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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN

Aired January 9, 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.
ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN with Bill Hemmer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJOR CHRIS HUGHES, U.S. MARINE CORPS: At approximately 10:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time today, a U.S. Marine KC-130 crashed into a mountain near Shamsi, Pakistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: More U.S. casualties and more unanswered questions.

Somewhere in Kandahar, top officials of the Taliban gave up and got away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OMAR SAMAD, AFGHAN FOREIGN MINISTRY: We need to make sure that the people who surrendered are high enough or were high enough in the Taliban hierarchy to be considered as war criminals or associate, terrorist associates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: It's remote, it's isolated, and it's probably the last place some residents of Afghanistan ever thought they would be seeing. CNN's Bob Franken: getting ready in Guantanamo Bay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RENAE CHAPMAN, SGT. NATHAN CHAPMAN'S WIDOW: He said to me, right before he left that he volunteered for this. And he could call it off if I said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: What was, what might have been. Memories of a husband and hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want them to remember him as a quiet professional, who just wanted to change the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Live from Afghanistan, Bill Hemmer.

BILL HEMMER, HOST: Hello again from Kandahar. We're here at the U.S. military base in southern Afghanistan, the Kandahar International Airport once again. Seven U.S. Marines are missing tonight, unaccounted for after their KC-130 slammed into a rugged section of southwestern Pakistan. Eyewitnesses around the area indicate that flames were coming out of that airplane when it went down again late last night here in Kandahar.

I want to get to the Pentagon right now. We'll talk with CNN's Jamie McIntyre to find out what the Pentagon is saying about this now.

Jamie, hello.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Bill. Well, that KC-130 is essentially a flying gas station. And officials say it was laden with fuel when it slammed into the side of the mountain in western Pakistan not far from the border with Afghanistan. There were reports of a tremendous fireball when the plane hit the mountain, and there were some eyewitness reports indicating that the plane could have been on fire before it hit. But officials hear say they have no idea how reliable those reports are.

The tanker, with seven Marines on board had taken off earlier in the day from Jacobabad, a bit south of that location, was supposed to make several stops before landing at Shamsi, a forward base up near the Afghan border, just west of the Pakistani city of Quetta. There were apparently no survivors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the soldiers, but I want to remind them that the cause that we are now engaged in is just and noble. The cause is freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: The KC-130 is a workhorse of the Marine fleet, with the ability to refuel both planes and helicopters in flight. It is essentially a modified version of the standard C-130 cargo planes.

Now, search teams that have searched the site report back at this point that there seems to be very little left of the plane. Again, no evidence of any survivors and no real hope that there will be any. Right now there, is no indication that there was any hostile fire involved in this incident, but until a full investigation is complete, no one here at the Pentagon is willing to rule that out -- Bill.

HEMMER: Jamie, we noticed no let up in the flight operations throughout the night here in Kandahar. Any indication from the Pentagon as to whether or not things did change last night when that plane went down? MCINTYRE: Well, there's been no change in operations. There's been no, for instance, safety stand down, which would be -- which would be ordered if there was some reason to think there was a flaw or defect in the plane. Right now, they're trying to investigate the cause, but as I said, it's going to be difficult with the plane crashing in a rugged area and having burst into flames and very little left of it. But the U.S. military says it has not affected its operations and the investigation continues.

HEMMER: All right, Jamie, thanks. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

Back here in Kandahar now, let's talk about the latest regarding the detainees. We have new videotape taken by our crew here in Kandahar, taken late last night, fresh arrivals. New detainees, we counted 25 again last evening, came in bound and shackled, heading right into the detention facility.

We were told on Wednesday that part of the larger area of that facility had been cleaned up and cleared out. They were anticipating more and indeed, they got them. Then again, about 45 minutes ago, we saw another shipment come in of more detainees. We counted 25 in this shipment, at least 25, we can tell you, because in addition to that, there were several injured, too, who were taken out and removed by vehicle. Again, all right now being processed and detained here in Kandahar.

What we can also tell you right now is that we know no detainees left here for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, last night. We were told flights on Monday were canceled. Flights on Tuesday were canceled. Apparently, the problem is not here in Afghanistan, but rather on the other end of the world. They say Guantanamo Bay right now, the facility, is just not prepared. Let's get to Bob Franken right now by way of videophone. He's in the southeastern edge of Cuba, watching things from there.

