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America's New War: Military Views of Afghanistan Situation

Aired September 25, 2001 - 05:37   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.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: And we want to bring you the latest developments this morning in America's New War, and we're going to focus right now on coalition building. Saudi Arabia has severed diplomatic ties with the Taliban government in Afghanistan and that leaves Pakistan as the only nation maintaining relations with the Kabul government.

The United Arab Emirates broke ties with the Taliban last weekend.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is in Tehran on a mission to encourage the Iranian government to help fight terrorism. Mr. Straw is emphasizing the war on terrorism is not a war against Islam.

And the European Union delegation is in Islamabad today to bolster Pakistan's commitment to the war on terrorists. The EU delegation will visit five Muslim nations this week.

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for a global battle against what he called the unspeakable horror of terrorism. The U.S., Russia and China quickly supported his appeal.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, America is reaching around the globe recruiting a coalition to fight terrorism and at some point, the military may pick enemy regions to target but just how do they go about choosing these targets?

Well, joining us now from London is retired Admiral Richard Cobbold in the British Royal Navy.

Admiral, good morning, and welcome, we thank you very much for your time today.

ADMIRAL RICHARD COBBOLD, BRITISH ROYAL NAVY (RET.): Good morning.

HARRIS: Let me first start off by asking you about a report I heard yesterday. I'd like to ask you, I don't know if you can confirm it but I wonder if you've heard the same thing, I have heard that British Special Forces, the SAS, have actually been conducting over flights in Afghanistan already collecting reconnaissance. Are you aware of that? Do you know that to be true?

COBBOLD: Well, I have seen the reports too and the reports are that special forces -- British Special Forces are operating in Afghanistan and that unmanned air vehicles are operating and indeed reports that a predator has been shot down. I think that probably is true, and I think you can expect that. This is a matter of finding the targets, reporting on movements and generally getting an awareness of what's happening on the ground.

HARRIS: Well, if that -- if that process is already underway, how confident are you that adequate targets will be found, that perhaps any of these moving -- these moving terrorist camps can actually be located and pinned down?

COBBOLD: Right. Well, firstly it's the nature of Osama bin Laden and his networks, they're very diverse, they're dispersed, they're cellular. They're also very enveloped within the Taliban itself. So what you're looking for is really very good quality intelligence that is -- that is robust and up to date in time, and accurate in place, and that's not easy to do. And you rely not only on technical means but maybe on whatever human beings you can get. And, of course, human means may mean time late, and maybe technical means doesn't give you the detail that you want so it's a matter of putting together a picture and that's really quite a long job.

HARRIS: So then in your mind, then does putting together that picture actually require putting in troops on the ground first?

COBBOLD: You can put a picture together by technical means that are well away from the ground. There's no doubt at all that having special forces on the ground and if that is so they will provide additional intelligence that may well provide the sort of targeting information that will give the coalition the confidence that they can hit the targets they want even though they are either moving or only static for a very short time.

HARRIS: One question I'd like to ask you about because I haven't heard very much talk about the weather. The weather has got to play quite a factor when you consider that winter is coming up. I remember lots of discussions about that last time around with the Gulf strikes and the Gulf War. How do you think the weather is going to factor in with the identification of any of these targets that are so already hard to find when there is no really serious weather going on there?

COBBOLD: Well, there's no doubt that winter comes and winter is coming in about a month's time and winter at that height and those latitudes is extraordinarily severe so it will hamper movement and it will hamper intelligence gathering. I think for the moment, though, that it is reasonably good. I understand that broadly speaking the visibility is good and the cloud cover is not so bad. So there is reasonable conditions at the moment.

HARRIS: OK. And then finally this morning, let me ask you about the word that we heard this morning of -- from the Pentagon, our Mark Potter reporting hearing there that actual targeting may begin or may actually include going after the poppy fields that the Taliban allegedly have been using to finance their government there through drug sales internationally. Do you -- what do you think about that? COBBOLD: It's an interesting possibility. One of the things that the Taliban has done in order to try and get some favor with the international community is to cut down ostensibly on the amount of opium that is grown in Afghanistan and they have apparently cut down to a very great extent. Now there is also a suggestion that I've heard that the Taliban are easing their restrictions and the Afghan farmers may look to growing poppies again very greatly as perhaps the only means they have of getting themselves some income. So I think it may actually have the reverse affect. The Taliban may actually be encouraging more growth and that I'm not totally convinced, though, that in the time scale that we're talking about that the Taliban can readily expect to get a great deal of short-term income from the poppies to set against the loss they might get from the economic campaign that's being waged against them.

HARRIS: And I'm sure that's exactly what many folks are counting on.

Well, Richard Cobbold, thank you very much for your time this morning. We appreciate the insight and hope to talk with you later on.

COBBOLD: A pleasure.

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