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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Short-Wave Radio Transmission in Tora Bora Proves to be bin Laden's Voice; Inside a Terrorist Camp; Does Satellite Delay Get on Your Nerves?

Aired December 15, 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. Tonight, cornering al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIC ROBERTSON, HOST: Intercepted al Qaeda walkie-talkie transmissions indicated through from the immense pressure, preoccupied with their own survival.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. says one of those voices could be Osama bin Laden's.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

` ANNOUNCER: Inside a bin Laden training camp.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is assault course with monkey frame and hurdles, a mock tunnel and high bars all covered in war paint, a barbed wire entanglement to crawl under.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: And the longest three seconds between Earth and Earth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the satellite delay get on your nerves?

AMANPOUR: Yes, it does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Now live from Afghanistan, Nic Robertson.

ROBERTSON: Tonight, LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN comes from near Tora Bora, in the eastern mountains of Afghanistan. The headlines tonight, the British weekly newspaper, "The Observer," finds documents in southern Afghanistan it says indicate al Qaeda was preparing an attack on central London in the financial district, around an area called Morgate.

And here, in the mountains behind me, there's been intense bombing stepped up as waves of carpet-bombing have swept through the mountain ridges, where al Qaeda fighters are hiding. And also, U.S. officials tell CNN they believe that radio intercepts, short-range battlefield radio intercepts picked up in these mountains, contain the voice of Osama bin Laden. They believe they're the al Qaeda leader.

On the ground, mujahideen forces are making some gains. However, Saturday's bombing was somewhat lighter than in recent days. And there were no apparent surrenders by al Qaeda forces.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): A single bomb breaks the mountain's silence. Above the impact, smoke and dust climb skyward. On the ground below, no one observing from this distance can know what's happening.

In the air, more bombers circle, awaiting targets. Higher still, according to the Pentagon, U-2 spy planes scour the rugged mountain terrain for clues. Was the target hit? And are they one step closer to capturing Osama bin Laden?

During the day, lulls in bombing often lapsed into lengthy gaps between detonations. Despite the relative quiet, local commanders barred the international media from the front lines. Once beyond the tightly controlled checkpoint, however, mujahideen fighters could be found gathering firewood from crater-ridden bomb sites, a far cry from the columns that al Qaeda fighters, local commanders have said could emerge from the mountains before sunset.

The mujahideen fighters feel safe here, the frontline area until recently, an indication al Qaeda forces are being pushed back.

(on camera): Without accurate information from the bomb blasts at mountain tops and cave systems, it is impossible to tell how the al Qaeda fighters are faring. What is clear, is the territory they can call their own is gradually being eroded.

(voice-over): Intercepted al Qaeda walkie-talkie transmissions indicate a group under immense pressure, preoccupied with their own survival. Hints, too of casualties and shortages of ammunition.

And then the lull ends. And so the cycle continues, squeezing ever harder, the unseen fighters below.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: It is a cycle that this Sunday morning in Afghanistan appears to be intensified once again. Further south from here, 1,300 Marines at Camp Rhino, 60 miles southwest of Kandahar, are preparing to move and take -- move to Kandahar City Airport and take it over.

As Mike Chinoy reports, one of their primary tasks there will be to build a prison facility for as many as 300 al Qaeda fighters who may surrender here. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Marines consolidate their hold over Kandahar Airport, they may soon have a new role, prison guards. A detention center is being built at the airport. Its purpose, to hold up to 300 al Qaeda fighters if they should surrender or be captured at Tora Bora.

It's here that U.S. interrogators hope to question any detainees, seeking to learn more about the inner workings of Osama bin Laden's terror network. So far, the Marines' most prominent prisoner has been John Walker, the American fighting for the Taliban. Until Friday, he was held here at Camp Rhino south of Kandahar, possibly in this container.

Those who saw him regularly said he was confined to a stretcher, recovering from a gunshot wound and responded to questions with one- syllable answers. Now he's been airlifted to the U.S.S. Peleliu in the Arabian Gulf. So far, we're told, he hasn't shaved the beard he grew to demonstrate his Islamic faith and his support for the Taliban.

Meanwhile, operations at this remote base, where the Marines first deployed in Afghanistan, are starting to wind down.

