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Afghanistan Withdrawal Revisited; Interview With Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 02, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Normalizing a brutal dictator. As Syrians continue to suffer under Bashar Assad, I ask the Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim and
former U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford why world leaders are welcoming him back into the fold.
MASTER SGT. TERRY BEST (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I love you, brother.
ABDUL QADER ZAMAN, FORMER AFGHAN NATIONAL ARMY BATTALION COMMAND SERGEANT MAJOR: I love you too, brother.
AMANPOUR: An emotional reunion after a chaotic withdrawal. Hari Sreenivasan talks to a U.S. Army vet who refused to leave his Afghan
BEAR GRYLLS, ADVENTURER, PRESENTER AND AUTHOR: I'm Bear Grylls. And I have spent my life showing you how to survive in some of the world's toughest
AMANPOUR: Famed explorer Bear Grylls invites us to join the adventure and expand our own horizons along the way.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The war for freedom and democracy in Syria began 11 years ago next month. It was part of the Arab Spring uprisings against decades of dictatorships.
But while many leaders did step down, in Syria, the Assad regime hung on, fought back and cracked down hard.
And what began as peaceful protests descended into full-scale war, marked by indiscriminate bombing of civilians, use of chemical weapons and
intervention by Russia and Iran for Bashar Assad.
The war killed at least 350,000 Syrians, displaced more than half the population, almost seven million people, and forced millions more refugees
out into the world. Although rebels cling to small enclaves near Idlib in the north and the Iraqi border in the south, Assad has largely consolidated
his grip on the country.
In a moment, we will explore the normalization of Assad on the world stage, but, first, a closer look at the humanitarian disaster that he created.
Just this week, two babies froze to death at a refugee camp in Northwestern Syria, as heavy snow and freezing temperatures continue to grip the region.
Correspondent Arwa Damon reports on the struggle to survive.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What do you do when your home cannot protect you from the whipping winds, when you
can't warm the chill away from your children's cheeks or frozen hands, or when the snow collapses, the only shelter you have?
"Look at all this," Fatim (ph) says. "Can anyone have mercy. Don't bring us food or water, just a home."
Her son's clothing lies drenched on the flooded floor. The children don't have proper shoes. The lucky ones, they run around in rubber boots. Most
are in flip-flops, and some none at all.
This winter is among the harshest to hit Syria and decades. And for those living in camps, it's unbearable.
"Just help us to stay warm," Delal (ph) pleads. "The kids are crying from the cold. We have collected everything there is to burn, even from the
garbage, from plastic to wood to anything else, but it's not safe."
Idriss (ph) was burnt when his parents use this paste that's left over from pressing olives for oil.
"I don't know what happened exactly, but the stove exploded," his father says. "Idriss' skin melted as if you had poured acid on it."
Burn injuries brought on by unsafe living conditions are common throughout these camps, especially in winter. And the weather is not just aggravating
already hazardous living conditions. According to the World Health Organization, the inability to stay warm is causing an increase in severe
respiratory illnesses among children, especially the little ones.
Dr. Abdur Rahman Shufan (ph) tries to stifle this baby's cries, but when he finally calms down, you can hear just how labored his breath is.
"This is what we were talking about," Dr. Shufan says, children this young with bronchi allergies and bronchiolitis. It can be deadly.
Hospitals don't have the support or medicines they need. Aid agencies don't have the funding they need. And while there are local efforts on the ground
to help, it's hardly enough.
The international community never stopped the mass killing of Syrian civilians. Will it now help them survive the winter?
AMANPOUR: Arwa Damon reporting on the tragedy there.
Given his brutality, seeing Bashar Assad notching up diplomatic ties again with countries including Jordan, Egypt, the UAE, it raises the question of
what message this sends to the world.
Zaina Erhaim is a Syrian journalist now in exile here in London, and Robert Ford was the last U.S. ambassador to Damascus, until the Obama
administration cut ties a decade ago.
Welcome, both of you, to the program.
The statistics are just awful. And it bears reading from the U.N., nine out of 10 Syrians living in poverty, almost 60 percent of the population food-
insecure, a nice word for on the brink of starvation, some six million Syrians internally displaced.
Zaina, can you paint a picture? What are you hearing from friends or colleagues who are still there? What's happening beyond these statistics
ZAINA ERHAIM, SYRIAN JOURNALIST: Well, first, I want to thank you, because you highlighted the main cause of all of these numbers.
Usually, people would be -- or media is now speaking about Syria as if a natural disaster, not a manmade crisis. The situation is even more despair
than what we're hearing about. It's not just about the camp, in all areas, even those that are still controlled by the regime, in terms of the
They even stopped speaking about COVID. There is no one who is testing or hospitals that are accepting. The prices are so high that, rarely, people
are being able to even provide the bread, which used to be the main food for the poor. Even bread prices raised very much.
