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Abdul Sattar Discusses Regional Conflict; Lott Talks About Stability in the Area; Edwards Discusses Military's Next Moves

Aired October 7, 2001 - 12:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington and New York; 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles; 8:30 p.m. in Kabul, Afghanistan; and 9:00 p.m. in Islamabad, Pakistan. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special three-hour LATE EDITION.

A reminder that this week, the third hour of LATE EDITION belongs to you. We'll be taking your phone calls for our military and terrorism experts as well as our reporters covering "America Targets Terrorism."

We begin today in Pakistan, where there are reports Afghanistan's ruling Taliban may be prepared to try Osama bin Laden under Islamic law. Let's go live to Islamabad where CNN's Nic Robertson is standing by.


BLITZER: And as more U.S. troops mobilize near Afghanistan for an anticipated military response, President Bush is warning the country's Taliban regime that the window of opportunity to turn over Osama bin Laden is closing.

CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett joins us now live with more.


BLITZER: Pakistan remains the only government with diplomatic ties to the Taliban. But the Pakistani government now says is there credible evidence Osama bin Laden is responsible for the September 11 attacks.

Joining us now live from Islamabad is Pakistan's foreign minister, Abdul Sattar.

Mr. Foreign Minister, welcome to LATE EDITION. It's good of you to join us.

And let me begin with the news of the day, this offer from the Taliban to try Osama bin Laden under Islamic law if the U.S. halts its threats of military action. What is your reaction to this Taliban proposal? ABDUL SATTAR, PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, the reaction has to come from Washington, and I think we can anticipate that, which is rejection of this offer.

BLITZER: The Bush administration has formally rejected the offer, saying no negotiations with the Taliban. Does that mean, in your assessment, that military action led by the United States is now inevitable?

SATTAR: Well, it has seemed to us for quite some time when the president of the United States decided that there would be no negotiations unless the government of Afghanistan handed over Osama bin Laden and other terrorists for prosecution. It has been quite clear since then that it depended very much on the government of Afghanistan. They have to make a decision.

BLITZER: Is the government of Pakistan preparing for likely military action, taking specific steps, A, to cooperate with the United States and the other coalition partners and, B, preparing for some military action and how it would impact on the people of Pakistan?

SATTAR: Well, in the first place, our response was prompt and positive to American requests for cooperation. As for the specifics, these are discussed really between military officials.

I think the United States would let us know exactly when and what assistance it requires. And what I can tell you is that Pakistan will, as usual, give an affirmative response.

BLITZER: As you may or may not know, the Northern Alliance, the so-called United Front in northern Afghanistan, the opposition to the Taliban regime, has closed air space over the territory it controls in anticipation of U.S. military action.

Is Pakistan planning on taking any similar action, closing commercial air traffic over Pakistan?

SATTAR: Well, so far as I know, the commercial flights are still going from one place to another. That's very important for me because in a couple of days I have to go to Doha to attend the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers.

SATTAR: To the best of my knowledge, we have not closed the airspace.

BLITZER: Is it your sense, though, based on what you know, that any military action, as there have been some reports, is very, very close?

SATTAR: Well, I think you can get a more authoritative answer in Washington than you can get in Islamabad.

BLITZER: What about the fact that Pakistan is now the only country that still has formal, very scaled-back, but formal diplomatic relations with the Taliban government in Kabul. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, as you know, in the last few weeks they've both severed their diplomatic relations. Why is Pakistan still maintaining those ties?

SATTAR: There is only one channel of communication that is open to the government of Afghanistan, and that is via Islamabad. We ourselves have withdrawn all our diplomatic and consulate personnel from Afghanistan.

And I just want to tell you that a number of countries, Australia, Germany, the United Nations, have been very appreciative of the existence of this channel. And the United States also knows that this is valuable channel of communication.

And so long as it serves a purpose, Pakistan of course will maintain diplomatic relations.

BLITZER: As you heard, probably, in our report from Nic Robertson in Islamabad, your government today has placed under house arrest the leader of the opposition JUI party in Pakistan. Give us the explanation why that was necessary. Of course, he and his party have good relations with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

SATTAR: My understanding is that a case was registered against Maulana Fazlur Rehman for incitement of the armed forces to rebellion, which is contrary to our law. And he has now been placed under house arrest.

