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Vause: Escalation of tensions over Kashmir

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- U.S.-led forces continued to pound Afghanistan targets on Wednesday, from the front-line Taliban positions in the north to several sections of Kandahar in the southeast.

And while the campaign persisted, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was faced with an increasingly daunting task -- while he's hoping to temporarily ease tensions between Pakistan and India, the two countries are growing increasingly hostile over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

CNN's John Vause is in Islamabad following the events.

VAUSE: As of a few hours ago, the Al Jazeera television network is reporting strikes on Kandahar. We are trying to get confirmation on that at this stage. But indeed Kandahar has been hit quite hard, especially over the last 24 hours. The situation is not changing. If anything, the airstrikes are becoming more intense as the days go by.

We're being told that the Taliban military capabilities have been severely degraded, that they've lost jets, helicopters, their defense systems are down, radars, as well as surface-to-air missiles.

The Taliban showed a CNN crew in Kandahar what they said was a bus that was hit by either a missile or U.S. bomb. What they are saying is, 18 people were on board that bus when it was hit and they claim that no one survived that strike. However, there's no way of verifying that claim independently.

The other situation as far as Kandahar goes -- power has been cut to the city, and we're being told that hospitals there treating civilians injured in this air campaign are running low on supplies.

The other major development out of this part of the world is the situation in Kashmir. Early today, a spokesman for Pakistani President Musharraf -- his name is Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi -- he interrupted a fairly standard briefing of journalists at the foreign ministry to inform us that Indian forces were massing on the Line of Control. India, for its part, has denied building up any forces on that part of the world. Pakistan has said it is confident that this is going on and has warned India that it will take appropriate action in any retaliation.

Of course, this comes after two days of fire across the border there. We know that India fired first, alleging that Pakistan forces had infiltrated Indian ground. We know this is a very volatile part of the world and over the past almost 50 years there have been many sporadic fights and two wars fought over the issue of Kashmir, so I guess sporadic border fire in this part of the world is not unusual. But there has been, in fact, a 10-month cease-fire. But this is obviously coming to an end now,

Obviously, this is an escalation of tensions in this region, which the United States could do without. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell had visited with President Musharraf from Pakistan, as well as the Indian prime minister, to try to get both countries to stand down. Both countries have nuclear capability. This is a complication which the United States certainly doesn't need on this front line in its war against terror.

CNN: Pakistan putting its troops on alert -- what exactly does that mean?

VAUSE: The interesting thing at that press conference that Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi interrupted -- when we pushed him for details as to where these Indian troops were going and what the Pakistani response was, he said he would not release that information because of security concerns. Basically, he wasn't about to give anything away. He, in fact, was very steadfast. All he would say was that Pakistan had information of Indian troops moving and that the Pakistani forces were placed on high alert.

I guess you can imagine that Pakistani troops are always on high alert, especially in that part of the world, given the tension between these two countries.


• U.S. bombs Taliban front lines
October 17, 2001

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