The Washington Postand Los Angeles Timeslead with and the New York Timesfronts the Northern Alliance's claim that it captured five northern Afghan provinces after its victory in Mazar-i-Sharif. The NYT leads with and the others front President's Bush frank speech on the anti-terrorism campaign before the General Assembly of the United Nations. Bush told the U.N. that the time for expressing sympathy for America's loss on Sept. 11 had passed, and now each country must take action to stop terrorism by taking away terrorists' funding or by sharing intelligence or by coordinating law enforcement.
The Taliban admitted losing Mazar-i-Sharif yesterday and blamed U.S. airstrikes for their defeat, the papers report. The two Northern Alliance fronts are within 50 miles of each other, and should they meet, the rebels would control one-third of Afghanistan, up from 10 percent before U.S. strikes began. Yesterday the U.S. bombed Taliban troops who had come out of hiding and were fleeing from Northern Alliance advances. Only the WP story has an official U.S. assessment of the Northern Alliance victories: A defense official said he was moderately confident that the Northern Alliance could hold Mazar-i-Sharif but noted there were still some groups of Taliban troops in the city. The Northern Alliance has sent these troops a peace offering, a copy of the Quran, to try to convince them to surrender. Bush yesterday encouraged the rebels but warned them not to enter Kabul because, as has previously been reported, the U.S. doesn't want to have any one Afghan faction in charge of the capital.
The papers agree that Bush's language at the U.N. was tough. The LAT offers this particularly graphic quote from the president's speech: "The only alternative to victory is a nightmare world where every city is a potential killing field." The coverage reports that Bush gave U.N. members a taste of how the U.S. might thank important coalition partners when he announced at a news conference that $1 billion has been earmarked for Pakistan. The papers suggest that some member countries were not fully on board with Bush's plan, despite such enticement. Bush was not interrupted by applause during his speech, they note (though only the LAT provides context, saying the speech's applause response was typical for U.N. meetings). While America's friends praised Bush for his "great determination" (the French foreign minister's words, quoted in the WP), the NYT calls other reactions "restrained." Some nations seemed willing to continue to express their sympathy for the U.S., but their delegates said little about committing themselves any further to the anti-terrorism effort, as Bush asked them to do. In fact, some U.N. delegates criticized Bush for not discussing issues they appeared to care more about: For some Africans, it was disease and poverty, and for some Middle Eastern countries, it was the peace process. "The world is moving on," said one African diplomat quoted in the NYT.
Today's WP follows up on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's recent claim that his nuclear weapons are secure with some detail on how he has made sure that is so. In the last weeks, Musharraf, worried that his nuclear arsenal would be vulnerable to attack after Sept. 11, ordered it moved to at least six secret locations. The president also removed officials sympathetic to the Taliban from positions where they might have been close to Pakistan's nukes.
The nuclear threat is real, warns the LAT front. The pre-Sept. 11 assumption was the terrorists would not touch radioactive materials given that such activity could put them at serious risk, but now assumptions are changing. In the words of one former defense official, "Absent a major new initiative, we have every reason to expect there will be an act of nuclear terrorism in the next decade, maybe sooner." Russia is likely to be (or have been?) a source for terrorists looking to acquire nuclear material. The U.S. has verified the disappearance of highly enriched uranium from a plant in the former Soviet Union, and there have been dozens of similar incidents. While previous reporting has tended to follow up such disconcerting information with quotes from Western officials saying they don't think it's likely terrorists have nuclear material or know-how, this LAT piece simply says U.S. officials don't know if they do. Bin Laden recently told a Pakistani newspaper he does have nuclear weapons, the paper says, news which first appeared in the U.S. press yesterday.
The WP front gives the misstepping Red Cross more bad press. It seems that the Red Cross over-collected blood after Sept. 11 and now will have to burn the extra since it will go bad. Worse, the organization knew that the blood it was encouraging people to give would not go to victims of Sept. 11, and it told donors their blood would be frozen for future use even though it did not have the resources to freeze large amounts of blood.
The unanimous vote to accept China into the World Trade Organization makes the front of the WP and LAT. In a delicate bit of maneuvering, the trade body will accept Taiwan into the organization on Sunday.