Recently, we started even seeing regime media and figures speaking or criticizing the social conditions. And a new law was issued about even
making any sarcastic videos, influencers, social media activists. So, I mean, despite all of this despair situation and horrific on all levels, the
regime is still has the ability to suppress freedom of expression, to keep track on everyone that is criticizing the regime, because I think Assad is
still scared that he wasn't completely able to crack down on the uprising yet.
AMANPOUR: So, on that note, let me turn to you, Ambassador Ford.
Should Bashar Assad still be at all worried that he has not got full control? Or, by contrast, should he be basically sitting back and taking a
victory lap, given all the dignitaries and connections that he's reestablished over the last several months?
ROBERT FORD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA: He's made progress, certainly. But he does not control all of the country.
About a quarter of the country in Eastern Syria, where the American forces are located, he doesn't control that area. And he doesn't control the
northwest corner of Syria either. So he can't sit back and relax.
But, at the same time, we need to be clear with your audience, Christiane. There is no prospect that Bashar al-Assad is going to suddenly lose the
civil war and be forced from power. He has enough power to preclude any opposition force from ejecting him.
AMANPOUR: Yes, I mean, that's totally clear, certainly, as it stands right now, and particularly with, as I say, the number of dignitaries, even the
United States, I think, approving a pipeline that could have been banned under U.S. rules and regulations and sanctions that it imposed, a pipeline
from Syria to Lebanon, to help it with its dire energy needs.
So I guess the question is not whether he will or will not stay, but what happened, what failed over the last 11 years to keep him in power? What did
you all do so wrong?
FORD: I think we made a mistake, myself included, but we did not understand how far Russia and Iran would go to help Bashar al-Assad stay in
The Russians sent combat air force units. And they definitely helped turn the military tide of the civil war. And the Iranians flooded the zone with
militias from places as far away as Pakistan and Afghanistan, but loyal to Iran, and sent them to fight on the ground in Syria.
And those two foreign states really proved to be the decisive element. The Americans were never willing to escalate, the same way that the Russians
and the Iranians were.
AMANPOUR: You have just hit the nail on the head, never willing to escalate.
So, let me ask you, Zaina. I'm going to read a quote from a colleague, somebody you probably know. Actually, I think Ambassador Ford knows this
gentleman, Marwan Safar Jalani. He was your former student.
And he's written in "The New York Times": "Back then, I felt betrayed by the al-Assad, who we had long been told was Syria's protector. Now, nine
years after fleeing my home, I feel betrayed by an international community that's inviting Mr. al-Assad back into its fold.
Do you relate to that, Zaina? And what do you make of what Ambassador Ford said, that it's really because of Iran and Russia that stepped up?
ERHAIM: Well, I think the big disappointments that many Syrian felt was after the red line of the America was crossed and Assad used a chemical
weapon, and instead of taking actions, as we were hearing in all the mainstream media, suddenly, some kind of deal was made with Russia, which
didn't even prevent Assad from using chemical weapons.
And I think that point into the Syrian, like, memory made so much difference. We all felt like we have been let down by the international
communities. And what happened afterwards, like, every human rights defender, every journalist was pretty much scared because of the impunity
that the regime has now.
In 2016, my passport was confiscated in the U.K. because the regime reported it stolen. And, at that point, the region was considered criminal.
So, imagine what asset himself is capable of doing, when now he is being normalized and going back to the diplomacy.
I think we might be seeing some incidents like Gadhafi, like an assassination in Edgware Road or other areas in Europe, because I think he
has the power, and then he will have all the free time to do it. And he knows he's not going to be punished, and no one is taking him accountable
for the actions that he committed.
AMANPOUR: Let me just play this famous red line. sound bite from President Obama, Ambassador Ford. And ewe just want to talk about what that said to
the world at that time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a
red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, Ambassador, when there were a whole lot of chemical weapons moving around, it didn't change the president's calculus, or it
did. He didn't do anything about it.
I mean, that's history now. But I wonder what you think about what it telegraphed to Assad himself and whether you consider it also telegraphed
to Iran, to Russia, to all the others that it was their terrain from now, and the U.S. wasn't going to step up.
FORD: We'd already been sending that message. But the red line reinforced that message the American restraint in the wake of a series of grisly
atrocities committed by the Syrian government.
The big attack in August of 2013 Zaina was talking about had been preceded by other chemical weapons attacks, which we knew about, our intelligence
told us about. And the Americans, frankly, did not want to launch a military campaign in Syria.
And President Obama, I think, was very clear about that, when he chose to negotiate a deal with Russia in September of 2013, a deal which ultimately
was not respected by the Syrian government. And the Russians also broke their promise that, if Assad broke the agreement, which he did, that the
Russians would allow the Security Council to consider serious punishment.
The Russians have prevented that. So you can't trust the Syrian government. And, frankly, you can't trust the Russian government.
