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Aired December 11, 2001 - 04:31   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.
ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

MICHAEL MCMANUS, CO-HOST: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael McManus.

SHARON NORTH, CO-HOST: And I'm Sharon North.

The Bush administration is debating whether to release a videotape that reportedly shows Osama bin Laden bragging about his involvement in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just reminded me what a murderer he is and how right and just our cause is. I couldn't imagine somebody like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah, or the joy of Christmas, or celebrating peace and hope. This man wants to destroy any semblance of civilization for his own power and his own good.

He's so evil that he's willing to send young men to commit suicide while he hides in caves. And while we celebrate peace and lightness, I fully understand, in order to make sure peace and lightness exist in the future we must bring him to justice, and we will. But for those who see this tape, they'll realize that not only is he guilty of incredible murder, he has no conscience and no soul, that he represents the worst of civilization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCMANUS: The city of Kandahar, now free from the Taliban, focuses on its political future. A number of small tribes have yet to sign off on an agreement reached yesterday to return a former governor to power, and that's heightening concern about the potential for violence.

CNN's Nic Robertson will have more on politics coming up. First, we go to the Tora Bora region of eastern Afghanistan where anti- Taliban troops say they are making gains against al Qaeda positions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A tank-gunner's view of the battle for Tora Bora. Tank round after deadly tank round slammed into the rugged hills. Eastern alliance troops are trying to take out al Qaeda mortar positions, but al Qaeda forces manning those positions are dug in deep, not giving any ground.

The alliance bombardment was unrelenting. All its antiquated firepower -- old Soviet T-55 tanks and anti-aircraft guns, and more than a week of heavy U.S. bombing, have failed to subdue al Qaeda fighters, who gave as good as they got, firing mortar rounds at the only road leading to the front.

(on camera): Eastern alliance commanders here at the front line say the tenacity of the al Qaeda fighters is an indication that they're making a last stand, and they're making a last stand, according to those commanders, with their leader, Osama bin Laden.

(voice-over): No one claims to have seen bin Laden, but there are secondhand accounts aplenty. Commander Abdel Malik says in recent days a farmer retrieving a stray cow spotted Osama bin Laden in these hills. Any creature straying up here would be in serious trouble.

Hazrat Ali commands the forces in this zone, and claims his troops have seized four al Qaeda tunnels and two command centers, along with this pickup truck, a coat, and a pair of shoes.

By late afternoon, the alliance moved some of its heaviest equipment forward. U.S. warplanes joined the battle, and the guns never went silent.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, in the Tora Bora region of eastern Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Kandahar governor's office, years of Taliban neglect are being swept away, consigned to history, as the new political force moves in. For military commanders, a chance to rest and reflect.

"I'll be happy when I see the boys and girls going to school and getting an education to build their country."

For the new political figures, including recently appointed Governor Gul Agha Sherzai, the work is only just beginning, building support among local leaders the priority, building popularity in the city essential.

In a gesture likely calculated to achieve just that, the new governor released some 1,200 prisoners held by the Taliban -- each former prisoner given about $16 cash to aid their return home, real money here -- such benevolence necessary, as intertribal tensions are not fully unresolved.

YOUSEFF PASHTOON, ANTI-TALIBAN OFFICIAL: I am not satisfied, quite frankly, with the situation of the security, because there's hundreds of people here with arms are still at large in the streets, which is potentially a danger for any civilian society.

ROBERTSON: That American special forces in the city accompany the new governor to his potentially more dangerous meetings, a hint perhaps that the stakes are high and a lot rides on Gul Agha's success.

Emerging to applause following his late-night inauguration as governor, there seems little question of his authority now, especially if his aides are to be believed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Gul Agha Sherzai has got the civil and military power at this moment.

(on camera): Putting his political house in order will likely take Kandahar's new governor many, many more meetings. If he can keep them all cordial, then perhaps Kandahar can enjoy a smooth transition from Taliban rule.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Kandahar, Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCMANUS: It's been exactly three months now since the terrorist attacks occurred. Since that time, a lot has happened and a lot has changed, not just for Americans, but also for the people living in Afghanistan. With the interim government preparing to take power in that country, Afghans who spent years living in exile are beginning to return home.

