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Afghanistan: The Lab Discovered in Southern Afghanistan; Afghan Community Terrorized by Taliban; Will Afghans See their Former King Again?

Aired March 25, 2002 - 20:00   ET


NIC ROBERTSON, HOST: I'm Nic Robertson in the Central Afghan Highlands. Tonight, we'll have details on a laboratory discovered in southern Afghanistan that could have been used by al Qaeda to produce anthrax.

We'll find out why some Afghans are wondering if their former king will ever return to this country. And we'll also look at the community here, the most isolated community inside Afghanistan that was terrorized by the Taliban. That's all in LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN.

ANNOUNCER: Anthrax in Afghanistan?


GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: There was a lab in Kandahar that -- where we did find some equipment that was indicative of perhaps manufacturing anthrax.


ANNOUNCER: A disturbing discovery unearths worries about bioterrorism.

It's called the warthog, and it was a key player in Operation Anaconda.


UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: It's a combat aircraft designed to expend ordinance. We were made to take hits and designed to survive in a very difficult battlefield.


ANNOUNCER: History destroyed and a people devastated. We'll get a rare look at the site of ancient statutes blown to bits by the Taliban one year ago.


ROBERTSON: Tonight, LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN comes from Bamiyan in the Central Afghan Highlands 8,000 feet up in the mountains and about 100 miles northwest of the city of Kabul. Here, almost a year ago, the Taliban destroyed two ancient Buddhas dating back some 1,400 years. They were over 100 feet high and stood in the cliffs just behind me. It caused outrage in the world at the time. We'll have more on that later and how this ethnic and isolated close-knit community here is recovering from the Taliban rule.

But first, news from U.S. officials that U.S. troops near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan discovered a laboratory. The U.S. officials confirmed that the laboratory contained equipment that they believe al Qaeda could have been using to prepare anthrax. For more on that, we are joined now by CNN's military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon - Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Nic, as you know, the U.S. military has been examining more than 60 sites around Afghanistan that are suspected of being weapons of mass destruction sites. This latest site was inspected after a tip received through U.S. intelligence indicated it might have been used by the Taliban or al Qaeda for the purpose of perhaps beginning to work on biological weapons. The facility was located near Kandahar. And when U.S. troops went in, they found various equipment that could have been used in a biological laboratory. It had all the earmarks of an anthrax lab in the making.


MYERS: We did find some equipment that was indicative of perhaps manufacturing anthrax. Not all the equipment you would need was there, but there was some of the equipment. It looked like some of it had been tried to have been destroyed.


MCINTYRE: Now, in other sites around Afghanistan, the U.S. military has still found no evidence that al Qaeda actually managed to produce any chemical, biological or radiological weapons. However, the Pentagon said today that at five or six locations, they got positive tests back for anthrax or another compound called Rison, which comes from castor beans, a very deadly substance, but they can't be sure that those items were ever produced there because both of those things can occur naturally especially in the very minute quantities.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is continuing to seek out al Qaeda pockets around Afghanistan even as it's beginning to train an Afghan National Army. At least today, the Pentagon announced that it will dedicate between 125 and 150 Special Operations troops to begin the process of training and equipping a National Army along with other countries, including the International Security Force based in Kabul. And it's also looking for donors to help fund a national military. The U.S. says that without a strong national military to counter the trend of each warlord having its own military force, they won't be able to be enough internal security and border security for Afghanistan to prosper - Nic.

ROBERTSON: Jamie, how difficult does the Pentagon think it will be to train this new National Afghan Army?

MCINTYRE: Well, they don't think it's going to be too difficult. They look at it -- this is sort of under the theory of teach a man to fish and you feed him for life. They are hoping to train the trainers; that is, they're hoping to train some of the Afghan military so that they can in turn train others, and that by the end of the year this will be a total program run under the new Afghan government. In fact, they say that Hamid Karzai, the interim president, has insisted that they want help from the U.S. military, but they don't want the U.S. military to be the final trainer of all of their forces. It's something they want to do themselves. They're looking for assistance, and the U.S. is hoping to help them in the short term so they can continue the job themselves.

