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Hamas-Led Government Resigns to Pave Way for New Coalition; President Bush Says U.S. Will Provide Extra Assistance to NATO; House of Representatives Debate on President Bush's Troop Buildup in Iraq

Aired February 15, 2007 - 12:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's an attitude that makes you want to get up and spit at them.


JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Europe's biggest terror trial begins, stirring up emotions for those who lived through or lost loved ones in the Madrid train bombings.

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A look at how America's other war is going as President Bush talks about taking the fight to the enemy in Afghanistan.

CLANCY: Once a thriving mixed Shia, Sunni and Kurd town, now a ghost town. We'll take you to an Iraqi city so dangerous few dare to walk its streets.

MCEDWARDS: Hello and welcome to our report broadcast around the globe.

I'm Colleen McEdwards.

CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy.

From the U.S., to the capitals of Europe, to the Middle East, wherever you're watching, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.

MCEDWARDS: Well, calling for patience, more time and more troops, President George W. Bush says the U.S. must help defeat what he calls a sinking and tough enemy.

CLANCY: And this time he's not talking about the war in Iraq. He's talking about Afghanistan.

MCEDWARDS: A short time ago, President Bush gave some specific details of how the U.S. plans to help NATO fight the Taliban ahead of an expected spring offensive.

CLANCY: Of course, he did mention Iraq, as well as the ongoing debate by U.S. lawmakers on a resolution opposing his Iraq strategy continues.

All right. We're covering all of this for you with three live reports.

Barbara Starr has the details of Mr. Bush's speech. Nic Robertson will have some analysis for us. And Andrea Koppel is covering that debate up on Capitol Hill.

Let's start there with Barbara at the Pentagon.

Barbara, what's the reaction to the speech there and what does it mean for the Pentagon?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what it means, Jim, is more time on the front lines for U.S. troops, indeed. The president confirming what the military plan was, which is to allow troops level in Afghanistan to rise to 27,000 U.S. troops, the highest level since the invasion.

The president spoke about that just a little while ago.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've ordered an increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan. We have extended the stay of 3,200 troops now in the country for four months and we'll deploy a replacement force that will sustain this increase for the foreseeable future.


STARR: Jim, to be clear, this plan had been in the works for some time. The troops had been notified that they would be staying on. Troops from the 10th Mountain Division, a unit based in Europe, will go into Afghanistan in the springtime.

But what is significant here is the bottom line. And that is that the United States now believes the Taliban offensive in the spring will be very significant, and that this increased troop level will remain in place at least through the beginning of 2008 -- Jim.

CLANCY: Barbara Starr there at the Pentagon, live for us.

Barbara, thank you.

Let's get more now on President Bush's speech. Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson following the story from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Nic, you've spent a lot of time in Afghanistan. How did the president's speech sound to you?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what was particularly noticeable, Jim, was the emphasis that he put on NATO nations needing to make their contributions in Afghanistan. He did list, for example, the (INAUDIBLE) air force providing some airlift capabilities. And other nations, British, the Dutch, Canadians, have troops in Afghanistan, but it was noticeable at the last major NATO leaders' meeting that there was not a lot of support for countries sending additional troops to Afghanistan. And the reason for that in many cases is concern that they'll be putting their troops in the line of fire.

Now, that is a problem in Afghanistan. And President Bush alluded to that as well.

The walls of engagement have kept French troops and German troops out of the south of Afghanistan. Their governments don't want them to be in a position where they may have to return fire. That has been the situation up until now.

So President Bush really emphasizing a need for NATO nations to step up and provide additional commitment. He also focused on corruption in the Afghan government and said that it was up to President Hamid Karzai to win the confidence of the Afghan people and of the American people to continue the support that he has.

The support, President Bush said, will continue, but that the president of Afghanistan needs to do something about the -- about the corruption in his government and about the growing poppy cultivation in the country. The two things are intertwined. It represents a massive proportion of Afghanistan's GDP, some $3 billion revenue from this growing poppy cultivation.

