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Truth and Reconciliation in Liberia; Wikileaks Founder Granted Bail

Aired December 14, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Every war has crimes that are indescribable, but perhaps none this shocking. It's disturbing and it's blood curdling.


JOSHUA MILTON BLAHYI, FORMER GENERAL "BUTT NAKED": There was a pole here that would stretch the child around so that we have access to their wrists and use an ax to rip their back off.


ANDERSON: Meet Liberia's General Butt Naked, a self-confessed killer, a former warlord who believes he should be punished for his (INAUDIBLE), yet he is now a free man.


He was let go for confessing to his wrongs.

Tonight, we look at truth and reconciliation in Liberia and around the world.

Going beyond borders on the day's biggest stories, on CNN, this is the hour we connect the world.

Well, it's said to have worked in South Africa and it's been tried in such places as South Korea and Sierra Leone -- truth and reconciliation can bring out the best policies in humans, forgiveness and wisdom among them.

But what -- at what cost?

Well, I'm Becky Anderson in London.

Tonight, we're going to hear more about General Butt Naked's story in Liberia and speak to the head of that country's commission.

Also this hour, a judge orders Julian Assange free on bail, but he's still in custody. We'll explain.

It's a beautiful game turned ugly -- comments by

FIFA's president outraged people. We're going to hear what you have to say about that. Keep Tweeting me on @beckycnn.



DAVID HASSELHOFF, ACTOR: It will be a cold day in hell before I ever apologize to Chris Vargas (ph), because...


ANDERSON: Because of what?

Well, David Hasselhoff is your Connector of the Day. Find out about his altercation with CNN's Piers Morgan.

That's on CNN in the next 60 minutes.

Let's kick off tonight -- rape, torture, murder, even cannibalism and child sacrifice -- a former Liberian warlord admits to these atrocities, yet his own fellow citizens, the very people that he victimized, have decided he should be a free man to date.

Can crimes like these ever truly be forgiven?

Well, we begin with a report by Seema Mathur.

And we warn you, it has depictions of violence that are graphic and extremely disturbing.


SEEMA MATHUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside the walls of this West African church, you will find Joshua Blahyi preaching, once known as General Butt Naked for fighting nude.

BLAHYI: Before I was naked not only physically, I was also naked morally.

MATHUR: But prior to converting to Christianity, General Butt Naked was feared on these streets during Liberia's civil wars. Before each battle, he said he killed children and ate their hearts.

BLAHYI: We took off the hearts of the children and we wanted to be alive. So there's a pole here that would stretch a child around so that we have access to their ribs and use an ax to rip their back off.

MATHUR: A tribal ritual he once believed protected his troops. Fourteen years of civil war plagued this nation. There were several fighting factions. General Butt Naked's was called Ula Mojay (ph). Their original mission was to defend then President Samuel Doe, their fellow tribesman. Along the way, General Butt Naked admits to being responsible for some 20,000 deaths.

BLAHYI: So the fighting here was very tense and it was very, very strategic and (INAUDIBLE).

MATHUR: Strategy for this former general, he says, included recruiting child soldiers and rape.

BLAHYI: So we thought the worst stage that a woman could go through is for her to be violated forcefully before killing her.

MATHUR (on camera): And what is that supposed to accomplish?

BLAHYI: Anger, bitterness, everybody just -- just -- just bitter, because most of the time, it is -- it is very hard to take the life of another person if you are normal.

MATHUR: You can still see bullet holes in one of the buildings where former General Butt Naked fought. But despite the gross crimes against humanity that he himself has admitted to, you won't find his name among a list of former warlords that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has recommended for prosecution. The reason why, the TRC says, is because in his powerful testimony, he was honest.

JEROME VERDIER, TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION: You see, I deserve the (INAUDIBLE) around here. And that is the decision of a (INAUDIBLE) the court and I will face my fate. And as far as our policies that if people come clean and speak truthfully, the evidence they provide will not be used against them and they will not be recommended for prosecution.

MATHUR: Rebecca Marker also testified before the fact-finding Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She still bears the pains of war.

REBECCA MARKER, SURVIVOR: We lose our -- our families. I lose my house. They raped me and no one came to my aid in Liberia.

MATHUR: Life has not been easy for Rebecca, as she struggles to survive in her war torn house.

MARKER: They took every -- everything and left it just like that.

MATHUR: And while the definition of justice differs among victims, for Rebecca, she says prosecution will not bring peace.

MARKER: Vengeance belongs to God.

You understand?

If they go through the investigation, that will not bring my brother back to life.

