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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Strikes Back: Taliban Positions In Mountains Targeted by Airstrikes

Aired October 17, 2001 - 06:34   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: Let's check in with our Matthew Chance. As we said before the break, Matthew is in northern Afghanistan, and he has been witnessing a jet bombing on the Taliban positions on the mountains that are just north of Kabul.

Let's go to Matthew now. Matthew, what's the latest?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right -- that's right Leon. I'll bring you the latest. There are details in that because there have been new developments it seems in the U.S.-led war -- air war against Afghanistan.

First of all before I come to those reports, let me just briefly give you an idea of the lay of the land, where I am right now. I'm on the Bagram Air Force base once a key installation of the Soviet Union in their occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. We'll just span that with the camera for a moment.

You can see that the remnants of that occupation -- are strewn all over this landing strip area, these old MIG and Sokoy fighter bombers simply abandoned by the Soviet Union when they left Afghanistan back in 1989.

Now just to give you an idea of the really front-line nature of the position that we're in right now. Those buildings in the distance just at the foot of the mountains, that's the Taliban front-line that -- two kilometers, about a mile or so from where we're standing right now.

The mountains obviously firmly in the control of the Taliban. They overlook the Afghan capital Kabul. They're about 25 kilometers from the city, and are basically the only defenses that stand in between the forces of the Northern Alliance, the opposition forces with whom I'm based right now and the ultimate prize, which is of course, Kabul -- seizing Kabul itself.

Well earlier, as you mentioned there, we witnessed what may be a new departure in the U.S.-led air war over Afghanistan. A fighter of the U.S.-led coalition streaking across the sky here and dropping its bombs -- two of its bombs on Taliban front-line positions on these mountains over here just north of Kabul. Local commanders say they've been frustrated over the recent weeks, that the U.S.-led strikes have focused too much on targets deep inside the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and not enough on these front-line positions.

But if this kind of bombing runs continue, that may mark a change in strategy from the United States and essentially if it destroys the Taliban front lines here, it could open the way for a Northern Alliance advance on Kabul.

Leon.

HARRIS: Well Matthew, we know that the U.S. has been trying to restrain the Northern Alliance from making such a move. Are they -- is the Northern Alliance telling you now that they expect the U.S. to actually open the way for them to go into Kabul and that they actually will follow through and do it?

CHANCE: The Northern Alliance aren't saying one way or another what they're expecting. Certainly they're hoping for that. They've been in close coordination with the United States, they say on a daily basis, ever since the start of this air campaign maintaining their forces in their trenches. They're not advancing into the areas that may come under attack from the United States warplanes and the warplanes of its allies.

Clearly though, what the Northern Alliance want more than anything else is some kind of close air support, to destroy these positions here so that they can achieve their ultimate military objective, which is to take the Afghan Capital Kabul. They haven't done it yet. They haven't move out their positions and that's what they want Leon.

HARRIS: All right finally Matthew from where you're standing there, you should be able to see any strikes that are taking place on the Kabul region there -- on the Kabul area. What's it look like to you today? Is it more or less than it has been in recent days or what?

CHANCE: Well it's difficult to say because this position we don't often get the opportunity to come everyday, but certainly we're not very far from the Afghan Capital Kabul here. As I say, about 25 kilometers in that direction. Intermittently we've been hearing U.S. warplanes or maybe British warplanes. It's difficult to tell from the ground, streaking across the sky here.

In fact, I think I can hear one in the distance right now, but they're flying so high, it's difficult for us to get pictures of them. But yes, this is the route which the planes take -- the warplanes take on their bombing runs into the northern part of Kabul, which as I say, is just across mountain range back there.

Leon.

HARRIS: Matthew Chance reporting for us this morning from a very unusual location over in northern Afghanistan. Thank you very much. Be safe and we'll talk with you later on throughout the day here on CNN.

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