ROBERTSON: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thank you very much.

And at Bagram Air Base just north of Kabul, recognition of a job well done. Major General Hagenbeck who was in charge of the just concluded Operation Anaconda has awarded one Bronze Star, and six Air Medals and six Army Accommodation Medals at a ceremony Monday.

The U.S. is also moving some of its A-10 attack aircraft at Bagram Air Base. The better known as the warthog was used in Operation Anaconda, but was flown from bases outside of Afghanistan. The low-flying aircraft is fitted with missiles to destroy tanks, runways and bunkers. CNN caught up with an A-10 pilot at Bagram Air Base.


UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: The A-10 is a combat aircraft designed to expend ordinance. We were made to take hits and to design in a very -- designed to survive in a very difficult battlefield.

The A-10 has a variety of weapons. As you can see, it has a 30- millimeter Gatlin gun. The end of it sticks in the nose. We also carry a wide variety of ordinance and ammunitions.

During Operation Anaconda, the A-10 was used to locate and destroy enemy targets. We were in contact with people up in the air, gives me airborne platforms, as well as people on the ground, integrating with them to find out where the friendlies were and where the targets were and struck those targets as the ground commanders required them.


ROBERTSON: The aircraft could occasionally be seen flying in pairs over the battlefield of Operation Anaconda.

Now, six months into Operation Enduring Freedom, it appears most Americans are still far from war weary. In a CNN/USA Today Gallup Poll, the majority of Americans still believe the United States is winning the war on terrorism. Fifty-one percent say they hold that view, but the figure is down on January's figures of 66 percent. Analysts say it's not that people think that terrorists are winning the war, but they realize that the campaign here could last for a long time. In fact, one in ten Americans think Operation Anaconda will not be the last major battle of U.S. forces here.

There are few places inside Afghanistan that escaped the Taliban's rule, escaped their destruction of the countryside here. Bamiyan, in the Central Afghan Highlands where we are now, was perhaps the place that was most devastated under Taliban rule. They destroyed two ancient Buddha statutes. This is an isolated and close-knit community here. They are mostly ethnic Hazaras and as we discovered, they are only now beginning to recover from the Taliban's rule.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Huge holes where 1,400-year-old statutes of Buddha once towered over Bamiyan, tell the silent tale of Taliban excess. In the caves below, the dynamited face where the Taliban destroyed the ancient idols last year, there is vocal testimony to the Taliban's harsh rule.

"The Taliban killed people and destroyed our houses," Noruz (ph) says. With his wife, mother and brother, his is just one of 1,200 Hazara families taking refuge in the only accommodation available, 8,000 feet up in the mountains. Daily chores perched high on the rock face, a dangerous ordeal.

"We don't have doors or windows, and all our blankets were destroyed," says his wife, Necbert (ph), as she bakes bread in the cave.

Parts of this provincial capital are destroyed beyond repair. And in outlying areas in this almost exclusively ethnic Hazara region, whole villages were burned people say.

Under Taliban rule, ethnic Hazaras here think they were singled out for particularly harsh treatment.

DR. ESHAN ULLAH, BAMIYAN HOSPITAL (through translator): The Hazaries were fighting the Taliban for their lives; others were fighting for power and government. The Taliban were much more cruel to the Hazaries than to anyone else, although our fight with the Pashtun community goes back before the Taliban.

ROBERTSON: At the city's education office, repairs are under way. The Taliban turned it into a bakery. Now, it's being readied for the new school year. Twenty-seven thousand children aged 7 to 13 in Bamiyan Province are destined to benefit from these educational books.

Officials are also hoping to start Bamiyan University for older students; some of whom they hope will study Hazara history, although they stress learning will be for all ethnic groups.

KAZIM TURA, BAMIYAN UNIVERSITY CHANCELLOR: We only want their minds for Afghanistan. We don't want nationality. We only want their minds. ROBERTSON (on-camera): Hazaras make up at least one-fifth of Afghanistan's population, they say. Most live in the Central Highlands around Bamiyan, although others are dispersed around the country.

