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Kabul Bombing Comes a Week after Hotel Attack; Casino Mogul Resigns as Republican Finance Chair; Police Raid Kremlin Critic's Office; Statue of Pharoah Moved; Michigan Special Prosecutor Investigates MSU; Grammys #NotSoWhite This Year. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired January 28, 2018 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Afghanistan is in mourning after a massive car bombing in Kabul killed almost 100 people.
Steve Wynn steps down as fundraiser for the Republican National Committee. The casino mogul and Trump ally facing allegations of sexual misconduct.
And a pharaoh's welcome. Why Egypt has moved a statue that is three millennia old.
Hi, I'm Cyril Vanier at CNN Headquarters here in Atlanta. Thank you for joining us.
VANIER: Sadly, we're used to seeing attacks in Afghanistan. But even by Afghanistan's standards, Saturday's attack was horrific and world leaders are speaking out after the bomb attack in the capital, Kabul.
U.S. president Donald Trump says it's despicable. The U.N. wants the perpetrators brought to justice. An ambulance packed with explosives exploded in the city center on Saturday and that killed at least 95 people and wounded almost 200 others were dispatched across hospitals in the capital.
A Taliban spokesman claims that the group is responsible and Afghanistan has now declared Sunday a national day of mourning. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, who has reported extensively from Afghanistan, has more on the bombing.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: It is an extraordinarily savage tactic to use an ambulance speeding, most observing it, thinking to try and deliver help somewhere, to use that as a team to suicide car.
And this, what should've been the most secure area really of Kabul near the European Commission, of diplomatic missions and a large hospital. It appears the first checkpoint may have let the vehicle through; some issue at the second caused it to detonate.
A year ago, a similar attack happened using a hospital as its main target and the Taliban quickly rushed out and said that was too extreme for them. They denied any responsibility in March last year when 30 people died in a military hospital.
Today, they all quickly moved forward and said that, yes, this was them, that they used an ambulance as a car bomb and potentially also to maybe naming at a key hospital there as well. This is a staggering change, frankly, in what they consider to be the acceptable norms. They've known to being often at times indiscriminate when it comes to civilian casualties.
But some observers may see this as a sign that they're trying to capture back the extremist far ground from ISIS, who have gained some support and even territory in Afghanistan over the past years or so and of course, we've seen in Iraq and Syria are capable of quite brutal, ghastly tactics.
This potentially one troubling sign here as also is the fact that this penetrates what should have been one of the securest areas, a dangerous few months ahead here. Donald Trump has personally said in probably the only he's (INAUDIBLE) his foreign policy in one particular area, that he will win in Afghanistan.
How, he's left slightly secret, illustrated some particular tactics like there will be hundreds more American troops outside of their bases, training Afghan security forces in the months ahead.
But you're going to know, probably know less and less about this war as we head into the year ahead. The coalition have said this is when the Taliban start losing territory. Well, but, also the same time, classified a key indicator as to their success rate.
How many Afghan soldiers or police were dying?
That's what has been publicly known; now it is classified. I think many will be asking the Pentagon and White House on normally known to hide the fact that they're actually winning. So a difficult year ahead certainly here and attacks like this, which came off the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel last weekend and just in the last 48 hours or so, the attack on the Save the Children charity in Jalalabad in the country's east will just show how really nowhere appears to be safe.
And the Taliban increasingly extreme weather in what they will or won't target -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.
VANIER: Journalist Franz Marty lives in Kabul and he joins me now.
Franz, there have been two deadly attacks by the Taliban this week.
What does that tell you, if anything, about the state of the insurgency in Afghanistan at the moment? FRANZ MARTY, JOURNALIST: There have been indeed two very deadly attacks, bigger ones, even if you go like years back. It certainly shows also what the claim of the Taliban for the latest attack, which the ambulance explicitly states that they want to take revenge for the new U.S. strategy, especially for rent of airstrikes.
On the other hand, if someone looks back, the last few years, there have always been like (INAUDIBLE) attacks; sometimes they are more frequent, sometimes they are less frequent.
So is isn't that everything would have changed but it is sure that the Taliban want to show that they hit (INAUDIBLE) and that they are very relevant.
VANIER: So, Franz, you've lived in Kabul for three years. I read what you wrote online and, honestly, your account of your experience in Kabul is quite counterintuitive. You say you walk everywhere; you don't live in one of those secured compounds that ex-pats usually live in.
