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Special Report: America Strikes Back

Aired October 14, 2001 - 22:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: This is a CNN special report, "America Strikes Back," I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.

Here now the latest developments at this hour. In Reno, Nevada, four people who may have handled a letter contaminated with anthrax are breathing easier. Their tests have come back negative. Two others are expecting their test results tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the "Boston Globe" is awaiting test results on an editor who handled a letter similar to the one "The New York Times" received on Friday.

Overseas, a police source in Jacobabad tells CNN that one person was killed and 12 injured during anti-American demonstrations there today. Violence broke out as police confronted protesters who were marching toward an air base the United States and its allies are using.

And for the eighth consecutive night, the United States is dropping bombs and missiles on Afghanistan. Sources say artillery and heavy armor in the mountains near Kabul are a prime target. Defense officials say American planes have taken virtually out all of their targets.

Today, the Taliban offered the U.S. another deal concerning Osama bin Laden. They say that they will hand him over to a neutral country, if America stops the bombing and provides proof of bin Laden's involvement in last month's attacks. CNN's senior White House correspondent John King joins us now with how President Bush is replying. Hello, John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Judy. Well, the president's response I guess we could call predictable. He had said way back in his speech to Congress, no negotiations, no discussions with the Taliban. Mr. Bush got word of this new offer today. He was up at the Camp David presidential retreat. Aides gave the first response, tracking the president's words in the past.

By the time president stepped off Marine One here at the White House, he had had a little bit of time to think about it. He hasn't been answering questions much on the way back into the White House, but he did stop today and made clear when he said no negotiations, he meant it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's nothing to negotiate about. They are harboring a terrorist. And they need to turn him over. And not only turn him over, turn the al Qaeda organization over, destroy all the terrorists camps -- actually, we are doing a pretty good of that right now. And release the hostages they hold. That's all they got to do. But there is no negotiation, period.


KING: The president back at the White House tonight. He will be here through mid-week before leaving for China. Two challenges facing the administration in the days ahead, aides say. Number one, remind the American people that the president meant it when he asked for patience. We are now in the second week of the military strikes. The president in the days ahead will remind the American people this is a campaign that could take months, if not longer, and that's just phase one in Afghanistan.

The second challenge is trying to ease the jitters of a nation, if you will. You mentioned the anthrax scare in Nevada, criminal investigations under way in both Florida and New York because of anthrax cases there. The president's top health adviser, the Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson saying earlier today that the administration has not drawn a direct link to Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda, but certainly considers these cases to be terrorism.


TOMMY THOMPSON, HHS SECRETARY: There is no question it's bioterrorism. It's a biological agent. It's terrorism, it's crime, it's terrorism. But whether or not it's connected to al Qaeda, we can't say conclusively.


KING: So, the administration on the one hand trying to reassure the American people life goes on, they should feel safe. Secretary Thompson saying there are plenty of antibiotics in the government's hold if they are needed for future anthrax cases. The president also getting an update, we are told, on the criminal investigation, telling one top aide the other day, quote, "we need to stay on top of this" -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, this war against terrorism, campaign against terrorism, has been going now over a month, a month and three or four days. Are the people you talked to in the White House showing any signs of getting weary, getting worn down over this, or do they come in every day determined, energized?

KING: Physically tired perhaps a little bit, and we have seen a little bit of that in the president. He looks a little tired from time to time. But in terms of their determination and resolve, they say that has not wavered at all. There has been some concern here with the pictures of the errant bomb that killed some civilians. The Taliban letting reports in today, showing some of the damage done, that perhaps in the Muslim world, in the Arab world, there could be a bit of trouble as those pictures are shown, but the president's team believes there will be no wavering in public support here in the United States at all. They say, remember, one aide I spoke to today said, "remember, we were attacked here. Those pictures coming out of Afghanistan will not weaken the resolve of the American people."

WOODRUFF: All right, John King, reporting live from the White House. Thank you, John.

The Taliban are escorting tonight -- or today, 14 journalists on a tour of locations devastated by the U.S.-led air attacks. And we just heard John King refer to that. CNN's Nic Robertson is the only reporter from a U.S.-based television network who was among that group. And although he is under Taliban escort, they are saying that he can report whatever he chooses. Here is Nic's latest report from Jalalabad.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of Taliban's top leaders said this evening that he believed were weakened to this conflict, that the people of Afghanistan were behind the Taliban regime. Now, they were concerned in the early days of the air bombardment: Which way would public opinion inside Afghanistan go -- would it go with the Taliban, or would it go against them? Now the government here saying that it has gone with them.

