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Many Taliban Not Ready to Lay Down Arms; Refugees Wait for Aid at the Border; Afghans and the U.N. Clear Out Land Mines

Aired November 24, 2001 - 20:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything the Northern Alliance wants me to do, I am ready to accept it.


ANNOUNCER: But many Taliban are not ready to lay down their arms.

On the border, refugees waiting for aid, victims of war, victims of nature.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are among more than 300,000 in Herat alone who have come to camps like this, fleeing their homes in neighboring provinces ravaged by the severe drought of the past four years.


ANNOUNCER: In the fields, by the roads, the hidden dangers from years of war.

Some organizations involved in demining the country, like the United Nations, refuse to even guess at how many land mines might be planted.

And the mountains of the east, between hope and hate, the past and the present.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These craters from Soviet scuds, not the U.S. bombers.


ANNOUNCER: And now, live from Afghanistan, Christiane Amanpour. CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: Good morning from Kabul. After days of what we've been describing as the Taliban's last stand in Konduz in the north, that holdout appears to be crumbling. After days of cease-fire talks of possible surrender, it appears that that now is happening. Hundreds of Taliban fighters are giving up and laying down their weapons. And the question is what about the foreign mercenaries? Some of those also are giving up, but many still remain holed up, determined to fight on.

CNN's Satinder Bindra reports from the Konduz front.


SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the surrender that at times looked more like a circus. An estimated 500 Afghan-Taliban fighters drove into Northern Alliance territory, to be greeted as heroes.

They were literally mobbed by their former enemies, who pushed each other aside just to shake hands. There's a reason for all this joy. Northern Alliance soldiers believe this large-scale defection will encourage hundreds of other Taliban fighters to follow.

It's clear fighters on both sides are emotionally charged. For weeks, they've been firing at each other. Now they have a chance to survive.

It's a feeling that overwhelms Taliban tank driver Gul Mir.

GUL MIR, TALIBAN TANK DRIVER (through translator): Anything the Northern Alliance wants me to do, I am ready to accept it.

BINDRA: All these surrendering fighters are Afghans. Most owe allegiance to an Afghan warlord, Mullah Hamidullah (ph). They'll soon be disarmed. The Northern Alliance says the men will be trucked back to their home provinces.

(on camera): Many of these Afghan-Taliban fighters say they surrendered because they just couldn't take the heavy U.S. aerial bombardment anymore. They say it demoralized them. Now these Afghan- Taliban fighters say they're willing fight with the Northern Alliance against the remaining Taliban fighters in Konduz.

(voice-over): So far, no indications the Northern Alliance will accept the offer. These Northern Alliance soldiers estimate there are more than 10,000 Taliban fighters still trapped in Konduz. More than 3,000 of them are believed to be Chechens, Arabs and Pakistanis. So far, those fighters aren't like these Afghans, have shown little inclination to surrender.

For those Taliban who don't surrender by Sunday, the Northern Alliance promises an attack by this armored column.

MIR (through translator): I'm not scared of these people. Whatever God wants, I will accept. BINDRA: Tank driver Gul Mir doesn't really care what happens in Konduz now. He's starting a new life and says he's not scared of the Northern Alliance because they, like him, are Afghans.

These fighters say they don't feel like traitors. Switching sides in war, they say, is an old Afghan tradition. Besides, for them, the war is finally over.

Satinder Bindra, CNN, Banghi (ph), northern Afghanistan.


AMANPOUR: Now the chief warlord, who's been negotiating the cease-fire in the surrender, is also one who believes in that old Afghan traditional. General Abdul Rashid Dostum has switched sides several times in this war. He is on the other side of Konduz in the Mazar-e-Sharif district. And he, too, has been negotiating the surrender.

CNN's Alessio Vinci reports from that side.


ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The surrender took place in the middle of the desert, some five hours away from Konduz. Four truckloads of Taliban fighters gave themselves up, the trucks packed tight.

(on camera): Northern Alliance commanders say a total of 400 Taliban fighters have surrendered, among them only 30 are Taliban fighters from Afghanistan. All the others are from abroad, Pakistan, Chechnya and Saudi Arabia.

(voice-over): Those are the so-called foreign fighters linked to the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden. Flanked by U.S. special forces, Northern Alliance General Abdul Rashid Dostum had promised the Taliban in Konduz would surrender to his troops. He says the Taliban will dealt with fairly.

