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Live From Afghanistan With Christiane Amanpour: U.S. Marines Set Up Base in Afghanistan; Reports of Unintended Casualties of U.S. Bombings

Aired December 1, 2001 - 20:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are U.S. Marine light armored vehicles leaving their base to begin nightly reconnaissance patrols in southern Afghanistan.


ANNOUNCER: Targeting al Qaeda.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An American B-52 bomber flies over Jalalabad.


ANNOUNCER: And reports of unintended casualties.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doctors say two children, boys aged 10 and 8, are among the bombing casualties.


ANNOUNCER: Mapping out the political future, insight from an architect of the Bosnian peace accord.

Now, live from Afghanistan, Christiane Amanpour.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: Good morning from Kabul. We will have all the latest on the war against terrorism, the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the breakthrough at the Afghan peace table in Bonn.

But first, we got to CNN Center in Atlanta for Donna Kelley and an update on that terrorist attack in Jerusalem.

(INTERRUPTED FOR CNN COVERAGE OF BREAKING NEWS) AMANPOUR: On the ground in Afghanistan, what's being reported is some of the heaviest U.S. air strikes yet on Kandahar, the Taliban's birth place, it's power base, and now it's last stand.

Also, U.S. Marines coming to the ground as well and ratcheting up the pressure. CNN's Walter Rodgers, part of a U.S. Pentagon pool is on the ground with the U.S. Marines.


WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are U.S. Marine light-armored vehicles leaving their base to begin nightly reconnaissance patrols in southern Afghanistan. They pass the perimeter of their encampment, pass fellow Marines dug in in their mortar and machine gun nests, and from here the armored vehicles will fan out into the trackless Afghan desert, searching out the last pockets of the Taliban resistance moving northward.

In the Marines fighting holes, everyone in this 50th Expeditionary Unit knows why he is here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what the American people want, and if they want me to get rid of these guys, I represent them and absolutely we're ready and we're willing to go.

RODGERS: There are many enemies out here beside the Taliban, dust, thick, choking clouds is another foe. Marines regularly have to clean their rifles and other weapons. Another serious enemy, the bitter cold of a December night in the Afghan desert.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest thing that we have to fight at night is the cold.

RODGERS: But soldiering also has its rewards. The first of the month is the time for promotions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do appoint this Marine a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps.

RODGERS: The unit commander, Brigadier General James Mattis (ph) visited Charlie Company, overseeing the first battlefield promotions in Afghanistan. Standing on an Afghan hillside, they swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The General also held a private chat with his men, a locker room pep talk, except for these Marines there are no locker rooms. There aren't even any showers. There is only dust, desert and cold.

The Marines now occupy a hillside near their makeshift air base, a position previously held by the Taliban before they were eliminated here in a fierce fight.

Somewhere to the north of here behind me, the Marines believe there are still pockets of Taliban resistance, tanks and other armored vehicles. Actual contact with the Taliban has been limited, but this is still a potential combat zone and the Marines say they are on the ready, 24/7.

Walter Rodgers, with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in southern Afghanistan.


AMANPOUR: Now, as the U.S. ratchets up its War on Terrorism and focuses its sights on what it believes to be Osama bin Laden's hideaway, it is continuing to bomb the cities, rather the mountains around Jalalabad.

Now the Pentagon denies that it is attacking or indeed hurting civilians on the ground. But as CNN's Brent Sadler reports from Jalalabad, some citizens there are claiming casualties from the U.S. air strikes.


BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An American B-52 bomber flies over Jalalabad. A likely mission, to weaken or destroy mountain fortifications at Tora Bora, some 35 miles or 60 kilometers south of the city, high priority U.S. target. The pursuit of which, it's claimed here, has inflicted heavy loss of life among Afghan villagers living close to Tora Bora.

Doctors say two children, boys aged ten and eight are among the bombing casualties. Noorma Mohammed lost both his hands and is said to be in critical condition. In the next bed, Ikbal Udin is also suffering severe injuries, which this survivor claims, through a translator, were inflicted by an air strike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says there were 12 persons in our family. I was outside of my room. And the airplane bombs entered to my home. And I saw all of the people were killed.

SADLER: Already this week, a tribal delegation from the danger zone complained to Jalalabad's authorities that American bombing was damaging farmland and killing livestock. Jalalabad's security chief told reporters that up to 50 villagers had been killed in the latest bombing raid. He expressed sorrow for the loss of life, but understanding for the air campaign. A campaign, which during the past two months, has driven several thousand refugees to this tent encampment outside the city.

(on camera): Continued U.S. bombing exacerbates the chronic civilian hardships, say authorities here, now pressing for U.S. military assistance to help mujahideen fighters clear this region of suspected al Qaeda and Taliban hideouts.

(voice-over): That kind of military operation, authorities here say, will be in the interests of all.

Brent Sadler, CNN, Jalalabad.

(END VIDEOTAPE) AMANPOUR: Now the Northern Alliance officials here in Kabul say they do not believe that Osama bin Laden himself is in that Tora Bora complex that we've been talking about, those caves in the mountains around Jalalabad.