Among Afghans, they have a reputation for fierce fighting and independence. However, Hazaras feel they have always had to struggle for a fair share of power.

(voice-over): So surprisingly, perhaps, among the broken rock remains of the ancient Buddhas here in this close-knit and isolated community, to hear this Hazara refugee, Naruz (ph), describe the Taliban's destruction of the city's ancient stone companions as a national loss, not a local one.


ROBERTSON: When we come back, why Afghanistan's former king is delaying his return to the country.

ANNOUNCER: Next, awaiting the return of a king most people don't even remember and some don't want to return.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We don't want him to come back.

ZALMAY RASUL, AFGHAN CABINET MINISTER: He will symbolize this unit of the nation, father of nation and - that Afghans need.


ANNOUNCER: A royal dilemma when LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN returns.

But first, time for you to voice your opinion. Will a national Army in Afghanistan hold together? To cast your ballot in the quick vote, head to The AOL key word is CNN. A reminder, this poll is not scientific.


ANNOUNCER: Afghanistan's exiled king, Zahir Shah, acceded the throne in 1933 at age 19, after his father was assassinated. He was overthrown in a coup in 1937 while in Italy receiving medical treatment, and has lived there ever since.

ROBERTSON: In 24 hours, Afghanistan's former king was expected to return to the country. However, as CNN's Walter Rodgers now reports, he has delayed his return, and that is causing concern among many Afghans wondered if the exiled monarch will come back.


WALTER RODGERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The people of Afghanistan are going to have to wait even longer for the return of a king most of them cannot even remember. Most Afghans alive today were more influenced by the 10 years of Soviet occupation during the 1980s than by a monarch who was driven into exile in Italy in 1973. Now, anxious government officials are trying to squelch speculation that after several postponements, King Zahir Shah may not be coming at all.

SAYED RAHEEN, AFGHAN MINISTER OF INFORMATION: I'm sure he is coming back very soon, but probably certain arrangements here or in Rome are required for that.

ROGERS: The 87-year-old king was supposed to return this week, but a western diplomatic source said the government here simply is not ready for his entourage. Now, the royal homecoming has been delayed twice, and there are confusing statements about the king's return. His Italian hosts are saying it's the end of April. An Afghan official says mid-April, and the interim Afghan prime minister, Hamid Karzai, muddied the waters even further.

HAMID KARZAI, CHAIRMAN, AFGHAN INTERIM ADMINISTRATION: One month? That's not true. That's just not true. No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any idea how long the delay is?

KARZAI: Now, that's not true. I thought it was going to be two or three days. That's not true. No, no, no. That's not true.

ROGERS: Workmen on the roof of the king's mansion suggest his palace may not yet be ready. Private security analysts observe the mansion is still very vulnerable to attack in a country awash with guns. International peacekeepers in Kabul, along with the United Nations, the United States and the Italians all share responsibility for the king's welfare.

There is also disagreement about the king's role. Many welcome the ring's return as a stabilizing force, but oppose any restoration of the monarchy. Some worry about the king's age.

RAHEEN: Of course, it will not be easy for him in his age and probably his health to stay in Kabul. We don't expect him to come and work as a prime minister or as a president of somebody in charge of the cabinet.

ROGERS: Perhaps it's a mark of Afghanistan's desperation that so much hope is being invested in the return of an 87-year-old king.

"Perhaps the king can help us get a job, then we won't have to beg," this destitute woman said.

Nostalgia, after decades of war, eclipses reasons why King Zahir Shah was overthrown, but not everyone has forgotten or forgiven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There was too much distention and lechery when he was king.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): During his 40 years, he did nothing for the Afghan people, and we don't want him to come back. ROGERS: Yet, if all Afghans do not yearn for this king, most do remember the stability and tranquility of his reign.

RASUL: Afghanistan need a father of the nation. He will symbolize this unit of the nation, the father of the nation, and -- that Afghans need.

ROGERS: The prevailing opinion here is the king will eventually return, probably in a few weeks. He is needed here in June to chair a council of tribal chiefs and warlords, as they meet to craft a new government for this old country.

