Wednesday, November 14, 2001

NEW YORK - Following closely behind Northern Alliance forces into the Afghan capital of Kabul on Tuesday were American television networks.

Cable news networks repeatedly flashed pictures showing caravans of soldiers waving as they rode on tanks and other vehicles, crowds of people celebrating in the streets and men defiantly shaving their beards.

For correspondents in Afghanistan, the mood isn’t nearly as euphoric, said David Verdi, NBC’s executive director of news.

“You can’t trust anybody you see with a gun,” Mr. Verdi said. “You just don’t know. It’s really like the wild, wild West. In a situation like that, you’re completely on edge.”

NBC’s Tom Aspell talked his way past a roadblock about 50 miles north of Kabul and reported from the city via videophone for the “Today” show and MSNBC on Tuesday.

CNN’s Matthew Chance and camera crews arrived in Kabul with plenty of luggage - two videophones and two satellite dishes. The dish was immediately used to carry a news conference and interview with the Northern Alliance’s foreign minister.

In several live reports on Tuesday, Mr. Chance said that he saw gruesome sights while traveling around Kabul, including bodies strewn in parks and drainage ditches that citizens were spitting on.

Such reports weren’t accompanied by pictures, however. The footage seen on CNN was mostly celebratory, although the network briefly showed bloody bodies, prisoners of war with their hands tied with twine, and one man violently jerking the long beard of another. None of the networks had pictures from the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, where a wave of executions was reported after the Taliban left over the weekend.

Fox News Channel’s Steve Harrigan made it into Kabul on Tuesday but his satellite equipment didn’t. It was damaged in an accident en route, spokesman Rob Zimmerman said. Mr. Harrigan reported via videophone, and Fox News Channel also used video transmitted by Associated Press Television News.

Two ABC correspondents made it into Kabul on Tuesday. CBS was still waiting for its people to arrive, but a radio reporter, Lara Logan, walked the streets of the city with a microphone for a report on the “CBS Evening News.”

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