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Live From Afghanistan: A Day in History

Aired December 22, 2001 - 20:10   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: LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN with Nic Robertson. A day in history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With a hug and a handshake, the first peaceful transfer of power in Afghanistan in decades.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Prospects for the road ahead from Kabul...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "We've heard the news and consider this positive for the future," says Mohammed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: To Kandahar...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They believe this government will help educate the people of this country much more than the dubious reputation of the Taliban or the mujahideen before them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: To Jalalabad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have a good education, he says, and I want a good job. I want peace, and the economy to improve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Plus, the search for Osama bin Laden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT, PAKISTAN: There's a great possibility that he may have lost his life there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: The controversy over a convoy attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: At this point, we believe it's a good target.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Now, LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN, Nic Robertson.

ROBERTSON: Tonight, LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN comes from Jalalabad, 30 miles north of the Tora Bora mountains in eastern Afghanistan, the last known hiding place of Osama bin Laden.

In Kabul, Afghanistan's new administration has taken over the reins of power amid widespread expectations of the people in the country that they can deliver a better future.

Elsewhere, pockets of Taliban resistance have surrendered their guns.

We begin in Kabul where the new administration has taken power. The 30 member administration under the leadership of Pashtun leader Hamid Karzai has taken power for the next six months. It is an interim period during which it is hoped and expected that a new, bigger, broader-based, ethnically broader-based government will be formed that will likely take the shape of a grand council known as a loya jerga.

Following that, it is hoped that within two years there could be, could be elections in the country. John Vause was in Kabul and followed the installation of the new government.

John, what are the challenges facing this new interim government?

VAUSE: Huge challenges ahead, Nic, merely to keep this interim government together. It is made up of old friends, older enemies. There is ethnic divisions in this coalition government. And also, the huge job ahead of just rebuilding Afghanistan.

Now, in his speech at that ceremony, Hamid Karzai appealed for help from God. He asked the Afghan people to come together to put the pain of the past behind them, to forget the pain, he said. He also asked for help from the international community.

Now, one positive sign that there may in fact be unity with this new interim administration: two Afghan commanders who threatened to boycott this ceremony did in fact show up as a sign of support.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE (voice-over): With a hug and a handshake, the first peaceful transfer of power in Afghanistan in decades. Outgoing President Rabbani, who was banished by the Taliban, and Hamid Karzai, the new interim leader.

Throughout this ceremony, talk of optimism, but also realization of the tremendous hardships ahead.

This is a country which is unprepared for a cold, hungry winter, its coffers left empty by the Taliban. In many ways, this government is starting with less than zero. Many road and buildings have been left in ruins. There are chronic health problems and unemployment. Many government employees have not been paid in five months.

Today, Hamid Karzai asked all Afghans to come together and to overcome the painful past.

HAMID KARZAI, INTERIM AFGHAN PRESIDENT (through translator): In order to fulfill the hopes of our oppressed nation and reconstruct our beloved country, we need to dedicate our lives. To achieve this aim, it's necessary to go forward with unity.

VAUSE: He'll be supported by 29 ministers, notably, two of them women, symbolic for all Afghan women who were brutally repressed during the five years of the Taliban regime.

KARZAI (through translator): For the women of Afghanistan, almost half the population, we not only respect them but give them the full chance to play an active role in our society.

(MUSIC)

VAUSE: As the national anthem played for the first time in public for over five years, Afghan men openly wept. And there were tears, too, for Ahmad Massoud, the Northern Alliance general who was assassinated just two days before September 11th.

But outside, a reminder that this is a delicate peace as British Royal Marines patrol the streets, so too heavily armed Afghan soldiers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Now, of course, this interim administration will run the country for the next six months, then as you mentioned, Nic, they'll hand over to some kind of provisional government that's hopefully broad-based and then the U.N. hopes that there will in fact be elections here. That the Afghan people will in fact elect their own leaders within the next two-and-a-half years.

But, for now, it's one uncertain step at a time. Nic.

ROBERTSON: John, you talk of international support. We often think of that in humanitarian terms. What international safety net support is there for Hamid Karzai trying to keep this coalition of leaders together?

VAUSE: Well, of course, a very physical presence of those British Royal Marines is one reminder of the support that Hamid Karzai has from the international community. We will see that force being built up over the next couple of weeks, mainly from NATO countries, and ultimately a force which will number several thousand international troops.

