CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN WITH NIC ROBERTSON
Aired December 4, 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 NIC ROBERTSON.
Osama bin Laden: alive, on the run and requesting time out from Afghan fighters ready to pound Taliban strongholds. The latest from CNN's Brent Sadler.
At the negotiating table, factional Afghan leaders find common ground. CNN's Jim Bittermann on how shaky the deal may be to rule a divided land.
On the road to economic recovery: a look at the man described as the Alan Greenspan of Afghanistan. In Kabul, CNN's Jim Clancy tracks the currency.
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JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Without a central bank, the value of the Afghani is being set by the people themselves, says the chairman of the Kabul Exchange.
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ANNOUNCER: Afghan women, raising the veil and demanding a voice.
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HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What sets these women apart is that they are openly working as professionals.
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ANNOUNCER: CNN's Harris Whitbeck on a new regime: Will it be gender-sensitive?
Live from Afghanistan, Nic Robertson.
NIC ROBERTSON, HOST: Tonight, LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN comes from the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Sixty miles away is Kandahar, the last stronghold of the Taliban. A fierce battle has been raging around this airport for the last five days. Local tribal leaders tell us that they are sending in more forces to fight around the airport. Sources in city of Kandahar say intense bombing has been going on around the airport and the Pentagon reports a member of the U.S. special forces has been injured by gunfire around the Kandahar area. The situation is not critical. He has been medically evacuated.
Taliban -- local tribal sources also say that the Taliban have been appealing to them to change sides and come and join the Taliban in their fight. Further southwest of Kandahar, Marines are dug in. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says it is unlikely that the Marines will lead an assault on Kandahar. He says tribal forces will do that work.
And further north, around the city of Jalalabad in the mountains, U.S.-led bombing campaigns have been continuing around suspected camps of Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network. Local mujahedeen commanders have been closing in on the ground to assist to trying to find Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden has appealed to them, saying he will not fight those tribal fighters. He will only fight foreign forces.
Brent Sadler has been traveling with those mujahedeen commanders and recently filed this report.
BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Thanks, Nic.
As American warplanes continue to pound suspected al Qaeda hiding places in the Tora Bora mountain range, south of Jalalabad, there has been an important development on the ground here.
The region's security chief, Hazrat Ali, a key member of the Eastern Alliance, says his mujahedeen fighters engaged a group of al Qaeda terrorists in a brief fire fight at the base of Tora Bora, the first reported hostilities between the two sides since sustained U.S. air strikes eastern Afghanistan began last week. It was said to be a brief skirmish lasting several minutes. No casualties were reported.
Al Qaeda gunmen were said to have fled to higher ground, enabling the mujahedeen, they say, to capture a tank. The mujahedeen chief says the U.S. bombs close to his positions during the al Qaeda fire fight, but his men suffered no injuries. There's been no apparent let up in U.S. air activity by heavy bombers against the suspect caves and tunnels hidden within the rocks of Tora Bora.
A report that Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al- Zawahiri, might have been injured in the latest attacks could not be confirmed by Hazrat Ali, Jalalabad's security chief.
In another development, workers began repairing the runway at Jalalabad's airport, damaged in the opening phase of the war in Afghanistan. Craters were filled, making the airstrip usable within days for possible humanitarian relief or military activity. A reported force of some 1,500 mujahedeen fighters have been sent to Tora Bora to take on al Qaeda or Taliban extremists and operations, say military commanders here, that will require rocket launchers and artillery at very least. Back to you, Nic.
ROBERTSON: In Bonn, U.N.-sponsored talks made progress Tuesday to find an interim government for Afghanistan when the Northern Alliance submitted a list of names of delegates they consider could hold some of those key jobs. This paves the way for the possibility of a six-month interim government, followed perhaps by a Loya Jirga, a grand council of Afghanistan to make key decisions. And that, in turn, could pave the way for elections in two years time.