Now, the Taliban today took us to a village about 60 miles west of Jalalabad, where we are now. In that village, they showed us houses that they say had been destroyed in a bombing raid. It was a village, remote, high in the mountains, difficult to get to. There were about 40 to 50 houses there, and about 90 percent of them were destroyed.

People were sifting through the rubble there. They said that they were trying to find loved ones, trying to find property in those houses. People there told us this was just a simple, rural community. They bridled at suggestions that this might have been a terrorist training camp or might have been viewed as a terrorist training camp. They insisted that it was just a rural community. They showed us bomb fragments they said were from American bombs. And, indeed, just 100 yards from the village, a large unexploded bomb stuck in the hillside.

Later on, the Taliban took us to a hospital in Jalalabad where we saw about 17 people who were injured in that same bomb blast in that same village, we are told.

Now, the Taliban said that some 200 people were killed in that blast. We had no independent verification of that. Certainly, in the village itself there were some, perhaps two dozen of so graves. But in the hospital, again, we spoke to survivors, and they talked about airplanes dropping bombs early in the morning. They talked about losing large numbers of loved ones from their families.

One man told us he'd lost four of his children, another said he'd lost his wife; and another two children we saw in the hospital, doctors there told us that they were orphans. The doctors told us that when the casualties first came in there was a big flood of some 28 casualties. Three died; some have subsequently been discharged, but there are 17 still there.

The Taliban have also taken us to sites that we've asked to go to. We asked to go to the airfield, knowing that this had been a site subject to air attacks. Now, we were shown a radar installation that had been hit, the Taliban said, by a cruise missile on the first night of attacks. The airport commander there told us that the airport was now not operating. He said that there were no communications at the airport, that the runway was slightly damaged, but they didn't have any planes that they were able to use from the runway. And for right now, he said the airport was out of action.

On the streets, we've also been able to get an insight into life here in the city of Jalalabad. Some stores are closed. We have seen a few people leaving town today. But the vast majority of stores here are open. There are people out on the streets going about their business as normal. We saw a lady this morning walking down the road carrying a box of washing powder.

A lot of traffic on the road, too. There appears to be no problem at the fuel stations for people getting fuel. People have been able to drive in and fuel up vehicles at will.

So the situation out on the streets here, perhaps fewer people around than would be normal, but a sense of normality, not a sense of abject fear on the streets at this time.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Jalalabad, Afghanistan.


WOODRUFF: And again, Nic Robertson reporting, he is participating in a Taliban-led tour of parts of Afghanistan.

Day eight of U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan coincided with a deadly protest in neighboring Pakistan, where Secretary of State Colin Powell will be tomorrow. CNN's Tom Mintier has been following the demonstrations, and he joins us now live from Islamabad, where it is now Monday morning. Good morning, Tom.


These protests started basically within hours of the first strike a week ago, and now, as they enter the second week, there's a call for a nationwide strike here in Pakistan to demonstrate those who oppose what is going on basically their will to continue on.

Now, as people wake up here in Islamabad this morning, these are the headlines they are looking at. "President Bush Says No to a New Taliban Offer," "Powell Due in Capital Today." Also in the nation, a very large spread talking about Mr. Powell to discuss Kashmir, a new government set-up in Kabul and the attacks.

And also here, "Pakistan Concern at Extended U.S. airstrikes." It has been a concern by the government here, the collateral damage, especially in the last few days. There's concern that that collateral damage will indeed inflame the opposition.

Mr. Powell will be arriving here later in the day, and then tomorrow hold meetings with President Musharraf. You have to remember that Mr. Powell is the one who called President Musharraf to ask him if he was with the United States or with the Taliban well over -- over a month ago that call was made, so there have been several follow-up conversations via telephone. British Prime Minister Tony Blair came here. But as with Mr. Blair, Mr. Powell will also be going to New Delhi as well as Islamabad. So, this trip, very sensitive one, trying to keep one eye on what's going on in Afghanistan and trying to keep the other eye on what is going on in Kashmir.

Now, there have been protests, as you said, yesterday, where at least one person was killed in Jacobabad. These demonstrations, almost a daily affair here, but the violent ones not. The ones where people lose lives not. We have seen in the past week nearly a dozen people killed in demonstrations and scores more injured. This one was at an air base where U.S. planes were located, not offensive strike planes but those involved in logistics.

Now, that is what the Pakistani government has always promised the United States, that they would share intelligence with them, that they would allow them to use their airspace and they would offer logistical support to the United States, so positioning in two air bases of U.S. personnel and U.S. aircraft are causing some grave concern here in the opposition, and they are coming out on the streets, several thousand yesterday around that airport, saying they want to take over the airport and destroy the planes -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Tom, is there a sense among officials you are talking to there that the Powell visit may represent an effort to put pressure, if you will, on the Pakistanis for more support for what the U.S. is doing, or how do they perceive this trip?

