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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN WITH CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR

Aired December 12, 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.

Anti-Taliban forces tell al Qaeda fighters: surrender bin Laden and the rest of you can go free. CNN's Brent Sadler with the latest on this controversial offer.

The head of Afghanistan's new interim government, Hamid Karzai, in a one-on-one interview with Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAMID KARZAI, INTERIM AFGHAN LEADER: After many years of disasters and bloodshed and suffering for our people, we have a new opportunity that the Afghan people must grasp.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: And she was the first to tell Afghans about the fall of Kabul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I said, dear listeners and the people of my country, the Taliban with their whips have fled the city.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: One of Afghanistan's best known news anchors returns to the air, ending five years of silence.

Live from Afghanistan: Christiane Amanpour.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: Good morning from Kandahar.

Despite the increasing number of evidence of Osama bin Laden's culpability in September 11, despite the mounting taped evidence, there is still a great number of skeptics who have always wanted to see and hear the smoking gun. The United States says it believes now it has full incriminating evidence on tape by Osama bin Laden bragging about what happened on September 11. It has promised to publicize the tape, but so far, that has been delayed. U.S. officials are citing translation and audio difficulties. We are expecting it to be released sometime, perhaps, tomorrow. In the meantime, in the welter of conflicting reports and information about the possible whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, there is another report, this one in the "Christian Science Monitor", saying that according to a top al Qaeda official, Osama bin Laden has left Afghanistan for Pakistan. U.S. officials are denouncing, or rather denying, the credibility of that report. And their attack on the Tora Bora mountains continues.

CNN's Brent Sadler reports from there on a new demand, a new ultimatum by the Afghan fighters also launching an attack on Tora Bora.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): A possible surrender of the Al Qaeda terror group from stronghold positions they have in the White Mountains, passed with nothing materializing here on the ground.

However, after many hours of discussions, Eastern Alliance Afghan tribal warriors put another deal on the table to Al Qaeda, offering them that they could have all their fighters walk free from here on the fundamental condition that Osama bin Laden himself surrenders to the Alliance along with about 20 or so of his top lieutenants, the very core of the Al Qaeda terror network.

Now there has been no response from the al Qaeda network to that offer. And indeed it seems very difficult to work out how the details of that could be implemented and whether or not that might be acceptable to any of the international parties involved in the coalition against terror.

Now at the same time, as we saw the passing of an ultimatum to surrender earlier in the day in Afghanistan here, we saw a resumption of U.S. air activity over the White Mountains, where the Tora Bora stronghold complex is located. B-52 heavy bombers circling high overhead in 360-degree tight terms, and then we saw a resumption of heavy bombing, plumes of smoke and thunderous explosions roaring down the valleys from Tora Bora as there were repeated air strikes by U.S. warplanes against Al Qaeda positions.

Now it was also impossible this day to go forward to where Alliance fighters have been able to gain ground just 24 hours earlier against al Qaeda, where we had seen a complex, a terror training base, formally occupied by al Qaeda, abandoned, deserted after being obliterated by sustained U.S. bombing. We got to see some of the caves and saw abandoned weapons and ammunition discarded around the place.

Now we also understand from eyewitness reports that in that advanced area we got to 24 hours earlier, that there has been a significant deployment of special forces. There's been eyewitness accounts of Westerners wearing tribal Afghan clothing, carrying U.S.- made weapons, that coming at the same time as the Eastern Alliance leadership is saying that their core issue right now is to get bin Laden. And they believe it seems, otherwise they wouldn't have made this offer presumably, that they believe there is a chance that Osama bin Laden is still in the Tora Bora area, still commanding fighters. If he gives himself up, along with his top aides, then there could be possibly, they believe, a peaceful end to the siege of Tora Bora. If not, they will continue with a whole-scale offensive on the ground, that coupled with continuing U.S. air strikes.

Brent Sadler, CNN, near Tora Bora, in the White Mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Now, with the U.S. officials doubting the credibility of reports that Osama bin Laden has fled Afghanistan, so too are Northern Alliance officials. They believe -- they say they have reason to believe that he still here in Afghanistan.

Another issue of doubt is the words coming from John Walker, the American who was caught fighting for the Taliban and who is now being housed and, in fact, interrogated at Camp Rhino, the Marines base not far from here. He is being kept in a shack, or a shed-like structure, on that air base over there as he is being interrogated.

And what we are told is that he is telling his interrogators that he knows that there will be, he says, more terrorist attacks with the end of Ramadan. That is in the next few days. However, U.S. officials are doubting his credibility because they say he was too low on the pecking order to know that kind of information.

In the meantime, there are reports that about 1,000 Marines are moving from Camp Rhino closer to the city here of Kandahar, moving their base to the Kandahar airport. We have had reports that there are U.S. special forces here in Kandahar. We have seen them. We know also that they have been clearing up and inspecting the airport there.

CNN's Nic Robertson was at the airport yesterday to see what the U.S. Marines might expect to find.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Al Qaeda tank," this fighters says, "we'll use it now for our country's security," he adds. Then the anti-Taliban soldiers show us where they say they buried al Qaeda fighters, they say died here

Twenty-six people here; and were they Arabian or were they Afghan?

