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Will U.S. Depend on Afghan Insurgence?

Aired September 27, 2001 - 16:50   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.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now with his "Reporter's Notebook," a familiar face, Bob Novak of the "Chicago Sun-Times."

Bob, you're hearing something about military preparations?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO-SUN-TIMES": I think they're about ready, that is, the U.S., to make a strike on Afghanistan, but they are being urged at a very high level to hold off because this very weekend there will be inserted from Pakistan into Afghanistan some rebel Afghan commanders opposed to the Taliban who think they can turn large elements of the Taliban army.

There is one very reputable person who told me that they think there could be a take over in Afghanistan within a month from now. But if the United States comes in bombing and putting in Delta Forces and having a conventional war, or a semi-conventional war, all these plans will be negated.

Now, the president wants to hit Afghanistan, but this is an opportunity by very reputable -- in the opinion of very reputable people, this is now being studied by the secretary of state, secretary of defense; it's an important issue.

WOODRUFF: But if they're putting out the word that these forces are going in, is that alerting the Taliban that this is coming, or would they...

NOVAK: I think they know it's coming; but I think there's a lot of dissent in the Taliban armed forces.

WOODRUFF: Bob, the question -- the whole question of whether the United States should also be going after Iraq.

NOVAK: That is a huge question, and that is what the real division is between Secretary of State Powell and some people in the Pentagon. A Pentagon source of mine that I talked to this very morning said that they have to hit Iraq; now is the time to do it; now is the time to get rid of Saddam Hussein, even if there is no linkage between Iraq and September 11.

And this is something that Secretary Powell is against. And, of course, it would be disruptive of the broader coalition he's building. Another decision for President Bush. Do you hit -- take this opportunity to hit Iraq, or not? WOODRUFF: A number of coalition countries would clearly react negatively to that.

NOVAK: Yes.

WOODRUFF: To the economy, Bob. Some Republicans not happy with Alan Greenspan?

NOVAK: People are really unhappy with him because he came up there and said, let's go slow on this economic stimulus package, and they want the economic stimulus package fast. One very prominent House Republican told me that if Alan Greenspan wants to makes legislation, he thinks he should run for an empty Democratic House seat in 2002. I said, will you go on the record on that? He said, I'll go on the record the next time he makes a recommendation like that.

But on the other hand, Judy, we do have a lot of bipartisanship. Charlie Rangel, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee is in the room with the chairman, Bill Thomas, with the Treasury. It is a -- first time I've seen it in years -- a bipartisan effort to try to get a tax bill written. Not as fast as Republicans would like, but maybe by the end of October.

WOODRUFF: Another piece of the government potentially doing something about the economy now -- industries -- more industries looking for help?

NOVAK: Well, it is just wonderful. They saw the handout to the airline industry, which I think was necessary.

But a lot of people are out with their hands out. The steel industry is going to steel state senators and saying the attack of September 11 has hurt us, too -- I can't quite figure that out -- and we need an aid package. This is going to be a very interesting situation. Keep your eye on steel, whether there are proposals, that for national security, we have to give a financial aid package to steel which, of course, was ailing before the September 11 attacks.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Novak looking in his "Notebook" for us.

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