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The Taliban's Afghanistan; China Eastern Plane Crash was Deliberate; UFOs a "Potential National Security Threat". Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 18, 2022 - 04:30   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Here, the U.N.'s World Food Programme is delivering cash assistance, the equivalent of $43 per family. Khalid Ahmadzai is the coordinator. He says he's seen the need explode. And right from the start, the stories are dire.


KHALID AHMADZAI, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: A few days ago, one woman came to me and she told me that, "I want to give you my son by 16,000 afghani. Just give me the afghani."

And he was -- she was really crying. And that was the worst feeling that I had in my life.

AMANPOUR: Are you serious?

AHMADZAI: Yes, this is a serious thing that we had a distribution at the first day. So the hunger is too much high here.

AMANPOUR: You know, we have heard those stories but I have never heard it from somebody who's actually seen it.

AHMADZAI: Yes. Yes. Yes, I have seen it. It's too much bad. And it hurts me a lot.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Everyone we met is hurting. According to the International Rescue Committee, almost half the population of Afghanistan lives on less than one meal a day. And the U.N. says nearly nine million people risk famine-like conditions. Fereshtah has five kids.

AMANPOUR: And how many meals per day can you eat?

AMANPOUR (voice-over): "When you don't have money," she tells us, "when you don't have a job, you don't have income.

"Would you be able to eat proper food when there's no work?"

Khatima is a widow.

"They should let us work because we have to become the men of the family, so we can find bread for the children. None of my six kids have shoes. And with 3,000 afghanis, what will I be able to do in six months' time?

"You just want work. I have to work," she says.

At this WFP distribution site in Kabul, you do see women working and women mostly with their faces uncovered. Outside, Taliban slogans plastered over the blast walls tout victory over the Americans and claim to be of the people, for the people.

But while security has improved since they took over, the country is facing economic collapse. And that shows up all over the tiny bodies we see at the Indira Gandhi Children's Hospital. It's the biggest in Afghanistan, now heaving under the extra weight.

Dr. Mohammad Yaqob Sharafat tells us that 20 to 30 percent of the babies in this neonatal ward are malnourished. Suddenly, he rushes to the side of one who stopped breathing. For five minutes, we watched him pump his heart, until he comes back to life.

But for how long?

Even in the womb, the deck is stacked against them.

DR. MOHAMMAD YAQOB SHARAFAT, INDIRA GANDHI CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: From one side, the mothers are not getting well nutritions.

AMANPOUR: Wow. So it's a triple whammy. The mothers aren't nourished enough.


AMANPOUR: The economy is bad.


AMANPOUR: They have too many children.

SHARAFAT: Children.

AMANPOUR: And they're overworking themselves.


SHARAFAT: So all these factors together make the situations to they give birth premature babies.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Because they're under sanctions, the Taliban are struggling to pay salaries. So the International Committee of the Red Cross pays all the doctors and nurses at this hospital and at 32 others across the country. That's about 10,000 health workers in all. Look at this child. He's 2.5 years old.

AMANPOUR: His name is Mohammed. He's malnourished.

How much food is she able to give her child at home?

Why does he look like this? AMANPOUR (voice-over): His mother says she's had nothing but breast milk to feed him but now can't afford enough to eat to keep producing even that. It's the same for Shazia. Her 7-month-old baby has severe pneumonia but at least she gets fed here at the hospital, so that she can breast-feed her daughter.

"Back home, we don't have this kind of food, unfortunately," she says. "If we have food for lunch, we don't have anything for dinner."

While we're here, the electricity has gone out.

"It happens all the time," the director tells us.

We watch a doctor carry on by the light of a mobile phone, until the electricity comes back. We end this day in the tiniest dwellings amongst the poorest of Kabul's poor.

Waliullah and Basmina have six children. While she prepares their meal of eggs, two small bowls of beans and two flatbreads, the 8- and 10- year olds are out scavenging wastepaper to sell and polishing shoes. It's their only income, since Waliullah injured his back and can no longer work as a laborer.