Coming up, Jim Clancy follows one man on his journey back to his homeland. First, Harris Whitbeck looks at obstacles still facing the Afghan people.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Old men sit by a wall catching the last rays of a weak winter sun. Warmth from the sun is the only thing easy to get for these men, some of the 23,000 people living in the ruins of the former Soviet diplomatic compound in Kabul as refugees in their own land. They were all forced to leave their homes and fields during fighting between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance two years ago. All that is left of their fields, the twisted stumps of a once flourishing vineyard were trucked in to provide fuel for heating and cooking.

"We are like birds in a cage here," says Jami Dula (ph). "We would like to go back to our homes and rebuild."

And they are not alone.

(on camera): International aid agencies estimate that about 25 percent of the entire Afghan population is internally displaced and about four million Afghans are living as refugees in Iran and Pakistan. With the political changes in the country, many of those people are now thinking about going back home.

(voice-over): They might soon be getting help to do just that. The U.N. High Commission for Refugees met with Afghanistan's new government to begin working out how to help the country's displaced back to their places of origin.

KAMEL MOURJANE (UNHCR): You see the level of destruction the country has gone through, it's certainly difficult to see thousands of people coming back without getting the minimum of assistance they need but also minimum rehabilitation, especially when it comes to services and facilities. And this is what we want to do, and this is what we want to plan for and this is why we are -- we are here.

WHITBECK: The U.N. has organized women into cottage industries, teaching them to sew and using their products, such as these book bags, to give to refugee children. And other agencies are trying to get enough food in country to feed millions of hungry people. Still, it is long-term aid that most returnees will need.

FILLIPO GRANDI, UNHCR AFGHANISTAN DIRECTOR: What humanitarian agencies can do is minimal. These can help people only in the first six months or one year after their return. But now the new context, the new environment may allow larger agencies and governments and other bilateral donors to start a larger program which will allow people to remain and not just to go back and become refugees or internally displaced people again.

WHITBECK: Which is exactly what the displaced say they want.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a wind-swept runway in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, journalists waited with stacks of equipment for a scarce charter flight into Afghanistan. Without a ticket of his own, Abdul Salmandar could only circle plane and hope. A number of other Afghans had managed to get their names on the passenger list with the help of diplomats or local officials. They were going home, perhaps to a country of their own they had never seen, but it didn't look likely for Abdul Salmandar.

ABDUL SALMANDAR: I hope to fly to Afghanistan. But the plane -- have a bad chance.

CLANCY: More than 20 years ago, fearing for his life Abdul Salmandar fled Kabul, hiding first in the mountains and then fleeing to Germany, where he has live ever since. Last week when German newspapers were filled with reports about the Bonn conference that launch a new government, and held out hope of rebuilding Afghanistan's scarred landscape 64-year-old Abdul Salmandar knew he had to be a part of it.

Not on the passenger list he used his passport as collateral to slip by security. Why do I need the passport, he asked, I'm going home. When security officers came looking on board the plane, Abdul hid in the cockpit. And when the doors finally closed and locked he was officially a stowaway, but he was also officially on his way home.

Interviewed on the two hour flight he told every journalist who would listen of the emotions that were calling him home.

SALMANDAR: Every journalist, know here, when I -- when I put my foot in this plane, I thought, I'm a new refugee to Afghanistan. I hope that we have a chance to have peace in Afghanistan.

CLANCY: Other Afghans had similar hopes for peace and the journalists had their own hopes of reaching the story, after days of waiting in neighboring Tajikistan. But no one more than Abdul Salmandar. No sooner had the plane touched down that the exile, Abdul Salmandar, became a one-man welcoming committee.

SALMANDAR: Welcome -- in my home country, Afghanistan! Welcome, Welcome in the peace, welcome in Afghanistan.

CLANCY: A few more moments, as the doors were opened passengers exited, and suddenly there was nothing between, Abdul Salmandar, the Afghan exile, and the treasured soil of his homeland.