MATHUR: Years after the fighting, the former general also cries for what he's done. He explains he didn't know right from wrong. When he was a 7-year-old boy, he says, his Krone (ph) tribe recruited him to be a priest. He says he was taught human sacrifice at 11 years old, long before the civil wars.

BLAHYI: I was taught the ritual to be doing it. And I started doing it at that age.

MATHUR: Joshua says there was no guilt in killing as a child priest or, years later, as a warlord. That all changed, he says, when he got a message from Jesus during his last battle.

BLAHYI: A voice spoke from behind me. The presence of the person was so unusually bright (INAUDIBLE) and said...


BLAHYI: -- which means, "My son, why are you (INAUDIBLE)?"

But he finally said I should repent and live or refuse and die.

MATHUR: Repenting for Joshua now includes counseling ex-combatants who he meets on the streets.

BLAHYI: We reminded them how we contributed for war. And we also needed to contribute for peace. And I look at it as a means of giving back to the society that I -- I -- I destroyed (INAUDIBLE).

MATHUR: A trail of destruction that many in this country, including Joshua, former General Butt Naked, feel will ultimately be judged by God.

Seema Mathur, CNN, Monrovia. (END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission was modeled after a similar one in South Africa. After the end of apartheid there, the new democratic government believed the country couldn't move beyond its brutal past until it openly confronted it.

Well, it created a commission in 1995 to hear confessions of crimes during the apartheid era, establishing a new model of political healing by offering amnesty for those who fully admitted their guilt.

Well, other countries have followed suit, including Sierra Leone. It charged a Truth Commission in 1999 with documenting human rights abuses during a civil war and recommending ways to promote national healing.

Another example, Peru. It's Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed in 2001 to study abuses by rebel groups there and the military in the 1980s and '90s. Like other commissions, it's collected testimonies and made policy recommendations.

So are these commissions the best way for countries to heal from war and violence?

Or do they deprive victims of justice by allowing some crimes to go unpunished?

It's interesting to note that Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has recommended more than 200 people be prosecuted for war crimes or barred from public office. No action has been taken as of yet.

Let's bring in the chairman of that commission, Jerome Verdier, joining us from New York tonight.

The definition of a commission, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as I understand it, Jerome, is that it's tasked with discovering and revealing past wrongdoings by a government in the hope of resolving conflict left over from the past.

Why, in Liberia, has no action been taken on a report that you produced many months ago now?

VERDIER: Well, Liberia presents a peculiar situation in that the conflict has just ended. The commission has just over 12 months produced this report. And what we find intriguely interesting is the fact that most of those who are in authorities are those who have been deemed to be responsible for the conflict in the first place.

And so there is -- or there were seen to be lacking both moral and political authority and willpower to move forward on the TRC recommendations.

ANDERSON: But during a conflict that -- that closed out around 2003. It was an awful long time ago at this point. General Butt Naked's confession will leave many asking whether crimes like those that he committed that he talked about in the film that you've just seen, can ever be forgiven. It's a question that he says he asks himself.

Can or should he be forgiven?

VERDIER: Well, forgiveness is an integral, perhaps, spiritual part of the Liberian way of life. But as a national institution or as a state, there is an obligation to ensure that issues of impunity are redressed, given our experiences of the conflict and no matter how vigorous we may pursue justice by prosecution, it's going to be virtually impossible to prosecute all 100,000 ex-combatants who have so far been identified by the conflict. And General Butt Naked is just one of 29 others who appeared before the commission and made a startling revelation as a way of availing to the Liberian process and people the truth of what transpired.

But beyond them, there are another 7,000 others identified by the commission and have been recommended to participate in a national healing and reconciliation process, referred to as the Palabahard (ph).

ANDERSON: All right...

VERDIER: So as...

ANDERSON: Let me ask you this. You -- you've talked, when we started, about the fact that no action has been taken by the current government. I'm right, I think when I say that, indeed, the president's name is -- is -- is -- figures in this report and the report suggests that he should be barred from office.

When you take a case like this, you know, a report that took some time to produce after a period of what must have been agonizing times during this re--- truth and reconciliation and yet you get nothing out of it, on balance, is TRC a good or a bad thing?

VERDIER: Honestly, I don't think the process has amounted to a failure or the results will come to naught. I believe that the process of healing and reconciliation takes time and the commission (INAUDIBLE) was very, very prospective in its calculation that we have to protect posterity (ph) from what has happened. We have to ensure that we have better examples for future generations to follow.

So even if not much is done now, we have a blueprint. We have a rumor. We have lessons that have been learned. The Liberian people have understood the nature of the conflict. Those who were responsible and some of the very difficult questions about why it happened have also been answered by the work of the commission.

