Skip to main content
U.S. Edition
Search
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Prince Harry to Iraq: In the Line of Fire; New al Qaeda Training Camps; Baghad Security Crackdown Goes Into Effect

Aired February 19, 2007 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Osama bin Laden's terror network appears to be training new terrorists and establishing new camps inside one of America's allies -- Pakistan. Now, this apparent al Qaeda come back is raising new questions of just how much the United States is actually winning the war on terror. This hour, I'll speak with Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Mamhud Durrani.

Also, a presidential candidate is heckled for his religious faith. The heckler says he could not support Republican Mitt Romney because Romney is a Mormon. All it was caught on tape.

Now how are other Mormons responding?

And a royal warrior -- Britain's Prince Harry has trained for service in Iraq and he says he wants to see action in the war.

But will he?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, signs that Osama bin Laden's terror group is still operating at a worrisome pace. As the U.S. tries to cut off the head and organizational body of al Qaeda, there are new questions over whether the U.S. is actually winning a key battle in the war on terror.

We have several reports.

Barbara Starr is standing by at the Pentagon.

Arwa Damon in Baghdad.

But let's begin with CNN's Brian Todd on al Qaeda's apparent come back.

What do we know -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, startling news, Wolf, not only that al Qaeda is getting stronger, but where it's regrouping. According to U.S. officials, it's inside the borders of a key U.S. ally in the war on terror. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Is Osama bin Laden rebuilding his network inside Pakistan?

U.S. officials tell CNN of more al Qaeda training compounds there, that Pakistan's tribal region, near the Afghan border, has become a safe haven for senior al Qaeda leaders.

I asked CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen if bin Laden and his top lieutenant are directing operations there.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, clearly, Ayman al- Zawahiri is in this area. According to other intelligence officials I have spoken to, bin Laden is in an area further north, where bin Laden -- in this area of Waziristan, where kind of a lot of the central al Qaeda operation is going on.

TODD: What goes on there?

Bergen says bomb making instruction, more tactical cooperation with the Taliban, evidenced, he says, by more cross border raids and suicide bombings inside Afghanistan.

But Bergen and a U.S. official tell CNN al Qaeda's operations in Pakistan have reached even further, training plotters involved in the July 2005 London bombings and the thwarted attempt to bring down U.S. airliners over the Atlantic last summer.

What could they do in the future?

BERGEN: One is do a radiological bomb in a major European city. That is quite within their capabilities. That's not a Chicken Little scenario. Also, they could bring down a commercial jet with a passenger -- with a rocket propelled grenade or surface-to-air missile.

TODD: We asked Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, are there al Qaeda training camps inside his country's borders?

MAHMUD DURRANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: There may be an odd place. And when we find out, we'll take it out. We have done that recently. But saying them -- if they have reestablished themselves and there are a lot of compounds and they have rejuvenated, that is incorrect.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: The Pakistani ambassador also rejects any notion of American forces crossing into Pakistan to go after al Qaeda, even though U.S. forces have targeted al Qaeda militants there from the air -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you very much.

And we're going to have more on this apparent -- apparent al Qaeda come back.

Coming up this hour, I'll speak live with the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Mahmud Durrani, and with CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

That's coming up shortly.

Meanwhile, a deadly new round of violence in Iraq, including what U.S. military officials are calling a coordinated attack on a coalition combat outpost.

CNN's Arwa Damon is joining us in Baghdad with the latest -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.S. military is calling it a coordinated attack that was initiated by a suicide bomber against one of its combat outposts located north of the capital, Baghdad.

The attack left two U.S. soldiers dead and another 17 wounded. At this point, the military is not disclosing any more details, saying that the incident remains under investigation.

But Iraqi security officials from that province are saying that it took place in a predominantly Sunni area some 25 miles north of Baghdad and that the location was, in fact, also the headquarters of the Iraqi police.

They are saying that the attack involved three suicide bombs and about 50 gunmen that attacked this location with small arms fire and grenades. The attack also left eight Iraqi policemen dead and a number of Iraqi policemen and civilians wounded -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Arwa.

