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Afghanistan: Military Operations Tainted With Controversy

Aired February 11, 2002 - 20:00   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, HOST: I'm Martin Savidge in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Coming up, tonight on LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN, we are outside the detention facility here. We'll talk to the man who is in command of this facility and talk about the rough job he has. Also, we'll take you to that other facility on the Caribbean island of Cuba, the other end of the detainee trail.

And finally, the commander of Operation Enduring Freedom, he was in an unusual place and we'll tell you where and we'll tell why. It all begins right here, right now, LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN.

ANNOUNCER: Tantalizing clues from the Afghan mountains, just who did the U.S. predator kill?


REAR ADMIRAL JOHN STUFFLEBEEM, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: There are no indications that these were innocent locals.


ANNOUNCER: In any war, it can be a soldier's toughest enemy.


UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: It varies from person to person, from soldier to soldier.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the ultimate battle, bad air.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a feeling of the unknown, you know, and it's continual there.


ANNOUNCER: The smell and taste and unknown dangers of living near Ground Zero.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm concerned, you know. I really am.



SAVIDGE: Good evening. It is just after 5:30 in the morning here in Kandahar, Afghanistan. We are outside under the glow of the lights of the detention facility here. Inside are the detainees that still may hold the key to solving America's war on terrorism. We'll talk to the man coming up in just a minute in charge of this facility.

But first, we begin with two military operations, both of which may be tainted somewhat with controversy. One was a week ago. Did we really get Osama bin Laden? And also, the other one, three weeks ago, and allegations of beatings by captors that were captured by Americans. For the stories on both of those events, we turn now to the Pentagon and CNN's Jamie McIntyre - Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Marty, the question has become not so much did the United States kill Osama bin Laden, but did the United States kill innocent people. That's the claim of villagers in the area near Zhawar Kili where this hellfire missile strike took place one week ago today. They claim, at least they've told newspaper reporters, that three peasants foraging for scrap metal in the mountains were hit by a rocket that took their lives. The Pentagon continues to insist that it was a good target.

A CIA drone firing a hellfire missile, by remote control, took out three people they suspect to be members of the al Qaeda organization. And a U.S. military recovery team is bringing back evidence, the Pentagon says, bolsters its case.


STUFFLEBEEM: Things like weapons and ammunition -- include things like communications systems or at least things that would give you the impression that there might have been communication devices, documents in English, having to do with like with applications for credit cards possibly or maybe for airline schedules. So the intelligence that was garnered to be able to facilitate the strike, the initial indications afterwards would seem to say that these are not peasant people up there farming.


MCINTYRE: All of those were things, the Pentagon insists, would not be something that peasants either farming or foraging for scrap metal would be carrying.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is also on the defensive about the claims of some of the 27 people who were released after being held for nearly two weeks, that they were beaten by U.S. troops, both in the initial assault and also as they were being transported to that detention facility where you're standing in Kandahar. They claim they were given very rough treatment. The Pentagon doesn't deny that they may have been treated very roughly in the beginning as the Special Forces were trying to sort out who was friend and who was foe. But they say they have no evidence of any beatings and that the prisoners, they believe, were well treated until they were released after it was determined that they were neither Taliban nor al Qaeda.

Although the Pentagon is still not saying that those are good guys. They claim some of them are common criminals and they turned them over to the Afghan authorities.

Meanwhile, that whole raid in which at least 15 people were killed, perhaps more, remains under investigation and the results of that investigation appear to be still some weeks away.

And Marty, one more note -- the Pentagon seemed to be distancing itself today from this CIA strike in Zhawar Kili, portraying it as a CIA-only operation. But late tonight, senior U.S. officials tell CNN that this was a joint Pentagon/CIA operation, which was initiated at the request of the U.S. Central Command, which had access to the live video pictures from the predator drone as it unfolded and that the U.S. Central Command asked for and concurred in the decision to launch the missile.

Now, after that video was reviewed after the strike, intelligence experts from both the Pentagon and the CIA continue to believe it was an appropriate target - Marty.

SAVIDGE: Jamie, on the issue of the beatings that these allegations have been made, I should point out here that there is a medical screening that is done to all detainees before they come into the facility when they arrive. The medical reports do not verify the accusations that have been made by some of those that were released. They do not see the significant signs of beating as they claim.

But let me ask you on the issue of the operations in Zhawar Kili, the DNA, how will they match it, how will they try to compare it if they believe it could be Osama bin Laden or other top leaders?

MCINTYRE: Well, the Pentagon would confirm today that they had recovered human remains, what they call "body parts," and that they were being brought back for identification. And that -- part of that collection was to gather DNA evidence for matching.