But Dr. Abdullah, the Northern Alliance Foreign Minister, says he believes some of Osama bin Laden's operatives may be there.


ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, NORTHERN ALLIANCE FOREIGN MINISTER: He's inside Afghanistan. He's still inside Afghanistan, and his people are active still, and I think they are planning to move toward the mountainous areas of Qalat, Zabol province, as well as Kandahar.

So they are making preparations for guerrilla warfare. This is our understanding or our reading of the situation with the Taliban, as well as Osama groups. I believe that some of his lieutenants are in Tora Bora, and some of his followers but not he, himself.


AMANPOUR: Now, also an intelligence source here in Kabul has told CNN that they believe that operatives, loyalists of bin Laden, may be trying to smuggle him out of the country, perhaps towards and into Pakistan.

In the meantime, back in the north of Afghanistan, remember that bloody prisoner uprising of the fortress in Mazar-e Sharif? Well, it was considered that all the people there; the prisoners had been killed in attempts to quell that uprising.

But over the last couple of days, CNN has received pictures of what we're told was the Northern Alliance flooding the basement of that prison there, and it seems to have flushed out scores of remaining Taliban prisoners who were in that basement. We are now told that all the prisoners are out and that situation is now complete and fully under control.

When we come back, we'll have the breakthrough at the peace talks in Bonn.



AMANPOUR: At a negotiating table in Bonn, Germany Afghanistan's various rival factions have been struggling to transition from the idea of war to the possibility of peace.

These talks have been going on since Tuesday, and on the fifth day there has been a breakthrough. CNN's Jim Bittermann is in Bonn.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Christiane. The main meetings have now broken up here for the night. There are still some individual meetings going on, but we're beginning to get a rough outline of the draft agreement that's been circulating among the four delegations here and what it calls for.

Basically, it provides for a 20 to 30 person interim administration, call it a government if you will, which would hold office for between three to six months until a loya jerga, this is a traditional Afghan way of choosing a leader, until a loya jerga can be held. It also, the agreement provides for the commission to be set up to organize that loya jerga down the line.

While the cabinet posts have been decided, and it has been decided that each of the groupings here, each of the four delegations will have at least one cabinet seat, it has not been decided which grouping gets which cabinet post and it hasn't been decided even more importantly who gets what job.

It is apparently, there is apparently some consensus on the idea that the cabinet jobs should be handed out on the basis of professionalism, making it a government of technocrats as much as possible.

All of this movement comes after a number of days here in which there wasn't any movement at all, because the Northern Alliance apparently had to go back to Kabul with every small detail, particularly with the names of people for the various cabinet choices. And back in Kabul, President Rabbani, former President Rabbani who is the head of the Northern Alliance, was quite critical of this process here in Bonn.

But he apparently changed his mind and tonight I asked James Dobbins, who is the U.S. observer at these talks, what it was that changed the former president's mind.


JAMES DOBBINS, U.S. OBSERVER: First of all, I think that President Rabbani heard from members of his own coalition. Secondly, I think he heard from interested governments and governments that had long been very friendly and supportive of the Northern Alliance. And thirdly, I suspect that there's some impact from Afghan public opinion that insofar as one can tell, really wants a positive result from this conference.


BITTERMANN: So we expect to get some kind of an announcement on Sunday of the rough structure of the government, even if we don't know who's going to serve in it -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Jim Bittermann, thank you very much. And now to New York and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, a veteran of the Dayton Peace Accords for Bosnia. Ambassador Holbrooke, are you surprised that they've actually come to this breakthrough so soon?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR: Well, Christiane, I don't understand what kind of an arrangement we just heard about. Jim Bittermann's report is clearly incomplete, as he himself pointed out. I am frankly very puzzled at how the Northern Alliance was able to mess this talk up for a week. It reminds me a lot of the scene in "Lawrence of Arabia" when after Lawrence and the Arabs get to Damascus victorious, they turn on each other screaming and yelling.

There's no question that American air power, not the Northern Alliance, liberated Kabul. There's no question that the American-led military coalition is the one defeating the Taliban and they will finish the job in Kandahar, and they will bring the al Qaeda down. And I think the United States and the U.N. should make it absolutely clear to Rabbani that he does not have the ability to do what he's done.

Now the American leverage, as you well know, was that they would not give American assistance or international assistance unless Rabbani agreed, so they agreed, and now they're going to come up with some kind of patchwork government.

The real test is going to be whether or not -- there's Rabbani on the screen now as we talk. The real question is whether or not this thing will hold, because every single day that's been delayed.

The men with guns have been consolidating their hold over the towns and over the cities of Afghanistan, and the men with guns are going to have to obey this agreement, and I don't think your viewers should draw any enormous comfort from this.

We have a long way to go. The United States is going to have to take a very tough position with people like the Northern Alliance, and the Northern Alliance will have to recognize that it was the U.S. that won this tremendously impressive military victory, which will be completed soon.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Holbrooke, you are very familiar with infighting within delegations. It happened in Bosnia between the more hard line President Izetbegovic and the more moderates who you were dealing with there.

