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INSIGHT

INSIGHT

Aired September 8, 2003 - 17:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Unfinished business -- two years after the attacks that changed America and launched the war on terror, Washington's first target remains a poor and broken place teeming with militants bent on revenge.

RAND BEERS, FMR. SPECIAL ASST. TO BUSH: We've given the Taliban and al Qaeda an opportunity to retrench.

CHURCH: Fears that a hard-fought victory may turn into defeat.

HAMID KARZAI, AFGHAN LEADER: The risks are that Afghanistan will go back into the hands of terrorists, into chaos, into despair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Hello and welcome to this special edition of INSIGHT. I'm Rosemary Church, in for Jonathan Mann.

Well, Afghanistan was the first front in the U.S. war on terror. The Taliban were routed, but they did not go away. Today they are a growing threat in a country filled with warlords, banditry and fighting, a lot of fighting.

The U.S. military commander in charge of Afghanistan said this weekend his forces have killed as many as 200 suspected Taliban fighters over the past two weeks. But as the Taliban grow bolder, casualties are mounting. Five Afghan government soldiers were killed and three Americans wounded in Sunday's fighting alone.

On INSIGHT today, the other front in the war on terror. We begin with CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who recently returned from Afghanistan. She traveled with the U.S. forces as they carried out the difficult and often frustrating job of tracking the Taliban.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTL. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A U.S. patrol back from two days hunting in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's units up in the hills, looking for terrorists.

AMANPOUR: But they've returned empty-handed after a brutal mission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were walking uphill. We got upwards of 50 - 60 pounds on our backs. It's hard to breathe. We're not used to the areas.

AMANPOUR: And so it goes in America's war on terror. Two years after September 11, Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar are still at large, some 9,000 U.S. soldiers are still trying to pursue them and the remnants of their network.

CAPT. ERIC LOPEZ, U.S. ARMY : It's tough. It's a real cat and mouse game, figuring out where they're going to be, what they're going to do, and trying to counter that.

AMANPOUR (on camera): The American forces call this the most evil place in Afghanistan. This is where they've taken the most casualties. They say the major threat comes from just 7 kilometers beyond this wall, the Pakistan border, and at the same time the fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar has started issuing threats against the American forces.

MAJ. PAUL VALLE , U.S. ARMY: Well, Mullah Omar can go ahead and urge all he wants to but it's not going to do any good.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): But this summer has seen an alarming upsurge of terrorist activity. The Taliban are regrouping in their hundreds and almost daily they fight pitch battles with Afghan government forces. The death toll is rising rapidly.

The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan told us that Mullah Omar cannot win back much territory but can cause severe trouble for American troops.

LT. GEN. JOHN VINES, U.S. ARMY: Does he have the capability of encouraging other people to do it? Of course he does. He moves furtively. He has what is known as good tradecraft.

AMANPOUR (on camera): What does that mean?

VINES: It means that he knows how to avoid exposure and being caught. He's very good.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): While Washington tries to play down the Taliban resurgence, insisting they are no more than a handful, Gen. Vines estimates there are hundreds of them, some affiliated with al Qaeda.

So why is this happening two years into the war on terror?

Rand Beers left his terrorism beat with the Bush administration because he believes it took its eye off the ball when it started to focus on Iraq.

BEERS: We've given the Taliban and al Qaeda an opportunity to retrench and to start to come back. That should be a real warning call for everybody that there's a lot more still to be done in Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: Indeed, senior U.S. military officials in Afghanistan told CNN the Bush administration has tried to fight the war on terror here on the cheap, not putting in enough soldiers and not spending enough money or effort to reconstruct the country.

The Bush administration rejects the charge, pointing to U.S. projects like starting up an Afghan National Army.

DAVID SEDNEY, U.S. EMBASSY, KABUL: What we found is an exceptionally positive response. The people of Afghanistan, when they see a multi-ethnic army that doesn't rob and pillage, instead stands up straight and is honest and upright and works for the good of all the people in Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: Nonetheless, the Bush administration has belatedly acknowledged more is needed, and it's diverting $1 billion in emergency assistance to prop up the Afghan government.

