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Live From Afghanistan: Two Marines Killed, Five Injured in Helicopter Crash; Are Detainees in Guantanamo Bay Being Treated Humanely?; Japan Reaches Out to Improve Conditions in Afghanistan

Aired January 20, 2002 - 20:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN with Martin Savidge. Two U.S. Marines killed, five injured in a helicopter crash today in Afghanistan.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I spoke to General Franks, the combatant commander this morning and he indicates that they have no evidence at all that it was ground fire.


ANNOUNCER: What brought the aircraft down.

Allegations over the treatment of Afghan war detainees at Guantanamo. Are tough conditions necessary?


JOHN ASHCROFT, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: We've already lost one individual as a result of an uprising and we shouldn't lose more.


ANNOUNCER: The U.S. government describes them as detainees. Why human rights groups want them to be called prisoners of war.

And how a nation that was once almost completely destroyed is reaching out to improve the devastating conditions in Afghanistan.


SADAKO OGATA, AFGHAN AID CONFERENCE: Japanese people must realize that their own peace, security, prosperity cannot be reproduced by Japanese alone. It is really globally based.



MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Martin Savidge at the Kandahar Airport in Afghanistan where it is 5:30 Monday morning. In the background occasionally, you may hear the sound of the roaring of U.S. cargo jets as they continue their operations. It is almost a constant companion, that noise, during the dark hours and more and more frequently, it can also be seen and heard during the daylight hours, an indication that the military operation is continuing here without let up. But that is not to say without a cause.

Two U.S. Marines lost their lives in the crash of a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter. A number of other Marines were injured, as it was on a mission in northern Afghanistan. It had taken off from the Bagram Air Base just outside of Kabul. CNN's Michael Holmes joins us from the capital of Kabul with more on the situation there -- Michael.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Marty. Dawn, as you indicated, about to break here in Afghanistan. When it does, the investigation into yesterday's tragedy for the U.S. military will recommence. It was 8:00 a.m. yesterday morning, about 21 hours ago, when this helicopter, a Super Stallion, CH-53E, took off with another one bound to resupply troops out in the field in Afghanistan. Onboard was seven Marines. This helicopter went down in mountainous terrain about 60 kilometers or 40 miles south of the Bagram Air Base. That's about 10 kilometers south of Kabul.

Now, of the Marines onboard, two were killed, as you indicated, five were injured. Of the five injured, two critical, two serious, one with minor injuries. All, we are told, are in stable condition. They've now been taken out of the Kabul area to a military facility some distance from here.

The names of those who were killed have been released. Let's read them for you -- Staff Sergeant Walter F. Cohee III. He's age 26 from Maryland. Cohee joined the Marine Corp. in 1993. He was a communications navigation systems technician. Also killed in this tragedy yesterday, Sergeant Dwight J. Morgan, age 24 from California. Morgan joined the Marines in 1998. He was a helicopter mechanic.

The Marines and the helicopter were assigned to the Marines heavy helicopter squadron 361, called the Flying Tigers, part of Marine Aircraft Group 16. Now, elements of that squadron are based at the Marine Corps Air Station. That's in Miramar in California.

This crash happened in mountainous terrain, altitude of about eight to 9,000 feet, to give you an indication, Kabul at 6,000 feet. It was very difficult to launch the rescue operation, however, a chopper was able to land at the crash site and evacuate the injured.

Now, within hours, military spokesmen here in Afghanistan were denying any suggestion of hostile fire. And in fact, this is what U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had to say.


RUMSFELD: It appears to be, at the moment, a mechanical problem with the helicopter and as you say, there are two dead, two critically wounded and all of them, now, have been removed to a hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And being treated -- are there chances of recovery? Are you optimistic?

RUMSFELD: Oh, indeed, I am. The two critical ones, of course, is a difficult situation and you're heart just breaks every time something like this happens.


HOLMES: Now, military people here will tell you that losing men in this fashion, on a routine supply mission, although very little is routine here in Afghanistan, is especially tough. To lose a soldier in combat is one thing, to lose one to mechanical failure is another, as the secretary of defense just indicated.

This is -- we should point out -- the second incident involving a Super Stallion helicopter. These are massive helicopters. They can carry 55 fully equipped troops. They can lift 16 tons of equipment. They are the workhorse of the U.S. military in terms of moving supplies around.

