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America's New War: U.S. Military Builds Up

Aired September 25, 2001 - 16:05   ET


ANNOUNCER: Training for Operation Enduring Freedom. The mission has a name but when and how will it begin?


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There is not going to be a D-day, as such.


ANNOUNCER: The commander-in-chief wins more pledges of international support for the battle against terrorism. But on the home front, continuing concerns about safety in the skies and at the scene of the crime two weeks ago.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington, where the Pentagon has called up nearly 2,000 more members of the reserves and the National Guard to serve in the war against terrorism. Hi, Joie.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Judy. From the CNN center in Atlanta I'm Joie Chen. Here is an update now of the latest developments two weeks after the attacks on the United States. Pakistani officials say that Afghanistan's ruling Taliban only has between 12 and 15,000 troops who are really armed and equipped.

The Taliban have claimed to be mobilizing up to 300,000 men to respond to the expected retaliatory strike by the United States. A Taliban representative today appealed to Pakistan not to break diplomatic relations with Afghanistan's rulers, and not to allow the United States to use its airspace to launch attacks. This comes after Saudi Arabian officials announced their decision to cut ties with the Taliban because they say Afghanistan has provided refuge to terrorists.

And in New York today, officials say the ruins of the World Trade Center remains dangerous for the crews searching for victims, and for evidence. More than 1,400 people have been injured at the site in the two weeks since the twin towers were attacked. More than 100,000 tons or debris have been removed and 279 bodies have now been recovered -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Joie, the secretaries of state and defense are set to brief House members this hour after, as we saw just a few moments ago, they did wrap up briefing Senators just a short time ago.

This as more reservists are being ordered into active duty, an dour military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre is joining us from the Pentagon -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To be clear, Judy, the Pentagon still intends to call up total of 35,000 National Guard and Reserve troops.

The are just going through the slow process of sending out those orders and identifying the numbers. Previous to today, already about 12,000 were notified. Another 2,000 getting their notice today. Most of these are communications, intelligence or security personnel, all part of the 35,000 call-up that is going on.

Meanwhile, Pentagon sources confirm that active duty combat troops are continuing to build up in the region. I asked a senior military official today if I could report that these troops were near Afghanistan. He just said, they are in the region. The build-up continues. The preparations for possible military action that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insisted was not about revenge.


RUMSFELD: ... the truth, and the truth is this not about revenge. It is not about retaliation. This is about self-defense. The United States of America knows that the only way we can defend against terrorism is by taking the fight to the terrorists.


MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld said that he did not consider credible any claims by the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan, that they did not know the location or the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and his organization. Rumsfeld saying you would have to believe in the Tooth Fairy to believe that.

Also, Rumsfeld tried to reassure Americans that the U.S. military has no plans abandon its all-volunteer force and reinstitute the draft. He said there's been no consideration of that, although he did say there would likely be additional call-ups of reserves and guard troops as this long campaign continues, something he warned again would probably stretch over several years -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jamie McIntyre reporting from the Pentagon.

President Bush has been focusing on a number of aspects of the war on terrorism, from building coalitions to airline security. More on the president's day, and his many meetings, let's check in with our senior White House correspondent John King -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, every hour, it seems, the president pressing ahead on another of the many fronts in what he calls this war on terrorism. This afternoon the president left the White House grounds and went across town for a little bit to FBI headquarters delivering a pep talk to some of the thousands of agents involved in the largest criminal investigation in U.S. history.

Mr. Bush also used that appearance to put in a plug for the new measures the administration is asking from Congress. They include some controversial items, like expanded powers for the FBI to use wiretapping and other surveillance efforts to track suspected terrorists.

Some have raise questions about whether that might infringe on civil liberties here in the United States. The president, though, in his remarks said those steps and others were critical if the U.S. is to win the war on terrorism.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must give the FBI the ability to track calls. When they make calls from different phones, for example. Now, this is what we do for drug dealers and members of organized crime. It seems like to make it makes sense to me, if it is good enough for the FBI to use these techniques for facing down those threats to America, that now that we are at war, we ought to give the FBI the tools to track down terrorists.


