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Military Strategy and Propaganda in Afghanistan

Aired October 22, 2001 - 05:33   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well let's talk some more about the strategy in effect right now. You know a limited number of ground troops have been used in Afghanistan. CNN has learned that about 100 special forces troops were used in the assault in Kandahar.

Now what makes specialized troops so uniquely qualified to handle situations like this we wonder. Joining us this morning is Colonel Bob Stewart. He's a former British U.N Commander in Bosnia. He joins us from our London bureau this morning.

Good morning sir. Glad to have you with us today.

COL. BOB STEWART, FORMER BRITISH U.N. COMMANDER: Good morning.

HARRIS: Well let me begin by asking you about the question just posed by our Matthew Chance there in his report about the change in strategy right now. Now that we've seen reports of -- I think it's called substantial -- that's the report we saw -- was substantial bombing now at Taliban front-line forces and we've seen that there have been these troops that are dropped in on Friday.

What do you make of where things are right now?

STEWART: I think we're watching a change in tempo and a change that's going to build towards putting troops in on the ground in Afghanistan and in by the middle of November, I would hope, before the feast of Ramadan, the Muslim Holy Feast of Ramadan starts.

So that we've actually got troops on the ground so that we can start getting aid in and then we can chase Mr. bin Laden right up to his cave and get him that way. There's no other way of getting this man. We've got to actually send troops in and the British Army have a saying, cold steel is the ultimate weapon.

With him it is -- we're going to have to go and get him.

HARRIS: Well how much of a tempo will pick up here will we have to see to actually accomplish that within the time we have between now and Ramadan or before winter sets in even?

STEWART: I don't think we're going to get -- I mean I would just like to see us have a foothold in the country so that we can have some kind of base. Obviously the action by raids or hit and run fighting patrols has happened is probably the way forward, but equally we've got to think of winning the hearts and minds in the region because we will not win this war if the majority of people in the region think it's been won unfairly, and that actually there's -- there is not a just war being fought.

And a lot of people in the region believe that actually the United States and its allies are being unfair to bomb, for example, of putting people into hospitals. So I would like to see the bombing lessen in a way or being more targeted onto the Taliban forces and us put soldiers on the ground to chase the people that actually did September the 11th and actually catch them.

HARRIS: Yes you bring up a very interesting point here -- the psychological battle for the hearts and minds of the people there. Is there -- there is no real easy way to overcome the propaganda boiler we've seen the Taliban wage thus far. When you put together a picture of a child in a hospital and then you combine that with a religious message as well, that's awfully potent.

How do you overcome that?

STEWART: Well you've just got to act with decency and honor. You've got to actually get in on the ground and go after the people that have done it. No one in their right mind, and frankly there are a whole lot of lunatics in the world that are -- that are preaching at the moment, and no one in their right mind would doubt that the United States has the right to chase the people that carried out this dreadful atrocity.

So let's chase those people. Let's go after them. That means bin Laden, his organization the Taliban. It does not mean the people of Afghanistan and unfortunately, bombing from the air, it can be indiscriminate even though the targeting is precise and the weapons are very accurate.

Unfortunately you still get casualties and those casualties then whip up international public opinion, particularly in the Islamic world against what's happening. So if we put soldiers on the ground, if we continue the raid action, and go after the people that did it, we've actually probably get a better foothold back into the propaganda war.

I mean I must say it's very difficult for people in the west to understand this propaganda war being won by the other side, but frankly, if you listen to what people are saying in the region, they are not convinced of our right -- of our right to go and do what we're doing. So we've got to convince them, and we will convince them if actually they see people not being attacked, people being fed because there are four million of them that are actually likely to starve this winter.

If they're being fed, if they're not being attacked, and we go after the people that have done it, and that is the military objective after all. Get bin Laden. Get the al Qaeda organization and destroy the regime that supports it. And if we do that, I think we'll get much better, much more on top in the propaganda war. HARRIS: It'll be interesting to see how much time that would take in people's minds in that region of the world, but we're out of time this morning.

Colonel Bob Stewart, thank you very much for your time today. We certainly appreciate it and we hope to talk to you sometime down the road.

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