(on camera): Having served its purpose, Marine officers say it's simply too much of a logistical nightmare to continue to maintain Camp Rhino.

(voice-over); The camp sits in the middle of the desert. The Marines have been forced to fly in 3,000 gallons of water a day. Not to drink, but just to keep the dust down so that the air strip remains operational. Even so, helicopters, transport planes and other sensitive equipment have been stretched to the limit, as have the troops working in this forbidding terrain.

The plan is to move the whole operation to Kandahar Airport. Conditions there now remain grim, and there's concern about possible attacks from Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, who've melted into the surrounding local population.

But every night, the Marines are flying in reinforcements. And once the facility in Kandahar is secure, repaired and fully operational, officers say the Marines will hand over to the U.S. Army and then leave Afghanistan, their mission accomplished.

Mike Chinoy with the U.S. Marines in southern Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: We are joined now by retired U.S. Air Force Major General Don Shepperd.

General, the big news today, Osama bin Laden apparently heard on radio intercepts in the mountains here. How certain can the U.S. forces be that it was his voice they heard? MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: Well, Nic, they'll get the best intelligence that they can from people that actually know him. They have patterns of speech. They have people that've listened to his voice. And they'll be seeking the advice of all those people who say is this him or not.

Now he's in a world of hurt. The reason is, he wants to stay what we call "cold mike" or "cold microphone," not talk to anybody, not make a sound, not be seen. But the more desperate his situation gets with his al Qaeda fighters, the more they will be calling for resupply, evacuation reinforcement and medical care.

So again, the noose really is tightening. And the more he and people around him are going to have to talk, then the more they become targets, Nic.

ROBERTSON: So now it appears clear that he is here in those mountains, is it certain that he can now be caught?

SHEPPERD: Nic, it's not certain he can be caught. He can still escape. He can still escape the surrounding countries, particularly to Pakistan, across that long and very porous border. He has a lot of money to buy his way out, to get people to help him.

But if he leaves and leaves his al Qaeda forces that've surrounded him with security over the years, and leave them on the battlefield to die, he will certainly be held in a great deal of disrespect by anyone who happened to respect him before, if he flees to save his own neck. But it certainly is possible that he can escape.

We hope not. We think the noose is tightening. We think we'll get him. If we don't get him in Tora Bora, we'll get him elsewhere. We're pursue him to the end of the earth. And he and those around him need to know that, Nic.

ROBERTSON: General, you spent many years in the Air Force. We have been seeing a pattern of bombing here, last night, that we haven't seen before. Carpet bombing on the peaks of the mountains. What should that tell us about what's happening in the campaign right now?

SHEPPERD: Well, Nic, a lot has been said about carpet-bombing. And very seldom do we do carpet bombing anywhere. It could be that we've identified a fairly large area, where people could be anywhere in that area, and use carpet bombing with dumb bombs. But it's more likely that we have special forces telling us the exact coordinates of where they think people are, cave openings and that type of thing. And we're releasing large numbers of joint direct air attack munitions or satellite-guided bombs on specific targets.

They're very accurate. They are 2,000 pound bombs. And you can release a lot on a single pass, if you desire it. I think that's more likely what's going on. And they're being -- it's being done by special forces, also by U-2's. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) joint is up there listening. The J-Stars is up there watching. We're watching from space. Again, smaller and smaller area in which to hide. More and more definite targets, more and more air power. The situation for al Qaeda and bin Laden is getting desperate.

ROBERTSON: Indeed, we've seen many hundreds of bombs poured on their areas of resistance in the last few days, but they're still holding out. They still haven't surrendered. How can that be, under such intense air pressure?

SHEPPERD: Well Nic, the reality is, that as long as you're in a cave and not hit by the bomb, you can go back and forth into that cave, and then come out from time to time and go back in, especially if you've got food and water and ammunition in there.

Remember, every round that they fire has to be replaced. They don't have any way to be resupplied, the way that they are surrounded. They don't have any way to get more food than what they have around them.

So they can go back and forth in the caves, but they can't fight effectively. And they're slowly being destroyed as an effective fighting force. It is simply a matter of time, although they can exist right to the end. And no matter how much bombing you do, there will be some people alive at the end, even if you wanted to kill every person in there, Nic.