KING: Earlier at the White House, more coalition building. You see the president here walking out of the Oval Office with the Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi. Mr. Koizumi promising Japan would stand by the United States in this fight, his government considering medical and other logistical support for the operation, and also promising to work with the United States to keep the global economy up and running.

In this session with reporters Mr. Bush was asked if one of his goals here was not just to get Osama bin Laden but to topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Mr. Bush said that's not an official goal of the United States, but he also made clear that he would have no problems at all if the at the end of all this, the Taliban was removed from power.


BUSH: The best way to do that, and one way to do that is to ask for the cooperation of the citizens within Afghanistan who may be tired of having the Taliban in place, or tired of having Osama bin Laden, people from foreign soils in their own land willing to finance this repressive government.


KING: This hour the transportation secretary, Norman Mineta, here at the White House for a meeting with the president. Airline security of course another urgent concern in the wake of the attacks two weeks ago. Among the options being presented to President Bush this afternoon, we are told, should the federal government take over responsibility for security at airports across the country? And should more National Guard and reserve troops be called up at least in the short-term, serve as security forces on airports, and perhaps even on jetliners themselves -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, how does the White House, the people you are talk to there, square what we are hearing the president say, on the one hand saying, we would like to work with any people in Afghanistan who would like to see the Taliban replaced and on the other hand, a few hours ago, Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, saying, it is not our goal, it is not the U.S. goal to overthrow the Taliban as a regime?

KING: What the administration is trying to say, Judy, and this is a very fine line, is that it is not a specific objective of the campaign. If it were a specific objective, there might be more objections from other countries around the world that the Taliban has not been proven directly responsible for this, so how can you be about trying to topple a government.

But make no mistake, this administration, Mr. Bush said, it was an incredibly repressive government today. He said, once again, they are just as guilty as Osama bin Laden in his view, because they allow him safe harbor in Afghanistan. And in private diplomatic conversations we know the administration has encouraged the Russians to continue and indeed beef up its supply of military equipment to the northern alliance, the opposition in Northern Afghanistan.

So the administration not saying publicly that the objective here is to topple the Taliban, but administration officials privately make no secret of it. In the end, if all this brings about pressure on the Taliban, if the military strikes that the United States might launch hurt the Taliban, there will be no tears shed here if Afghanistan has a new government when this is over.

WOODRUFF: John king at the White House. One of the more fascinating aspects of this new war on terrorism.

To Capitol Hill today where the Airline Pilots Association urged Congress to approve its new proposal to allow pilots carry guns in the cockpit. The union is saying that this move would help prevent future hijackings like those on September 11.


CAPT. DUANE WOERTH, PRES. AIRLINE PILOTS ASSN.: Today the terrorist threat is very different. Today we are dealing with terrorist suicidal operations. The cockpit must be defended and pilots must play a pivotal role in protecting their place of work.


WOODRUFF: Congressional reaction to the proposal to arm pilots was mixed. House Majority Leader Dick Armey says he is open-minded, but he suggested he would prefer giving pilots stun guns. House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt saying he doesn't think allowing pilots to carry guns would be the best thing.

Security still is a great concern at Logan Airport in Boston where two of the four flights hijacked on September 11 originated. From Boston, CNN's Bill Delaney has an update on what is being done to make the nation's airports more secure and the problems that still remain.


BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Among questions now being raised in Congress and beyond about U.S. airports: The danger of what detective novels call "an inside job." Could airport employees, insiders, help outsiders gain access to an airplane? No question about it, says this long-time employee at Boston's Logan Airport, from which 10 hijackers flew.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people that are supposed to be on the airplanes -- the caterers, the cleaners, the fuelers, the ramp baggage personnel, the flight attendants, the gate agents -- all have total access to these airplanes without any security people around.

DELANEY (on camera): None of that has changed since the new guidelines came out?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: None of that has changed.

DELANEY (voice-over): Aircrafts particularly vulnerable when parked overnight.

(on camera): Who oversees all these people that are in and out of the airplane all night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody. Nobody. Those planes sit at the gate, and there's nobody there to oversee them. The security presence is all on the outside of security. What's going to stop somebody from packing a whole bag of dynamite, or any sort of explosive, or time bomb, and put it underneath, to go off?