President Bush talked as well about the need to crack down on the masterminds, on the drug barons behind the poppy smuggling routes out of Afghanistan. And here he talked about how the United States has supported reforming of the judiciary system of appointments and additional judges. But the fact is, until very recently, no senior leading drug barons have been brought to justice in Afghanistan.

Also, he talked about the need for Afghanistan and Pakistan to cooperate more. He said he brought President Karzai and Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, together to try and get them to cooperate. The problem there, Taliban coming across the border from Pakistan, striking U.S. troops inside Afghanistan, getting safe haven back across the border in Pakistan.

President Bush talking about developing an economic zone there. But the real -- along the border area. But the real issues, NATO, confidence in Hamid Karzai, and repairing a faltering -- a faltering relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan -- Jim.

CLANCY: And Nic, just very briefly, is there a sense that NATO, the U.S., the Karzai government have lost ground in the last 12 months?

ROBERTSON: Well, certainly the analysis is that the Taliban has grown stronger, that it's trying to go from a phase one to a phase two insurgency. Rather than hit-and-run tactics, they'll try to take ground and control and set up parallel governments. And the assessment is that they'll come back much stronger this year.

So, in that sense, ground has been lost that the Taliban have been able to take some of the initiative. But the military assessment is at this time that the Taliban can be beaten. But very clearly, the military assessment also is that they need more troops to do it -- Jim.

CLANCY: All right. Nic Robertson, reporting to us there from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Nic, thank you.

MCEDWARDS: Well, the U.S. House of Representatives hopes to wrap up debate soon on a resolution criticizing the troop buildup in Iraq. A vote could come by Friday, actually.

The debate has been contentious and, for the most part, divided pretty much along party lines. However, a small group of Republicans spoke out against the president's plan on Wednesday.

Congressional Correspondent Andrea Koppel has been following the debate on Capitol Hill for us and joins us now live with details.

So, Andrea, how many Republicans are sort of breaking rank here? And if it's just a small number, why does it matter?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Colleen, so far we have seen 11 Republicans break with the president, and the reason that it matters is that in order to sustain a war, you need to have public opinion behind you. We saw that in the Vietnam War.

In this case, up until the last election in November, Republican rank and file were in lockstep with this White House. It wasn't until they lost the election in November, lost control of the House and the Senate that Republicans began to see the writing on the wall. And now we have seen the beginning of the cracks in the foundation of the president's party.

Listen to what some of these Republicans have been saying on the floor of the House.


REP. RIC KELLER (R), FLORIDA: Interjecting more American troops into the crosshairs of an Iraqi civil war is simply not the right approach.

REP. JIM RAMSTAD (R), MINNESOTA: It's time for a surge in diplomacy, not a surge in troops to mend a broken country.

KOPPEL (voice over): Still, most Republicans agreed with Mr. Bush.

REP. MICHAEL ROGERS (R), ALABAMA: What disturbs me most, Mr. Speaker, about this resolution is its clear purpose is to divide those of us in this chamber

KOPPEL: The president, were he to allow this mostly symbolic resolution, could turn into a slippery slope and leave Congress to cut off funding for the troops.

BUSH: Our troops are counting on their elected leaders in Washington, D.C., to provide them with the support they need to do their mission.

KOPPEL: Even those Republicans opposed to the president's plan said that would be going too far.

REP. MICHAEL CASTLE (R), DELAWARE: Protecting American soldiers must continue to be our greatest priority. And I will oppose any attempts to cut off funding for our troops who are serving in harm's way.


KOPPEL: Now, the expectation, Colleen, is there could be anywhere from 15 to upwards of 50 Republicans who end up breaking ranks. Just how deep the breaks will go in the future, we don't know.

MCEDWARDS: So, usually, Andrea, there would be all kind of things Republican leaders could do to sort of crack the whip and bring people into line. But is it different with this one?