But I think one other point needs to be added. In Pakistan, apart from a small right-wing extremist minority, the vast majority of our people support government policy. And this majority includes all, all I say, mainstream political parties.

There is this extremist wing. And the government of Pakistan has been anxious that there should be no sense of suppression in the country. And that is why we have allowed these weekly demonstrations that start after congregation prayers on Friday, last for some time, and then they are disbursed.

We are not really worried. In this case the main objection was that incitement to rebellion.

BLITZER: How worried are you, Foreign Minister, that if the U.S. and its partners strike militarily against the Taliban, there could be angry reaction from supporters, sympathizers of the Taliban on the streets of Pakistan, potentially threatening your government?

SATTAR: I want to just once again affirm that we don't feel threatened at all. What, however, has to be kept in mind is that, in the event these attacks target innocent people, there will be a sense of sympathy, and more people will come out on the streets.

And it is for that reason that we have recommended to the government of the United States -- incidentally, also to U.K. Prime Minister Blair when he was in Islamabad a couple of days ago -- that whatever information and evidence can be disclosed without compromising sources should be publicized so that more people would know that there is a case against Osama bin Laden.

And I think we should also realize that he is no longer a welcome guest in Afghanistan. The Council of Scholars, 600 of them, met a week or 10 days ago, and they decided to make a recommendation to the government of Afghanistan to ask Osama bin Laden to leave. And it is unfortunate that the government of Afghanistan has not so far acted to comply with this important recommendation.

BLITZER: Is it still possible that the government of Afghanistan, the Taliban, would comply and hand over Osama bin Laden to a third party, if not the United States, and avert the military action that many believe is inevitable?

SATTAR: I wish that were done because the people of Afghanistan will suffer unnecessarily. If Osama bin Laden was handed over for trial by an impartial court, possibly the military action would be averted.

But of course, we must keep in mind that the conditions that the United States government has announced go beyond handing over of only Osama bin Laden. They say Osama bin Laden and his other colleagues. And secondly, the United States has said it will wish to inspect the closure of terrorist camps in Afghanistan.

But surely, if the government of Afghanistan were to make a clear decision to hand over Osama bin Laden for prosecution in a court of law, that would probably avert an immediate strike.

BLITZER: But that appears to be unlikely.

I know there have been some serious differences between the government of Pakistan and the Northern Alliance, the so-called United Front, which apparently is getting some support now from the U.S. and the West.

How concerned are you about the alliance, if you will, that seems to be developing between the U.S. and these rebels in northern Afghanistan opposed to the Taliban?

SATTAR: The so-called Northern Alliance at this time controls two and a half out of 32 provinces of Afghanistan. If we are to bring peace to Afghanistan, it is important that the government should be broad-based and multi-ethnic. I think any attempt to hand over Afghanistan to a minority government would be a recipe for continued conflict.

Our interest, interest of Pakistan and I believe of all the neighbors of Afghanistan, rests in a peaceful Afghanistan which is stable and which then provides a bridge for us, that is, between Pakistan and other civilizational hinterlands, Central Asia, Iran and to the West.

So we will be very happy if the Northern Alliance is part of a broad-based government in Afghanistan. We are not really worried because the United States government has indicated to us its own policy, and that policy is not really to give the rule over Afghanistan to Northern Alliance.

And as you are aware, talks have also begun with former King Zahir Shah. He's a respected person, and possibly he could be the symbol of unity in Afghanistan once again.

BLITZER: Mr. Foreign Minister, the last time we spoke a year or so ago when I was in Islamabad, we spoke about the nuclear situation between India and Pakistan. There's some concern that some U.S. officials have about the nuclear stability, the nuclear security in Pakistan right now.

Is the United States working with Pakistan now to make sure that Pakistan's nuclear capabilities are secure during this difficult period ahead?

SATTAR: We haven't had any recent exchanges on the subject. But I remember we had a very, quite a substantial conversation when you were last here.