Bob, hello.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Bill. And they wouldn't say that here at all. We've been told repeatedly today by the people who are in charge of the security that they are prepared to handle about 100 of the prisoners, the detainees, as they prefer calling them, who would be sent here. They have set up what amounts to be a temporary camp. It's called Camp X-ray. Back in the '90s, it was a massive refugee detention center, Haitian, Cuban refugees.

Now, it has been in the last couple of weeks very hastily turned into a maximum-security prison, extremely maximum, if you'll pardon the redundancy. Concertino wire all over the place. Hundreds and hundreds of security people, MPs and the like are being called in from posts around the country and Marines, conducting security. They're going through significant training.

The cells in this particular camp are going to be outdoor cells, as they prefer to call them, cages, as anybody who would see them might call them. They are actually small cubicles, each individual prisoner will have one with a roof overhead, but surrounded by chain link fence. As one of the top security people said here, if it rains, they'll get wet.

There is going to be extreme monitoring of these prisoners. They will be, absolutely quoting somebody, "no freedom of movement." This is a very, very tightly controlled facility.

They are saying that they're ready now for about 100 of the Taliban and al Qaeda detainees, that's the official term. They're planning to ultimately be able to have about 2,000 of them here. And they're ultimately going to be building another facility; the one we just described is temporary that is going to be an actual permanent structure.

What's going to happen with these detainees? We're told that there has been no request to prepare for a military tribunal. And why would they be holding them at Guantanamo Bay, which the Secretary of Defense called the least worse facility? Well, the base commander reminded that, of course, after all the years of confrontation with Cuba, it's difficult to escape from the facility that has 17.5 miles of fence on this side, on the Cuban side across the bay and a minefield in between -- Bill.

HEMMER: Bob Franken, Guantanamo Bay by way of videophone. Bob, thanks to you.

I want to go to Little Rock, Arkansas right now, pick things up with Retired General Wesley Clark, who is with us again this evening.

General, I'll spare you the delay of the satellite right here, but try and clarify this -- what I'm being told here in Kandahar is that they're ready to go, Cuba is the problem and Bob Franken quite clearly indicates that they say they are ready to go as well. Can you sort it out what's happening here, General?

RET. GEN. WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's called a snafu, Bill, and I think it's just a matter of different time lines that different groups are working on and you're talking to different echelons of the chain of command. I think inside the chain of command, my guess is, it's probably on track. But when you ask people at different ends, you get different stories.

So they are putting a maximum-security facility together down there as we heard from Bob. And it's going to be a very difficult facility for anyone to escape from. The Marines are being trained. We've got other troops standing by to reinforce if necessary. And then, it'll just be a matter of quelling the prisoners in. So it should be happening momentarily.

HEMMER: General, you know about the security concerns here, and you also know quite a bit about the logistics as well. Do you have any reservations about this plan right now, as it stands, General?

CLARK: The only concern that I've ever had on this plan was the mode of transportation and how they were going to control the prisoners on the aircraft. So it looks like, from the shots that we saw, they've got shackles. They've got hoods. It's a very long flight back, and either the C-141s are going to air refuel or they're going to land somewhere. And I imagine that's what a lot of the discussion has been about, is the logistics of getting them back and the security of those logistics. So the best thing to do is keep them on that aircraft, bring them all the way back.

HEMMER: The best, as we can tell here, it's been delayed three day and certainly, security is of the utmost concern in this operation. General, I want to shift your attention now to the seven Marines aboard that KC-130 that crashed hours ago in southwestern Pakistan. What's the impact on a loss like this is felt military- wide?

CLARK: Well, it's a tragedy and everybody who's associated professionally with the Armed Forces feels it, but especially the Marines and the flyers in that squadron, and the people at the base who know the families are going to be personally affected by this. It is a tragedy.

But you know, Bill, accidents also happen in peacetime operations and losses of aircraft happen every year in all the services. It's one of the risks that young men and women who volunteer to fly know they're going to be taking. Aircraft do crash, especially military aircraft.