Their main mission here is to be on-hand to advise the new interim administration, to offer them support. And then of course there is the pure dollar value, which the international community is willing to put into Afghanistan. We had one estimate from the U.N. and the World Bank that they're willing to put in $5 billion -- sorry, $9 billion, rather, over the next five years. That'll help rebuild Afghanistan's infrastructure.

And there's a proviso on that, though; they'll get the money, providing that this interim administration and whatever government that follows Hamid Karzai's administration manages to maintain the peace and security for the people of Afghanistan -- Nic.

ROBERTSON: John Vause in Kabul, thank you very much for joining us.

And as Harris Whitbeck found on a stroll through the streets and parks of Kabul, the cautious optimism of Afghan politicians is being matched by the high hopes of the people hoping that the grinding poverty of the past can now be left behind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WHITBECK (voice-over): Saturday afternoon in Kabul Central Park. Friends are out for a stroll. Some pause for a quick outdoor lunch. It could be any weekend, but this one is dramatically different. Afghanistan's new interim government has just been sworn in, and people are excited about the changes they might see in their daily lives.

"We've heard the news and consider this positive for the future," says Mohammed. "By God's blessing, we will have a good future since the transition was peaceful."

One woman had not heard the news, but was happy when she heard that there was a new government.

"If this change has positive results, we will be happy," she says. "We have suffered a lot. Our children couldn't be educated. If they fix our problems, we will welcome the change."

Across the street, at Sakhindar's (ph) barber shop, customers sit and talk politics, as they probably do in barber shops everywhere. Here too there is optimism in the air.

"We all appreciate the new government," he says. "We want peace and security and we appreciate that the old leaders resigned to let Mr. Karzai take power."

Hamid Karzai himself was also a happy man. At an early evening press conference in the presidential palace, he reiterated that his government would work towards paving the way for long-term change.

KARZAI: Afghanistan has suffered tremendously because of years and wars and disaster in the country. It's on top of things to provide the Afghan people fair economic opportunities that all can benefit from and all can earn a decent living.

WHITBECK: He said he wants to create economic opportunities that would allow men to put down their weapons and find work.

(on camera): But as Karzai himself said, the Afghan people will remember this day only if he can deliver on his promises. If not, this will be like so many other times when expectations raised have been shattered by war.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: As the interim government was being installed in Kabul, barely 100 miles to the east, the search for Osama bin Laden was still going on in the Tora Bora mountains. U.S. special forces continuing to comb the caves in those mountains, looking for evidence of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, if he is still in the region. Also, searching out perhaps other members of al Qaeda who may be hiding in those mountains.

And a little further to the south, across the border in Pakistan, Pakistani border troops still out in force monitoring the valleys and mountains as pass-ways into Pakistan.

In an interview with Chinese state television, CCTV, Pakistan's leader, President General Musharraf, said that there is a possibility in this hunt for Osama bin Laden that the al Qaeda leader may already be dead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: We have sealed the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Tora Bora region in which he was supposed to be operating has passes leading into Pakistan. It has about eight passes leading into Pakistan over mountains at a height of about 13,000 to 14,000 feet. They are snow- covered now. We are guarding each one of these passes, but that maybe he's dead.

Because all the operations that have been conducted, the bombardment of all these caves that have been conducted, there is a great possibility that he may have lost his life there. And if he does enter, if we identify him, he will be handed over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: The controversy surrounding a convoy not far from Tora Bora that was targeted by U.S. warplanes on Friday continues. The convoy was leaving the town of Khost when it was targeted by warplanes and AC-130 gunships. Now, about 10 to 12 vehicles were destroyed, but locals in the area of Khost say that the convoy contained tribal leaders on their way to the inauguration of the new government in Kabul. However, the Pentagon says it has specific information, intelligence information, that tells them that they know that traveling in that convoy were possibly al Qaeda leaders and possibly Taliban leaders as well.

Now, U.S. Central Command Commander General Tommy Franks was in Kabul and told journalists there that even 24 hours after the attack, he is certain they were chasing he right targets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: The first thing is, that this, this campaign in Afghanistan has been remarkable in terms of the very small amount of shooting the wrong targets. The very small amount of collateral damage. And each time we receive a report like that, we investigate it. I mean, so that is an automatic.

