Return to Transcripts main page


How to Rebuild Haiti; Interview with CIA Bomber's Wife

Aired January 21, 2010 - 15:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, latest reports from Haiti say that officials there are planning to relocate nearly 500,000 homeless people to outside the capital. Plus, the struggle to save the injured intensifies.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to the program.

As Haiti faced more aftershocks today, there are also growing concerns about the injured. One aid group, Medecins Sans Frontieres, says that many patients are dying from infected wounds. There is still a critical shortage of medical supplies, even as food and water are reaching survivors.

The U.S. military today said that up to 140 relief flights are arriving in Haiti every day, but there is a waiting list of 1,400 planes trying to get in.

Later, we'll also be looking at another challenge facing the U.S., a year after President Obama took office, and that's the evolving threat from Al Qaida. And we'll have an exclusive interview with the widow of the suicide bomber who killed eight people at a CIA base in Afghanistan.

But first, Haiti, how to help the survivors and how to help the country back on its feet again, hopefully forever. Joining me now, James Dobbins, former U.S. special envoy to Haiti.

Welcome to our program, Mr. Dobbins.


AMANPOUR: Let me ask you first about the immediate emergency. There seems to be this sort of argument right now about whether too many relief rescue operations have gone in instead of medical, critical medical supplies. Is that a fair argument?

DOBBINS: Well, I think the rescue operations have probably reached the point of diminishing returns. There's probably not many people left to rescue, unfortunately. So, certainly, the priority going forward should be treating those who have been rescued and who are in need of medical assistance.

AMANPOUR: And once the emergency is over -- and it'll take a long time for that to be over -- but once it is, at what point do all these promises start getting put into action of long-term assistance, sustained assistance?

DOBBINS: Well, I think we have to understand that what we have here is a -- is a humanitarian relief operation that's superimposed on top of a pre-existing post-conflict reconstruction operation.

In 2004, the Haitian government fell. The U.N. put in troops. And since then, we've had a nation-building operation going on. What we need to do is make sure that the additional assistance that's generated by this humanitarian relief operation works synergistically with the reforms that had been going forward under the earlier operation, which will continue for several years to come.

AMANPOUR: I just want to play some of the interview, some of the sound that's come from a regional leader, the president of the Dominican Republic, and also from the State Department on the strategy for the future.


LEONEL FERNANDEZ, DOMINICAN PRESIDENT: I think we all believe that Haiti was already a tragedy before the earthquake took place. And we're trying to call the attention of the international community, especially the European Union, Canada, United States, group of Rio, which brings together all the Latin American countries, in order to really go beyond the current crisis.

P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: This effort is already underway. Whether you want to call it a Marshall Plan -- I mean, I'm sure, you know, we'll come up with a way to describe this over time. But no doubt, Haiti is going to require substantial assistance from the international community on a sustained basis going forward.


AMANPOUR: James Dobbins, from your experience in Haiti and also in Afghanistan and other places, would a Marshall Plan work? You heard Mr. Crowley at the State Department use that word because Dominique Strauss- Kahn of the IMF called for that yesterday.

Walk us through whether that's possible.

DOBBINS: Well, if by a Marshall Plan one simply means substantial assistance over an extended period of time, yes, I think that would -- that would be very significant. If -- but I think what we have to understand is that, in Haiti, as opposed to in post-World War II Europe, the problem is not weak planning codes or poor roads or -- it's poor government. It's weak government. And, therefore, it's not simply pouring money into an operating, functioning state. It's building up the state itself so that -- so that -- that we don't have to continue to do for Haiti things that Haitians ultimately can do for themselves.


AMANPOUR: For instance, how? What are the reforms that need? And, clearly, many Americans, many people in the international community say that there needs to be better government. But as you know very well, part of the problem has been that the U.S. and others have supported in the past, dictatorships, corrupt governments, et cetera. So what needs to happen now? What kind of reforms?

DOBBINS: Well, I think you'd have to go through sector by sector. Basically, there's the quality of governance, getting better people with better education who are technically competent, who are paid adequate salaries to run government ministries and provide other public services.

