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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN

Aired December 20, 2001 - 23:00   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, the bin Laden tape: What was left out of the U.S. government translation?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: "When you hear a breaking news announcement on the radio," he says he told followers, "kneel immediately and that means they have hit the World Trade Center."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Mission: Peace.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not here to take over the country. We are not here to run things, far from it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: More troops on the ground.

The hurdles ahead...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For Afghan men, carrying an AK-47 is as normal as a briefcase for a Western businessman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Plugging the border, taking steps to contain al Qaeda.

Now, live from Afghanistan, Nic Robertson.

NIC ROBERTSON, HOST: Tonight, LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN comes from Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, just north of the Tora Bora mountains, the last known hiding place of Osama bin Laden.

However, we begin this program in New York with a reminder of how we got to where we are today. At ground zero, 100 days since the September the 11th attacks, the World Trade Center, the loss of life there, 2,963. At the Pentagon, 189 people died; and in the hijacked aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania, another 44 people perished.

When the Pentagon released their tape last week of -- containing Osama bin Laden talking with friends about the September the 11th attacks, the relevatory details that he conspired to bring down the World Trade Center and attack the Pentagon seemed to be all that we could learn.

However, as David Ensor has investigated and discovered, there was some failings in the government's translation of those tapes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: The tape is by now famous for showing Osama bin Laden bragging about the attacks of September 11. What a Saudi dissident says and an independent translator hired by CNN confirms, is that the U.S. government left some significant parts of what bin Laden said out of its official translation into English.

ALI AL-AHMED, SAUDI INSTITUTE: The translators missed a lot of things on the tape. They missed the names of the hijackers, two of them mentioned by full names.

ENSOR: Bin Laden names two additional hijackers, the brothers Nawar Alhazmi and Salam Alhazmi. Later he says that four of the hijackers were from the Algombi tribe, and the name of two others, Alshehri. He names a total of nine of the hijackers, not just Mohamed Atta as in the original transcript.

Secondly on the tape, the visiting man, thought to be the crippled Saudi fighter, Kalid al-Harbi, talks of fatwas, edicts from some Saudi clerics backing the September 11 attacks. He names Sheik Abdul Rahman Al-Barak, a Saudi official, as issuing one of them. U.S. translators used the name of Al-Barani, which is not a name used by Saudis in the majority Sunni Muslim sect.

AL-AHMED: You know if you want just to use a conspiracy theory to say they didn't want to mess with the Saudi government, because al- Barak is a senior Saudi official, and he gave that fatwa.

ENSOR: One more striking example, precisely what bin Laden said to others just before hearing the first radio announcement that an attack he had planned had succeeded. "When you hear a breaking news announcement on the radio," he says he told followers, kneel immediately, and that means they have hit the World Trade Center.

AL-AHMED: Again, the second plane hit. He knelt again to the ground and paid tributes to God for this, and you don't see that here. It's very important I think.

ENSOR: The information missed in the English translation does not change the overall image the tape presents of bin Laden, admitting with pride his role in the attacks.

That message, say Saudi officials, is crystal clear to native Arabic speakers.

ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: The tape is very clear. It stands on its own. It's much more powerful in the Arabic language than it is in English because there's no translation, you get the nuance of it. You get the sheer horror of it.

ENSOR (on camera): The additional details paint, if anything a still more damaging picture of bin Laden, identifying nine of the hijackers and telling followers beforehand to get ready for the World Trade Center to be hit.

David Ensor, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: About 30 miles south of here in the Tora Bora mountains, United States special forces are still combing the caves in those mountains recently vacated by al Qaeda. We are told by military sources that they may soon be joined by as many as 500 Marines in that search. Recently, local commanders have pulled the majority of their forces off the mountains, leaving the U.S. forces there perhaps somewhat more vulnerable.

The search for al Qaeda on those mountains has also led to many al Qaeda fighters fleeing to Pakistan. We are now joined by CNN's Walter Rodgers who is in Peshawar, the border city of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Walter, on Wednesday, there was a shootout between Pakistani forces and al Qaeda forces. What was the result of that and have all the al Qaeda fighters now been captured?

