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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Strikes Back: Powell Meeting with Pakistan President

Aired October 16, 2001 - 06:12   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: As the planes are still in the air over Afghanistan, the diplomatic efforts to reach some sort of conclusion here are still under way. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has been meeting this morning with the Pakistan president, General Musharraf.

Let's check in now with our Walter Rodgers. He is in Islamabad, Pakistan this morning, and he's got the highlights of today's news conference -- good morning, Walter.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Leon.

It is very clear that the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is now waging a two-front offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan -- one front military, the other diplomatic.

On the military front: U.S. attacks in Afghanistan have intensified this morning, particularly around Kandahar and Kabul. But in Kandahar, CNN has been told by its sources in that area, formerly a Taliban stronghold, that a Taliban military command center was nearly demolished today by U.S. strikes -- also a former elite commando base -- Taliban commando base targeted by those U.S. airstrikes.

The United States is now using a weapon that it used in Vietnam -- that is to say a C-130 cargo plane, a lumbering, slow aircraft that is converted into a gunship whistling with cannons on either side of the fuselage. In Vietnam, that used to be called "Puff the Magic Dragon," because when it opened its guns on a target, the target simply disintegrated.

Still, Secretary Powell, while stressing the war against Afghanistan is in this military stage was clearly looking ahead to diplomacy after the military phase ends.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The campaign against al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and those who harbor them is our top priority. This is what brought me here today. But I'm also confident that over time, we will be able to expand our cooperation to accomplish the full range of our lateral and multilateral issues that are of importance to both of our nations.

President Musharraf's commitment to return Pakistan to democracy will enhance his effort to deepen social reform, improve education and improve the lives of his people. We share those important and lofty goals, and in the coming months, the United States will take concrete steps to strengthen Pakistan's economy and further broaden our commercial and trade ties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RODGERS: For his part, Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, again signaled he will stand with the U.S.-led coalition against bin Laden and against the extremist Taliban evidence -- elements, at least as much as is possible for the leader of a Muslim country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: We grieve for innocent victims in Afghanistan. We regret that the government of Afghanistan jeopardized the interests of millions of its own people.

Our decision to support the international campaign against terrorism in all of its manifestations is based on principles. The extraordinary session of the four IC foreign ministers held on the 10th of October has endorsed this position taken by Pakistan. It has also denounced the minority and fringe vices that tried to cause harm to Islam and the Muslims.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RODGERS: The U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell, is about to leave Pakistan. His next stop: India. He is fighting a small brush fire or diplomatic brush fire war between India and Pakistan. Last night, Indian forces opened fire across the border at Pakistani positions. Again, the issue is the disputed territory of Kashmir. That is a bone of contention practically since Pakistan was -- became a country in 1947.

The United States is very fearful, of course, that one side or the other may use the Kashmir conflict to gain an edge, so the secretary of state is going to India, as I say, to try to stand down both sides after a shooting across the border last night -- Leon.

HARRIS: Walter, let me ask you about a report that I saw at the "New York Times" this morning, a report that even though they aren't having any face-to-face talks -- that is the U.S. and the Taliban -- there is a report there this morning that what is considered sort of a moderate voice within the Taliban, Mullah Mutwa Akhil (ph), actually has been communicating through Secretary Powell through General Musharraf saying that perhaps that if the bombing were stopped, then perhaps something could be done about moving bin Laden or perhaps change Mullah Omar Mohammed's position.

Are you hearing anything at all about that or reading anything into the signals being sent here?

RODGERS: Leon, that's always been part of the United States' plan -- to coop the moderate Taliban elements, incorporate them perhaps into a broadly based government, which would include not just the Taliban, but the Northern Alliance or perhaps even the former king, Zahir Shah; also tribal leaders around the country.

Remember the United States needs those Taliban elements that you described. The moderates and Secretary Powell made it clear: We will use them -- that is the United States will use them.

One of the reasons that that's very interesting is because if the U.S. is going to catch -- capture Osama bin Laden, it needs the Taliban defectors to do it. The issue here, of course, is: How much money is the U.S. willing to pay the moderate Talibans to help them locate bin Laden? And one of the catches in all of this, of course, is that the moderate Taliban elements are going to try to negotiate for themselves in the same process a position in a future government in Afghanistan -- Leon.

HARRIS: Yes, exactly. And if that signals a rift right now forming, things could get very interesting very quickly -- Walter Rodgers in Islamabad, Pakistan this morning -- we sure appreciate it.

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