So in honest, a lot is true (INAUDIBLE)...

ANDERSON: Right. But Liberia's nightmare...

VERDIER: (INAUDIBLE) from all of the...

ANDERSON: -- still continues.

VERDIER: Yes. A lot stems (ph) to be gained from all of this. But there are things beyond prosecution and barring people from office that are in the TRC's recommendation that, unfortunately, not much has been done about it.

And I believe this is the case simply because most of those who are in authority at the moment, who are now part of this transition, bear a high level responsibility for what transpired in the past. So moving forward is going to be a challenge for them.

And it's also for -- a challenge for the Liberian people, too, to ensure that these people do not continue to hold public office, so that the country can move forward.

ANDERSON: All right, we're going to leave it there.

And we thank you very much, Jerome, for joining us this evening, the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Liberia.

Tomorrow, we're going to have another report -- a special report from the country. This one looking at one of the worst legacies of the country's civil war -- rape as a weapon.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The number of children raped post-conflict is staggering. According to the Ministry of Justice, 40 percent are under the age of 12.

DR. WILHELMINA JALLAH, OBSTETRIC GYNECOLOGIST: It really breaks your heart and brings tears to your eyes. You know, just imagine if it was your own child, how you would feel. So every time one of these children come to me, it really breaks my heart.


ANDERSON: A story that's very hard to watch, but it is important to find out what Liberia is doing to stop the violence.

We'll investigate that tomorrow here on CONNECT THE WORLD.

It's 16 minutes past 9:00 in London.

Up next, granted bail but still in custody -- we're going to tell you what happened in and out of a London courtroom today that impacts the immediate future of the WikiLeaks founder as he fights extradition to Sweden.

And later, our Connector of the Day, David Hasselhoff, talks about a career full of highs and lows and answers your questions.

This is CONNECT THE WORLD live from London.

I'm Becky Anderson.

Back after this.


ANDERSON: Well, to free or not to free -- that is the question now facing a British court, after Swedish prosecutors appealed a judge's decision to grant bail to Julian Assange.

Atika Shubert is following the case of the WikiLeaks' founder, which is full of twists and turns.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what initially looked like legal victory has turned out to be something of a setback for Julian Assange and his legal defense team. Basically, the British judge ruled that Julian Assange should be released on bail with a few conditions attached.

But immediately afterward, the Swedish prosecutor flied an appeal challenging the judge's decision.

Now, what that means is that Julian Assange remains behind bars for now. There will be another hearing for that appeal within the next 48 hours and that will happen at the high court.

Now, Mark Stephens, Julian Assange's defense lawyer, came out to say that he believes the fact that the Swedish prosecutor wants to continue to challenge the British judge's ruling on this shows that this has become more a case of persecution than prosecution.


MARK STEPHENS, JULIAN ASSANGE'S ATTORNEY: They clearly will not spare any expense but to keep Mr. Assange in jail. This is really turning into a show trial and we will be in court again within the next 48 hours.


SHUBERT: Now, if, eventually, he is released on bail, there are several conditions attached. Basically, Julian Assange will have to hand in his passport to the police. He has to promise not to apply for any international travel papers. And he will be in a sort of house arrest, essentially. He will be staying with a friend who has offered his home to Julian Assange. And he must stay there at least four hours in the day and four hours overnight. And every day, he has to report to the police in the evening. He will also have to wear electronic pad that basically monitors his movement.


ANDERSON: Atika Shubert reporting.

Which begs the question, are these sex crime allegations legitimate or are they an excuse to keep Assange in custody while the U.S. builds its own case against him?

Well, a CNN poll shows varying opinions. Forty-four percent of Brits surveyed believe the allegations were made to keep Assange in custody. Only 13 percent said that they were -- that was absolutely not the case. The remaining 43 percent said they didn't know.

When asked whether or not WikiLeaks was correct in releasing secret diplomatic cables, more Britons agreed than not. Forty-two percent said yes, while 33 percent said no. Twenty-five percent had no opinion at all.

And there are mixed opinions on the man who allegedly leaked the documents to Assange in the first place. U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning is in military custody pending a trial. Some say Manning is a -- a traitorous villain. But one American city may declare him a hero.

Dan Simon is live in San Francisco, in California -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the city of Berkeley, which is the East Bay of San Francisco -- it's on the East Bay -- is taking up this measure about whether or not PFC Bradley Manning should be called a hero.

There is a commission over there. It's called the Peace and Justice Commission. And it looked at -- at Manning. And it determined that you know what, we should go ahead and call this guy a hero.