But the United States government is fully aware that the government of Pakistan has ensured custodial controls three times over in the last two years, very special efforts have been made. And you can be confident and so can the people of the United States that our nuclear assets are under very tight custodial controls, with not two but three firewalls all around them.

BLITZER: Foreign Minister, on that note, I want to thank you very much for granting us some time during these very, very busy days. We appreciate it very much.

And just ahead, since September 11, there's been an overwhelmingly bipartisan tone in the U.S. Congress. But is the Republican-Democratic coalition starting to crack? We'll ask Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott when LATE EDITION continues.



DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The threat that terrorists pose to the world is a real one, it's an immediate one, and it's one that can be dealt with only by taking the effort to the terrorists and to the countries that harbor them.


BLITZER: U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Uzbekistan on a five-country tour of Central Asia and the Middle East.

Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION.

Joining to us now to talk about how the U.S. Congress is responding to the September 11 attacks is the Senate's top Republican, Trent Lott of Mississippi.

Senator Lott, always good to have you on LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us.

You just heard the foreign minister of Pakistan make the case why his country is cooperating with the U.S. as it is.

How worried are you, if at all, about stability inside Pakistan if the U.S. and its coalition partners were to strike against targets in Afghanistan?

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: Well, first of all, I thought the foreign minister did an excellent job, very measured in what he had to say. Of course, they have to be concerned about stability in their own country, and we have to worry about it.

But it appears to me that they're doing the right things to keep it understand control, and the information I have is that they're in pretty good shape.

BLITZER: The U.S. also has to worry not only about what's going to happen on the streets of Pakistan, but other allies, friends of the United States, moderate Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt. Is there a concern that a U.S. attack could polarize, antagonize Muslims in those countries, endangering, in fact, those regimes?

LOTT: Well, once again, you've got to be conscious of that possibility.

But as I have talked to some of the moderate Arab leaders, including King Abdullah, he believes that if we proceed in the way we have been proceeding, by dealing with the money situation, by showing humanitarian concerns, by working with the coalition and by going after bin Laden and the countries that are harboring, immediately, these terrorists, that there will be broad support and that they will be able to keep a stable situation in their countries.

BLITZER: Is the American public prepared right now for what is supposedly going to happen?

LOTT: Well, I think, first of all, the president has been right in reminding us that this is not going to be just one situation where there is a strike and it's over or we go in and capture him and we try him and it's nice and neat. This is probably going to take time.

And it's not just about bin Laden. It is about terrorists all over the world. And we have to rout them out in more than just one or two places, because, you know, terrorism has come to us in such a startling way, but other countries, not only in the Middle East but in Europe, have been having to deal with this problem for a long time. So, we have to be aware that this is going to take time.

Secondly, while we don't want people becoming paranoid about it and getting fixated on, well, are we at risk, we have to be conscious that there are these threats. We should do everything we can as a government and as a people to be watchful and careful.

But I think the American people are feeling a sense of unity and patriotism and pride and resoluteness I haven't seen in a long time. BLITZER: Well, when you say this is not simply going to be one strike and that's it, or even if the U.S. finds Osama bin Laden, puts him on trial or kills him, it's not over with.

When you say it's going to take time, how much time is it going to take?

LOTT: I don't think anybody knows that for sure. But certainly more than weeks, probably months, maybe even years, because this is going to be a long process to deal with this problem. But some have compared it to the Cold War. Hopefully, it won't be that long. But we have to realize that it's not going to be quick.

BLITZER: There will be some in the Arab world and the Islamic world, even in Europe, who will say why not accept this offer from the Taliban regime today to let them put Osama bin Laden on trial according to Islamic law if that would avoid casualties, further casualties, collateral damage, innocent people dying in Afghanistan?

LOTT: First of all, the president was very clear in what the conditions were and that he would not negotiate. He's been also resolute in what he's had to say.

But it's not just about bin Laden. This is about terrorism in a bigger sense. It's about bin Laden and his lieutenants and the cells that maybe are there in Afghanistan, that are in other parts of the Middle East, in fact that are here. And so, we have got to look at the bigger picture and not just say, oh, well, we have bin Laden, it's over. It wouldn't be over.