That other incident, the first incident, happened back in September when what the military calls a hard landing took place. That happened just outside Kandahar, in a desert area. On that occasion, four Marines were onboard. They weren't hurt. In fact, the helicopter was able to be repaired on site and took off under its own power. The Super Stallion built by Sikorsky, $26 million a piece.

As I said, dawn about to break here. When it does, the investigation will recommence -- Marty.

SAVIDGE: Michael, when that helicopter went down, you mentioned the altitude that it impacted the ground at. It must have made the rescue operation extremely difficult.

HOLMES: Absolutely. We spoke with Army Captain Tom Bryant yesterday up at Bagram, about 50 kilometers from here. He told us -- he said that the U.S. military was well equipped, however, for rescue missions. They scrambled immediately. They got up there and they had a stroke of luck. As I said, this is mountainous terrain, 9,000 feet, as you can imagine. There was, however, just enough room apparently to put down a rescue helicopter and get those injured men out of there. They also, of course, brought back the bodies of the two who didn't make it.

And when they came back to Bagram, they were treated there at the Air Base. There's a well equipped field hospital there, as you know, and they were able to stabilize these men for an hour or two before they were put on that C-130 and taken to undisclosed medical facility -- Marty.

SAVIDGE: Michael Holmes reporting to us from Kabul, thanks very much.

Moving to a different part of the world but staying with the story -- the number of detainees, both al Qaeda and Taliban, that are being held at the U.S. Naval Base on Guantanamo, on the island of Cuba, continues to rise. Thirty-four more detainees arrived there today. And as their numbers go up, so too does some of the criticism that is coming in. U.S. officials find themselves having to defend the conditions under which those detainees are being held. CNN national correspondent Bob Franken has more on that.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From about 200 yards away, the cameras outside Camp X-ray could see a detainee brought to the International Red Cross Representative. The Red Cross continues the investigation into charges that the top security here violates international standards for humane treatment.

COL. TERRY CARRICO, U.S. ARMY HEAD OF PRISON SECURITY: We're meeting -- we're discussing issues. Most of what we discussed, we've agreed that would be held in confidentiality. They are meeting with them. They have interviewed several, but they are in more of an information gathering mode right now and then, I'm sure as they get a baseline of information, we'll have discussions on conditions.

FRANKEN: And now, a complication -- the newest group of detainees includes the walking wounded who will be fitted into the camp routine as quickly as possible, a routine that includes a lot of time in chains. The latest press tour included a demonstration.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: What we have are the basic hand irons that go around the wrists, the leg irons, shackles, that go around the ankles and then this is the belt where the hand irons will clip into to keep the hands in front.

FRANKEN (on camera): Some of the detainees will require medical treatment before they're brought here for the same treatment as the others, treatment, that is the subject of a very close examination.

Bob Franken, CNN, outside Camp X-ray, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


SAVIDGE: Joining us now to talk more about the loss of the helicopter and the issue of the detainees is U.S. military and CNN military analyst retired General Wesley Clark.

General, thank you very much for joining us. The loss of this helicopter thought to be a mechanical failure. It is another accident that has happened during this operation. Should there be concern?

RET. GEN. WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think there's always concern. Our helicopter fleet in the Marines and the Army is aging and it's one of the things that's -- it's very expensive to replace. We've kept these machines working for a long time on replacement parts, but we're going to take a full look at this, you can be sure of that, check all the fleet and find out what it is that's caused this. But yes, it's always a matter of concern.

SAVIDGE: The issue of detainees now -- obviously, the very strict conditions under which they are held is understood militarily, but from a public relations point-of-view to the rest of the world, could it continue perhaps to be a significant problem for the United States to defend?

CLARK: I think it is a problem for the United States to defend. I think it's very important that we let the Red Cross and all the international representatives who want to come in and see it and want to interview the prisoners, come in and see it. These are dangerous men. They have participated in terrorist training. They have killed, some of them have killed. Some of them have still expressed the expression -- they've said they're not going to leave Guantanamo until they kill Americans down there. And they're not rational. In other words, they're not about protecting themselves and trying to get out alive, they're willing to die for this. So in those circumstances, it only makes sense that they have to be handled under the greatest restraint.