KOPPEL: It is. And, in fact, they're not cracking the whip, they're not doing any arm-twisting behind the scenes. They have pretty much give up on the fact that they know their results, and the fact they're going to lose this resolution, that the resolution will pass.

And what they're trying to do is they're trying to look forward. And in the speeches that are taking place on the House floor, you're hearing Republicans frame this argument that this is just the first step and that the Democrats plan to cut on funds for troops in the field. And, in fact, there is a major of truth to that, Colleen.

Not that they're looking cut off for troops in the field, but you do have some Democrats saying we need to look at the supplemental funding, this emergency funding that could affect future troops going into the field.

MCEDWARDS: Understood. Andrea Koppel, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

CLANCY: Calling it a grave and deteriorating situation, the U.N. refugee agency now asking the European Union for more help with Iraqi refugees.

MCEDWARDS: That's right. This appeal follows the U.S. State Department's announcement that it hopes to resettle up to 7,000 Iraqis in the U.S. this year.

CLANCY: A surprising number. To date, only 466 -- that's right, 466 -- Iraqi refugees have been taken in by the United States since the war began.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, that's right. Now, the U.N. estimates that two million Iraqis have fled to neighboring countries ever since the war got started. And it says about 1.7 million are displaced within the country as well.

So lots of people.

CLANCY: The United Nations wants to resettle 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees this year.

MCEDWARDS: This is all part of a broader U.N. appeal to $60 million to pay for resettlement and relief of Iraqi refugees.

Well, it's been a long wait, but survivors and victims' families of the Madrid train bombings in 2004 got their first day in court today. But the trial of the 29 suspects got off to a unexpected start. The first defendant to take the stand refused to talk and then ended up changing his mind.

Our Madrid bureau chief, Al Goodman, reports.


AL GOODMAN, CNN MADRID BUREAU CHIEF (voice over): Unprecedented security at the courthouse, a huge police presence, even an armored vehicle, as vans brought in the defendants accused of mass murder in the Madrid train bombings three years ago that killed 191 people and wounded 1,800. Finally, the long-awaited trial began. Most of the 29 defendants behind bulletproof glass.

The chief judge calling the room to order. Images transmitted and controlled by the court to let everyone see the trial. And soon the first defendant to testify, this Egyptian man charged with being a mastermind of the attacks.

"Are you innocent or guilty of the charges?" the judge asked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I know nothing of these accusations. And with due respect to the court, I will not answer any questions, not even from my lawyer.

GOODMAN: Then silence as he listened to dozens of questions, from the prosecutor asking about police wiretaps which show he boasted the Madrid bombings were his project, and from lawyers representing victims, asking if he had recruited and trained terrorists. But later in the day, he changed his mind and did respond to question from one of his defense attorneys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Have you had any relationship, however minimal, with the Madrid train bombings?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I have never had any relationship with those events that happened in Madrid.

GOODMAN: But the trial was about more than just evidence. It was about emotions from victims like this woman, who lost her son on one of the trains bombed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We know this is not going to be easy. But we try to come here with dignity and be strong. Although there are so many sentiments.

GOODMAN: The trial is expected to last until the summer, a verdict perhaps by next autumn.


GOODMAN: And Colleen, the trial continues at this hour. We are watching live pictures in the courthouse right behind my of the defendant continuing to answer questions.

I can tell you, across Spain, people are also watching this -- these kind of live pictures which the court has wanted to make available to Spain and to the world. This trial, Colleen, riveting the nation. Bringing back wrenching memories of those attacks three years ago -- Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: Yes. I'm sure people are just riveted to this.

What are we expecting next at this trial, then, Al?

GOODMAN: Well, there are three suspected masterminds among the 29 defendants. Mr. Ahmed (ph) is one of them, and he's the first up.