BLITZER: Are you comfortable with this coalition the U.S. is attempting to put together? You have some conservatives out there are saying why is the U.S. trying to bring in Iran, for example, or Sudan in this coalition when they will argue that they are some of the chief sponsors of terrorism.

LOTT: But they have also had to endure terrorism in their own countries, many of them.

The world has sort of been turned on its head in a way. Our former adversaries are now talking like and showing signs that they're going to be us with. Some of our friends are not doing quite as much as we had hoped they would. But we have to deal with those changing circumstances.

If Iran really is serious about trying to change their conduct and join the world community, I think we have to sort of trust and verify. But shouldn't we encourage that? Shouldn't we be hopeful that they would be a more responsible part of the world community? Yes.

As a matter of fact, like so many bad things that happen in one's life, sometimes there are opportunities for greater good. Maybe that will be the situation here.

BLITZER: As you know, there was a highly publicized comment from an intelligence official who said there was a 100 percent certainly in speaking to members of Congress this week, that there would be a reaction, additional terrorist attacks against the United States if the U.S. launched strikes against the Taliban or Osama bin Laden.

Americans are concerned, especially about the possibility of biological or chemical terrorism. How concerned should they be?

LOTT: Well, first of all, I think it's unfortunate that that intelligence briefing information was leaked out. And how can you ever be 100 percent certain?

Yes, there are threats out there, but our government is working diligently with other countries to try to identify legitimate threats, follow them up. We're doing all kinds of things through our law enforcement entities to try to intercept and stop terrorist threats.

We don't know for sure what they might do next. Probably the only thing we can be sure of would be different from what we saw on September 11, in all probability, although they could attempt that again. But I think we've tightened up on aviation security to the point that it'd be very hard to do.

We should be concerned but as, you know, the government and government officials, the president, all of us, should say, yes, we need to be careful. We need not to do anything, you know, stupid, but don't become just crippled by it, because if we do, they won.

And so, we should go forward with our business, with our lives. We've got to do what we have to do in dealing with terrorism, and then do everything we can to stop retaliation that they might try to heap on us.

BLITZER: Is the U.S. government at the federal, state and local levels prepared adequately, in your opinion, for that possibility, that worst-case scenario of a biological or chemical attack?

LOTT: Well, do you ever get fully prepared for something like that? You know, that's a hard question to answer. The federal government is doing a lot of things, and the state and local governments are, too.

And so, I think, as much as we can be, humanly be prepared, knowing what we now know, since September 11, we've made a lot of progress. But it's going to take more time to get to where we really need to be in a, you know, in a counterterrorism sense.

That's why Congress needs to act. I believe the Senate will act next week on a counterterrorism bill that will give our law enforcement authorities greater tools to do their job.

BLITZER: As you know, it's almost four weeks since the September 11 attacks. There's been remarkable bipartisan unity, probably something you've never seen before, in Washington over these past few weeks.

But now there are indications, very overt signs, that some of that unity, some of that bipartisanship is collapsing on specific issues like the president's economic stimulus package, this anti- terrorism legislation that's going to be coming forward, some of the other matters now before you.

How concerned are you that the old days are coming back?

LOTT: You know, bipartisanship and getting things done is never easy. you have to work at it. You have to watch your rhetoric. You need not to call the other side names, and you need not to, you know, question their motives.

It has been a phenomenal time. I've been around this town for over 30 years, Wolf, and I've never seen the type of cooperation between the Congress and the president, between the parties like we have seen.

The American people like it. Look at the ratings that they've given the president and the Congress. The Congress has the highest approval rating since polls have been kept. So I think that's all good.

I think we can still come together, and the counterterrorism is a perfect example. That bill, which has been introduced and will probably be taken up next week, is being cosponsored by Tom Daschle, Trent Lott, Richard Shelby, Bob Graham, Orrin Hatch and Pat Leahy -- totally bipartisan. We worked out the kinks. Will there be other good ideas offered and some bad ones that we'll have to deal with? Yes.

BLITZER: What about on tax cuts and the economic stimulus package?

LOTT: That will be tough, because then we begin to sort of go back to our roots as to what is the best way to do it. But the president has been willing to listen to all sides. He sort of laid out some parameters that I think are right. There will have to be a little give and take.