"We will invite the U.N. representatives and will hand over to the prisoners to them," he says. "They are not Afghan, but foreign terrorists. And he U.N. will decide."

For now, the U.N. office in Mazar-e-Sharif remains closed. The prisoners were taken through town, as thousands watched. Then, taken to this fortress-like compound nearby, one of General Dostum's living quarters.

(on camera): The prisoners will now be thoroughly searched, although they have given up all of their weapons, the commanders here are telling us that some of them may have kept hand grenades and use them as a suicide bomb.

Northern Alliance soldiers confiscate all of the Taliban's personal belongings, including copies of the Koran, flashlights, batteries, and money. Some of the prisoners begin praying. Others appear cold and scared.

Then what Northern Alliance commanders feared. One of the prisoners who had not yet been searched, managed to detonate a hand grenade, killing himself and two other Taliban fighters. A Northern Alliance commander was seriously injured, a sign that for many of these soldiers here, surrender does not necessarily mean giving up.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan.


AMANPOUR: Now with all the focus on the surrender and the battleground in northern Afghanistan and indeed in the south in Kandahar, there is also a humanitarian situation that has been developing even before September 11, even before this war on terrorism.

That is the four years of drought that have displaced so many Afghans and put so many of them at risk. One of the centers for all these Afghans tried who have tried to escape the drought in their local provinces and villages is Herat in the west. And from there, we hear from CNN's Kasra Naji.


KASRA NAJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Waiting for help from anything but mostly tents, blankets and food. They are among more than 300,000 in Herat alone, who have come to camps like this, fleeing their homes in neighboring provinces ravaged by the severe drought of the past four years.

Some food is getting through, courtesy of the international community. But not enough, judging by a stroll in the market here. Dried breadcrumbs go for about 5 cents a kilo. You have to soften it with a little water before you can eat it.

The food is a major treat for kids here. Many are malnourished and their condition is getting worse. The drought has caused havoc in Afghanistan, the extent of it becoming clear only now the journalists can travel to areas like Herat.

This man says he simply couldn't feed his family anymore. More are arriving everyday; 50,000 are heading towards Herat from the southwestern provinces, according to officials here.

These refugees have been spending several nights waiting here in Ogden (ph) waiting for some shelter and food. Winter is here and few are prepared. This woman says she and her three children spent a night in the cold rain.

(on camera): Tonight many of these refugees will spend another night in the open. Few of them have warm clothes. And many of them have not eaten much for days. Food and other aid is far too slow in getting here. Afghanistan needs a lot of help and it needs it now.

Kasra Naji, CNN, Herat, western Afghanistan. (END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Joining me now here in Kabul is Bernard Barrett, the spokesman for ICRC Afghanistan, the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Let me ask you first about something of great concern to the humanitarian community, this potential hunger/famine situation developing over the last four years. Now largely, this has been unwatched by the international community. Are things going to change now that all attention is on Afghanistan? And what's needed?

BERNARD BARRETT, ICRC: We certainly hope so. We've been very concerned. We were working, for example, in Gohr province. We were very worried about the situation there, as well as in the region of Herat. We...

AMANPOUR: Where is Gohr?

BARRETT: Gohr is just to the east of Herat, south of Mazar. So we've just brought in seven expatriates into Herat to work with the Afghan staff who've been there all along. We have a convoy of 10 trucks on its way from Iran to Herat, as we speak. We've just brought in 57 trucks of food into Mazar, which will come south toward Sharif to work with displaced camps there.

AMANPOUR: Is this something you can arrest? Can you deal with it?

BARRETT: I don't think anyone can deal with it. Obviously, we're going to try to bring the type of assistance we can, both food, non-food, medication. And as we can get further out into the countryside with the security situation, this is what we want to do, particularly in these areas where the drought has been going on.

AMANPOUR: Is it safe, secure?

BARRETT: At the moment in many of the areas, it is not. We hope this will change shortly. And obviously, with the winter coming on, the condition of roads, this is a big concern right now.

AMANPOUR: Let's turn to another very important issue, the issue of prisoners and their treatment. As you and the ICRC is involved in the modalities of prisoner and detentions, what is your main concern now with all the focus on the so-called foreign mercenaries fighting with the Taliban, who are either going to surrender, be captured, imprisoned by the Northern Alliance?

BARRETT: Our biggest concern, obviously, is that anyone who surrenders, lays down their arms, is treated as a prisoner, is detained and is detained in proper conditions, is allowed to be registered by the ICRC, and that they're held in conditions which are basically humane treatment and not subjected to any abuse, physical or emotional or psychological.