"Arab, Arab," he says, and one senior Taliban official and 26 Arabs. Hard to believe so many people died here, and harder still to know if they were all al Qaeda. But plenty of evidence to suggest a fight of sorts took place.

Across the road at the airport, where we had been told up to 200 al Qaeda fighters had been holed up, a similar scene of destruction. Again, however, only fragmentary evidence with which to build a picture of what really happened. (on camera): Commanders here say the battle for the airport was intense and lasted longer than a week. However, they say the final assault on the al Qaeda fighters was carried out by U.S. special forces and no one here seems prepared to say how many of the Arab fighters were killed or captured.

(voice-over): Even now after the battle, access tough to get.

Can we go up to the terminal building?

The answer is a polite no. Among the guards at the gate, the word is U.S. special forces don't want to let us in the airport complex just yet. Word is they are collecting information on al Qaeda fighters.

Wali Mohammad (ph), known simply to his friends as soldier, talks of the battle. "There were 17 people, 10 of them died," he says, "and the other seven were taken by U.S. special forces." He shows us a Koran he says he took from a dead Arab fighter. Babi Abdul Misiri (ph) the inscription reads at the front, an Egyptian name.

"I got lots of things: money and other things." He shows a flashlight, and then the Americans called us there, he says, and took all the things. In the weapons dumps in the field around, plenty of evidence someone was planning to stay and fight. Who they were and why they fled still a mystery.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Kandahar airport, Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Now Hamid Karzai, who is the leader of Afghanistan's interim government, has been here in Kandahar. He was due to be flown to the capital, Kabul, aboard a U.S. military aircraft. When we come back, we will talk to him about all the help the U.S. gave him as he rallied anti-Taliban resistance here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Hamid Karzai is the new interim leader of Afghanistan's broad-based interim government. He has had an incredible experience. He came into Afghanistan from Pakistan to rally anti-Taliban support even as U.S. bombing campaign began.

And then, just over this weekend, he came into Kandahar as this final city fell from the Taliban into the hands of anti-Taliban alliance. He's been housed temporarily at Mullah Omar's former compound, the former Taliban leader who is on the run. This compound was bombed heavily by the United States. And so we interviewed him. There was no electricity. We sat around in gaslight and around with tribal leaders who were coming to talk to him about the future of this country.

We interviewed him just on the eve of his departure for the capital Kabul. And we asked him about his experience and about the help he got from the U.S. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Mr. Karzai, here we are sitting in Kandahar, surrounded by tribal elders and leaders. In about a week's time, you're going to take the helm of a new government for Afghanistan, an interim government. The future is about to begin. What is going through your head right you now?

KARZAI: It's an exciting time. It's the new beginning for Afghanistan. After many years of disasters and bloodshed and suffering for our people, we have a new opportunity, a new opportunity that the Afghan people must grasp, must take, a new opportunity that the world must use to help us.

I think Afghanistan will be peaceful, will be stable. And it will be peaceful and stable because the people want it, the Afghans want it. And it will be peaceful and stable because the international community is helping.

AMANPOUR: You made a decision, a risky decision during the U.S. bombing to come into Afghanistan, to rally support against the Taliban. Shortly, before you came, another leader tried the same thing; Abdul Haq was captured and executed on the spot. Wasn't to terrifying? Why did you decide to do it after that happened?

KARZAI: It's very unfortunate that we don't have among us a very fine man, a man that fought against the former Soviet Union. It shows the character of the Taliban, that they killed an Afghan hero for a terrorist. They protected the terrorist, a foreign terrorist, but they killed their own hero.

From that point, was when I learned that Abdul Haq was killed. My resolve got unbelievably stronger, beyond measure, to remove the Taliban by whatever means. And it was at that time that I decided that while I'm here to rally people peacefully against the Taliban, against terrorism and to basically work the people against him, if need be, we must also take arms to get rid of this menace in Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: Did you think you would survive?

KARZAI: When I was beginning my journey from the Pakistan border into Afghanistan, we were poor people on two motorbikes. We gave ourselves a 60 percent death chance and 40 percent chance to live. And the 40 percent won.

AMANPOUR: And when you came in, what did you have other than a desire to make this work? You didn't have an army. You didn't have arms. You didn't have the equipment. What did you have?

KARZAI: The population. The people. The knowledge that the people are against what's going on in Afghanistan because the Afghans want dignity and honor, because the Afghans want the terrorists to go, because the Afghans want the terrorists to finish, to be eliminated, that the Afghans do not the Taliban, do not want the oppression. I knew that. AMANPOUR: You asked the United States to help at some point. How did to work?

KARZAI: It worked well. I asked the United States after I learned that the Taliban and their Arab terrorist friends are not going to go by negotiations or by peaceful means and that they are going to be extremely brutal against those people who rise up against them to oppose them. They killed people, so I decided to ask for U.S. help and other international help and I did receive it.

