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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN WITH CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR

Aired November 29, 2001 - 20:00   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.
ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN WITH CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Building up the pressure on the Taliban. More troops arrive, and the bombing picks up near the last major Taliban stronghold. The latest from CNN's Nic Robertson. CNN's Brent Sadler on the warning to Osama bin Laden coming from the Afghan militias: Surrender, or else.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAJJI MOHAMMED ZAMAN, EASTERN SHURA COMMANDER: War is war, and people will die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: The talks on Afghanistan's future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The parties are very close to moving away from the abyss.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: And the new hope in the Afghan capital.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm optimistic, says 19-year-old Samir. The people are all tired of the fighting, and we don't want anymore problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: CNN's Harris Whitbeck reports.

And Christiane Amanpour, on the return of tube, and other forms of fun the Taliban couldn't abide.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIAN AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The lights are out, cloth covers the windows and about a dozen people watch closely as a TV flickers on the wall. This matinee crowd in Kabul is getting an eyeful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN, CHRISTIAN AMANPOUR.

AMANPOUR: Good morning from Kabul. U.S. forces on the ground now control three airfields in the North, Mazar-e Sharif, here, near Kabul, and of course, in that desert strip in Kandahar. Along with anti-Taliban forces, the squeeze is no really on.

The Taliban's last southern stronghold. But a senior Northern Alliance commander, the defense minister, tells CNN says he does not believe that Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, is ready to surrender quite yet, but he does believe that will happen or that he and Osama bin Laden will eventually be captured.

There has been attempt by the Taliban to surrender in the border town of Spin Boldak, but that has not yet happened. CNN's Nic Robertson is there with the details.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christiane, those talks do appear frozen at this time. We have been told by Pakistani officials who are close to those talks, that they were stalled because the two local tribes negotiating with the Taliban for control of Spin Boldak, couldn't agree on who was going to take control of it.

Apparently, according to Pakistani officials, the Taliban wanted to divide power between both tribes. However, late on Thursday we met a new Taliban commander, who was driving a jeep that had come from the northern town of Mazar-e Sharif. Perhaps this commander, we haven't seen him here before, was relocated from the northern city since the Taliban lost it to the Northern Alliance, and has been put in charge of troops in Spin Boldak.

He was talking a much tougher line when we talked with him yesterday. He said that they would defend this patch of ground to the last man, that they would follow Mullah Omar as long as he was commander and as long as he was alive and perhaps this was an indication that just some, maybe a handful, maybe more, but some commanders were listening to a late Wednesday radio broadcast by the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, that they should not cede anymore territory to the Northern Alliance.

Very difficult to tell, but as far as Spin Boldak goes, it does appear those talks pretty much on hold, at the moment, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Nic, do you think the situation there will reverse, and in fact, the Taliban won't surrender with the arrival of these new commanders, and what are you hearing from sources inside Kandahar about the situation there?

ROBERTSON: Well, from sources inside Kandahar, they say the situation is very tense. They say the -- what they describe as an incessant bombing campaign over the last 36 hours now, has really given people very little time to think, and the Taliban, although responding with anti-aircraft gunfire at the planes, have had absolutely no effect on the bombing and that really is, as we have been saying the last few days, really putting the squeeze on Kandahar. What will these new commanders do in Spin Boldak? Will they hold out? Certainly, all the indications we have had are that at least three previous commanders and a city official have now fled Spin Boldak. Perhaps this is new harder live, tougher stance, new harder line troops that have been put into Spin Boldak, but the indications here are that the tribes still want control of the town and they still intend to take it although they are not talking about military action at this time.

But Kandahar is still some three hour's drive from the border. So, even if they do get Spin Boldak, though it is still some ways from Kandahar City itself, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Nic, the Taliban even as recently as a few days ago have been talking about never surrendering, and even if they do melt away, they have been saying that they are going to fall back to classic guerrilla warfare tactics. They simply haven't done that in any of the places that they have been pushed at.