SEDNEY: We remember what happened on September 11. That's why we came to Afghanistan, to get rid of the Taliban and al Qaeda, the terrorist state that was there, and that's the fundamental reason why we're here.

In terms of the additional resources, that's going to make us able to accomplish those goals better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This morning, all we've covered so far is the preparation for battle.

AMANPOUR: Much of the funding will go towards accelerating the build up of the army. As yet, only 5,000 are trained. They hope to have 10,000 this time next year.

A senior U.S. diplomat told CNN President Bush sees additional funding now as good business, enabling the U.S. to get out of Afghanistan quicker.

But out where they're waging their struggle against the terrorists, a U.S. commander tells CNN talk amongst soldiers here is they'll be staying at least another 10 years.

The time we spent with these U.S. forces just happened to be the bloodiest week in Afghanistan since the Taliban fell 23 months ago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Security is just one of the many problems still facing Afghanistan. Nearly two years after the United States and its allies promised to help rebuild that country, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest places on earth, with few laws or institutions that work or a function economy.

Well, as of this month, the United States will convene a conference of donor countries to discuss contributions to Afghanistan. But no matter what they pledge, it's almost certain Afghanistan will need more.

Once again, here's CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Just an hour north of Kabul, it's so rural, donkeys, not trucks, carry rocks for the homes the villagers are busy trying to rebuilding.

Paul Barker's aid agency CARE helps, but it's slow going.

(on camera): So what are the donors doing? Are they meeting all the big promises they made?

PAUL BARKER, CARE INTL.: Well, I think they're meeting by and large the promises they made. I'm not sure the promises were big in the sense of the actual reconstruction needs of Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: After the United States toppled the Taliban two years ago, Saeed Mustaiba (ph) heard the words promised to rebuild his country and he rushed back to his village with his wife and seven children to do his part.

"We've been living like this for about a year," he says. "We're hoping to finish our house as soon as possible. We hope that it will be built."

(on camera): Two years after the United States kicked the Taliban out of power, many of the villages in Afghanistan still look like this one. Back then, the United States and the international community made big promises to rebuild this country, but so far that seems more like rhetoric than reality.

For instance, Afghanistan gets $75 per person per year in foreign aid while countries such as Rwanda, Bosnia or Kosovo get more than double that amount.

BARKER: Those countries receive between $195 and $325 per person, so on that sort of ratio, we're being short-changed in Afghanistan. It's not nearly enough.

AMANPOUR (on camera): President Bush promised a Marshall Plan, something like a Marshall Plan for this country. Do you see any evidence of that?

BARKER: I wouldn't call anything on the scale of what we're having now a Marshall Plan.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Remember, this is the country the United States promised to rebuild in order to deny terrorists ever again using it as a base.

Afghanistan's straight-talking finance minister.

ASHRAF GHANI, AFGHAN FINANCE MIN.: I've made no bones about this. The international community has not been generous to us. It's actually been quite stingy. $4.5 billion is a drop in the bucket.

AMANPOUR: That was the initial sum pledged over five years. This is what the U.S.-backed Afghan president says he needs.

KARZAI: Our estimate is between $15 billion to $20 billion.

AMANPOUR: What are the risks, if the Afghan people don't get the kind of reconstruction that that kind of money can pay for?

KARZAI: The risks are that Afghanistan will go back into the hands of terrorists, into chaos, into despair, and we are not going to allow that. We must respond to the needs of the Afghan people.

AMANPOUR: In two years, some of those have been met. Four million children are now in school, 35 percent of those are girls who wee banned from school under the Taliban.

Private construction is booming, and laborers are now being paid $2 a day, up from $1 last year.

Kabul is fully of small businesses, but large scale reconstruction of desperately needed major infrastructure has barely begun. Kabul still has only intermittent electricity and clean running water. As for the roads, they are a shambles, as even U.S. soldiers will confirm.

MAJ. DEAN FRERLING, U.S. ARMY: We have a saying here (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We love our jobs, but the commute is hell.

AMANPOUR: Many here accuse the Bush administration of reneging on promises to rebuild or at best trying to do it on the cheap. Two years on, the Afghan people are getting frustrated and that could backfire on President Karzai, especially during elections, scheduled for next summer.

