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Live From Afghanistan With Christiane Amanpour: Taliban Prepares for Battle Despite Promises to Surrender

Aired November 23, 2001 - 20:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN WITH CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Last- minute preparations for battle, despite the Taliban's promise to surrender in Konduz.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Pakistani and Arab people will not defect to us. We will have war.


ANNOUNCER: Plus, deadly clashes in other pockets of Taliban resistance. They've come to Afghanistan from all over the Arab world, and may carry Osama bin Laden's war back home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He aims to destabilize and overthrow Islamic regimes beyond Afghanistan. The Saudis, the Jordanians, the Egyptians. That is the end game of bin Laden.


ANNOUNCER: Only a week ago, they were ready to die for him. But these bin Laden allies are fair-weather friends.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's up to God. If his time is finished, he will be dead.



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: Determined to break the stalemate around the Taliban's last strongholds, particularly Kandahar in the south, one of the Northern Alliance victorious commanders, Ismail Khan, says his forces are going to press south. They are trying to take Kandahar and Helmand, two of the Taliban's last remaining strongholds in the south of this country.

In the meantime, in the north, a stubborn pocket of Taliban resistance, especially resistance from the Arab mercenaries. Still, the Northern Alliance commanders are saying that they expect arms to be laid down by Sunday. CNN's Satinder Bindra reports.


SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Waiting patiently for the big battle to begin, the strain shows on the faces of these Northern Alliance soldiers. They've been ordered by their commanders to hold off attacking Konduz until Saturday, to allow thousands of trapped Taliban soldiers, both Afghans and so-called hard-core fighters from overseas, the chance to surrender.

On Thursday, 300 Afghan Taliban soldiers defected to the Northern Alliance, but the Northern Alliance says it will not be easy to entice thousands of trapped Taliban troops from Pakistan, Chechnya, Uzbekistan and other Arab countries to surrender.

MIR MOHAMMAD OSHAL, NORTHERN ALLIANCE COMMANDER (through translator): The Pakistani and Arab people will not defect to us. We will have war.

BINDRA: One senior Northern Alliance general tells CNN hard-core Taliban fighters are now gathering around Konduz Airport, waiting to be rescued. Northern Alliance sources say over the past few days they've been hearing planes coming in to land at the airport, but cannot say where they're from.

On Thursday, anti-Taliban forces launched a massive rocket and armored attack against Konduz.

(on camera): After hours of fighting, the Northern Alliance says its forces captured the village of Sowka (ph), just four miles from here. A short while later, the Taliban launched a massive counter- offensive and recaptured Sowka (ph).

(voice-over): Many of these front lines believe the Taliban still have plenty of fight left in them, so the Northern Alliance look to the skies and to U.S. planes for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The bombardment must hit the exact target, and the bombardment must eradicate the al Qaeda group.

BINDRA: Washington agrees. It says the trapped al Qaeda fighters must either be killed, or they can surrender. But they cannot be allowed to get away.

Satinder Bindra, CNN, on the front lines near Konduz, northern Afghanistan.


AMANPOUR: Now, with the U.S. making air strikes against the positions near Konduz, there are also ideas that that might happen in a position of resistance here near Kabul. The last two days, the Taliban have been putting up stiff resistance on a ridge somewhat west of the city of Kabul. The Northern Alliance has tried to take them on, has tried to beat them back, but it hasn't yet worked. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports from that front.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new and unexpected front has opened up southwest of Kabul, outside the town of Maidan Shahr. Alliance commanders thought they had worked out an agreement for the Taliban to surrender and give up their arms. But there was just one hitch: There was no agreement. This time, the Taliban put up a fight.

(on camera): The Alliance commander in this area claims there are anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 Taliban troops in the hills overlooking this town, a mere 25 minutes outside Kabul. Which raises the question, how much is the Northern Alliance in control of the territory it's captured?

(voice-over): Commander Abdul Ahmed says as many as 800 of the Taliban are non-Afghan fighters, Arabs and Pakistanis. "For them," he says, surrender is not an option. "They must fight, and they will die."

After the morning's exchange of fire, the fighting stops. As Alliance troop milled around this dusty town waiting for orders, civilians headed toward the relative safety of the capital.

Alliance gunners tested their weapons, but they weren't firing on the Taliban. The Alliance now facing the reality that the Taliban haven't given up yet.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Maidan Shahr, Afghanistan.