ROBERTSON: And of course, one of the important components is the ground offensive. You talked about special forces being there, also local commanders are put in there, mujahideen forces. But are they well enough equipped, do you believe, to tackle this task of tackling al Qaeda on the ground?

SHEPPERD: Nic, they are well enough equipped, but it's a difficult situation in which you have got two valleys on the side of a large mountain complex: the Agam Valley in the east and the Wazir Valley in the west.

You've got about 5,000 Eastern Alliance fighters, coming down both sides of the mountains in those valleys, but the al Qaeda still owns the high ground. And it's difficult. You can't get tanks up into there. It's also difficult to get them in and out of these caves.

You know, you've got the Pakistan border and Pakistan forces blocking them to the south. But it's still a very, very tough fight. And these people know that they don't have any place to go. They know they're trapped. They may fight to the death. And it makes them a very tough target.

What you don't want to do, if you're the Eastern Alliance commander, is basically throw your forces senselessly in there and just get them killed. Use air power, take your time. The outcome's not in doubt. And eventually, either have them surrender or kill them one by one, if that's necessary, Nic. ROBERTSON: You know the size of the train left to go here. How much more time until they are defeated?

SHEPPERD: Nic, that's very hard to predict. It's hard to predict how much more time there will be. Remember, just a couple three years ago, we still found a Japanese that was hiding, I believe, on Iwo Jima, after all these years since World War II. So it doesn't mean we can find everyone in these hundreds of caves.

I'd hate to predict it, but I've been predicting all along that we will find bin Laden by Christmas. My time is running out, but I still believe that the al Qaeda will come to end probably -- their resistance will come to end within about a week in a meaningful way. And also, I still predict that we're going to get bin Laden by Christmas, but it's all a guess. It's hard to say, Nic.

ROBERTSON: Major General Don Shepperd, thank you very much.

One of the key components in the support for international campaign against terrorism and the support for the United States following the September 11 attacks, has been from the European countries. And at a year-end summit in Belgium on Saturday, European leaders met. One of the key topics they were discussing was the situation in Afghanistan.

CNN's diplomatic affairs correspondent Robin Oakley has been following events there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The EU Leaders Summit in Brussels has managed to get itself in a fair old muddle about its efforts to counter terrorism and to help with the stabilization force in Afghanistan.

It was known before the summit started that several nations, Britain, France, Italy, Germany among them, were going to send forces to contribute to the stabilization force in Afghanistan. But in Brussels, Louis Michel, the summit host as foreign minister, got carried away with the occasion and said that there was going to be an EU enterprise involving all 15 nations sending forces to contribute to that stabilization force in Afghanistan.

That then turned out not to be quite true, that there were going to be national contributions as before, and there was going to be no EU enterprise. By the end of the day, the EU's representative for foreign affairs, Javier Solana, was confirming it was going to be a UN operation.

JAVIER SOLANA, EU INT'L POLICY CHIEF: It will be a classical contribution of a UN operation of peacekeeping. The countries that want to participate will participate, according with their capabilities. But it would not be only European countries. It would be other countries for sure that will participate, countries with experience in peacekeeping operations. OAKLEY: Mr. Solana's corrective was accepted by the EU leaders today. And they confirmed that there will not be anything resembling an EU force being sent under UN auspices in Afghanistan. It will definitely be a UN operation.

But today, EU leaders had a draft document before them, in which they were going to be lecturing the United States and saying that it should not extend the war against terrorism geographically beyond Afghanistan, without getting the permission of the international community. After intervention from Tony Blair, the British prime minister, Gerhard Schroeder, the German Chancellor, and Jacques Chirac, the French president, the EU leaders decided not include those words in their final document after all.

Robin Oakley, CNN, Brussels.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: We go now to Afghanistan's capital, Kabul where Jim Clancy has been covering the overthrow of the Taliban and the political jockeying for power ever since.

Jim, the United Nations will sent an international peacekeeping force to Kabul. How are politicians there accepting that idea?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With everything but one voice, Nic. It is very important to understand here that everyone has an opinion. Hamid Karzai and others trying bring them together. All of these opinions we have heard over recent days. The defense minister, the foreign minister and others, envisioning a peacekeeping force of around 1,000 people. And they say it's not a peacekeeping force, it's a security force, something that's also being stressed by the United Nations officials Lakhdar Brahimi and others.