AMANPOUR: And what can the Russian government and the Syrian government think or trust about the American government, Ambassador?
Because we're talking about this, which was in the past some 10 years ago. Now we face a credibility test over Ukraine. We face a credibility test
over what can only be described as a debacle of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and, in fact, pulling out, by all intents and purposes, from
the Middle East.
What -- you're an ambassador. You have been around doing this diplomacy from the ground up for decades. What do you think this whole thing, in
terms of a message to the world, what will that mean for the United States and security amongst its allies?
FORD: That's a great question, Christiane. And the answer is simple. Your rhetoric, American rhetoric, must be in harmony with American interests and
American determination to back up its words.
we spoke very sternly, made a lot of threats in Syria, which, in the end, we were not willing to escalate, we were not willing to back them up. Our
rhetoric was way out in front of what we were prepared to do.
In the end, as brutal as it is to say, Syria was not a vital American national security interest. We should not threaten decisive military
action, we should not threaten to change the balance of power in a foreign country somewhere if we're not prepared to do it. And, clearly, if it's not
a vital national American security interest, there will be people in Washington who say, wait, hold on, let's not escalate.
AMANPOUR: Except, of course, that's where ISIS regrouped, and where the U.S. had to come back in droves, both on the ground and with airpower.
Let me ask you.
FORD: But we didn't solve that problem, the problem of Bashar al-Assad, Christiane, by intervening against ISIS.
AMANPOUR: No, I know. I know. But you say it's not in the U.S. national interest. A failed state in Syria, a Bashar who was already inviting
insurgents in from Iraq, that was Bashar Assad, to confront the United States was able to allow ISIS to regroup there as well.
I will come back to you on that, if you like.
But, first, I do need to add Zaina.
We have seen red carpet welcomes, the UAE foreign minister and Bashar Assad. We have seen the WHO invite Syria back to its executive board. We
have seen Interpol readmit Syria into its network. And the -- there's a push amongst the Arab League to readmit it.
There are some in the Arab world, including King Hussein or the Jordanian royal family, who believe that a step-by-step readmission of Syria could
hold them to account. There are others who believe that this just sends a signal that he's prevailed and defiance has prevailed.
Where do you come down on that?
ERHAIM: If I can just quickly comment on the message to the world from my own perspective, I think not doing anything about the crimes committed in
Syria, and then assassinating a journalist in an embassy, and then putting lots of journalists in prison in Egypt, I think that gave a carte blanche
for all the dictators in our region that you can do whatever you want, and there is no accountability and there is no justice.
To go back to your question, for me, the question is, what's the consequences of such normalization is really huge. I think what we're
seeing in Denmark now about deporting people, saying that Syria is safe, and that is one incident was reported here in the U.K., where, luckily,
with the campaign, the Home Office, they changed their decision, and they granted that person asylum.
But, I mean, claiming that Assad is a legitimate leader, he's not a dictator or a criminal, I think it's the first step. Second, we're going to
be seeing lots of violations committed against those who ran away from Assad or those who are applying for asylum in different countries, not to
mention what that is going to be leading to.
I think failed state is something that we cannot run away from. It is currently that, and I think it's getting worse and worse, and it's even
expanding in the region.
AMANPOUR: So, there are many Syrians, particularly those who fled and those who've been victims, as you point out, who wish that Assad would be
Now, Syria is not a member of the International Criminal Court, and, therefore, it's not within its jurisdiction to prosecute. However, a German
court did prosecutor recently the first criminal case over a state-led torture case in Syria. It was a former Syrian intelligence official. He had
fled to Germany and was found guilty there on charges of crimes against humanity.
Zaina, what -- is that justice? Is that justice done, particularly within the limitations of what's possible?
ERHAIM: It's a small step.
But if you ask, there was a debate when that trial happened, because that person eventually defected, while we're seeing the head of security and
even, like, the sons of those very high officials, Syrian mafias, who are roaming around the U.S. and Europe. They are being granted visas.
Some of them are even taking scholarships for some reason. So I think -- and seeing Rifaat al-Assad running away from France and going back to
Syria, and he's not even being trailed for the crimes that he committed on -- in Hama. He is being trailed for money laundering.
So, I mean, it is certainly a step towards justice. But I think, unless we're seeing justice against those officials who are still practicing their
crimes, I don't think such a satisfaction from those victims, and even those who are still detained, being tortured and missing, I don't think
that consensus is going to be reached.
AMANPOUR: So, Ambassador Ford, I mean, what is the next step in that region or the next step towards Syria?
The U.S. Congress has sanctions based on -- they're called the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act. And that's because of the man code-named Caesar
who came. He testified. He had all these pictures and all this evidence of a campaign of brutal torture and murder inside Assad's prisons.
