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Northern Alliance Spokesman Abdullah Abdullah Takes Questions from Reporters

Aired November 13, 2001 - 11:32   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: From Afghanistan right now, the spokesperson for the Northern Alliance Abdullah Abdullah now talking with reporters. We apologize for the lighting situation. But certainly, you can understand.

Let's listen in now.


DR. ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, NORTHERN ALLIANCE SPOKESMAN: ... joining with the Islamic state of Afghanistan with the united front were that, and later on, Ghazni province in a part of Lowgar. And also there was an uprising today in Laghman province, as well as in Jalalabad itself. But about the situation in Jalalabad, it is not certain as to this stage, but the uprising had already started this morning.

QUESTION: Dr. Abdullah, can you tell us where your forces are in Kabul at all, when you categorically said previously that they would not enter the city?

ABDULLAH: Yes. This was our plan not to enter the city. And we had reached to the outskirts of Kabul, as far as six kilometers north of Kabul last night. But then Taliban withdrew unexpectedly from Kabul. We didn't have the intention of entering Kabul. They withdrew their forces last night.

And since last night and this morning, there have been disturbances which has taken place in Kabul by the irresponsible people, the people which had guns in their disposals. They had, perhaps, hidden rifles with them. They took advantage of the situation. They created some security problem for the people of Kabul. And then there was no option for us but to send our security forces into Kabul and our military forces in the surroundings of Kabul.

QUESTION: But does the Northern Alliance of the united front remain committed to an ethnic and broadbased future government for Afghanistan?

ABDULLAH: Of course, fully. I think it is getting rid of Kabul -- getting rid of Taliban and terrorist groups in Kabul. It is a major and significant development, as far as the whole situation in Afghanistan is concerned, as far as achieving peace in Afghanistan is concerned. And also, Kabul can serve as a place for negotiations for peace, for reconciliations with all other groups; Taliban excluded, of course.

QUESTION: Dr. Abdullah, can you tell us how many security forces you have in Kabul versus how many military forces you have outside of Kabul, and what's the difference between in the role that they would do?

ABDULLAH: The security forces and the military forces which we have in and around Kabul, all together, it is something like 6,000 people.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how many are security versus how many military forces?

ABDULLAH: I don't have the break-up, but this the total number.

QUESTION: Sorry. That 6,000 is security forces, in the sense of police for maintaining order in the city or what?

ABDULLAH: As I mentioned, partly as police for maintaining order in the city and partly in the gates of Kabul, in the mountains surrounding Kabul as military forces for the defense of Kabul.


ABDULLAH: They are going to toward Paktia and Pakitka as well as toward Kandahar, mainly toward those two directions.


ABDULLAH: I should say that the number was well over 8,000 people.

QUESTION: And what about the new government, the future government?

ABDULLAH: The future government of Afghanistan?


ABDULLAH: Of course, we have, in that regard, we have contacts with different Afghan groups outside Afghanistan for the formation of an interim government and for the formation of a broadbased government and also for establishing a mechanism for representation of the people in the future system.

Then, we have also invited the United Nations to send their teams in Kabul in order to help us in the peace process.

QUESTION: Have you had any response from the Bush administration or, for that matter, the Pakistani government who, last week or earlier this week, said you shouldn't enter the city?

ABDULLAH: The responses so far have been all positive. It has been perceived, which it is, a major and significant victory for the campaign against terror. In general, that's the response.

And also, we believe that the fact that we did not intend to enter Kabul initially was appreciated and was realized. Also, today's situation where our security forces are inside Kabul is also understandable.

I think it is a positive development for all our neighboring countries of Afghanistan. After all, Pakistan had committed itself for the war against terror, and to get rid of terrorist groups in Afghanistan should be considered by all corners as a positive development.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) looking for Osama bin Laden or Mullah Mohammed (OFF-MIKE)

ABDULLAH: I'm not aware of the details of the operations in Kandahar. But I have also received reports about disturbances and a chaotic situation in Kandahar itself. This is the situation since last night and today and this evening. The situation in Kandahar is also chaotic.

QUESTION: You said there were 8,000 Taliban forces who left Kabul last night. Can you tell us what time the last ones left and if there were any casualties or fighting?