But what we expect is, if the testimony finishes with him this day, then the next two suspected masterminds, Hassan al-Haski (ph) and Yusef Belfaj (ph), would be expected to testify in the coming days.

Now, on Friday, it will be a shorter day, and then the trial picks up again on a Monday through Wednesday schedule which could last all the way into the summer -- Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: Al Goodman.

Thanks very much, Al.

CLANCY: We would like to hear your views on the Madrid trial and some wider issues.

MCEDWARDS: We're asking this question: Is the fight against terrorism being won or lost? And will the Madrid trial help? And in what way, I guess.

CLANCY: Right. Send us your replies to

We're going to be reading some of them on the air a little bit later.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, I look forward to it.

Let us know where you're from.

CLANCY: Be sure to do that.

When we come back, we'll tell you about an Iraqi town once bustling with energy.

MCEDWARDS: But now the streets of Baquba are empty. It's a ghost town. Empty by the fear and terror that affects everyday life for Iraqis. CLANCY: And another town, this one in Afghanistan, caught up in the tug-of-war between the Taliban and NATO forces. That's later in our "Insight" segment.


MCEDWARDS: Welcome back to CNN Internation and YOUR WORLD TODAY.

CLANCY: This is where we bring CNN's international and U.S. viewers up to speed on some of the most important international stories of the day.

And we're following one of them as it develops, and that is that the Palestinian Authority prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, has handed in his resignation. Now, this was not unexpected because he must resign first. It is expected that President Mahmoud Abbas would then reappoint him.

It is all part of the effort that was brokered last week in Saudi Arabia to end infighting between Hamas and Fatah factions on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank. At the same time, they're also hoping to win international hope for this new unity government, but that appears to be in doubt as the U.S. and others say they're withholding judgment until they see this government actually formed.

We'll have more details as they come in.

MCEDWARDS: All right. Well, U.S., Iraqi and British troops launched their latest security crackdown on Thursday, fanning out across Baghdad, Basra and other hot spots. The U.S. military says the operation involves raids, searches and clearing operations that are aimed at routing out militants.

Fourteen people were detained. Four weapons caches have been discovered so far.

Still, fear and intimidation keep most Iraqi indoors, in their homes, where they feel a little less vulnerable.

CLANCY: Particularly the case in a once-bustling city north of Baghdad. Baquba has become a virtual ghost town now.

MCEDWARDS: CNN's Arwa Damon shows us what terror has done to the city.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The center of Baquba, a provincial capital, in the middle of the day. It's a ghost town.

We have walked these streets many times before, having to jostle through crowds. Not anymore.

Militant groups, both Shia and Sunni, have grown stronger. So have criminal groups. And the fear they've instilled has forced local people into the relative safety of their homes before noon.

(on camera): The impact that the deteriorating security situation has had is really drastic on this street. This was once a thriving marketplace. In fact, just some eight months ago.

(voice over): Now the residents here are saying that at 11:00 it's pretty much closed, because after 11:00, the armed groups come in conducting kidnappings. And at minimum, it costs $10,000 to get yourself free.

Baquba is the provincial capital of Diyala, an ethnic microcosm of Iraq. Sunnis, Shia and Kurds all living in close quarters. While volatile, at times it has shown signs of progress, only for violence and terror to tip the balance towards chaos.

On previous visits we found a provincial government that sort of functioned with plenty of America help. Iraqi army units and the police seem to be getting better. But now many local officials are too frightened to show their face on camera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Armed groups bring an innocent person, torture him, or behead him in public, or commit a massacre by killing civilians. This terrifies the citizens, breaks their will, and makes them obey the armed groups.

DAMON: On one street corner, we find a group of men who are willing to talk. Ismail Rashid (ph) says he owns 10 shops here, all closed for the last six months, he says, because of the climate of fear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Kidnappings, they just stuffed a guy in the back of a truck.