The part of the equation that they didn't fill in for us was what kind of DNA samples they had for suspected al Qaeda or Taliban members, including Osama bin Laden. If they are in possession of that kind of DNA and how they would have gotten it, it's not something that the U.S. wants to talk about either at the Pentagon or any place else, but we're given to believe that if they have a biological sample that they can test for DNA that nay may be able to make an identification.

SAVIDGE: CNN's Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

Moving on now to another topic, the commander of Operation Enduring Freedom. He showed up today in a most unusual place with a different sort of mission. That place was Yemen, and CNN's Brent Sadler is there.


BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A warm greeting and a firm hand shake, as Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, gets an American pat on the back for fighting terror. A question for General Tommy Franks, the chief of the U.S. military Central Command from his Yemeni host, where's Osama bin Laden?

GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: This is a question my granddaughter asked me. I couldn't answer her.

SADLER: Finding humor amid the serious business of this day. Top of the Yemeni leader's agenda, U.S. military assistance and training to upgrade Yemen's anti-terror capability. Yemen also wants U.S. logistical and intelligence support to help track down two on the run al Qaeda suspects in this country and the means to tackle sea-born terror in the form of a new coast guard to supplement the small naval resources in patrolling the 2,400 kilometers or some 1,600 miles of coastline of strategic importance to U.S. interests around the Arabian Peninsula.

FRANKS: I did not suggest that our country would -- had a desire to do anything unilaterally in this country. The purpose was to discuss how can we cooperate against what we both believe is a serious problem and that is the terrorist threat. And I have some admiration for the fact that this government appears to be willing to move in the direction of countering terrorism.

SADLER (on-camera): Yemen is being praised for combating terror head on during such top level American visits, but Washington still has concerns that remnants of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network are still here and pose a threat.

Brent Sadler, CNN, Sanaa, Yemen.


SAVIDGE: Now from the commanding officer to the forces that are in the fighting holes tonight and an issue as old as warfare itself, fear. Soldiers don't talk about it much, but the Army thinks about it a lot.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): The United States has the most powerful and best equipped military in the world. Yet, it still must battle the oldest challenge of war, fear.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: As we were rolling through some of the village, I was like, oh, no, you know, what's going to happen now?

SAVIDGE: It's a subject every soldier in the war zone knows and one they talk about least.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: I guess we basically just suck it up and deal with it because we know we really can't do anything about it. You just -- you know, just go with the flow, I guess and just hope nothing bad happens.

SAVIDGE: The U.S. Army spends a lot of time and effort dealing with fear.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: It varies from person to person, from soldier to soldier.

SAVIDGE: A mental health expert is usually part of the first medical team sent in to a war zone.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: We let them that more soldiers - most soldiers out here, to some extent, do experience fear, and it's one of the parts that go along with the deploying.

SAVIDGE: One suggestion military experts offer to a worried soldier is to talk to someone who has been there before.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: We tell them to rely on their training. They're well trained. The leaders are experienced.

SAVIDGE: Training is one of the key American strategies used to combat fear. The Army has a saying - "train as you fight, fight as you train."

Combat training is as real as they can make it. But if a soldier is still having a problem with fear, he's less likely to go to the medical unit as he is to seek out the chaplain.

PAUL MADEJ, CHAPLAIN: There might be a stigma still attached in their mind with them not meeting the mark. By coming to the chaplain, I know they're meeting the mark. I know that they're normal. I know that they're having thoughts that are standard to everyone else, but everyone else isn't saying it, except to the chaplain.

SAVIDGE: Personal safety isn't the only fear a soldier faces. They can be afraid for their family back home, fear they may fail when they're needed most.

MAJ. SCOTT KUBICA, HELICOPTER PILOT: I am here to support the soldiers on the ground. That's my mission. If the soldiers weren't there, I wouldn't have a mission. If I'm not there for them, then I feel that I've betrayed them and I've let them down.

SAVIDGE: This is when fear can be a positive, pushing people to do extraordinary things, heroic things, like pilot Scott Kubica, who rescued the injured from his shattered helicopter.

KUBICA: We were involved in a helicopter accident here about a week ago up in northeast Afghanistan and it wasn't fear of the machine. It wasn't fear of the crash. The fear was getting my fellow soldiers out alive, and the biggest fear for me was leaving that soldier behind and we weren't going to do that and we went in and got everybody out of there.

SAVIDGE: Fear makes a soldier sharper, more focused and in the right hands, can also be a weapon. SGT. SCOTT RUBICK, PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS: I think that our audiences have a fear already. If we can enhance it, then that's a bonus.

SAVIDGE: Using a single loud speaker can broadcast fear to an enemy. Projecting fear may seem sinister, but it has a benign goal, encouraging an enemy to surrender without firing a single shot.

RUBICK: That's what we're trying to prevent. And then, if we can do that, then we don't have to fight and nobody has to fight, nobody has to die.

SAVIDGE: It could be the best fear of all.


