CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN
Aired January 11, 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.
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ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN with Bill Hemmer. It's no day at the beach for Afghan detainees, as they arrive at a U.S. Naval base in the Caribbean. The first 20 are now at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds more could join them. Bob Franken reports from Cuba.
Trying to tell the good guys from the bad guys, U.S. forces may be involved in a power struggle with a local warlord in Afghanistan.
And, a night at the movies. Michael Holmes in Kabul, on life in Afghanistan approaching a new normal as people line up for pastimes once forbidden by the Taliban.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As Kabul changes in so many ways virtually every day, the curtain rises and the show once again goes on.
ANNOUNCER: Now, LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN, Bill Hemmer.
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BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello again from Kandahar, where vigilance is the watchword now for U.S. Marines and special forces, only 30 hours after a firefight broke out here. Six hours ago, we saw a number of Humvees, and light-armored vehicles taking out a night patrol.
Normally that would not be considered very significant, but given the events of Thursday night, right now the U.S. military looking for the possibility of any penetrators on the forward perimeter here.
Let's go back to Thursday night and show you once again what we saw here at the air base. Three very tense hours, as a firefight broke out here in Kandahar, and all the marines tell us right now, eight to 14 opposition forces sneaked through a low lying ravine. Cobra gun ships responded. The pilots say they took on light arms fire; however, they say they did not fire back.
The opposition forces apparently used some machine guns and snipers only 300 yards from the marine's forward position. Tracer fire as you can see in red and white crisscrossing the runway.
Today then, we talked with marines in their fighting holes. They describe a very exciting night, they say, with bullets flying by their heads at times and bullets thumping into their sandbags. Special Forces inspected today, but found no one. U.S. forces, no injuries reported as a result of the events of Thursday night.
Meanwhile, about 45 minutes from here in the town of Spin Boldak that sits right along the Pakistan border with Afghanistan, we've confirmed that U.S. Special Forces right now working in concert with local Afghan forces. Taliban and al Qaeda fighters are suspected of seeking refuge here, possibly getting resupplied through Quetta, Pakistan. The border's been sealed as of Friday. One marine official said it's been a hotbed for some time and we are watching in on an ongoing basis.
Meanwhile, also late on Thursday, the first shipment of detainees left from Kandahar, bound for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They arrived a short time ago, Friday afternoon in Cuba. Watching things there now, here's CNN's Bob Franken with an update.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We operated here under very tough restrictions. No cameras were allowed. No video representation of an operation that had quite a bit of drama, as it stretched out over an hour and a half.
Shortly before 2:00, the C-141 Star Lifter with its cargo of prisoners and very heavy security, landed not here at the terminal, but out on the ramp, on the tarmac. Heavy security surrounded the airplane. The airplane, of course, containing the 20 Taliban and al Qaeda members who had been brought from Afghanistan.
A truck with about 40 marines and Navy medics and other security specialists wearing facemasks, colored vests, carrying weapons, came up to the airplane. It was surrounded by humvee vehicles, five of them, not pointing in but pointing out, a perimeter defense, which was manned by machine guns and grenade launchers.
Finally, after a full hour on the ground, the first of the detainees, as they prefer to call them, was brought off the plane. Each was wearing a fluorescent bright orange jumpsuit and a matching ski cap, that looked from our vantage point about 200 yards away at a hilltop. Each was wearing what appeared to be a turquoise facemask, and perhaps goggles. Several of them resisted. Each of them was frisked, each manacled.
Those who resisted were sometimes forces to their knees, picked up by their neck. We oftentimes heard shouting, not able to tell whether the shouting was from the guards or from the detainees themselves. The entire deplaning and loading on buses took about a half hour, at which point, the buses in the convoy headed about a mile to the Guantanamo Bay cove that would take them to the other side of the island.
They were loaded on a ferry. Everybody just drove up onto the ferry boat and off they went. They're on their way to Camp X-ray. This is the very high security, temporary facility. It is a prison camp. Each of these detainees will be interrogated. He will be photographed and fingerprinted, and each will have his individual cubicle.
