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America's New War: Targeting the Taliban

Aired September 26, 2001 - 05:07   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: While the U.S. military masses for a campaign, the Bush administration realizes the Afghan people could play a key role in overturning the Taliban government.

Political fractures, even stories of internal dissent within the Taliban, could play to the United States' advantage.

CNN's senior White House correspondent John King investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More coalition building and a blunt appeal for a revolt against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban.

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

KING: The Taliban supreme leader joined the war of words. In a statement to the American people Mullah Mohammed Omar said -- quote -- "Your government is perpetrating all sorts of atrocities in Muslim countries." The statement went on to say that U.S. policy is to blame for -- quote -- "the sad events that took place recently."

The White House says stopping the Taliban is not an explicit goal of the operation.

BUSH: We're not into nation building. We're focused on justice.

KING: But in just the past few days the administration has urged Russia to increase military sales to the Northern Alliance opposition; intensified its own contacts with the Northern Alliance; held talks in Rome with Afghanistan's 86 year old exiled king and encouraged his efforts to organize opposition to the Taliban; and communicated through a third party with Abdul Haq, a former Afghan rebel leader who says he will return to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban.

ROBERT MCFARLANE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It makes good sense for the United States to give it a try for these grassroots Afghan commanders to bring down the Taliban for the government, take out bin Laden before the United States tries on its own. KING: But the president also left no doubt he would have no problem targeting the Taliban.

BUSH: If you harbor a terrorist, if you aid a terrorist, if you hide terrorists, you're just as guilty as the terrorists.

KING: Mr. Bush stopped by FBI headquarters to thank some of the agents leading the investigation, and congressional leaders who had breakfast with the president say Mr. Bush wants to wait a bit longer before deciding if the government needs to pass an emergency economic stimulus package.

(on camera): The crisis also is affecting the president's international travel plans. A trip to Asian next month, scheduled to run two weeks, has now been cut back to two days. A summit in Beijing and stops in Tokyo and Seoul postponed, so that Mr. Bush can return to Washington and lead his campaign against terrorism.

John King, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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