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Karzai Temporarily Lived in Mullah Omar's Compound; Bin Laden Tape Shows Prior Knowledge of Attacks; Interview of Senators Graham and Shelby

Aired December 12, 2001 - 09:03   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to travel back to Afghanistan now. The nation's new leader -- interim leader, this is, Hamid Karzai is heading to the capital city of Kabul today from Kandahar. For that story, plus our big question, where is Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, we turn to Christiane Amanpour in Kandahar. Good morning.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, good morning. Good evening, from here. Indeed Hamid Karzai is expected in Kabul tonight, he told us. He is apparently being flown there by U.S. military aircraft, and he will go there to talk to other members of the interim government on how to best proceed with trying to implement the broad based alliance and the broad based government that is envisioned for the future of Afghanistan. Now, we interviewed him on the eve of his departure.

We talked to him in Mullah Omar's former compound. This compound had been heavily bombed by the United States during the war, and now Karzai was temporarily housed there. There was no electricity. He was meeting with a lot of tribal leaders, so we sat on the floor with him, surrounded by his tribal leaders. He was trying to discuss the full implementation of security in this region, and he told us that he expected this time, this new government for Afghanistan to succeed, despite the odds, and despite a bitter past history, because, he said, both Afghanistan and the United States, and the whole international community had learned a very bitter lesson on September the 11th.


HAMID ZARZAI, INTERIM AFGHAN LEADER: The Afghans have learned a bitter lesson. So have the international community. So has the United States. I must be very blunt: If the world does not pay attention to Afghanistan, if it leaves it weak, and basically a country in which one can interfere, all these bad people will come again. So, a strong Afghanistan, a peaceful Afghanistan, is the best guarantee for all.


AMANPOUR: Now, Hamid Karzai explained to us how he had come into Afghanistan shortly before the U.S. bombing began. He had rallied support amongst tribal leaders. He said, early on, he had asked the United States for help and he had got everything he asked for, and we have full details of that interview tonight at 8 p.m., but interestingly, as I said, he has been housed, up until now, in Mullah Omar's former compound. We don't know where Mullah Omar is, where he has fled to. We think to another province quite nearby, here in Kandahar, but his compound shows quite a different image of the one that the Taliban tried to portray.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a stunning setting in the foot hills of Kandahar's mountains, Mullah Omar's compound offers a few surprises. In the driveway of the man who ordered the ancient banyon (ph) buddhas destroyed, this bizarre sculpture. None of the new occupants knows quite what it is.

My gut feeling, laughs Abdul Jaleel Mujihad (ph) , is that it is for the deer to enjoy.

Loyalists of the new Afghan interim leader, Hamid Karzai, are billeted with him in Mullah Omar's old place. They are wide-eyed as they show us his marble and pastel painted mosque and inside chandeliers hanging from the ceilings, plush carpets and a mirrored wall.

It is a level of showy opulence that no one here imagined from a man promoted as a humble cleric living in a simple mud brick house. This large compound is luxurious by Afghan standards. It has been heavily bombed by the United States. But a survey from the roof show that the mosque and Mullah Omar's bedrooms were unscathed. Here, anti-Taliban soldiers are posing for pictures with their weapons on Mullah Omar's double bed.

Outside, walking through the rubble of the guest and cattle quarters, we see that every room had air conditioning, including the cow sheds. Electric ceiling fans to cool the animals. And to drink, running water from these taps. The vast majority of the people in this country don't have access to clean water.

They built all of this for the cows, while our people never had these things, said Saylab (ph) . This was built with Osama's money with the blood of the Afghan people.

While most people make due with outhouses and holes in the ground, Mullah Omar had tiled bathrooms with shower fixtures and flushing toilets. He is thought to have fled the comfort of these muraled walls shortly after the air war began. U.S. special forces are believed to have raided the compound for evidence early on. The only evidence found here today, suggests a leader who, in the name of God demanded so much sacrifice from his people, but seemed to suffer none himself.


Now Kandahar, of course, under the Taliban, was one of the most austere towns here, because it was their power base, their capital in the days since the Taliban fled, we've been out on the streets, and we see all sorts of images the same as we saw after Kabul was liberated. People out on the streets, music being played in public. Shops, photo stores open. All the kinds of things that didn't happen under the five or six years that the Taliban ruled here -- Paula.

ZAHN: Those pictures were staggering, Christiane. And I thought it was interesting that some of those fighters talked about the hypocrisy exposed by his palatial -- one-time palatial surroundings. Christiane, thanks so much for that update.

Right now we are going to go to the White House as we await what is expected to be an incriminating videotape of Osama bin Laden. Officials say it is proof positive of bin Laden's involvement in the deadly September 11th attacks. Senior White House Correspondent John King is waiting, along with the rest of us. What's the word -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The only question now, Paula, is when. We are told the administration will release that tape and the full expectation is that it will release that tape later today. Meetings ongoing here at the White House and at the Pentagon this morning to decide just when and how to release that tape, but the president has signed off on releasing it, the administration has brought in outside translators, understanding that here in the United States, through the news media and around the world there will be questions about the credibility of the tape, and the authenticity of the translation. So the administration, we are told, being extra careful to make sure that the translation matches up, so outside experts brought in for that.