MINTIER: Well, these who I talked to perceive this trip as basically providing an update. They are also hopeful that the secretary of state will provide more evidence, if the United States has it, evidence that they could use, evidence that they could make public for the population here.

Now, you have to remember when you look at these demonstrations, they look like everyone in the country is out on the streets. It's a very, very small percentage, very radical, very outspoken, sometimes very violent percentage, but still nonetheless a very vocal minority are really opposed to what the government is doing here. When you travel around, especially here in Islamabad, you find that the majority of people indeed support what the president has done, support siding with the United States, support the war against terror, and without a question everyone you talk to about the bombings on September 11 of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, no one you can find here supports that. WOODRUFF: All right. Tom Mintier, reporting for us where it is Monday morning in Islamabad. Thank you, Tom.

Well, as we were just discussing, the Secretary of State Colin Powell is going to be in Pakistan and then he is off to India. During his visit, the secretary will be trying to shore up support for one war and, as Tom suggested, ease tensions that could set off another. CNN's Christiane Amanpour has more on that.


CHRISTIAN AMANPOUR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to Pakistan is unlikely to change the daily pattern of demonstrations. This one, outside the city of Jacobabad, the location of one of two military bases used by U.S. forces.

Pakistan says there bases will not be used for U.S. combat operations against Afghanistan, just for search and rescue missions.

Pakistan called Powell's trip an important visit at a very important time. It wants an assessment of the war so far.

ABDUL SATTAR, PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTER: We would like to hear from him what's the prognosis, how long is this operation going to go on? Do we see light at the end of the tunnel? And what is it that needs to be done in order to bring this operation to a close?

AMANPOUR: Sattar says Pakistan will also tell Powell that civilian casualties will inflame public opinion here and in the region.

Perhaps, as important as conducting the war in Afghanistan, preventing war between Pakistan and India over the disputed region of Kashmir.

The U.S. administration has been worried about provocative rhetoric coming from India, and Pakistan's president has publicly warned off his nuclear neighbor.

PRESIDENT PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTAN: We know how to defend ourselves. We have the power to defend ourselves. And let there be no illusions about this from across the border at all whatsoever.

AMANPOUR: Under U.S. pressure, India and Pakistan have now cooled down the rhetoric. President Musharraf has called the Indian prime minister to suggest restarting peace talks on Kashmir.

But the leader of the main Kashmiri independence party says the two sides will never reach agreement on their own without the intervention of, quote, "a very powerful third party."

AMANULLAH KHAN, CHAIRMAN, KLE: This entire area, India, Pakistan, Kashmir, Bangladesh, the whole area will have a very peaceful and prosperous future. And if you don't solve this issue, God forbid, the entire area may fall into an atomic war. AMANPOUR: Concerning the current campaign against terrorism, Pakistan expects to hear from Powell about those Pakistani groups that have been put on the new U.S. terrorist watch list, and Pakistan wants to make sure that the United States takes it's views into account when it makes a future political arrangement for Afghanistan, and it also wants to insure that the U.S. support for Pakistan will continue beyond this current war.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Islamabad.


WOODRUFF: And we'll get more on the Pakistani perspective in just a moment when I interview the country's ambassador to the United Nations. We'll be right back.


WOODRUFF: This is new video that has just come to CNN, shot by Al-Jazeera, the Arab television network. These are the skies over Kabul, Afghanistan. I am told that these pictures, that the video was taken Monday morning over Kabul. And beyond that, we don't know much more. It looks smoky, but we can't attest to whether that is smoke, or fog, or what. We had been told that there would be some plane activity, airplane activity in this video, but so far we don't see it. We are showing it to you just as we -- there we are. It does appear to be an aircraft, but too far away for us to make out what it is over Kabul, and we don't see anti-aircraft fire.

And again, those pictures just in to CNN from Al-Jazeera, the Arab network which does have camera crews and correspondents on the ground in Afghanistan.

The support from Pakistan of the U.S. war against terror might come at a high price. As we have been showing you, demonstrators routinely have taken to the streets in protest. Making matters worse are the radical opposition leaders, who stoke the anti-American sentiment for their own political gain.

Joining us now to discuss the challenge to Pakistan's stability is Shamshad Ahmad. He is Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Ambassador, the protests continue, and while they are smaller than what some have feared, do they represent a threat to your president, General Musharraf?