DAMON: His friend Abdullah al-Ahmed (ph) says all that simmered below the surface in Baquba has now exploded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When a flame first burns it's small. Then with time it becomes larger. If someone is blowing on it, throws wood on it, it flairs.

DAMON: For U.S. forces, fighting perceptions is part of the battle.

COL. DAVID SUTHERLAND, U.S. ARMY: Those terrorist groups have begun to take advantage of unwanted fear that is now becoming actual fear. And as we try to drive a wedge between the insurgents and the terrorists, the terrorists are trying to drive a wedge between the people and the government.

DAMON: The local government hasn't meant in more than three months because of the violence. Baquba now a mirror of Baghdad in many ways. And the reflection isn't pretty.

Sectarian bloodshed, little faith in the government or security forces, and U.S. troops stretched thin. For the people of Baquba, there's little to be optimistic about. Arwa Damon, CNN, Baquba, Iraq.


MCEDWARDS: And this programming note for you. There's been a lot of discussion about the Iraqi police forces, when will they be able to take over from the U.S. military and step in? In the first edition of our new documentary stories, "World's Untold Stories," we'll see how those forces are being trained. And what exactly convinced them to sign up in the first place for such a dangerous job?

You can see our new documentary series, "World's Untold Stories." For our international viewers, it will start Friday at the times shown right there on your screen.

CLANCY: Well, we go to New York for a business update right after this short break

MCEDWARDS: That's right.

Also ahead, the Madrid train bombings suspect go on trial three years later. Spain's sizable North African community is left wondering whether there is an enemy within.

We'll explain.



MCEDWARDS: All right. We want to bring you more on this developing story that we have been reporting here, the resignation of the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniya, a procedural move, as a unity government is formed, but we want to get more on this from Ben Wedeman, who's in Jerusalem, and just talked to some of the key players here.

Ben, brings us up to date

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Colleen, as Jim mentioned earlier, this is no surprise. This was really part of the agreement that was worked out last week in Mecca, Saudi Arabia between Hamas and Fatah, whereby the Hamas-led government would resign. And of course the government is led by Ismael Haniya. The prime minister would resign, and shortly there afterwards Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister, to form a new government, and that is really what is really what is going on.

What's surprising is that yesterday at this time there was a good deal of worry that this wasn't going to happen, that this wasn't going to happen, that Fatah and Hamas had gotten back into that cycle of recrimination, politically not militarily at least this time. There were reports that -- and in fact we saw that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, the Palestinian president was supposed to deliver a speech at noon local time in Gaza. That did not happen. There was worry that there would be another fallout between the two factions.

But late this afternoon, they did not manage to workout their differences, so it does appear that the Mecca agreement is back on track. There are still some areas of disagreement between the two factions, as far as far as who's going to be appointed to sensitive positions like the interior ministry, who's going to be the deputy prime minister, but, by and large, it does look like the agreement -- at least for the moment -- is back on track.

MCEDWARDS: You get this portion under way and we're actually looking at some live pictures as this transfer takes place. One of the big questions here, Ben, though, too, is whether or not whatever is done here, is going to be enough to satisfy the international community, and there's, you know, some suggestion that U.S. is already sort of saying, you know, we're going to reserve judgment here, we'll wait and see what this really amounts to.

WEDEMAN: Well, essentially the United States is holding to its position that its held all along, since Hamas was elected last January, which is that any Hamas, any Palestinian government must be three basic requirements that sent out by the U.S., or the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, otherwise known as the quartet, and those three conditions are a recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and abiding by previously concluded agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

And the United States says if those three conditions are not met, there will be no resumption of aid. The United States will not have anything to do with the government, any Palestinian government. And at this point, we don't know what the program of that government is. And therefore, the whole issue, the very vital issue of international aid to the Palestinian Authority, is very much on the back burner.

MCEDWARDS:: Ben, how much do you know about what's happening within Abbas' own rank? How much rancor there is there and what kind of problems could be ahead here?