Now, this is nothing new, really, for the city of Berkeley. It's considered probably the most liberal town in America. And so it passed this resolution. Now it goes before the Berkeley City Council. Unclear what the City Council is going to do but -- but some of the concern, at least from -- from what we're hearing in terms of what the -- what's -- what the council members are saying is that they're not so concerned about whether or not they want to call this guy a hero, it's just, at this point in the game, he hasn't been convicted of providing this material to WikiLeaks. These are only allegations.

So it might be a little bit premature, if you will, Becky, to call him a hero at this point.

ANDERSON: Yes, fascinating.

All right, Dan.

Thank you for that.

Dan Simon out of San Francisco for you this evening, joining the dots on one of the day's biggest stories.


I'm Becky Anderson.

Still ahead, it's the Hoff -- Connector of the Day, David Hasselhoff answers your questions. You don't want to miss that.

We'll be right back after this.


ANDERSON: Well, vexed politicians, it seems, are the story of the day -- or at least the picture of the day. Take a look at these, inspired by antics inside the Italian parliament today, we've put together these photos for you -- lawmakers scuffling during the latest no confidence vote in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Ugly scenes, but parliamentary fisticuffs are not exclusive to Italy.

Brawling seems to have become an annual event in South Korea, as MPs literally push through their budget every December.

Taiwanese politicians also have a penchant for throwing a punch. In July, they clashed over a controversial new trade pact with China.

And Ukrainian politicians have also been at it. Back in April, fists were flying over a controversial military treaty with Russia. Smoke bombs and eggs rained down on parliament as Ukrainian lawmakers vented their fury over the deal, which has extended Russia's naval presence in the Crimean Peninsula until 2042.

Political punch-ups in our pictures from around the world for you today.

Lots more ahead on CONNECT THE WORLD, including a story about a not so beautiful game. It was supposed to be a joke, we're told, but not everyone is laughing with Seth Blatter. Coming up, why the 2022 World Cup has just become even more controversial.


ANDERSON: All right, you're back with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

Coming up, a football faux pas -- FIFA's president is under fire for what he says was supposed to be a light-hearted comment about homosexual fans and what would happen if they go to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. Critics say there's a larger issue at play.

Also, a top American diplomat dies. Sir Richard Holbrooke played a key role in the conflict in Afghanistan. We're going to take a look back at his career and examine Afghanistan's future.

And later, Connector of the Day David Hasselhoff answers your questions. That is all ahead in the next half hour here on CONNECT THE WORLD. Let's get you, though, very quickly, a look at the headlines at this half hour.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will remain in a London jail, at least for now, while Sweden appeals a judge's decision to free him on bail. A new hearing will be held in 48 hours. Earlier, the judge granted Assange conditional bail on the accusations of sex crimes from Sweden.

A political victory for Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi triggers anger on the streets. Protesters clashed with police after Mr. Berlusconi's government survived a confidence vote in parliament. He easily won a majority in the Senate, but squeaked by the lower house with a three-vote margin.

Pressure is mounting on the incumbent president of Ivory Coast to step down. Alassane Ouattara's party is calling for Ivorians to help take control of government buildings later this week. Much of the world recognizes Ouattara as being winner of last month's presidential election, but incumbent Laurent Gbagbo says that he is the president.


SEPP BLATTER, FIFA PRESIDENT: And I would say, then, that they should refrain from any sexual activities.


ANDERSON: Well, it was meant to be a joke, but not everyone was laughing. Don Riddell here to talk more about the FIFA chief's comments, there, about Qatar's gay laws.

Let's just, though, start with -- this is how one human rights activist living in Qatar reacted when the 2022 World Cup host was announced right back at the beginning of December. This is what this one chap said. He said, "Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and is punishable by five years in prison and lashes," he wrote. "Where does this leave gay football fans or, for that matter, players?"

Well, we spoke to the writer of that article published on the gay Middle East website. He asked not to be identified because of the Qatari laws. But here's his reaction to Sepp Blatter's comments.


"C," HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I know it's a joke, or at least he claims it is a joke. Rightly so. But it's a joke that alienates a lot of people, and that's what's concerning. Human rights shouldn't be treated as a joke. And as far as I'm concerned, this is an issue of human rights. How are gays going to be received if they come to Qatar for the games?


ANDERSON: All right. Don, your reaction. Did Sepp Blatter go too far making a joke of this issue, do you think?

DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he probably did, and I think he deeply regrets it, I should imagine at the moment, because it has caused such a huge fuss. Not least of the time when he was back in South Africa to celebrate what was a very successful workup of FIFA.