Arwa Damon in Baghdad for us tonight.

Also, a new cause of concern for the United States Navy -- Iranian patrol boats in Iraqi waters.

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

What's going on -- Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the U.S. Navy, as you say, is trying to figure out exactly what Iran is up to in the Persian Gulf.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

STARR (voice-over): CNN has learned that in the past 10 days, Iranian boats have crossed into Iraqi waters at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, sailing near Iraq's offshore oil terminals, perhaps trying to gauge the military response.

The offshore complex is Iraq's economic lifeline. Every second, $18,000 worth of crude oil is pumped into waiting tankers. And that makes this a potential target, which is why the U.S. military is trying to figure out what Iran may be up to.

Officials say the Iranians are not being aggressive. After staying inside Iraqi waters for about 10 minutes, they turned back, after being told to leave by Iraqi security forces.

Probes by Iran have occurred in the past. But one official says the encounters increased after the U.S. military accused Iran of shipping advanced weapons into Iraq.

The U.S. military's strategy?

To ratchet down tensions.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: For the umpteenth time, we are not looking for an excuse to go to war with Iran. We are not planning a war with Iran.

STARR: But there are worries. U.S. officials say Iran's navy has expanded its operating areas in the Gulf, raising questions -- is Iran's real intention to demonstrate it has the ability to shut off the flow of oil shipment through the Strait of Hormuz?

(END VIDEO TAPE)

STARR: But, Wolf, U.S. officials say shutting off the Strait would not be a one-sided proposition because Iran also needs that waterway open. It's a big reason everyone is trying to keep things calm -- Wolf.

BLITZER: When I was in the northern Persian Gulf a couple of years ago, almost two years ago, exactly, Barbara, there were -- the U.S. Navy was saying to me at the time they see Iranian ships in that area -- obviously, close quarters -- all the time, but everyone seemed to be behaving.

So what we're seeing now is -- is a more worrisome posture on the part of the Iranians?

Is that what you're being told?

STARR: Well, what officials are saying is they're seeing these probes. You're absolutely right, Wolf. What's so extraordinary is it's the U.S. Navy which sails in those waters and on an almost regular basis does encounter Iranian military forces. It's all very calm, very correct procedures on the waters. And it has been here so far.

But that's not to say that they aren't noticing and that what the U.S. Navy believes is going on is that the Iranians are watching very carefully to see what the new security posture is in the northern end of the Gulf -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much. By the way, according to the Web site Globalsecurity.org, Iran's navy is the smallest of the country's three armed services. It has about 20,000 men. But its fleet said to be aging and poorly equipped. The Iranian government has announced plans for new ships in recent years, including missile launchers and advanced gunboats.

Let's go back to Carol Costello.

She's watching all of these other important stories making news -- hi, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Hello to all of you.

Police in India trying to figure out who's behind a horrific bombing of a passenger train. At least 65 people were killed when explosions engulfed two coaches on the so-called Friendship Express in northern India. The train was on its way to the Pakistani border. Authorities say it was an act of sabotage aimed at derailing this week's peace talks between India and Pakistan.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she plans to meet again soon with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Rice says the three affirmed their commitment to a two state solution involving the Palestinians and Israel at today's joint summit. But it's still not clear if the emerging Palestinian Unity Government will recognize Israel and renounce terrorism, which the international community wants.

A criminal investigation now underway into a bomb blast that ripped through a McDonald's restaurant in St. Petersburg, Russia. Six people were injured in that explosion. Authorities are trying to figure out exactly what the bomb was made of. It blew out windows and part of the ceiling collapsed. But authorities say it did not cause serious destruction.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol, thank you.

Jack Cafferty is off today.

Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a daring and dangerous rescue in white-out conditions. We'll update you on the latest real life drama to unfold on Oregon's Mount Hood.

Also, JetBlue singing the blues and taking drastic action today, as it struggles to recover from the chaos brought on by winter weather.

Plus, a British royal going to war.

Will Prince Harry wind up on the front lines in Iraq?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It was a daring race against time, temperature and terrible weather conditions. The lives of three climbers hung in the balance.