But they say it will be released today, and that, according to our sources, it shows Osama bin Laden bragging about the September 11th attacks on the United States in a way that U.S. officials say proves that he had advance knowledge of the planning and the timing of the attacks, and they say it also has him referring to the United States as the enemy, and also talking about how, and one official says laughing when he does so, that many of those hijackers did not know, when they were planning those attacks, that they indeed would die in what ultimately became suicide hijackings.

The administration hoping this removes any doubt. Most administration officials say they don't believe there is much doubt any more, but they say they hope it removes any doubt that Osama bin Laden is responsible for the September 11th attacks, and the goal -- the target audience for that message, really, is not here in the United States, but largely around the world, especially in moderate Arab nations and in Muslim communities around the world -- Paula.

ZAHN: John, wanted to move you on to another issue. Congressional leaders, I guess, were just told this morning about the president's decision on the ABM treaty. What can you tell us about that?

KING: Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle coming out of the meeting did say the president informed the Congressional leadership at breakfast this morning that he would soon announce that the United States is withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty. The president's reason for doing that is that the treaty forbids much of the testing Mr. Bush says is necessary to move ahead with the missile defense program.

He promised during the campaign, and he has vowed repeatedly, as recently as yesterday, to proceed with, and we are told by senior administration officials that the official announcement from the president is likely to come tomorrow. There is a six-month clock in the treaty to withdraw from it. You must give six months notice. That treaty was negotiated with the Soviet Union. Of course, the president will deliver that notice, now, to Vladimir Putin of Russia.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, John. Now, the question is, will the rest of the world find the bin Laden tape believable? Senator Bob Graham, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Senator Richard Shelby, the vice chairman, have seen it. They say releasing it will help the president make his case against bin Laden and to the world. Senators Graham and Shelby join me from Washington. Thank you for taking time out of your day to be with us, Senators.


ZAHN: So Senators Graham, we've heard a little bit in that John King report about the chief challenge the administration faces in releasing these tapes. What's the biggest problem they will have on their hand after America and the rest of the world sees the tape?

GRAHAM: I can't imagine that there's going to be much problem. The tape is a self-indictment. Bin Laden states his prior knowledge, the fact that he went up into the mountains and got a short wave radio on September 11th in order to listen to the international newscast, anticipating that he would receive confirmation that his plan had come to its horrific conclusion.

ZAHN: Senator Shelby, we talked a little bit about this yesterday, and the concerns about what form the tape will ultimately be released in, and John King is saying this morning it appears as though we will hear the Arabic and we will see English subtitles. Now, you saw it both ways, didn't you?


ZAHN: And what difference did it make?

SHELBY: Perhaps none, but I believe the translation from Arabic to English will be straight forward. It will be honest. It has to be, and I believe this is in the best interest of the administration, and I believe the world, that the people see this tape. It will show how cynical, how cold, and how guilty Osama bin Laden is.

ZAHN: Senator Graham, I was going to share with you right now what one of your colleagues, Dick Durbin, had to say about the tape, who he has also seen it, on the air yesterday. Let's listen.


DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: It is graphic. It is compelling. It's conclusive. He smiles. He laughs. He marvels at the destruction and death. He holds up his hand like the World Trade Center and shows the plane crashing into it, and says how surprised he was that it wasn't just the floors above his hand that were destroyed but everything below too.


ZAHN: Senator Graham, besides his demeanor, what surprised you most about the tape?

GRAHAM: It was his demeanor. The fact that a person could have committed one of the most horrible public acts in the history of the world, and to treat it in the -- lack of compassion, lack of remorse, manner in which he did, with a smirk on his face, and an apparent sense of pride he had been able to accomplish this against the great infidel.

ZAHN: Senator Shelby, I'd love for you to react to an editorial that ran in the "New York Times" yesterday about the internal debate over the release of this tape.

The "Times" wrote, "The White House debate over how to handle the tape wouldn't be necessary if the administration hadn't tried to stifle the broadcast of earlier bin Laden videos and the publication of transcripts of those statements. The more Americans know about Mr. bin Laden's twisted views, the better, and pressing news organizations to limit use of the tapes was a misuse of government power."

Is that part of the reason why the administration was torn about releasing this tape?

SHELBY: I don't think so, Paula. I believe that the administration always intended to release the tape, especially when the -- Vice President Cheney, the deputy secretary of defense, Wolfowitz, and others started talking about it, started talking about the contents of the tape. I think what the administration's waiting -- to make sure that sources and methods were not compromised.

ZAHN: Senator Graham, quick reaction to the "Washington Times" report that John Walker has told intelligence officials that Osama bin Laden had planned an attack here over the next couple of days, possibly with biological weapons. Do you know anything about the report?

GRAHAM: Well, I know that going all the way back to September 11th, the CIA indicated in unclassified releases that the events of September 11th were not intended to be singular, that they were part of a larger plan and therefore, for the last 90 days, we have been doing everything within our power to identify, to disrupt, to avoid any further acts of terrorism.

There has been some speculation that, now that we are moving into an especially significant period of the month of Ramadan, that this might be a time in which there would be another attempt at a terrorist attack, but other than raising our overall level of awareness and preparedness for this threat, there's no specific form, place, or time indicated for a next terrorist attack against the United States.

ZAHN: Senators Graham and Shelby, delighted to have both of you with us. We know you have a lot of work to get done before the holiday. Best of luck to both of you.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

SHELBY: Thank you.




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