And, of course, you've got the club World Cup going on in the Middle East right at this moment, and nobody's talking about that. Everybody's talking about what is yet another gaffe from the FIFA president.

He does have a reputation for putting his foot in his mouth. It seems as though he just can't help making jokes at inappropriate times. And you've got to remember that he is the president of a very, very powerful world governing body. And I think he probably did slip over the mark.

ANDERSON: All right, before we move on, there's a broader issue here, and that is, of course, human rights. And we've got another comment from "C," the chap you heard from earlier on the situation in Qatar. Have a listen to what he said.


"C": It wouldn't be good if people started to come to Qatar and were arrested during the games. It wouldn't go over very big, and I don't think Qatar is going to do that anyway. They're a very image-conscious country, understandably, and they want to come across as very forward and progressive. And I think that being in the spotlight now, as they are, this may help. This may help the cause here in this country.



RIDDELL: Well, we'll see. One of Mr. Blatter's defenses this week has been, look, there's an awful lot of fuss being made about this, but we've still got 12 years to go. The Middle East in some areas is progressing, and 12 years is a long time.

But the campaigners and the activists have had a point right from the start. They have said, why would you have given the World Cup to Qatar in the first place? And they will now feel, perhaps, vindicated to some extent because this has become a very big talking point, because Mr. Blatter has allowed it to be so.

I think they would have said, look, if you really wanted to enact social and cultural change, which is, I think, what FIFA would really say it would like to do, it would like to be a force for good in the world, then perhaps they could've waited until Qatar had amended, perhaps, some of its laws, and then given them the World Cup.

But they've already given them the tournament. So, perhaps, FIFA have lost some of the leverage there. But Mr. Blatter seems quite confident that in the next 12 years, things will change.

ANDERSON: Always a confident man, our Sepp Blatter, isn't he?

RIDDELL: Very much so.

ANDERSON: Thank you, Don. Don Riddell for you. After the break, our Nic Robertson goes on tour in Afghanistan right in the thick of Taliban territory. Find out why this particular battle is far from won, and why allied forces are facing some incredible challenges. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: On what is a special journey on the show this week, we are uncovering the real Afghanistan or, at least, trying to. The battles, the politics, and the pursuit of peace in a nation torn apart by war.

First up, the tributes are flooding in for this titan of diplomacy. Richard Holbrooke spent what was the -- was the special US representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan for almost two years. He died on Monday in Washington after surgery over the weekend to repair a torn aorta. The 69- year-old also played a key role in brokering the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the Bosnian War.

US president Barack Obama called the ambassador a truly unique figure who, "for nearly 50 years, served the country he loved with honor and distinction. He was a true giant of American foreign policy and will be remembered for his tireless diplomacy."

Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai also expressed his condolences. A, quote, "veteran and seasoned diplomat," he said, who "had served greatly to the government and the people of the United States." One notable omission, however, from Mr. Karzai's statement, Mr. Holbrooke's role in Afghanistan.

Our Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson has been filing reports for us from Afghanistan all week, and we'll hear from him in just a moment. Now, though, Reza Sayah takes a look back at Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's legacy in the politics and diplomacy of a region he came to call "AfPak." Take a look at this.


REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): US president Barack Obama made the war in Afghanistan his signature foreign policy issue, and he chose Richard Holbrooke to be his diplomatic point man.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, SPECIAL ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN: I thank you for your confidence in offering me this daunting assignment.

SAYAH (voice-over): As Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Holbrooke helped put Washington's ambitious new policy into action. A Policy that combined an aggressive military strategy, billions in economic aid, and an offer for peace talks with the Taliban if they stopped fighting. All of this with a looming July 2011 deadline for the US to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

The policy was risky, too elaborate, critics said. Far from a sure bet. But never one to shy away from a challenge, Holbrooke pressed forth and rarely took a break. He averaged nearly one visit to the region every seven weeks, working to rebuild trust with Afghan president Hamid Karzai and a government plagued with corruption.

Holbrooke was among the first US officials to say a clear-cut military victory was no longer likely in Afghanistan. He became a spokesman for a political solution, convinced that most Taliban would stop fighting in exchange for jobs and security.

In neighboring Pakistan, he worked to bolster Washington's strained partnership with Islamabad. He acknowledged what he called "past mistakes by the US" and helped lead a campaign to build trust by committing billions in economic aid.

Back in Washington, it was often Holbrooke who fought to get those billions in front of Congressmen who grilled him to know why. In his nearly two years as the top diplomat in the region, Holbrooke may have toned down his brash, self-assured style, but never abandoned it.