AMANPOUR: Now, over on another issue: Over the months of the war, we have been shown a lot of civilian damage by reporters and television crews that were inside Kabul and elsewhere during the time that the Taliban held control over here. On Thursday, rather on Friday, the U.N. ordnance experts took journalists to see other areas of damage, and what they wanted us to see was one area where there was a direct and properly aimed hit. It was in a residential area of Kabul, and they told us that a 500-pound U.S. bomb had exploded a Taliban police commander's house. Two houses on either side were also damaged. Those, we were told, belonged to Arab fighters aligned with the Taliban and perhaps even with the al Qaeda network.

What they wanted us to see was that the precision was so exact, that two hospitals within a couple of hundred meters of that strike were undamaged. They also wanted us to see that one of the houses that were damaged had contained military weapons that they say they removed from there. There was an 82 mm mortar, and a grenade launcher.

They also did say that some strikes on Kabul had been mishits, and that about 30 civilians, according to their estimates, had been killed. They also wanted us to know that despite reports no cluster bombs had been dropped on the city of Kabul.

When we return, on the eve of important political talks, we'll have a report from the western city of Herat, where a pro-king rally was disrupted by the Northern Alliance.


AMANPOUR: Herat, in the west of Afghanistan, was recently liberated by a famed warlord Ismail Khan. Herat has always been a relatively liberal city, a prosperous business city, a bastion, an ancient bastion of arts and literature. In Herat, since the Taliban have left, residents have been expressing support for the return of the former king, Zahir Shah. But recently, as CNN's Kasra Naji reports, those feelings, those political shows of support have been quashed by the new people in control of Herat.


KASRA NAJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Long live Zahir Shah" they shout in this rally here in Herat, earlier this week. The rally, an indication of the growing significance of the former king in the post-Taliban Afghanistan. The rally had been organized quietly for the fear of provoking the anger of the Northern Alliance, in control here.

He said, "We support the U.N. plan for broad-based interim government, and a loya jerga." That's a grand council of elders. They urged the U.N. to immediately bring in a multinational peacekeeping force.

He says, "We want the U.N. peacekeeping forces here to ensure security, to collect the weapons and free us from those wielding guns." There is a growing fear here that the Mujahedeen faction will soon turn on each other and the people.

(on camera): Their number is great, not yet anyway. But the fact that they have managed to get together under these circumstances, speak of the good deal of support here for the former king, Zahir Shah.

(voice-over): But the Northern Alliance took the rally as a threat, or at least a challenge. They swiftly moved in to disperse the crowd. Mujahedeen gunmen said they had orders from high up, "any rally has to be authorized," they said.

And shortly afterwards the Northern Alliance's strong man of Herat, Ismail Khan, describing the demonstrators as mercenaries of foreign powers. He said "we will launch a jihad against mercenaries." Hardly a recognition of the changing times in Afghanistan.

The supporters of the former king now say they have pinned their hopes on the international community.

He says, "If the international community decide to leave us alone again, there will be a return to chaos and killings. If they want peace and respect for human rights, the international community should stay with Afghanistan."

Kasra Naji, CNN, Herat, western Afghanistan.


AMANPOUR: Now, those crucial political talks were due to be held in Bonn, Germany on Monday. Because of travel difficulties and the difficulties in the logistics of getting all the delegations to Germany in time, those talks have been delayed until Tuesday morning. With us now is Dr. Abdullah, the Northern Alliance foreign minister. We are going to ask him first of all, are going to be a member of those -- of your team?


AMANPOUR: You are not.


AMANPOUR: Who is going to go for the Northern Alliance?

ABDULLAH: Mr. Khanuni (ph) will lead the delegation.

AMANPOUR: That's the interior minister?

ABDULLAH: That is Mr. Khanuni (ph), who is in charge of the Security Commission in Kabul. And there will be representatives from all components of the United Front, almost all of them.

AMANPOUR: Professor Rabbani?


AMANPOUR: He won't go. Everybody is pining a huge amount of hope on these talks. The U.N. has said realistically, it is going to be very difficult to get over years and years of mistrust and fighting and antagonism. What can we realistically expect from those talks in Germany? How long do you think they will last, what will they accomplish?

ABDULLAH: I think the least that we should achieve, or we should expect from that meeting is to agree upon a road map from now on until the formation of fully representative, broad-based government. And then, some characteristics of the transitional government perhaps in general, in the timing of the next meeting, hopefully inside Afghanistan. How should be the combination of the leadership council in the transitional period, this sort of details.