But just an example, the port of Haiti, which has currently been badly destroyed and is being repaired, has long been the most expensive port in the Western Hemisphere, even though it has the lowest wage rate in the Western Hemisphere. Now, why is that? Because it has the worst management in the Western Hemisphere.

So you don't want to just rebuild the physical port. You want to rebuild the institutional underpinning -- that is, the management of the port -- so that it becomes efficient.

AMANPOUR: And what leverage does one have? Does the U.S., the other international community, which has made promises to Haiti, what leverage to get, you know, better government, as you say?

DOBBINS: I think there are three factors that suggest that we may have a better chance this time around. One is that there's a lack of partisan division in Washington that has so long hobbled American efforts. It -- for decades, whatever party was pushing assistance to Haiti, the other one was resisting. Now we have George Bush and Bill Clinton operating together.

Secondly, we're going to have much more substantial assistance available, not just from the U.S., but for the -- from the world, for the next several years.

And, thirdly, the Haitian system itself may be more malleable. It has undergone a shock. Some of the institutional and social obstacles to reform may now be more movable.

AMANPOUR: And in terms of what they have to build on -- you know, so many people look at Haiti -- and I'm sorry to say, they say, "This is a basket case. It's inherently incapable of being anything but the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere." Is that the case? And if not, what can it build on?

DOBBINS: I mean, there certainly are severe deficiencies, but I think what's striking is that, when Haitians come to the United States as immigrants, they're quite successful. They're hard-working. They're family-oriented. They put a tremendous premium on education. It's in -- it's in the Haitian social milieu that they become dysfunctional.

So there is human capital there. And if we can change some of those underlying factors that inhibit growth -- in particular, as I said, weak government -- I think there's a chance for long-term development.

AMANPOUR: For instance, I've been told tropical fruits, the garment manufacturing, the tourism, which was beginning to show signs of -- of -- of -- you know, accelerating economic growth there could still be a basis, but that it would take decades to get it back to where it was before the earthquake. Describe that process.

DOBBINS: It will certainly take a while. And so I wouldn't want to put a time factor on it. But I do think that the earthquake and the devastation also provide an opportunity to set Haiti on a more -- on a path toward more self-sufficient success as the result of the factors I've suggested.

Obviously, a country in which half the population live on $1 a day, it's going to be a long time before that's even a moderately prosperous country.

AMANPOUR: And in terms of keeping the focus on and keeping those promises that have been made, as you know very well, a lot of the focus on Haiti has been in disaster times, such as right now. Do you think that there's a risk that the focus can go off and all these promises will simply come to naught again?

DOBBINS: I think that is a risk. I think the dimension of the disaster this time will probably sustain interest, sympathy and support for somewhat longer. And as I've said, there is a pre-existing international effort that began in 2004. There's 10,000 U.N. troops there. There were reasonably significant amounts of aid, and they were being successful. Haiti was actually on a relatively positive trajectory until this latest disaster. So I think we need to put them back on that trajectory with even greater emphasis.

AMANPOUR: And on that note, thank you so much for joining us, James Dobbins.

DOBBINS: Pleasure.

AMANPOUR: And one of our staff members, Vladimir Duthiers, is in Haiti sending us updates, including photos and a video diary, so go to our blog,, for the very latest.

And next, we turn to another massive challenge, Al Qaida, an exclusive interview with the widow of the suicide bomber who dealt the CIA its biggest blow in more than 25 years. That's when we return.





AMANPOUR: That was the suicide bomber who killed eight people, including seven CIA agents, in Afghanistan last month. In an exclusive interview, CNN's Nic Robertson spoke with the bomber's widow to try to find out what motivated him.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She is the unrepentant widow, shows no remorse that her husband blew himself up in Afghanistan, killing seven CIA operatives.

DEFNE BAYRAK, WIDOW OF CIA BOMBER (through translator): My husband was a person who truly believed in this cause. I can say he was truly in love with jihad.