Nothing either left to say.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCMANUS: High school is one of the most important times in life, you mature, forge friendships and obtain knowledge that lasts a lifetime. These memories are reinforced come reunion time.

CNN's Bruce Burkhardt recently attended the reunion of a high school that now has an even greater significance for its graduates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my god! Hi!

BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a reunion of sorts, a gathering of old school chums.

OBAI DIFRITI, AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF KABUL ALUMNUS: We associated more on on the basketball court probably.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I out jumped him though.

(LAUGHTER)

BURKHARDT: Baby boomers swapping misty-eyed memories of a different time, a different place -- a very different place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's my junior class president picture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's me.

BURKHARDT: And the year books. Well, they look like anybody's old year book. The clubs, the teens, the corny captions, the cheerleaders. But what about that "K" on their jerseys? Kennedy High School? No. "K" stands for Kabul. Kabul, Afghanistan.

DIFRITI: There -- there's the palace, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shot, riddled.

BURKHARDT: They call themselves Scorpions. The mascot for the American International School of Kabul. Through the 60s and 70s, the school educated hundreds of American and other foreign students, grades K-12. They were the children of either embassy staff, or those involved in U.S. A.I.D. projects, building roads or irrigation projects.

(on camera): And the Kandahar airport was also built by them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure, yeah, yeah.

BURKHARDT: And of course, we're shooting it all to pieces now.

(voice-over): We gathered some Atlanta area Scorpions at this hotel, which was convenient because it is managed by Obai Difriti. He was one of the privileged few Afghan students who attended the school.

(on camera): Football. Who would you play?

DIFRITI: We'd go play the Marines, we'd play the embassy, the teachers. Then you'd have (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Kabul University, and then other schools would visit from Pakistan.

Others who showed up for this mini-reunion? Randy and Tanya Givens, high school sweethearts. He was on the basketball team. She was a cheerleader.

Marjorie Cutler. This is her in the eighth grade. Deborah Dempsey-Jones, she too was cheerleader. Abraham Parvana, another Afghan who attended the school.

And Caroline Labord and her mother, Del. They were there from '64 to '68. Mom was one of the grammar school teachers.

(CROSSTALK)

We showed them recent video of Kabul, including their old school, or what remains of it.

(CROSSTALK)

BURKHARDT: To many Americans, Afghanistan may seem like a hostile place. Rocks and dust and killing. But to these folks, it was a magical place where field trips might take them to those ancient Buddha statues that the Taliban later destroyed.

(on camera): To be a teenager at that time, the '60s and '70s, which was a happening time, you know, in America. To be in Afghanistan, you know, you would think, "oh no!" You'd be dying to get back home. But not a single person I've talked to had that feeling.

DEBORAH DEMPSEY-JONES, AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF KABUL ALUMNUS: It was a Camelot environment. It was -- it was -- it was -- it was sweet. It was -- it was pure.

DIFRITI: In that desolate land right there that a lot people see as just stones and rock and rubble, to us it is our playground.

And watching what has been happening to that playground has been painful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I always felt that it was my home land bombing my homeland.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Quite a unique experience to have in common. Nobody else can relate to it really...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, nobody else can relate to it.

BURKHARDT: But in so many other ways, these Scorpions were just like other kids at the time.

(on camera): Cutting classes?

RANDY GIVENS, AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF KABUL ALUMNUS: Making out in the senior lounge.

BURKHARDT: Scorpions. Why Scorpions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because they were everywhere.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can tell you about scorpions.

BURKHARDT (voice-over): They still get together periodically for national reunions, far bigger than this one. They were Scorpions then, all those years ago. Scorpions forever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready? Say Scorpions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scorpions!

BURKHARDT: Bruce Burkhardt, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NANCY MORENO, BELMONT, NORTH CAROLINA: Hi, my name is Nancy Moreno of Belmont, North Carolina. And I want to Ask CNN: How does the United Nations determine the dues for each country? And what country pays the most and what country pays the least?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: The United Nations charter from 1945 serves as the benchmark for determining what each country pays to the United Nations every year. Right from the start of the global organization, it's been a strong source of disagreement in discussing the rate of payments. The United Nations says it's all based on a country's capacity to pay and it centers on economics, GNP, a country's gross national product.