AMANPOUR: You know, history has shown us that it is going to be very, very difficult. The international community tried to convene a broad-based transitional government after the Soviets were forced out in the early '90s, and it quickly collapsed. Do you have a hope this time, a realistic hope that it is going to be different? Is this a special moment for Afghanistan? ABDULLAH: I think it is a unique moment for Afghanistan. The whole situation has changed. Inside Afghanistan, in the region, in the international community. Inside Afghanistan, the main force, which was an obstacle for peace or for formation of a broad-based government, I mean Taliban and the terrorist organization, are being removed to a large extent. And in the region, all countries -- almost all countries -- in our neighborhood, they are of the opinion that only a peaceful situation in Afghanistan will serve the legitimate interests.

In the international community, there is a new focus on the situation in Afghanistan. And there is a serious attention toward Afghanistan, which wasn't the case after the end of the Cold War or after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. So all these factors created a unique opportunity, which all of us, first of all Afghans, the region, and the international community should seize.

AMANPOUR: You mentioned the Taliban and you said that they were obstacles to peace, but many people also mention the Northern Alliance when they were in power in 1992, and they point to the fact that there was terrible war, particularly in this city. This city was controlled by all sorts of different factions, and as you know, so much of it has been -- has been devastated. And many people outside now are putting a lot of pressure on your party. Can you assure them that you won't dissolve into the kind of factional fighting that has been seen over the last years?

ABDULLAH: The situation in '92, between '92 and '96 should be studied in the context. We entered Kabul at that time as a result of an agreement between six parties of the resistance. One party, led by Mr. Hagmitar (ph), opposed that agreement, and has started fighting against us, and then that was the start of the fighting at that time.

And from the international community, there wasn't any attention toward Afghanistan. Afghanistan was only treated in a humanitarian basis, nothing more. While Afghanistan was left behind, with over one million armed people and the whole country destroyed, and in different groups from the Communist Party as well as from the resistance, it was in such a situation that we were trying to bring the stability, which was not possible.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you about the women of Afghanistan. A lot of focus, obviously, has been on the women and on the repression that they have endured under the Taliban. But you know, since we have been in Kabul, since we have been able to talk to a lot of people, they point out that it was under Professor Rabbani in '92 when women's dress codes started to be restricted, and certain restrictions started to be put on them.

Can you tell us whether the Northern Alliance plans to make an announcement that women are free if they want to, to take off their burkah. Many women tell us they are waiting for that, that women are free go back to school, that women are free to go back to work. Many women are feeling very confused about their current status since the Taliban have left -- I mean in Kabul here. ABDULLAH: First of all, about that period. There were no restrictions, there were no restrictions codes for what the women should wear or shouldn't. And in fact, as before -- as entering to Kabul, into Kabul, the women changed of course the code of dress which they used to have under the communist regime, out of respect for the resistance, or for mujahedeen. There wasn't a single announcement in that regard during that period.

Then, about the present situation, there were already announcements about women returning back to their -- to their works, to schools, to the hospitals, and there hasn't been any obligatory announcement about putting on the burkah. They have the choice to put on a burkah. They have the choice to take it off.

AMANPOUR: Certainly, many women after five years of living like this are waiting for some official encouragement. As you know, people get quite worried about what they can and what they can't do, and particularly many of the women are saying to us that they -- and these the professional women's organizations -- are telling us that unless the new broad-based alliance is comprised of some women and takes into account women's views and rights, then nothing will be possible. Will there be women, as far as you know, in the talks in Bonn?

ABDULLAH: Of course. Of course there will be. And there will be women a part of our delegation as well. And then the situation, at the present time, also should be understood thoroughly because women and men in Kabul have lived under repressive regime of Taliban for so many years. They cannot believe that Taliban reign is over and there is a new situation. And before that they were in a state of war and security situation was not preferable at that time.

So, it is new situation and they will cope with it and they will find out that there are no restrictions as such on their work, on how they behave, or what they do.

AMANPOUR: Are there restrictions on the former king, Zahir Shah? I mean, we saw that there was sort of a crackdown on some show of support for Zahir Shah in Herat. Do you expect Zahir Shah himself to be at the talks in Bonn and is he acceptable as a titular head of a transitional government?