It's an outdoor cubicle, as you've heard reported in the last several days, with a top but a chain link fence surrounding it. It's six-by-eight feet, with just the rudimentary of furnishings. The people who are going to be guarding them say that the facilities will be humane, but it will not be a pleasant place to be. Bob Franken at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
HEMMER: Bob Franken, again in Cuba. We can say on board that plane, security very deliberate, very tight. Apparently it went quite well on board the plane; however, at the base here outside of that it may be a different story. There was no shipment of detainees last night here for Cuba. We will wait and see when the next shipment will come.
In the meantime, I want to go to the Pentagon now and talk about Donald Rumsfeld. Earlier on Friday, he indicated that good amounts of intelligence have been uncovered now about the al Qaeda network. Jamie McIntyre tracking that for us. Jamie, hello.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Bill. Well, the Pentagon says by the way -- Pentagon sources indicating that this first flight of detainees was sort of a trial run. They wanted to see how it goes, and they said it may be two or three days after that one before the next flight goes out.
They have been questioning these people, and apparently getting some good intelligence about al Qaeda network and its operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. In fact, although these are considered some of the most dangerous prisoners, some of them apparently have been talking, some of them that may be Taliban members who aren't quite as hardcore as the al Qaeda members.
And in fact, they have got pretty credible information from them that a number of senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders were killed in the bombing, people they didn't know before. In fact, today Rumsfeld said that they had learned that at least two people that they are looking for were killed in recent bombing runs.
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DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Our operations are working. We've captured or killed a number of senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, and as we interrogate more detainees, we are being told of terrorists who they believe were killed in earlier bombing raids over the past several months.
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MCINTYRE: Meanwhile, a videotape recovered by the U.S. military in Afghanistan some time ago, has apparently helped break up a terrorist cell in Singapore that was planning attacks against the U.S. military, including personnel and Navy warships there.
On this tape, you see a bus and the suspected terrorist is heard narrating a portion of the tape, saying that the bus would be a good target because it takes military personnel to the Singapore subway stop, and also pointing out some bicycles with boxes on the back of them that suggest that they would use the same kind of boxes to hide explosives in.
This tape is the clearest evidence yet that these terrorists, who are linked to the al Qaeda network, were intending to carry out attacks against U.S. military personnel in Singapore. Of the 13 who are now in custody of the Singapore authorities, we're told that eight of them actually attended terrorist training in Afghanistan, in al Qaeda camps and they have a, what was called a fully developed plan to attack the U.S. military, including not just those personnel on the shuttle bus, but also U.S. ships in Singapore waters in the harbor there in Singapore. And they found, among the other things they found, a map showing the area where the ships would be attacked, with the label "kill zone" -- Bill.
HEMMER: Jamie, on a different topic, has there been much reaction at the Pentagon to the firefight that happened here on Thursday night? The military indicated right now it will have no effect on the shipment of detainees out here in the future. But I'm wondering what's been said there about security around the Kandahar area from the Pentagon's perspective?
MCINTYRE: Well, they haven't talked a lot about it, but they have indicated that it shows the continuing danger there. There have been - there is a sort of quiet investigation getting underway, trying to figure out exactly what happened and whether the security needs to be improved in any way. But for the obvious reasons that we're all aware of, they don't want to talk about any potential security changes.
At this point, they say they're still not sure what the origin of the fire was, what the purpose was. But they are taking all due precautions.
HEMMER: All right, Jamie, thanks. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Let me go now to the capitol city of Kabul. Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware was visiting on Friday, this following up a larger group of U.S. Senators that visited the region earlier in the week.
The Senator making it quite clear that the work here in Afghanistan is far from finished, far from over, and this country is far from secure at this point.
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SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS CHAIRMAN: He believes that this war is not over yet, that terrorism here in his country has not been rooted out, that there are still Taliban and al Qaeda forces in this country. And until we're able, they are able, to eradicate those folks, he's not going to get people to move people back to their villages. He's not going to be able to restore order.
So it seems it's very much in his interest to support every effort to crack down and eliminate the terrorists. But the question becomes, how much control does he have from Kabul out into the provinces like in Kandahar, and I think that's an open question.
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HEMMER: Senator Biden, after his meetings with Hamid Karzai, the head of the interim government here in Afghanistan. From here, Senator Biden heads on to Pakistan. They will again talk about the tensions in the region here.
