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LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN

Aired January 10, 2002 - 20:00   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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN with Bill Hemmer.

An airport fire fight. U.S. Marines under fire at the Kandahar Airport, as enemy detainees head to a U.S. base in Cuba.

Looking for answers, why did a KC-130 refueling plane, carrying seven marines crash into the side of a mountain in Pakistan? Jamie McIntyre has the live report.

MATTHEW WINTERS, FATHER OF JEANNETTE WINTERS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and then it crashed, and my daughter was in it.

ANNOUNCER: Gary Tuchman on how the families of those Marines are coping with the pain.

And what could be the next stop in the war on terror. Catherine Bond on the country the U.S. says has connections to Osama bin Laden.

CATHERINE BOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the end, what the U.S. may really be doing with all its talk of Somalia becoming the next target, is more prevention than cure.

Now, LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN, Bill Hemmer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello again from Kandahar. We're here at the air base, cite of the U.S. military buildup in southern Afghanistan. It was nine hours ago, and now the U.S. military still smarting and still scrambling after a significant security breech on the perimeter here at the air base.

I want to take you back nine hours ago in chronological order, and let you know what we saw here in Kandahar. The first group of detainees, 20 separated in two different groups of 10, appeared to be operating quite well. The security was tight. The movement was deliberate. Two groups of 10, dressed in orange jumpers. We're told all detainees recently were shaven from head to toe, including the coveted al Qaeda and Taliban beard.

One by one they were searched, led onto the C-17 waiting there, and eventually as that plane closed up and started taxiing toward the runway, we noticed flares in the distance, on the far side of the runway. Then again, as the C-17 about taxied down the runway, more flares shot into the sky.

The C-17 left the area, cleared the airspace, but quickly after that, members of the 101st Airborne Division and the U.S. Marine Corps here scrambled for cover. They came inside the terminal building. Outside though, flares crisscrossed the runway, sometimes seen in white, sometimes seen in red. We're told a defensive posture was taken here at the airport.

Over the next three hours, the airport went dark. Flight operations were grounded. Cobra gunship helicopters responded, two of them in the air to the threat perceived on the exterior perimeter here. The marines say snipers were spotted and discovered in possibly three different areas and Special Forces teams were sent out to take care and extinguish those threats.

No injuries reported here, but again the U.S. is smarting after this one, the U.S. military scrambling right now to figure out how this breech indeed occurred.

Meanwhile, the detainees eventually will find their way, 20 hours later, at the other end in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Twenty hours is the flight time. It may occur longer though to fly given the expected stop in between for refueling purposes. Eventually, the housing construction there in Guantanamo may house up to 2,000 detainees there in Guantanamo Bay.

Back here in Kandahar now, I want to talk more about what we experienced over the past several hours. Let's bring in the public affairs officer with the U.S. Marine Corps here, Lieutenant James Jarvis is our guest this evening, early this morning, I should say here in Afghanistan.

When we went to bed about two hours ago for a brief nap here, the word was that snipers were seen in the surrounding mountains. Is that still the understanding?

LIEUTENANT JAMES JARVIS, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Yes, it is absolutely. From what we understand, we had some snipers that penetrated our outer perimeter. We received shots in the north and the northwestern side of the runway, and when those shots occurred, we made sure to go to a defensive posture, get our covert gun ships up in the air to go provide some close air support, as well as to go investigate and then just be prepared to repel any kind of sniper attack here.

HEMMER: What do you understand, Lieutenant, in terms of security at the base here? How did this happen?

JARVIS: Well quite simply, this is a very large area to defend. There are some roads nearby where someone, foot mobile traffic can get out of a vehicle, move up close to our perimeter from the outer perimeter, and then get into a position where they might be within small arms range. HEMMER: We understand right now, this first run of 20 detainees was called a trial run by some, trying to figure out if the security held up here. How will, or what do you anticipate rather security to be like or the possibility of the detainee flights being changed right now, based on what we saw earlier this evening?

JARVIS: Well I want to make something clear. These were two isolated incidents, in that the detainee movement was something that we did not get official notification that we were going to do until this morning. Quite simply, we had someone penetrate our lines this evening.

Our outer lines are defended by the anti-Taliban forces, and we are treating these as two completely isolated incidents. I don't believe that it's going to affect our transfer of detainees, because quite simply, we had adequate security for that.

