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America's New War: Heavy Fighting in Afghanistan

Aired September 24, 2001 - 05:04   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: Things are heating up quite literally, though, in Afghanistan. Our Steve Harrigan, as you may know, has been in northern Afghanistan for quite some time now. He has been with the Northern Alliance, the rebels who have been countering the Taliban in Afghanistan.

And we're going to check with Steve right now, because we've got word now that there has been some fighting there all night long -- Steve, what have you heard?

STEVE HARRIGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Leon.

We could hear it actually very clearly from the house we're staying in here in northern Afghanistan. Heavy shelling throughout the night -- it started about 3:00 a.m. and continued for several hours. So that was coming from the opposition here in the Northern Alliance towards the Taliban positions.

Also just a short time ago, we saw Taliban fighter planes fly overhead. The Taliban, as you know, flies during the day, it is said by the Northern Alliance. But their pilots are not skilled enough to fly at night.

So here, if we could just take a look behind me now at some of the tanks, you can see for yourself some of the arsenal of the Northern Alliance. It's somewhat of a rag-tag hand-me-down bunch of weapons -- a lot of those old Soviet weapons, hand-me-down from wars past. Of course, the fighting here has been going on for two decades -- first, against the Soviets then against the Taliban.

We have seen those tanks drive off in the morning towards the front line, drive off sometimes in the late afternoon and then come back. A couple of those tanks, however, we've seen really them just start them up, drive them a few yards, and then drive them back almost as if they're dealing with a used car that they want to keep running.

So we've seen a hot night of fighting, and we've seen some preparations here. As the Northern Alliance says, it continues to make-ready to work with the Americans should military action come -- Leon.

HARRIS: Steve, I'd like to ask you. In your talks there with the folks who are with that Northern Alliance, what is it that they are expecting to have happen when all the dust settles in Afghanistan? Are they expecting to be installed as the official de facto government there, or what?

HARRIGAN: Right.

You remember that the Northern Alliance actually ruled Afghanistan right before they were kicked out by the Taliban. So from 1994 to 1996, this country was ruled by the Northern Alliance. It was a very stormy rule though, marked by infighting, marked by violence in Kabul and marked by charges of corruption. Their job is going to be even tougher should they get that chance, because they just lost their charismatic leader, General Masood. He was assassinated right before the terrorist attacks in the United States.

So the Northern Alliance is facing some real challenges. Can they keep their own alliance together? Can they take Kabul? And should they do take the capital city, will they be able to hold on? Unless that they are driven out like last time when they failed in 1996 -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, just some of the many questions yet to be answered.

Steve Harrigan reporting live from northern Afghanistan -- be safe. We'll check back with you later on this morning.

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