And it had a deep effect on Congress. And yet, as I mentioned, the U.S. is allowing business to be done with Syria over this pipeline, in violation of
its own congressional act. What is -- why? And what's next for the region? And how does one have any influence that might resolve some of the
harshness of the Assad regime in Syria? Or do you think it's just, forget it?
FORD: I think we should be clear, Christiane.
There is not much the United States can do to diminish the brutality of Bashar al-Assad over the cities and the towns that he controls in Syria. We
just don't have the means to do it, unless we want to do an invasion, like we did in Iraq in 2003. And I don't think any serious person would advocate
for that now.
So, the sanctions -- and they are very harsh sanctions -- they are not going to compel Bashar al-Assad to make concessions. They simply will not.
The Biden administration, therefore, understanding that reality, has made a choice that it will use exemptions found in American sanctions law in the
code of federal regulations that allow it to waive sanctions for projects undertaken by the United Nations and related agencies such as the World
Because of the World Bank involvement in Lebanese projects that will import energy through Syria, that World Bank exemption from American sanctions
allows those projects to go forward. I don't think the Biden administration is enthusiastic about bringing Assad back into the international society of
They have said that repeatedly. There aren't any contacts that I have heard of between the Biden administration and the Syrian government. But the
Biden administration seems to have reached the conclusion that they're not going to change Assad's behavior, and they might be able to help, in this
case, Lebanese civilians, who have a dire shortage of electricity.
AMANPOUR: Meantime, as we showed in that very powerful report from Arwa Damon, the poverty-stricken, freezing, desperate Syrian civilians are
Ambassador Ford and Zaina Erhaim, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.
From that forgotten horror of the Syrian war to another stain on the West's conscience, and that is Afghanistan, as we just discussed. As thousands of
Afghans scrambled for safety during the U.S. withdrawal, interpreter Abdul Qader Zaman was evacuated thanks to a friendship formed in battle with the
retired U.S. Master Sergeant Terry Best.
Hari Sreenivasan was there the moment they reunited for the first time in a decade.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, we witness something yesterday.
BEST: The house of my brother.
ZAMAN: Oh, my God.
BEST: I love you, brother.
ZAMAN: I love you, too, brother.
SREENIVASAN: And just to put it in context for our audience, what was it like to see each other in person again?
ZAMAN: Our good memories, now friendship, and each other's love.
For me, it was kind of surreal, because I remember us being together the last time was 10 years ago. And where you try to guard your emotion, the
emotions just came out seeing my brother again. And I always promised him that he would be here. And he always told me he would be here.
And, yesterday, it happened. And so the emotions were happiness, sadness and success.
ZAMAN: I feel I'm like brother, because we -- our past life was him in Afghanistan, when he being there in Afghanistan. I feel him my brother. He
feels me his brother.
So that's what I'm feeling.
SREENIVASAN: Terry, where is that bond from?
BEST: I was placed as an embedded tactical trainer with the Afghan National Army.
And Abdul, I was his mentor, he was my mentor from the Afghan National Army side. And, from that first day, we drank chai. And then, within a week, we
began to mission-plan. And when we mission-planned, it wasn't just the buy- in of myself and my other American. It was the buy-in of the entire Afghan fighting element that Abdul commanded.
We would go in and talk to village elders together in Ashura. And in those events, I was the sole American. And he was my voice. And very soon, within
a couple of weeks, when we were shot at the first time, Afghan soldiers, you have one opportunity to make a first impression.
And if they buy in, you will never be alone again. And it's at that point that our brotherhood began. That's why I love him, because I have been able
to enjoy three daughters and six grandkids that I never would have seen without the love, the support, and the fighting spirit of Abdul and all
those Afghan soldiers that he brought to my life.
SREENIVASAN: Did he save your life?
BEST: He did on more than one occasion.
But we had one specifically in Nuristan province. We were in Kamdesh. The soldiers that Abdul commanded, there were three soldiers who then began to
plot that they were going to kill me. And when Abdul found that out, Abdul separated them from the company. Abdul took their clothes, took their
weapons, and he sent them walking from Nuristan, which, if you know anything, there's no roads.
It's the most dangerous place in Afghanistan, Nuristan province, specifically Kamdesh. And Abdul sent them on their way. And that event
right there was but one example of the lifesaving events that he's done for me.
SREENIVASAN: Do you feel like you were trying to save his life?
ZAMAN: Of course, yes.
SREENIVASAN: U.S. soldiers, they come and go. Why was it important for you to risk your own life with your troops?
ZAMAN: Because I felt that the U.S. soldiers are in Afghanistan to help Afghans and fight for peace for Afghans, not there to take Afghanistan from
So, probably many people was thinking that they're there to fight with Afghans. No one feel that they are fighting for Afghans, and when I was
feeling that they are fighting for Afghans, not fighting with Afghans.
SREENIVASAN: If you stayed in Afghanistan, would your life be in danger because you worked with the Americans?