Let's talk more about the ongoing threat though that we have seen, not only in Kandahar, but really throughout this entire country. From Chicago, the Army Retired Brigadier General David Grange is our guest this evening. General, good to have you along with the program on this Friday evening.
Pick up on that point that Senator Biden was making with Hamid Karzi, about the continued pockets of resistance that have been declared in and about this country now, and an ongoing matter. What is your take right now on how long it may take to make this country safe?
GENERAL DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Bill, I don't think you can ever make it totally safe. You have warlords that have autonomy in their area. They cooperate to some level, but you have as an example, General Khan up by Heart. You have General Dostum up by Mazar-e Sharif. They have their own agenda. They're very tough guys. They have their own small armies. They cooperate to some degree.
Then you have the small groups of bandits, or remnants of Taliban, hardcore Taliban elements still left in different places, and it's going to take a while to get them out or get them to change their attitudes. It's going to remain dangerous for quite some time.
HEMMER: Given the history, though, of Afghanistan and given the efforts the U.S. and its coalition partners are trying to do here are we talking about impossibility, General?
GRANGE: Bill, I don't think it's impossible at all, but I'm just - you're not going to have 100 percent security in Afghanistan, nor are you going to have immediate rule of law in a land. It's going to take some time, and I think that it's going to require our participation to some degree for a good while, as well as the international coalition, to make this thing work.
HEMMER: Curious to know about what your take right now is on the amount of intelligence that has been discovered so far in Afghanistan, and how it basically may or may not have been used to date in other parts of the world. What do you believe right now the impact is for that intelligence in trying to dissect the al Qaeda network worldwide, General?
GRANGE: It's probably the most critical factor in the whole operation. Without the intelligence, we can't conduct future operations, and as you showed earlier, the operation in Singapore is a direct result of combat operations and searching and evaluating information and putting it together with other information to give you intelligence.
That probably prevented that attack, and you could be assured that terrorist organizations have many other such attacks planned for in the future, and they continue to put surveillance and reconnaissance on potential targets. So we got to keep this pressure on, and we got to keep gathering as much intelligence as possible to keep this from happening.
HEMMER: General, finally, on another point that goes right along with the issue of intelligence. We have been told, and Jamie McIntyre reiterated to it again in his report from the Pentagon, that there are certain members, detainees right now who may be talking. Talk to us about how critical that is, and how much information is necessary in order to dissect again and hit certain parts of this network to really rip it apart?
GRANGE: It's going to take a while. Some detainees probably talked immediately when they were still in Afghanistan. Some held out for a while. With time, many more will break. They'll break from the pressure. They psychological effect of being at Guantanamo Bay, away from their own country, and not even in a country they had something to do with attacking, the United States of America. This isolated area will have an effect on them and the conditions that they're in, though humane, they're tough conditions.
Shaved beards, the garb that they're forced to wear, it will have an effect and some will crack. And as you put some pieces together, some will be lies. Some will have truth to them. And as you put this together, with the other information around the world that we garner, we'll get a better intelligence picture, and we'll be able to take down more of these outfits.
HEMMER: Many have suggested this comes down to police work and detective work at this point. We shall see. General, thanks. David Grange, our guest, live in Chicago tonight on LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN. Thank you, General.
In a moment here, remembering a fallen U.S. serviceman, the first U.S. soldier to be killed by enemy fire, a Green Beret laid to rest in Washington. Back in a moment.
HEMMER: Here in Kandahar, the running total of detainees right now, 361. We do anticipate the greater majority, if not all, to eventually make their way to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But in other parts of the region, specifically Bagram north of Kabul, a few locations in Pakistan, and Kabul itself, there are more detainees who may eventually be shipped here or to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
And there is one group right now from Pakistan, where officials are trying to sort out the good guys from the bad guys. Lisa Rose Weaver and their story.
LISA ROSE WEAVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Kabul Intelligence Services, Directorate 3, the basement, temporary home for Pakistani nationals detained on suspicion for membership in the al Qaeda network. These are among some 50 men being held here now. No prison uniforms here, but the same accusation covers them all, bringing a violent form of jihad to the heartland of Muslim discontent.
The men spend a lot of time praying, calling on the different names of Allah, perhaps for answers about why they're here. Most say they came to Afghanistan in the spirit of Islam. Some acknowledge they came here to fight.