In an effort to head off disaster, the Bush administration is now diverting $1 billion to Afghanistan.

SEDNEY: Certainly, the Afghan people are looking for results, and we're building schools and clinics in many areas of Afghanistan, but we need to do more.

At the same time, our enemies, the Taliban, al Qaeda and others, are trying to use the fact that in some areas of the country they haven't seen those benefits, as a weapon against the government and against the international community that supports it.

AMANPOUR: The most visible major project now underway, the important road from Kabul to Kandahar in the south. After two sluggish years, workers are now at it 24/7. President Bush himself has ordered the road finished by December.

Meantime, opium poppy production has skyrocketed and this year it's become Afghanistan's biggest export. Most of the world's heroin comes from Afghanistan. British officials tasked with curbing production say that it could happen in 10 years, but not without more money from more countries.

The simple facts, as we heard from these village elders, is that farmers need incentives to produce corn or wheat since they get paid 100 times more for drugs.

Afghanistan today stands at a critical turning point.

GHANI: We either descend into a vicious circle of drug production, violence, instability, or we go towards a virtuous circle of prosperity, rule of law, participation, women's rights, and democratic processes.

AMANPOUR (on camera): Is another $1 billion enough? Is that going to do it?

GHANI: Another $1 billion is a good start. No, it won't do it. We need, again, as I've indicated, a minimum of $15 billion.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And that will help Afghanistan become a poor country. Right now, it remains crippled and devastated and perhaps fertile ground again for terrorists looking for a safe haven.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: We're going to take a short break now. When we come back, the dangers within.

Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARZAI: Those that come and attack and spread leaflets are people trained in camps to spread terror, to make us fail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back to this special edition of INSIGHT.

At the center of the Bush administration's policy in Afghanistan is the country's president, Hamid Karzai. But with insufficient funds and limited power outside the capital of Kabul, he's fighting a losing battle with not only Taliban and al Qaeda elements, but also his own country's powerful warlords.

A leader under siege. Christiane Amanpour takes a look at the many challenges facing Mr. Karzai.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Surrounded at all times by special U.S. bodyguards toting automatic rifles, this is the man upon whom rests America's hope for Afghanistan.

He is the country's interim President Hamid Karzai, moderate and pro- Western, keen to propel Afghanistan out of its vicious past, and yet for two years his pleas for more money and more security to stabilize the country have fallen on deaf ears.

KARZAI: I was asking a lot initially, in the beginning. International community refused to accept it.

AMANPOUR: Extraordinary for a country that was promised so much, a country that is the first test of the Bush administration's war on terror.

Right now, violence is worse than it's been in two years, since the United States topped the Taliban. Karzai says they're regrouping with support from their old allies in Pakistan.

KARZAI: Those that come and attack and spread leaflets are people trained in camps to spread terror, to make us fail, to make the United States fail, to destroy peace in Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: As if that wasn't a big enough threat, Karzai also faces challenges from within. Ishmael Khan, the powerful governor of Herat in the West, showed us that he is master of all he surveys. Where Karzai swarms with bodyguards, Khan makes a great show of receiving the public's adulation. He makes a show of hanging the president's portrait, but he is the foreground. And though he told us he's loyal to Karzai, he took a sideswipe at the central government.

ISHMAEL KHAN, HERAT GOVERNOR (through translator): In Herat, we have a government with a proper system and jobs have been given to competent people.

AMANPOUR: But what Khan really has is money from import revenues he charges for goods coming across the border between Herat and Iran, and he has his own private army, some say 25,000 strong. Warlords like him have also received help from the United States.

(on camera): The United States backs the central government of President Karzai, but the United States is also fighting its war on terror, so it's been supporting and paying regional warlords. It wants their militias to help in the hunt for al Qaeda and remnants of the Taliban (AUDIO GAP) been growing and it directly challenges Karzai's authority.

(voice-over): But sick of being undercut by the warlords, Karzai finally got tough. In May, he demanded back taxes and in August he fired several powerful governors, like Gullah Rashir Izai (ph) of Kandahar in the south. He also demanded, and got, Ishmael Khan's resignation as Herat's military commander.