Jim Bittermann has been following the talks for eight days. But he as reports, getting the names is only just the beginning.
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After eight full days of discussions, the hardest part: the delegates must decide who will lead the interim administration, the new government of Afghanistan.
Lakhdar Brahimi, who moderated these talks from the beginning, went through a list of 150 names submitted by the four delegations to the talks and boiled them down to 29, the number of jobs in the administration which will govern Afghanistan for the next six months.
HANS JOACHIM DAERR, GERMAN OBSERVER AT TALKS: The only way to handle it, and that's certainly how he does it, is to put them together to the best of his knowledge of how they could fit together and how they would make a broad-based and balanced government and make a proposal to the four delegations.
BITTERMANN: So his proposal would suggest one name for each position, and then if anybody objects, they can object?
DAERR: I don't know exactly how he does it, but that's what I would guess that he does.
BITTERMANN: Those who have visited the conference say the pressure on the delegations has only grown leading up to tonight's marathon meeting. And stress levels were no doubt increased by the fact that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is flying here early Wednesday morning expecting to participate in a signing ceremony. But some pressure is self imposed. The delegates know they must do something for their beleaguered country.
AHMED WALI MASSOUD, NORTHERN ALLIANCE DELEGATION: Afghanistan has been destroyed. It is shattered country. It doesn't have, in a real sense, as you said at 12 (ph), how much construction is left. I see nothing left, no construction left at all. So, it seems that you are kind of rebuilding a country from the beginning.
BITTERMANN: The delegates have been assured that putting an acceptable government in place will open a floodgate of international aid. But the new government, under the terms of the agreement to be signed here, must also live up to international expectations, including participating in the war against terror.
Would you expect this new government to be helpful in the search for bin Laden?
JAMES DOBBINS, U.S. OBSERVER TO TALKS: Yes. The document itself, which they've agreed to and drafted, specifies that the interim administration will continue to cooperate with the international community in the fight against terrorism, the fight against drugs, the fight against organized crime.
BITTERMANN (on camera): And, Nic, I should just add that for the top job, that of chairman of the interim administration, there seems to be general agreement tonight on Hamid Karzai, the Pashtun southern tribal leader who, with his militia, is currently engaged in the battle around Kandahar. But, the way this process works, nothing is final until everything is final. That means to say that they have to have all 29 names picked before we can say that Mr. Karzai will, in fact, lead the next government of Afghanistan -- Nic.
ROBERTSON: Well, Jim, as you say Hamid Karzai is fighting the Taliban in the southeast of Afghanistan, what concerns are there that while an interim government may be agreed in Bonn, the Taliban still controls some of the country?
BITTERMANN: Well, I think part of this process is experimental. They've never done anything like this before, assembling a government outside of a country and then bringing it in and putting it in place. They're expecting a lot to happen, hoping a lot will happen. They have to bring the government in and displace the de facto government of Professor Rabbani, who has been de facto president for the couple of weeks that the Taliban have been chased from power. So there are a lot of be problems just getting this government in place in Kabul. The next few weeks will be very delicate indeed.
They are talking about, as it hasn't yet been decided, but the date that's being talked about for the transfer of power is December 22. So that's just a few weeks away. At that point in time, the government will go in place and take over.
Now one of the things that is provided for in the agreement is that the battle against terrorism, the war against terrorism, has to be continued by the new government, by the interim administration. They've promised to cooperate with the world community fighting terrorism, which means to say that the fight against the Taliban in the south, the American involvement in it, can continue under the next administration or at least they agree to continue it under the agreement that's going to be signed tomorrow in principal -- Nic.
ROBERTSON: Jim, there are hopes in the international community they will reach a speedy agreement here in Bonn. But just what pressures can the international community really put on the delegates to make that happen?
BITTERMANN: Well, they have been pulling out all the stops here and ratcheting up the pressure the best way they can. Among other things, there is, of course, this giant carrot out there, and that is the billions of dollars of aid that will flow once the government is in place, once there's a broad-based, balanced government in place that the world community can deal with. So that's a giant incentive to get things going.