But, you know, we've already done a lot on the spending side, probably $55 billion, at least, since September 11. We need to do only those things that can be done quickly, that will have an immediate impact on growth in the economy, that will stimulate the creation of jobs. If you keep that kind of focus, then I think we can come to an agreement. But we should do it, and we'll be working on it next week.

BLITZER: Senator Lott, we've got to leave it there. Thanks for joining us.

LOTT: Thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

And next, we'll hear from the other side of the political aisle, Democratic Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. LATE EDITION will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


RUMSFELD: The only way to deal with it is not by attempting to defend against every conceivable attack, but rather to taking the battle to the terrorists and to the nations that harbor and facilitate and finance and tolerate international terrorism.


BLITZER: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaking in Turkey on Friday.

Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION.

Joining us now is the Democratic senator from North Carolina, John Edwards. As a member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, he's also been in on all the key briefings regarding these attacks.

Senator Edwards, thanks for joining us. Welcome back.

What can you tell us about what's going on in terms of the preparation for any U.S. military retaliation or reaction for the September 11 attacks?

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, what we know, Wolf, is that we have extraordinary military resources which we have deployed to the area. In addition to that, we put together the alliances that need to be put in place in order for us to act.

And I think all of us are now just waiting. In fact, I think the military and the president are deciding when to act and how to act. And I think it could literally come at any time.

BLITZER: When you say any time, within days, within hours, within...

EDWARDS: Well, I don't think there's any way for me to know that. But I think the president and our military leaders are literally making that decision as we speak.

BLITZER: But based on what you know, which is obviously a lot more than what we know, are all the pieces in place for the start of that kind of action?

EDWARDS: Yes, we have our military operation there. We have the alliances that we needed in place. And we're in the process, and have been for a long time, of gathering the intelligence information.

Now, of course, what we want is what we described as actionable intelligence, real-time intelligence that would allow us to know where bin Laden, where Al Qaeda is at a specific point in time so we can act. But the president has that information, and so does the military. BLITZER: The U.S. public was told in press reports, and we discussed it with Senator Lott earlier, there would be a 100 percent certainty of reaction if in fact the U.S. were to act -- in other words, another terrorist attack against the United States. How concerned should the American public be?

EDWARDS: Well, I would say two things about this, Wolf. First of all, we are at war with these people. And so, since we're at war with them, I think we have to be expecting they could attack us in addition to us attacking them at any time. And so we need to keep our guard up.

The second thing I would point out, though, is that these terrorist attacks, if you look at them historically, wouldn't rely on just history, but if you look at them historically, they have been planned over long periods of time -- a year, two years, three years, in some cases like the East African Embassy bombings, five years. So, we know they have taken time to plan these in the past.

BLITZER: Senator Edwards, I want to alert our viewers out there that we're told that the White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, will be having a briefing momentarily.

The Associated Press is now reporting from Kabul that there are explosions. There's anti-aircraft fire in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, which would indicate, Senator Edwards, that the long- anticipated U.S. action may, in fact, already have begun.

EDWARDS: Well, that may be an indication that in fact we've started.

BLITZER: And Ari Fleischer, the press secretary at the White House, presumably will be providing details if, in fact, that is the case. So far, the Pentagon is mum on these reports, the Associated Press report coming out of Afghanistan that explosions, anti-aircraft fire has been heard, has been seen in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

You would not at all be surprised to learn that the operation has, in fact, begun?

EDWARDS: Oh, no. I think we put all the pieces in place to move, and it's just a matter of when it would happen.

BLITZER: And when the movement, if, in fact, it has begun, and the indications are that it has, this is going to be, we're told, a sustained operation, not just a one-shot deal.

EDWARDS: Well, there's no way, Wolf, this can be over quickly. I mean the president said it, and he's right about that.

BLITZER: And, Senator, I want to show our viewers.

We have a live picture that we're showing from Kabul. That is a night-scope image. It's now 8 1/2 hours beyond the East Coast time zone in Kabul. We're seeing some flashes over there. But we're going to continue talking as we show these live pictures from Kabul. The Associated Press reporting that there is thunderous explosions and the rattle of anti-aircraft fire that's been heard throughout the Afghan capital. Electricity has been shut off according to the Associated Press, as well. We're going to keep showing these live pictures from Kabul as we continue talking.

