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America's New War: More Speculation Focuses on Likely Deployment of Special Forces Against Taliban

Aired September 27, 2001 - 10:11   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to cross the border into Northern Afghanistan. That's exactly where we find CNN's Chris Burns.

Chris, what's the latest from there?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, I went down to the -- near the frontlines today, near what's called Battleground Airbase. That used to be the main Soviet airbase here, and some scattered shooting going on there. Also in the last 24 hours, continued reports of fighting in the north, far north of here, where the northern alliance claimed to claimed high points in what they call Talican (ph) Mountain, and the district of Bajise (ph). They say they were seized amid a popular uprising that killed 20 Taliban fighters. Of course, none of this we are able to confirm at this point.

But the continued fighting doesn't indicate that the Northern Alliance does continue to present a challenge to the Taliban in that area. Interesting reports about defections, because the Northern Alliance also talks about the defections, or some of these Mujahadeen, who are allied with the Taliban, different ethnic groups, that are now talking about perhaps slitting with the Taliban, perhaps undermining their authority in Kabul, and the one analyst told me that if that can done, politically and perhaps militarily, through U.S. airstrikes, that that could force the Taliban to come to some kind after political solution with other groups, and that's accommodating perhaps, the international pressure.

At the same time, there is a question of refugees. The UNHCR says that they are going to need some $250 million more in emergency funding to deal with the refugee problem within Afghanistan itself. Some one-fight 5 of the 26 million people living here are usually dependent on international aid, and that is growing by the day -- Paula.

ZAHN: Chris, I don't know how much specific information you have gotten on this, but has the Northern Alliance reacted at all to the reports there are indications that the Taliban leadership structure is eroding?

BURNS: Well, very much those defections that I discussed do indicate that. There are -- there is also talk about the king as well, the king that -- the now former king that lives in Rome. There are calls among some here that he return. In fact, when we were near the front line the other day, there was a man I asked, when will you go back to Kabul? He said, when the king comes back -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right, Chris Burns, thanks so much for the update. We'll be checking in with you throughout our morning.

As the international momentum swings ever closer to military action, more speculation focuses on the likely development or, that is deployment of special forces against the Taliban. Given the shadowy nature of such operations, we turn to a former insider. Our next guest uses the alias "Tom Carew." He joins us from London this morning. He is a former member of Great Britain's special armed services and a veteran of the Afghan's battle against the soviets.

Good to have you with us this morning, sir. Thanks so much for joining us.


ZAHN: What took to you Afghanistan?

CAREW: Basically I was sent there to assist the capability of the Mujahadeen in 1980, May of 1980, and also the Soviet capability of repelling them, along with a few other things.

ZAHN: Yes, what exactly did you do?

CAREW: Well, that was the initial aim, and sort of the side aim of that was to obtain as much Soviet equipment as possible that was needed for analysis.

ZAHN: Describe to us what you found once you got to Afghanistan. We have heard brutal descriptions of how bad the winters are, and we heard how tough the topography is.

CAREW: Well, that's true. The topography is extremely tough. It's quite a strenuous task in itself. But also the people are equally as tough, so it is no easy task to work with them until you have won them over. When you have won them over, it is very simple. But the initial few weeks, it is very hard going. They are very suspect of you. Yes, they just don't trust Westerners at all actually, probably because of what's been fed into them. But once you get a working rapport with them, it's OK, they are OK people.

ZAHN: Here in the United States, we are just beginning to try understand what military action might look like if it materializes, and there is speculation that services such as -- that used to be formally employed by, will be used. What will those special forces be up against?

CAREW: Well, it depends on what the actual aim of the operation's going to be. You know, I mean, if you're going in working with the Northern Alliance, you will be OK. I mean, you just have to win their respect, and have you to respect them. You're going to be up against what we used to call the lemming factor. These are people that will, when you go against the Taliban, they are very strictly believers that when they are killed in the jihad, they are immediately dispatched to the side of Allah, and so you've got the kamikaze lemming factor, they will just come straight at you. That's what you have to be up against.

ZAHN: Tell us a little bit about the Northern Alliance and your understanding of how well trained these soldiers are.

CAREW: OK, well I didn't actually work with the Northern Alliance, because that was a different group. I had the relationship of such with Masood (ph), because we used to talk at times. We were working with the Hesbi Islamy (ph). Albeit, they actually reported that I felt that these people were leaning a little too much the other way.

But I mean, basically, the actual soldier on the ground is quite an OK guy. You know, he will do his job OK. They are easy to work with once you've got their respect and they have your respect, you know.

ZAHN: Do you think the Northern Alliance, along with the United States and any other members of the coalition that might partake in a military action will be able to either find or isolate Osama bin Laden?

CAREW: Well, personally, I don't believe bin Laden is there. I mean, he is not that sort of soldier. He is not a Mujahadeen. He comes across of making himself out as one. When you see him, he is always clean and tidy. I have lived in those caves. You are absolutely filthy living in there. I mean, OK, that's just one little aspect of it. But personally I think that once you go in with the Taliban -- sorry, once you're in with the Northern Alliance against the Taliban, you shouldn't have much problem in mopping it up, as long as you can contain them. You have to get Afghan against Afghan and then they will fight.

If you go in with a Western army, without much Afghan in support, they will just break up and disappear into the mountains, and then you are going to be mopping them up for years. You have to try an contain them and get Afghan against Afghan, and it saves a lot of problems as well. But I don't think -- well, it's up to your generals, of course, but personally, I don't think it's a job for the regular army; it's more of a special forces war, this one. There is a lot more to it than just going in and sorting out the Taliban. It's very easy to upset all sides.

ZAHN: Tom Carew, thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate your insights.

CAREW: You're welcome.




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