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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN

Aired January 8, 2002 - 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN with Bill Hemmer. More bombs and more damage along the border, but there's also fresh evidence from a terrorist training camp.

GENERAL RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Laptop computers, cell phones, some small arms and training documents were also found and returned to Kandahar with the two detainees.

ANNOUNCER: A bloody end to a long standoff, and what happened at a Kandahar hospital could happen again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a number of suspected al Qaeda and Taliban pockets of resistance throughout the region that we are acting upon.

ANNOUNCER: It isn't quite the kind of nightlife a soldier signs up for. Bill Hemmer takes us out after dark in Kandahar.

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All aircraft fly without lights, the runway a black strip in the sand. The surrounding mountains here deemed too dangerous to approach with illumination.

ANNOUNCER: In line, out of food, but not quite out of hope. CNN's John Vause with a staggering problem the Taliban left behind.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Awati Mohammed runs the women's program for CARE in Afghanistan. Every month she tried to feed 10,000 widows and their children, an estimated 60,000 hungry mouths.

ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN, Bill Hemmer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Hello, again. It is already Wednesday morning here in Kandahar. Once again, we come to you live here at the airport site of the U.S. buildup here in southern Afghanistan.

We start tonight with the possibility that U.S. investigators might be cracking the al Qaeda code. We are told through sources that one of the top 12 members of al Qaeda right now is cooperating with U.S. authorities. In fact, Iban al-Shayk al-Liby from Libya, accused of running the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan was transported on Tuesday in secrecy to the USS Bataan waiting in the Arabian Sea.

Again, we are told he is cooperating right now, and if so, he would be an absolute treasure trove of information for U.S. authorities trying to track down more information, not only here on al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but certainly on the terror network around the world.

Also on another front, the transition phase seems to be underway right now for the detainees, hundreds of them soon to be transported from here in Kandahar all the way to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Again, it appears that move is within hours away, and not just days anymore. As one source says, they're ready here in Kandahar. They're just waiting now for Cuba to come online.

With that as a backdrop now, let's go to eastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon confirming once again that more intelligence and more information is now being collected in the form of computer disks and cell phones. That information now will be sifted and sorted through.

In addition to that, we now know that al Qaeda fighters, about a dozen, were also come across there in eastern Afghanistan, two of whom have been detained and transported here on Tuesday to Kandahar. The running total now in the detention facility now is 301.

Also another sign of the deadly environment in Afghanistan, early Tuesday morning in central Kandahar, an al Qaeda holed up inside of a hospital for weeks, blew himself up with a grenade. He was immediately surrounded by guards when he took his own life. In addition though, that standoff does continue. Six other al Qaeda fighters holed up inside that hospital. They say they have food and they have weapons and they will not go down without a fight.

Meanwhile from Germany, another sign of the international force that continues to trickle in here to Afghanistan. German troops left home on Tuesday. They're bound for Kabul. They should arrive some time on Wednesday evening. When they arrive, though, they're to join that international security operation now underway. U.S. troops are already there and so too are the British Royal Marines, patrolling the streets there in the Afghan capitol.

Back now to the bombing now, the U.S. says it will not stop, and certainly does not appear to be the case in eastern Afghanistan. Along the border now, CNN's Kamal Hyder is with us by way of videophone, watching things develop from there. Kamal, good morning to you.

KAMAL HYDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill. The situation here remaining tense but not as tense as it was a couple of days ago. Until yesterday, B-52 bombers were flying over the skies of Miran Shah, and we could hear them doing reconnaissance and what was possibly reconnaissance as people say here.

And of course, at the same time, the Pakistan Army having deployed all along the Pakistani border with Afghanistan. It must not be forgotten the largest border that Pakistan has with any of its neighbors. Now here in the most remote regions of the tribal area that is Stila Valley (ph) the Pakistan Army is showing its presence, including artillery, news and of course recoilless rifles up in the mountains.

So the situation here still remaining tense, and of course, as al Qaeda terrorists or leftover Taliban forces remain so close to this edge of territory into Afghan territory, but so close to the Pakistani territory, that there's always an apprehension that these people might cross over and it is for that purpose that the Pakistani defense forces have alerted and sealed this border -- Bill.

HEMMER: Kamal, there is continued talk here about the detainee issue. We know at least 100 have been picked up in Pakistan and later turned over to U.S. authorities. Do you have any evidence that more detainees are now being held there on your side of the border in Pakistan?

HYDER: Well, people, the authorities here are saying that they're screening a lot of people, which means that everybody who crosses over without any documents is immediately taken into custody. It goes through several levels of screening. Anybody who does not speak the native language and who is held under suspicion is then handed over to the intelligence agencies, and then probably to the United States.