ABDULLAH: Since there was no fighting in Kabul, there were no casualties of the Taliban in the process of withdrawal from Kabul. But the withdrawal, I think, might have completed around 12 o'clock last night. It had started yesterday.

I mentioned that their ministers, their civilian authorities started leaving Kabul yesterday, but it was completed around 12 o'clock last night.

QUESTION: What time did your forces enter the city?

ABDULLAH: It was around 10 o'clock, and before that, small groups of security force had entered, but the main body of the security forces started entering Kabul around 10 o'clock.

QUESTION: Do you mean 10 o'clock this morning or do you mean 10 o'clock last night?

ABDULLAH: No, this morning.

QUESTION: Do you (inaudible) the formation of an interim government? So what happens to the Supreme Council of National Unity...

ABDULLAH: That is also an idea. That also an idea for that purpose, formation of an interim government or for holding Loya Jirgah. So we will continue our contacts, and we invite all Afghan groups this stage to come to Kabul and to start negotiations and to speed up the negotiations about the future of Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Does that include the Taliban? ABDULLAH: Taliban excluded.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the American or British officials (OFF- MIKE) to Kabul?


QUESTION: Will there be foreign forces (OFF-MIKE)

ABDULLAH: Will there be foreign forces? QUESTION: Foreign forces coming into Kabul?

ABDULLAH: To sort out what situation?


ABDULLAH: No, for setting up the new government, what is needed is the presence of the United Nations and also the Afghan groups to come and to start negotiations about it. It cannot be formed, the future government of Afghanistan cannot be formed by foreign forces, but the presence of the United Nations is necessary, of course.

QUESTION: Colin Powell has suggested a multinational force (OFF- MIKE) as peacekeepers in Afghanistan to assist the process you are talking about. Would you support that suggestion?

ABDULLAH: Of course, there is a totally new situation at this stage in Afghanistan. We are witnessing the collapse of Taliban very quickly in dramatic manner in several provinces. Since a week ago, the collapse of the Taliban has started, first in Mazar-i-Sharif and later on, less than a week perhaps. Today's situation is also developing. There will be further developments toward the south.

ABDULLAH: So at this stage, I think there should be a new evaluation of the situation -- the military situation, the political situation, and before making suggestions about it.

Because, in the past, it was perceived that Taliban fall might, in one period, in the first days of the strikes, the perception outside Afghanistan was -- the air strikes, I mean -- the perception outside Afghanistan that the Taliban will fall automatically after a few days of bombing. That was not the case. Later on, the perception was that it will take long -- years perhaps.

We see that the situation has developed in a dramatic manner, so it needs new evaluation of the situation, new assessment of the situation.

QUESTION: Do you (OFF-MIKE) are you ruling out a multinational force coming to Afghanistan to assist you in maintaining peace and seeking a political solution?

ABDULLAH: The fighting force...

QUESTION: Multinational force... ABDULLAH: I mentioning about your point. The fighting force in Afghanistan, the warring faction in Afghanistan, is the Taliban and the terrorist groups. Once they are defeated -- which they seem to be on the verge of final defeat -- there will be peace in Afghanistan, and the people of Afghanistan will live in peace with each other. Of course, if there is the possibility of conflict, that idea should be considered, but we are talking about a different situation.


ABDULLAH: As I mentioned, the public reaction from the United States, and also from the other countries in the Western -- the international community, has been, in general, it has been positive.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Kabul and how will be your relation with Pakistan after this then?

ABDULLAH: It is also important that Pakistan also should review this situation. And the developments in Afghanistan, the defeat of the Taliban and the terrorist groups will not be a threat to Pakistan.

Achieving peace in Afghanistan, a peaceful situation in Afghanistan, which cannot be achieved without eradication of the Taliban elimination of terrorist groups from Afghanistan. So achieving peace in Afghanistan will be to the interest of Pakistan. We hope that there will be a new look at the situation from Pakistan's side.

QUESTION: Who is in charge of the administration of Kabul? Have you named any governor or how is the future of power now (OFF-MIKE)

ABDULLAH: There is a council, there is a military and security council, which is in charge of the administration of the city, and they are dealing with all aspects of it.