SHAMSHAD AHMAD, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Well, Judy, let us admit these are difficult and sad times. The whole world community have received a wake-up call on the 11th of September, and the whole world was saddened over the tragic events of 11th of September. And even today, the whole world feels the pain and grief of the killing of innocent lives in Afghanistan, even by mistake.

And the -- about the demonstrations that you are asking in Pakistan, well, these are not confined to Pakistan. These demonstrations are taking place all over the world -- in Europe, in Africa, in East Asia, in Middle East. And the scale of demonstrations in Pakistan is sporadic and small, and these have been organized by a fringe element of our society.

WOODRUFF: So, not a threat to your president, is that what you are saying?

AHMAD: Yes, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of the people of Pakistan support the decision and policies of the government of Pakistan in fighting terrorism.

WOODRUFF: But if -- we see these protests at Jacobabad, where there is an air base, your air base, the Americans have said, your president has said, these U.S. planes there are only being used for humanitarian or search and rescue missions. If that's the case, Mr. Ambassador, why are these people so angry and protesting?

AHMAD: Well, as I said earlier, that there is a fringe element of our society which may be instigating these demonstrations, but that does not mean that there is any cause of concern or alarm, as for the government's position is concerned.

WOODRUFF: President Bush, let me ask you about something President Bush said at his news conference on Thursday night. He said the U.S. will pursue this war against the Taliban and the al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, he said it could take months, but he said it could be a year or two. If it took that long, Mr. Ambassador, will Pakistan support it for that long?

AHMAD: Well, it has been our hope right from the beginning that the military operation will be short and targeted, because prolonged operations can obviously have serious implications not only for Pakistan but for the entire region.

WOODRUFF: And so, what does that mean? If it goes a year or two, will Pakistan stay with the U.S. on this?

AHMAD: Well, as far as Pakistan is concerned, we have joined the international coalition in the fight against terrorism. And as far as the military strikes against terrorists are concerned, we are there and we will wait and we hope that the strikes will be over as soon as possible.

Of course, the international campaign against terrorism has to be a prolonged one. In fact, everybody knows that it is a faceless enemy that we are the fighting, and this...

WOODRUFF: But I'm referring to -- excuse me, sir -- I'm referring to what President Bush said at his news conference when he said the fight against the Taliban specifically and the al Qaeda network could take that long.

But let me move on. Secretary of State Colin Powell is -- will be in your country Monday. It is now Monday in Pakistan. Will your government give him the message to speed this along?

AHMAD: Well, we will obviously use this opportunity not only to review the Afghan crisis in all its aspects, including the question as to how and when stable peace can be restored in Afghanistan, but also we would use this opportunity to share with the secretary of state our serious concerns over India's opportunistic and insidious attempts to exploit the tragic events of 11th of September for its self-serving objectives.

WOODRUFF: And finally and very quickly, Mr. Ambassador, the hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees coming into Pakistan -- is your country prepared to handle this?

AHMAD: Well, it is a serious problem for Pakistan. We have been home to more than two and a half million Afghan refugees for more than two decades, and now, with the prospect of continued conflict, there is an impending likelihood of another million and a half entering Pakistan. So, we hope the international community will take measures to provide relief to Afghans inside their country and also to help those who have arrived in Pakistan.

WOODRUFF: Ambassador Shamshad Ahmad, who is the Pakistan ambassador to the United Nations, thank you very much, sir, it's good to see you.

AHMAD: You're welcome.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Latest developments are straight ahead. Plus, more cases of anthrax exposure have been reported. Should you be worried? An expert will try to separate myth from reality when we come back.


WOODRUFF: Welcome back. Here now, another check of the latest developments. A stern rejection today from President Bush to the Taliban's latest offer. They said they would surrender Osama bin Laden to a neutral country if the U.S. stops the bombing and offers proof of bin Laden's involvement in last month's attacks. To that offer, President Bush said, quote, "they must have not heard, there is no negotiations."

U.S.-led strikes against Afghanistan has triggered pockets of protests in several countries. One in Nigeria turned into two days of violence, and according to police left at least 18 people dead. But witnesses tell CNN they saw hundreds of bodies in the streets.

Back in the U.S., good news concerning the anthrax scare in Nevada. Testing done on four people who handled the letter containing anthrax have come back negative. Two other people apparently handled the same letter. Their tests are due back tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a "Boston Globe" editor is also being tested for anthrax exposure, after receiving a suspicious letter in the mail.

The "New York Times" received a similar letter on Friday, which later tested negative for anthrax. Reporter Judy Miller, who was exposed to the suspicious substance, today shared her reaction to the scare and her theory on why the news media is being targeted.


JUDITH MILLER, "NEW YORK TIMES": Although we don't know if there's a connection between the events of September 11 and this new terror campaign, it's clear that there is a terror campaign. And what better way than to spread terror than to send such letters to people in the news media.


