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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America's New War: News From the War Front

Aired September 25, 2001 - 05:22   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: In northern Afghanistan, Taliban forces and opposition fighters reportedly swapped gun and artillery fire overnight.

For the latest on that region, let's go now live to CNN's Chris Burns, who is standing by at what looks like a military installation there -- Chris, where are you right now? Don't tell specifically, but can you give us an idea?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's one of -- right -- it's one of sorts -- it's actually a makeshift open air tank repair shop, if you can believe that. And this is a T-62 tank -- Soviet-made -- 1960s technology -- still works sometimes. The Taliban lost it to the Northern Alliance, and they are now fixing that up to take back into battle.

Further on here in this open-air repair shop is an armored personnel carrier. The engine broke down in that as the Northern Alliance was attacking the Taliban. They are now replacing the engine to take it back into battle.

If you look behind the turret there, you can see some of the incredible landscape of Afghanistan -- very typical, very craggy, very barren, very forbidden and rugged. And that is what the Soviets dealt with when they came here with all of this hardware from 1979 to 1989, and lost. They left about 150 tanks behind, some of which have been cannibalized and used by both sides.

And further on over here is some of the detritus of that war -- the Soviet invasion. That is being cannibalized and used by both sides to fix up their tanks to fight each other. And some progress is being made by the Northern Alliance.

If you look further on about 30 kilometers -- it's about 20 miles to the south -- that is the front. That is the front between here and Kabul.

Now, the Taliban has been pounded by some of these tanks. The Northern Alliance claims to have made some kind of gains here.

If you look another 50 kilometers beyond, which you can't see right now, that is the prize -- that is Kabul, the capital. And near there is a very important former Soviet air base that the Americans could use to stage their operations against any terrorist targets within Afghanistan. So that is where we see some kind of cooperation developing between the Northern Alliance and between the United States.

So this is the background -- this is the background they're dealing with, and this is what they'll be dealing with, unless they get more American help. And that's what the generals on the front lines are asking for is at least some air power -- some air support from the Americans so they can move on to Kabul -- Leon.

HARRIS: Chris, I'm just wondering, because I'm looking at that equipment, and from my vantage point, and on the television screen admittedly, it looks pretty ragged.

Can you give us any kind of an idea or comparison between what they've got in the field that's actually working right now? Does most of it look like that?

BURNS: Yes, it's not surprising, actually. In fact, I talked to a commander on the front line down about 30 kilometers from here. He says that he has only about 10 tanks on the front line and 2,000 men. He could call up others, but that is basically what they're dealing with. That's why they're dealing with sort of a stalemate conflict for the last five years, and they're hoping to break that stalemate if the Americans to step in behind them -- Leon.

HARRIS: Do we read that, Chris, to mean that the U.S. -- we understand there have been plenty of contacts between the Northern Alliance and the U.S. military officials.

BURNS: That's right.

HARRIS: Are they saying there or that they believe that they're going to be given new or better equipment in exchange for their support?

BURNS: Well, they're not counting on anything. In fact, you might apply the typical phrase here, "inshallah" -- God willing. That's what they are hoping that there is some kind of help from the Americans. They're not counting on it, though. I asked them, well what if the Americans don't help you out? They say, we're going to keep on fighting like we have for the last five years -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right. Chris Burns reporting live this morning from northern Afghanistan -- as we always say, be careful, and we hope to talk with you soon.

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