ABDULLAH: This is, of course, this council has consisted from the members of the United Front. It is led by General Fahim, the defense minister.

QUESTION: Dr. Abdullah, there have been reports of the possibility of summary executions, massacres on the part of the United Front forces. Has any such activity occurred?

ABDULLAH: Nothing. No killing, no massacre. There were also speculations about the United Front forces before entering Kabul, at the time when we didn't have the intention of entering Kabul.

You see the situation in Kabul. Today, situation was calm, especially when our security forces manage to entered the city, and the people welcomed the forces of the United Front, the security forces, and it was -- though these people have suffered a lot under the rule of the Taliban.

Today's situation was unique for them. And one could look into the eyes of the people, their joy and they were showing it.

ABDULLAH: It was a situation that the people would have dreamed to get rid of the rule of the Taliban and terrorists groups. No such a thing has happened, and it will not happen, there is no risk of such a thing.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) what do you know about the fate of six prisoners who were kept in prison by the Taliban? And the second question, what about...

ABDULLAH: Excuse me, I didn't get your point. Your first part of question.

QUESTION: What about the fate of six prisoners in the...

ABDULLAH: Six prisoners?

QUESTION: Six foreign prisoners.


QUESTION: Eight, sorry, eight foreign prisoners? And the second question, what about the (OFF-MIKE) situation?

ABDULLAH: The fate, you said, the fate of the foreign prisoners?


ABDULLAH: Yes, about -- I think that the Taliban have taken them with them. They are not here. But if you are talking about foreigners which we have taken as prisoners, there are at least 12 Arabs, which were captured today and last night, and 14 Pakistanis.

QUESTION: And the Kunduz situation?

ABDULLAH: Kunduz situation -- I was so preoccupied with Kabul today that, to be honest, I haven't checked the reports about it. But I would rather think that still Kunduz is under the Taliban control.

QUESTION: Do you have a figure for national united front, casualties and advance on Kabul?

ABDULLAH: Once on Kabul, in the first hours of the battle yesterday, on the front line, we had 10 people killed and some injured, and that's all. After that, there wasn't any engagement, and when we stopped in six kilometers north of Kabul, of course, after that no engagement has taken place. QUESTION: Do you know how many Taliban casualties were in the same battle?

ABDULLAH: I don't have a confirmed figure.

QUESTION: When will the interim government be formed and by who will its members be appointed?

ABDULLAH: Of course, it takes time, it takes negotiations with different groups, and I mentioned about the role that the United Nations can play in that regard. So I cannot give a timetable.

QUESTION: And who will designate the members?

ABDULLAH: It should be formed in consultation with different Afghan groups, all through a mechanism. So it is still a matter of time and further discussions.

QUESTION: Dr. Abdullah, why did the Taliban run without putting up much of a fight?

ABDULLAH: Two possibilities. Because they had thought that they might be cut off somewhere, and before that, they run away. And also, the other thing was the popular uprising, the fate of the popular uprising by the population inside Kabul, and the impact of the defeats in the other areas and the fact that they were not expecting that their front line will be broken so easily. That was also unexpected for them. So they didn't have any defenses around Kabul, and they had to run.

QUESTION: Dr. Abdullah, how many (OFF-MIKE)?

ABDULLAH: Perhaps over 60 percent, over...

ABDULLAH: Ten person per day.


QUESTION: Now, are you sending the troops to Kandahar or Jalalabad?

ABDULLAH: No, we are not intending to send troops to neither places. In Jalalabad, as I mentioned, popular uprising has already started.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) soldiers going to Kabul there was some robbing...

ABDULLAH: There hasn't been any -- of course the reason that our soldiers, our security forces entered Kabul that there were reports of robbing by the armed groups which were all leaving Kabul; people who were armed and they took advantage of the situation or the remaining of the Taliban forces. One of the depots of ICRC was also looted.

But the minute that our security forces entered Kabul and established control of the security situation in Kabul, there hasn't been any report about robbing.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Taliban on the way back robbing (OFF-MIKE)

ABDULLAH: I didn't get your...

QUESTION: Did you hear the information Taliban troops robbing (OFF-MIKE)

ABDULLAH: I think that they did enough when they were inside Kabul, but nevertheless, the market -- exchange market, that also was -- there was a security problem there before our forces entered Kabul, which later on it was taken care of. But no, Taliban were in a hurry to get to somewhere safe.