So it is an ongoing thing and it's over 100 people. We were told a few weeks ago in Parachina (ph) that there were at least 200 people. So it's an ongoing thing and tremendous vigilance on Pakistan's western border at a time when there's an unprecedented deployment of Indian forces on Pakistan's eastern border. Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Kamal. Kamal Hyder, working early this morning along with us on that Pakistan-Afghan border. Kamal, thanks to you. Back now to the two al Qaeda fighters brought here to Kandahar on Tuesday. Again, I mentioned the numbers, 301, but certainly detainees in the latest numbers picked up, topic today at the Pentagon. Let's go to Jamie McIntyre for more on that now. Jamie, hello.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Bill. Well if you count the detainees that are being held in Kabul and also on the ships and other places, the total is up over 360 now, 364 by the Pentagon's count, and the latest two additions were those two supposedly high- ranking al Qaeda officials who were captured by U.S. forces that are still scouring the area south of Tora Bora in the vicinity of the Zhawar Kili camp there.

The Pentagon says that they won't identify the two officials, but they say that they picked them out of a group of about 14 people. The other 12 apparently were let go, but these two were taken to Kandahar. They won't identify them, but with every capture, the Pentagon says, comes more intelligence.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MYERS: Laptop computers, cell phones, some small arms and training documents were also found and returned to Kandahar with the two detainees and we're exploiting those as we speak.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: Now, Bill, as you've indicated, it appears that the movement, the transfer of some of those detainees or prisoners is getting to be imminent, although the Pentagon is not saying anything more than just that they'll be moving soon to Guantanamo Bay.

Pentagon sources tell CNN that C-141s from the U.S. Air Force will be taking off from the Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, to bring the first of those several hundred detainees to Guantanamo Bay, and then the flights will continue after that -- Bill.

HEMMER: Jamie, a quick follow-up on that. I'm getting the impression here that security's really ratcheting up and really in the past 24 hours people here among the military and investigators have gone absolutely dead stone quiet here in the past 24 hours, a sign again of the sensitivity and the classified nature of such a transport.

Do you pick up the same read there at the Pentagon?

MCINTYRE: Well, we do get the feeling that all those signals indicate that the transfer is imminent, including that the Pentagon is beginning to allow some access to Guantanamo Bay for reporters to take a look at the facilities there where some of the people will be held.

The big concern is security, because of the fanatical beliefs of these prisoners, and their hatred for the United States, and the willingness that you reported today. They'd even take their own lives rather than give us. Security is extraordinary.

I'm told that the number of security people though, personnel on these flights, will vastly outnumber the number of prisoners. They're not going to be in a situation where they can allow any of these prisoners to get the upper hand on an airplane while it's in flight.

HEMMER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Jamie, thanks to you.

Also in Washington, I want to pick things up on the military matters. Major General Don Shepperd, retired from the U.S. Air Force back with us again tonight, and General always great to talk with you. I will save you and spare you the delay right now.

Think back at American history. You'd have to go back probably to the Nuremburg trials when you really considered prisoners of war to be so highly coveted at this point. Do you see it the same way in terms of historical perspective right now, General?

GENERAL DON SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, yes and no, Bill. Remember these are supposedly not prisoners of war. They are officially detainees. It is a distinct difference between the two from the standpoint of international law. The detainees are given the protection of the Geneva Convention. On the other hand, they are not provided lawyers. It's unclear, and we've asked several questions about how long they can be detained, but it's very clear that they're going to be interrogated at all levels.

They're going to be taken to Guantanamo. We're going to keep them as long as we need, and part of taking them to Guantanamo is to convince them that they're going to spend a long, long time in United States custody unless they give the information that we're after. Bill.

HEMMER: General, for weeks you've been telling me that it's just a question of time before some of these detainees turn, turn in terms of talking, and turn of giving information.

We now know through sources that at least one, Iban al-Shayk al- Liby, a top 12 member of al Qaeda, wanted by the White House, apparently is cooperating with U.S. investigators. But ultimately you do not need just one man to talk. You can probably take bits and pieces of information from several different men.

Do you see that in play here as well? Kind of like police and detective work, General?

SHEPPERD: Bill, I see it exactly and the people I've talked to see it exactly like you are watching on TV. Probably turning is not the answer. You don't expect a person to necessarily turn and spill his guts and give you everything that you are after. It's bits and pieces of everything, from everyone that you talk to.

Some of the people that you have interred are undoubtedly just young kids that have no knowledge of the plans, but from them we get such things as this is where I came from. This is how I got indoctrinated. This is how I got paid. This is who I talked to. This is how I got transportation to the theater and what happened to me when I got there.