United States pays the most money each year to the U.N., 22 percent of the United Nations' annual $1.1 billion administrative budget. The United States also pays the largest share of peacekeeping dues, 27 percent. China, another permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, pays just 1 percent of the budget each year.

Who pays the least, some 40 developing, poorer countries.

And many nations in the U.N. are behind on their payments. With a February deadline long gone, more than half of the U.N.'s 189 members have yet to send in their checks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NORTH: The United Nations and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan received the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize yesterday in Oslo, Norway. The awards for economics, physics, medicine, literature and chemistry were awarded later in Stockholm, Sweden under the tightest security in the Nobel Prize's 100-year history.

And during a climate when the words war and terrorism have become part of everyday language, CNN's Richard Roth takes a look at why some say it's only befitting that Kofi Annan be a symbol for peace.

But first, we hear from Annan himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: In the 21st century, I believe the mission of the United Nations will be defined by a new more profound awareness of the sanctity and dignity of every human life regardless of race or religion. And this will require us to look beyond the framework of states and beneath the surface of nations and communities. We must focus as never before on improving the conditions of the individual men and women who give the state or nation its richness and character.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROTH (voice-over): Kofi Annan was a company man at the United Nations, spending 33 years moving up through the system. Son of a Ghanaian chief, Kofi Annan is now leader of the world, a compassionate diplomat in an often cruel world.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I thought that he was somebody that was destined to be a leader at the United Nations.

ROTH: His U.S. admirer helped Annan win the top post, blocking predecessor Boutros Boutros-Ghali from a second term. Knowing how the U.N. bureaucracy worked and often didn't work, Annan realized he had to do more than rearrange the seats inside the General Assembly.

JOHN KUGGE (ph), FORMER ANNAN ADVISER: He invited me down shortly after he was elected and said I need to have somebody in my office who isn't going to be swallowed up by the cable traffic and the in box and would you be willing to help me sort of strategize.

ROTH: He brought together the alphabet soup of U.N. agencies and held them more accountable. He opened up the government-heavy U.N. to a partnership with the private business sector, and just plain opened up the U.N. as the people's house.

Outside, Mr. Annan went to Washington to heal a valuable connection that was quickly deteriorating.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: His first and greatest achievement was to build a close relationship with Congress and to rebuild American confidence in the organization.

ROTH: Annan has championed the right of the U.N. to intervene for human rights and to pressure drug companies on developing AIDS drugs.

JEREMY GREENSTOCK, BRITISH U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: This man is not a politician, he's a U.N. servant, become a politician in taking on this job and done it with his own characteristic, the very quiet, unarrogant, unemphatic style, and I think that appeals to people tremendously.

ROTH: But how far does niceness go? In the end, will the United Nations 189-member states make a more meaningful commitment to Annan's ambitious goals and principles?

ED LUCK, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: And that's the test that's going to be coming up in the next five-year term and we've yet to see whether in fact that's a test and hurdle that he can pass.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NORTH: One of the major roles of the United Nations is to oversee countries trying to rise from the ruins, like Afghanistan. It's post-Taliban government must attempt to rebuild their nation and establish law and order.

As CNN's Garrick Utley explains, the mission will require a tremendous amount of guidance and that's where the U.N. steps in.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not a pretty sight when law and order collapse as they did in East Timor and in the killing fields of Cambodia, when crime and chaos triumph as they did in Bosnia and then in Kosovo. When a society self-destructs, who puts together the pieces of government, of an economy, of human life?

(on camera): Well what happens is that the problem is dumped right here in the United Nations. It's called nation building or perhaps we should really call it rebuilding. Of all the impossible, intractable, irreconcilable challenges facing the U.N. is anything more important? It is, after all, about creating peace.

(voice-over): And now it's about bringing peace to Afghanistan, rebuilding a nation for 25 million people who have not known a functioning state for nearly 28 years. Can it be done? There is the lesson and the nightmare of Somalia in the 1990s. Like Afghanistan, it was a violent cauldron of warlords fighting for power and profiteering.