WOODRUFF: This bioterrorist attack has created more than a horrible scare at NBC News in New York. Officials now say that three more people who handled an anthrax-laden letter mailed to Tom Brokaw were exposed to anthrax. CNN's Jason Carroll has reaction.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This mail center in Hamilton, New Jersey, processed the letter health officials say is the source of anthrax that infected an NBC employee. The sealed envelope was postmarked September 18 from nearby Trenton, New Jersey and addressed to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw.

Late Sunday, New York's mayor says the police officer who opened that letter, and the two lab technicians who handled it, were exposed to anthrax spores.

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI, NEW YORK: The police officer who actually retrieved the envelope upon testing, spores were found in his nose. And he was treated immediately with Cipro. Two of the lab technicians, one actually has -- was found to have only one spore in her nose or it appears to be one. She's being treated. And another lab technician had some on her face. And she's also being treated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The presence of spores either on in somebody's face or in the nasal passages does not necessarily imply that they were exposed to a sufficient number of spores or that that will ever then lead to any type of disease.

CARROLL: Initially, investigators focused on another letter sent to Brokaw. So far, results from tests on that letter and one sent to "The New York Times" are negative.

To date, the mayor says only one NBC employee, an assistant to Tom Brokaw, has a confirmed case of anthrax. She has a cutaneous form of the disease, a skin infection. A second employee has symptoms which may indicate exposure. Tests are still underway. Both are being treated with antibiotics. Physically, both employees are doing well.

ANDREW LACK, PRESIDENT, NBC NEWS: I feel pretty good that we've worked our way through the health issue, which is my primary concern first, that for my colleagues, they can be assured their health is not at risk.

CARROLL (on camera): There is concern at NBC and in Hamilton, but city officials say it does not appear as if anyone at the mail facility was infected. They say every precaution will be taken here and throughout the system nationwide.

JOHN POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL: Since September 11, we've delivered over 15 billion pieces of mail. We have a handful of cases that are being investigated. So the first thing to do is understand that there's an infinitesimally small risk out there. However, let me assure you that even one case is one too many.

CARROLL (voice-over): And while investigators continue to search for the person who sent the anthrax laced letter, hundreds of NBC employees continue to wait for test results, to see if they were exposed.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Hamilton, New Jersey.


WOODRUFF: From New York to Nevada, cases of anthrax exposure are cropping up. Joining us now to talk about the risk, Drew Richardson. He's the former chief of the FBI's Hazardous Materials Response Unit.

Mr. Richardson, thank you for joining us.


WOODRUFF: We've got, what, eight cased identified in Florida, four confirmed in New York -- scattered in these -- at least in these incidences. If this, though, were a national, much more widespread incidence of terrorism, is the United States prepared to handle that?

RICHARDSON: It would be very difficult to do. Our resources, even with what we have right now, a known pathogen that's relatively non-contagious and well confined within a couple of buildings have stretched the resources of the federal government. So, if we had something much more larger than that, even if we had the same sort of thing that we have right now, additional hoaxes and so forth, it would be very difficult for us to handle it.

WOODRUFF: Is there any doubt in your mind that these were intentional? I mean, there is no other explanation, is there?

RICHARDSON: No, I don't think so. There is a variety of possibilities. It could be terrorist action, a specific, intentional criminal acts, the act of a madman with dangerous materials, or perhaps somebody even practicing at this point, but I think that there probably is intent here.

WOODRUFF: If, as you think about it, I mean, do you -- have you in your own mind concluded what happened, or it just a matter, we've got to do a lot more, you know, there's got to be a lot more testing and researching?

RICHARDSON: Well, I certainly -- I am not involved in the investigation right now, so I don't know. But I'm sure that there is a great deal of work going on right now. WOODRUFF: What's going on right now in the FBI labs? What are they looking at as they conduct the tests that they are doing? We see these men going back and forth in biohazard suits and so forth?

RICHARDSON: Good question. Those people are working in concert with thousands of our investigate FBI agents, perhaps an equal number of support people, and a substantial number of the 1,000-plus people that I formerly work with in the FBI laboratory.

The people that you see in crime scene in the biocontainment suits and so forth are really trying to answer three different questions. Initially, they try to answer what is the agent, the biological agent we are talking about. They are doing a variety of things to see if the various incidences are somehow connected or associated, and they are also trying to associate or disassociate these individual samples with either individuals or groups of people.

WOODRUFF: What are you most concerned about, in terms of what you think -- I mean, you worked in this area of hazardous materials, you have obviously looked at perhaps what the terrorists are capable of doing. Are you most concerned about biological, chemical, or hazardous materials? There are, what, thousands of sites around the United States right now where -- which theoretically terrorists could get and do something with.