All of that, although it doesn't lead us to bin Laden and Omar, it's very important information in painting the entire picture of how the terrorist cells work around the world. So it's all important, even though we don't necessarily get everyone spilling their guts. We'll eventually paint the picture we need to go after them worldwide. Bill.

HEMMER: General, there is a report out of Singapore, perhaps as many as 15 al Qaeda members tracked down, based on information found here, going through those tunnels and cave complexes in Afghanistan.

What is your sense right now? Is the intelligence paying off or not?

SHEPPERD: My sense is that the intelligence is paying off very well, and you're reading in the wires reports, not only Singapore, but you're reading Germany, you're reading France, you're reading the Philippines. You'll eventually be reading about other nations, and at the same time, we are getting an unprecedented cooperation from the Sudan, from Yemen, and other nations.

And again, all of it comes from the worldwide push and realization of what terrorism is going - has already meant in the United States and may mean in other nations. We're painting the picture that it's in the interest of every nation to help us go after these people, especially in their own countries, and it appears to me that it's working, Bill.

HEMMER: Don, thank you. Major General Don Shepperd again live with us in Washington. Good to talk to you as always. Back here in Kandahar now, local time just past 5:30 a.m. It's early. It's still dark, but many times this is the busiest time for this air base. A look now at Kandahar after dark.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER (voice over): Another brilliant sunset in the Afghan desert. Flags are lowered, and soon it's nightfall, where there's no other time more active for the U.S. military.

A steady fleet of cargo planes, C-17s, C-130s come steaming to a stop. This is how the military is moving into Afghanistan, transporting tons of cargo under the shroud of darkness.

All aircraft fly without lights, the runway a black strip in the sand. The surrounding mountains here deemed too dangerous to approach with illumination. The flurry of runway activity is a ballet of machinery in motion, all coordinated to unload, move and deliver supplies and personnel to an air base under construction.

Major Homer Wilkes is in charge of the controlled chaos.

MAJOR HOMER WILKES, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Well, it's definitely not a one-man show, so there are a lot of people that are working very hard behind the scenes to make that controlled chaos work.

HEMMER: To date, half a million tons of cargo have been delivered. More than 1,000 sorties have made the trip into dusty Kandahar. No plane cuts its power. No pilot stays on the ground for more than 30 minutes.

Soon, the aircraft are leaving again, another successful mission with their load left behind, just before the flags are raised once again, before the sun rises on the other side of the Afghan desert.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER (on camera): Once again, the nights here are long and they are loud and they are necessary for the U.S. military. In a moment, the price of war too close to home, we're back live in Kandahar after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: In a few hours time, in the city of Seattle, Washington, we do anticipate the body of Nathan Chapman, a 31-year-old Green Beret. A member of the A-team here in Afghanistan was shot and killed last Friday.

His remains first transported to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, now expected to arrive in Seattle, Washington again sometime early on Wednesday morning back in the U.S. The first U.S. soldier killed by enemy fire, shot last Friday in eastern Afghanistan while being on patrol there.

At first the Pentagon had called his death an ambush. Right now, they appear to be backing away from that. For now, the circumstances are being considered and they're being considered unclear. They say the Pentagon now will wait and see as they draw conclusions on that.

Also from Kabul now, a welcome sign for many, many families on Tuesday, a large shipment of food and medicine and clothing arrived there, much needed aid. We're told 700 families will benefit from that recent shipment, more expected in the weeks and months ahead.

Clearly there is an urgent need for so many people here in this country, needing more food and supplies and medicine. We're also being told though, that after years of drought and years of war, the situation right now is dire, and it's especially dire for widows and their children, said to be tens of thousands right now.

For a look at the needy from Kabul once again, here's CNN's John Vause on that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the cold and the dust, they wait patiently, thousands of widows gathered in what was a teacher's college. Like so many buildings in Kabul, it's been heavily bombed during the years of war. Just a few walls remain standing. They're here for their monthly rations, the most basic of supplies.

AWATI MOHAMMED: This is wheat here and this is vegetable oil.

VAUSE: Await Mohammed runs the women's program for CARE in Afghanistan. Every month, she tries to feed 10,000 widows and their children, an estimated 60,000 hungry mouths.

This is what they get and this is for a month, is that right?

MOHAMMED: Yes, this is for a month, and actually provides half of the food requirements for the whole month.

VAUSE: Only half?

MOHAMMED: Only half, for a family of five persons.

VAUSE: For the rest of the month, the widows and their children are on their own. A few clean homes, others sew. But in a country where women were banned from working for the last five years, jobs are scarce.

"In the Taliban period we starved," Rosia, mother of three told me. "We had no other choice. We had to stay at home." All these women are grateful for the food. They couldn't survive without it. But ask them what they really want and they'll tell you a job, a chance to earn a good living so they can support themselves and their families without help from anyone.

