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America's New War: Central Asia Prepares for Attacks

Aired September 19, 2001 - 06:41   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We are monitoring central Asia this morning, a place which could become the next ground zero in this new war. Of course, pivotal deliberations are under way in Afghanistan on just what to do about suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.

CNN's Tom Mintier is covering events for us from Pakistan's capital city, Islamabad. He joins us now live with an update -- Tom.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, things are pretty quiet in Islamabad, but Peshawar, another city closer to the border with Afghanistan, was the scene of some rather nasty anti-American demonstrations today.

Yesterday, a large crowd -- well over 3,000 -- were in Karachi in the streets. Riot police were on standby, but didn't move in. This was a very large demonstration, the largest we've seen in the past week since the attack on the United States -- the largest anti- American demonstration. We are not seeing any demonstrations in Islamabad at the present time. There was one last weekend, which was fairly small -- 70 or 80. But the one in Karachi yesterday, 3,000 at least in the streets of Karachi.

There is a strong feeling of resentment of the decision the Pakistan government has made to assist the United States, and we're seeing it on some of the streets of the larger cities.

Now, Wendy Chamberlin, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, made an announcement this morning that the U.S. government will donate more money to UNHCR to help them assist and feed and shelter the refugees that are expected to come across the border, maybe not through the checkpoints that are closed, but many are coming through the mountain areas and walking into Pakistan from Afghanistan. The border is over 1,000 miles long, and it's very porous and easy for people to come across.

So the United States has pledged more assistance for the UN High Commission for Refugees and helping them once they do come here.

I also asked the U.S. ambassador about this interagency team that is coming from the Pentagon and the State Department to hold technical talks with the Pakistanis on the assistance they are willing to offer. That team has not left the United States yet. No word yet on when they're going to exactly arrive in Pakistan, and when those talks about cooperation begin -- Leon. HARRIS: All right, Tom. Last hour, we talked about President Musharraf speaking to this nation to explain to them exactly why he is going to be cooperating with the United States.

Let me ask you: Do you see any signs of any preparations for a backlash when that speech does come?

MENTIER: Well, I don't know if there will be a backlash based on the speech. I think we're seeing what we saw in Peshawar today and in Karachi yesterday the backlash and public opinion of the radicals. But I think what this speech is all about is to try to win over the majority of the population. He is not going to convince everyone in this country that it was the right decision to make to help the United States. What he is looking for is a simple majority. He would like to see things quiet here.

You have to not forget, this is not a democratically-elected president. This is a military government in Pakistan. They hold the keys to the security apparatus. So if there are demonstrations, the government definitely has the ways and the means to deal with them.

But this speech is about building a consensus within Pakistan that this was the right decision that Musharraf made to assist the United States in what they like to call combating world terrorism, but it may end up being assistance for a military operation that many in Pakistan really don't support.

HARRIS: Tom Mintier reporting live for us this morning, this afternoon there, in Islamabad, Pakistan. Be safe, Tom -- we'll talk with you later.

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