He tells us their 10-month-old baby is malnourished.

"I always worry and stress about this," says Basmina. But she tells her kids, "God will be kind to us one day" -- Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: CNN has verified ways you can help those in need of food, shelter and basic needs in Afghanistan. Visit for more information.


FOSTER: Just a day after Somalia elected a former leader to retake the presidency, U.S. President Joe Biden announced he was sending American soldiers back to the African nation to help contain military activity.

A research group estimates the number of Al-Shabaab attacks nearly doubled 2015 and 2021. And the Somali region accounted for 38 percent of the military Islamist group activity in Africa last year.

Al-Shabaab has now controlled parts of Somalia for the last 15 years and is responsible for attacks in Somalia and Kenya. The crisis made the local government vulnerable. I'm joined by Samira Gaid. She is the former principal security adviser to the Somali prime minister.

Thank you so much for joining us. What do you understand what these American soldiers and what they will be doing?

Because the White House says they will not be in direct contact with al-Shabaab. So what will be their role?

SAMIRA GAID, FORMER PRINCIPAL SECURITY ADVISER TO SOMALI PRIME MINISTER: The U.S. soldiers who were previously with the Somali troops were involved with training and mentoring. They went alongside the troops but not in front of the Somali troops.

So we believe they will come back and take that role again and support the Somali security forces. They have been doing the same over the past two years, commuting from neighboring countries. But now this will really uplift the operations. There will be a better tempo around operations now that they are back.

FOSTER: How much difference did it make when they withdrew last time?

As a way of illustrating how helpful it will be that they're back.

GAID: It made a huge difference, the operations dipped, the drone strikes also dipped. We had seven drone strikes in the year the month that Trump was leaving. But the rest of that year we had less than 10 drone sites by the U.S.

This gave us confidence to scale back our attacks, to have freedom of movement. So there has been a huge difference since they left.

FOSTER: And tell us about the main challenge at the moment. Al- Shabaab has become much stronger in that interim period.

So what is going to be the priority for the military?

GAID: I think the military solution, Somalis are under no illusions that the military solution is what is going to fix Somalia. I think the new political leadership really has to engage the international community, engage the African Union to organize a Somali-led coordinated approach. We need the society involved at this time.

It's just been security forces but we need the support of the populations. So it's not a political solution required at this time and you might really find the country against the group.

FOSTER: What is your understanding about why this is happening now with the new administration coming into power?

Is that a coincidence that the military support from the U.S. is happening at the same time?

GAID: I think it's a coincidence. When the troops left, it was in such a hurried fashion. I believe, during the Trump administration, positions were taken and could be expedited, the implementation could be expedited. But once he left, I think the bureaucracy returned to its normal affairs.

I believe the military, the U.S. military has been pushing for this for some time. But they had to go through all these steps, approvals. So it's just a coincidence it happened right now. FOSTER: This isn't the only priority for the Somali government; 40

percent of Somalis live in hunger. You have the droughts, inflation is soaring there. The new administration has got a huge amount to deal with right now.

How is it going to prioritize issues and confront these problems, you think?

GAID: I think the incoming president has had an entry, the past security agenda, political settlements, the country has been very polarized over the past five years. He has to unite them if he is able to move the agenda forward. We have economic problems here.

Economic reforms have been very slow, they have been almost suspended. He has to be working with that. And then the drought, which the international committee is taking the leadership with, he has to fast constitute a cabinet, a minister to take this forward.

And response to the drought, so that delay will be affecting the Somali people. Somalis have also been dependent on (INAUDIBLE). That's also slowed down. So it's a grim outlook and he has a lot of work ahead of him.

FOSTER: Samira Gaid, thank you for your perspective on this today.

GAID: Thank you so much.