What are they telling you about why they haven't followed through on what they have been telling reporters they would do?

ROBERTSON: Well, we the get two stories, if you will, from senior Taliban officials. One, is that they melted away from cities like Mazar-e Sharif and Kabul because they didn't want to fight in the cities and didn't want to cause destruction to the cities and didn't want to cause loss of life to the civilian population.

The other reason they tell us they are digging in in places like Kandahar is that these are places that the population wants them to protect them from the Northern Alliance. It is very difficult to gauge. As we have seen, their words have not been matched by their actions on the ground in the past.

Interestingly, we are hearing from more senior officials these days, senior officials who have, in the past, stayed staunchly behind the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. Now talking about their advice to him in the past to hand over Osama bin Laden, their advice for him to take a different course of action. And we are hearing from them, that there are commanders there who just don't want to stand and fight on these terms and are also very disappointed at the way the Taliban handled itself in these northern cities.

There are commanders, we understand, who are very concerned that the Taliban just did not stand and fight. It melted away, and therefore, they don't really want to stand and fight for Kandahar. So, I think the indications are that these losses in the north have disheartened some of the key commanders -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Any of the key political figures, the foreign minister or others -- any hint at any defections?

ROBERTSON: No information at this time about the foreign minister. He, of course, has been regarded as perhaps a moderate in the Taliban senior ranks over the last few months. He has been perhaps conspicuous from the Taliban political scene by his absence. And there is very little heard from him. The main information has been coming from those very, very close to the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. In particular, his spokesman, Syed Tayyad Agha.

There are others in the ranks, perhaps a Taliban ambassador to Pakistan who has been staunchly behind the Taliban leader in the past. We hear very little from him at moment, perhaps an indication there that even he is beginning to question exactly the role and exactly way the Taliban have been playing the situation of late.

AMANPOUR: Nic, thank you very much.

Now to the east, to Jalalabad, where the hunt is on for Osama bin Laden. The mujahedeen who have taken over from the Taliban there, are pressing their case against Osama bin Laden, in the caves and tunnels and mountains there, but it's not going down very well with some of tribal leaders and civilians in that area as CNN's Brent Sadler tells us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Jalalabad, the military commander of four provinces, called the Eastern Shura, starts a new, hectic day. A trail of people follows Hajji Mohammed Zaman's every move, from the moment he leaves home, passing through the chaotic, poverty stricken city, where means of transport can date back centuries, arriving at what he calls his army base, a center of operations which took heavy hits from U.S. air strikes, under the Taliban.

Continued U.S. bombing in the war on terror is what's brought this tribal delegation to commander Zaman. They urge him to advise the Americans that attempts to bomb Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, in a mountain zone south of Jalalabad, called Tora Bora, is damaging tribal property, and they claim, inflicting casualties.

The corps commander tells them to be patient, knowing there's good reason for air strikes in their region. Tora Bora, some 35 miles, or 60 kilometers, from the city, is a mountain stronghold and suspected hideout for the al-Qaeda leader or his diehard associates. They are being told to leave Tora Bora or else.

ZAMAN: If they won't accept it, we must start a war against them and the war is war. The people will die.

SADLER: U.S. military support for the threatened mujahedeen assault on Tora Bora could draw on Jalalabad's disused airport. It was targeted in the first hours of the air campaign, but helicopters could still land here.

(on camera): Crushing Taliban rule over the eastern provinces was swift, but rebuilding this war-wrecked nation to prevent it from degenerating into another haven for terrorists, say the new authorities here, could take decades of international commitment.

(voice-over): An endless line of Afghans plead for help in Commander Zaman's (ph) open air office. Teachers with no pay, an army with no uniforms, Commander Zaman tells them all to help rid Afghanistan of terror and re-build the nation. With sustained outside help, he says, they can do it.