KARZAI: It's been accepted. Just before I came to see you, I met the new commander, the co-commander for Herat. He will be leaving tomorrow.

AMANPOUR: We happened to be with Khan when he got the news. He reacted with a backhanded warning that only he could bring stability to Herat.

KHAN: I think you see security exists here. And it would be better if it continues, but if central government is not interested in continuing this situation, I'm not interested in staying.

AMANPOUR: Khan's talk has merit. Whether Karzai can replace the warlords power with his own is an open question.

Mounting insecurity is now the biggest threat in the country and with drugs again Afghanistan's biggest export, a criminalized economy.

KARZAI: But we are determined to stand. We are determined like hell to destroy the poppy culture in Afghanistan, because the money that is generated by poppies goes hand in hand with terrorism.

AMANPOUR: But along with those fighting words, Karzai needs a lot more help from his friends. The United States is planning to divert an emergency $1 billion to Afghanistan to speed up formation of a national army and do more to reconstruct the country, to assure Karzai's political survival in elections next summer.

A peaceful, stable Afghanistan may depend on it if it's not already too late.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: U.S. President George W. Bush is promising to do what is necessary -- spend what is necessary -- to win the war on terror.

Will it be enough in Afghanistan? Has it been enough?

Well, joining us now is Anatol Lieven, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington.

Thanks, Mr. Lieven, for being with us.

Well, let's look. Two years after the United States launched its war on terror in Afghanistan, we see that security is still a big problem, that reconstruction is slow, the Taliban is on the increase and Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar are still at large.

So what exactly has been achieved in this first phase of the war on terror?

ANATOL LIEVEN, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: Well, let's admit kicking the Taliban out of national power in Afghanistan was a great victory and it was well worth doing. It was good for us, because it means that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups no longer have a massive safe haven where they could run regular training camps, perhaps in the long run develop chemical and biological weapons.

And I do believe that it was good for Afghanistan, because we must all recognize that if Afghanistan had remained under this theocratic dark ages tyranny, there would never have been any possibility of it progressing. So something has been achieved.

(CROSSTALK)

CHURCH: A lot of people in Afghanistan don't seem to think that though. There's been a call again for the Taliban to come back.

LIEVEN: Some Afghans. One has to remember that Afghanistan is a very deeply divided society along ethnic lines. The Taliban was drawn from one large ethnic group, the Pashtuns, and the nostalgia, the support for them, comes from that ethnic community who, a bit like the Sunni Arabs in Iraq, have undoubtedly suffered badly as the fall of the previous regime.

CHURCH: Certainly Afghanistan has, though -- let's go to the monetary side of this. We've seen very little of the funds that were initially promised. I mean, we're still looking at $1 billion, possibly $2 billion, compared to the initial $4.5 billion promised, and we hear a minimum of $15 to $20 billion really needed for that country to move forward.

Money is an issue there. Why has there been a reluctance on the part of both the United States and the international community to provide those necessary funds?

LIEVEN: Money is an issue, but it's not the only issue.

One also has to look at the capacity of the Afghan state to spent that money, to administer it, and when you look at that, you have to admit, unfortunately, that at present there is no Afghan state in the sense of a national administration.

Even the government in Kabul is not as yet really a government. It's still to a considerable extent just a kind of negotiating committee between representatives of different warlords and ethnic groups.

So I think there's a real question whether Kabul would actually be able to administer huge amounts of new money.

CHURCH: Well then, why at the same time do we hear from U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that he wants to hand back the responsibility of security to Afghanistan, to its people.

It only has an army of 5,000. It was supposed to have an army of 70,000. It can't have a larger army than 5,000 until the funds come through.

LIEVEN: The bush administration is clearly desperate to show the American people that Afghanistan isn't a quagmire like Iraq. That American troops are not going to be there indefinitely, but it will be possible to withdraw and hand security to the Afghans. I think that this is frankly out of the question for the foreseeable future, and the American soldiers who said that they expect to be there for 10 years at least ate correct.

CHURCH: All right, Anatol Lieven, thanks for talking with us, appreciate it.

LIEVEN: Thank you.

CHURCH: And that's it for this special edition of INSIGHT. I'm Rosemary Church. The news continues.

END

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