WEDEMAN: Well, I know that from the day after the elections, last January, in which Fatah was roundly trounced, largely because of its record of corruption and mismanagement, there was a good deal of infighting within Fatah. Those who blamed Mahmoud Abbas for allowing these elections to happen, and allowing them to happen in a surprising clean and straightforward manner.

And since then, really Fatah has been struggling to come to terms with the fact that they were defeated by Hamas. And there are many within Fatah who simply never accepted the result of the voting, and they've taken advantage of fact that the United States and Israel are hostile to Hamas, to continue to keep the situation very much in flux. And -- but at the same time, they realize that they can not go on forever, and therefore cooler heads won over in Mecca when this agreement was signed by Mahmoud Abbas, who's the Palestinian president, but also head of the Fatah movement. But there are many skeptics, among the Palestinians, as well as the Israelis, that in the long term these two factions, which have totally different outlooks on politics will be able to come to terms and actually live in peace together.

MCEDWARDS: Ben Wedeman in Jerusalem for us. Thanks a lot, Ben.

CLANCY: Well, returning now to our top story, and that is of course President Bush's remarks about the war in Afghanistan, and that plan that he has to counter an anticipated spring offensive by the Taliban.

Joining us now to discuss today's announcement, and more than that, is Said T. Jawad, the Afghan ambassador to the United States.

Thank you so much, Mr. Ambassador, for joining us.

SAID T. JAWAD, AFGHAN AMB. TO U.S.: You're most welcome.

CLANCY: All right, let's begin here. The reaction, the president promised more troops, he promised more aid and he promised there was going to be more fighting ahead. What's the reaction?

JAWAD: We are very much grateful for the reaffirmation of the commitment of the United States, both on the military front and on the economic assistance to counter some of the challenges that you'll be facing in the upcoming spring in Afghanistan.

CLANCY: When you look at the situation on the ground today, is there a sense that you have the hearts and minds of the people? A lot of people are talking about the fact that the aid, that so many people expected when they elected Hamid Karzai, just simply hasn't gotten where it needs to go on the ground, hasn't convinced people they made the right choice.

JAWAD: Well, there's very strong support for the United States mission in Afghanistan. A recent poll indicated that 88 percent of Afghans support U.S. presence and the engagement of the international community. President Karzai is an elected president of Afghanistan.

But yet there is certain degree of frustration for lack of the improvement in the daily life of the people, for which we need additional resources, and that's why President Bush has just announced the commitment of an additional $11.8 billion to help rebuild Afghanistan.

CLANCY: All right, let's listen to a little bit of what the president had to say.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: Our strategy is not to be on the defense but to go on the offense. This spring, there's going to be a new offensive in Afghanistan, and it's going to be a NATO offensive. And that's part of our strategy, relentless in our pressure, we will not give in to murders and extremists.


CLANCY: That also means Afghan troops are very much going to be on the front lines come springtime. Is there support for that?

JAWAD: Very much. Our target is to build 70,000-strong national army. So far we have trained 32,000 soldiers. And in the fight against terror obviously, the best combination is to use the Afghan soldiers in combination with the special forces of the United States or NATO forces.

CLANCY: What is the strategy on the ground of the Taliban and who's behind it? They seem to be trying to play the role of spoiler, not being able to alert of the large areas of the country, but at the same time, spoiling the situation for the Afghans who want to live in peace.

JAWAD: You're absolutely right. The strategy of the Taliban is to terrorize people into submission. They don't provide an alternative to the Afghan government. They don't have a charismatic leader. What they're trying to do is to derail the reconstruction process in Afghanistan. That's why they're having suicide bombers, roadside bombings, burning clinics. They're destroying mosques in Afghanistan.

But with the additional support coming up from NATO and the reaffirmation of the commitment of the United States and the increasingly building up the capacity of the Afghan security forces, we're certain that the upcoming spring will be our offensive, NATO and Afghan offensive to eliminate the problem of terror and terrorism in Afghanistan, once and for all.