But there are a couple of other things they've done here. For instance, these all-night meetings, late sessions, that increases the pressures on the delegations themselves.
A completely artificial time that the Germans have put on this, in fact, by putting down on paper this afternoon, the idea that there would be a 9:30 a.m. signing ceremony Wednesday morning. Well, that means that there's a deadline right there that's got to be reached. And by saying, after that, that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is on his way to be here for the signing ceremony, that increases the pressure even more. So the delegates are working tonight trying to sort out the names, sort out the names and put them against jobs.
And with those pressures on them, and with the incentive of all of those billions of dollars of aid -- by the way, I should say one other thing about the aid, Wednesday afternoon in Berlin there is a previously scheduled meeting of donors who are going to bring in all sorts of aid for Afghanistan -- it would be a mighty big advantage indeed if Mr. Brahimi and -- and the foreign minister -- German Foreign Minister Fischer could fly from here, directly to Berlin, talk to these donors and say, look, now there's a broad-based government in place. Now let's get the money flowing -- Nic.
ROBERTSON: Jim Bittermann in Bonn, thank you very much. And as Jim says, economic aid, the big carrot.
And inside Afghanistan, most Afghans we talked to say they want help from the international community, and help with the economy is one of the things at the top of their list. Now in Kabul, Jim Clancy has been looking at how money changes hands there, and a man that may be able to put more of it in everyone's pocket.
CLANCY (voice-over): The streets of the east bank of the Kabul River are jammed by mid-morning as people come to trade dollars, Pakistani rupees or rani (ph) and riyals for Afghanis, the national currency of Afghanistan. This is much more than just a market. It is a veritable barometer of public sentiment about the political situation.
"Without a central bank the value of Afghani is being set by people themselves," says the chairman of the Kabul Exchange. If people worry about the political situation, the value goes down, "if they are confident he says, they send the value up."
Ahmin Jan Closti (ph), is the Afghan answer to Alan Greenspan. Listening to the news on the radio, gauging public reaction and carefully watching just how heavy the trading will be by the crowd gathered in the street.
Unemployment is rampant and thousands of residents are returning each day to the capital city, but with Taliban gone burqa-clad women have joined the ranks of eager amateur traders. It's not a new confidence in markets, it's a new confidence in Afghanistan and themselves.
(on camera): The street here, hit a low point with the departure of the Taliban, thieves reportedly ransacked more than 80 currency shops taking tens of millions of dollars. Now not everyone believes it was the Taliban by any means, some want a thorough investigation. And they are asking the international community to step in and help restore the life savings of thousands of people that were lost.
Jim Clancy, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.
While their change in fortunes is bringing a new confidence, just how badly damaged is the country after 22 years of war? After the break, a report by Brent Sadler.
ROBERTSON: Under Taliban rule, international aid agencies struggle to provided for the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people. Aid was coming in, but barely at subsistent -- subsistence levels. We -- Brent Sadler examined the situation in the health care system and in the schools of Afghanistan before he left for his assignment in the mountains dominated by al Qaeda.
BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jalalabad's one and only hospital copes with casualties of war. Medical staff complain that poor facilities make it difficult for them to treat the sick, as well as the wounded. Even before the Taliban was driven from this city nearly three weeks ago, health care dwindled, as humanitarian organizations pulled out.
Afghan staff of a United Nations-sponsored group called OMAR, the Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation continue to work, a small scale operation only allowed to run outside the city. Dr. Qaseem Qayoumi takes OMAR's ambulance into Nangarhar province, caring for remote communities feeling the effects of war. Infectious diseases, like typhoid, pneumonia, and bronchitis, says Dr. Qayoumi, are rising -- other illnesses, too.