You say you feel relatively safe in Kabul.
MARTY: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) after this attack. But it is a bit relatively what most people misunderstood about my article is this, I clearly wrote there are horrible attacks and every single one is a tragedy and every innocent life that is lost is a tragedy.
Point being, it's just (INAUDIBLE) a huge city. So the risk, the likelihood to get killed in such an attack is way less than commonly imagined in the West. For example, many of my friends, when I came here, started like there were explosions everywhere and as soon as you step out, you're in really great danger because it happens everywhere.
And this is just not the case. Even if it happens relatively close, this explosion from yesterday, I walk past there every second, third day, so luckily I didn't walk past there then. So but it is a matter of minutes. If you are there, that moment, that it is a tragedy; if you're five minutes earlier you're unharmed.
So this is hard to understand. I don't want to say that life in Kabul is nice or that it is not difficult and of course there are those incredible dangers, but it is just, as counterintuitive as it sounds, there is normal life here. People walk around, people go to the park, people have a kind of normal life.
So those two things coexist side by side and this is hard to understand for people who haven't seen this or lived in a region like this, I guess.
VANIER: Absolutely and for having experienced war zones myself, what a lot of people don't understand when they watch it through TV is that the violence usually happens at a certain time and a certain place. It's not everywhere all the time. Tell me about the residents of Kabul themselves.
Do they feel that the government can keep them safe from these attacks?
MARTY: No, they don't. There is a lot criticism about the government not only regarding security in general but certainly especially regarding security and this always is heightened after such attacks, obviously.
So there is also now general outcry, public outcry that the government is not able to prevent such attacks. This is right, the government has shortcomings. The government could do better; on the other hand what sometimes also gets overlooked is this, that it is very hard to prevent any suicide attack because suicide attackers, they disguise themselves as civilians or this time as an ambulance or sometimes in certain areas as security forces.
So it is very hard to prevent any attack. This is also seen by European states or United States, can't provide 100 percent security and here, it is much, much more difficult, so this should also be kept in mind in this regard.
VANIER: All right, Franz, thank you very much for your analysis and thanks also for sharing your own view of what it's like to live in Kabul. Thank you.
VANIER: In the United States now, the Republican National Committee just lost its biggest fundraiser. Real estate mogul Steve Wynn stepped down as finance chair after allegations of sexual misconduct against him, allegations which he denies.
"The Wall Street Journal" interviewed dozens of employees. Some say that he pressured them to perform sexual acts. In a statement confirming his resignation, Wynn says, "The unbelievable success that we have achieved must continue. The work we are doing to make America a better place is too important to be impaired by this distraction."
The story goes beyond just Wynn at this stage because he is a political ally of Donald Trump. The president hand-picked him as the finance chair. Nonetheless, Mr. Trump supported Wynn's decision to resign.
Earlier I asked in CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer if Wynn's resignation could have any consequences for the president.
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, so far, the Republicans have been relatively quiet about the matter. I'm not sure there'll be any blowback because of this story on the president. The president brings to his reputation into the office, his own baggage.
And so far he's been able to survive it. There's multiple accusations of sexual misconduct with the president himself. So I don't think this story is going to really add to that. It's really if the president's own stories --
ZELIZER: -- at some point actually become a political problem.
VANIER: The question that always -- and you -- and you touched on this the question. The question that's always worth raising here is, to what extent does this reignite all the questions about Mr. Trump and the allegations that surfaced against him before he was elected president?
ZELIZER: I think that's right. And I think the way that could really matter, it's not going to produce, in the short term, some resignation. But what it can do is really mobilize opponents of the president going into the midterm.
This is the kind of issue we have seen through the marches on Washington. The Women's March, which we've had two of them, really galvanizes a huge part of the population. And that's where it can have a real effect. This could be part of the constituency that brings the United States a Democratic Congress.
And that would have major consequences on the standing of the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: Steve Wynn is the first CEO of a major publicly traded company to be caught up in sexual misconduct allegations since the allegations against Harvey Weinstein surfaced late last year.
After the break, Russians preparing to decide on their next president. Some will be taking to the streets because they're not satisfied with the choices. We'll be live in Moscow. Stay with us.
VANIER: A bomb attack in Colombia is a reminder that the country is still facing security challenges despite the end of its decade-long civil war. At least five police officers were killed Saturday in a city in the north of the country after a bomb was thrown at a police station.