But far from agreement on that, there is not agreement on the numbers, nor is there agreement on what will be their mandate. Some are suggesting they should come under article 6, which would not give them the authority to use force to fire, if you will, if necessary. Some people in the United Nations are saying that is a non-starter. There won't be any peacekeeping force at all if that is the situation.

So there's not one voice yet. They're trying to reach a consensus here. In the end, it will likely be that U.S.-European aid will hinge on a peacekeeping force. And that's what will drive it through -- Nic.

ROBERTSON: Jim, the interim government of Afghanistan actually starts in a little over a week from now. There are a lot of other political divisions we hear about outside of the peacekeeping force. What are you hearing from there? What are the politicians jockeying for at this time?

CLANCY: They're jockeying for ministries. There are 30 of them. There are some that are saying the Shi'a Muslims are not represented enough. Others saying that their own ethnic group not represented well enough. There is definitely a competition here. And you have people like General Dostum in the north in Mazar-e- Sharif, saying that he didn't want to recognize the new government. It was so unfair. Hamid Karzai is trying to bring all of this together. We sat down and we talked to Mr. Karzai. We mentioned the fact that these warlords were going to pose problems. He said no, they aren't. We're not going to allow Afghanistan to become another Somalia where it was abandoned by the international community, simply because the warlords wouldn't permit the United Nations, Europe, the U.S. to operate freely.

Hamid Karzai says construction, reconstruction, rebuilding of this nation is desperately needed. That is the mission of his government, to try to begin that process, to find some security here in the capital and far beyond around Afghanistan, and also to deliver to the people what they want. And that is a new direction in this country, one that will take them to democracy and end the kind of bitter in-fighting that destroyed the capital here beginning in 1992 -- Nic.

ROBERTSON: Jim, Kabul is really likely to be the test bed for many international ideas on how to help in Afghanistan, obviously the UN peacekeeping force one of those. How are the peacekeeping force likely to be received on the streets by the people?

CLANCY: It's an interesting point you bring up there, Nic. Of course, the United Nations and the leaders here all calling it a security force, not a peacekeeping force. These aren't going to be blue berets. It's going to be more along the lines of S-4, the stabilization force in Bosnia.

Certainly, the people of Afghanistan, the people here in the capital want to see that. They want to see the deployment of peacekeepers, because they don't trust their own politicians to resist the temptation to use force in order to get the political power, the economic clout that they see coming.

And the people of Afghanistan, we have watched in the currency markets for instance, Nic, a week ago, the afghani trading at around 36,500 to the dollar. Yesterday on street, 22,000 to the dollar. That's almost a 33 percent rise in one week. People of Afghanistan clearly expecting deep international involvement in their country to bring peace and security.

ROBERTSON: Jim Clancy in Kabul. Thank you very much.

Osama bin Laden, the videotape we've all seen in the last few days, appears to imply that he was complicit in the September 11 attacks. When we come back, some perspectives from the Middle East.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTSON: For those in any doubt that Osama bin Laden might have been involved in the September 11 attacks, the release by the Pentagon earlier this week of a videotape showing Osama bin Laden, talking to a man identified as "the shaykh" in a room of Osama bin Laden's supporters, appeared to confirm what we had been told. It was evidence we hadn't seen before.

Osama bin Laden talks about the -- talks about his involvement in the planning, about how he used his engineering skills to make an assessment of how the World Trade Center might collapse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OSAMA BIN LADEN (translated on screen): (...inaudible...) we calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy, who would be killed based on the position of the tower. We calculated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four floors. I was the most optimistic of them all (...inaudible...) due to my experience in the field, I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane and all the floors above it only. This is all we had hoped for.

SHAYKH: Allah be praised.

BIN LADEN: We were at (...inaudible...) when the event took place. We had notification since the previous Thursday that the event would take place that day. We had finished our work that day and had the radio on. It was 5:30 p.m. our time. I was sitting with Dr. Ahmad Abu-al-((Khair)). Immediately, we heard the news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We turned the radio station to the news from Washington. The news continued and no mention of the attack until the end. At the end of the newscast, they reported that a plane just hit the World Trade Center.