Brent Sadler, CNN, Jalalabad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Now the 20 years of war in Afghanistan have taken a terrifying human toll, not just physically, not just the tens and thousands of wounded and dead, but on the mental state of the people here. Who've had to cope with war, deprivation, poverty, and all the terrible things that can befall human beings in these kinds of situations.

Only they don't have the psychiatrists, and they don't have the medicine to treat them, just the patience and dedication of a few doctors, and the love of their parents and families. CNN's Ben Wedeman tell us the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN (voice-over): 17-year-old Shagufa (ph) is losing the will to live. Her father, Karim (ph) Shah, is by her side day and night in a cold, damp hospital room. Patiently trying to coax his daughter to take her medicine, to drink, to eat, to put the past behind.

Two years ago Shagufa saw her 10-year-old brother torn apart by a rocket.

NAJIBULLAH BEKZODAH, PSYCHOLOGIST: At this moment in time she feels hopelessness, depersonalization. And also when other person laughing -- she doesn't enjoy from the laughing.

WEDEMAN: Her father, a carpenter, has stopped working to care for her. Her mother is at home looking after Shagufa's six brothers and sisters.

"We are doing everything we can to help her," her father says, "but she's very tired."

According to one estimate, nearly one in 10 Afghans has been psychologically traumatized by war. Doctors say Sayid Hazrat (ph) has tried to commit suicide several times. He and the other patients in this ward are tormented by nightmares. Staring into the camera with dead, haunted eyes.

"When I heard the bombs I would run and hide wherever I could," Sayid says.

After 23 years of war, economic deprivation and dislocation, it's a miracle anyone in this country has managed to maintain their sanity. There's little therapy here. Hospitals can only administer drugs, families are the only ones to hold the patient's hand. For those without family, the last resort is a Red Crescent asylum on the edge of Kabul. The lost and abandoned have found a spartan refuge from the insanity outside.

Four years ago Taliban police smashed their way into Nassima's (ph) home and hauled away her parents. Her other relatives left her behind and fled the city, this has become her home.

Nobody knows Maloleh's (ph) story, she keeps to herself, alone, with her memories.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Kabul.

AMANPOUR: When we come back the hopes, indeed the demands of the Afghan people from their politicians meeting at the peace table in Bonn, that they never again allow the warlords to use this country as their own personal playground.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Afghan peace talks in Bonn, Germany have taken a giant step forward with the factions dropping their reluctance and their resistance to an international peacekeeping force for Afghanistan. And we are told that they are now hammering out details for an interim political settlement. CNN's Jim Bittermann is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the German mountain top where the Afghans are gathered, it was a day of optimism and ambition. A day on which the delegates agreed to try, before they leave here, to pick not only the people who will serve on a large ruling council. But also the individuals for a national administration. A government, in effect, to run the country. Given the ethnic and tribal complexities of Afghanistan it seems an impossibly ambitious undertaking.

When I skeptically asked Younus Qanooni, the head of the Northern Alliance group about it, he simply confirmed the delegates' goal.

YOUNUS QANOONI, NORTHERN ALLIANCE: We are interested in organizing the transitional setup as soon as possible. We are making efforts so that the lists of names are prepared here.

BITTERMANN: What's more Qanooni appeared to remove a potential sticking point by saying the Alliance could accept an international peace keeping force if it's necessary to get a deal. To those not holding the cards the Northern Alliance does, an outside force for security is a critical concern to ensure there is no pressure on the new administration.

ZALMAI RASOUL, SUPPORTER OF FORMER KING: It's very important that the security of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) administration should be neutral security force, and that's the reasons it should be acceptable to everybody, at least in the beginning, and we hope that very soon we are able -- altogether to create Afghan national security force to take over.

BITTERMANN: But security is just one of a number of complicated and time consuming issues, which must be resolved by a conference which originally was meant to end this weekend, yet the delegates seem determined.

In their days and nights gathered together here it appears those attempting to re-create their country, have come to understand what the U.N. spokesman pointed out, that the world has never paid so much attention to Afghanistan and before, and probably never will again.