What began as an American humanitarian effort was turned over to the U.N. which brought in its international military force and tried to rebuild a nation. But the United States pulled out and a year later so did the United Nations.

DAVID MALONE, INTERNATIONAL PEACE ACADEMY: We over estimated the attractiveness of Western types of government. It was a very bloody, but very useful lesson that we all learned that some things simply cannot be imposed on local populations against the wishes of their leaderships.

UTLEY: Will Afghanistan be any different? There has been an important first step, the leaders of four Afghan factions have agreed to an interim post-Taliban government. Its job, with U.N. support, will be to establish law and order, a police force and an effective court system. Then several billion dollars in aid will be needed to get the economy moving and food growing. And a little over two years from now there should be free elections. That's the plan.

(on camera): But it is there and here at the United Nations that the goal of rebuilding a broken nation beats a hard reality. How much can outsiders achieve, even with the best of intentions if those inside the country who hold power don't want to give up their power? What does the international community do then?

(voice-over): Despite all the military power the United States has in, above and around Afghanistan, it says its troops will not be used in nation building so a military force from other countries will be sent in to provide security and remind the warlords that the outside world expects them to cooperate rather than fight each other, that is the hope.

MALONE: What is very important is to get rule of law restored. We've learned not to try to construct a perfect country, a Norway in Africa. We've learned not to try and construct a Canada in Afghanistan.

UTLEY: An Afghanistan that is finally at peace with itself would be enough.

Garrick Utley, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NORTH: Barbie, Ken and lots of other dolls may be moving down a couple of notches on those Christmas lists. It seems a once popular action figure is again in demand.

Anne McDermott explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNE MCDERMOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a wanted man, just like he used to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SINGING) G.I. Joe, G.I. Joe, fighting man from head to toe, on the land....

MCDERMOTT: That was 1964, when Hasbro introduced the doll -- oops, I mean action figure -- just a couple of years after the success of ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SINGING) Barbie, beautiful Barbie...

MCDERMOTT: Sure Mattel had Ken too, but he was a callow lad compared with macho man, and sales soared. And then they soured in the wake of Vietnam. By then Joe was leaving the battlefield to grapple with guerrillas and orbit the earth. And he was eventually discontinued in 1978, while little Joes helped fill the gap.

But he returned in the '90s. And in the past couple of years sales were good again, and up since September 11th. And it didn't hurt that a GI Joe search and rescue figure came out at this time.

BRIAN GOLDNER, HASBRO: Certainly GI Joe being all about the most patriotic, courageous and heroic people in our society, certainly helps.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, GI JOE COMMERCIAL)

NARRATOR: Remember, only GI Joe is GI Joe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCDERMOTT: Well no. This is GI Jack of PT-109 fame. And here's GI Ike, and GI Colin Powell -- though perhaps the secretary of state doesn't put this on his resume.

Now, you can spend 10 bucks on a GI Joe or you can spend 100. Who's got that kind of money? Grown--ups.

(on camera): Who are you buying for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My oldest brother. He's 27. MCDERMOTT (voice-over): And some of these guys will never see 27 again. They're here for a Joe show put on by James DiSimone who tries to explain the mystique of the Joe.

JAMES DISIMONE, G.I. JOE COLLECTOR: Seeing the GI Joe would revive these memories, of which they were all great, great memories.

MCDERMOTT: And he knows Joe. He's got 500 of them in his attic. Oh, and kids are buying them now too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm interested in wars and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, same for me.

MCDERMOTT: They don't quite understand real war -- the horror and hardship -- but they do admire those who fight. Right now, though, those folks are fighting far away, and sometimes you need a hero you can hold in your hand.

Anne McDermott, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCMANUS: Wow, that is a great story. I remember playing with my GI Joes all day long.

NORTH: I did the same thing with Barbie and Ken.

MCMANUS: Well enough about toys, we're out of time. I'm Michael McManus.

NORTH: And I'm Sharon North.

MCMANUS: See you tomorrow.

NORTH: Bye.

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