RICHARDSON: When that comes into play, I'm probably most concerned about biological agents. My background stems from the analytical chemistry and biology. I think most of our analytical problems lie on the biology side, but all of those could present problems. But specifically to answer your question, what I am concerned about are multiple incidents occurring at the same that would stretch our resources, perhaps a mixed incident involving both a chemical or a biological agent that might confuse identification. So, there are a number of scenarios that I'm worried about.

WOODRUFF: Why are you most concerned about the biological threat? And you are talking about smallpox, or anthrax, what?

RICHARDSON: Well, I'm concerned for a number of reasons. What we have right now, what we appear to have right now is a rather simple case, again, where we have a pathogen, which is relatively noncontagious and in a confined environment, but what we could have as a biological incident where people were infected because of the incubation time they have enough time to scatter around the country or the world, and it might not even be clear that we had an incident until it was too late to deal with the public health considerations.

WOODRUFF: Do you believe that the bin Laden network, the al Qaeda network would have the capability to do something like that?

RICHARDSON: I really don't know. There is some reason to believe that perhaps they do, but even when I was working with the FBI -- I, as you know, just recently retired -- I was not involved in gathering intelligence, but was a chemist and a biologist for them.

WOODRUFF: But again, your concern is that if there were a widespread incident, the question is: Is the United States prepared to deal with it on such a large scale?

RICHARDSON: Yes, I am very concerned about that. I think one point that needs to be made, though: We as individuals -- there are two different issues about should we be concerned. I think the question that is often being talked about is should we be concerned and why. The question I'm really concerned about should we be concerned and what. If you were to ask me, am I concerned about being involved in a chemical/biological event myself personally, or should you be concerned or the viewers, I think absolutely not.

I think we ought to be concerned because if one American is involved, we are all concerned, as was the case with that which occurred on September 11.

WOODRUFF: All right. Drew Richardson, who is the former head of the FBI Hazardous Materials Response Unit, we thank you very much for joining us.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. Thank you.

As winter approaches in Afghanistan, what's in store for the Northern Alliance? We're going to hear from one of its leaders when we come back.

And, what part could an early winter play in the conflict? An important forecast coming up.


WOODRUFF: Part of the diplomatic juggling act in Afghanistan involves the Northern Alliance, the opposition group, and what its leaders will do if the Taliban falls. Part of the Pentagon's plans involve the food drops and how to make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands.

CNN's Chris Burns looks at both concerns in this report.


CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More bombs hit Kabul overnight. The airport, an artillery base and military academy reportedly among the targets. The U.S. led air raids also strike at the Taliban in at least three northern provinces. But still relatively quiet on the frontline north of Kabul. No sign of a Northern Alliance buildup. In fact, the Alliance is trying to finish an airstrip north of the front in the coming days. The Alliance denies that's an admission a campaign for Kabul is a long way off.

DR. ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, NORTHERN ALLIANCE FOREIGN MINISTER: This does not suggest that we have to hold throughout this year or throughout the winter.

BURNS: Still there are reports Washington, which has set to arm the Northern Alliance is pressing for a post-Taliban coalition before Kabul would fall in order to avoid to possible factional fighting. The Alliance rejects the idea.

ABDULLAH: Lack of political agreement at this stage will not affect the tactics used in the military operation.

BURNS: But Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has warned the Alliance not to take advantage of the situation. Pakistan demands its Pashtun brothers in Southern Afghanistan be adequately represented in any post-Taliban government. The Northern Alliance, which calls itself the United Front, includes Pashtun, but is mainly Tajik and Uzbek.

Could Washington be listening less to the Alliance than to Pakistan, a regional nuclear power shaken by unrest?

ABDULLAH: I hope they don't. I hope that the situation is not as you put it. Listen in to Islamabad more than listening to the Afghans resulted to the present situation.

BURNS: Meanwhile, aid officials are calling U.S. airdrops of humanitarian aid over Afghanistan a drop in the bucket. They urge a cease-fire to allow land shipments so hundreds of thousands don't starve over the winter.

The Northern Alliance contends the Taliban won't let food shipments cross the frontlines.

ABDULLAH: Their policy is to starve the nation in order to be able to rule.

BURNS (on camera): Who will rule the nation, and what could starve the nation: winter, war, or both? Questions that hang in the balance in a conflict with a front line that's dead in its tracks.

Chris Burns, CNN, in Northern Afghanistan.


WOODRUFF: Well, whatever course the conflicts takes, U.S. forces will soon have to contend with Afghanistan's notoriously harsh winter weather.