AMANPOUR: Now General Dostum, the warlord in charge of Mazar-e- Sharif, who's negotiated partly this surrender, is saying that he will treat these prisoners fairly, but are you concerned about reports that came out of Mazar-e-Sharif after he took Mazar-e-Sharif of bodies and various soldiers perhaps being found dead there?

BARRETT: We buried a number of bodies in Mazar. We can't really say what the cause of death was. We buried up to 300 people so far over the last couple of weeks since Mazar fell. And we're going to continue that work. We're obviously concerned about any reports of this nature. And we're insisting, reminding all of the authorities. We've met with them to remind them that all prisoners must be treated in the same way, in the same humane manner.

AMANPOUR: You've also buried bodies, I believe, around Kabul?

BARRETT: Yes, that's correct.

AMANPOUR: Fighters.

BARRETT: Seventy bodies. These are people who have been found left abandoned in the streets, fields, whatever. This work is still ongoing on Baghram as we speak.

AMANPOUR: Fighters?

BARRETT: We're not ascertaining whether they're fighters, civilians. Basically, our reason is first of all, for public health. And secondly, to make sure that the bodies are treated in a dignified manner.

AMANPOUR: Now the U.S. is very clear or at least the Defense Secretary said that these fighters, he was talking about the ones around Konduz, should be captured or killed. I mean, they didn't want the idea of them melting back to the heartland. A lot of these people are linked with the al Qaeda network. What is the appropriate legal way to deal with people, who are not just fighting, but may, in fact, be linked with international terrorism?

BARRETT: Once a person lays down their arms, is no longer a combatant, then they should be taken prisoner. They must be taken prisoner, given a basic treatment. If they are accused of crimes or anything in particular, there must be some sort of fair hearing, fair trail, recognized by international standards.

At that time then, they can decide what the verdict is and what sentence must be imposed, but there must be a trial. There cannot be a summary decision.

AMANPOUR: Does the ICRC believe that these so-called foreign mercenaries, mostly Arabs, Chechens, Pakistanis, working with the Taliban, would they get a fair trial under, let's say, Western judicial system? Or do they have to have an Islamic trial? I mean, what are the modalities?

BARRETT: That we would not get involved in, per se. That would not be -- as long as there is a trial which is recognized internationally as having fair standards and that they are treated in a human manner during their captivity, that is our basic concern there.

AMANPOUR: And are you concerned, again I ask you, that they will not be treated humanely? The president of the ICRC was recently -- has just left Afghanistan. What was his message to the people he met? And who did he meet with?

BARRETT: He met with the senior political military officials here in Kabul. We have also met with the officials of the alliance, the United Kingdom and the United States, reminding everyone of their responsibilities for its civilian population, detainees, the wounded.

Basically, reminding them as well, that people who lay down their arms, who surrender, must be taken prisoner and must be treated under the Geneva Conventions in a proper manner.

AMANPOUR: You say you met with officials of the United States. Who and why?

BARRETT: These would be senior officials within the State Department and elsewhere, reminding basically, as I mentioned, of the responsibilities of the coalition and of the alliance under the Geneva conventions.

AMANPOUR: And do you have any concerns, complaints about what the alliance has been doing?

BARRETT: We can't go into complaints or whatever. Obviously, we're concerned about the situation in Konduz. We're waiting to see the outcome of the situation in Konduz. And we hope that the Geneva Conventions will be respected, particularly as concerns prisoners and the treatment of the civilian population.

AMANPOUR: And in your investigations around Kabul, for instance, are you satisfied that the Geneva Conventions have been observed?

BARRETT: We have been visiting detainees in prisons here in Kabul, as well as Mazar, discussing what the authorities the conditions of detention and registering them and providing assistance, often in cooperation with the authorities.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Barrett, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

BARRETT: You're welcome.

AMANPOUR: Here in Kabul this morning. And we're going to take a short break. When we return, we'll talk about another major threat to the people of Afghanistan, one that's been here for years. And that is the threat of land mines.


AMANPOUR: Obviously, the prime focus on this war on terrorism is Osama bin Laden. Where is he? What is he doing? Who he is in contact with? The Taliban have been saying they no longer know where he is. They say they have no contact with him. President Musharraf of Pakistan is also denying reports that Osama bin Laden may have sneaked across the Afghan border into northern Pakistan.