FOSTER: New warnings from South Korea and the U.S. They say Pyongyang is preparing for new missile tests, just days before U.S. President Joe Biden is set to visit Seoul.

Plus (INAUDIBLE) South Asia put millions of lives at risk. Pedram Javaheri has the latest.






FOSTER: COVID-19 remains a threat to the United States, according to officials in the Biden administration. As a result, the White House has extended a public health emergency beyond July the 15th, renewing it for up to another 90 days.

The announcement came the same day that Johns Hopkins University confirmed the country has passed 1 million deaths related to COVID-19. The highest death rates have been recorded in Mississippi, Arizona and Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, Beijing continues to tighten its COVID restrictions. You can see a mass disinfection of the city taking place here. Beijing is also cracking down on anyone wishing to enter residential compounds, everyone from delivery people, to cleaning staff must present a negative COVID test to gain entry.

Right now, there are at least 17 high risk residential areas within the Chinese capital.

Following new developments in the investigation of the deadly crash of a Chinese Eastern flight in March. "The Wall Street Journal" citing a preliminary assessment from U.S. officials.

The black box data suggest someone inside the cockpit intentionally crashed the plane. All 132 passengers and crew on board were killed after the plane nosedived from 29,000 feet and crashing into the mountains. CNN's Steven Jiang is following the latest developments and joins us now in Beijing.

This is horrible news for anyone to hear, let alone the families.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER, BEIJING BUREAU: That's right, Max. You know, what's interesting is even before this "Wall Street Journal" article was published, there was a lot of speculation that this crash was caused by the pilot.

Because experts have pointed out a mature aircraft type like the Boeing 737-800 does not fall from the sky. But after this article was published, what we have seen from the airline industry regulator is that they have issued a statement to state media basically saying they have reached out to their American counterparts at the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

And what the Americans have told the Chinese was that they released information about the investigation to media outlets. So it's carefully worded. Neither side directly denied the crux of "The Journal" story, that is this deadly crash was caused by human input from the cockpit.

So this non-denial denial is unlikely to stop this very intense public speculation and scrutiny over this case. But experts and observers have also pointed out that there have been suggestions or hints that the authorities here may be concerned about, if not aware of the human factors involved in this crash because April 6th, after this crash, they held a nationwide meeting with the civil aviation ministry, urging officials across the country to pay particular attention to pilots' state of mind.


JIANG: And saying all employees but especially pilots have to be physically and mentally fit to fly to ensure the entire industry's safety.

And another sign that this crash was unlikely caused by a mechanical or technical failure was that this type, a Boeing 737-800, continues to be operated by all Chinese airlines, including China Eastern, even after a brief suspension period. That airline itself has resumed flying this very popular aircraft. Max. FOSTER: So when do we think we're going to get that conclusive

results of the investigation, the official investigation?

JIANG: That is indeed a million dollar question. Officials here on state media have been hinting this process will take up to usually two years. So obviously, there is a lot of questions about which person in the cockpit actually did what happened because we know that there are three pilots inside the cockpit, including a trainee. Max.

FOSTER: Steven in Beijing. Thank you.

South Korea warns a new intercontinental missile test from North Korea could be imminent. This echoes a similar assessment from the U.S. with one official telling CNN that Pyongyang may test a new missile within the coming days, ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden's visit to the region later this week. Blake Essig has more from Tokyo.

We are trying to understand the messaging of the tests.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Max, obviously a lot of tests so far this year. A couple failures, which is likely why we are still going to continue to see more tests into the future. And perhaps the imminent weapons test that could be taking place here in the next seven days could be used to distract North Korea's domestic audience from the serious COVID-19 related health crisis unfolding.

But more likely it's to send a message to President Biden, that North Korea's missile program remains on schedule, regardless of outside circumstances, according to a U.S. official who spoke with CNN's Barbara Starr. South Korea appears to be preparing for possible ICBM tests in the next 48 to 96 hours, just as President Biden is set to visit South Korea and Japan on his first trip to Asia as president.