Our Chris Lawrence is joining us now live from Timberline, Oregon with the latest -- Chris, how is it going?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the rescue teams are with the three missing climbers and their dog, but they're not out of the woods yet. There's still about, a little over 7,000 feet elevation, and they've got a fairly treacherous hike down. It could be up to a three to four mile hike through avalanche country and some very, very cold and windy weather up there.

So they're not out of the woods yet. The rescuers are helping them get down.

They were part of an eight man team that was climbing the mountain over the weekend when they literally slid right over a ledge and fell into a crevasse.

Now, again, the only reason that the rescue teams say they were able to locate them so quickly is because they had these electronic mountain locators that they were able to find their position with. Otherwise, they would not have been able to find them so quickly.

Now, no state requires the climbers to climb it, but some Oregon legislators are now proposing legislation that would make it mandatory for climbers to carry them above 10,000 feet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It sounds like an essential piece of equipment.

Thank you, Chris, for that.

For all its towering beauty, Mount Hood can also be a temple of doom. Winter climbing on the mountain can be treacherous. Just in December, a group of climbers went missing on the mountain and the bodies of two of them have never found. A third person died of hypothermia. More than 35 climbers have died on Mount Hood in the past 25 years alone.

An airline in meltdown and a CEO who says he's "humiliated and mortified." The winter weather just started -- that started JetBlue's nightmare has long since cleared, but the airline just can't seem to wake up from a very, very bad dream.

CNN's Mary Snow is joining us from New York's Kennedy Airport with the bottom line.

What's the latest -- Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is the hub for JetBlue. If you could see behind me, things are looking as if they are returning back to normal. But behind the scenes, it is anything but. The airline has been scrambling to play catch-up since last Wednesday. In that time, it's canceled roughly 1,100 flights.

The airline has apologized and tomorrow plans to take more aggressive action.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Day six of JetBlue's crisis and the airline is still reeling, canceling flights to 11 cities on Monday alone. And passengers still want answers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rescheduling us is not going to be the answer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not -- no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not the answer. We need to do better than that.

SNOW: The trouble started during a Valentine's Day ice storm at New York's JFK, when JetBlue left passengers stranded on planes for up to 10 hours. Since then, there's been a ripple effect of backups.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They need to fix it. I'm sure they will. I mean, or they'll go out of business.

SNOW: JetBlue's CEO, David Neeleman, told the "New York Times" he is "humiliated and mortified" by the breakdown of operations.

That's a far cry from when the airline launched in 1999 and soon after became a darling of the industry.

DAVID NEELEMAN, CEO, JETBLUE AIRWAYS: We want to be the airline that aims to bring humanity back to air travel.

SNOW: An airline spokeswoman says JetBlue's CEO is busy finalizing details of a Passenger Bill of Rights. It's being touted as the strictest of its kind. JetBlue says it will impose penalties on itself, compensate passengers if it can't recover from weather and other events.

But will it be enough to regain trust among customers?

ERIC DEZENHALL: I think that the incident with people staying on the runway for hours and hours is a disaster. It's an F. I think that introduction of a Bill of Rights is a good solid B.

SNOW: Crisis management consultant Eric Dezenhall says JetBlue must go beyond an apology to recover.

DEZENHALL: People want to see that a company is suffering. And, second, people want to know personally relevant solutions.

(END VIDEO TAPE) SNOW: Now, the airline plans tomorrow to detail that Passenger Bill of Rights. It says it won't be 100 percent operational until Wednesday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Could all of this also trigger a Passenger Bill of Rights being passed by the U.S. Congress?

SNOW: That is something that was talked about as soon as this mishap happened on Wednesday, when everyone realized that passengers really didn't have any rights. The airline industry is going to fight this, though, and make the argument that the government will make standards too strict, and that would make things worse.

BLITZER: All right, let's bring in Abbi Tatton.

She's following the situation online, as well.

There's a lot of fallout from this incident -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First of all, a lot online records, Wolf, of what the last few days have been like at JetBlue terminals from photo sharing Web sites; on YouTube, as well; videos of people waiting. A lot of these from JFK in New York over the last few days, where Mary was just reporting from.