PERVEZ MUSHARAFF, PRESIDENT, PAKISTAN: I'm very sure he has not. That is the short answer to it. I don't know his whereabouts, but I'm very sure he's not in Pakistan and he has not crossed over into Pakistan. We've made all arrangements on the border to seal the border and to ensure checks, that includes even including army doing this. And also, we have got the cooperation of the local tribals holding the border areas, to ensure that no such thing happens.


AMANPOUR: As well as looking for Osama bin Laden, trying to root out the al Qaeda terrorists, obviously the focus is of course on the last Taliban stronghold of Kandahar as well, the battleground.

But in Afghanistan, one of the major killers over the last two decades has been land mines. From the Soviet occupation all through the years of the civil war, this country has been seeded with land mines. We're told something like 735 million square meters of land is contaminated by land mines.

CNN's Harris Whitbeck reports on the very dangerous but necessary job of demining Afghanistan.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Abdul Rahman kneels by the side of one of the main highways to Kabul, carefully digging and prodding the earth.

A metal detector aids him in looking for his prize, a landmine hidden in the soil. Nearby, one of Abdul's colleagues has found an antitank mine. He ties an electric charge to it and from a distance, blows it up.

It is dangerous, nerve-wracking work, but Abdul has been doing it for eight years. He needs the $100 he makes each month to support the 18 members of his family.

"I want to feed my family," he says, "but most importantly I want to help clear mines, to help the six million people affected by land mines to be able to return to their homes to restart their lives."

(on camera): Decades of war in Afghanistan have left millions of mines planted throughout the country, which makes the work of the deminers not only slow and tedious, but perhaps never-ending.

Some organizations involved in demining the country, like the United Nations, refuse to even guess at how many land mines might be planted. One, the Halo Trust from Great Britain, says the work is made even more difficult because there are few reliable ways of knowing where the mines were placed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The impression that people have in the West about minefields and proper recording of the minefields and so on, that does not exist here. So it's a very random and bizarre mine- laying, you know, in this country.

WHITBECK: The U.S. air campaign and the most recent fighting between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban have added to the problem. Tons of unexploded ordinance litter the countryside, posing more risks to the population, and making Abdul Rahman's work even more daunting.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Bagram, Afghanistan.


AMANPOUR: When we come back, trying to get a straight answer out of the Taliban, trying to get a close look at what's going on in the last remaining stronghold under their control.


AMANPOUR: Now the beginning of this war back on October 7, when the U.S. started bombing, officials certainly hoped that high-ranking Taliban would find the bombing unbearable and defect to the other side. It didn't happen, except last night.

The Northern Alliance presented their highest-ranking defector yet. He was the deputy interior minister based here in Kabul under the Taliban regime. He says now that he has moved over to the Northern Alliance. He supports a broadbased government. He used to be a close associate of Mullah Omar, but he is no longer. He says he doesn't know where Osama bin Laden is, but he does expect that he probably is still with Mullah Omar. And he suspects that they are both probably still in the Kandahar region.

Trying to get a grip on just what is going on in Kandahar, trying to figure out exactly the state of play under the Taliban rule in Kandahar, journalists have been incredibly frustrated. They've been given visas to hear the Taliban's spin on this.

And CNN's Jim Clancy reports from the aptly city of Spin Boldak.


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After the collapse of its rule across most of Afghanistan, the Taliban issued visas for more than 100 journalists to travel to the corner of the country still under its control. It was an unprecedented move. And Taliban officials made no secret of their intentions.

"We have brought you to see this American terror," said Naji Bulah, Sherzai of the foreign ministry. "Why are they doing these poor people? Why are doing these cruel things against them?"

At a refugee camp near Spin Boldak, Afghans blamed U.S. airstrikes for their suffering. A few talked about the Afghanistan they hoped to see one day. "I want peace and security for everyone," says Sadir Mohammed, who lost both legs to a landmine 14 years ago. Another refugee, Guldat (ph), says: "We don't know care who's in charge, we're just afraid of the bombing. It continues day and night and Americans are responsible, not the Taliban."

Restrained within a foreign ministry compound about 100 meters on a side, journalists face the reality. Our sophisticated electronics made it simple to transmit stories, but the Taliban made it nearly impossible to get them in the first place. In essence, we became the story.

At times, it seemed the entire town was perched atop the three meter high walls that surrounded us, studying our every move. Others climbed trees to get a better look. Even at night, the Taliban took pains to show they were in control, taking CNN on a security sweep of the city. Within the walls, Taliban officials reflected on their movement and its time of crisis.