Do you not draw any optimism from the fact that the so-called hard line President Rabbani has, in fact, been it appears overruled by Dr. Abdullah and the delegates in Bonn, who in fact told us that they were prepared to go around and come to an agreement come what may?

HOLBROOKE: Well, Christiane, you're just as familiar as I am with that kind of factionialism and your analogy is very correct at both Dayton and in the talks over Kosovo Rombulai (ph) in 1999, the same kind of thing happened. And I would simply point out that the differences that existed continued.

They thwarted the peacemaking effort and the only reason Bosnia is at peace today, six years exactly after Dayton, is that they all signed a 200-page peace agreement which the U.S. crammed down their throat, and then we sent an international peacekeeping force, which was a NATO force commanded by an American General, at the time 20,000 troops. Now we're down to 3,000 troops. Not one American has been killed or wounded. It's been well worth the cost and peace was brought to Bosnia.

But as you well know, Bosnia and Kosovo are tiny, the size of Connecticut or Massachusetts. Afghanistan is a huge country, larger than France, larger than Texas, much more difficult, and the kind of international peacekeeping force that's going to be necessary in order to enforce this is going to be difficult.

And if we, the West, the U.S. turn our back on Afghanistan again, as we did in 1989 after the Mujahaddin successfully drove out the Soviet troops with American covert and other assistance, then tragedy will repeat itself and we'll have another vacuum.

So I don't think we have heard the last of this situation with this report tonight from Bonn. I hope so and I hope you will excuse my skepticism, but this report can only be the first step in a long, difficult process.

AMANPOUR: Do you see any role for a multi-national peacekeeping force here, such as in Bosnia, Kosovo and other similar places?

HOLBROOKE: Absolutely, Christiane. There are three proposals on the table here. An all-Afghan security force, which has been favored publicly by some U.N. representatives and by some administration officials. I believe that this is impossibility in the current climate. The Afghans are not going to coalesce into a single force.

The second proposal is a U.N. peacekeeping force. As you well know, because you covered it in Bosnia and Rwanda and elsewhere, U.N. peacekeeping forces directly under U.N. command failed miserably in the 1990's in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Somalia.

The third force, the one you've just mentioned, and I'm stressing the difference because it's very confusing for the viewers, is a multi-national force that is a group of national armies that are approved and authorized by the U.N. but don't report to them.

That is far and away, in my view, the most effective way to bring stability, at least to the major cities and major roads of Afghanistan for the next year or two, while the international community helps the Afghans pick themselves up.

It won't be cheap. It will cost several billion dollars, but we're spending well over a billion dollars a month right now on the war, and if we, again to repeat myself, if we turn our backs on Afghanistan as we did in 1989, we'll get another vacuum.

So yes, I would like to see a multi-national force and I'm glad you used the phrase because people keep getting it mixed up with the U.N. force, which it is not.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Holbrooke, thank you very much for joining us from New York. And when we come back, we'll have a report on the influx of refugees into Afghanistan. It's both a good thing and a bad thing.


AMANPOUR: As the Taliban get pushed further and further into one last corner of Afghanistan, thousands of refugees who fled the Taliban regime, who have been fleeing in the last 20 years of war here, are beginning to come back, according to the United Nations. They view that as a positive sign of people's views for the future of this country.

But they also say that it's exacerbating an already fragile humanitarian situation here. CNN's Kasra Naji reports from a refugee camp in Western Afghanistan.


KASRA NAJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thousands more refugees have arrived in the past few days in a desperate search for food. Many camped out in the open on the fringes of a camp which already houses hundreds of thousands of refugees.

"We have come here because we don't have anything to eat. We're having a hard time here. Our children are in danger," says this man.

They've come from neighboring provinces, victims of four years of a severe drought. The U.S.-led military campaign in the past two months has meant that little aid has been distributed in the provinces.

They say no one has come to their help here. No one has been to register them, which would entitle them to receive aid. They say every night a few babies and old people, the most vulnerable, die of cold.

This woman says she's already lost a daughter to the cold and hunger. She says she and her children arrived two weeks ago and are spending the nights sleeping here on the bare ground.

Just a few hundred meters away in a new cemetery, many of the new graves are those of small babies and children. The small amount of international aid that reaches here, a drop in the bucket. The U.N. and many international aid organizations have been slow in their response.

And more people are arriving in the thousands.

This Afghan official says the reason for the new rush of refugees, the arrival of winter and their need for shelter. Also, the roads are now open again after the initial fighting.

Far too many people are going hungry. Tens of thousands are desperate for help and the situation can only get worse because there are reports that tens of thousands are on their way here.

Kasra Naji, CNN, Mazlov (ph) camp, western Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE) AMANPOUR: Now, in the last few days the U.N. is saying that it is trying to get its personnel into that area and to other previously inaccessible areas to assess the humanitarian situation and to make sure more food and all sorts of assistance that people need will be able to get to these inaccessible places.

That's our report from Afghanistan for now. Stay with CNN for the continuing coverage of the war on terrorism and for updates and news on the suicide attacks in Jerusalem.




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