ABDULLAH: First of all, about what happened what you yourself just referred in regards to the situation in Herat. I'm opposed to such a situation. If there is a demonstration for the former king, let it be that. The people should be allowed to express their views. There are thousands of people, or hundreds of thousands of people, which they might not like the former king. There are people which they do. This is -- they all should be able to express their views. I'm against a crackdown of peaceful demonstrations.

Of course, breach of security rules is one thing and expression of views by a number of people and peaceful demonstrations different -- a different thing. Then, the former king of Afghanistan, at this stage, my understanding is that he will not be there in Rome. He will represent -- he will be represented by a delegation.

AMANPOUR: In Germany?

ABDULLAH: In Germany.

AMANPOUR: And will he be acceptable if that becomes the plan, as a figurehead leader of an interim transitional government?

ABDULLAH: In the interim transitional government, what is needed is a leader to lead the country. And the country is in a state of transition from war to peace. When I'm saying war, 23 years of war and in the whole country is destroyed, the infrastructure and everything. So, what is needed -- a leader. If there was a consensus among all the groups that that type of leader is the former king, so be it.

AMANPOUR: Will the Northern Alliance throw its support behind that kind of consensus?

ABDULLAH: If there is a consensus, if there is...

AMANPOUR: Will you throw your support behind the notion of the king as a figurehead leader as envisioned by the U.N.?

ABDULLAH: I think the former king of Afghanistan, he himself has expressed it differently. Rather than leading the country, as the head of the state, he has expressed that he could promote a process, a representative process, or a Loya Jirga which is rather a different thing, than being head of state. So all these should be studied.

AMANPOUR: How long do you predict it will take to hammer out a transitional arrangement for Afghanistan?

ABDULLAH: To give a timetable? It is extremely difficult. But what I can assure our people and the international community is that our -- the United Front, our leadership, is fully aware of the urgency of such a situation. A transition into a peaceful process or a political settlement which will bring about, ultimately, a fully representative, multi-ethnic broad-based government.

AMANPOUR: And on one last issue, there are those in the international community who broach the subject of an international peacekeeping force. Particularly, the U.N., humanitarian organizations and others have said that they fear that they may need some protection as they go about their humanitarian duties. Is more military going to happen here? Is that acceptable to you? Already, there has been an argument about a British forces coming.

ABDULLAH: There isn't such an argument about British forces coming. And the issue about the more troops, for the reason of security or facilitating humanitarian operation, it is something that we haven't ruled it out and we will consider it positively in the likes of the development.

AMANPOUR: Well, on that note, thank you very much indeed for joining Dr. Abdullah.

And when we come back after a break, Judy Woodruff will have all the rest of the day's developments and our program will be back shortly.



AMANPOUR: Now since Kabul was liberated from the Taliban, journalists and indeed U.S. intelligence officers have found documents that portray a terrorist intent amongst people who were here fighting with the Taliban. Those, we were told, were the Arabs linked with the Taliban and indeed, with the al Qaeda network.

And even though the United States has constantly been asking Mullah Omar and the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden, many experts believe that the power is reversed, that it's in fact the Taliban and Mullah Omar who depend heavily on bin Laden and his Arab mercenaries, rather than vice versa.

CNN's Mike Boettcher reports from the Middle East on the role and the power of the so-called Afghan Arabs.


MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a clarion call to Muslims around the globe, come help your Afghan brothers expel the infidel enemy.

Young men from the Muslim world, particularly from Arab countries, responded in large numbers. Their battle against the Soviets became a proving ground for those eager to participate in jihad, holy war. They learned modern techniques of warfare, were schooled in militant Islam, and grew disillusioned with the politics of their native countries.

They became known as "Afghan Arabs," and went on to use their new found experience in other conflicts, like Bosnia, Chechnya, and Kashmir. Kamal Habib was part of an already budding Islamist movement in Egypt when the Soviets entered Afghanistan. That war, he says, gave purpose to the disaffected.

KAMAL HABIB, ISLAMIC ACTIVIST: The jihad is going from concept to practice. We are taking the thought and putting it into practice on the ground.

BOETTCHER: Helping to vanquish one of the world's superpowers, the Soviet Union, was a heady first success for these Afghan Arabs. But Arab governments saw a huge problem in the making.

NABIL OSMAN, EGYPT PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN: It all started after the end of the war in Afghanistan, where some people chose, first of all, to add a religious connotation to a war of liberation.

