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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Strikes Back: Pentagon Denies Taliban Claims of Shot Down Helicopters

Aired October 22, 2001 - 06:00   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: Well the U.S. joint chief chairman says the coalition warplanes have free reign over Afghanistan. He had a blunt response to those Taliban claims that they shot down a U.S. helicopter.

And CNN's Bob Franken is joining us now from the Pentagon with all of that and more. Good morning.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

And first, let's talk about the claims of the Taliban that two helicopters were shot down during the raids. Now the United States, of course, has said that's absolutely false. But that was followed then by the tour for a CNN crew by the Taliban who claimed that it was showing some of the parts of one of those helicopters, and it showed lettering that showed "Boeing" and it showed "Loud Engineering", which does make landing gear for helicopters.

However, helicopters with that kind of marking have been in the region literally for decades because there's been so much war that's gone on there for so many years, and the United States did supply Afghan troops against Soviet troops. So it was impossible to confirm whether the Taliban version of events was correct or whether the Pentagon was giving its version of events correctly when it claimed in the person of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, but the Taliban claims we're false.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: There's no truth to that. As Secretary Rumsfeld has said before, the Taliban lies and I think they're looking for some good news for whatever purposes, internal, psychological benefits or whatever, but there's no truth to that. We have not lost a helicopter as they described.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: And at this point, neither claim could be verified, but we have verified by CNN people on the ground that has been bombing, apparently of Taliban front-line positions near Kabul. And the significance of that is that the Northern Alliance has been poised and complaining that the United States has not given enough support to its efforts to take the capital city. It has been widely discussed in diplomatic circles that before the Northern Alliance would be allowed to take the capital, the coalition that supports the United States would prefer to have a more broad based government in there to give the government its ability to govern with the claim of credibility, if it would in fact take over for the Taliban.

Well whatever the negotiations and whatever the progress of those negotiations, there were U.S. airstrikes according to people on the ground on those front-line positions that the -- that the Northern Alliance has requested.

Leon.

CALLAWAY: It's Catherine actually Bob. I want to ask you a question. It's a little confusing when we're talking about the downed helicopter. We know of the one that the Pentagon admits was an accident. Any chance that the parts that the Taliban is showing of what looks to be a U.S. aircraft were from the aircraft that went down as part of the accident?

FRANKEN: Well the Pentagon says no, number one. Number two, there is the possibility according to people who know about these things, that these are actually parts that have been around for a long time, perhaps years, perhaps decades.

What was interesting to many is that the CNN crew that was able to shoot video of those parts was not allowed to see the actual crash site. Now the Taliban organization says that that's because it was too dangerous there, the possibility of land mines, and the possibility that there could be U.S. airstrikes as they stood out there in the open.

CALLAWAY: And Bob, we know a little bit more about the two soldiers who did die in that helicopter accident in Pakistan. Don't we?

FRANKEN: We do. We know that both of them were enlisted men. The Pentagon says that they were part of the crew that would have gone in for search and rescue missions, if that helicopter was used that way. The one in Pakistan according to the Pentagon, crashed because of some concerns with its motor. The dust, in fact, got into the rotors and caused it to spiral down and crash.

Taliban, of course, says that it was hit by gunfire and in effect limped into Pakistan where it crashed.

CALLAWAY: All right, CNN's Bob Franken joining us from Washington at the Pentagon. Thank you Bob.

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