DELANEY (voice-over): Officials at Boston's airport say they're exceeding new FAA guidelines. In a statement, Logan Airport officials listed several new precautions including more uniformed and plainclothed security personnel in all areas, and fewer access points to secure areas.

This employee, though, feels the new measures fails to address people with access now, already cleared who could be lured by a bribe to leave something on a plane, and, she says, security personnel at checkpoints remain ill-equipped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've always taken their job seriously. They just never had the knowledge or the authority to do anything about security. They're at the bottom of the pay scale, as far as anybody at that airport. They're making less than the janitors. At these checkpoint areas there is nobody that is trained in profiling. There's nobody that's trained in looking for anything but the obvious.

DELANEY: An American Airlines official, reflecting standards through the airline industry set by the FAA, said extremely thorough background checks are conducted for all employees with access to planes.

(on camera): The backgrounds of all employees at U.S. airports, the American Airlines official continued, are now being re-examined by government mandate. The vast majority may devoted to their work and to security but questions persist about who should have access to airports and the planes flying out of them.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Boston.


CHEN: An update from New York now. After all that has happened there, Mayor Rudy Giuliani says, it may now be one of the safest cities in the world, but there is still continued dangers for emergency crews still working in the Word Trade Center rubble. CNN's Martin Savidge has the latest from the disaster area -- Marty.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joie, it is a dangerous place to work. It has been since ever since this disaster occurred and despite that danger, the rescue crews continue to work as hard as they ever did. A short while ago, as they do twice a day, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, released the latest video that they have taken from ground zero.

The reason that FEMA provides these images is that the general media is not allowed down there unless it is under a pool circumstance. So these are government cameras that provide these images, and safety is one concern, the other is the fact that this is a crime scene. You can continue to see that the fires down there, the buildings themselves continue to smolder. That is because each time they peel away a different level there with the huge cranes they have in place, it allows for oxygen to get in, and of course oxygen is a great fuel for any fires that are burning.

They carefully overlook the area from those hanging baskets, and now you are beginning to look at what is referred to as the exo- skeleton. Maybe you will see another image of it as the water is pumped on some of the debris there in part to keep the fires down and in part to keep the dust down. But it is the exo-skeleton, that is the exterior design of the World Trade Center. There are a number of very large pieces that jet up into the air. The refer to them down at the site as the ruins, and they are proving to be a hindrance right because they are so large, and they are rather precarious.

, The are trying to up with a way to bring them down. They have talked about possibly pulling them down. They have also talked about demolition to bring them down. The city of New York would very much like to see some of those larger pieces kept intact. They may use them for a memorial. This is images actually of dredging that is going on in the river that runs right along the West Side Highway. The reason they are doing that dredging is they are trying to make the channel deeper so they can bring those barges that have been used to carry away the large pieces of debris, carrying everything away to the Freshkill's Landfill in Staten Island, can pull closer so they don't have to be transported that far. Mayor Giuliani today updating the figures that were coming from the search-and-recovery effort. And for once, they have gone down. The number of people officially listed as missing was decreased by about 55. It is still a horrible number, 6,398, Joie.

CHEN: Marty, I don't know if you saw it as you were talking over those pictures but indeed we see some of those workers, emergency workers, absolutely sacked out and exhausted right on the scene, even in the video we saw there.

I wonder what's being done to try to relieve them of the incredible burden they have taken on here?

SAVIDGE: Well, they do try to make sure the crews get at least some rest. They try to work them 12 and 12. They also have facilities down there. It has become much more organized to take care. Many of these people are professionals now. The number of volunteers actually working on the site has been greatly reduced.

And in fact, they brought in a lot of the systems they use to support firefighters, like the ones they used at the huge wildfires out West, where they are accustomed to with dealing with thousands of firefighters at a particular time. But sleep is a vital currency here and you take it whenever you can -- Joie.

CHEN: Marty, you mentioned some of those other structures immediately surrounding the World Trade Center site and some of the questions about the stability of them. Is there access for people who had worked there before? I'm sure there must be a lot of important documents for example, and other things in some of the buildings around there. Is there access to the civilian population?