Now police have arrested and charged a suspect and officials believe that criminal groups are retaliating over a government crackdown on new gangs that have taken over drug trafficking in the country.
We're also following the political crisis in Honduras. The country's president was sworn in for a second term on Saturday and you'll --
VANIER: -- remember from our coverage, that election was highly disputed. Outside the inauguration, protesters clashed with police. The opposition accuses President Juan Orlando Hernandez of manipulating the election results to get into office.
International observers say that they did find many voting irregularities. The president denies the allegations and he's now calling for unity in the country. The United States has recognized Mr. Hernandez as the winner of the election.
VANIER: Breaking news now. Russian police have forced their way into the offices of prominent opposition figure and Kremlin critic, Alexei Navalny. In a tweet, Navalny says that police questioned those who were in the office. All of this is coming as thousands are expected to take to the streets in protest of the upcoming presidential election, protests that were called for, organized by Navalny himself.
In an exclusive interview with our Matthew Chance, he explains why he calls to boycott the election.
ALEXEI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): He is scared of all real competition. We see in these elections that he only allowed those to run who do not even resist, do not even do any campaigning.
When they saw that we are actually fighting for people's votes, they got scared. The famous Putin's ratings, all these 86 percent, 70 percent, all of that the sociologists and political analysts love to talk about, they exist in only one scenario: when Putin places the candidates he controls.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But that issue of polling numbers, I think, is important, because, as you say, Vladimir Putin is polling more than 80 percent popularity in this country, if you believe the opinion polls. But you're polling just 2 percent.
How much of a political threat does your movement really pose to this Kremlin juggernaut?
NAVALNY (through translator): Look, I stood for election just once in my life. In 2012, I participated in the Moscow mayor elections. And everyone was showing the polls when I had 2 percent. And without money or any media support, I got almost 30 percent.
Same thing goes for the presidential elections. Putin doesn't have an 80 percent rating. He has an 80 percent rating when compared to other candidates whom he has let run.
VANIER: Fred Pleitgen joins us now from Moscow.
Fred, good to have you with us. The pressure on Alexei Navalny is just constant. The Kremlin isn't leaving him any breathing room. Tell us a little bit more about this raid on his offices.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly. It certainly seems as though the Kremlin is really clamping down on Alexei Navalny and his supporters on this very important day.
The Navalny supporters are keeping up a YouTube feed of some of these protests and also trying to bring some news on that as well, trying to circumvent Russian state media, which usually tries as far as they can ignore the protest that Alexei Navalny tends to come up with here in this country.
So it really does seem as though they are clamping down on it. We have heard about this raid that happened earlier in the morning today, very early in the morning, around 9:00, maybe 10:00 am and then the big question is going to be whether or not Alexei Navalny is actually going to make it to one of the protests that he is organizing today.
Certainly in the past, the pattern that we've seen is every time he tries to actually attend some of the rallies that he is organizing, that usually the police will come and detain him for a couple of hours until those protests end.
Nevertheless, one of the things that he does manage to do is he does manage to get these protests organized in pretty much all of Russia. Right now they say that they're expecting protests to be in over 100 cities here in this country. Usually the turnout in most those places isn't very high, maybe a couple of hundred here and there. Moscow and St. Petersburg really are the biggest venues where these protests take place.
So you can see the authorities clamping down on the organization of these protests, on Navalny himself. It's going to be very interesting to see how many actually attend these protests today, especially in Moscow and St. Petersburg -- Cyril.
VANIER: This begs the question, should the Kremlin be afraid of him?
I mean, how much pull does Alexei Navalny actually have in the country?
PLEITGEN: Yes. Look, there's really two things at play there. On the one hand, he is certainly one of the few people here in this country who has managed to organize a nationwide protest against the way Vladimir Putin is running this country.
It is quite remarkable to see that you have protests in the far east of Russia all the way here to the west of Russia. It is a very big country and, in many places, information doesn't necessarily travel very quickly. So that in itself is something that certainly concerns the Kremlin. On the other hand, he does also have a certain pull with parts of the
population here, who feel that Vladimir Putin has been in office too long, who feel that there's no reforms here in this country to speak of, people who do want political change. So he is a figure for them.