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The answer was the result of the shootout was bloody and not all of the al Qaeda fighters have been captured, Nic. There is a massive manhunt going on on this side of the border. The Pakistanis are conducting a blocking motion, if you will, trying to seal off their border from any of the al Qaeda Arabs, the men who fought for Osama bin Laden, trying to flee the Tora Bora region, flee south here into Pakistan, the extreme frontier provinces in the Parachinar (ph) area. That area is under something of a lockdown. As I speak, there are two Punjab regiments from the Afghan army here, Afghan special forces helicopters patrolling the border, trying to seek out and staunch any flow, any hemorrhaging of the al Qaeda troops from coming across the border into Pakistan.

Now the Pakistanis say they have upwards of 186 or perhaps even more al Qaeda fighters in custody. There may be several hundred others that the Pakistanis are now holding. They could simply be Pakistanis. Some, however, could have been fighting with the al Qaeda. We have a very serious search effort under way here. There are military checkpoints all through the Parachinar (ph) area. The Pakistanis have women police out searching women, checking under the burkahs to make sure none of the al Qaeda fighters are trying to disguise themselves as women and flee out of this area.

One thing is certain: The al Qaeda fighters, if they do make it across -- and some obviously have -- if they are seeking refuge in the villages, in the agencies of Khouran and Khyber, they will not go undiscovered very long. These are Arabs, the al Qaeda fighters. The people here are from the various Pakistani tribes. They speak different languages. They look differently. Everyone here know -- everyone in Pakistan knows these people are trouble, so they can only stay a matter of a few hours, or a few days at best, then they would have to flee south, perhaps towards Karachi and try to escape by sea -- Nic.

ROBERTSON: Walter, in that remote border area is a tribal region. Could the al Qaeda fighters find any sympathy amongst any of the people there?

RODGERS: It's possible but it's not likely. Remember, in the shootout which you referred to two days ago Wednesday, some of the policemen, the Pakistani security officials who were killed, were from the Irexi, the Turi and the Mengol tribes in that extreme northwest corner of Pakistan. Those people who lost family members would be extremely loathe to protect the al Qaeda fighters who killed their family members.

Additionally, the Pakistani security services are nothing if not thorough. The ISI and at least five other military and domestic security services here, they have got a dragnet out in many of those villages around Parachinar. They are obviously looking for any of the Arabs from the al Qaeda fighting group. They are not going to get much sympathy. Muslims are not -- these are people who kill each other regularly anyhow because of the different wars between the Shia and Sunni sects of Islam -- Nic.

ROBERTSON: Walter, are the Pakistani authorities passing on to U.S. special forces or other U.S. servicemen the prisoners that they're capturing there?

Walter Rodgers in Peshawar, the border town with Pakistan. Thank you very much for joining us.

Earlier, the United Nations voted unanimously to pass a resolution allowing a U.N. peacekeeping force to go into Afghanistan. And overnight, 70 of those first peacekeepers arrived at Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul. They were British Marines.

Now the British contingent will make up about half of the 3,000 soldiers who will come in 16 nation, multi-national peacekeeping force that will come to Afghanistan in the coming weeks. We are joined now by John Vause in Kabul. John, what is likely to be the limitations of that force arriving in Afghanistan?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Nic, under chapter seven of the U.N. charter, that force is allowed to use force, if you like, to protect itself and also to ensure the security of the capital of Kabul. Those British Marines who arrived at Bagram Air Base a few hours ago, they will be on the streets in a couple of hours. They'll be joined by a few hundred more British Marines. They'll be in the city, Kabul, for the swearing in of the new interim government on Saturday. They say that they will keep a low profile. They say this is a low profile mission because they know that in many ways, this will be a diplomatically difficult mission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not here to take over the country. We're not here to run things, far from it. We are very, aware of that. We're here to provide assistance, and that's why of course, you see the likes of the Marines behind in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and not in a hard posture whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Now, as you said, their numbers will ultimately grow to somewhere around 3,000, even up to 5 or 6,000 possibly, over the coming months. They will take three month rotations leading those forces. But in fact, one of the most difficult and dangerous parts of their mission, will be dealing with large sections of the Afghan population, which are in fact, heavily armed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): For Afghan men. carrying an AK-47 is as normal as a briefcase for a western business man. In the streets of Jalalabad, one gun just is not enough. The greater the firepower the better.

It is in my heart and desire that I should have a big gun with me, says this man, like a cruise missile, he adds as he carries a rocket propelled grenade. Here the weapon of choice, a Russian-made Kalashnikov costs less than $200 U.S.