SHAYKH: Allah be praised.

BIN LADEN: After a little while, they announced that another plane had hit the World Trade Center. The brothers who heard the news were overjoyed by it.

SHAYKH: I listened to the news and I was sitting. We didn't...we were not thinking about anything, and all of a sudden, Allah willing, we were talking about how come we didn't have anything, and all of a sudden the news came and everyone was overjoyed and everyone until the next day, in the morning, was talking about what was happening and we stayed until four o'clock, listening to the news every time a little bit different, everyone was very joyous and saying "Allah is great," "Allah is great," "We are thankful to Allah," "Praise Allah." And I was happy for the happiness of my brothers. That day the congratulations were coming on the phone non-stop. The mother was receiving phone calls continuously. Thank Allah. Allah is great, praise be to Allah.

(Quoting the verse from the Quran).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: We are joined now to talk about the videotape by Raghida Dergham, the senior diplomatic editor at the London-based "Al Hayat" newspaper, the leading independent Arabic daily paper.

Raghida, what is the reaction that you're hearing from your readers about this videotape?

RAGHIDA DERGHAM, "AL HAYAT": Nic, I'm the senior diplomatic correspondent. I'm not the editor. So I just wanted to correct this, if you don't mind.

Basically, the papers and the media and the Arab world has taken this -- played it straight. Most of them had run the headlines basically saying this was a confession. The skeptics remain skeptical because of the authenticity from their point of view. They question the authenticity of the tape and not whether it is a confession.

But all in all, the media was quite busy in the Arab region with another huge event, which is the Israeli bombardment of the Palestinian territory. Notably, there was not much editorials on the tape itself. Those who had believed it's authentic and confession period were enhanced in their views. They were feeling that look, there is the evidence.

And I would argue that many of the skeptics became more convinced, actually, that enough skepticism. This is a fact and admit to it. It is Osama bin Laden behind the -- of the September attacks.

ROBERTSON: Are there people who still refuse to believe its authenticity, however?

DERGHAM: Certainly. Just like anywhere else, Nic, you understand that this is a big society with diversified public opinion. You would have the hard-core supporters. And those -- the hard-core skeptics, if you will that would say, look, why now and why so late and what circumstances brought about this tape, and how come it was taped to begin with?

So they exist. But that's normal. That doesn't reflect the public opinion in the Arab world altogether. This is where it stands. In fact, there is rather a concern why the American media has somehow wanted to whip the Arab public opinion and the Arab media and standing in the same line, and you know applaud all of you. Here's the pew.

And instead, they should've been a recognition that there is a different point of view out there. And the majority, in my view, is not supportive of the bin Laden group or the Taliban group or al Qaeda altogether. So it is not that here's the Arab world up in arms in support of Osama bin Laden.

ROBERTSON: How has the U.S.-led campaign to hunt down Osama bin Laden been perceived?

DERGHAM: That is where, right now of course, everyone is paying attention to that. This is -- there has been a defeat of the Taliban. Of course, that is the total -- that whole infrastructure of the Taliban has been disintegrated. That is really a defeat of their militant radicals amongst Muslims.

What the Arab world takes a look at, at the same time, they say what about the radical militants elsewhere? They point out to the settlers, the Israeli settlers and the Palestinian territory. They point out to militant radicals in the Israeli government itself, when it goes ahead and, you know, collective punishment, demolishing homes, all these sort of things.

And so, they question why is it that there isn't the same movement and treatment of radicals, militants, wherever they are.

So there is an understanding that -- by the way, Nic, you would remember that the radical militants amongst Muslims have been cracked down and crushed by Arab governments in the '90s. So there is no love lost there for them.

But I think the public altogether says, "Fine, this is fine." However, where else? Why others are absolved? Why there is a blind eye turned to other militant radicals, not only the Muslims, but be it the Jewish and militant radicals, even those in the States who were trying to bomb the mosques, for example. So there is a problem with that.

ROBERTSON: Raghida Dergham, thank you very much for joining us.