CLANCY: Many voices have said that Pakistan is not doing enough. Has there been any change in that opinion?

JAWAD: We're grateful for what Pakistan has been doing, and there has been recently some improvement. We look forward to President Musharraf to further eliminate some of the terrorist training camps in Pakistan, and also arrest some of the Taliban leadership. We are very much encouraged with the trend that's going on in Pakistan, and we are grateful for what they have done so far.

CLANCY: Ambassador Said Jawad, Afghanistan, I want to thank you very much for joining us here on YOUR WORLD TODAY -- Colleen.

JAWAD: Thank you.

MCEDWARDS: And just to give you an indication of the challenges that NATO is facing, let's tell you about one particular place, which has changed hands more than once since the West toppled the Taliban, a place where the Taliban are now back and in control.

Jonathan Mann has a look.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: It's an interesting story really, an interesting place, a place so tough, even little girls throw rocks at U.S. helicopters. Back when U.S. forces were in control, they called it "Taliban Town." It's reals name is Musacala, and its sits in the southeaast of Afghanistan, in Helmand province, a part of the country that the government in Kabul doesn't control at all. You can see the mountainous terrain. That's the river right next to it. What you can't see is all of the opium poppies that are growing there, opium poppies that are made into heroin.

NATO fought hard to take control of the province in the middle of last year, pushing out the Taliban and leaving responsibility to British troops. And then late in September, the British forces agreed to leave, in a deal that a lot of outsiders greeted with skepticism. The British put security in the hands of local elders, who promised to take on the Taliban, deal with them themselves.

Guess what? Within months, the Taliban took back control, and innocent civilians have been threatened and displaced.


GEN. DAVID RICHARDS, FMR. NATO CMDR. IN AFGHANISTAN: We had a group of people, a large group of people, a vast majority of people in that town, who were prepared to stand up to the Taliban. The Taliban have come out in their true colors and now have turned against them. And we will put the tribal elders back in control of Musacala, and we will kick the Taliban out and defeat it.


MANN: It was the British Commander David Richards, who approved of the agreement in first place. As you just heard, he promised to restore it, but in fact, he handed the problem to someone else, because his own tour of duty ended this month, right after the Taliban took Musacala.

So now the government is providing for the refugees and negotiating again with the local elders hoping they can convince the Taliban to leave. As that drama unfolds, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is making the rounds of European allies. Wednesday, he was in London with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Peyton Walsh (ph) has that part of the story.


PEYTON WALSH (ph), CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All smiles here, despite pessimistic reports from the ground.

HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN PRESIDENT: Afghanistan's honored to have your friendship, and the commitment of your people, the British people, to Afghanistan, and the service of your soldiers in Afghanistan.

WALSH: At stake, Mr. Blair's decision to tough it out in Afghanistan. Another 1,800 troops committed over the past two years. It may be target practice at night here, but there's almost daily contact with the resurgent Taliban in the British patrol south of the country. Troops (INAUDIBLE) off an insurgent attack on a vital dam. NATO (INAUDIBLE) doesn't dampen, though, the verve of insurgents, seen here. Although NATO claims to have killed a senior Taliban leader, none of this is as fierce of a spring offensive, and a growing belief that a coalition distracted by Iraq is not rebuilding its battlefields in Afghanistan fast enough to win back hearts and minds.

RICHARDS: I will be the first concede we didn't do it as quickly as we should have done and wanted to do, but lessons are being learned, and I think there's a big improvement over this winter.

WALSH: Yes, without a pause in violence, rebuilding is near impossible. British troops try to hold onto this village, Musacala, last year, yet they failed. The cost of the village, and lives and homes evident here. It's now run by the Taliban. It's a conflict often fought against village locals, and it's collateral damage is apparently fueling the insurgency. As a report released to coincide to coincide with Mr. Karzai's visit to London said, the thinktank send-list said some insurgents weren't driven by ideology but by these, legitimate grievances. Civilian deaths and injuries caused by widespread NATO bombing, the coalition campaign against poppy fields, a common source of income, hunger and poverty caused by fighting, but also flood and droughts. And a combination of unemployment and poor local schools and hospitals.