SAVIDGE: What is the difference between being a detainee and being a prisoner of war especially when it comes to the Geneva Convention?

CLARK: Martin, it has to do with the ability to interrogate and then take subsequent action against these people. These men are essentially criminals. They're not -- in U.S. terms, they're not soldiers and so, if they were considered prisoners of war, as I understand it, they'd be entitled to be tried as soldiers if the United States tried them under the uniform code of military justice. That would give them rights, which they won't have if they're tried by military tribunal. And I think that's the principal issue here.

SAVIDGE: John Walker, the American Taliban, is expected to return the United States to face justice perhaps later this week. There are also a number of British nationals, but they are not going to Great Britain, they are going, apparently, to Guantanamo. Is that a potential conflict?

CLARK: It is a potential conflict. It would be -- it's very appropriate that John Walker be tried in this federal district court. I think the American system of justice is what we've all fought and worn the uniform to protect and defend. And we should all be very confident that there's going to be a fair trial. It will be a transparent trial and he will receive justice from this court.

As for the British subjects, I think it's likely that the British government will continue to be concerned about them. Certainly, this is going to be a big issue in the Islamic community in Great Britain and there's going to be a lot of pressure put to -- brought to bare on the Blair government to get these men home to try them under British justice the same way that Walker is being tried under American justice. Too soon to say how this is going to turn out, but I think it's -- that's the clear direction that this is moving in.

SAVIDGE: General Wesley Clark, thank you very much for joining us. We'll be talking again.

CLARK: Thank you, Martin.

SAVIDGE: We'll take a break right now, but when we come back, we will go to Tokyo where there is a gathering of international leaders talking about the rebuilding of Afghanistan and how to pay for it. We'll be back in a moment.


SAVIDGE: The rebuilding of Afghanistan is not only critical, it is essential and it is going to require the cooperation of the international world. In Tokyo, in Japan, they are meeting to discuss that very aspect, not only how to do it but how to pay for it. Among the first to address the gathering there was the interim leader of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai. He spoke just a few minutes ago. Here's some of what he had to say.


HAMID KARZAI, CHAIRMAN, AFGHAN INTERIM ADMINISTRATION: Without a full partnership with the international community, Afghanistan may falter again. And I believe that's the reason we are all here today not to turn Afghanistan go back to the days of the past 20 years or so, to help its turn back on its feet, to help it secure its borders, secure its own unity, secure the institutions that will make Afghanistan strong and self-reliant so we do not see the presence of terrorism or violence or the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- that such a situation would eminent to the region and the international community.


SAVIDGE: The two-day conference is essential for Afghanistan. CNN's Richard Roth is in Tokyo this morning and he joins us with more insight about the gathering -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Martin, more than 60 countries, 20 international organizations have gathered here. They say to not let Afghanistan down and the people there. And they've come here to pledge money. Each country offering different amounts. The World Bank, the United Nations saying that Afghanistan could use $15 billion over the next 10 years.

The United Nations is concerned about the short-term needs. Secretary General Kofi Annan told the gathering that the world and Afghanistan can use $1.7 billion in the next year. The pressure is on to give Afghanistan a good foundation for its long-term future.

Hamid Karzai, the interim leader of the Afghanistan government, told the delegates, in some off-the-cuff remarks before his speech, that he comes before the world gathering here as a citizen of a country that has known nothing but war over the last 20 years. And he noted how everyone has gotten up to a very nice breakfast in some of the luxury hotels of Japan and everyone is very nicely dressed. He said these are things that the people of Afghanistan know very little about. And he said the people of Afghanistan want to know -- make up for lost time, something echoed by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell who's currently addressing this Tokyo gathering, which lasts for two-days.

And Karzai, somewhat sounding like a CEO of a new cooperation, a fledgling government here, said that he plans to install a monitoring system, a procurement system, an auditing system to watch over expenses, similar to the Enron disaster now watched by everyone.

Here is Secretary of State Colin Powell addressing the conference.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We must provide rehabilitate care and vocational training for Afghanistan's millions of disabled, disabled citizens not least the appalling number of Afghans injured by land mines.

Humanitarian demining in Afghanistan must be high on the agenda. Action in this area promotes public safety, helps to heal the wounds of war, facilities the delivery of humanitarian assistance, opens economic opportunities for shattered communities and creates a secure and stable environment where political and economic freedom can thrive.