Up next, the latest news from the Middle East and other headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTSON: In the last week in Afghanistan, a lot has happened. The Taliban have fallen from power. Their last bastion of control, Kandahar City, was surrendered to tribal forces.

On the road to Kandahar, there were bodies littering the side of the road, particularly by the airport, bodies of Arab fighters we were told. CNN was the first team to get into Kandahar City. We found a city full of tension, with tribal commanders vying for power.

A week later, there is a new governor in Kandahar. Security is beginning to be restored. It was a week also when the unthinkable happened. For the first time, the doors of the Taliban leader Mullah Omar's sumptuous compound were opened. There was extensive bomb damage, but chandeliers were hanging from the ceilings. Anti-Taliban fighters vied for positions on Mullah Omar's double bed. And in the stables, there was air conditioning for the animals, all things unimaginable for the average Afghan, many who had believed the Taliban leader had lived a simple, rural life.

And also the undiscovered, discovered. CNN's Christiane Amanpour was in Kandahar City Airport. And there, she found an al Qaeda training camp that had been seen many, many, many times on the al Qaeda training videos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The aging Soviet artillery pieces defending Osama bin Laden's Leva training camp near Kandahar Airport were no match for massive U.S. airstrikes. No sign of bin Laden's militants dead or alive here, but behind this broken mud wall, plenty of evidence of their military training. This assault course with monkey frame and hurdles, a mock tunnel, and high bars all covered in war paint, a barbed wire entanglement to crawl under.

(on camera): What we realized after looking around was that this appears to be the place where all those bin Laden training videos were shot. Those videos that have now been broadcast so many times on worldwide television.

(voice-over): In the rubble of this sprawling camp, more evidence of the relatively unsophisticated training routines for the people accused of the worst terrorist act in history.

And this handwritten notebook in Arabic contains instructions, similar to the countless manuals found in al Qaeda houses in Kabul and other Afghan towns. Intentions listed in English, how to make arsine and mustard gas. On this page, it says home brew gas nerve or nerve gas. On another, a picture of an octagonal building. Over the page, instructions on how to manually measure the distance to a tank.

U.S. and British special forces have already combed this place for clues. The Afghan fighters who've taken over Kandahar are busy looting what's left. The commander says this is where Osama bin Laden himself lived, nearby an underground bunker is full of clothes and evidence of a hasty departure.

All that remains alive here is one of bin Laden's horses. Perhaps he too was once a prop in the most famous terrorist training video ever shown.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Kandahar.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: When we come back, Afghan refugees begin to return to Afghanistan. We have one man's story of his joyous journey home.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTSON: The United Nations High Commission for the Refugees is reporting that some Afghan refugees are beginning to return home. This week, 7,600 crossed back into the country from Iran, the largest return so far this year in one week. And also just -- also close to here, the northern border crossing from Pakistan, about 3,600 Afghans returned. And south of here at Chaman, the border crossing from Pakistan close to Kandahar, another 7,000 Afghans returned to home to Afghanistan.

The United Nations says it's too early to know if this is the beginning of a full return of the millions of Afghan refugees who are scattered outside the country.

However as Jim Clancy reports, some people were so desperate to get back, they'd try anything. This man stowed away on a plane.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a windswept runway in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, journalists waited with stacks of equipment for a scarce charter flight into Afghanistan. Without a ticket of his own, Abdul Samander could only circle the plane and hope. A number of other Afghans had managed to get their names on the passenger list with the help of diplomats or local officials. They were going home. Perhaps to a country of their own they had never seen, but it didn't look likely for Abdul Samander.

ABDUL SAMANDER: I hope to fly to Afghanistan, but a plane, have a bad chance.

CLANCY: More than 20 years ago, fearing for his life, Abdul Samander fled Kabul, hiding first in the mountains and then fleeing to Germany where he has lived ever since. Last week, when German newspapers were filled with reports about the Bonn conference that launched a new government and held out hope of rebuilding Afghanistan's scarred landscape, 64-year-old Abdul Samander knew he had to be a part of it.

Not on the passenger list, he used his passport as collateral to slip by security. "Why do I need the passport," he asked? "I'm going home."