"We have shown a lot of things to the world. They can't see the truth. They close their eyes," said military commander Mohammed Sayef Acani. "If we go to the mountains or stand and fight, we'll continue the jihad until doomsday."

That was the same defiant message delivered in a press conference later. It was beamed live around the world. A close adviser of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar vowed their forces would defend Kandahar and surrounding provinces.

Whatever the leadership was saying about a fight to the death, individuals appeared eager to use journalists satellite telephones to call Iran, Saudi Arabia or Europe and perhaps make other plans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: International and global terrorists, like Americans and Britains, they are...

CLANCY: That's the sort of message the Taliban was forbidden to deliver any longer from neighboring Pakistan. The arguably captive audience of journalists here seem the perfect conduit for its side of the story. If it was, the Taliban didn't recognize it as such. The very next day, all of us were unceremoniously ordered to pack up and leave on less than two hour's notice.

As we folded our tents and satellite equipment, we closed the book on any hopes for travel beyond the compound to the real story. What we took home were our reports of course and these, perhaps the last visas ever to be issued by the incredibly shrinking Islamic emirate of Afghanistan.

Jim Clancy, CNN, Spin Boldak.


AMANPOUR: Now of course U.S. forces are in action around that area. And journalists have been very frustrated trying to get access to the U.S. military action in Afghanistan. But there have been reports about what some of the special forces are doing.

Some journalists have reported on the special forces taking out oil tankers that were trying to bring oil to the Taliban areas. But before hitting those tankers, taking out the drivers, handcuffing them and leaving them by the side of the road, apparently to avoid civilian casualties.

When we come back, we'll have news from outside the region.


AMANPOUR: For the last couple of centuries, the great powers have fought the so-called great game, over the strategically located state of Afghanistan. Most recently, it was Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Arab emirates which recognized the Taliban.

They, of course, have broken off relations after September 11. But all along, was Iran, Russia and India that supported the Northern Alliance.

And now we hear from CNN's Maria Ressa on what India is thinking now that the Northern Alliance is again mostly in control here.


MARIA RESSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chaos in old Delhi, the oldest part of India's capital, a cocktail of movement, fumes and commerce. Every day, about $100 million changes hands here, where goods are sold much like they were hundreds of years ago.

It's also the center of India's Muslim community, the second largest in the world. The talk here, the Taliban retreat in Afghanistan.

"It's tense," says this Muslim, "because anything can happen at any time." Prakash Sharma is Hindu and runs a shop his family has owned for nearly a century. He says the Taliban retreat may signal an end to terrorism not just in Afghanistan, but also in Kashmir, where a separatist campaign turned violent a decade ago.

PRAKASH SHARMA, SHOP OWNER: Lately, what has happened all around the subcontinent, it proves that or rather it gives hope that we'll get rid of terrorism.

RESSA: That view is echoed by the Indian government.

ARUN JAITLEY, INDIAN MINISTER OF JUSTICE: We do hope that this setback is a clear pointer to these kinds of people that these terrorist tactics won't work. The world stands united to fight them.

RESSA: There are signs that may be happening. This week, a spokesman for one of Kashmir's hardcore militant groups, the Hezbul Mujahideen, for the first time, said it's ready for dialogue. Its supreme commander in Pakistan retracted that a day later, making many here say talk of reconciliation is premature.

"Terrorism will never end," says this Muslim vendor. "If a poor man becomes a terrorist, what is terrorism?"

But Sharma can see an end. He says he hopes the U.S. will stand by its word and continue its war until terrorism is wiped out everywhere.

(on camera): That is the main concern here in India, its government and people looking for signs the U.S. campaign to weed out terrorism will indeed include groups that operate here.

Maria Ressa, CNN, New Delhi.


AMANPOUR: The great hope now is that after this war on terrorism, some kind of broadbased alliance can be worked out to bring for the first time in decades a stable government to Afghanistan. It'll be a big challenge, but the U.N. is at least trying to establish a transitional government.

The leaders of several factions will meet in Bonn, Germany on Tuesday. And their castle there is being prepared to host this important meeting. The United Front, otherwise known as the Northern Alliance, will be represented there, including they say, some women amongst its delegation.

In addition, there will be members of the Afghan exile groups, the so-called Cypress group, the ex-Shahs group, and also the Peshawar circle. Again, hoping that some kind of roadmap and principles for a future political settlement can be established in the meeting in Bonn.