HEMMER: All right, more when the sun comes up in two hours, I'm sure. Lieutenant James Jarvis, U.S. Marine Corps, thank you Lieutenant, much appreciated.

JARVIS: Thank you.

HEMMER: In the meantime, I want to go back to Cuba now and pick things up again with the detainees. I mentioned up to 2,000 potentially could be held there. Already U.S. troops on the ground, upwards of a thousand from Fort Hood, Texas, and also CNN's Bob Franken on the ground and live with us now in Guantanamo Bay. Bob, hello.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Bill. I'm reporting as a representative of the network pool this evening. They have put on some very significant coverage restrictions here at Guantanamo Bay, as they prepare for the arrival of this first group of detainees.

Throughout the day, there have been dress rehearsals, very, very tightly secured dress rehearsals. We have not been able to witness them or, of course, shoot any videotape. Dress rehearsals going through every aspect of the arrival and incarceration of this first group of detainees, and of course, the sense of security is heightened by what has gone on on the ground in Afghanistan that you have been reporting on.

They will be arriving sometime tomorrow. We can tell you that. They will be arriving at the airport, of course, and then taken to the ferry boat that will take them to the other side of the island, across Guantanamo Bay. There they will be going to Camp X-ray.

We've been reporting, of course, since yesterday about the incredibly tight security that will be part of their lives now. They will be staying in the open air. They will be staying in what some might call cages.

The military here prefers to call them outdoor cells, meaning that each will have a cubicle with a little wood roof and a chain link fence that surrounds it with very rudimentary living equipment inside. They will be sleeping on a mat on a concrete floor. That will be after they are processed tomorrow -- Bill.

HEMMER: Bob, what is your understanding in terms of further construction? What can we anticipate anyway at this point for the new shipments of more detainees, possibly within days or weeks to come?

FRANKEN: Well they're figuring that they can accommodate about 250 in this temporary camp. Ultimately, they're going to construct a building, an honest prison they're going to construct.

These detainees, up to 2,000 as you pointed out are ultimately what they expect to have here. The first capacity is for 100, but in any case they're planning for the possibility that some of these people may be here for quite a long time.

HEMMER: All right, Bob, thanks. Bob Franken reporting in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

I want to talk more about GITMO as it is referred to in military jargon. How does this facility work? The men who used to run that facility with us live now from Raleigh, North Carolina, retired Brigadier General George Walls is our guest tonight, and General we say thank you for joining us on our program this evening.

You know that facility just about as well as anybody right now. Tell us what you see in terms of the deportation and the detainment of at least a couple hundred at the beginning, and potentially thousands there in Cuba, sir.

BRIGADIER GENERAL GEORGE WALLS (RET), U.S. MARINE CORPS: Well, Guantanamo Bay, Bill is a very interesting place. It's in the southeast corner of the island of Cuba, and very unusual terrain for what you would expect in Cuba. It is more like our desert southwest.

At the time I was there, we were prepared to handle up to 16,000 Haitian migrants and, of course, we were working in a humanitarian environment which is quite a bit different from what we're going to be experiencing on this iteration.

HEMMER: And General, when you first heard about the word to use Guantanamo, what was your reaction? Good decision or not?

WALLS: I think a good decision from the standpoint that we found a place that is remote, that we can control fairly easily, but that's close enough to where we want to do anything, as far as processing, interrogating, and carrying on intelligence operations with these detainees, Bill.

HEMMER: And what about security, sir? So much has been made about it. We saw a breech here at the airport last night, but it appeared the detainees were well secured. We saw countless people on the tarmac here last night, attack dogs in tow as well. What is your take about security measure in Cuba, sir?

WALLS: As the commander there, I think one of my highest priorities would be to make sure that our security was as tight as it needed to be. Again, you're talking about a situation that's halfway around the world. These folks are going to be in a totally unfamiliar environment. They will have very limited communications and opportunity to do much, and I guarantee you that they will be under eyes 24/7.

HEMMER: And General, what is your perception right now about the Cuban people and the Cuban leader? Apparently, Fidel Castro has not raised any objections about this, at least publicly anyway. Surprise to you at all?

WALLS: Not really. During the time that I was there with the Haitian migrants, the Cuban government did have some concerns, but again we have a longstanding lease on that base with the Cuban government and I don't expect that they're going to have a tremendous amount of interest in what we're doing there.

HEMMER: All right General, thank you. Retired Brigadier General George Walls with us live from Raleigh, North Carolina, the man who used to run the facility in Guantanamo Bay. General, thanks for your time tonight.