Walter Rogers, CNN, Kabul.


ROBERTSON: When we return, a commander some call a warlord lays out his plans for stability.

ANNOUNCER: Next, he's on the A-list in Afghanistan. A controversial general who feels he shouldn't be ignored.


ROBERTSON: "I am a very close friend of the United States and have wanted to be their friend in the past, so it is my suggestion they should pay attention to me in the future."


ANNOUNCER: We'll sit down with a former warlord who is still a player when LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN returns.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I'm Anderson Cooper in New York. Tonight on "THE POINT," he's accused of conspiracy but was already in jail on September 11. Zacarias Moussaoui is convicted. Should he get the death penalty? We'll also tackle one of the day's favorite topics, the Oscars. "THE POINT" begins in less than 10 minutes. Now back to "LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN."

ROBERTSON: Up next in LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN, a former warlord tells how he is becoming a politician.


ANNOUNCER: Controversial General Rashid Dostum is the leader of Afghanistan's Uzbek community. He controls parts of northern Afghanistan. Dostum was a key leader in the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. He's now deputy defense minister in the new interim government.

ROBERTSON: A few days ago, I was in northern Afghanistan and met with General Abdul Rashid Dostum. He is one of a number of emerging power brokers who are bringing stability to the provinces they control, while at the same time, pledging support of Afghanistan's interim government.

I put it to him that some of his enemies still consider him a warlord.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): "The country was under the control of the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists, so that's why we were fighting for our people, for our nation, for our freedom and for our country. In this war, I was not the only one fighting. There were other countries with us. It was my job."

"The people of the north and the soldiers under my command were fighting for freedom, for the people of the north, for finishing the Taliban, al Qaeda and terrorists with the help of the United States and their air strikes. So all this talk about being a warlord, I don't want to repeat it again, people who have been beaten and battled, they are exaggerating publicly in the media, and it's not suitable for me to mention who."

"Hamid Karzai has announced that I am to be a special representative to the north for the government of Afghanistan. Now I am not thinking about enlarging my Army role. I must now work for the political situation, for the people and solve issues, particularly for the people of the north."

(on-camera): So how does a military commander like you evolve into a political leader?

(voice-over): "I am a general, and the world, Europe and the United States thinks I was appointed by my commanders and soldiers. The importance of the military is going to decline in the future. Afterwards, I want to refer to my people. After all, they chose me. I don't wish to be a leader forever, but I can assure you most people respect me as a leader."

"The victories we have had, we did it without tanks or artillery. We did it by support of the people and our American friends and their planes. I told them I plan to capture Mazar-e Sharif and after that, five provinces fell in the same day and why? It was because of the support of people."

(on-camera): You were one of the first commanders to give support to the United States in beating the Taliban. Are you still continuing to get the support you want from the United States?

(voice-over): "In some places, I was under pressure because of our plans. I had helped at that time. They are still taking my advice. The problems we have five or six months on are the problems the people have. We cannot pay for our doctors or our teachers or for the government officials. We have no money for orphans and widows."

"I am a very close friend of the United States and have wanted to be their friend in the past, so it is my suggestion they should pay attention to me in the future. We need their help."


ROBERTSON: As the sun comes up here behind me, you can begin to see the ancient Buddhas in the cliffs. The first statutes were begun here some 1,700 years ago. The biggest statute there was 180 feet high.

The caves at that time were painted and decorated with murals and frescos and carvings of other Buddhas and other deities.

The ancient Buddhas were also covered in bright paintings and surrounded by pictures of other deities. Discussions are under way on how to restore the ancient artifacts here. However, Afghanistan's interim government has appointed somebody to oversee that job. He is not so far been able to travel to this region.

Thank you for watching, I'm Nic Robertson. LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN will be back later in the week. Up next, "THE POINT WITH ANDERSON COOPER" and for our international viewers, please stay tuned for regular programming.


Afghan Community Terrorized by Taliban; Will Afghans See their Former King Again?>



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