I will tell you that, having been in touch with my headquarters, that at this point, we believe, we believe it was a good target. And so, we just have to wait and see how it turns out. But the indications that I have right now tell me that this was the target that we intended to strike.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Coming up after the break, we discuss with the former head of NATO, General Wesley Clark, the hunt for Osama bin Laden, where it's going now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTSON: We are joined now by former NATO commander General Wesley Clark. General, in building up an intelligence picture before an attack on such a convoy as the one near Khost on Friday, exactly where would that information be drawn from?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it could have been drawn from a variety of sources. Of course, we're not going to know that for some time, if ever, Nic. But, typically, you'd have someone on the ground who would tell you something. You'd hear reports about it. Maybe you'd overhear conversations. It might come from any number of sources of information.

ROBERTSON: Now, the search for Osama bin Laden, the bombing has essentially ended in this region, apart from the attack on this convoy. Do you feel that the focus is shifting gears? What should we expect next?

CLARK: I think it's going to be very important, and I think the administration has recognized this very clearly, that they've got to go through the Tora Bora complex. And they've got to really see what was there, pick up the information that may be available from the search of the caves. Some of the caves may not have been destroyed. Others will still have valuable documents and other indicators of what future plans, the names of operatives, information on patterns of activity and training and sources of money and supply and so forth.

All of that is liable to be in that complex, in addition to which everyone wants to know, and certainly the administration, well, what about the top leadership of al Qaeda? Have they been killed? Did they escape? Is there any clue there as to what might have happened to them?

And so, I think it's important that there be some attention paid to that complex, and I think that's what's going to happen in the days ahead.

ROBERTSON: Pakistan's president, General Musharraf, indicates that there's a possibility Osama bin Laden could be dead. Is there any evidence at this time to support that?

CLARK: Well, none that we -- there is no evidence that we know of that he's dead. On the other hand, it was surprising that the Pentagon was so forthcoming during the final days of the battle last week that they had apparently pretty good evidence that they'd heard Osama bin Laden's voice on the radio.

Normally, that's the kind of admission that you wouldn't make unless you were very, very confident in that. It seemed to indicate that Osama bin Laden was there. And then the transmissions ceased. And within a couple of days, all the resistance ceased. So, by inference, it's certainly a possibility that has to be admitted, that perhaps he's -- he was killed, along with members of his high command. Maybe the entire headquarters area was just wiped out and that's the reason there was no more information.

We don't know, publicly, much about this, because we don't know what kinds of signals that the military may have been monitoring that may have ceased or may have continued. But I think there's every reason to say that it's a strong possibility that Osama bin Laden may have been killed in these attacks.

There were a lot of ordinance put on there and our special forces were on the ground. They were pretty thorough, as far as we could determine, from all the reports, in moving forward, looking for movement, looking for indicators of command posts, looking for cave openings, and calling in the aircraft. And those aircraft, if they get the coordinates, are very accurate in putting the ordinance right on those coordinates.

ROBERTSON: As you say, a lot of ordinance dropped in that area. How difficult will it be for special forces and others up there to really prove conclusively that he may have died on the mountain?

CLARK: It may be quite difficult, because we don't know -- in some cases, the ordinance may have blocked the entrances to the caverns. In the other cases, we may not even know there's a cavern in the area. Some caverns may not be disturbed at all, but it may be a matter of going back into them.

Now, based on the information we've seen on television from all of the news reports, we haven't seen any of the reported deep tunnels and cave complexes that the press was carrying in the news over the previous weeks. What we've seen are very shallow, sort of tactical pits, that have been filled with ammunition and bombs and so forth that you'd use for the immediate fight, but no command and control complexes.

So, I assume that the information on the command and control complexes was based on people who had been in them. And that means that at least the information publicly available hasn't, hasn't been such that we've gone into the real complexes yet, and someone is probably going to have to go into those complexes and take a look around.

That could be dangerous. They could be booby-trapped. There could be mines on the outside. There could even be some kind of chemical weapons in there. So, this is not a risk free operation. It's likely to be a slow and painstaking operation with buried ordinance, and possible survivors in there who may resist. And the hazards of unexploded ammunition from our own aircraft that could go off.

ROBERTSON: General Wesley Clark, thank you very much for joining us.

When we come back, pockets of Taliban resistance begin to give up. And also, we'll have an update on the breaking news story, an American airline flight diverted to Boston airport.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTSON: In Zabol Province, north of Kandahar, some Taliban fighters who have been holding out since the Taliban fled their control of Kandahar two weeks ago, have been persuaded to put their weapons down. Amanda Kibel joins us now by video-phone. Amanda, what convinced these Taliban to change their minds?