And now they must act in its best interests, not their own. Jim Bittermann, CNN, Koenigswinter, Germany.

AMANPOUR: Now that U.N. spokesman also said, that if the world had not turned its back on Afghanistan ten years ago, we probably wouldn't all be sitting here today is what he said. That he may be debated, but certainly here in Afghanistan the people are deeply grateful that the world is looking at them again and promising to help. They want that and they also want their own politicians to be held accountable and to make peace finally for them.

CNN's Harris Whitbeck reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the past 20 years, Nasar Salmai (ph) has run a mathematics academy in Kabul. He says he has prepared some of the best students in the country who consistently scored the highest in the national university entrance exam. But during the years of the Taliban regime attendance dropped by more than 60 percent. Many students fled the war in the city, others were too afraid to go to non-religious schools.

"They couldn't think about the future. They were very pessimistic," he says. But there is now a reason for hope, his students say they are keenly interested in the talks in Bonn about a new government.

"I'm optimistic," says 19-year-old Samil (ph). "The people are all tired of the fighting, and we don't want any more problems."

Just a few blocks down the street, a carpenter and his son also dream of a rebuilt nation.

Zakir (ph) says he looks forward to getting an education in a peaceful Afghanistan. But shopkeeper Siad Hamigola (ph) is a bit more pragmatic.

"I hope it works out," he says, "but right now every side seems to be positioning itself for its own benefit."

Years of war have left Afghans deeply skeptical of anyone who seeks power.

(on camera): So the new rulers will not only have to rebuild the country, they will also have to rebuild the trust of its people.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan. (END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: And when come back, the signs of hope, fun and freedom that are flickering to life here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Every day here, we've been noticing the signs of change. In the two weeks or more since Kabul fell back to the Northern Alliance, one of the first things the people here did was to scramble to get their television station working again, to get their cinemas opened again.

We checked with the people who are continuing to savor the taste of those forbidden fruits.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): The lights are out, cloth covers the windows, and about a dozen people watch closely as a TV flickers on the wall. With all representations of the human form banned under the Taliban, this matinee crowd in Kabul is getting an eyeful.

"Perhaps the Taliban would have given me a severe beating," says Abdullah, who owns this video salon, "and perhaps they would have sent me to jail." That's after smashing his TV.

Instead, today, Abdullah is making a killing, about $10 a day at his storefront video theater.

"They are showing us a very interesting American film, says Heli Lola (ph). He and the others say they are happy, and they like their freedom.

So too at the Kabul TV station. We arrived as engineers were taking their live broadcasting vans out of five years' storage: dusting off the consoles, setting up their cameras, eager to be back on the job after five years in the professional wilderness.

"Today, I'm very lucky that I'm standing behind my camera again," says Fayed Mohamed (ph), to record the smiles of my countrymen, instead of their sorrows.

He and his colleagues show us their Taliban ID cards, when they had to wear turbans and full beards.

"During the Taliban years, we just recorded with our eyes," laughs Inatola (ph).

Technology has passed them by, but they say they can't wait to broadcast again. Music and soccer matches, and even the next Loya Jirga, the grand council they hope will sort out Afghanistan's fractious politics.

Under the Taliban, people who dared own satellite dishes would bring them out secretly at night. Now new ones are being churned out by the day, covered in whatever sheet metal they find. Those who can't afford one make do with an old antenna; anything will do for a city of people eager to catch up on the years they have missed.

TV repair shops are trying to keep up with demand. Some workers remember the times they were hauled off to jail.

Here they tell us the Taliban's favorite punishment for TV watches was painting their faces black, dragging them through the marketplace, and forcing offenders to call themselves criminals.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: The battle for Afghanistan seems to be entering a decisive phase. So, too, do the peace talks. And people's hopes here on the rise. We'll continue to follow that and we will be back at the same time tomorrow night.

But that's our report from Kabul for today. Greta Van Susteren is up next for CNN in the U.S.A. and internationally, it is "World Sport."

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