I want to move now from Cuba to Afghanistan, and now to the Philippines in Southeast Asia. It's possible right now the U.S. has forces right now operating in the Philippines. To the Pentagon now, and Jamie McIntyre who's watching this. Jamie, hello.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Bill. Well the United States does have about a dozen or so Special Forces in the Philippines now. This is an advance team that is paving the way for the planned deployment probably in coming weeks of several hundred U.S. troops, including about 100 Special Forces, who would act as trainers with the Philippine military and government, as they pursue the Abu Sayaaf terrorist group, a group that has been closely linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

The Pentagon says that the Special Forces that are there now are simply making preparations for the larger force to move over, probably by next month. That force, we're told, would be about 100 Special Forces, followed by, along with about ten helicopters or so, some C- 130 cargo planes, and then as many as 500 logistics troops, that could bring the total to up even as high as 600 troops in the Philippines. But, of course, this is still a matter under discussion with the Philippine government.

The United States has offered for those - to send troops to actually go out in combat and help hunt down the terrorists, but so far the Philippine government has declined that request, citing the need for authorization from its Congress for that.

But the mission guidance that has gone out with these troops does provide for armed U.S. observers, military observers, to go to forward locations with Philippine troops, so that could put them in a combat situation in the jungle of the Philippines. We'll have to wait and see how that turns out.

When I asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today about what exactly the mission was, he simply said training, and he wasn't going to talk about any future operations -- Bill.

HEMMER: Jamie quickly here, the crash that went down almost 24 hours ago now in southwestern Pakistan, any cause given there from the Pentagon as to why that plane had problems with seven marines on board?

MCINTYRE: Still no definitive cause, but they think they have a better handle on a couple of facts. One is, they're pretty sure now that the plane did not catch fire before it crashed, that it burst into a big fireball as it hit the mountainside because it was laden with fuel, being a refueling plane.

They also, again, no indication of any enemy hostile fire. The crash site is remote. It's rugged. We're told that there isn't a lot left of the plane, so they know that there were no survivors. All of the families have been notified. A full investigation is underway.

HEMMER: Tough, tough news there. Jamie, thank you. Jamie McIntyre up in the Pentagon with us.

In a moment here, what's happening in Somalia, and what is the U.S. seeing? We'll get an update from Mogadishu, when LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN returns in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Back here again live in Kandahar, where the bombing continues in eastern Afghanistan. In fact, it continues now for five days running. The target there apparently is a terrorist training camp right along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

According to the U.S. military, they're picking up reconnaissance teams right now and covering a far more extensive network of tunnels and caves in that area than previously thought. They say 30 to 40 acres in size underground, and at least four miles above ground. Again, as I mentioned, the bombing now in its fifth day there along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Also from Kabul, the capitol city, it's going to take years to clean up after 23 years of war. But today, more efforts to get rid of Soviet tanks, World War II tanks sitting on the northern edge of the city. This calls for armed Afghans on the streets of Kabul to turn in their weapons or head for the countryside, as the international security force continues to take root there in Kabul.

Also, back here in Kandahar, cleanup of a different sort still underway. Land mines are everywhere here. This is a team from Norway. Every day we see them. It looks like they're crop-dusting the fields out here, as if giant wheat is getting ripped out of the back of that machine. The dust churns. The dirt churns. Forty mines a day are recovered and spotted and located by this team alone.

Also, further west in Rome, Italy, the international peacekeeping force continues to take shape, Italian soldiers assembling there in Rome. Eventually they'll head out to Kabul, expected there on Saturday. All this follows German movement from two days ago from Germany. Again, the German troops expected to meet up with British troops and more on the ground and on the streets of Kabul sometime very soon.

So then the war in Afghanistan is ongoing. The issue now is, and the question continues to be, what next in this current war? And is the next target eastern Africa and the country of Somalia? What is the U.S. seeing there and what are the citizens seeing as well?

From Mogadishu now, CNN's Catherine Bond reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOND (voice over): Two reasons why the Bush Administration might target Somalia in its War on Terror. One, the presence of an extremist Somali group, known as Ali Jihad, which the U.S. says is linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

And two, in al-Barakaat are companies that dominate this Somali economy for which the U.S. administration has targeted, accusing it of helping finance bin Laden's activities.

