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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Look at Possible Ground Troop Movement in Afghanistan

Aired October 19, 2001 - 07:20   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.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Local Afghan aid workers tell CNN's Christiane Amanpour in Pakistan that 10 civilians have been killed in the U.S. bombing campaign in Kabul, far fewer than the number claimed by the Taliban. They say morale among Taliban troops remains high. The eyewitnesses say the U.S. has bombed a lot of junk, that's what they call it, because weaponry had been moved to rural areas.

The Afghan cities of Kabul and Kandahar again taking a heavy pounding from U.S. war planes on this, the Muslim day of prayer. The barrage of heavy bombing started overnight and continued into the daylight hours. Other bombing runs were reported in Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan.

As we mentioned, officials now have confirmed that a small number of U.S. special forces are on the ground in Afghanistan. The deployment marks a new phase in the war.

And CNN's Miles O'Brien joins us now from Atlanta with possible troop movement -- Miles, I don't know if you've had any more luck than I've had this morning, but obviously the administration wants to be very careful about what they tell us about where these troops are. Do we have any sense now of how many special forces we're talking about?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's certainly going to be small numbers. You know, these special forces teams, Paula, typically operate no more than a dozen type of size typically. But, you know, the administration's point is a point well taken. We're talking about putting people in harm's way and certainly we at CNN do not want to be a part of perhaps giving away locations which would put anybody in jeopardy.

Having said all of that, it is, we feel responsible to at least give you a sense of where special forces might, in fact, be staging from as they begin some sort of infiltration into the southern areas of Afghanistan, as we've been told this morning.

Let's bring in our military affairs analyst, General Don Shepperd, once again. Good to see you, General.

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good morning. Miles.

O'BRIEN: We've got to get right to it. I want to get this map going and give people a sense of where these special forces troops might be staging from. We begin in the Arabian Sea, where we know the USS Kitty Hawk is, it was a bare boat as it came in. Some helicopter operations potentially on there. Give us a sense of who or what might be on that flat top.

SHEPPERD: Well, basically, you deploy the special forces helicopters, Pavelow (ph) and Pave Hawk helicopters in there. We don't know for sure which type, but they're designed to be taxis to move your special forces small teams into the area. They are refuelable and they're refuelable by the MC130 Talon airplanes that are also flown by special forces. So they have unlimited range. It's still about 400 miles to Afghanistan from there, Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, now, let's get into Pakistan. Pakistan, this is a ticklish situation. The leader of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, has said U.S. forces can stage there and can put aircraft on the ground. Jacobahad is a location that has been mentioned, Pasni an additional location right here, perhaps only about 100 miles from Kandahar, Dalbandan (ph).

The tricky situation is here. There's sort of a plausible deniability situation. They're saying this is for search and rescue and humanitarian only. Is that likely in the real world?

SHEPPERD: Well, it's diplomatic language, for sure. But whatever happens, you need places for helicopters to land and to refuel and to go if they happen to be damaged. Those bases would be very good bases, closer to Afghanistan than the Kitty Hawk would be right now. So they'd be important bases, those and others.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's move to the north. Of course, we're talking about, according to our sources, locations in and around Kandahar where special forces might be on the ground. So these northern locations may be less likely. Tajikistan, we do know this, we'll just be brief on that, we do know that the Tajik leaders have indicated that they would allow U.S. troops to stage from locations there and use the air space. We have no indications, however, that there are any U.S. troops on the ground there.

There are 20,000 Russian troops in Tajikistan, just for a point of information.

As we move next door to Uzbekistan, we have lots of reports of U.S. troops on the ground there, the 10th Mountain Division near this particular location, this air field. We know they came in there.

Termez is a location that was used by the Soviet Union in '79 to stage its invasion into Afghanistan. Who is likely to be there? What would likely be the role out of the north, General Shepperd?

SHEPPERD: Well, it's reported that 1,000 troops from the 10th Mountain Division are in Khanabad. The, that base could be used for resupply, large resupply, C130, C17s, C5 type aircraft. It's a fairly substantial former Soviet base. So that could be used as a staging.

The 1,000 troops could secure the base and prepare it for others to be brought in and also prepare for more special forces to operate from there. So it's very, very important we have those bases.

O'BRIEN: All right, so now it looks like the U.S. has done a pretty good job in getting sort of almost a full 360 ring around Afghanistan from which to stage troops, ground forces, special operations and the like. Iran, of course, a situation that is entirely different.

General Don Shepperd, thanks very much. We'll be checking in with you a little bit later to find out a little more about the types of special forces troops that might be involved in this engagement at this time.

If you'd like to find out more about this and for that matter everything to do with this war against terrorism, we invite you to check out cnn.com. There is a hot link there to maps and 3D interactive locations. It is a treasure trove of information giving you some depth and context on what's going on in and around Afghanistan. We invite you to check that out.

We'll send it back to Paula in New York.

ZAHN: That was very helpful. Thanks, Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, good. Thanks.

ZAHN: See you a little bit later on this morning.

O'BRIEN: Good-bye.

ZAHN: We are now getting word of the death of a key figure in the al Qaeda network. The Afghan Islamic Press says Taliban officials confirm that a senior lieutenant to Osama bin Laden has been killed in Afghanistan. The Taliban say it was not an American bomb that killed Abu Baseer Al-Masri. They say a grenade he was holding accidentally exploded, mortally wounding him. Early reports in London say he was killed in the air strikes.

There is a new upsurge in violence to talk about this morning between Israelis and Palestinians, despite the U.S. appeals for calm. Israeli tanks moved into Bethlehem and another West Bank town earlier this morning. Palestinian police and witnesses said that Israeli troops were firing as they came in. Red Crescent officials say four people were wounded. Israel says the troop movements were necessary security measures.

Yesterday, a Palestinian militia leader was killed in an explosion which the Palestinians are blaming on Israel. That followed the assassination of a hard-line Israeli cabinet minister.

Still to come this morning, how experts in the field test for anthrax. Jeanne Meserve takes us up close, when we come back. Don't go away.

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