After the 2009 Afghan elections that were marred by allegations of fraud, Holbrooke had sharp exchanges with President Karzai, a US official told CNN.

HOLBROOKE: Excuse me. Well, then we'll leave now if you don't --

SAYAH (voice-over): In Pakistan, critics said his style was, perhaps, to abrasive for a culture that preferred to drink tea before discussing matters of importance. But those who worked with him say Holbrooke's tough-guy reputation was overblown. He was eager, they say, to constantly learn about this region and worked tirelessly to help solve its complicated problems.

SAYAH (on camera): The jury is still out on US policy in this region. Violence still plagues Afghanistan and, despite billions in economic and military funding, Pakistan is not always a reliable partner for Washington. Even so, the policy remains in place, but now without Richard Holbrooke, one of its most tireless and effective advocates. Reza Sayah, CNN, Islamabad.


ANDERSON: Well, it's also worth noting what some say were the final words from this celebrated diplomat. According to "The Washington Post," Richard Holbrooke told his surgeon, and I quote, "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."

It's time now for our special report from Nic Robertson this evening, who's at the key gateway to Kandahar for a look at what's becoming one of the toughest fights of the Afghan surge.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It's just after 7:00 in the morning and we're getting ready to drive through the Arghandab area just north of Kandahar. There's been a lot of intense fighting there, troops trying to take control of that area around Kandahar. Right now, we're just getting a briefing before we go, what to do if there's small arms fire, what to do if there's an IUD, what to do --

ROBERTSON (voice-over): It's a short ride. Arghandab is a key gateway to Kandahar. Unless it's secure, Kandahar is vulnerable.

RODGER LEMONS, LIEUTENANT COLONEL, US ARMY: The low ground down there, they would shoot rockets up here at us.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Brigade Commander Colonel Lemons arrived in August. His job, expel the Taliban from one of its strongholds.

LEMONS: We've gained the initiative in the Arghandab river valley from the enemy. We definitely have gained the initiative. Now, our job is to sustain that, improve the development here.

They're doing some pretty good work.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): As he takes us on a tour of his bases, we stop to see some of that development, designed to win support for government. Road-building, 150 men employed. Good for the community, good for the government. A boon for farmers, too. Even if it's not always corn they're growing.

ROBERTSON (on camera): And how many people are working on this?

LEMONS: That's a truckload of marijuana.



ROBERTSON: What can you do about that?

LEMONS: I don't know what you could do about that, sir.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): It weaves through the convoy. Troops are told to leave farmers alone, but the drugs often fund the Taliban.

The road engineer tells me this area is safe. But in nearby villages, he says, Taliban would kill them for working on such development projects.

We're about to get an unexpected taste of that hidden threat.

LEMONS: OK, we're just going to head out to the mosque, OK?

ROBERTSON (voice-over): It was supposed to be a quiet patrol. A model village, rewarded with a new mosque, courtesy of local government.

LEMONS: We're starting to see more and more of these communities, which are interested in their own security so that they gain development. They gain the ties to the district governance, and they stabilize the area, which is extremely important.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Suddenly, there are shots.

LEMONS: 7-2-2-6.


LEMONS: Roger, we just had six audibles.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Our producer, Tommy Evans, points to where the bullets hit the hillside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 250 meters into the orchards, there's four guys running around, staying low.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): It's not the picture of security Lemons wanted to show. Impossible to confirm if Taliban are responsible.

LEMONS: Hey, I want you guys to go ahead and push to --

ROBERTSON (voice-over): After a few minutes, we move on. Lemons knows there are limits to his success.

LEMONS: We're definitely not everywhere, you're right. It would be nice to have more soldiers to be everywhere. We're not going to be able to do that, so we focus where the people are and where we can have the most effect.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): And so, too, do the Taliban.

ROBERTSON (on camera): That is the Arghandab Valley. That is Colonel Lemons' area of operation. The sun's going down, I've still got a full cell phone service on my phone here. But within a couple of minutes, once the sun goes behind the horizon, the Taliban will come out and exert their influence on the community and shut down the cell phone service. The transmitters will be turned off. This phone will be useless. That's the influence the Taliban still has here.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): They may not be showing themselves, but the fight is far from over. Nic Robertson, CNN, Arghandab Valley, Afghanistan.


ANDERSON: From the battles fought to the battles won, in our next special on Afghanistan, Nic takes us through a city that's slowly on the mend. Shops are opening and markets are flourishing, yet it is a fragile recovery, plagued by fears of reoccupation. Could the Taliban return, and who will be around to stop them? We look at what lies beyond the drawdown of allied forces. That is this time, tomorrow, on CONNECT THE WORLD.