Nasib Rakman (ph) was injured outside Kabul in fighting the U.S. backed Northern Alliance. Then he was arrested. He says a Pakistani commander, not the Taliban, led him to battle.
NASIB RAKMAN (through translator): "I was fighting against infidels. We were told that the infidels have come to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and torture the people, and so we should come and start a jihad."
WEAVER: Prison authorities say they're still investigating the men's cases. Until then, they'll stay here, caught in the wrong place with the wrong cause. But officials say they came to cause trouble.
"If a person fights on the frontlines" says the Deputy Chief of Intelligence, "that means they are fighting for a goal. They were trained from the outside."
Mohammed Usef (ph), a food vendor working in Kabul, claims he was arrested simply because he's from Pakistan, caught in the confusion as the Taliban were fleeing the city.
MOHAMMED USEF (through translator): Myself and all others want to be released, and we are waiting to see what the government will do about us. I have no link with al Qaeda and no one can prove that I have got one."
WEAVER (on camera): The detainees here have fallen through a diplomatic gap. There are no Pakistani officials here to represent them, and maybe demand that they be allowed home. U.S. forces in principle have access to all detainees with suspected links to al Qaeda. The contact with the Americans likely wouldn't do these men any good.
Lisa Rose Weaver, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.
HEMMER: Once again, pointing out the difficulties on the ground throughout this entire country. That effort continues. In a moment, raising the curtain in Kabul.
HEMMER: The curtain is rising once again in Kabul. Local theaters are open for business once again. We know music is back after being banned for five years under Taliban rule. And also, the movies are back in style as well.
From Kabul tonight, CNN's Michael Holmes shows us how some Afghans are making up for some very lost time.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Outside Cinema Park in downtown Kabul, the crowd gathers for a showing of "Attack." It's not a new release, far from it. The excitement is because the movie is showing at all.
Like many here, this is Nagi Bulla's (ph) first time at the cinema, ever.
NAGI BULLA (through translator): We have freedom now and we are happy about it.
HOLMES: In a scene to warm the heart of any movie studio boss, the rush for tickets is, well enthusiastic. Four hundred and fifty people come here three times a day. Every movie a sellout.
"Give me five. Give me ten" they shout thrusting fistfuls of Afghanis at the sole and very busy ticket seller. It looks like a lot of cash. It's not. A ticket may cost 5,000 Afghanis, but that's about 15 cents.
One sign of a still nervous city, everyone body searched before they buy raisins or Cokes or cigarettes, and then clamor literally into their seats. Our camera light was not welcome. The movie had begun.
Upstairs, proud projectionists once again apply their trade. Five years ago, these men were ordered out of here by the Taliban at a moment's notice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The cinema was closed and the equipment broken.
HOLMES: A few miles away, a milestone performance at the battle scarred Kabul theater, an emotional moment, women in the cast, unthinkable a few short months ago, equally unthinkable any kind of performance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm very happy I'm back in the theater. The theater was closed for six years because the Taliban kept the people away. Now we are back and we are happy.
HOLMES: Now to the outside observer, this building quite obviously is no West End or Broadway, but to Afghans this building is every bit as important as those hallowed places are to New Yorkers or Londoners.
Bombed during the Civil War of the early '90s, rebuilding banned under the Taliban, but as Kabul changes in so many ways, virtually everyday, the curtain rises and the show once again goes on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you see, this is a destroyed building and what these people wanted to show art, music and culture will not die in this country, and nobody can kill them.
HOLMES: Despite the ravages wrought upon this building, there is still very much a sense of what was before, and what perhaps might be to come. Michael Holmes, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.
HEMMER: For those who might have thought the current campaign in Afghanistan was winding down, you might want to think again. This past week has reminded us, quite clearly, about how this could be the most dangerous aspect of the current conflict. We were reminded of that when seven marines crashed in an airplane in southwestern Pakistan.
And also today in Maple Valley, Washington, we were reminded once again of the dangers here. Nathan Chapman was 31 years old, from San Antonio, Texas. His body was laid to rest there in Washington State. The flag from his casket was given to his wife. Nathan Chapman, the first U.S. serviceman and the first serviceman in any part of the current coalition to die of enemy fire. Once again, Nathan Chapman, 31 years old. So long now, from Kandahar.
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