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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Strikes Back: U.S. Forces Using 3 Air Bases in Pakistan

Aired October 22, 2001 - 06:05   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: All right, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins on November 17th. That's about three and a half weeks away from today, and there is some debate about whether or not the U.S.-led airstrikes should be suspended during that time.

In an exclusive interview, Pakistan's president tells CNN's Larry King that continuing the airstrikes during Ramadan could anger Muslims around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

GEN. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: It should not have any affect on the campaign as such, but it may have some effects in the Muslim world. So one would hope and wish that this campaign comes to an end before the month of Ramadan and one would hope for restraint during the month of Ramadan because this would certainly have some negative effects in the Muslim world.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

HARRIS: You can catch the full exclusive interview tonight at 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" right here on CNN.

Now President Musharraf spoke with Larry King from Islamabad, Pakistan, which is where our Nic Robertson is this morning. He checks in with a report of the very latest this morning.

Hello Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, good morning.

The latest we have from Pakistani sources here is some interesting operational information on the ground here in Pakistan. Three air bases are currently being used by U.S. forces here. We'd have very scant information about what they've been doing and how many people are there.

We are told today by Pakistani sources there is some 1800 U.S. service personnel on the ground spread evenly between those bases. They're working on logistic support with C-130 aircraft and helicopters that are working in a search and recovery mode for operations inside Afghanistan. They say that the activity on these bases is very busy, and we're also told today that Pakistan has given over another civilian airbase inside Pakistan for use by the United States military, though they tell us that so far the U.S. military has not taken up that option.

Of course, inside Pakistan today, our crew there has shown parts of what the Taliban told them was a helicopter that they had shot down earlier. Now our staff there say they were able to see four wheels, two of which were still attached together and our staff told us that they were just too heavy to lift.

They say that there were new tires on these wheels, that there was fresh grease on them. They - our staff there say they appear to be of military origin, but they're not able to confirm that directly. And certainly the Taliban have refused to allow them to go the site where the Taliban say this aircraft - this helicopter was shot down.

Taliban now saying, of course, that they have shot down two aircraft, and inside Pakistan as well today, two helicopters inside Pakistan, as well today, Pakistani officials clamping down on one of the large Islamic parties here. The reason they say they're doing that is because yesterday one of the leaders of those parties had a very inflammatory speech where he essentially called the government here - says called on Pakistani troops to rise against the government and the government taking a very dim view of that and they've arrested some 50 people from the Jamatic (ph) Islam Party.

Leon.

HARRIS: Well Nic, let me ask you about the government of Pakistan stands right now on the shift that we've seen in the air campaign that's been waged on Kabul this morning. We understand now that there have been some substantial airstrikes by the U.S. coalition -- the U.S.-led coalition I should say. They're on Taliban front-line troops, which maybe opened the way for the Northern Alliance to advance on Kabul.

Any reactions to this, this morning?

ROBERTSON: Well the reaction from the Pakistani government has been that they want to see a fully representative government installed inside Afghanistan and for them, that means that it needs to have a representation of the Pashtun population inside Pakistan now at the moment -- inside Afghanistan, rather -- now the Pashtun population inside Afghanistan is represented by the Taliban at the moment and not by the Northern Alliance essentially.

The Northern Alliance, a collection of Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazaras and other ethnic backgrounds. Pakistani government says inside Afghanistan some 50 to 60 percent Pashtuns. Other statistical sources say that's closer to 40 percent. Pakistani government does not want to see the Northern Alliance alone running Afghanistan.

They want to see a Pashtun element, whether that is in the Pakistan's government view of more moderate element from the Taliban or some other representation. The king -- former exiled King Zahir Shah of course a Pashtun. Now the Pakistani government has been talking to Taliban representatives here to try and bring on board some moderate Pashtun element to be part of what could be a new government of Pakistan.

But so far, Pakistani government has not been meeting any success in doing that.

Leon.

HARRIS: Nic Robertson reporting live for us from Islamabad, Pakistan. Thank you very much.

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