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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Strikes Back: White House Not Responding Yet to Comments from Afghanistan

Aired October 8, 2001 - 06:04   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.
CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to get the latest from the White House now, go to Washington and talk with CNN's Kelly Wallace.

Good morning, Kelly, certainly some big challenges ahead for President Bush on this day after.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Catherine. And first wanted to get to you on the Taliban ambassador in Pakistan, those comments coming just a short time ago basically saying that the attacks in Afghanistan were attacks against Muslims around the world. Well, we talked to a senior administration official who said that the White House not really commenting, that President Bush's words speak for themselves that this is a campaign against terrorism, not a campaign against any religion and not a campaign against Muslims or Islam.

Now as for Mr. Bush, his mood, Catherine, is described as resolute and determined. We saw him arriving back from Camp David early Sunday morning. There he is with first lady, Laura Bush. And then he headed right to the Oval Office just about an hour and a half or two hours before going before the nation. And we understand he told a senior aid -- quote -- "I gave them fair warning." Them being the Taliban leaders. And that is the same message Mr. Bush delivered when he addressed the nation from the Treaty Room at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: More than two weeks ago, I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands: close terrorist training camps, hand over leaders of the al Qaeda network and return all foreign nationals, including American citizens unjustly detained in your country. None of these demands were met and now the Taliban will pay a price.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: And on this day, President Bush will be monitoring developments, of course, in the military campaign. He'll also attend the swearing in of the gentlemen you see there, former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, who will become the new director of the Office of Homeland Security, a new Cabinet-level post, to coordinate the more than 40 federal agencies responsible for protecting Americans from acts of domestic terrorism.

Now this comes as increasing concerns about terrorist attacks in the United States after, of course, the U.S. retaliating for the September 11 attack. And it is a very big challenge, Catherine, for the president because he is going to call for Americans to be vigilant and to be on alert, but he's also trying to say that the government is doing everything it possibly can, taking every precaution to protect the American people. So look for the president to get that message out in the days ahead as well -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: Kelly, I know it's very early there in Washington, but we also heard the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan say that Osama bin Laden is still alive, still in Afghanistan and also claiming there were some 20 fatalities in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, including women and children. Any word, any reaction from the White House to his statement?

WALLACE: No reaction just yet. I talked to an official again, talked to him in broad -- broadly about what the Taliban ambassador in Pakistan was saying. He didn't really want to respond too much, might have more to say later.

As for the casualties part of that, really that will likely come from the Pentagon. Obviously Defense Department officials trying to get the best assessment of exactly how these bombing raids went and what damage took place and if there were any casualties. So we'll look for that likely from the Pentagon.

And as for the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, you know administration officials continue to believe that he is in Afghanistan. And they also sort of looked very skeptically about the tape that was delivered yesterday and shown right after these air strikes took place in Afghanistan showing Osama bin Laden speaking. Ari Fleischer, President Bush's spokesman, saying he found it very odd that it's midnight in Afghanistan but it seemed to be daylight when bin Laden was speaking. So they felt that that was definitely taped in advance to give the impression that it was done in response to the attacks on Afghanistan -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: All right. CNN's Kelly Wallace, thank you -- Leon.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well just to tack -- just to tack on to Kelly's words there saying that the Bush administration believes that Osama bin Laden is in Afghanistan, we heard at an exclusive press conference that we only covered right here on CNN moments ago from the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, rather, he said himself that Osama bin Laden is alive and is in Afghanistan and this is where he will stay. Those were his words.

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