ZAMAN: Yes. Yes.
And the last days, when the peace talking was going, between politics -- in politics in Afghanistan, I was feeling that, when Taliban come to
Afghanistan, and slowly they will kill the people who help Americans.
So that's why I try to leave Afghanistan and come to United States. And in the last days, when I evacuated, I saw that what were -- what I was
feeling, so many people killed by Taliban. And we were in very -- our life were in very high risk.
SREENIVASAN: So, tell me about those -- the images that we started to see on TV, most of us, that essentially the Kabul is falling, that something is
You had been working on trying to get your friend out for seven months. What goes through your head?
BEST: As a soldier who did multiple tours there, there's a lot of disgust, because you put your life at risk for an entity that you believe in.
And I served 31 years. So I believe in the American military and the American process. When I see that it can so easily be usurped and slapped
away in less than a 30-day time province by province by providence across Afghanistan, it saddened me.
And then it disgusted and angered me when friends that I had suddenly fell into real danger. Then it became a different mission altogether. There was
BEST: -- suddenly fell into real danger. Then, it became a different mission altogether. There was no mission in place by anybody to safely
remove those that helped us. Those that we promised as soldiers, we didn't have that ability to speak, Dari, Pashto, Urdu. We went in and we were
told, find people, do your best job to vet them, make sure they're safe, and then, we'd pull them in, and then they'd work with us, and we're to
promise them that when this is all done, we'll look out for your safety and you'll come to America.
And then, in seven months' time, I can't get a simple piece of paperwork processed. He does everything by the rules and can't get it done. It
doesn't give you great belief. So, I went to what I knew, and that is I'm a soldier. You mission plan, and you do that with other veterans. You do that
with several civilian entities that instantly stood up and decided we were going to be good on our word.
And those people helped. And that's what we did. That's why we're sitting here together is because some people have values, some people have
commitment and those people stepped up.
SREENIVASAN: But -- I mean, what was the -- just getting to the airport.
ZAMAN: That was very hard. In the first day, we just lost the gear that they showed us and a bunch of people were in front of the gate. And we were
just going like -- by push of people only a few inches in every hour. And (INAUDIBLE), we just get close to that gate. Then Taliban try to push us
back and they are beating us. Beat my son as well. I tried to stop him and then, he marked the Ak-47 to me and he said, if you try to stop us to beat
people, they're going to kill you.
And we just left there and we just lost our suit bag over there with our clothes and things. And I tried to just go back home. Then, I've got a call
BEST: It's all right. It's all right.
ZAMAN: I try -- I got a call and I heard that he said, don't give up.
SREENIVASAN: Don't give up.
ZAMAN: Keep going to the front. Go back.
SREENIVASAN: So, you tried again?
SREENIVASAN: And when you get that -- getting there, there's Taliban checkpoints?
ZAMAN: Many checkpoints, yes.
SREENIVASAN: Different every day?
ZAMAN: Every -- yes.
SREENIVASAN: And what are they looking for? What happens if they think you have worked with Americans?
ZAMAN: Yes. They were looking for people who working with Americans or Afghan military. They were looking for those people just to capture them
and take them, punish them or kill them, whatever they want.
BEST: I had him moving with three phones, I had him moving with two powerpacks to recharge phones. But at some of those checkpoints, they took
one of those phones. One of the checkpoints, he lost a suitcase. At another checkpoint, they lost some documents but I had had him photographed and
send them to me. But then, that meant that the people were going to assist in moving him from outside to inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in
Kabul needed to have those proofs. They needed to have photos.
And so, it was that type of a complicated process that we went through.
SREENIVASAN: There's a photo of you --
SREENIVASAN: -- with a t-shirt.
ZAMAN: Because I leave home, Terry just text me and he gave me a word (INAUDIBLE) and he said that right on my white color t-shirt when you go to
the -- and they call you and come out to find you, you just show that sign and they will know you are Abdul.
Then I did that. And he said, just be -- just hide that t-shirt somewhere, don't anyone see or Taliban don't see it. As soon as you get to the gate
and see American soldiers, just show them that sign and they will know who you are.
But there was a canal between the gate and the side we were. It was a big canal. And we were in the other side of canal. The U.S. soldiers was to the
side of canal, to the airport side of the canal. And I showed that sign. He just said, yes, I've got you. And I jumped into the canal.
SREENIVASAN: You jumped into the canal.
SREENIVASAN: What's in that canal? What was the water in there?
ZAMAN: That's also a very dirty water in that canal. I've taken my kids. My wife gave me the kid. I take them to the other side.
SREENIVASAN: So, you went back and forth in the canal?
ZAMAN: Back and forth in the canal. Take the kids from my wife. Give to the soldier, take them and give to soldiers. And the last, my wife jumped
into the canal. She crossed. Yes. Then myself.
SREENIVASAN: What was that feeling like?