ROBERTSON: Defne Bayrak lives in a modest neighborhood in Istanbul. She agrees to meet us in a nearby park.

(on-screen): Should we plan somewhere to sit down? We can sit on the bench together and chat this way.

(voice-over): Bayrak says she'll never forget the early morning call on New Year's Eve.

BAYRAK: The morning after the incident, I got a call from Pakistan. A friend of his called me. He said, "Your husband completed an operation, killing CIA agents. He told me he was going to send me his will and his letter."

ROBERTSON (on-screen): How did it make you feel to know that your husband had died this way?

BAYRAK: I was really proud of my husband, because we were both truly against the American invasion. I believe that he realized a very important operation in this way. And, God willing, I say, he is a martyr.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): And as she paints a picture of their life together, it emerges that her husband was an angry and often frustrated man, a doctor by day, but writing jihadist blogs by night, even volunteering to fight in Iraq.

(on-screen): Did you get that sense from him that he was conflicted about what he should do about what was upsetting him?

BAYRAK: There was a time he would turn to his books for study. Then, he would close his books and go back again to jihadi forums.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): For a while, she says, her husband tried to cover up his blogging, using a program that hides where you access the Internet. Then he stopped. Jordanian intelligence officials arrested him. He spent several days in jail.

BAYRAK: I guess he was bored of hiding. He said to himself, "Whatever should happen should happen." After he was arrested, my husband changed a lot. He became more religious. He started going to the mosque constantly. He started doing all his daily prayers enthusiastically in the mosque, and he started memorizing the Koran again.

ROBERTSON: Her husband was on a fast track to jihad.

(on-screen): Do you think that your husband set out intentionally to trick the CIA and Jordanian intelligence?

BAYRAK: Of course. That may be. I guess he used them. My husband was a very smart person. I guess with this, his smartness and submission to God, he was successful in tricking them.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): As we talk, a crowd gathers, and a plainclothes police officer videos our interview. Unfazed, Bayrak is also unrepentant.


(on-screen): One of the people killed in the attack was a woman who had three children. She's left -- the children are left without a mother now.

BAYRAK: Yes. But let me ask: What is the purpose of the U.S. in Afghanistan? Why are they there? Why? For what purpose is CIA in the Afghan territories? Why did they invade our lands? I believe she shouldn't have gone there. It's her fault.

ROBERTSON: So then they were legitimate targets?

BAYRAK: Of course.

ROBERTSON: Do you have any remorse for -- for their families or the people who were killed?

BAYRAK: No, I don't feel any remorse.

ROBERTSON: How do you explain your husband's death to your children?

BAYRAK: I will wait for them to grow up a little.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): We talked for close to an hour, and it's clear that Bayrak shares many of her husband's views. After all, this is the woman who wrote a book entitled, "Osama bin Laden: Che Guevara of the Middle East."


AMANPOUR: And joining me now, the head of the Al Qaida monitoring unit at the U.N., Richard Barrett. He's a former head of counterterrorism for Britain's overseas intelligence service, MI6.

Welcome, Mr. Barrett.


AMANPOUR: When you listen to that and you see that the husband was on the Internet writing these blogs, did they miss -- did they miss that? Should they have been able to track that?

BARRETT: No, I shouldn't have -- shouldn't have thought they missed that at all. I think it's incredibly difficult to penetrate the inner circles of the Al Qaida leadership. And clearly, you know, they have a very good vetting system, I guess, in the areas that they operate. They know all the people coming in. They know who the strangers are and so on.

So if you want to get anybody into those circles, of course, they have to look very genuine. And therefore, I would imagine that the handlers of Mr. al-Balawi were -- were quite ready for him to promote his jihad blogging and so on to -- to establish himself as a person they could trust.

AMANPOUR: So what does this say, the fact that he did commit bad -- the worst attack on the CIA in 25 years since what happened in Lebanon in 1983? What does it say about the strength of Al Qaida, the Taliban, the nexus between Al Qaida and the Taliban?