And one person who was stuck on the runway there for 11 hours on Wednesday was passenger Genevieve Macaw (ph). She has since launched a blog, a MySpace community, a Web site to gather the stories of people who were in a similar situation.

It's called JetBlue Hostage. She's posting those online. And what she says is she received a round-trip ticket in return for the almost 11 hours she spent on the runway. But she says that's not enough. She's one of the passengers waiting to see what JetBlue does next and she says if it's not enough, she's got a list of almost 150 names already of people who are ready to fight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Abbi, for that.

By the way, JetBlue's stock was down on Friday. But the financial markets are closed today in observance of President's Day. Wall Street will be back in business tomorrow. We'll see how the stock does then.

Coming up, is al Qaeda finding safe haven and building new terror camps in Pakistan?

I'll ask the country's ambassador to the United States. He's standing by live.

And matters of faith dogging one presidential candidate in particular, as he tries to win over religious conservative voters.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Let's check back with Carol Costello for a closer look at some other important stories making news.

What's crossing the wires -- Carol?

COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, it could be a major turning point in the effort to understand what causes autism. Scientists say a five year international study found two new genetic links that may make children more susceptible to developing the complicated brain disorder. Researchers looked at DNA samples for more than 1,100 families with children who have autism. They say the findings suggest autism has numerous genetic origins. They're hoping to find better ways to diagnose and treat it.

Iranian officials have wasted no time in carrying out the execution of a man they say was involved in a car bombing last week. The bombing killed 11 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The man was hanged in the southeastern Iranian city where the bombing occurred last Wednesday. Witnesses to the execution changed anti-U.S. and Israeli slogans.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for that, Carol.

Today, at the Madrid train bombing trial, three of the 29 defendants denied playing any role in the 2004 attacks that killed nearly 200 people. Because of the high attention being paid to the proceedings, officials are actually streaming the entire trial online.

Let's check in with Jacki Schechner for details -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, what you're watching right now is video of one of the defendants testifying earlier today. This video is made possible due to a company called Datadiar. It's a Spanish company that usually makes its money providing legal services to legal professionals. But because there is such a high national interest in this trial, they're now concentrating on streaming the entire thing to the public on their Web site for free.

They struck a deal with the Spanish tribunal to make the video available. The tribunal has its own cameras and microphones in the courtroom.

They're not providing any opinion or commentary on the trial. They're just giving some legal explanation as to what's going on. They also have some background information and they'll show you some info on the defendants; also, what the courtroom looks like.

Everything on this Web site is in Spanish right now, but we spoke to them today. They say there is an incredible amount of traffic coming from all over the world and they hope to have it translated into English by the end of the week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thank you for that, Jacki. Coming up, is the Iraqi prime minister in a state of denial?

He called a security sweep over the weekend a dazzling success. We're going to go to Baghdad. CNN's Michael Ware is standing by.

Plus, he's third in line to the British throne and he could be in Iraq in just a matter of weeks. We'll have details of Prince Harry heading to war.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, al Qaeda regrouping and training terrorists inside Pakistan. U.S. officials telling CNN al Qaeda now has more training compounds in tribal regions near the Afghan border and they're calling the region a safe haven for senior al Qaeda leaders. We're following up this story.

Also, Iranian patrol boats probing Iraq's waters. U.S. military sources reported increased activity by Iranian vessels, possibly testing defenses around offshore oil terminals and testing the reaction of U.S. Navy ships in the area.

And a deadly coordinated attack on a coalition outpost in Iraq. Three suicide car bombers, some 50 gunmen taking part, killing two more American soldiers, eight Iraqi police officers, injuring 17 people.

I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Iraqi civilians also among the dead today -- 33 of them killed. Amid this violence, an assessment of Iraq's security that some are questioning.

And joining us now from Baghdad, our correspondent, Michael Ware -- Michael, over the weekend, a statement coming from the prime minister's office, Nuri Al-Maliki, saying the new security plan being implemented, in his words, has been "a dazzling success during its first days."