And just one last note, the Northern Alliance has been at odds, in fact, at enemies with Pakistan over the last five years. But now, President Rabbani of the Northern Alliance says that he wants to turn a new page, to start a new chapter in relations with Pakistan. Rabbani also saying that he will step down if a broadbased alliance or transitional government decides to choose a new leader. We'll be back after a break.


AMANPOUR: It may be distasteful to many people in the west, indeed, to many people around the world. But a certain cult of personality has sprung up around Osama bin Laden. Particularly, among young Muslims looking for some kind of a hero.

It's Ramadan now. This is a month of fasting during the day.

But as CNN James Martone reports from Cairo, Osama bin Laden is a focus when many Muslims there break the fast in the evening.


JAMES MARTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Egypt is the world's second largest producer of dates. And the fruit comes in all sizes and names. This is a secuti (ph) variety, the kind most Egyptians buy because it is the cheapest. This is bartamuda (ph), the most expensive until recently.

That was before bin Laden, a new kind of date, that can cost an enormous $10 a kilo. Most dates cost about $1.

"He's a dear person, and so dates named after him are dear," says vendor Ohm Hamedda (ph), who admits not many can afford the bin Ladens. Ohm Hamedda (ph) and veiled colleague told us bin Laden would not have attacked America, whose products they stopped importing for fear they'd contain anthrax.

Maha (ph), a 30-year veteran of date selling, says he's named his most expensive dates bin Laden in order to attract others who believe the U.S.' most wanted man is innocent.

"It's something to catch their eye and make them stop, sometimes they buy," he says. We saw no one buying the been bin Laden dates. Shoppers appeared to prefer the usual inexpensive secuti (ph). This vendor says he named his cheapest, least tasty date, Bush, Blair and Sharon. "Because they were small, no good, people threw them," he says. We went to a specialist with the question of what makes a date, a bin Laden so expensive?

Dr. Abdomazam Azam (ph) was startled when we told him the market price of a bin Laden. The date fruit consultant said that even Egypt's best dates, like these named Ianati (ph), should not cost that much. This man agrees and he sings only one name to sell his dates, Allah or God.

James Martone, CNN, Cairo.


AMANPOUR: Now in Afghanistan as the Taliban get pushed back, many, many Afghans are expressing what they call their hatred for Osama bin Laden, and especially the Arab fighters who have come to fight with him. They say that he's responsible for all the misery that has rained down on Afghanistan for the last few years.

Now CNN's Bill Delaney reports from Jalalabad on where those fighters may be hiding and the mountainous rugged terrain around that region.


BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Stable, immaculate in eastern Afghanistan, where most nothing else is. Mountains bridge the Kakrack (ph) Plains ragged moonscape to a sky no rain's fallen from in four years. In the nearby village, Fateh Abed (ph), catastrophic drought tempered now only by, for most, the end of the rule of the Taliban.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they're gone, the situation is here very good.

DELANEY: Speaking relatively, where wheat, corn, cotton, all but evaporated without rain. Taliban have not. As many as 1,500 mostly Arab fighters, local authorities say, still stalk the serene mountains, including the Black Mountains, concealed in wild reaches near the destroyed village of Kulum. Local people there say 200 people died in a U.S. coalition bombing raid a month ago.

(on camera): Fragments of the bombs that hit Kulum still litter this place. But nothing, except the fact that there was a tragedy here in the end is for sure.

(voice-over): We asked local people whether Arabs ever trained in Kulum.

CROWD: Never.

DELANEY: Off camera though, some said certainly Arabs had been in the region and likely still were. After all, a nearby cut through the mountains, used by fighters for generations to reach frontlines, for supplies, including 20 years ago, battling the Soviet Union.

These craters from Soviet scuds, not the U.S. bombers. Local people say killed among others, a little girl who first lost an arm and a leg.

Valjan says he lost everything in the raid, his wife, two sons, a daughter, a sister-in-law. "I'm too poor to take revenge," he says. "I would if I could." Why Kulum was bombed, whether Arabs ever trained there or simply passed through or were never there at all, unknown. Only clear that somewhere between the hope and Fateh Abed (ph) in the plain and hate in Kulum in the nearby mountains, eastern Afghanistan's fate now plays out.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Kulum, Afghanistan.


AMANPOUR: That's our report from Kabul, Afghanistan. We'll be back again at the same time tomorrow.




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