But one of the things that we heard also in that interview that he did with Matthew is that he isn't really polling very high. He is at about 2 percent right now, Vladimir Putin certainly a lot higher in the polls, polling --
PLEITGEN: -- around 80 percent. So from that vantage point, it doesn't seem as though he's much of a threat to the Kremlin. But at the same time, just the fact that we're seeing them clamp down the way that they are, Cyril, shows that they are quite concerned about some of the moves that he's making -- Cyril.
VANIER: All right, Fred, those protests expected to start where you are in a matter of hours. I know you'll be looking out for them. You'll be giving us updates through the day. Fred, thank you.
Around Paris, roads have become rivers and water is now flowing into homes. A flood alert is in effect after the River Seine burst its banks from days of heavy rain. Water levels are nearing its peak at almost 6 meters. Rail service has been disrupted across the city and the lower level of The Louvre museum has had to shut down, even though that's just a precaution.
VANIER: Now normally when glaciers melt, we're a little alarmed. It's not a positive thing. But there is a silver lining in Norway. Viking swords and arrows from the Bronze Age have been found. They are among more than 2,000 historical items that were found recently there. These relics were frozen in time for centuries. But not anymore because, as I was saying, these glaciers are melting due to warming temperatures.
Archaeologists in Norway have been trying to rescue these items before too much contact with air damages them. With the artifacts, researchers are learning more about how human civilizations adapted to climate change thousands of years ago.
And in Egypt, it took almost as much engineering ingenuity to move an enormous 3,000-year-old statue as it did to build it in the first place. The statue of Ramesses II, known as Ramesses the Great, has been moved to a new permanent location. Zain Asher has this story.
ZAIN ASHER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): An 83-ton statue of Ramesses the Second, considered one of ancient Egypt greatest rulers, has been moved to a new home.
(MUSIC PLAYING) ASHER (voice-over): Escorted by a marching band, a mounted military guard and much fanfare, the 3,200-year-old granite statue was transported 400 meters in a specially built cage to the Grand Egyptian Museum.
Ramesses II, also known as Ramesses the Great, ruled ancient Egypt from 1279 to 1213 B.C.
He is known for conquering large areas of Nubia in what --
ASHER (voice-over): -- is now Sudan and Syria and for building on a colossal scale. This is the fourth and thought to be final move the statue has made in its long history. It was moved once in the 13th century B.C. and not again until 1954, when Egypt's president ordered that it be brought to Cairo.
It stood outside Cairo's main train station until 2006, when the government moved it to a temporary location in Giza, fearing that auto emissions were damaging the granite. Its new home is Egypt's massive Grand Egyptian Museum, a 650,000-square foot facility that is still under construction. The museum is intended to reignite the country's tourism sector, damaged by years of violent instability.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHI HAWASS, FORMER MINISTER OF STATE FOR ANTIQUITIES AFFAIRS: This event is going to be the most important cultural event the world because it will tell the world about the Grand Museum. It will tell the people that Egypt is safe. Come to visit us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER (voice-over): Ramesses now stands at the entrance to the museum, waiting to welcome tourists through its doors -- Zain Asher, CNN, New York.
VANIER: Still to come on CNN, he is a political ally of U.S. President Donald Trump. But now he has stepped down from the Republican National Committee after accusations of sexual misconduct. We'll tell you more about Steve Wynn after the break.
VANIER: Great to have you with us. We want to welcome our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Cyril Vanier from CNN HQ right here in Atlanta. (HEADLINES)
VANIER: So let's start with Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas casino mogul. He has resigned as finance chair for the Republican National Committee because of sexual misconduct allegations. A "Wall Street Journal" story detailed a pattern of sexual misconduct going back decades. This is based on interviews with dozens of former and current employees.
Now Wynn denies the allegations; he calls them preposterous. But the story is now bigger than just him because he's an ally of Donald Trump and he was handpicked by the president to do the job that he just quit.
CNN's Boris Sanchez has more from the White House.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: On background, a White House official tells CNN that President Trump supported the resignation of Steve Wynn from the Republican National Committee.
There was some question as to how the White House would approach this situation, considering some inconsistencies in the past when responding to sexual assault allegations.
You'll recall, in just the past two months, the White House simultaneously demanded the resignation of former Senator Al Franken while backing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, two men that were both accused of sexual misconduct.
President Trump is actually supposed to see Steve Wynn last weekend at a fundraiser in Mar-a-lago. The president couldn't attend the fundraiser because of the government shutdown.
