Answers to Your Most-Asked Questions

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JACK GUEZ/AFP

Families come from villages around the Afghan city of Khwaja Bahuddine to receive aid

Why are we providing humanitarian aid even as we drop bombs on Afghanistan?

The U.S. is providing humanitarian aid to the Afghan people in part because it’s the right thing to do — and in part because it’s diplomatically expedient.

President Bush has emphasized repeatedly that the Afghan people are not our enemies, and they therefore should not suffer unduly during our military strikes against the ruling Taliban regime. With that pledge in mind, the U.S. military has dropped nearly 40,000 aid packages into Afghanistan since the bombing began on Sunday. Even before the air strikes began, the Bush administration pledged $320 million in aid to the Afghan people; some in Congress expect that figure to rise precipitously if the strikes continue into the looming, bitter Central Asian winter.

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Is the Northern Alliance good?

In the sense that members of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance are anti-Taliban, they are friends of the United States. This ragtag group of "freedom fighters" has fought unsuccessfully for five years to unseat the Taliban regime — and many observers hope the U.S.-led strikes against the Taliban will finally allow members of the Northern Alliance to take up active roles in Afghanistan’s government.

Are we trying to set up a new government in Afghanistan? Who should be the new ruler? Most strategists hope that the Taliban will be unseated by the current strikes — and many hope to make a powerful statement by returning the country’s banished former king Mohammed Zaher Shah to power. The 86-year old Shah has been living in Rome since he was deposed in 1973; it’s not clear whether he would be interested in taking up the throne again.

When was the Osama bin Laden video taken? Does it mean anything?

The video of Osama bin Laden that was broadcast on October 7th shows the exiled terrorist leader wearing Army fatigues and resting a rifle against his side. The video was shot during daylight, and many believe it was taken early in the day of October 7th, before the U.S.-led attacks on Afghanistan began. The video, which shows bin Laden praising God for the destruction at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, is essentially a propaganda tool for bin Laden and his followers. In it, bin Laden tells viewers the U.S. war against him is a war against Islam, and emphasizes the past "crimes" committed against the Arab world by Western governments.

In the U.S., what increased security measures are being taken to guard against another terrorist attack?

Attorney General John Ashcroft has asked American businesses and the general public to be on "high alert," given what he believes to be a heightened risk for more terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Police and national guardsmen have been stationed in and around cities, providing increased security to major thoroughfares, bridges and tourist attractions. Ashcroft has also asked the FBI to temporarily suspend investigations into the September 11th attacks in order to focus on taking preventative measures against any imminent attacks.

Are airports still open? Are trains and buses still running?

All U.S. airports are currently open, and they are operating under enhanced security measures. Likewise, trains and buses are running. Travelers may experience delays when checking in or checking luggage, and everyone should be prepared to show identification when boarding a plane, bus or train.

Is New York City open?

New York City is very much open for business, as Mayor Rudy Giuliani likes to remind all of us. Local leaders are urging residents and tourists alike to get out, see a show, visit a museum, try a new restaurant — all painless measures designed to keep spirits up and the city’s economy out of the red.