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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Helicopter Downing In Midst of Large-scale Offensive

Aired March 4, 2002 - 09:12   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.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: As we have been reporting this morning, there has been at least six American Fatalities in the shooting down of a U.S. Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan. Now, that downing comes in what is termed the biggest offensive there so far this year.

For more on the helicopter and its mission, we turn to CNN Military Analyst General George Harrison, who joins us from Atlanta. Good morning, sir.

GENERAL GEORGE HARRISON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good morning.

ZAHN: First off, your reaction to this horrible news.

HARRISON: Well, first of all, obviously it is bad news. This is our first confirmed combat loss that we have had to deal with so far in this operation. So, it certainly has a sobering effect on the people who are planning and executing the operation. We see on the screen an MH-46, the CH-46 is probably what was downed. This is a main stay of the Army's transportation capability as they move their troops and supplies around the battlefield.

ZAHN: All right. You said this might have a sobering effect on the Pentagon as it sort of moves ahead on its strategy. What do you think the impact will be on its ongoing operations?

HARRISON: Well, I think the first impact is what is going to happen tactically and directly in the operation that is going on right now. Probably it won't effect the Pentagon so much as it will affect the people who are working the operation.

Their first action, of course, is to recover the casualties, the people who were -- who were unfortunately involved in the situation. The second thing that they will do is assess the situation, figure out what's going on, and how this helicopter loss affects their overall game plan. And then, third, they will defer their sadness and their sorrow and their grieving. Until the situation becomes clear, the mission will come first.

ZAHN: What does this say, though, about the resistance level of this pocket of Taliban and al Qaeda members who this mission was supposed to snuff out?

HARRISON: Well, I think, obviously, they are doing what they can to make their area secure, and make their operation stay as -- make their sanctuary remain sanctuary. We don't know what brought the helicopter down. We don't know whether it was a surface-to-air missile, a heat seeker of some kind, or if it was some kind of ground fire. So, we will have to wait to assess that. But that will give us a little clearer idea of the kinds of resistance that is going on there in that operation.

ZAHN: Were you surprised over the weekend when you realized just how strong this offensive was going to become?

HARRISON: Not really. This is -- this area has been a problem area for quite some time. I think there's been quite a bit of planning to try to figure how to get into there and dig these folks out. We've heard a lot about sophisticated weapons, but I think the surprising thing or the startling thing to -- that comes back to all of us, is that infantry has to get the job done. And this is, in fact, infantry coalition, Afghan infantry and U.S. infantry.

ZAHN: General George Harrison, thank you very much for joining us.

HARRISON: You bet. Good to be here.

ZAHN: I know, when we heard news of this, we yanked you out of your regular goings-on. We appreciate your dropping by.

HARRISON: Certainly.

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