BOETTCHER (on camera): Arab governments were the first to recognize the potential threat from the Afghan Arabs. After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, governments in the region were faced with a tough question, what to do with the returning Islamic fighters. (voice-over): Egypt prevented many of its Afghan Arab veterans from returning home, making them men with a cause, but without a country. Jordan, too, had to contend with returning militant fighters. During the 1990s, Jordan's general intelligence directorate broke up group after violent group of anti-government Islamics, who wanted to replace Jordan's Hashmite (ph) kingdom with the regime based on strict Islamic or Shariat law.

But despite arrests and prison terms, another group would always spring up with a different name, but a common thread, Afghanistan. What they were witnessing, intelligence officials say, was the birth of the global alliance called al Qaeda.

MAGNUS RANSTORP, TERRORISM EXPERT: The Arab Afghans were a fertile recruitment ground for bin Laden precisely because, firstly, he aims to destabilize and overthrow Islamic regimes beyond Afghanistan. The Saudis, the Jordanians, the Egyptians, that is the end game of bin Laden.

BOETTCHER: On the other side of the globe on September 11, the world saw how far Afghan Arabs were willing to go to achieve that end. Those who still hold out in Afghanistan were the head office of an operation that terrorism experts say no longer needs a headquarters.

RANSTORP: Following September the 11, we have a third generation. Some of those individuals who have been to Afghanistan, but certainly have set up networks within either the Arab world or in the West to conduct operations. And they then have minimal contact back to the nerve center in Afghanistan.

BOETTCHER: Though their turf in Afghanistan is shrinking, it is the very tenacity exhibited by the Afghan Arabs, now already exported to countries around the world, that has Western and Arab governments worried.

Mike Boettcher, CNN, Cairo.


AMANPOUR: Now we've seen the tenacity of the Arab fighters, around Konduz especially. They are so far refusing to surrender. And they are putting up the stiffest resistance in the battle for Konduz and in other parts, where Taliban strongholds still remain.

On Friday, U.S. military officials said that they have started bombing caves and tunnels in Jalalabad area and other areas, where they believe there are al Qaeda hideouts and terrorist networks.

You just heard in Mike Boettcher's report from Magnus Ranstorp, terrorism expert from St. Andrews University in Scotland. And he now joins us live from our studios in London.

First of all, thank you for joining us. Listen, what is the prognosis for actually being able to root out this kind of terrorism, even if Osama bin Laden and some of his top lieutenants are dispatched with? RANSTORP: Well, first of all, bin Laden is really symbolic of the al Qaeda phenomenon. I think it's very important for the public to understand that this war will have to extend far beyond the caves and the reach of Afghanistan.

And this will be a long, multi-faceted war, fought over many years, particularly because the al Qaeda network is not so much dependent on the directives issued by the al Qaeda leadership. We know the names of the 25 to 30 top al Qaeda leaders in the Miles Ashurah (ph), the consultative council. We don't have a membership list of the approximately 3,500 to 4,000 hard-core, nucleus al Qaeda members, who are able to strike, and not only continuing the resistance in Afghanistan, together with the Taliban forces, but also continuing far beyond in their own local conflict zones in terms of reconnaissance, in the terms of planning and the execution of terrorist operations in Arab countries, as well as in the West.

AMANPOUR: So even if, as you say, the top of this iceberg is detached here in Afghanistan, what are the mechanisms by which operatives continue to work? How do they continue to work if the base of their organization is wiped out?

RANSTORP: Well, we have to really understand that before September the 11, the linkages between the local al Qaeda networks and various countries and the so-called nerve center in Afghanistan was quite loosely organized. Local members would do reconnaissance on local targets.

As was explained in the package of the targets in Jordan, they would do reconnaissance and then they would report back, to see whether it would be politically conducive to conduct operations.

Now after September the 11, all the gloves are off. Local cells have their own autonomy in order to conduct terrorist operations. We're talking about a network that stretches across constituent groups from North Africa, the Middle East, around Central Asia, all the way down to Southeast Asia. So it's going to be a mammoth task to really try to unearth this organization.

AMANPOUR: And do you believe that there are sleepers, the so- called sleepers already embedded in various societies?

RANSTORP: Unquestionably, one of the problems has been that we don't know exactly who are the middle managers or the foot soldiers of the al Qaeda network. In the United States, it is suspected that about six to eight al Qaeda cells or sleepers are waiting to be activated or are already planning some type of operation.

