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Has bin Laden Left Tora Bora?

Aired December 16, 2001 - 07:24   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.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, several new developments this morning from the war in Afghanistan. Joining me with some insight is Retired Army Major Gene Hanratty.

Good morning sir. Good to see you.

MAJ. GENE HANRATTY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Good morning, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, let's get right to this new news. We've had a lot of stuff breaking this morning. The reports now that a senior Afghan commander is saying that Osama bin Laden has left Tora Bora. What is your first reaction to that?

HANRATTY: He might be out of the complex that they've been in there at Tora Bora. But I still strongly suspect that he's in the area, out a place to hide but probably on the run. And I doubt that he's crossed the border into Pakistan.

PHILLIPS: I guess one thing I want to know is how does someone like this -- how can he be on the run without military and somehow with reconnaissance and surveillance and the advances the U.S. military has, not being able to see him in one way or another moving about.

HANRATTY: Well, there have been some sightings of him, you know, by some of the local indigenous people. It's a big area and to think that you can constantly have your eyes on the target is a little bit misleading. But I think that their intelligence from both signal intelligence and human intelligence is good enough that while he might not be in those cave complexes, that he's on the ground and he is running, slowly, but you know, using the term "running."

PHILLIPS: And yesterday, our Ben Wedeman had been -- picked up some radio chatter on the battlefield radio. What do you make of that? There has been some word that folks believe it was Osama bin Laden. Would Osama bin Laden be talking on a radio that even one of our reporters could pick him up on?

HANRATTY: Well, I personally think that scared people do funny things when they're under pressure. He could well be in that position right now. I strongly suspect that he is.

And if they did pick him up, I suspect that probably got tapes of it and can voice fingerprint him to determine if it really was him or not too.

PHILLIPS: Let's backtrack now a little bit history wise. I was reading your experience with Vietnam, your time in Cambodia and the similarities that you see this war and the war you were in, some similarities with strategy. What do you see or observe that we are doing now that happened before?

HANRATTY: I think you're still seeing sort of the classic Special Forces type mission where they'll go in and they'll work with the people that are from that country. And I think Special Forces did that very well in Vietnam where we'll let them carry the fight, you know, to the opponent rather than us doing it directly ourselves. But still, at the same time, making excellent use of our airports to act as a force multiplier forum. And that bombing campaign has certainly been very affective as it was in Vietnam.

PHILLIPS: And it seems now, that the threat is more so mines and booby traps versus Taliban troops. Do you agree with that? Do you believe the troops are pretty much under control and now it's the mines and the booby traps that are the main concerns?

HANRATTY: I've always been concerned about that. You know, looking at it from a distance. As you go into some of these caves and start trying to clear those, you know, there's been a lot of that they've had to be concerned about in the way of booby traps whether it was trip wire type booby troops or pressure release devices or the worst of all kinds, and we know that they'll do it, whether it's a human that's going to sacrifice themselves, as their booby traps have a sore too.

PHILLIPS: Also, you made a point about the -- watching the involvement on the ground and how the military is performing training. It is really proving true that this training has paid off for so many years.

HANRATTY: Oh, it has and I've had a lot of people ask me, you know, just how this climate and the topography affects them. But you've got to realize that all of these Special Operational forces from all the different services go out of their way to find the tough topography and the different climates to work in so that they can know that they themselves and their equipment are going to carry them through in that -- in those circumstances.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about the military planners in full force right now. Explain to me the role of a military planner and how that is taking precedence right now.

HANRATTY: Well, there's a lot that they've got to be looking at. You know, and it's not as though that they're just looking at today. As they capture and get new intelligence, they've always got to be looking a couple of days ahead and a couple of steps ahead to determine what those guys on the ground are doing, you know, your opponent as well as what you want to do with your own forces. So they're -- they stay busy and I'm sure with all the different cave complexes that they've got there that one by one, you know, they're targeting those off and saying, well, where's he going to shift to now?

And as you look at the current situation, if all of them are in fact out of the caves and they're on the run, they've got to start looking for just what routes they're going to be using on the ground to try and make it out across the border into Pakistan.

PHILLIPS: And when you talk about them marking off and finding places and sort of narrowing it down, what about this possible chemical, biological and even nuclear weapon site that has been discovered in southern Afghanistan? How significant is this?

HANRATTY: Well, I think the significance of that carries on into just what we could see for their capabilities and any other actions they'd want to take throughout the world, pretty daunting.

PHILLIPS: Retired Army Major Gene Hanratty, thank you so much.

HANRATTY: Thank you.

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