BARRETT: Well, I think that particular incident shows how difficult it is to penetrate the leadership, but it doesn't necessarily show how strong they are. I mean, obviously, it was a devastating attack for the CIA and for the efforts against the Taliban Al Qaida more generally, because it is very much based on intelligence.

AMANPOUR: But you don't think it shows that they're any stronger?

BARRETT: No, I think we have to distinguish also between Taliban and Al Qaida. I think Taliban are probably stronger now than they were two or three years ago, but I don't think that's necessarily true for Al Qaida.

AMANPOUR: Do you not think that was a joint Al Qaida-Taliban operation?

BARRETT: It seems to me that, well, we looked at the video that al- Balawi made his sort of testimony, and there was a quotation from it in your clip just then. And there he was sitting next to Hakimullah Mehsud, who's the leader of the Pakistan Taliban.

The Pakistan Taliban is separate from the Afghan Taliban. And -- but they join over in certain respects, for example, through the Haqqani group. And we believe that the Haqqani group were also involved, because the attack took place in an area of Afghanistan which has been much influenced by Haqqani.

AMANPOUR: So we're going to go to a map in a second and have you show us, but what we really want to ask you is, what are you tracking? What are you monitoring? What is happening in this region, in terms of the spread or the growth of Al Qaida or -- or likeminded or affiliates?

BARRETT: Sure. What we're trying to do is to track the threat from Al Qaida generally, whether it's off your map, for example, in Southeast Asia, or in particular, you know, in this sort of heartland of Afghanistan, Pakistan. Just, you know, particularly sort of in the border area, I would say there. And that is, of course, the central area for Al Qaida, still where the senior leadership is. And, of course, the Taliban, too, has been, you know, particularly strong in this border area around that -- that -- that area.

But, also, of course, the Al Qaida leadership in the Afghanistan- Pakistan border area is trying to influence people elsewhere to sort of follow their ideology, to follow their objectives.

AMANPOUR: And how successful -- I mean, we saw the Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula now has a big profile because of what happened on Christmas Day, the failed airline bombing. So how much of a profile, how - - how strong are they? I know you said they're not strong. But what do you -- what do you sort of assess? Are they a fragmented, weak organization or a strongly integrated network? Which is closest to reality of those descriptions?

BARRETT: Well, there's no doubt that the leadership would like it to be a properly networked organization, accepting strategic direction from themselves. But, in fact, the local groups have rather broken away from the sort of overall Al Qaida strategy, which you remember Osama bin Laden tried to establish in the 1990s when he formed Al Qaida.


And now, as you mentioned, you know, groups in Yemen here are very much strengthened recently because Saudi Arabia has been so successful in driving Al Qaida's supporters out of the country, and they've crossed over into Yemen. Many of them have joined up. And we saw in January of last year how the Al Qaida in Yemen joined in a sort of announcing video with the Al Qaida in Saudi Arabia to make this rather more effective organization.

But their interests are still, in my opinion, rather regional. Their main objectives are to hit targets in Saudi Arabia, to hit targets in Yemen, particularly, I would say, in Saudi Arabia. But the leadership in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area is trying to persuade them to do more, to attack Western targets, and so on, and hence you see this attempt on the 25th of December.

AMANPOUR: And do you think that they're able to pull off another 9/11?

BARRETT: Well, 9/11 was a magnificent operation. You know, I mean, they had everything going for them, not only the sort of unpreparedness, if you like, and the clear, blue sky from which these airplanes emerged. It wouldn't have been the same on the last 9/11, because it was a rather murky day.

They had everything going for them, and they had tremendous organization without very much attention. I mean, we were all looking at Al Qaida, but with nothing like the resources that are devoted today.

AMANPOUR: And yet you have all been looking at it with much more resources since 9/11 and there was this failure to connect the intelligence dots, which led to the Nigerian getting on with his underpants bomb.

BARRETT: Yes, of course, there are so many dots, aren't there? And it's always easy with hindsight to say which dots you should have connected. I mean, clearly there were issues there that could have been put together, and something could have been done to prevent this man from mounting his attack.

