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America's New War: U.S. Forces Conducting Missions Within Afghanistan

Aired September 28, 2001 - 10:54   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.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: New developments in the U.S. deployment overseas. Senior administration officials confirming to CNN that U.S. special forces have conducted operation within Afghanistan, inside the borders of Afghanistan over the past several days.

Now, this is obviously very sensitive information. We are always careful about what we report about U.S. troop deployment because we do not what to put anyone at risk.

We did this reporting after reports in the Pakistani press and in this morning's "USA Today" as well, saying that U.S. special forces had conducted operations inside Afghanistan. Again, senior U.S. official confirming to CNN. In the words of one senior official, that U.S. and British special forces have participated in operations, quote, "in the region and, yes, in country," meaning Afghanistan in recent days.

Now, the headline of that "USA Today" article suggests that these forces were trying to hunt down Osama bin Laden.

I asked a senior official about this information, the official was very reluctant to discuss the details of this, but did steer us away from that, saying, quote, "remember, we have an intelligence deficit here." That meaning the United States government has little information on the whereabouts of bin Laden and on exactly what type of support he might have, meaning armed people with him. This official suggesting that this was very much part of a routine special forces deployment that takes place almost always when U.S. troops are deployed overseas. Special forces do such things as go in and just take a look at terrain, hunt possible access roots, look for places where targets for airstrikes perhaps, or places where helicopters could land.

So again, we are very sensitive about reporting this information, but we do have confirmation from senior U.S. officials that some special forces operations involving U.S. troops and, we are told, British special forces have taken place in Afghanistan in the past several days.

Now we want to turn to Christiane Amanpour in the region for more developments on another breaking story: A Pakistani delegation went into Afghanistan to ask the Taliban once again to release and turnover Osama bin Laden. Christiane joins us now with the latest on that diplomatic mission -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, CNN has talked to a senior Taliban official in Kandahar, which received this delegation from Pakistan, and the word is that the mission failed. There were two objectives from the Pakistani point of view: one, of course, to reemphasize to the Taliban that they really must get serious about what's demanded of them; and the other, to try to get them to at least release those eight international workers who are there, aid worker, including two Americans, who are charged with trying to spread Christianity in Afghanistan.

Taliban officials saying that the delegations met with Mullah Omar, the leader, but that the missions failed. And that is basically what we know.

We understand that the Pakistani delegation is coming back now, and we hope to get a fuller briefing from the Pakistanis when they get back here to Islamabad.

KING: Christiane, obviously, there has been pressure on the United States from Pakistan and from moderate Arab nations not to make targeting the Taliban part of this operation, to perhaps go after Osama bin Laden, but to not try to force a regime change. Any sense that perhaps this will change the sentiment in the region now that the Taliban has once again, this the second time in two weeks now, said no to the request that it turn over bin Laden?

AMANPOUR: It may do, but, you know, I'm hearing and feeling from the Pakistani very senior officials who I talked to that it's not necessarily that they don't want the Taliban targeted, but what they don't want is a purely Northern Alliance anti-Taliban regime to takeover in Afghanistan.

What especially the Pakistanis are concerned about is that whatever happens, they don't get a regime in Afghanistan that is hostile to Pakistan. So they're more looking for a broad-based new alliance, but they do very clearly say that the Taliban are becoming and have become a major liability.

KING: And, Christiane, we are reporting now that we have confirmation from senior U.S. officials that some special forces operations involving U.S. and, we're told, British forces have taken place inside Afghanistan over the past several days. You have covered many military deployments, this not a surprise to you, obviously trying to get a sense of what is being reported and what is being talked about in the region in that regard?

AMANPOUR: Well, yes, indeed, we do expect these operations to take place, and we also expect not to know much about them. And to that end, of course, we ask officials here today, very senior officials, and we basically got absolutely nothing from them, just a "no comment" or "I have nothing for you" on that.

Again, this is not just surprising, but there was speculation that this would be taking place at some time.

KING: Christiane Amanpour in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

Again, the headline from Christiane: A Pakistani delegation turned down in yet another diplomatic effort to try to get the Taliban to turn over Osama bin Laden, also to release some Western aid workers the Taliban is holding.

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