AMANPOUR: And what did you get from the U.S.? And what did you ask for?

KARZAI: I asked for everything, for human charity help, for arms, for political help. I got all of it.

AMANPOUR: And what motivates a man such as yourself. You have live abroad, you have studied abroad, you have been in business. What motivates you to come back and walk around this country, to rally support, and...

KARZAI: Patriotism. I love my country. Certainly that. The quality of life for our people. I want an Afghan man and an Afghan woman and an Afghan child to live like people live in the rest of the world. I want goals for my people. I want education for my people. I want them to live with dignity. I want them to have an economic opportunity. It's a great nation. It's a great heroic nation, but has got nothing. We must give them that and I will God willing.

AMANPOUR: People have tried and failed before to do what you are saying you want done for your country. The world has promised before and broken promises to help this country. What makes you think it would be different this time?

KARZAI: The Afghans have learned a bitter lesson; so have the international community; so has the United States. I must be very blunt. If the world does not pay attention to Afghanistan, if it leaves it weak, and basically, a country in which one can interfere, all these bad people will come again. So a strong Afghanistan, a peaceful Afghanistan is the best guarantee for all.

We will help international community fight terrorism. We will first finish it in Afghanistan. We have suffered. We were the first victims of terrorism. And we will finish it here and help the rest of the world, but the world must recognize that what happened in Afghanistan, was not because of Afghans. It was because of interference from outside and negligence by the international community. I'm sure they recognize that and they will help now.

AMANPOUR: You talk about foreigners. Do you think that the people of Afghanistan accept the foreigners who are here now, the people who are actually trying to help, the Americans, the British, the rest of the multinational force when it comes...

KARZAI: There's a difference. There's a foreigner that comes to help. There's a foreigner that comes to destroy. When we were fighting the Soviets, the United States and our people received that help wholeheartedly. Now, too, I saw the Afghan people who received that help wholeheartedly. They accepted it.

When we had a bomb on us, by accident, a few days ago, a lot of Afghans died and we saw several American lives were lost. The people came to me and they told me that, "Look, have no complaints, things like that happen." These people are helping us.

AMANPOUR: On that note, thank you very much for joining us.

KARZAI: You're welcome ma'am.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: As we sat around and talked to Mr. Karzai and the tribal leaders with him, we sensed a real sense of excitement of possibility for the future that they felt that this was their moment and there are signs of that all over the place, all over Afghanistan.

When we come back, we'll have a story about a female anchorwoman, her voice silenced throughout the Taliban's regime, but who broadcast news of the fall of the Taliban to the residents of Kabul.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: During the seven years of Taliban rule, there was no television allowed in Afghanistan. The only radio was essentially Mullah Omar's personal station known as Radio Shariah (ph). There most certainly were no female anchors or broadcasters allowed on. There were no females allowed to work at all.

But with the fall of Kabul, that changed. The women were back with a vengeance. As legends had it, the first women to broadcast the fall of Kabul and when she went in to the radio station, we are told, she tossed her burkah across the room and sat behind the microphone before she picked up and told the people of Afghanistan the news that the Taliban had gone.

CNN's Patricia Sabga has her story from Kabul.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICIA SABGA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The voice that broke five years of silence for Afghan women.

Jamila Mojahid, veteran newscaster and the first person to announce the Taliban's exit from Kabul.

"The Taliban forces were half a kilometer from Kabul," she says, "even some of them were in city center when I broadcast on the radio."

(on-camera): What were the first words that you broadcast?

(voice-over): "I said, dear listeners and the people of my country, the Taliban with their whips have fled the city. I was scared, and I was thinking that if the Taliban return to Kabul, what will happen to me? And I was completely sure that if they returned, they would kill not only me, but my family."

Mother of five, Jamila lives with her husband and children in a dark, cramped two-room apartment. The Soviet-named third microregion complex was her prison for five years.

"It was five years of frustration," she says, "even the voices of my children got on my nerves."

But she spent those years making sure her daughter Mina (ph) would have an educated voice, sending her to a clandestine girls' school. Jamila shows us how her daughter had to hide her books from the eyes of the Taliban.

Today, all eyes are on Jamila. Her apartment is one of the most popular destinations for foreign journalists, who've made her Afghanistan's most celebrated working mom.

Her youngest is still getting used to the idea. But some things haven't changed.

(on-camera): Why do you wear the burkah when you go out?

(voice-over): "The situation here is that we must put it on."

All the more ironic given that Jamila is Afghanistan's most visible woman. Along with two radio shows, she also anchors the nightly TV newscast, "Faith Uncovered." Another dangerous first in the waning hours of the Taliban.

(voice-over): "I forget everything and I just sacrificed for women's liberation," she says. "I will carry on my duty, and I hope to God that nothing like the Taliban ever happens again."

Patricia Sabga, CNN, Kabul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: One final note, the new deputy head of Afghanistan's interim government is a woman.

That's our report. We'll be back the same time tomorrow. Next, for our domestic viewers, Greta Van Susteren with "THE POINT."

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