HEMMER: I tell you what I find absolutely remarkable, I don't know if you agree with me or not, perhaps you do, I'll find out shortly here, close to 1,500 sorties have been flown into Kandahar alone over the past four weeks. They've brought in half a million tons of cargo, that's not to account for what's happening in Bagram, north of Kabul, or the three forward air bases in Pakistan or the sorties that leave and take off in the Arabia Sea and aircraft carriers out there. If there is a silver lining, General, it could be this: there have not been very many accidents like this to date in this current campaign.

CLARK: I think you're right. This is a very, very safe campaign. Our men and women have done a great job with aviation safety as well as with force protection on the ground and you've got to be very proud of them. But tonight, you've got to feel awfully bad for the families of those Marines that lost their lives today. And I know that they're going to be missed, not only by their families, but by all the people in the unit. Everybody who knew them, we're all going to be thinking about -- praying for those families.

HEMMER: General Clark, thanks. Wesley Clark, live in Little Rock, Arkansas. Many thanks again, sir.

CLARK: Thank you.

HEMMER: Back here in Kandahar, the Marines wanted us to pass along to their families that they continue to try and reach out to notify next of kin based on the results they're getting and what they're hearing again in southwestern Pakistan. It is quite clear that this has a measurable impact on all the Marines working here in southern Afghanistan. In the town of Kandahar now, we are told that seven top ranking Taliban government officials, apparently turned themselves in earlier this week. But now, we are told, they are walking free, and perhaps they may have left the country. It appears now this is the Afghan way. John Vause now with more on this story.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill, word of the release of the seven Taliban officials came from the foreign ministry spokesman, Omar Samad. He said the seven surrendered and were released within the last 48 hours, but it appears that under some kind of deal, which was prearranged, because they gave up their weapons and vehicles, they were allowed to go free, return to their homes and their villages. Now, he would not tell us a full list of names, the full seven who were set free, but he did confirm that among those, the justice minister, the former Taliban justice minister, Nooruddin Turabi. He, of course, is the man responsible for imposing many of the harsh Taliban edicts, especially those concerning women. He also established the much feared religions beliefs.

Also, set free, according to the spokesman, the former security chief from Herat, Abdul Haq. Now, all seven gave themselves up to forces in the Kandahar region, to the Kandahar governor and an associate close to the Kandahar governor is being quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "Those men who surrendered are our brothers, and we have allowed them to live in a peaceful manner. They will not be handed over to America. However, they will not participate in politics."

Now, all of this seems have to come as some surprise to the Karzai administration here in Kabul. They say they are following these developments closely to find out if, in fact, the decision to allow these seven Taliban officials to go free was in fact appropriate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMAD: We need to mike sure that the people who surrendered are high enough or were high enough in the Taliban hierarchy to be considered as war criminals or associate terrorist, associates. If that is the case, then, and if it's proven to be the case, then the interim administration will need to look further into this issue to see if there was, as I mentioned earlier, if it was handled properly or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Now, that foreign ministry spokesman conceding that the interim administration now has no idea where the seven may be, in fact, conceding they may have, in fact, even left the country. This of course, flies in the face of all the statements, which have been coming from the interim administration in recent weeks, of working the United States to bring Taliban and al Qaeda officials to justice. And of course, the United States is very keen to question these ministers, to find out the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, the former Taliban leader, as well as, of course, America's and indeed the world's most wanted man, Osama bin Laden -- Bill. HEMMER: John Vause from Kabul.

In a moment here, clearing the danger one explosion at a time when LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: One thing that is obviously apparent in this country, there's an awful lot of guns in the countryside and in the cities. Sometimes you see a gun, a Golishnikov (ph) rifle strapped on the back of every Afghan man. In the capital city of Kabul though, the interim governor there, Hamid Karzai running the country right now, has vowed to get the armed Afghans off the streets of the city and back into the countryside.

According to a U.N. agreement, the armed Afghans are supposed to leave the countryside just so long as the international security forces arrive; elements of that force have come into Kabul. We expect them to fan out in other parts of the country as well.

Larry King might be talking with Hamid Karzai about this very issue in about 40 minutes time. Hamid Karzai is the guest, the interim prime minimum here in Afghanistan, "LIVE WITH LARRY KING," 9:00 Eastern Time, 6:00 on the West Coast. You can see it live here on CNN.

We've talked also about the mining and the danger of the mines here in Kandahar. It's also a condition at the main airport in Kabul, and right now efforts well underway to try and clear out more of those mines around the country's main airport.

