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America's New War: Northern Alliance Lobbying to Fight with America

Aired September 27, 2001 - 05:36   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: Let's go across the border right now into Afghanistan. Steve Harrigan -- CNN's Steve Harrigan is traveling with the Northern Alliance in northern Afghanistan.

Steve, what is the situation with them?

STEVE HARRIGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, as you know, that's the opposition here in northern Afghanistan that's been fighting the Taliban for more than five years. And we got a chance this morning to see some of their firepower in a training exercise. Many of those tanks and artillery, Soviet made, captured when Afghanistan fighters fought a 10-year war against the Soviet Union. Of course some of those weapons also Russian made.

The Russians, of course, having to make a quick about-face when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. The Russians feared that the movement could spread into the former Soviet Republics of central Asia so the Russians began backing the Northern Alliance, supplying them with weapons, military hardware. Of course the challenge here is to keep that military hardware operating in this climate and also where spare parts and where technical expertise are in short supply.

As far as the fighting goes, it continues along a line just north of Kabul, the heaviest fighting going on now in northeastern Afghanistan. The opposition says it's taken some key heights around the city of Talican (ph) -- Carol.

LIN: Steve, as you've probably been hearing, the Bush administration is trying to encourage Afghans inside of Afghanistan to rise up and take over or replace the Taliban government. How realistic do you think that call to arms would be for the Afghan people?

HARRIGAN: Well that's certainly something we've heard a lot here in the north. We've heard a great sympathy and great respect for the United States from not only opposition leaders here but from people on the street who are welcoming military action from the United States. Things have gotten so bad here, people so beaten down after 20 years of war that even the radical change of military action is something people are welcoming here. And, of course, the Northern Alliance is lobbying hard to play a role. They want to fight side by side with the U.S. They want to provide advice. They say they were the ones who ruled Afghanistan before the Taliban came into power and they hope to have the chance to do it again.

LIN: Steve, very quickly before I let you go, the Taliban says that it is trying to mass some 300,000 troops within Afghanistan. Has the Northern Alliance seen any evidence of this?

HARRIGAN: They have not seen any evidence of this. And keep in mind when reporting figures in fighting in Afghanistan, there's a tradition on both sides of widely exaggerating figures. Estimates of troop strength on either side is somewhere around 15,000 so the figure of 300,000 sounds absurd at this point.

LIN: All right. Thank you for that perspective. Steve Harrigan reporting live from northern Afghanistan as he travels with the Northern Alliance in their (ph) battle.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right.

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