Ahmed [Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam party leader], virtually pointed a finger at the United States and said shame for continuing the bombing.

AHMED: This is a shame that the American big power should come and terrorize the innocent Afghans and bombard their villages, which have already been destroyed by the Soviet occupation.

RODGERS: So while the United States continues to call this a just war against terrorism, the tide of public opinion appears to be flowing against the United States in the Islamic world, certainly here in the Afghanistan-Pakistan corner of the Islamic world, where the United States is seen as the aggressor and the oppressor of the Islamic people.


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