But on the roads in and out of Kabul, the government is trying to reduce the number of weapons, stopping and searching cars. Still, soldiers and others with proper documents are allowed to keep their guns.

Shefi Aha Marie (ph) works one of the checkpoints. He told me since Kabul fell, his team has seized thousands of guns. Only a fraction, though, of the millions of high powered firearms estimated to be scattered across Afghanistan.

Still the local commander is proud of the work here, asking me to review his men, who he says is making Kabul safe.

It is 100 percent good to have Kabul secure, he says. We're checking the cars and we will not let anything happen in Kabul. And in many ways, the capital is safer than the other major cities. Here, there are no warlords dividing up city blocks.

According to Mohammed Nasim (ph), a traffic cop, for more years than he could remember, security in the capital is good. Everything, he says, is fine.

In the past, he says, there are lot of gun accidents because people wouldn't obey the laws. Now, he says, there are no accidents, but he says he will only feel safe when all the guns are handed in.

And in many ways that's one of the biggest problems facing the new interim government, how to make the people safe enough to hand over their weapons, and then what do with thousands of young men who have learned little more than how to pull a trigger.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Now, the initial mandate for that international stabilization force is just six months, to move beyond that, that will require another resolution from the United Nations, but it looks as though those international troops will be on the ground in Afghanistan. The number of years they're talking about is at least two years -- Nic.

ROBERTSON: John, there is some resistance from some elements of the new interim government. The defense minister, General Fahim has already said he's opposed to the force. He wants the majority of them to stay out of the city and he won't withdraw his troops from the city either. Does this pose problems for the peace keepers?

VAUSE: Well, the diplomats, the western diplomats and in fact the Brits themselves say that should not be a hurdle. They should overcome that quite easily. Rather, they had the support of the Indian prime minister, they have the support of a number of key members of the new interim government.

More importantly they say, they have the support of the local Afghan people, who are very keen to see some kind of security and some kind of normalization be brought back to Afghan society. So they have the support of the those key members of the government, and in many ways they need that support if they're to have any success on the ground in Afghanistan.

So, the objections of General Fahim, who is a very proud Afghan, who doesn't want international troops on the ground, they believe they can overcome quite easily.

ROBERTSON: John, the priority of this force, more protecting politicians, more protecting the people, or more helping deliver humanitarian aid safely within the Kabul area?

VAUSE: I believe it's a list of priorities. Initially, protecting the U.N. staff and officials as well as diplomats, securing government buildings will be the first priority.

From there they get more troops on the ground. They will fan out, they will start training local Afghans on the ground here to provide their own security. And then they'll move out and protect the national roadways.

It's a slowly-does-it process that they'll be building up to that situation where they can actually begin to implement some kind of security in other cities as well, not just Kabul.

ROBERTSON: John Vause, live in Kabul. Thank you very much for joining us.

One of the other priorities for the -- all U.N. relief agencies is helping restore not only the humanitarian aid to a level sustainable for the people of Afghanistan, but helping in essence, to rebuild the country that's been shattered after 22 years of war.

Harris Whitbeck visited a fire station to find out just how much of a task it will be to rebuild Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is one of only two fire stations in all of Afghanistan. Located in downtown Kabul, it was smack in the middle of a front line during fighting between factions battling for control of the city.

Shells and shrapnel virtually destroyed its roof and walls, and almost all firefighting equipment.

"We only have one active truck" says the deputy fire chief, "and we can't always start it. The war has destroyed all our resources."

A recent fire in a series of storefronts in Kabul raged out of control for hours because there was no one to help put it out.

(on camera): The winter season increases the danger of fire because people use charcoal stoves to keep warm. This year in particular, firefighters say they're not prepared to respond to emergencies.

(voice-over): Shoddy equipment and a corps of only 30 firefighters for one of the country's essential services, one example of the many challenges the incoming government will face as it tries to rebuild the country.

But help is on the way. On this day, a delegation from Russia's Ministry of Emergencies visits at a Kabul fire station and promised to donate equipment and supplies.

"There is a good opportunity to help Afghanistan politically and economically" he says, "but they will need time and international cooperation to rebuild."