But when the Taliban were in power, CARE was secretly training women for work, small groups no more than 100 at any one time, hidden in homes across the country, taught mainly sewing, knitting, and bead making, their products sold in local markets.

Bebe Yan's husband was a shopkeeper killed in the crossfire of two warring factions almost ten years ago. She has four daughters and two sons and is one of the few women being trained to work.

"Without the project assistance, we would die. The rations are helping, but it's not enough" she says. "Hopefully in the future, I can work in a factory."

CARE is now extending its vocational training to help change the lives of some of the estimated 50,000 widows in Kabul alone. Right now, virtually all of them dependent on aid. John Vause, CNN, Kabul.

HEMMER: I want to move further east now, specifically to India and Pakistan, the region known as Kashmir. On Tuesday, artillery fire one again exchanged between the two countries. India accuses Pakistan of firing first. No injuries reported there in that latest dispute.

But certainly tensions have been on the rise there. Thousands of troops from both countries have been moved toward the border area since mid-December. India's Parliament was raided by terrorists then. Scores were killed. India accuses Pakistan and terrorists in Pakistan for the shooting there in its Parliament. Pakistan denies any involvement there.

Meanwhile, a group of U.S. Senators in Islamabad, there to meet and talk with a friendly neighbor now for the U.S. They met with General Pervez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, and certainly politicians in the U.S. all too well understand now this critical and growing relationship.

From Islamabad now, here's CNN's Tom Mintier.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is being billed as possibly the biggest speech of his life. Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf will deliver it to the nation of Pakistan in the next couple of days.

In that speech, he may outline a new policy for Pakistan regarding Kashmir, a policy that if it is delivered, might reduce the tensions between Pakistan and India.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MINTIER (voice over): He was visited late this afternoon by several people who are used to making speeches, nine U.S. Senators from the United States of America paid a courtesy call on the Pakistani President.

One of the Senators, Joseph Lieberman, said that the Pakistani President indicated to him just how important this speech would be.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I believe that - I hope and believe that they will be bold and principled and they will be so bold and principled and fresh that they will encourage a response from the Indian Government.

I'm most particularly hopeful that both nations, both allies of the United States, good friends and allies of the United States, will move some of their troops, the more than a million soldiers on the border between India and Pakistan, away from the border.

MINTIER: Another one of the U.S. Senators, Senator John McCain, ran for President himself, but did not win. Senator McCain says much of the discussion was about Kashmir and the upcoming speech that President Musharraf was going to give.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R) ARIZONA: We, of course, talked a great deal about the situation in Kashmir and we are aware that President Musharraf will make a major speech in the next two or three days, which he referred. And he is appreciative of how important that speech is.

We obviously encouraged him to do whatever he can to renounce terrorism, and to diffuse tensions in the region in the area of Kashmir.

MINTIER: While most are looking at the upcoming speech by the Pakistani President and the possibility that it might reduce tensions between Pakistan and India, people are preparing for the worst.

Around the nation, there have been several civil defense drills in the last week, where the fire department goes in, sets a fire, then puts it out. Make believe casualties are taken to a hospital and not really treated.

But many people here in Pakistan understand the danger. They have seen three wars between Pakistan and India, and realize just how dangerous when two armies face each other just across the border it can be.

Tom Mintier, CNN, Islamabad, Pakistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: In a moment, the curtain rises once again on stage in Kabul.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Earlier in this broadcast, we told you the number of detainees here, 301. Apparently that has changed once again. Five more detainees brought in over night in the middle of the night here in Kandahar, the number right now 306 and holding. Again, we talked about the transportation to Cuba, we do anticipate to take place sometime within hours, not a question of days, at this point.

Also from Kabul, the curtain rose again on Tuesday. In fact for the first time in six years, the National Theater was reopened. The theater itself apparently suffered a lot of heavy bombing and damage there in the early part of the '90s. Also during the Taliban rule for the past five or six years, theater in Kabul and really, for that matter, in all of Afghanistan had been banned.

Finally, a final thought tonight. This war in Afghanistan is every bit as much a war about tracking people as it is about tracking information. In the early days, the President warned all Americans that this is akin to fighting the mob.

At this point, the mob may be cracking. Maybe. We're told a top al Qaeda leader once again is cooperating with U.S. authorities on board the USS Bataan at this time. If indeed that's the case, that is not only good news from Afghanistan, but it could be great news for Americans.

That's our show tonight. Again, live in Kandahar, I'm Bill Hemmer. Thanks for you being with us tonight. "THE POINT" with Catherine Crier follows next for our viewers in the U.S. And for our viewers around the world, stay tuned for "WORLD SPORT." That's it from Afghanistan. See you again tomorrow in Kandahar.

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