SAVIDGE: We're going to take a break, but don't go far. There's lots more to come. LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN.

ANNOUNCER: Interrogating the enemy, it's slow going for those questioning the al Qaeda and Taliban detainees at Camp X-ray.


BRIG. GEN. MICHAEL LEHNERT, SECURITY FORCE COMMANDER: Many of the detainees are not forthcoming. Many have been interviewed as many as four times, each providing -- each time providing a different name and different information.


ANNOUNCER: We'll go live to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba when we return.

Plus, it's been five months to the day since the collapse of the World Trade Center, but many who live and work near Ground Zero; does danger still linger in the air?


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: We don't have the information yet available that will better track what was in the air that day and what long-term potential impact that might lead to.


ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN returns in two minutes. But first, would DNA evidence convince you Osama bin Laden was killed in an air strike? To take the quick vote, head to The AOL keyword is CNN. A reminder, this poll is not scientific.


ANNOUNCER: American Taliban John Walker Lindh returns to court this Wednesday to face a formal arraignment on the 10 charges against him, including that he conspired to kill Americans. SAVIDGE: Earlier today, I sat down with the man who is in charge of the detention facility here. That's Lieutenant Colonel Keith Warman. One thing you know, he's very proud of the job he and his soldiers do here, and he says they strictly adhere to the Geneva Convention.


LT. COL. KEITH WARMAN, 519TH M.P. BATTALION: I would tell you that the detainees are living as good and in some respects and in some times better than even the soldiers here because, again, we understand our responsibilities to them, and there's no splitting of hairs when it comes to that. We know we've got to provide for them.


SAVIDGE: For instance, U.S. soldiers in Kandahar with only get a hot meal every three days. The detainees are given a hot meal every day. I also asked Colonel Warman his personal feelings towards the detainees.


WARMAN: I would tell you probably impassioned, impassioned. And I would say that and that I -- these great American soldiers here have a job to do. We realize the value that these detainees have for not only the American people, but for the world at large and the other allied countries represented here. I have one and we have one objective and that is to bring them to justice whether -- wherever that may be.


SAVIDGE: He says there's no question the detainees are dangerous, but none have harmed or threatened their American guards. What happens, I asked, if a prisoner fails to follow an order?


WARMAN: He'll be asked again and he'll be brought up in front of the compound that he lives in, brought down on his knees with hands behind his back. In essence, just to get him away from the population, give a chance to know we know that he's noncompliance. And he knows that after that that if that activity - next time, he's going into isolation and that's something that the majority do not want.


SAVIDGE: The International Red Cross has access to this camp almost every single day. So far, there has not been a single complaint from the Red Cross about the handling of detainees here.

We move from this detention site to another one, far away own a Caribbean Island, the island of Cuba. For the latest on the detainees and the new arrivals there, we are joined by CNN's Bob Franken in Guantanamo - Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And Marty, as you know, it is exactly five months since September 11 and exactly one month since the first delivery of detainees. This was the ninth batch that came in, 34 detainees arrived at Camp X-ray. And tonight, there are only 66 unoccupied cells.


FRANKEN (voice-over): At this moment, they're going through processing into their new home away from home, Camp X-ray. We witnessed this before. The new detainees are being photographed, questioned, taken to a shower where the orange jumpsuits from the cold plane ride around the world are replaced with the orange jumpsuits they'll wear in the heat of their outdoor cells, cages to the critics.

At the moment, by all accounts, the new arrivals are disoriented to say the least.

MAJ. STEVE COX, SECURITY FORCE SPOKESMAN: They see the chain link fences, the two high chain link fences. They see the razor wire. They see guard towers. They see the guard dogs. They see guards inside the camp. They see the armed guards outside the camp. They see their other -- they see the other detainees in their individual units and it certainly presents a striking image, which is distinctly different from anything they've seen to this point.

FRANKEN: For the detainees, a strange, sometimes numbing routine, first thing in the morning, those who want to are taken from their cells for an exercise period, taken to a space that can best be described as a run where, as you can see, they can run for a few minutes, heavily guarded, of course. That's exercise period.

There's also often question period, real mental exercise for detainees who are often fencing with interrogators. Shadowy teams of interrogators operate day and night. FBI agents, intelligence operatives trying to avoid publicity, trying even harder to get information out of these very committed enemies. As the commanding general made clear this weekend, it is slow going.

LEHNERT: Many of the detainees are not forthcoming. Many have been interviewed as many as four times, each providing -- each time providing a different name and different information.


FRANKEN: The interrogators say that they have time and they tell the detainees that. But the other edge of this sword is is that they need, quickly, little time to find out information that might thwart a terrorist attack - Marty.

SAVIDGE: Bob, I've got a question for you. What does the name "X-ray" as in Camp X-ray derived from?