MANN: Those are the kinds of problems, the U.S., Britain and the Karzai government are trying to finally solve, trying to win once and for all in Afghanistan.

Back to you.

CLANCY: All right. Well, we're going to share some of our e- mails with you right after this break.

MCEDWARDS: That's right. And later, Milan, Paris, New York, all fashion capitals of the world. Can swinging London hang with that elite crowd? We'll take a look.


CLANCY: It's got Big Ben and the West End, Wimbledon and Windsor Castle.

MCEDWARDS: That's right, London has countless attractions for both natives and tourists? But is it really a chic city?

CLANCY: That's right, a spate of recent events seems to be clarifying that question for us.

Becky Anderson takes a look.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Has the much longed for and much hyped rebirth of London as the star capital of the world finally happened? The past five days the major players from the world of music, film and fashion have all gathered in England's capital.

(on camera): While on backstages finally preparations are made for this year's hotly anticipated (INAUDIBLE) at London Fashion Week.

Now the revival of this legendary's '60s label is perhaps symptomatic of a general revival of what is known as core Britannia. It was last in vogue about 10 years ago.

When new Labor swept to power in 1997, the party, seemingly by design, became inextricably linked to the slightly ethereal notion of cool Britannia. A youthful looking Tony Blair appeared as comfortable with rock stars as he did with the world leaders. But as any follower of fashion knows, slavishly following it simply doesn't work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cool is tricky, because if you chase cool you lose it. I think what we have to do is recognize it. The reason that London is so strong that we attract and develop some of the best talent from around the world in our colleges. They then stay here, set up businesses, and what we look to do is show that talent and nurture that talent, so it becomes then a successful business to create jobs and, you know, help the economy in London.

ANDERSON: But it isn't just fashion that England currently excels at. This Sunday's British Academy of film and television awards saw the cream of the acting crop, in Britain and international, gather in London.

And as they slept off the celebrations and dreamt of possible further glory at the Oscars, another set of stars from the world of music were jetting in for the often anarchic Brit Awards, some claim it's the very sense of potential chaos that inspires London's creativity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: London's all about individuality and also about creativity, and fun and rebelliousness. It's a bit wilder than you'd find in New York, or Milan or anything, and that's definitely an important, you know, element of it.

ANDERSON: The mood in London is one of quiet confidence. But having been here before, the sensible, (INAUDIBLE), approach, would appear to be one step at a time.

Becky Anderson, CNN, London.



MCEDWARDS: All right. It is time to check in with our viewer e- mail. As the Madrid terror trial begins today, we've been asking for your thoughts on this question.

CLANCY: Is the fight against terrorism being won or lost? Now here's how some of you replied.

MCEDWARDS: Joe writes from Texas, "Yes, as long as there is opposition to terrorism, the fight is being won."

CLANCY: David in Israel had this to say -- "I think that right now the West is losing the war, because people in the West don't really understand what they're up against."

MCEDWARDS: And Bob from Germany says, "Sure the U.S. isn't winning the war on terror. Have the courage and determination to win isn't their obligation alone, but for the entire world."

CLANCY: You know, and Bob thought that perhaps we were editing these to favor one side or another. We're not. We're actually trying to find a lot of different viewpoints here. Very interesting ones have come in. Some people say this isn't about winning or losing; this is about our way of life. We're going to be fighting terrorism for the rest of our lives.

MCEDWARDS: But you know, Bob critical of our coverage, and that's OK. Whatever you want to say, just let us know by e-mail and we'd like to get them on the air.


CLANCY: Yes, that's

MCEDWARDS: And we'll be back.



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