SAVIDGE: They have gradually been opening up number of the buildings not severely damaged in and around the area, especially apartment dwellers anxious to get back to their homes. There were more apartments opened up today for public access. As far as office buildings that immediately looked upon the area of the World Trade Center site, no. There may have been some people that have gone in to do a cursory inspection that represented the various companies there, but no is going back in to start reclaiming anything or even to assess the damage that was done -- Joie.

CHEN: CNN's Martin Savidge on the scene in Lower Manhattan. The latest update from New York. Now back to Judy.

WOODRUFF: Joie, looking at those pictures, you do get an idea of what hard, hard work that is.

A live update from our Nic Robertson in Pakistan in just a moment. Plus, a close-up look at the U.S. military weapons and personnel deployments now under way.


WOODRUFF: Here in Washington, at the State Department today, a spokesman defended government objections to a recent radio interview with the leader of the Taliban. The taxpayer-funded Voice of America obtained the rare interview last week with a Mullah Mohammed Omar. But the interview never aired because of pressure from government officials who said they considered in improper for the Voice of America to broadcast Omar's comments.

The "Washington Post" newspaper has since obtained a transcript of the interview. Among the statements by Mullah Mohammed Omar, "The U.S. should step back and review its policy. It should stop trying to impose its empire on the rest of the world, especially on Islamic countries."

Omar also said, "Americans will not be able to prevent such acts like the one that has just occurred because America has taken Islam hostage."

With the latest on developments in Afghanistan and the growing diplomatic pressure from the outside, let's join CNN's Nic Robertson. He is in Quetta, Pakistan.

Nic, having just left Afghanistan a couple of days ago, what can you tell us about the number of men that the Taliban say that they are mobilizing for this battle?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly before this current crisis, talking not only with Taliban military officials, but other senior well-place military analysts inside Afghanistan, they talked in terms of the Taliban perhaps having 20-30,000 troops mustered in the very north of Afghanistan to fight the northern alliance.

That was because the Taliban was planning a major push try and gain control of the last 5 to 10 percent of the country that the northern alliance currently have. The Taliban are also assessed by the same analysts and by Taliban officials they say, to have perhaps another 10,000 or so troops further south, close to Kabul, and others scattered throughout the country.

A couple of days ago the Taliban defense minister said he could muster 300,000 troops. That is far in excess of the figures we understood. I asked the senior Taliban official how could this be accounted for?

And he put it to me like this, that in Afghanistan, when the Taliban came, they rounded up a lot of the warlords and told them to put away their guns, told the tribal leaders to put away their guns. The Taliban now say they have given these tribal leaders permission to hand out their weapons again as they see fit to the tribesmen.

And they say that they have so many small arms weapons left over from the conflict the 1980s with the Soviet Union, many they say captured from the Soviet Union, many supplied for Mujah Hadin (ph) fighters by Pakistan, by the United States funding in the 1980's against the Soviet Union. They do say, they claim to have that many weapons available. And they claim that through this tribal structure, there are that many gunmen, 300,000 gunmen available to them. CNN's Kamal Hyder (ph) , who has been traveling inside Afghanistan, has talked about seeing a large number of small arms weapons on the streets inside Afghanistan. That is something we certainly were not seeing a few weeks ago, and has certainly been an uncommon sight inside Afghanistan in the last few years, very much since the Taliban has had control.

So the Taliban claiming -- very big claims -- to have 300,000. We are not able to substantiate it, but that is how they explain those big figures, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Just a very quick question, Nic. What is the latest understanding you have on where Osama bin Laden, or his top lieutenants are?

ROBERTSON: Understandings on that issue very difficult, very hard to come by, even when we were inside Afghanistan. That is a closely guarded secret. The Taliban of course say they don't know where he is. There is no indication, no concrete indication, that he has left Afghanistan. Taliban officials have indicated before that he is perhaps safer inside Afghanistan than outside, but we have no firm understanding of where he would be at this time, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Nic Robertson. Thank you, Nic. Now to Joie in Atlanta.



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