Eventually, they'd like to bring in more humanitarian aid, specifically into that airport and distributed to a number of people and families, thousands of families who are in dire need of that in and around Kabul. British forces helping with that effort up there in Kabul.

In the meantime, though, as the war continues, the refugee crisis continues as well. There are still tens of thousands of refugees stuck out in the borders throughout Afghanistan. Lisa Rose Weaver now on some hope and optimism that help may be on the way very soon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA ROSE WEAVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a destroyed village that hundreds of homeless Afghans now call home, a visitor who knows only too well the plight of the displaced. Sadako Ogata, the former U.N. high commissioner for refugees is finding out just what these people need.

"We have little to eat," says this villager, who arrived here several days ago from a valley north of here, hoping to find food from the U.N. Food will arrive soon, say eight official. Meanwhile, the villagers have received donated tents and other basic supplies to start with. Some 1,000 families fled this region three years ago when their homes fell in the line of fire between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. The United States and other coalition partners have said they made mistakes in Afghanistan's past conflicts, not engaging enough to help the country rebuild. Ogata hopes an upcoming conference in Tokyo will change the pattern.

SADAKO OGATA, FORMER U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES: That's the main objective of the conference really, to make the commitment firm so that they don't make mistakes again.

WEAVER (on-camera): Feeding people is the most pressing task, then will come long term plans, which hopefully will allow Afghans to settle in villages like this and forge stable lives, as well as recite from the devastation of war.

(voice-over): Fighting the Taliban changed Habi Dula's (ph) life. He lost a leg on the battlefield when he stepped on a landmine. He fled north and lost a child to starvation. He's not sure how he can support the four he has left.

Even farming is fraught with danger. The abandoned fields here have not been cleared of mines.

Sai'id Bagun (ph) has new kitchen supplies, which she plans to sell so that she can afford food. For the past few days, dried mulberries is all she's been able to feed her family. Sai'id's (ph) husband, Mohammed, who lost an eye in battle, says he hopes for the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters mostly gone from the country, there is a chance for Afghans to live in peace. But he adds, he'd fight again if he had to.

For families like this, the pain of hardship is at least predictable by comparison. For generations they have known nothing but the scars of war.

Lisa Rose Weaver, Istalif District, Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: In a moment, the widow of Nathan Chapman remembers her fallen husband. And it's raining in Kandahar and on a day like today that is news. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: The body of Nathan Chapman, a 31-year-old U.S. Army Green Beret, a member of the A-team, his body was returned late last night to Seattle, Washington. Funeral services are scheduled in the state of Washington for Friday of this week.

The U.S. military recently conducted an interview with the widowed wife of Nathan Chapman and she remembered the love of her life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) R. CHAPMAN: He said to me, right before he left, that he volunteered for this, and he could call it off if I said. And I asked him, "How important is it? Do you want to go?" And he said, "Yes, it is me. I have to go."

And I said, "Well, that's OK. You know, our guys aren't dying over there. We have 4,000 Marines over there. They're not dying. You'll be OK. You'll come home."

And he said, "Honey, there's a 50-50 chance I'm not coming home."

And I didn't understand that, because I thought, well he's just teaming up with all these other guys, doing the same thing, fighting the same fight. And I don't know what he was doing over there. But the day he left, we all cried and cried. And he gave me a full heart and we broke it and he left.

He called me on the satellite phone and he said, that he sees women and children being beaten with sticks just for walking down the street and a dog getting spat on. And he wasn't for any of that. He wanted to fight against that. And he didn't want any of it coming here. And it is here. And he wants to stop it.

And -- he found a group of men like himself that were willing to do the same thing. Fight the same fight. All these guys are men of honor and they're all the same, and they all have families, and they're all leaving everyday knowing that each one of them could not come home to their babies.

I want them to remember him as a quiet professional, who just wanted to change the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: Nathan Chapman, U.S. Green Beret, dead at the age of 31. Our day here in Kandahar has been filled with sadness. Seven U.S. Marines now missing in southwestern Pakistan, countless families grieving back home. The price of war can be brutal. But it's raining in Kandahar right now. And for a country suffering through four years of solid long drought, that is news and that is hope.

Thanks for watching. I'm Bill Hemmer. See you again tomorrow in Kandahar.

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