When security officers came looking on board the plane, Abdul hid in the cockpit. And when the doors finally closed and locked, Abdul Samander was officially a stowaway, but he was also officially on his way home.

Interviewed on the two-hour flight, Samander told every journalist who would listen of the emotions that were calling him home.

SAMANDER: Every journalist know here, when I put my foot on this plane, I thought I am a new refugee to Afghanistan. I hope that we have the chance to have peace in Afghanistan.

CLANCY: Other Afghans had similar hopes for peace. And the journalists had their own hopes of reaching the story, after days of waiting in neighboring Tajikistan, but no one more than Abdul Samander. No sooner had the plane touched down, than the exile, Abdul Samander, became a one-man welcoming committee.

SAMANDER: Welcome to my home country, Afghanistan! Welcome! Welcome in the peace! Welcome in Afghanistan!

CLANCY: A few more moments, as the doors were opened, passengers exited. And suddenly there was nothing between Abdul Samander, the Afghan exile and the treasured soil of his homeland.

Nothing either left to say.

SAMANDER: Allah!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: When we come back, the trials and tribulations of reporting from the battlefield and beating the satellite delays.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTSON: To get our TV signal from here at the front lines back to our studios, the signal goes out via a satellite, sometimes more than one satellite. And each hop into the sky adds an extra audio delay.

And as Jeanne Moss found out, sometimes the delays steals the show over the news.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOSS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nod your head if you've noticed. Coverage of the war in Afghanistan has given birth to pauses that are beyond pregnant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Dan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Rick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN)

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Nic, what's the word?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOSS: The word is delay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN)

ROBERTSON: Well, Leon, that...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Satellite delay. Or as this viewer calls it...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delayed head bobbing.

MOSS: Silence isn't just golden, it's funny.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FARCE")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we will expect a swift fall of the al Qaeda network?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (as Christiane Amanpour): Pardon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we expect a swift fall of the al Qaeda network?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (as Christiane Amanpour): Could you repeat the question?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "AMERICA STRIKES BACK")

AMANPOUR: Pardon? Can you repeat your question?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOSS: The real Christiane Amanpour doesn't bob her head while reporting from Kandahar.

MOOS (on camera): Does the satellite delay get on your nerves?

AMANPOUR: Yes, it does.

MOSS: But there's not much engineers can do about it, since Afghanistan is on the other side of the earth from the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're generally using two satellites. So it's a double satellite hop back to the United States.

MOSS: Two TV satellites and one for the phone, CNN bounces signals up and down and up and down and up and down like ping-pong gone amok.

(on camera): What do you estimate the number of seconds is until you hear my voice?

(voice-over): It may feel like 60 minutes, but the delay is only three or four seconds. Comedians can't keep quiet about the silence.

DAVE BARRY, HUMORIST: I'm thinking they're faking it. I think they can hear it right away, but they just pretend they don't so they can think of a good answer.

MO ROCCA, COMEDY CENTRAL: Well, my colleagues and I have made it into a party game. We write down what we think the correspondent's going to answer.

MOSS: But what's a correspondent supposed to do while waiting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just keep a straight face.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You do like a world weary, I've seen and heard it all, like that, without -- not acknowledging and agreeing with what's said, but what a world we are in.

MOSS (on camera): Are you sort of fixing your face, arranging it in a certain way, so you don't look kind of dumb waiting for the question?

AMANPOUR: No, I'm not. I mean, if I'm looking down, I just can't help it.

MOSS: But wait, Geraldo's delay on Fox seems shorter. With a two-second delay, a correspondent barely has time to sip his coffee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR")

BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": All right, so you got shot at, Geraldo. What happened there?

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX CORRESPONDENT: We were doing a standard close, Bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOSS: Apparently, Geraldo's using only a one-satellite hop. Among the casualties in Afghanistan, dead air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FARCE")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's bad in Jalalabad. Get it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (as Christiane Amanpour): (LAUGHTER). Bad in Jalalabad? I don't get it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOSS: Jeanne Moss, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: Thank you for watching LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN. We'll be back at the same time tomorrow. We leave you with one brief headline. Voice signature analysis, U.S. officials tell us, has now proven the radio intercepts here in the mountains in Tora Bora are the voice of Osama bin Laden.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


 
 
 
 


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