Jacqui Jeras is in the CNN weather center in Atlanta with a look at what they will be facing.

Jacqui, what do we see as we look into the days and weeks ahead at the weather in that country?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well Judy, so far the month of October has actually seen pretty tranquil weather, outside of a dust storm on October 4. And we expect the next week, at least, to be relatively calm as well.

But we're starting to see some changes. The temperatures are starting to cool down as we head towards the winter months. Of course, the climate here is very dependent upon the elevation. The higher in elevation you go, the colder the temperatures and the harsher the winner.

Now, Kabul sits right here into a valley region. It sits at just below 6,000 feet, which is comparable to Denver, Colorado. Now, temperature-wise, over November, December and January, you can see the average highs here: 60 in November drops down to 35 for an average high in January.

Already in the month of December -- November, rather, our average low is 34 degrees. So that flirts with the freezing mark; and it is not unusual to see snowfall in Kabul in the month of November.

However, this is a landlocked country, so moisture is very, very limited. We only get, on average, about 4/10 of an inch of precipitation there in November, 8/10 in December. And you can see it increases as we head through the rest of the winter.

Now, if this all fell as liquid precipitation, these numbers are correct. But if they fell in the solid form, you can multiply these numbers by 10. So if it all came in the form of snow, we're talking about four inches in November, eight inches in December, and just over 10 inches in January.

But as I mentioned, skies now are clear over that region. No major weather systems are on the way. Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jacqui, thank you very much for that perspective that we haven't been getting very much; thank you.

The status of the military campaign. Coming up next, we'll talk with former NATO Commander General Wesley Clark.


WOODRUFF: Now we are joined by our military analyst General Wesley Clark, former supreme commander of NATO.

Good evening General Clark. I want to ask you first -- thank you for being with us.

I want to ask you first about a report in the "Washington Post" today that the Taliban have virtually deserted all their military bases, their training camps; they have dispersed themselves, according to this report, among the civilian populated areas. Does that make sense to you?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It does make sense, but it also puts them at risk. And in this case, if the Northern Alliance has with wherewithal to take active measures and actually begin an operation against them, they'll have to pull back together in order to defend their territory. So they're taking a calculated risk in this. They're risking the fact that the Northern Alliance won't come after them, and they're responding to the threat of U.S. air power.

WOODRUFF: But if they are dispersing themselves among the people, what good are further air strikes? CLARK: Well, the air strikes themselves are only part of the tactic. This is a more complicated operation than that. It's the air strikes; it's the possibility of special forces incursions on the ground, targeting from special forces and unmanned vehicles overhead, and the possibility that the Northern Alliance will be able to attack and change the balance on the ground inside Afghanistan. So there are many pieces in motion here. Their dispersal is a reaction to only one piece of the plan.

WOODRUFF: And I hear you saying that it's inevitable that ground forces are going to be engaged very soon?

CLARK: Well, I think it's going to be important to get some eyes in there on the ground. They may already be there; we don't know. It hasn't actually been confirmed in any specific sense by the Pentagon. But as the weather starts to close in, as you get cloud cover -- and when you're trying to determine who is in a building or what vehicles are actually doing, you can't see it that well from 20,000 feet. You really need people closer and in continuous observation.

WOODRUFF: But if the Taliban and the al Qaeda forces are doing what's described here -- and what you're saying sounds plausible -- aren't we talking about much higher potential civilian casualties?

CLARK: Well, I think we're talking about a much tougher fight, and a longer fight. I think United States is going to be very careful to avoid civilian casualties; so I think it's just going to make the task more complicated. But it's also going to open opportunities for the Northern Alliance, and eventually the Taliban will have to respond to that pressure.

WOODRUFF: What about reports, general Clark, the Northern Alliance now believing that the U.S. has held off hitting some areas close to where it could take advantage and move in because the U.S. wants to be careful not to give the Northern Alliance a leg up at this point?

CLARK: Well, I've seen these reports, but I also know that the Northern Alliance is really being strengthened by outside elements, and more equipment and more trainings and so forth. This is going to take some time.

And Since the 11th of September there's been very little time, really, to get new supplies and new equipment in to the Northern Alliance. So it may also be that there are people just waiting to strengthen the Northern Alliance a little bit more so that when it makes a move it's more decisive.

One thing that would be very unfortunate would be for the Northern Alliance to make an offensive move, then be repulsed, and then be defeated.