As I was beginning to ask you, this is going to be a sustained military operation, right?

EDWARDS: There's no way, Wolf, this can be over quickly. These people are spread out. They're not just in Afghanistan, by the way, as Senator Lott mentioned just a few minutes ago.

BLITZER: And I just want to interrupt you one more time. We're just now being told, Senator Edwards, that Pentagon sources have confirmed to our own military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre that the attack, the U.S. strike has, in fact, begun, that what we are seeing and hearing in Kabul are, in fact, the sights and sounds coming from a U.S.-led attack on positions in and around Kabul.

And this picture that we're now seeing by the way is courtesy of the Al Jazeera television, the cable news network television based in Qatar in the Persian Gulf. These are exclusive pictures.

We do have our correspondent, Kamal Hyder, he's on the telephone right now from somewhere in Afghanistan. I want to bring him in.

Kamal, if you can hear me, tell us what you are seeing and hearing from your vantage point.

Kamal, stand by. Ari Fleischer is walking in.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: ... another front in our war against terrorism so freedom can prevail over fear. The president will address the nation at 12:50. Thank you.

QUESTION: Ari, when did the president give the order?

BLITZER: That's it. We heard Ari Fleischer say at 12:50 Eastern time, in about seven or eight minutes from now, the president will be addressing the nation about what is going on. Clearly, the U.S. has begun its strike against targets in and around Afghanistan.

If Kamal Hyder, our reporter somewhere in Afghanistan, is still available -- are you there, Kamal?

KAMAL HYDER, JOURNALIST: Yes, Wolf, I am here. In fact, just two, three minutes ago I got a call from my man in Kandahar City, in our office there. They said that they heard very loud explosions, far away toward the airport, as well as electric power supply center within the city or possibly high near the Kajaki (ph) area. But they said they heard very loud explosions and the ground shook, and that Kandahar is deprived of electric power -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So now we're hearing from you that Kandahar has also been attacked, and of course we're getting reports from Kabul, that there's been an attack there.

The White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, just a moment or so ago, saying the president will be addressing the American public in about six or seven minutes from now.

Our Major Garrett, our White House correspondent, is standing by at the White House.

Major, what do you know about what's going on?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know this. When the president arrived here about 10:40 Eastern time he went straight to the Oval Office, obtained some papers, went back to the residence.

I can tell you the president's chief speech writer, Mike Gerson, is here in the building, has been for the good part of the morning. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card. Many, many members of the president's senior staff here in the building. That's unusual for a Sunday, to say the very least, even on a Sunday when the United States has been for a good, long while on a war footing.

As Ari Fleischer said, the president will make a statement at 12:50. One front of the campaign against terrorism has begun so, in his words, freedom can prevail over fear -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And just to recap what we know as of this point, our own independent reporting, and as we're looking at these live pictures from Kabul, courtesy of the Al Jazeera television, a cable news channel based in Qatar, we do know that there are explosions, anti- aircraft fire, not only in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, but also in Kandahar.

If Kamal Hyder is still available to us, our reporter who is somewhere in Afghanistan -- we can't tell you precisely where he is -- Kamal, what else are you seeing or hearing from your vantage point?

We may have lost Kamal Hyder, but let's go to Jamie McIntyre. He's standing by at the Pentagon -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Pentagon sources do confirm to CNN that the attacks are under way, have begun just a short time ago.

The first effort here will be cruise missiles directed at air defense locations. The first thing the U.S. wants to do is neutralize some of the air defenses. That gives them more latitude to attack other targets and to bring in manned aircraft.

Among the first targets is also expected to be terrorist training camps in Afghanistan on the chance that there still might be some people there, even though there has been a lot of telegraphing of this strike today, including statements from the Northern Alliance that they believe the attacks would help today.

But again, these explosions that we're seeing coincide with U.S. plans for the first cruise missiles to start landing at targets in Afghanistan. And Pentagon sources confirm that the attack against targets in Afghanistan is under way -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre, stand by. Our Aaron Brown is in New York, and he's standing by as well.





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