But Wynn took the stage and gave a speech in which he defended the president and his agenda. Here's some more of what Steve Wynn said Saturday night at Mar-a-lago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE WYNN, WYNN RESORTS: And then all of a sudden, once again in American history, an unlikely person became president, perhaps the most unlikely of all since Abe Lincoln. Donald John Trump became 45th President of the United States, to the chagrin, to the hysterical chagrin, of the other side. He was their worst nightmare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Though in 2016, President Trump called Steve Wynn "a great friend," the two men have historically had some rocky moments. They were competing hotel and casino tycoons who've known each other for 34 years.
Ultimately, with President Trump handpicking Wynn to be the finance chairman for the RNC and now, on Saturday, again, a White House official telling CNN that the president backs his resignation, in part, to limit any kind of political damage that could hit the RNC or the White House.
No official statement coming yet from the White House nor any tweets from President Trump as we've come to expect on weekends -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.
VANIER: Steven Erlanger is chief diplomatic correspondence from "The New York Times;" he's in Brussels right now.
Steven, it is good to have you with us and it seems that the White House was quick to distance itself from Steve Wynn.
Do you think perhaps they learned a lesson from the Roy Moore episode, the Senate candidate accused of sexual misconduct that Donald Trump had defended?
STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, they're learning lessons all the time and the difference with Roy Moore is Trump deciding he really needed that Senate seat because the margin is so thin and what he said and I suspect it's right, that even though he was afraid Moore would lose, he wanted to support him to keep the majority of two in the Senate.
Now Moore, you know, and Wynn, that's different things that we're talking about. After all, he is a casino owner and if you remember that great line in --
ERLANGER: -- "Casablanca," "I'm shocked, shocked there's gambling in this establishment."
Casinos are not churches and I'm sure you know -- I don't know what happened with Steve Wynn and his staff. But you don't usually go to a casino and read a book.
VANIER: Yes, I'm not sure how to answer that.
ERLANGER: -- that you have attractive young women offering drinks and so on. The whole point of casinos is a kind of part of (INAUDIBLE), it is what it is but, you know, it isn't a Puritan establishment, so I'm sure these allegations are fair and decent. I think Steve Wynn was right to resign from the Republican National Committee.
But this is this terribly surprising?
I would have to say no. I mean, Trump ran a casino, too. It's just a different world.
VANIER: Yes, well, we will see how the allegations pan out, of course. It's worth reminding our viewers that Steve Wynn categorically denies all of this.
Let's look at what's happening this week, especially with Donald Trump, the State of the Union speech coming up, President Trump will address the nation.
What are the do's and don'ts for him?
Or perhaps does that even -- it that even a question that applies to him anymore?
ERLANGER: Well, I think the State of the Union, he knows it's a big stage. I'm sure the speech will be written carefully. I'm sure he will deliver it, pretty much as written. I don't expect him to ad lib very much. There isn't a Q&A session. They -- you know, Trump will want to talk about his achievements in his first year and his aims for the second year, which there is this tax bill.
You can call it reform if you like but the Republicans always wanted one. Now they have it and he's going to push on immigration reform, which was a big promise of his, and on infrastructure building to try to create jobs for working class people.
So I expect it will be, you know, not a shockeroo and I expect he'll probably stick to his script. I mean, much is he actually did during the inauguration. Whether the tone of the speech is as dire and dark as his inaugural speech, I rather doubt because Trump will argue that, in the year he's been president, he has brought a whole new ray of sunshine to the American people.
VANIER: Yes, the time he had used the words "American carnage" and that surprised a lot of -- at least a lot of observers.
Look, as you said and we've learned this, so also we've confirmed this with our reporting, Donald Trump is expected to promote a big immigration plan. What's surprising about this is it seems that it would be fairly easy, fairly straightforward, if you went for a small immigration plan, border wall versus a fix for the DREAMers, then he could get Democrats and Republicans on board.
But he wants something bigger and he's getting pushback from both sides.
ERLANGER: He is and again, it's a negotiation. As we've talked before, he fancies himself a great negotiator and you don't make compromises at the start. So he's laying out his position. I was very struck, you know, he gave an interview to a British television station, in which he criticized Theresa May for not being a good negotiator on Brexit.