ZAMAN: Like, as soon as I have crossed the canal and I went inside of the airport, I just felt that I'm just born.
SREENIVASAN: That you were born?
ZAMAN: Yes. I just felt that I'm in the United States now. I told my kids that we got it, we arrived. That's it. Then I received a call from Best and
he asked me, hey, what happened? Where are you? And as soon as I told him that I'm inside of the airport, and he started crying in the phone. And
that was just the last time -- last talking of us that time because the phone battery dead while we were talking.
SREENIVASAN: When you get that first call, Terry, that says he's in the airport --
BEST: For me, it was like being trapped in an avalanche and suddenly, the wind blows the snow off and you're free because that whole seven months, if
it was that way for me, I know. We talked every step of the way. It was like freedom and freeing to know and to not have that, but then, you could
only be happy for a short period because then I had no contact with him for 16 days.
SREENIVASAN: Abdul, not everybody has a Terry Best looking out for them. There are many of your friends, your relatives still in Afghanistan --
SREENIVASAN: -- who do not have somebody who's working on their paper work, who's making phone calls on their behalf, who's telling you how to
get there. How do you feel for that part of your country?
ZAMAN: Yes. I feel very sad for them. And I hope someone comes to their life like Terry Best and just saves them from that risk. I always pray for
them and I'm sad for those people who don't have Terry Best and I pray for them to have someone as Terry Best.
SREENIVASAN: Terry, what about those left behind? We're fortunate here to have this conversation with Abdul but --
BEST: And I agree. As Abdul can share, I've still not given up. There's still people -- I embedded multiple times and I still am communicating and
having contact. Abdul is my closest relationship and friendship because we worked together multiple times during multiple trips there and it's been
the longest lasting.
But I still work and I still believe. The easy thing is to say, well, they blew up the abbey gate. So, now, there's no way. But that's not true. We
have fighters and entities in many locations that are still actively working to bring the same honor that Abdul deserves and receives for them,
for it to happen to them. But if we go to sleep and we forget about them, then, yes, you're right. They will die. And eventually, they will just by
SREENIVASAN: What do you want to do in the United States?
ZAMAN: The first thing, as Terry Best said, my point is to make -- educated my kids.
SREENIVASAN: To educate your kids?
ZAMAN: That's the only thing I will support my kids here to be educated, my wife to be educated, and I will support them financially, work hard for
SREENIVASAN: What kind of jobs are you looking at? What do you want to do?
ZAMAN: Actually, I have experience in security job or risk management or military. But in begun, whatever the job, I will do it. I will accept any
job offered to me. I will accept. I'm sure, truly, I will find my way.
SREENIVASAN: Abdul, Terry, thanks so much for joining us.
BEST: Thank you.
ZAMAN: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Desperation and gratitude and comradeship at the end.
My next guest would applaud the persistence and resilience of both Abdul and Terry. Bear Grylls is an old-fashioned global explorer in the modern
age of metaverse and virtual reality. The famed adventurer has navigated the wild both alone and in the company of celebrities and world leaders,
including then U.S. president, Barack Obama.
Here they are exploring the Alaska wilderness in 2015.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: You know, what I try to teach my daughters is be useful and be kind.
BEAR GRYLLS, ADVENTURER, PRESENTER AND AUTHOR: Yes.
OBAMA: And if you do those two things, then wherever your passions take you, you'll turn out OK and you'll --
GRYLLS: Being kind is such a big one. It's not complicated, is it?s
OBAMA: No, it really isn't.
GRYLLS: Sometimes we have a journey like to come around and to realizing actually, you're right. That's it.
OBAMA: As simple as that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, the lesson empowering us all to reach our full potential is also at the heart Bear Grylls' latest mission, "Becoming X."
Bear Grylls, welcome to our program.
You know, you've been there, done it with everybody. What made you start this wild world, this extreme life?
GRYLLS: First of all, you're kind. I think the honest answer is it was the only stuff I was ever any good at growing up. You know, I was never the
best or cleverest or sportiest in school or anything like that, but I loved to climb, you know, from a young age. That was my thing. I had a -- my late
father taught me so much about the outdoors, about adventure. And for me, it was my way of being close to him, is we would do this stuff together.
And, you know, he's no longer alive now. But he always used to say to me, you know, follow what you really love. Follow what you really love and try
to be kind to people along the way. And, you know, I didn't really understand it as a kid. But the more I live my life, the more I realize
that's kind of it, you know. And how so much of education really kind of misses this, you know. And for all of us, we should learn so many of these
lessons through failures, don't we? We learn it through experience.