We seem to be having problems reaching Amanda Kibel by video- phone north of Kandahar, a remote desert area about 50 miles north of Kandahar City. We will try to bring you that report a little later.

For now, we'll take another break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTSON: We are joined now by Zohra Rasekh, an Afghan, an Afghan researcher. Zohra left Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation and has stayed in close touch with events there, including monitoring human rights in the country.

Zohra, looking at the issue now of the new interim administration, there appears to be a lot on Hamid Karzai's plate at this time, a lot of dissent already within the power structure in place. What are the problems that face him at the moment? ZOHRA RASEKH, AFGHAN RESEARCHER: Well, we can say that this new interim government faces a huge challenge, a humongous challenge, and we can say that the first challenge that they face is not only they're own security, but maintaining the peace and security in Afghanistan, and also making sure that law and order is there.

And also, knowing that Afghanistan has been without a system, without a legitimate government, and with the conflict for so long that the entire infrastructure is destroyed. There is nothing, basically no resources; all sorts of poverty, the destruction of health and education system. And they face all of these tasks to, in order to rebuild Afghanistan, they have to start from ground zero. And in some areas, even below zero.

For example, in order to rebuild schools, hospitals, housing, roads, they have to de-mine and clean up the unexploded ordinance first, before getting to that step to rebuild buildings.

The same thing with the health system. Before bringing people back to school and education and work, there has to be a mass, a nationwide therapy and counseling of the majority of the people who have been or are mentally depressed as a result of this long war and conflict and lack of system in Afghanistan. And...

ROBERTSON: What are going to be the key areas in order to restart the economy? Sorry.

RASEKH: Sorry, I couldn't hear you.

ROBERTSON: Yes, what are going to be the key areas to restart the economy in Afghanistan?

RASEKH: Restarting the economy, I believe for the first step the country needs the commitment and support of the international community. I believe the economy of the country is, of course, at this point, it's zero, and there is no resources in the country to keep the economy going.

And, of course, bringing the people or the work force back from abroad to help with the system to work and to train Afghans inside the country and get them back to work, and get the resources at least going, whatever there is there, although the entire country is without any kind of natural or man-made resource.

So, I think it depends. The first thing is to make sure that the international community stick with the new government and help them and support them in all areas, including economic and social and reconstruction of the country.

ROBERTSON: How important is it that the new administration is backed by a strong military power so that it can impose these changes or put these changes through, if you will?

RASEKH: Well, it's very important that the military power, of course, in terms of keeping security and making sure that people inside Afghanistan are safe and they can rely on the government with a strong military system. And Afghans inside Afghanistan and aboard, and the entire international community, I believe, has been, have witnessed the failure of several other peace processes and governments, and I'm sure there is a pessimism by people in Afghanistan, and others, about this new interim government. So, it's important to have strong support from outside and of course within the country.

ROBERTSON: Zohra Rasekh, thank you very much for joining us. We'll be back after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTSON: We go back now to Amanda Kibel in Zabol Province, north of Kandahar. Amanda, what convinced the Taliban, that pocket of resistance of Taliban there, to put down their weapons?

AMANDA KIBEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Nic, the situation is this: Mullah Solum Rachid (ph), who was the core commander in Jalalabad for five years, left Jalalabad when Kabul fell. He moved over here to Zabol Province which, as you know, was a Taliban stronghold.

Now, Mullah Rachid (ph) was a Mujahideen commander for a long time, and what's interesting here is how personal relationships, small personal relationships, can sometimes achieve great things.

Effectively, what happened was Ishmael Ghalani (ph), who was himself a former Mujahideen commander, who comes from a very respected family here in Afghanistan, hooked up with the commander, Rachid (ph), and convinced him that the time was right for him to begin to hand over his weapons and to join us with the peace process, to join up with the new interim government.

So, effectively, through this personal relationship, Mullah Rachid (ph) decided that it was time to lay down his weapons, to bring his people with him, and start moving towards a peaceful Afghanistan.

Now, Mullah Rachid (ph) has said, we spoke to him yesterday, he said that his people, and he brings a lot of people with him, would be quite prepared to take part in the loya jerga if they were asked. In fact, they said that they would even be prepared to take part in the government if they were asked.

So, they are now ready to put aside their weapons and move forward to a peaceful united Afghanistan, Nic.

ROBERTSON: Amanda Kibel in Zabol Province. Thank you very much for joining us.

Thank you for watching. I'm Nic Robertson. LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN will be back at this same time tomorrow.

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