So this is something dear to his heart and I imagine, you know, he will, in the end, have to go along with what Congress ends up negotiating. He does have quite a lot of ammunition as he goes to negotiate and, you know, the main thing I think they will be looking at is the midterm elections in November, Trump wants a couple more accomplishments before that rolls around. So he can show to his voters that they were right to elect him and that he's shaking up Washington and that he's doing pretty much the things that he said he was going to do. I'm sure he will also praise the economy, which is growing at a pretty good rate, 2.6 percent of GDP.
Now it's not the 4 percent Trump promised but it's not bad. And you can argue some of it was because of Obama policies. But the fact is the business community likes the tax cut and it likes Donald Trump.
VANIER: For the moment, Donald Trump's been accusing the Democrats of obstructing his -- the massive -- the comprehensive reform deal that he wants on immigration. But he will need some Democratic votes. We'll see whether he mgs to get them.
Steven Erlanger, thank you very much for joining us here on the show.
We're going to take a short break but when we come back, Tuesday in the U.S., as we said, Donald Trump will be addressing Congress and the American people in his first State of the Union address. You can see that right --
VANIER: -- here on CNN. Coverage will begin at 8:00 pm Tuesday in New York. That is 9:00 am Wednesday morning if you're in Hong Kong. And we'll have the latest on Saturday's deadly bombing in Kabul in Afghanistan when we come back. We'll tell you what world leaders are saying about the attack.
VANIER: More now on the deadly car bombing in Afghanistan. The country has declared today a national day of mourning. At least 95 people were killed in the capital on Saturday; almost 200 others were wounded when an ambulance exploded in the city center. This was the work of the Taliban; they've now claimed responsibility.
Lt. Col. Rick Francona is with us. He's CNN's military analyst.
There been two deadly attacks. First, the Intercontinental Hotel and now this ambulance blowing up in the capital in the space of a week. I mean, clearly the Taliban can strike the capital and other parts of the country at will.
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Exactly. And we saw also an attack in Jalalabad. So it's not just the capital. And they're demonstrating a capability and they are doing this for a reason. Much of it is retaliation for the increased coalition airstrikes --
[03:45:00] FRANCONA: -- that are being conducted throughout the country. Normally in the winter, we see a lull in activity because it's a very difficult terrain to conduct military operation.
So what's we're seeing this year is a much higher operations tempo. The United States has just deployed A-10 aircraft, which are excellent ground attack aircraft, to beef up that air-to-ground capability. And they're going to try to take the fight to the Taliban.
These aircraft were supposed to go to the Middle East to fight ISIS but, given the success in Iraq and Syria, now they've moved it there. And of course this follows President Trump's stated goals of increasing the operations against the Taliban.
VANIER: And, Lieutenant, the strength of the insurgency has ebbed and flowed over the last 10 to 15 years in Afghanistan and if you look at the short term, it is not encouraging. They've got stronger. They actually got -- they actually reconquered land that they had lost previously over the last 12 months.
FRANCONA: Yes, and that had to do I think with the change in American strategy; whereas you had American combat forces actually engage fighting the Taliban, as combat units, now we pull back to this advise and assist mission and that is obviously not working. We've seen the Taliban resurge, as you say, take territory that they had lost.
Now the United States is implementing yet another tactic; they're going to create more advisory capability down to the battalion level. Normally we see American advisors at the higher headquarters and these are not real specialists in training and advising. Now we see a cadre of selected officers. These are going to be senior officers, senior NCOs, people with combat experience.
And they're going to go down to the battalion level. This worked very well on the ground in Iraq. We will see if it works in Afghanistan.
VANIER: So, if I read between the lines, are you optimistic then about there -- the U.S. ability to turn the tide against the Taliban next year?
FRANCONA: Moderately, Cyril. We've been doing this for 16 years and we haven't hit the right combination yet. That's because we haven't had a coherent strategy. If we had a coherent strategy, that might work. But I think this is yet another step that we're going to try and see how that goes. But it's just not been working so far.
The problem is not the United States. The problem is the Afghan forces are just not capable. And no matter what we do, we haven't hit on that right amount of training to enable, instill in these people the sense of nationalism that they need to defend their own country. It's just not there.
VANIER: But to me, it has always begged the same question.
Is there or isn't there a military solution to this problem? Is it actually possible to defeat the Taliban and find that military
formula that you're alluding to?
FRANCONA: I don't think this -- the strategy is to defeat the Taliban. I think the strategy is to bring the Taliban to the table, use enough force that convinces them that they cannot win militarily. Now obviously we don't appear to be winning militarily, either.