As one firefighter showed off his skills, a U.S. B-52 bomber flew overhead, a reminder of the trials this country has endured and now changes that many people hope will make things a bit better.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: After the break, we'll discuss the problems the United Nation's peacekeeping force might face in Afghanistan with Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTSON: In the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, a bomb -- a grenade blast ripped through a busy market late Thursday afternoon. Local officials say 100 people were injured, six of them seriously. Local health officials call it a terrorist attack. No one so far has claimed responsibility for the fragmentation grenade, thrown apparently into the moneychangers market in Mazar-e Sharif.

When the United Nations passed the resolution allowing a peacekeeping force to go to Afghanistan, it set in train a motion -- it set in motion a train of events that will lead in the near future to 3,000 troops being placed inside Afghanistan. Those troops will be drawn from 16 different nations. Half the force, however, will come from the British Army.

We spoke a little earlier with Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock. We asked him about the fact that the defense chief in Kabul, General Fahim, is already opposed to the peacekeeping force. We asked him if that would present any problems.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEREMY GREENSTOCK, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: The Brits have been doing peacekeeping, quite tough peacekeeping, for some time.

I think our first job, I agree, is diplomatic and the commander of the force, General McCall, has already been out last weekend to Kabul to talk with the present defense minister and with his military leaders how this is going to go. And he will have the experience to work out exactly what the division of tasks will be.

Of course, it's not going to be easy. This is meant to be with the Afghans, not against the Afghans, but I think we'll work it out.

ROBERTSON: What exactly will be the role of the peacekeeping force?

GREENSTOCK: First of all, we're there to assist the Afghans in maintaining security in Kabul and the surrounding area, and that will be both local security, particular points agreed with the Afghans, and the general security of the area.

Secondly, there will be liaison with the interim authority as they go about their business in Kabul and outside, on how they should start constructing their security arrangements.

And thirdly, we are prepared as part of the tasking of the force to look at the longer term with the Afghans, to look at how they are going to train up new security forces to do the whole job throughout Afghanistan and if they want a training team, if they want help with logistics and equipment, then I'm sure we'll be able to provide that.

So it's short-term out to long-term over the months ahead and I think that's going to be quite a task but with the Afghans to work cooperatively on their behalf.

ROBERTSON: Will the force be extending its role beyond Kabul to other cities in the country?

GREENSTOCK: No, it's important to realize this. The resolution gives authority for this force to do this task in Kabul and the immediate surrounding areas. The security in outer Afghanistan is, of course, a concern to the whole international community but no arrangements for that have been settled by the bomb agreement, and if the Afghans want help on that, they will need a further agreement and further U.N. authority for international forces to do that.

This is focused on Kabul to enable the interim authority to do their stuff in the early months.

ROBERTSON: So will we expect to see the force in Kabul disarming people on the street? How will they tackle those type of security issues?

GREENSTOCK: Well that will be for working out with the Afghan authorities. Clearly, General Fahim wants not too much visibility in the early stages. We'll see how that goes.

The first obligation is on the Afghan interim authority to do its own work. We're there to help them, but they must do it within a competent arrangement, within standards that the international community expect.

So there will be liaison with them on how that gets done, and the visibility of the international security assistance force will be worked out as we go along, but the Brits have immense experience on how to work that out and I think we'll be OK.

ROBERTSON: One of the likely things that General McCall will be telling his troops will be about deference to local sensitivities. What are those sensitivities?

GREENSTOCK: Well first of all, they're Islamic. One has to recognize the culture of the Afghan people. Secondly, the political structure is young. It's fragile, and different ministers will be working out different relationships in what is basically a coalition government, and that's why I put the diplomatic task first.

Diplomatic, political and then security and military all go together and I think that it's going to be really quite a sensitive issue for the first few months until we've settled down, but we're trained up for that.

We expect that and the Afghan know themselves that the world is watching them and they've got to produce the right answers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: The U.N.'s military role here clearly a softly, softly, approach.

When we come back after the break -- we'll be back after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTSON: On Saturday, Afghanistan's interim government will be inaugurated in Kabul. Pakistan will be sending its foreign minister. They've also announced they will be opening their embassy once again in Kabul. They were the first to recognize the Taliban and are now joining a long list of international diplomats to return to Kabul.

Thank you for watching. I'm Nic Robertson. LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN will be back at the same time tomorrow.

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