QASEEM QAYOUMI, OMAR HEALTH PROJECT: Neuropsych (UNINTELLIGIBLE), like insomnia, like depression, like anxiety.
SADLER (on camera): A virtual absence of any determined international humanitarian push, to alleviate the hardship here, say authorities, make this region vulnerable to even greater deprivation. eastern provinces vulnerable to even greater deprivation.
(voice-over): That explains why OMAR teams are also distributing food to far-flung communities. Two months of conflict, the looting of food distribution centers and a security vacuum have taken their toll. MIR WAJS, RED CRESCENT: The people are on the edge of the starvation. I mean, if the situation has been like that for weeks and weeks so there's a danger of starvation.
SADLER: But in this deprived environment, there's a green shoot of hope. Teachers inside rundown buildings, which pass for a school are seeing the return of girls to lessons, five years after being denied education by the Taliban.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a ruler.
SADLER: "We are happy, says Rogule (ph), "because we came out of the darkness of ignorance into the light." Their teachers are happy, too. Collecting their first pay in more than seven months, a new start for them all.
Brent Sadler, CNN, Jalalabad.
ROBERTSON: When we come back, how after years of Taliban misrule women are beginning to take their place in Afghan society again.
ROBERTSON: The Taliban's harsh interpretation of Islam meant women were banned from working. In cities, many were forced to give up jobs and stay at home. Now the international community is driving efforts to put Afghan women back in the workplace.
At a U.N. conference in Brussels, U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson called for Afghan women to be involved in the rebuilding of Afghanistan.
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MARY ROBINSON, U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS HIGH COMMISSIONER: Up to now, we have known the men who are in the newspapers because they are actually leading different groups of the Northern Alliance and, obviously, of the Taliban who are in retreat and other tribal groups.
We need -- and today gives us a good opportunity -- to know the very many women and Afghan women living in Afghanistan, living in refugee camps and in other countries who are in a position to make a very good contribution to the future of their country.
What I like about this meeting and the way it has been organized it's not a once off workshop or seminar. There is going to be a follow-up to this, a follow-up in making sure that the Bonn meeting results in women being on the lists, making sure that there is a harnessing of an economic support.
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ROBERTSON: In Kabul, Harris Whitbeck has been looking just at how women are getting reintegrated into the Afghan workplace. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
WHITBECK (voice-over): A group of women gathers in a public field on the outskirts of Kabul preparing to go to work. Their job: to conduct surveys that will help the World Food Programme determine what families should be included for emergency distribution.
But what sets these women apart is that they are openly working as professionals, some even daring to raise the veil under which they led their public lives for the five years of Taliban rule, a big change from just a few weeks ago.
KHALED MANSOUR, U.N. SPOKESMAN: We had to go from a street to another, go into a house and meet them in a clandestine way.
WHITBECK: Being allowed to hire women to conduct the surveys is a big step forward for the food delivery agencies.
(on camera): Because many of the more traditional Afghan families do not allow strange men into their homes, which during the Taliban years, made the work of determining who needed the food first- hand almost impossible to carry out.
(voice-over): 20-year-old Espoghmi (ph) is excited to be one of the surveyors. It is her first job outside the home and one of the first times she has been seen outside her home in the company of a male who is not a relative. She and her colleague, Sarajudin (ph), say the fact that they can work together in public is an encouraging sign for their country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me tell you, in 23 years war, we had never been so much hopeful as we are now because international world has realized the need of peace and security in Afghanistan and they are now, you know, focusing on Afghanistan and they are trying to establish some kind of peace here.
WHITBECK: And it is encouraging for the food distribution program. The United Nations estimates it has to deliver 52,000 tons of food a month to six million Afghans in need until mid-summer, which is a lot of work made easier, they say, by the addition of women to the distribution workforce.
Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.
ROBERTSON: Thank you for watching. LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN will be back at the same time tomorrow. Up next, "THE POINT WITH GRETA VAN SUSTEREN", and for our international viewers, "World Sport."
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