But if you just convince them that they need to come to the table, there might be a political solution in the offing. I'm optimistic that that might happen. But actual defeat of the Taliban, I just don't see that happening.
VANIER: All right. Colonel, once again, great to have your insights. Thank you.
FRANCONA: Sure thing, Cyril.
VANIER: Officials in Michigan are opening up about an investigation into Larry Nassar and Michigan State University. The probe has been going on since last year. Nassar was one that was the school's sports doctor for nearly 2 decades and during that time we now know that he sexually abused dozens of young women in his care, sometimes as young as 6. Special prosecutors are looking into how the University failed to take action. Jean Casarez has more.
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is now official: Michigan State University is being investigated by the attorney general's office here in Michigan. Bill Schuette, attorney general for the state, said that he didn't want to make it public until all of the young women had come forward with their victim impact statements.
But so much had happened in the last week, he believed that it was appropriate. He would not say whether it was an actual criminal investigation but they are bringing someone in from the outside.
His name is Bill Forsyth, a former prosecutor for 42 years. His title in this investigation: independent special prosecutor. Also he said that this was priority one for this investigation.
And he also had some words for the Michigan State University board of trustees, that last week issued a statement, saying, we think the attorney general's office should investigate our university.
Here's what he replied back to them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL SCHUETTE, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't need advice from the board of trustees at MSU about how to conduct an investigation. Frankly, they should be the last ones to be providing advice, given their conduct throughout this entire episode. Their conduct throughout this entire episode --
SCHUETTE: -- speaks for itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CASAREZ: The special prosecutor said that they will be looking for facts, which can possibly lead to potential evidence. And the big question in his mind is that how could Larry Nassar have been able to sexually assault girls associated with Michigan State University for over two decades? Jean Casarez, East Lansing, Michigan, CNN.
VANIER: Coming up, the #MeToo movement will play a part in the Grammy Awards ceremony Sunday night and since Jay Z will be one of the headlines at the Grammys, we'll ask him later what he thinks. Stay with us.
VANIER: The Grammys are just around the corner and if you look at the nominations, especially nominations for this year's Best Album award, something is different from past years. For the first time since 1999, there are no white male solo artists nominated for Best Album. This feels relevant in light of the scandal following the Oscars not too long ago, which were accused of being too white and ignoring black artists and their work.
At the Grammys, hip-hop is dominating the field. Rappers Jay Z and Kendrick Lamar have eight and seven nods respectively. And that's a welcome change, as we were saying, after years of criticism that women and minorities in general have been snubbed.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Generally speaking hip-hop and maybe black music in general has really had its finger on the pulse of sort of like American temperament for the last few years.
And I think that one of the reasons why the Grammys are going to be so -- like why Album of the Year and these awards are going to be so talked about this year is because a lot of people are looking for the Grammys to kind of make up for the mistakes, so to speak, of the last year in terms of the way that artists like Beyonce and Kendrick have been overlooked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there's a sense that maybe this year some of those wrongs will be righted.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VANIER: The Grammy Awards will be presented Sunday night in New York City. Members of the industry are planning to wear white roses to support the #MeToo movement. And Jay Z is bringing the full force of his fame to advocate for women's rights. He spoke to Van Jones on the first episode of CNN's new "THE VAN JONES SHOW," and described how critical the fight has become.
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VAN JONES, CNN HOST: In this #MeToo moment, in this #TimesUp moment, does that give you hope for your daughters?
How do you make sense of this new rise of women's voices?
SHAWN "JAY Z" CARTER, RAPPER: It has to happen. This movement and everything that's going on and this, what we're finding out, it's like everything else. It's like racism, like everything -- it existed the whole time.
And we just -- it's almost like we normalized it. The normalization of the things we have to do to survive, like for women to go to work, knowing that this sort of abuse was happening every day. It's happening every day because you can look.
And logically you'll say, why would you stay there?
What's the alternative?
What's the alternative?
You have to survive in America. And in order to survive, you have to normalize it. So this has been going on. So for it to get uncovered and the world to correct itself, this is what has to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: For Jay Z, #MeToo is personal. He and his wife, Beyonce, have three children, a boy and two little girls.
That does it for us, thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. The news continues next with Natalie Allen and George Howell. You're in good hands. Have a great day.