Reconstruction cannot take place without a secure environment. A lack of security is one of the main reasons why Afghanistan disintegrated anarchy in the 1990s, leading to the emergence of the Taliban.

The mobilization of former combatants and their reintegration into society is a vital priority. In particular, we must reach out to the child soldiers, showing them that the way to a better life is to put down their Kalashnikovs and pick up schoolbooks and we must provide the schoolbooks.

The interim authority also needs our support to establish and train a national army and a police force that are firmly under civilian control, and meet international human rights standards.

Even as we move forward in reconstruction, we will not forget the pressing humanitarian needs of the Afghan people. The United States is the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. The United States government is providing approximately $400 million of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan above and beyond the funds we are committing to reconstruction.

Every one of these priority areas will require a systematic...

ROTH: Secretary of State Colin Powell offering a U.S. contribution believed to be around 300 million over the next few years, similar numbers for Britain and Germany. Japan offering 500 million over the next two years. The U.N. Secretary General Annan saying the people of Afghanistan have a long, tough road ahead of them -- quote -- "Let us not leave them to travel it alone."

Richard Roth, CNN, reporting live in Tokyo. Back to Martin Savidge.

SAVIDGE: Thank you very much, Richard. You may be wondering why Tokyo was selected as the sight for this meeting. Now, Japan has a history in the aftermath of World War II, rebuilding from the devastating effects of war and now, it may be appropriate as CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon reports that the lessons of the past could be applied to Afghanistan's future.


REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN TOKYO BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): The bombed- out streets of Kabul, devastation so complete many now call Afghanistan a startup country.

Japanese who also lived through this devastation and defeat at the end of World War II say they know how it feels.

JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Japan's recovery from the devastation at the end of World War II was achieved not only by the efforts of the Japanese people, but also thanks to the support and the cooperation of the international community, headed by the United States.

MACKINNON (on camera): Is this the beginning of a much more active Japan when it comes to international crises?

OGATA: I hope so. Japanese people must realize that their own peace, security, prosperity can not be produced by Japanese alone. It is really globally based.

MACKINNON: Downtown Tokyo today could have hardly seemed more different than downtown Kabul, but it's not only the Japanese government that's reaching out to Afghanistan, many ordinary Japanese are reaching out too.

(voice-over): A feminist group, called Women in Black, uses shock value to raise money and public awareness to help Afghan women.


MACKINNON: Workers with little money to spare volunteer their time and labor to load donated clothing and blankets for Afghan families. The donations pile up daily in the doorway of this Tokyo mosque.

HAROON AHMAD QURESHI, OTSUKA MOSQUE: The first time we gave the address of this place, this mosque was -- within a few days it was full, even our prayer hall.

MACKINNON: Phones ringing off the hook, the fax machine overflowing with queries, "how can we help?" So far, people have given 30 containers full of whatever they've got, according to the mosque's Pakistani director.

QURESHI: In all Islamic countries, Japanese people are respected very much and they are known as a peaceful country. So, it is true that Japan can fill a big role in Afghanistan.

MACKINNON: Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN, Tokyo.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SAVIDGE: We're going to take a break now, but when we come back, we'll talk more about the future of Afghanistan and the difficult road that lies ahead and the optimism that still remains. Back in a bit.


SAVIDGE: Yesterday, we made the drive from Quetta, Pakistan into Afghanistan, crossing at the border of Chaman. The first town in Afghanistan that we passed through was Spin Boldak. One of the things you noticed here was all the enterprise that was underway. The marketplaces were crowded. There seem to be lots of food, fresh fruits and vegetables. And there seemed to be a general attitude amongst the people that they very much wanted to try to get back to live as normal as much as that is possible in these days.

And yet, as we went through those towns, we had no opportunity to investigate the streets for ourselves. The driver, our armed escort, said it was simply still too dangerous in Afghanistan. The meeting that is going on in Tokyo and the continuing military operation, it is hoped it will one day change that.

Tomorrow night, we will move to Guantanamo and the U.S. Naval Base on the island of Cuba for our special report. In the meantime, I'm Martin Savidge at the Kandahar Airport in Afghanistan. Thanks for joining us.




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