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America's New Reports: Taliban Soldiers Said to Be Deserting Their Posts

Aired September 27, 2001 - 17:32   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.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Afghan soldiers leaving their posts, young men avoiding military recruitment. Some of the reports and some of the information coming from CNN sources that could be signaling a possible decay within the Taliban regime.

In Quetta, Pakistan, about 80 miles east of the border with Afghanistan, that's where we find CNN's Nic Robertson again with the latest on the state of the Taliban.

Nic, hello.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill, those reports coming to us throughout Thursday that it's within the Taliban ranks, monitoring posts, checkpoints along the road not being manned, the indication being that some low-level and mid-level Taliban soldiers are not turning up for duty. Also, reports, as you say, that people are trying to escape, desertion: refugees from Kabul here in Quetta report leaving Afghanistan because they were trying to avoid being called up for the army.

Also, United Nations officials reporting that on the border with Iran, that some fighting-age Afghans trying to flee to Iran are being turned back by Taliban officials.

But very hard to get accurate confirmation of all these reports at this time, but certainly talking to Taliban officials today, they said that they couldn't confirm or deny these reports. They did say that around their stronghold of Kandahar they felt that they still had substantial support at this time. But they said their government, the Taliban government is concerned about these reports.

Now in a few hours time, two delegations from Pakistan will be going to Afghanistan. They will include a Pakistani government delegation, a delegation of Pakistani diplomats and a delegation of senior Pakistani Islamic clerics, clerics that have been allied, allied with the Taliban in the past.

Now, the Pakistani government saying that it will deliver a message to the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, telling him that he must hand over Osama bin Laden, the Pakistani government saying that this really is a last-ditch effort, and what they want to do is make sure that they try every diplomatic opportunity before this crisis could turn into a military conflict rather than a diplomatic standoff -- Bill.

HEMMER: Nic, we've talked about a lot. Update us now on what you're getting on the refugee situation.

ROBERTSON: Again, statistics still very hard to accurately verify for U.N. officials. They tell us their estimates are still in the region of 10,000 to 20,000 people across the border. They would still like Pakistani government officials to allow them to set up monitoring posts close to the border. They are still working on setting up -- setting up potential refugee camps.

There are fears of a million people perhaps coming to Pakistan; 400,000 are their estimates headed -- may head toward Iran in the West. Northwards, they say, maybe 100,000 Afghan refugees will head northwards into countries there.

And today, the United Nations issuing a call for half a billion dollars, money they say that may need in aid. I mean, the big problem here, close to the border, are the very desert-type conditions. They say they need places with plenty of war -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Nic. Nic Robertson, where it has fallen night in Quetta, Pakistan. Nic, thanks to you.

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