Skip to main content
CNN.com /transcript

CNN TV

EDITIONS
SERVICES
CNN TV
EDITIONS

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America's New War: Flight From Afghanistan

Aired September 24, 2001 - 06:41   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN correspondent Nic Robertson and photojournalist Alfredo DeLara became part of the story in Afghanistan last week. They were the last Western journalists to leave the Taliban-controlled region when their safety could no longer be guaranteed by the Taliban.

Robertson chronicled their flight from Kabul to Quetta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Out of town and onto the bumpy highway, roads so broken by 22 years of war and neglect that at times you feel at sea.

A grinding poverty permeates this land -- mountains, rocks, dust, drought and war. It's as if, as some Afghans say, their land was forsaken by God.

Of all the regrets, leaving the poor with no one to report their fate hurts the most.

(on camera): There are so many people here who are caught up in Afghanistan's ongoing conflicts that really don't seem to be anything of their own making. So it's a sad feeling leaving.

(voice-over): I've been coming to Afghanistan regularly since my first visit in 1996. It was a violent time. The Taliban had taken control of Kabul. But I had fallen in love with the wild, rugged beauty of the mountains, and the soft hospitality of its equally wild and rugged people, and I found I couldn't stay away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: Just a slice of what life is like recently for those in Afghanistan.

We want to get more insights on Afghanistan and its people, so we're going to turn to "Newsweek" correspondent, Carla Power. She is based in London and a Middle East specialist, who lived in Afghanistan as a child and visited it as recently as 1998.

Good morning, Carla, thanks for joining us this morning.

CARLA POWER, "NEWSWEEK": Good morning. LIN: Obviously a very severe situation in Afghanistan. It's three years of drought, 20 years of war.

What sort of impact has this had on the people there?

POWER: Oh, it has been absolutely devastating. I mean, I think it's fair to say that there is no one in the country who hasn't had some sort of nervous breakdown. When I visited in 1998, the mental and physical fragility of the people struck me immensely. And since then, of course, it has only got worse with the devastating drought -- the worst in 30 years.

LIN: And so much death. I heard an astonishing statistic that as many as one in three children in Afghanistan have lost a parent in this war.

POWER: Absolutely. Yes, it's -- walk the streets of Kabul, and you'll see widows and orphans begging on the street, something that never happened in earlier years. There was always a family structure to take care of these people.

With the Taliban rules against women working, that no longer applies, and people are forced to turn to charity.

LIN: So is that how these people get food? Is that how they get shelter? And we're talking about millions and millions of people.

POWER: Well, I mean, the linchpin for survival over the past five years has been the aid agencies. But, of course, they've had a really fraught relationship with the Taliban, who keep issuing edicts -- well, more hard-line Taliban keep issuing edicts restricting what the aid agencies can do. And the to and froes between the U.N. and the Taliban are byzantine.

You know, recently they -- over the past six months, they have issued edicts that women can't drive -- women who work for aid agencies can't drive. Muslim women who work for aid agencies can't come in into the country without a male escort. So they've been doing everything they can, it seems to me, to make life really tough for these aid agencies that are basically propping Afghanistan's people up.

LIN: The few aid agencies that still remain. The International Red Cross is still trying to get food and medicine into that country. I'm wondering how much groundwork do you think these international aid agencies can lay before there are any military strikes?

POWER: You know, they face, in the sense, a lot of the same difficulties that soldiers going in would face. There are terrain problems. There are problems of supply. I mean, they are terrifically well organized and have a great experience and great networks inside Afghanistan. I saw on the ground in an earthquake in Afghanistan in 1998, you know, they immediately had networks in tiny, tiny villages.

But one of the great things that hinders them is lack of funds. I mean, as of this summer, the U.N. had caught their appeal for international donorship, only had about 15 percent of what they had asked for.

I've heard tales over the last six months of internal refugees in Afghanistan showing up at camps. And whereas in Kosovo, you know, Albanians arriving in refugee camps would be met with soup, blankets and tents. The U.N. camps are forced to say to these folks, we have nothing. They have been digging holes to sleep in and scrubbing for grasses and weeds to fill their stomachs instead, so it's...

LIN: Yes, many of the aid workers who were fleeing last week were saying that they were only able to leave just a few days of supplies behind.

But I'm wondering, since then, we have heard that the Taliban leadership is on the run and in hiding. So who is left behind to enforce the laws? Or how are these laws and edicts enforced?

POWER: Well, over the past year, the Taliban leadership has sort of shrunk. Basically, the people in power, a group of about 20 -- 20 folks sitting in Kandahar -- 20 men, I should say, sitting in Kandahar -- and that included bin Laden, according to my sources -- issuing edicts. It's a much smaller group than had been earlier conceived of as the Taliban.

And so, I mean, I have no idea who is issuing edicts now, partly because this clique had been so strong and so hard-line over the past year, they have managed to really alienate a lot of the other Taliban leaders, which, you know, opens a whole possibility, I think, for Afghan -- people who were once Taliban to defect to other fighting forces.

I mean, they won't fight alongside Americans in their country. But as several Afghan experts have suggested, if there were a force of fellow Muslims who were fighting against these hard-line, inner-circle Talibs, there might be room for large-scale defections from the Taliban to the anti-Taliban forces.

LIN: And that's what we're hearing.

We're waiting for a meeting with U.S. officials in Pakistan and Pakistani government officials to break up, so that we can hear what sort of intelligence they're sharing on exactly that. We are hearing that the United States is very interested in how fractured the factions are within the Taliban, and whether that can be worked to the U.S.'s advantage.

Carla Power, thanks so much for sharing your stories. We will see and monitor what happens next.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com.

 Search   


Back to the top