But I'm so grateful for that. And actually, he was right, you know. I've had a job that never felt like a job. I get to work with best friends all
around the world in some difficult situations, but I feel very lucky.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to get to the failure part of it. But first, let's focus on the success part. You know, to most people, you in the company of
Barack Obama while he was president, you in the company of the world number one tennis player, male tennis player, Roger Federer, and we've got these
amazing pictures of you climbing up the side of a mountain, I guess it was in Switzerland where he lives, you know, and helping up there or --
For some reason I'm looking at ping-pong for the moment. But you did actually climb up the side of a mountain with him. You know, what is it
like, taking these people who, obviously, also are incredibly accomplished in their own fields, incredibly disciplined, incredibly successful and
hard-working? But you take them out of their zone, and I think Federer was quite -- kind of -- I think he said he was quite, you know, intimidated by
these heights and the climbing up. Explain that, what you all get-out of this experience.
GRYLLS: Well, first of all, all of these people, as you know, having interviewed them, at the end of the day, some regular person, you know. But
they have certain traits and habits and things that sets them apart. And it's not always just talent or skill. It often much more about resilience
and that kind of dogged determination to keep going, to go through the failures.
But, for me, "Running Wild," you know, we've done seven seasons of that show. It still continues. I just got back today from the jungles of central
America. It's a huge privilege to take so many of these global superstars away, to see them in such a candid, honest environment, you know, where
you're hearing the real journey, to take them on these adventures and get to know the real people.
And like you said, we've done so many icons of sports and Hollywood and all this sort of different stuff. But one of the things I've learned is that,
it's really that thing of people are regular people at the end of the day, but certain habits, certain traits set people apart. And "Running Wild"
gives me time to explore that a bit more. It's what we've done with "BecomingX." Well, it's allowed us to go deeper and to find out the real
story. And the more human these people become, the more we demystify what it takes to succeed in life. The more we can then, hopefully, empower young
people to really go out there and change the world, you know.
AMANPOUR: Which is what you're doing. You're trying to encourage people to fulfill their potential and, you know, others more accomplished to talk
about their failures and the lessons to learn. Here's a little clip that we're going play of "BecomingX" before we have a quick chat about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRYLLS: Greatness isn't born, it's learned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep going. Keep believing. Reach for the stars.
TIM PEAKE, ASTRONAUT AND ISS CREW MEMBER: And you never know what you might be able to achieve.
MARK ORMROD. FOUR-TIME INVICTUS GAMES GOLD MEDALIST: You just have to have that no-limits mind-set.
MADDIE HINCH, WORLD'S BEST HOCKEY GOALKEEPER: The tougher the journey, the tougher you are.
ANDY MCNAB, AUTHOR AND FORMER SAS SOLIDER: That gives you power.
SIR RANULPH FIENNES, WORLD GREATEST LIVING EXPLORER: Go as far as you can.
HELEN GLOVER, DOUBLE OLYMPIC ROWING CHAMPION: Seize the day. Seize the moment.
JULIA ROBERT, OSCAR WINNING ACTOR: Take joy in what you do.
DYNAMO, UNDISPUTED KING OF MAGIC: If you just keep trying, you can achieve anything.
GRYLLS: So, what can you become?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, in some of the promotional material, you basically share the concern that you don't think, you know, today's education properly prepares
people for the future. What bits do you think are lacking and how do you think "BecomingX" can help?
GRYLLS: Well, first of all, teachers are true heroes, you know. They do an incredible job working against the odds, you know, serving young people
and, you know, within an education framework. But I think I'm not alone in feeling that there's a huge life skills gap for young people lacking who
are emerging from this very, very tough two years. It's been especially tough on young people on mental health as well.
And I think one of the most disempowering things of young people is to feel ill-prepared for life. And I think we hear it so often, don't we? Kids say,
you know, oh, what's the point of school? Why am I learning this stuff? Is it relevant? You know. And with "BecomingX," you know, it's a digital
learning development platform to try and empower skills -- young people with skills that really will help them in their lives, the real-world
skills, the things that are actually intangible, that are inspiring.
And, you know, it's why we interviewed so many of my "Running Wild" guests for "BecomingX" is to make this program exciting and relevant and to go
deeper and hear about those failures and struggles. And like I say, to demystify success and make it then a program that's accessible for schools.
And we've launched recently in schools all around the world, in primary and secondary schools with like 200 different lessons, make it easy for
teachers to teach some of this stuff to kids.
And the response has been amazing. Because kids are smart. You know, when you give them stuff that's really, they know it in here and in here and
they go, wow, this is exciting and this is my hero and this is this guy or this lady saying this, and, wow, and it's relevant to me. So, I'm very
proud of what we're doing. It's just the beginning, really. It's just the beginning. But we've had huge support from people.
AMANPOUR: Yes. A and you're building on the whole idea of helping people through any mental health challenges. And of course, we've heard so much,
particularly amongst young people during the COVID years but also masculinity and sort of potentially -- and I'm putting words into your
mouth -- redefining the notion, the definition of masculinity.