We certainly know that there are many other al Qaeda networks that have not been unearthed by the massive law enforcement efforts. And therefore, this war will continue well beyond whether we manage to apprehend and possibly kill bin Laden himself.

AMANPOUR: So while you have fears for the future, give us an idea of the positive steps this war on terrorism can have. I mean, clearly, they can at least disrupt, delay, distort the activities of these terrorist networks, isn't that so?

RANSTORP: Well, certainly, it is a war that's going to be difficult to win. And I think we have to understand that it's going to take many years before we feel a moderate sense of security, particularly because the network stretches all across the globe. There are local cells that are autonomous from the center itself.

Some of the positive aspects to this has been the unprecedented global security, exchange of intelligence information between countries. It is not perfect yet. I believe that Pakistan still have some information that could be very helpful in giving us a sense of the nation's scale and scope of the breadth and depth of the al Qaeda. Also I think, we have unearthed some very important cells that have planned previously to conduct operations particularly in the European mainland and in France, in particular.

AMANPOUR: So give us an idea of what you think Pakistani intelligence might have? I mean, Pakistan is now an ally in this war against terror. What do you think it still can offer in terms of information, crucial information?

RANSTORP: Well, it is my understanding that Pakistan has not been as forthcoming as the U.S. officials have been wanting them to be in terms of providing high grade intelligence of some of the middle managers and the foot soldiers that have streamed through Pakistan over the years, into Afghanistan, and have then become part of the so-called Mujahedeen forces, either being dispatched to Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir, as well as the so-called al Qaeda terrorist operatives.

And I think they can be more forthcoming, in terms of providing intelligence, of providing some scope and information, where to look, and where these people may be. And that will be a significant improvement in trying to find out these operatives.

The difficulty is that many of these individuals come from so many different nationalities. The al Qaeda network is a truly multinational enterprise. If you look at the top 20 leaders of al Qaeda, we have there Saudis, Yemenis, Egyptians, Iraqis, Syrians, and of course, Pakistanis, and all sorts of other nationalities, which makes this a truly difficult task, but also a truly global war that has to be fought on all fronts over a sustained period, and to varying degrees, using all our measures.

And therefore, it's not going to be enough to just remove bin Laden, and even the top hierarchy. It's going to require us to cooperate over a sustained period, and to prepare our public that we're in this for the long haul.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Ranstorp, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

And we're turning our attention now to Jalalabad in east Afghanistan. This was also recently liberated from the Taliban. And a motley group of warlords and tribal leaders there, some say in association with the Northern Alliance, has taken over. Jalalabad, of course, is also the town around which there have been a terrorist training camps identified, and some say, tunnels and other caves that hold ammunition and other networks of the al Qaeda organization.

We hear now from Patricia Sabga from Jalalabad about just how militaristic a society this place is and how everyone, just about everyone, has a gun.


PATRICIA SABGA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, young men itching for a fight swarm outside the governor's mansion.

The few men in uniform try to take charge, but there's no holding back a would-be warrior in this city, where anyone who can shoot themselves in the foot can get their hand on a trigger.

This man is from the mountains around Jalalabad. He told us the Mujahedeen gave him his Kalashnikov three days ago.

This 20-year-old said his rifle was left behind by the Taliban, standard stories, nonstandard issue in a town where bands of armed, undisciplined men roam freely, cruising the streets in SUV's, outside the public telephone office, in the doorway of the city's most popular hotel, lounging next to the "no guns allowed" sign.

It's excess bred by decades of war, which in turn, has midwifed an absurd pecking order. With everyone armed to the teeth here, status symbols are bound to emerge. An automatic rifle, for instance, that's pretty good. But a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, that's far more prestigious.

And even that's not enough for some people. Meanwhile, the have- nots, many of them longtime residents, are at the mercy of those who have taken up arms in the name of their security.

This man has lived in Jalalabad for 10 years. He told us his car was stolen recently at gunpoint. Robberies, he says, never happened when the Taliban were in charge. A group of exiled commanders known as the eastern Shurra have stepped in to try and bring order in the Taliban's wake.

At this well armed news conference, the core commander of the Eastern provinces said that even if they could collect all the guns, there's no place to store them. But despite the ubiquitous show of force, there are those who turn a deaf ear to the call to arms.

Do you own a gun?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't have.

SABGA: Do you plan on getting a gun?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't like gun. SABGA: It's a rare attitude in a place where war has had the upper hand for more than two decades. Breaking the cycle may very well fall to the next generation already weary of violence. Who wants all the guns out of Jalalabad?