Up next this evening for you, one of the most watched TV stars in the world. That's right, we've managed to score you The Hoff and his young daughters as he talks about life as a single parent and why it's so important to break that mold. Find out more, after this.

And later, a rare look at an American astronaut's preparation for a mission that will start on a Russian spacecraft. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. We'll be right back.


ANDERSON: He's the TV star who has connected with audiences through the 80s, the 90s and, yes, the new millennium, too. He shared the spotlight with a car called KITT and many a buxom beach babe. Tonight, he shares it with his daughters. Let's get you connected.


ANDERSON (voice-over): He's nicknamed "The Hoff," but for many of us, he'll always be that heroic lifeguard who pounded the beaches of California in "Baywatch." Before he rescued struggling swimmers, David Hasselhoff was, of course, also known as the man with that talking car in the popular 1980s TV series "Knight Rider." He's also done theater, music, and movies.

Now, though, he's probably best known for the popular hit "America's Got Talent." Even the Guinness Book of World Records has acknowledged The Hoff's power, naming him the most-watched TV star in the world.

Still, there have been some career lows and personal challenges. He's acknowledged that he's a recovering alcoholic, and that he's successfully dealing with his issues.

Hasselhoff engaged recently on his latest venture, a new reality TV show with his two daughters. I caught up with the Hoffs to find out more.

TAYLOR ANN HASSELHOFF, DAVID HASSELHOFF'S DAUGHTER: We kind of want to show who we are and show our side of the story and just show that we're a loving family and that we work hard. And kind of show about me and Haley singing, and it shows us being very raw in the beginning. And then, by the end, we're singing to 10,000 people.

So, we're really putting ourselves on the line here, and it's going to be a little bit embarrassing and awkward, but we're out there. And then, by the end of it, it's all good. So, I think it's going to be pretty good.

ANDERSON (on camera): We got a lot of viewers writing in to us. I want you guys to have a look at the iPad. Let's take a look --


ANDERSON: Let's take a look at the first question from Jason, tonight.

DAVID HASSELHOFF, ACTOR: Hit that play again.

JASON ASSELIN, IRON MOUNTAIN, MICHIGAN (via CNN iPad app): Hey, David. So many people remember you from "Baywatch." I remember you from watching "Knight Rider" when I was growing up. And now my young kids remember you from "Spongebob."

With this new reality TV show in your home, what are you trying to teach your daughters? And also, what advice can you give to a single parent that is raising their own children? This is Jason Asselin from Iron Mountain, Michigan.


DAVID HASSELHOFF: Jason, I love that question, because I am a single parent, and it's impossible to be their mother. So, you try to encourage them to spend as much time with their mother as they can, and try to be honest with them and to say, look. I'm not -- I can't be the mom, but I can be the best dad I could ever be.

And to always be there for them, and always have a safe place for them, so that they know, no matter what, they can turn to you for guidance and for help and to bail them out at anytime, no matter where you are, anywhere in the world, you always -- you have to make yourself absolutely available, and always tell them the truth.


ANDERSON: Does that work for you guys?

DAVID HASSELHOFF: That's the bottom line --




HAYLEY HASSELHOFF: Yes, that's what he's always done for us, so --

TAYLOR ANN HASSELHOFF: That's just the best answer he could have given.

ANDERSON: Let's move on to the next question. It's from a guy called Omekongo. Have a listen to this one.

OMEKONGO DIBANGA (via CNN iPad app): Mr. Hasselhoff. As someone who has followed you since the days of "Knight Rider" on to "Baywatch" and your music career, I'm just wondering, what advice would you give to artists who are seeking to avoid the typecasting fate that many young artists fall into, particularly in this day and age.

DAVID HASSELHOFF: That's a great question.


DAVID HASSELHOFF: You know, I was -- I've been --


DAVID HASSELHOFF: Wow, have I been typecast, you know? You've got to, I think, try and break the mold by just going out and --


DAVID HASSELHOFF: Doing all different types of music, and not just staying in one genre. Because being a musician like you are, I'm sure you're capable of doing so many different types of music. So do them all, and don't let anything stand in your way.

In Germany, I sing German Schlager. On Broadway, I sing Broadway songs. In America, I'm singing the Romantics, probably doing a PBS special, which is all big, beautiful ballads that will probably appeal to 55 and older.

So, you've kind of got to just throw it out there, make yourself available for -- you know what? Play whatever card's dealt. That's the thing I can tell you. Whatever's card -- you know? And do them all. And don't let anybody stand in your way. The only person who can stand in your way is you.