I mean, you yourself have had a pretty, you know, out there, you know, career, military and all the rest of it. You've had, you know, a lot of
hardships and that kind of stuff, but you're also, I think, raising three sons. And you've said, you know, you're the chief ambassador to the World
Scout Organization. Your life motto, as you've said, is courage and kindness and never give up.
You said at to the "Times," I want my kids to know that integrity matters and that a few friendships carry you far. I want them to know that humility
trumps pride and that being shy and quiet is OK. You know, it's not a coincidence that we ask you that in the context of some incredible failures
of leadership that we're seeing in public all over the country right now.
So, how do you think you can teach youngsters with what they see about failures of standing up, you know, to the -- you know, to basic standards
and practices and morals and rules right now?
GRYLLS: I think when you see it done well, it's beautiful and always inspiring, you know, And I think someday very powerful when you come across
leaders that have humility, you know. Ultimately, leader should be a position of service, you're serving people. And, you know, we're always
going to fall short because we're human and leaders do fall short.
But, I think, a lot of "BecomingX" is about putting toward that positive model role, but actually, whether you're a young boy or a young girl,
whether you want to be a sportsman or, you know, a businessman or whatever, these are the values that actually will serve you well in life. You know,
how to be a good listener, how to be real team player, how develop that inner resilience, that quiet resilience.
And, you know, these things are often different from the currency of school. You know, because I don't know what yours. You're a mom and you
know. But certainly, for me, as a parent looking at my children going through school, the currency that I see is a value of school and that it
celebrate it is academic prowess or sporting prowess or good looking or putt yourself, you know, in the front of everything.
But, as we know, those aren't the currencies of life. You know, the currencies of life are different. They're more nuanced than that. They're
deeper. They're much more about resilience and being able to work with people under pressure, about being able to go through the failures, stay
true to your vision, win people over, you know, develop strong friendships, relationships, and this is at the heart what "BecomingX" is about, trying
to put those tools into young people's hands through the school program.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, you know, values like compassion and curiosity about the world and things like that and sensitivity, it's OK to be
sensitive even if you're a boy. Can I ask you though? Because, look, I don't know -- you know you came under some criticism when you took out the
Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, on an exhibition on a raft. We're going to play you a little clip and then, I'm going to ask you about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRYLLS: You must be the first prime minister even in history to cross the river in a coracle like this. Well, certainly in the last 100 years.
NARENDRA MODI, FORMER INDIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I have spent my childhood like this. I have spent my life like this. So, this
isn't new for me.
MODI (through translator): My Himalayan life was like this as well. I didn't have anything with me. I used to live life like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I mean, you know, that took place right around the time he revoked the status of -- your tournament status of Kashmir, human rights
officials criticized this, saying that you humanized him. He's known as a Hindu nationalist, and there are all these other issues. Did you think
about that when you were choosing him to be one of your special subjects? I guess I'm trying to figure out what levels or what benchmarks you put in
place or not, or do you just think that anybody makes an interesting, you know, human study?
GRYLLS: Yes. It's an interesting question. I think if you didn't -- if you've been totally risk free, you wouldn't do anyone, you know, or you do
very bland and it would be very uninspiring. You know, I think our job in world, as you know as a journalist, is to engage, you know, is to listen.
Our job in the world is not always to judge but stand alongside and try and understand each other. And that's different from saying, you know, this guy
is great or that guy is great. It's just -- you know, it's just trying to listen more.
As my uncle who is a soldier all his life used to say, he goes, go (INAUDIBLE) and war, war, you know. Talk to people, talk to people. It's so
important. So yes.
So yes. We take people out. We take them on these adventures and we listen. You know, and the goal, ultimately, is to try and, you know, do things that
bring the world together, is to help peach understand each other and to make the world a better place. Do we always get it right? Do we sometimes
think, gosh, is that (INAUDIBLE)? Maybe. You know, I think that was maybe one of the most controversial ones we did. But I think that's OK. I do
think it's important to be in it and to, as I say, not judge and to listen.
AMANPOUR: Bear Grylls owning it as ever and "BecomingX" is your latest project. Thank you so much for joining us.
And finally, pushing through the limits is taking one man from the slopes of that very Kashmir area to those in Beijing. Arif Khan is the only
athlete from India to compete at the Winter Olympics starting on Friday, and it all started right here at his father's ski shop just a few miles
from the Line of Control, which separates Indian and Pakistani controlled parts of Kashmir.
Khan doesn't just hope to just bring back a medal from the Olympic Games, he wants to put India on the map as a winter sport destination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARIF KHAN, BEIJING WINTER OLYMPIC SKIER: My dream has always been promoting India globally as a winter sports destination because we have the
Himalayas, we live in the mountains, we receive the snow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, we wish him well fulfilling his dreams and, of course, loads of luck bringing that medal back from the games.
That's it for now. If you ever miss our is show, you can always find the last episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. You can find it at
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and across social media.
Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.