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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Strikes Back: U.S. and British Strike Afghan Military Targets, Not Afghan People

Aired October 8, 2001 - 05:03   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.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we've got reporters in place in the region. Our Chris Burns is in northern Afghanistan. He has been traveling with the Northern Alliance there. And our Tom Mintier is in Islamabad, Pakistan. We'll be getting to him in just a moment.

But first, let's go to Chris Burns, who is standing by in northern Afghanistan -- Chris, hello.

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Leon.

Well, today more scattered, sporadic artillery fire that we have heard now. The Northern Alliance says that at least some of that is target practice, but we are hearing it from the direction of the front line, so it's very likely that there is a continued exchange of fire.

Of course, this comes after a night of a six-hour blitz coordinated between British-American forces of attacking from the air and also the Northern Alliance attacking from the ground firing Katyusha multiple rockets and tank fire, as well -- artillery fire, just pounding away at the thousands of the Taliban troops that lie on the other side of the front -- that front being between here and Kabul.

The Taliban had fired back with various mortar and artillery fire as well, and now the Northern Alliance is doing some bomb damage assessment of its own trying to see whether it has actually -- these strikes last night in the north of Kabul -- in Kabul and six different cities -- also three in the north -- whether that has softened the defenses of the Taliban to the point that they can actually advance.

Now what they're looking at mainly right now is Mazar-e-Sharif, as well as Kabul. But Mazar-e-Sharif is especially important for them, because it is a northern Taliban stronghold, and that is what they have been aiming at and advancing toward in the last few days. And if they see that there is enough -- the defenses are softened enough at that point, they will continue toward that city.

The commander of some troops today -- we saw him giving a pep talk to some of the Northern Alliance troops -- telling them how they will be aiming at Kabul once the time is right. That force, of course, is not very well equipped. It has a lot of aging Soviet equipment, Russian ammunition. And they are hoping, though, that with the aid of those air strikes that they will be able to advance toward Kabul.

Refugees, so far -- no major flow of refugees in this direction, although there is that fear that more than one million refugees could be on the move if this fighting and the air strikes do continue.

In an exchange of verbal fire that we heard today between the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, and the Northern Alliance -- Musharraf saying that he thinks that the Northern Alliance shouldn't get -- shouldn't try to get mileage from this situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: This action should not be allowed to be taken advantage of by the Northern Alliance. The Northern Alliance must not draw mileage out of this action and the post-action scenario has to be extremely balanced.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNS: By balanced, he means that there is an ethnic make-up in this country that needs to be well represented in a government that would follow the Taliban. And the Northern Alliance, of course, calling itself the United Front -- claiming to represent all the Pashtuns in the south, who were ethnically linked to the Pakistanis, but also the Uzbeks and Tajiks in the north. However, there is worry by the Pakistani president that the Northern Alliance may perhaps ignore some of the concerns of the Pashtuns.

This has been going on for quite some time, and this debate -- this hot debate is expected to continue. Now, the counter -- verbal counter attack from the Northern Alliance foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, saying it is not for Pakistan to decide the political fate of Afghanistan. He says that, of course, we will have a broad-based government, a government that the United Nations and other internationals are trying to organize under the aegis -- with the role of the former king.

He says that Pakistan should stop using Afghanistan as, in his words, "a backyard to exercise its supremacy in the region, and that Pakistan shouldn't be a king maker." So some very sharp words from both sides as we see that Pakistan and the Northern Alliance are looking beyond the Taliban regime -- Leon.

HARRIS: We'll be talking about and analyzing those worlds throughout the day and throughout the morning here -- thanks much -- Chris Burns there in northern Afghanistan.

Let's go now to our Tom Mintier standing by in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Tom, we know Pakistan has been the scene of quite a few demonstrations and some of them quite ugly this morning -- what's the latest?

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, the demonstrations were pretty much expected. The air strikes are under way, and the reaction is as well in major cities like Pashawar, Karachi, Quetta, even Islamabad. The demonstration in Quetta, we could see smoke rising from the downtown area in several locations.

Here in Islamabad, a crowd of about 400 started out towards the American Center, which is not the American Embassy, but a U.S. information service building in downtown Islamabad. That crowd grew very quickly -- first from 400, 600, 1,200 and then about 2,000. It was a very noisy crowd. The police were on-hand with a water cannon and sticks. The crowd also had their own sticks, but there was no confrontation.

There were speeches defying America, defying President Musharraf, basically calling him a traitor for siding with America. But these are demonstrations that are still under way and probably will continue in the days ahead. But that demonstration may not gather any steam until later in the day, when they say a patwar will be issued.

It follows and was getting started while President Musharraf was addressing journalists here in a pre-scheduled press conference. He did come out and say he had several items, but three most importantly: talking about the military activity under way, talking about the political situation in Afghanistan after the strikes, and talking about the humanitarian assistance that he says will be needed.

He said that this attack will probably not last very long, because there are not very many targets for the U.S. military to hit -- saying the Taliban doesn't have much military equipment, so the targets will be limited -- saying this was a strike against the Taliban, against Osama bin Laden, but not the Afghan people -- also praising the United States for sending in humanitarian aid in air drops of food.

There have been no mad rush of refugees to the border as of yet, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen, because in the last few days, people have been going in the opposition direction going back. But President Musharraf basically sending, in addition to what Chris was talking about, a message to the Northern Alliance.

He also sent a message to India, warning them that if attacked, Pakistan was fully ready and fully capable of responding to anything that might have happened.

Also a shake-up in the military here -- the head of the ISI has been replaced, and another top core commander has been replaced. So that happened just in the hours leading up to the strike.

So President Musharraf in the coming days will probably be trying to solidify basically on the domestic front the reason for siding with the United States -- Leon.

HARRIS: Tom Mintier in Islamabad -- thank you very much.

Now, as Tom was reporting, we were just now getting some new videotape in. This is some pool tape that was shot for us, and we have just gotten our hands on it. But I understand we're going to watch right now the preparations on deck for the U.S. and British naval vessels that were out there in the seas.

We do not know exactly which ship this is and have no idea exactly what time this tape was actually shot. We do know the attacks began around 12:30 or so or 12:20 or so yesterday Eastern Time, which would have been about 9:00 p.m. or so local time in Afghanistan.

And as you see there, nose cones -- they are the missiles there painted with NYPD. We've also heard reports this morning that a number of the pilots there also had their planes repainted and messages like the ones you see there also on the nose cones of the planes that were used in the attacks.

As more of this tape comes in, we'll turn it right around and show it to you as soon as we get it.

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