FRANKEN: You know, I've had that question asked, Marty, more than any other question, and regrettably, the answer is somewhat mundane. It comes from no less from no less than the commanding general here who back in the mid 90s when Camp X-ray first came up as a camp for the hardened criminals who were among the refugees, it was formed this way.

As you know in the military, lexicon, the little x is called x- ray. It's like alpha for a, beta for -- bravo for b, Charlie, et cetera. Well, what they had was a series of camps, alpha, bravo, Charlie, et cetera. And then they had these hardened criminals and they wanted something as far away as possible so they decided to call it Camp X, X-ray. So it's not because they can look in the cages and look into the prisoners at all times. It is a very, frankly, disappointing answer - Marty.

SAVIDGE: And now we know. Bob Franken in Guantanamo, thanks very much.

Coming up in just a moment, we'll take you to a poignant, simple ceremony that marks a memorable day and shows the growing force of an international coalition here in Afghanistan. Stay with us.


ANNOUNCER: It was five months ago today that terrorists hijacked four airliners, attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Three thousand seventy-six people were killed in those attacks.

SAVIDGE: It is almost hard to believe it has been five months since the war on terrorism began. Hardest hit, ground zero in New York. In that city, there are questions that the danger may have lingered after the buildings came down. CNN's Michael Okwu has that story.


MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As if coping with the immediate human toll wasn't enough, now the nagging question -- five months after the dust of lead, fiberglass and asbestos has settled, is the air near Ground Zero safe? Monday, Congress held a field hearing, attempts to uncover possible health hazards.

RODHAM CLINTON: There are questions we can't answer and it's frustrating.

OKWU: What we do know, according to Monday's testimony from the fire department's chief medical officer, 25 percent of firefighters, many who in her words labored through a black blizzard of debris, now experience some respiratory problems. Doctor's offices have been crowded with patients complaining about the so-called World Trade Center cough.

LIZ BERGER, NEW YORK RESIDENT: Let me tell you, everyone downtown knows that we are the baseline of the 30-year study on what happens when worlds collide. And as a parent, that is the most frightening experience and responsibility I have ever faced.

OKWU: Senator Hillary Clinton proposed a five-point plan calling for among other things legislation creating a system to monitor the health of residents, recovery workers in indoor spaces in lower Manhattan. The EPA has taken over 10,000 air samples and says the air is safe.

EPA head Christine Todd Witman, days after the attack.

CHRISTIE WHITMAN, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: ... from a real health problem and health concerns, we don't have to worry.

OKWU: EPA administrator Jane Kenny five months later.

JANE KENNY, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Fortunately, the vast majority of our tests continue to find levels of these contaminants below standards or guidelines set to protect public health.

OKWU: Many residents look to the EPA to find out if their homes were safe, but indoor space was the responsibility of the city's environmental department and they only tested for asbestos. Even then, critics argued, they left most of the job of cleaning to landlords.

REP. JERRY NADLER (R), NEW YORK: There is no systematic testing of indoor air or dust in residential or commercial buildings by any government agency.

OKWU (on-camera): A University of California study suggests that there is a health risk from tiny airborne particles through October of last year. But that, today, there should be no real risk provided that there is proper cleaning inside homes and businesses, leaving senators and residents asking the question -- what about tomorrow?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: What are the health consequences of what happened here? Nobody knows.

OKWU (voice-over): Michael Okwu, CNN, New York.


SAVIDGE: Just after sunrise this morning, a simple ceremony. It marked the involvement of international forces, specifically, the Canadians, now 500 strong taking their place in the war on terrorism. Here's a look at some of the sites and sounds of that moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We bring together all of our coalition partners, the United States of America, Canada, Norway, Jordan and all of our coalition members. We are fighting together with the Afghanistan military forces to rid the world of the evil of terrorism.

Thousands of miles from here, our countries are standing together, in other ceremonies, in the Winter Olympics. We stand together there as brothers showing the worlds that we can live in peace. We will live our lives and have our families live in safety and peace.

God bless you all. God bless your countries.


SAVIDGE: Though, it was not openly stated, it was not unforgotten by those that gathered there, the date, February 11. It was five months ago today.

It is still dark here in Kandahar. The soldiers on the perimeter are in their fighting positions and with them; some of them have photographs, photographs of complete strangers that were sent to them. They are images and reminders of the people at home who count on them. They guard them as they sleep far away. To them, for those soldiers, they say, it is a reminder of exactly why they are here.

If you want to learn more about our adventures here in Kandahar, specifically some scenes that we can't always talk about on the air, you can go to our Web site. We'll show you and tell you some of the fascinating stories that emerge from Afghanistan.

That's it for LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN tonight. Coming up on domestic, you will see "THE POINT." For our international viewers, our regular viewing continues. We'll see you again. LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN.




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