But here, many question whether the Bush Administration has got its facts straight. Al-Barakaat denies its diverted its shareholders profits to al Qaeda, as the Bush Administration claims, and the President of Somalia's interim government is adamant there are no terrorist bases here. If there are, he says, he'll help the Americans destroy them.

ABDIOASEIM SALAT HASSAN, SOMALI INTERIM PRESIDENT: We are saying to the Americans, welcome. Let us see. If there are any such camps, we will lead you there and we will fight.

BOND: The Somali political organization, the Bush Administration has listed as terrorists, Ali Jihad, was active a decade ago. These men say they joined it then, but now they say it's history.

"Right now" says Ali, "I don't know of any Ali Jihad office existing in Somalia, and I wouldn't say the group still has a militia. There's some people like us, but I don't know where they all are."

Nonetheless, U.S. sources say a few senior individuals from Ali Jihad may be tempted to help al Qaeda. So do Somalis think Osama bin Laden could find a hideout here.

A chorus of no from these men. "Not with a $25 million reward on his head." That leaves al-Barakaat a civilian target. Somalia's largest company involved in communications and banking, its assets frozen, and four of its managers blacklisted, including this man Abdullah Hussein Kahie.

Do you sit here worrying that a U.S. cruise missile is going to drop through your office roof?

ABDULLAH HUSSEIN KAHIE, AL-BARAKAAT COMMUNICATIOINS MANAGER: Not, it's not I only who is worrying about that. Also (UNINTELLIGIBLE), also other people are worrying to come American invasion here.

BOND: Al-Barakaat feels its case is hopeless. Proof or no proof it says, it's been told the U.S. decision to target it is irreversible. The best it can hope for, no more financial damage.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOND (on camera): In the end, what the U.S. may really be doing with all its talk of Somalia becoming the next target, is more prevention than cure, trying to deter al Qaeda members from thinking of trying to seek refuge here. Catherine Bond, CNN, Mogadishu.

HEMMER: In a moment, remembering the lives of seven Americans, seven marines killed in Pakistan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Just 24 short hours ago, we were reporting on the deaths of seven Americans, seven marines killed in Pakistan when their plane went into the side of a mountain. Twenty-four hours later, the news is much different now, and in a 24 hour news cycle, certainly things can turn and churn quite quickly.

We want to stop though and remember now the lives of seven special people. The Marines called them heroes. Gary Tuchman has the story on their lives.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): We'll always know her as the first U.S. servicewoman to die since the War on Terrorism began, but Jeannette Winters will also forever be known as Matthew Winters' little girl.

WINTERS: And they told me that there had been a crash and my daughter was in it.

TUCHMAN: Similar heartbreak for six other families. Captain Matthew Bancroft of Shasta, California was the KC-130s command pilot, a husband and father.

Sergeant Nathan Hays was only 21, the flight mechanic, growing up in the small town of Wilbur, Washington.

Flight navigator Bryan Bertrand of Koos Bay, Oregon was a high school basketball and football star. His friend, Natosha, was waiting to give him his Christmas stocking. She had a dress for the upcoming Marine Ball. Now she only has memories.

NATOSHA MONROE: You know, I talked to Bryan on the phone. I just had this feeling that I wasn't going to see him again.

TUCHMAN: For the father and step-mother of Jeannette Winters, who was the radio operator aboard the Marine plane, there was no such feeling.

WINTERS: It was a big shock, and I'm hoping - I know they had their job to do and that's all I got to say.

TUCHMAN: Matthew Winters last spoke to his daughter before the holidays. She had told him she would not be back home in Gary, Indiana for Christmas. But Jeannette sent her father this guitar for a present.

MRS. WINTERS: And we are proud of her.

WINTERS: I'm very proud of my daughter.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN.

MS. WINTERS: Her father loved her very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: Clearly, the dangers are everywhere in this country still. Just flying can get you killed, never mind the bullets. But what we saw about nine hours ago, once again points out the danger, the continued danger in this country. However, after three months of continued bombing, the fall of the Taliban, and the rooting right now of the al Qaeda network, Afghanistan may be on its way to a much safer place.

That's our show for tonight. Thanks for being with us. I'm Bill Hemmer, live in Kandahar once again. We'll see you again tomorrow here.

For our viewers in the U.S. "THE POINT" follows next with Catherine Crier. For our viewers overseas, stay tuned for "WORLD SPORT." It's been a very long night here in Kandahar. See you again tomorrow. I'm Bill Hemmer, so long now.

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