ANDERSON: Excellent. All right, good stuff. Listen, David and the girls, we've got a surprise question from a man called Piers Morgan this evening.



ANDERSON: Have a listen to this.



PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" (via CNN iPad app): David, it's Piers Morgan here, your old friend from "America's Got Talent." And I'd like to ask you this question. Do you remember the time in Miami during an audition of "America's Got Talent," where you threatened to head butt me if I called you out again during that afternoon's performance? And if you do remember it, would you like to now offer me a sincere and humble Hoff apology?


DAVID HASSELHOFF: My response to Piers Morgan about that day is that he had misread. I did not say I wanted to head butt him. I said, "We've got to stop butting heads." And we've got to be friends. He just -- we were separated by a common language. He was -- he absolutely just totally misunderstood me. And it will be a cold day in hell before I ever apologize to Piers Morgan.


DAVID HASSELHOFF: Because from that moment on, we became extremely close friends, and to this day, we have nothing but mutual admiration and respect for him, and I mean that from my heart, and I wish him nothing but the best here at CNN. I think he's going to be a fantastic correspondent. And a good replacement, an amazing replacement for Larry King.


ANDERSON: All right. So The Hoff man for you. You may have noticed, we were using our iPads there, and we will be doing a lot more of that as our new app, CNN app launches around the world just today. You can take it as you will, and it does everything that you would possibly expect a good old app to do.

The app lets you share the stories on Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail that you want to share with us, as well. The best part, CNN's global app for iPad is, of course, free. Download it at the Apple store.

We'll be back with the show after this.


ANDERSON: All right, we're going to end tonight for you with a connection to outer space. When the last US space shuttle flies next year, astronauts will have only that old work horses Soyuz to get to and from the International Space Station. NASA's Cady Coleman will be part of a multi- national crew when one of those Russian capsules lifts off next week. CNN's John Zarrella tells us the Shuttle program veteran can't wait to leap once again into the final frontier.


CADY COLEMAN, NASA ASTRONAUT: I want to go live on the Space Station, and I don't really care how I get there.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She's trained in Russia, Houston, and here in Japan. She needs to know how to run experiments for the Europeans, the Japanese, and the US.

COLEMAN: This is the highway where they actually put this hardware together.

The way that we're used to thinking of this, actually going to be upside down like that. Our camera is upside down on the Space Station, so we have to learn how to think upside down.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): At the Johnson Space Center.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): While exercising her body, exercising her mind. A Russian language lesson on the run. So to speak.

There's so much to do. A training marathon. The six-million-gallon pool at the neutral buoyancy lab is as close as you can get on Earth to zero gravity. Here, astronauts rehearse space walks. There's no wiggle room inside the Soyuz spacecraft.

COLEMAN: And we're always in the same space.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, a lot of work.

COLEMAN: Pilot on the left, commander in the middle, and I'm on the right.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): You can't bring much from home to keep you busy during downtime. Get this. The limit for personal items is a measly two pounds.

COLEMAN: I'm probably going to bring my flute.

ZARRELLA (on camera): Bring your flute?

COLEMAN: Probably about two pounds right there.

ZARRELLA: OK. Dmi (ph), you're going to have to put up with listening to her play the flute, then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure, of course.


ZARELLA: It's so great to have you live with us, Cady. We've been seeing --

ZARELLA (voice-over): A break in training came just at the right time, at the same time the Shuttle Discovery was set to launch.

Cady Coleman and her crewmates practiced with another station crew how they would respond in the event something really bad does happen while they're up in space.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Smoke machine, are you ready?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, smoke machine is ready.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Outside the station mockup, a team of trainers and mission managers observe and work through nightmare scenarios.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attention, smoke. Smoke in the node one. Smoke in node one.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): On this day, in all the rehearsals, Cady, Dmitry, and Paolo deal successfully with the emergencies. When they're in space, they'll be ready.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): If that alarm ever sounds.


ANDERSON: Let's hope it doesn't. John Zarrella reporting, there. Coleman's crewmates on the Soyuz, by the way, will be a Russian cosmonaut and an astronaut from Italy.

I'm Becky Anderson, that is your world connected, here on CNN. "BackStory" follows a very quick check of the headlines this hour.

The Nigerian government is considering whether to drop bribery charges against former US vice president Dick Cheney and energy company Halliburton in exchange for a $250 million fine. Nigerian officials and Halliburton negotiated that settlement over the weekend. Cheney headed Halliburton before becoming vice president.

Swedish prosecutors are challenging today's British court ruling granting bail to Julian Assange. That means that the WikiLeaks founder will stay behind bars for at least 48 hours more until the next hearing.