QUESTION: Do you send troops to (OFF-MIKE)

ABDULLAH: No. We are not intending to send troops.


ABDULLAH: No, in Jalalabad, it is a different situation, but in Kandahar, as I mentioned, it is a chaotic situation as of today.


ABDULLAH: It was like yesterday's situation in Kabul.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) to Jalalabad.

ABDULLAH: By that, I mean that Taliban authorities are not seen in Kandahar. There is no responsible authority to respond to the needs of the people, so the people are left in a sort of open situation. This is the situation in Kandahar today.


ABDULLAH: As I mentioned, a council has been formed -- military and security council, and that that security council (inaudible) as the security commission of Kabul, which is functioning -- which has started functioning this morning the minute that security forces arrived in Kabul. They are dealing with different matters.

QUESTION: You have changed all the people who are working already at government offices of Kabul (OFF-MIKE)

ABDULLAH: Not necessarily. Mainly, the civil servants will continue, and we have the security commission tonight had asked through the Kabul radio, Radio Afghanistan, which is today's name of Taliban radio.

ABDULLAH: Now it is named Radio Afghanistan.


ABDULLAH: Of course.

And the security commission announced to the people about different security measures which has taken and also to the civil servants that they could return to their jobs. One of the problems with the civil servants in Kabul was that thousands of them were sacked by the Taliban last year and the year before. So we will see how could we manage that big problem.


ABDULLAH: Some of you, which have been -- the journalists which have been in Afghanistan and our areas for long time there remember that I talked about over 10,000 of them which were already in contact, most of them have done their job. When the forces, which were in the areas and the Taliban-controlled, and they were in contact with us, we were organizing their mission according to the circumstances and which was required from them, and the total number if well-over 10,000.


QUESTION: Is there special protection for the journalists there, especially the Arabs who feel there might be (OFF-MIKE) and revenge (OFF-MIKE)

ABDULLAH: If there are individual cases, as such, we should treat it case by case. If we are asked for a special security arrangement, we will provide it. We know that those people, which ask us and Commander Massoud, they were not journalists, they were not Arabs, they were terrorists. And nobody else should be discriminated against, because of the crime which two terrorists have committed.

And if there are such cases, please let us know. We can arrange special security if needed or let us -- if required or with the way it is.

QUESTION: Dr. Abdullah, how much of the Taliban heavy weaponry, their tanks and their artillery, did they succeed in withdrawing from Kabul? Five years ago, you got out with a lot of it, and that helped you immensely.

ABDULLAH: We got out with almost all of it five years ago. But Taliban are left with none, yes. I should say, virtually none. And they have -- ridden in their pick-ups, and they have gone -- or trucks -- all tanks, heavy weapons, mulitpack rocket launchers, whatever they had -- ammunitions -- were left behind.


ABDULLAH: At this stage, President Rabbani is in Faizabad. Of course, he will be coming when necessary.

QUESTION: Doctor, when do you expect Kabul airport to be opened? And do you expect international relief flights to...

ABDULLAH: We are...

HEMMER: From Kabul, quite a bit of information and extensive briefing by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the spokesperson now for the Northern Alliance. The first really detailed account we have gotten since the fall of Kabul, with the northern Alliance Troops that we have seen gone into that town in the past 12 or 15 hours.

A few things he said quite critical now. The city will become as much a political question as it is a military question, but the doctor there saying, inviting U.N. and all Afghan groups to come to Kabul and talk about a broad-based future government. In a word for Pakistan, too, saying to Islamabad, there will be not be a threat in Afghanistan, in his words. Why enter Kabul when previously there is an agreement to stay on the outskirts and many unpleased from the U.S. and other countries? He says the plan was not to go into the city, but the Taliban withdrew. He says there was -- quote -- "no choice but to send in security forces at that time." He also says 8,000 Taliban troops have been reported leaving Kabul. But also getting indication out of Rome, Italy right now, the exiled king, who left back in 1973, a spokesperson, according to the Associated Press, saying the Northern Alliance simply broke its promise. Much more on that as the diplomatic and political question continues to unravel.




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