WOODRUFF: And general, a report in "The New Yorker" magazine out today by the investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in which he says, among other things, that a U.S. spy plane, on the first night of the war, about a week ago, identified the lotion of Mullah Omar, who is the leader of the Taliban in a certain building, sought permission -- the forces sought permission to go after him, but the central command -- commander General Tommy Franks said don't do that. And as a result Mullah Omar escaped and Sey Hersh goes on to report that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld very angry about this. Is this plausible?

CLARK: It is plausible, because all of targeting done by the United States is going to be done in accordance with the strictest standards of international law. And the command is going to do everything it can, and the commander is going to do everything he can not to strike innocent civilians. And so if there's a chance -- if there's a possibility of misidentification, if there are a lot of civilians in the area, then they're going to be very cautious about striking.

And I think this is warranted by the extremely difficult political circumstances we find, for example, in Pakistan.

WOODRUFF: And the same if they got that close bin Laden? Or should they do the same thing?

CLARK: Well, I think there will always be a calculation when they find an enemy commander as to what the risks are in striking him, and what the certainty is. If you a 10 percent belief that that was the mullah in there and you wanted to strike him and you had a 75 percent chance that you were going to kill 100 civilians in the process, I'm not sure the commander ought to make that kind of a move. I wouldn't want to second-guess the commander at this point. My belief would be he's got the best source of information; if that, in fact, is what happened, then he probably did the right thing.

WOODRUFF: All right, former NATO commander General Wesley Clark, thank you very much.

CLARK: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it; good to see you tonight.

WOODRUFF: Coming up next, CNN's Garrick Utley on some stories that were missed over the last month.


WOODRUFF: Did you hear about the Defense Department intelligence analyst who turned out to be spy for Fidel Castro? Probably not. It would have been a big news story if the terrorist attacks on America had not happened.

CNN's Garrick Utley reports on this and other stories that got little notice last month because the world was transfixed on the horrors of September 11.


GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In any other month, the nation's attention would have been riveted on the tragedy in Texas September 15th when a tug pushing four barges brought down the Queen Isabella Causeway. Eight people died when their cars plunged into the water.

In any other month, the explosion of a petrochemical plant in Toulouse, France would have dominated television screens. 29 people died, 3,000 were injured, and thousands of homes surrounding this ground zero were destroyed. Officials say it was probably an accident.

And in any other month, the raising of the Kursk and the recovery of the Russians who died in it would have touched our emotions even more deeply.

But then this has not been any other month. Still, much has happened in our world that's had nothing to do with terrorism or new wars. Perhaps we've noted some events in passing, while other events have merely passed.

What is news at a time like this?

Did you hear the news announced on September 19th of the first operation performed totally by remote control? The surgeons in New York City successfully removed the gall bladder of a patient in Strassburg, France. In the future, patients anywhere may have access to the world's top surgeons.

If our attention this past month has been on this man with a gun, and a beard, and a dislike of American power, he's not the first. Fidel Castro has grown from your revolutionary to old revolutionary and this past month it was discovered that one of his top spies was working for the Defense Department as its top intelligence analyst on Cuba.

At any other time, Castro's spy would have been a major story. But this month, the Pentagon and the nation had other concerns.

In China, the world changed this past month, not with a bang, but with one goal.

China, for the first time qualified for soccer's World Cup. There was great joy in China.

And then there is the story of 62-year-old Ninad Bailage (ph), a cardiologist from Chicago with a wife and children. His dream was to row across the Atlantic Ocean alone. On Sunday, his emergency beacon was activated 230 miles short of the Irish Coast. A search has found no sign of Ninad Bailage (ph).

Since September 11th, of course, just about everyone has been searching for ways to cope with the tragedy and honor its victims, including the U.S. Postal Service. It will soon issue this new commemorative first class stamp with the American flag and the words "United We Stand." The Postal Service also announced that it would request a three cent increase in the price of first class postage to 37 cents. You didn't hear about that? That's because the announcement was made on September 11th.

Garrick Utley, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Isn't it extraordinary, what we missed.

Well, here now are some of the latest developments we're following tonight. New York officials say a police officer and two lab technicians involved in the NBC News anthrax case have tested positive for exposure to the bacteria. None has developed the illness, however. Meanwhile, Nevada officials say four people exposed to a contaminated letter to Microsoft have tested negative, while results on two others are pending.

U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan resumed at nightfall, hitting Taliban positions north of Kabul. Sources tell CNN the targets were weapons that had been moved to the mountains outside the city.

And President Bush says if the Taliban want air strikes to stop, they must turn over Osama bin Laden, period. Mr. Bush harshly rejected the latest Taliban offer to surrender Osama bin Laden to a third country if the U.S. proves his involvement in the September 11 attacks.

I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. More news at any time. CNN PRESENTS: "The Struggle for Islam" begins right now.




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