Patricia Sabga, CNN, Jalalabad, Afghanistan.


AMANPOUR: Now when we come back after a break, we'll hear from Carol Lin in Pakistan on what appears to be diminishing support for the cause of Osama bin Laden.


AMANPOUR: The border towns of northern Pakistan, the tribal provinces there, the northwest frontier area, has long been a hotbed of support, support for the Taliban, and indeed for Osama bin Laden.

Every Friday, and this was no change this Friday, there have been demonstrations against the West, against military intervention in Afghanistan, and for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. But this week's demonstration was smaller than the ones in the past. Perhaps a sign, according to our CNN Carol Lin in Quetta, that support for Osama bin Laden, support for the cause, support for the battle inside Afghanistan may be on hold, at least for now.


CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The price on Osama bin Laden's head is falling fast. His picture used to be a best- seller at John Sheik's (ph) celebrity collector card stand.

"I used to sale big number, 150 a day. Now I'm selling only 30 to 40," he says.

Nearly two weeks ago, Pakistan's Jamet Ulma (ph) Islamic Party, the Taliban's biggest supporters, were bragging that ordinary citizens were donating money, even food for the Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

"People told us they would give their blood and lives for Taliban cause. Osama bin Laden was their poster boy for the holy war against the West." Today, the fund-raising tent is mysteriously gone, replaced by day laborers looking for work and a city public service announcement to conserve water during the local drought. It seems the Taliban supporters are changing their tune about Osama bin Laden.

(on camera): We received an urgent late night phone call from the JUI's general secretary, who told us he had something very important to tell us about Osama bin Laden. He told us he was afraid to meet us at our hotel because Pakistani intelligence agents might see him. So he told us to meet him secretly at his office.

(voice-over): We expected to hear something concrete about bin Laden's whereabouts. Mulanek Ufor Hydree (ph) says his Taliban contacts insist Osama bin Laden is not in Afghanistan, but in Chechnya and on his way to the United States.

(on camera): Why would the most wanted man in the world go to America, the country that is spending billions of dollars hunting him down?

(voice-over): The JUI general secretary said it's up to God. If his time is finished, he will be dead. It was clear the man now in charge of the fundamentalist movement that educated and trained the Taliban didn't seem to care what happened to the Taliban's honored guest, Osama bin Laden. U.S. Officials have repeatedly said there is no evidence that Osama bin Laden has left Afghanistan.

Afghans living in Quetta just seem tired of the conflict.

"The Taliban are nice people," Munamus Wahid (ph) tells us. They should just go to a mosque and get out of politics.

The slogan on this postcard has Osama bin Laden saying "may God free Afghanistan and Islamic countries from the infidels." Soon in Quetta, you might buy this message for half the price.

Carol Lin, CNN, Quetta, Pakistan.


AMANPOUR: Now Pakistan used to be the only country that was supporting the Taliban. That has ended now. And Pakistan playing a crucial role in the future political settlement for Afghanistan. We'll have that report when we come back.


AMANPOUR: Britain, America's key ally in the war on terrorism, sent its foreign secretary to Pakistan to talk about the urgent need for a broad-based alliance there. Pakistan, until this week, was the Taliban's only remaining international backer.

CNN's Tom Mintier reports from Islamabad.


TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The visit by the British foreign secretary was all about support from Pakistan, for next week's meeting of Afghan leaders in Germany. He met with both the president, General Pervez Musharraf and the foreign minister Abdul Sattar. Pakistan is concerned, mostly about the possibility of having the Northern Alliance as a neighbor in Afghanistan.

ABDUL SATTAR, PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTER: We have, as you know, a vested interest in such an outcome because we have three million refugees cannot go unless the process of reconstruction and we have an indication, begins. MINTIER: Pakistan is pushing for an interim peacekeeping force for Afghanistan, something that concerns the Northern Alliance. The British foreign secretary has already held talks in Iran this week with his counterpart from the Northern Alliance. They are willing to accept coalition troops for humanitarian support, but not in a military role.

JACK STRAW, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: The Northern Alliance have made it clear that they're content to see coalition troops involved in activities other than direct military action against the Taliban and the al Qaeda. But they want to, quite properly, to be consulted about the purpose and the size of the troops in advance.


AMANPOUR: And we'll be back same time tomorrow night. Now goodbye from Kabul.




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