The suggestion from this U.S. official of the possible weapons test comes from somebody who is familiar with the latest intelligence assessment, is based on satellite observations near Pyongyang.

To this point, the Biden administration has taken a more muted approach in dealing with North Korea, compared to the previous administration. The Biden administration has made it known that they are all in for dialogue and engagement but will not drop sanctions as a price to sit down with North Korea.

While North Korea also wants the dialogue to take place but is adamant that the Biden administration first display goodwill by dropping sanctions. Although South Korean officials do not believe a nuclear weapons test will take place while President Biden visits Seoul, there is a chance that North Korea conducts its nuclear weapons test since about five years.

Because for months now, South Korea has warned, based on satellite imagery, that the North is working to restore several tunnels at Punggye-ri, its major test site. This is the same test facility the DPRK previously claimed to have destroyed in front of CNN and other journalists back in 2018, after North Korea's Kim Jong-un declared the nuclear arsenal complete. The next time this takes place, it will be the 16th weapons tests so

far this year.

FOSTER: Yes, it seems like it's ramping up, Blake Essig in Tokyo, thank you very much.

Temperatures in parts of southern Asia have had hit record levels in the past few days, part of a brutal heat wave sweeping that whole region.



FOSTER: Now the U.S. Congress just ahead has its first public hearing on the subject of UFOs in decades. The issue was not about little green men. We'll have more of that for you.





REP. ANDRE CARSON (D-IN): Unidentified aerial phenomena are a potential national security threat and they need to be treated that way. For too long, the stigma associated with UAPs has gotten in the way of good intelligence analysis.

Pilots avoided reporting or were laughed at when they did. DOD relegated the issues to the back room or swept it under the rug entirely, fearful of a skeptical national security community. Today, we know better.


FOSTER: That was U.S. congressman Andre Carson speaking in blunt terms about a subject that many consider to be a conspiracy theory or a myth. Congress held its first public hearing on the subject of UFOs in decades. Despite the subject, the purpose of the hearing was not about little green men. Here is Kristen Fisher with her report.


KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE & DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we didn't get any of the big, existential questions answered at today's hearing. But the deputy director of naval intelligence did confirm the authenticity of two videos that have been floating around the internet for quite some time.

It shows some close encounters between Navy pilots and what the Pentagon describes as UAPs or unidentified aerial phenomena. Here is one of those videos.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you see here is aircraft that is operating in a -- at a U.S. Navy training range that has observed a spherical object in that area and as a flyby, they take a video.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: And is this one of the phenomena that we cannot explain?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not have an explanation for what this specific object is.


FISHER: So you can see right there that UAP flying by a Navy pilot at very close range. And remember, just last summer, the Director of National Intelligence released a report and said they had investigated at least 11 reported incidents of close calls between UAPs and military pilots.

So one of the reasons for this hearing is that members of this House Intelligence Subcommittee are trying to show that this topic goes way beyond conspiracy theories and tinfoil hats or controversies.

They're trying to say that this is not only a safety issue for military pilots but also potentially a national security issue as well because these unexplained objects, a lot of times, are flying near pilots and also near Navy bases.

So we did not get any hard answers on that during the open hearing today. But perhaps members of the subcommittee were able to get some answers during the closed, classified hearing a little bit later in the day -- Kristin Fisher, CNN, Washington.



FOSTER: Disney and Marvel Studios has an upcoming TV store on Tuesday. Kevin Foggy (ph) revealed the debut. A fan favorite, comic character She-Hulk. Take a look.


FOSTER: The show is a departure from Marvel's blockbuster explosion filled outings. Instead, previewing the small scale adventure. Actor, Mark Ruffalo is set to return as the Hulk along with other franchise favorites. The Marvel series will premiere in August on Disney+.

Thanks for joining me here at CNN NEWSROOM. Our coverage continues now with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett. You are watching CNN.