But I think we have to accept in the long term that there are going to be people like this trying to mount attacks, and some of them will be successful, you know? It's an appalling thing to have to absorb, but I think it will happen. And...

AMANPOUR: Do you think some of them will inevitably get through -- get through the net?

BARRETT: Yeah, I think some -- some will get through the net. I mean, the -- if you remember, in August of last year, the attempt on Prince Muhammad bin Nayef in Saudi Arabia, the very similar mechanism, very similar group preparing it, probably the same people in charge that was very nearly successful.

AMANPOUR: The latest intelligence or the latest analysis of the movement of Al Qaida seems to suggest that militants could spring up from right here inside the United States, that radicalized American Muslims or others could start a sort of homegrown Al Qaida or affiliate here. Do you -- do you subscribe to that theory?

BARRETT: Well, there have been incidents, haven't there, which suggest that there are people in the United States who may adopt this sort of extremist and violent sort of political...

AMANPOUR: But a critical mass or something really to be worried about right now? Or is it loan individuals?

BARRETT: Well, I would agree. I think it's loan individuals. I don't think there is this critical mass. And I think that as soon as people try to start networking into groups, of course, they're much more susceptible to intelligence penetration and discovery.

AMANPOUR: And what do you think about this latest report that some three dozen or so were radicalized in prison here in the United States, Americans, and have gone abroad, perhaps to Yemen, and who knows to do what and where they are?

BARRETT: Yes, I saw the report. And, of course, radicalization in prison is a big issue, particularly in Europe and elsewhere, not so much that I've heard in the United States, though we have had incidences...


AMANPOUR: So does that surprise you?

BARRETT: No, because I think that people in prison often are ready to adopt some sort of radical ideology which gives sort of simple solutions to their complex problems. You know, it's quite attractive for -- to belong to a gang, you know, for protection within prison, and stuff like that, but it doesn't necessarily mean to say they go on to commit terrorist acts, of course. I mean, being radical in itself isn't particularly a bad thing. But being...


AMANPOUR: ... all the way to Yemen?

BARRETT: Yeah, I mean, Yemen's a beautiful country. And I can see lots of reasons for people to go to Yemen.

AMANPOUR: Well, yeah. But you -- but you -- I know, but you're saying that the Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is basically based there, is the latest big threat.

BARRETT: I think it is. And I think, you know, we've also seen Americans go to Somalia, for example, to join the fighting in Somalia. And I don't at all rule out that some of these people may get radicalized and join the fighting in Yemen, as well.

AMANPOUR: What do you think motivates the latest recruits, the newest post-9/11 recruits?

BARRETT: That's interesting, because, of course, 9/11 already -- you know, nine years ago. And I think that the people now who are being recruited are probably in the sort of 16- to 22-year-old range. And, of course, they weren't very old at that time. You know, the 7 to 13 or so, and 9/11 wouldn't have had such an impact on them.

So I think the motivation for these new recruits is, you know, being wrapped up in this sort of single narrative, as we call it, that Al Qaida puts out, that whatever problems you have, whether it's at school or in society or the way that you're treated perhaps by the authorities or the fact you haven't got a job, all that's part of a much broader conspiracy against your faith and your community and, therefore, you should do something to combat that.

AMANPOUR: We'll keep watching, keep monitoring what you're doing, as well. Thank you, Richard Barrett, for joining us.

BARRETT: Pleasure.

AMANPOUR: And next, our "Post-Script." We'll be right back.




AMANPOUR: And finally, our "Post-Script" and a quick programming note.

Join us as we begin broadcasting from Haiti tomorrow. We'll be focusing on the long-term prospects of Haiti, like who's going to build new homes for the millions who've been affected, how will that happen, and where will it happen, as well as so many of the future challenges there. I'll be doing status updates on Facebook every day, and that's on

So we'll be back from Port-au-Prince tomorrow. Thanks for watching. For all of us here, goodbye from New York.