Do you see evidence of a dazzling success?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly not yet, Wolf, not with multiple car bombings still going off.

There has been a decline or a decrease in particular types of violence in particular areas. But to be able to be in a position to call this a dazzling success is far more ambitious of the prime minister, Nuri Al-Maliki, than even the American commander in control of Baghdad.

The commander of the 1st Calvary Division on the weekend noted the decrease, the lull in particularly sectarian violence. The numbers of tortured and executed bodies showing up on the streets of the capital each morning are certainly down.

But even the American general said it's way too early to tell if this is a trend.

Indeed, it fits into a pattern that we've seen many times before. As the general pointed out, whenever the U.S. military changes tactics, whenever there's a new step up, whenever anything changes, the enemy -- be it the Shia militias or the Sunni insurgents, more often than not, sit back or they lay low and watch. They think, they adapt and then they change their tactics and strike back.

Certainly what we're seeing now is a war holding its breath -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Who's the audience, do you think, that Nuri Al-Maliki is addressing when he speaks of a "dazzling success?" Are they Iraqis? The international community? The American public? Who is he trying to impress?

WARE: Well, Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki has a lot of people to please. And it's impossible to please everybody, clearly.

Now, he's obviously trying to address a domestic constituency that's been living with this violence for longer than they care to remember, and they just want it to end. They're looking for him to deliver on security.

Now, these people know that it just ain't so. They're still living it. The marketplaces are still being hit with car bombs.

Even though the number of bodies showing up each morning as a result of sectarian violence is down, the bombs are still going off. There's still the chatter of machine gun fire. There are still attacks going on here in the capital of Baghdad, but Nuri al-Maliki needs people to believe that things are more secure.

He also needs the Bush administration to believe this. As President Bush has outlined I think relatively clearly, this is Prime Minister Maliki's last role of the dice. He very much needs to make it so. So he's got a lot audiences he's trying to keep happy here.

BLITZER: Michael Ware in Baghdad for us.

Michael, thanks.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Prince Harry could be joining thousands of other British soldiers in Iraq. CNN's Paula Hancocks is in London with details of the impending royal deployment -- Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Prince Harry has always said that he wants to be treated like one of the boys in the army. But, of course, he's not one of the boys. He is a prince. He is third in line to the throne. But at this point, it does appear as though his insistence has paid off and he is going to Iraq. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANCOCKS, (voice over): This is Prince Harry, age 8, inspecting the troops with his mother, the late Princess Diana. And clearly enjoying playing soldier.

Fourteen years later, Troop Leader Wales, third in line to the British throne, has trained for service in Iraq, and it looks as though he may be going. Military sources tell CNN that at this moment, Prince Harry is expected to head for active duty in Iraq in April or May, but that could still change. No public confirmation from military or royal officials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Incoming!

HANCOCKS: This footage shows what life in Basra can be like. These British soldiers taking cover from a mortar attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Incoming!

HANCOCKS: One hundred and one British soldiers have been killed in action in Iraq since March 2003, but Harry has long insisted he wants to see action, to fulfill his role as an officer, even reportedly threatening to resign if he's stopped from deploying for security reasons.

PRINCE HARRY, "TROOP LEADER WALES": The last thing I want to do is have my soldiers sent away to Iraq, whatever like that, and for me to be held back home twiddling my thumbs thinking, well, what about David, what about Derek, you know, whoever, you know?

HANCOCKS: Harry would not be the first royal to fight in a war. His uncle, Prince Andrew, served as a helicopter pilot during the 1982 Falklands War.

There are fears that Harry's presence in Iraq could make him and his unit a trophy target for insurgents. No word on how close to the front line Harry would be allowed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANCOCKS: Now, protecting a prince in a war zone is likely to be very difficult. Usually Prince Harry has 24-hour protection from the metropolitan police, but it's very unlikely these particular police officers will have the training to protect him in a war zone. And also, it's almost impossible to try and protect one soldier against something like a roadside bomb -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Paula in London.

Thank you for that.

There's a long, long tradition of British royals serving in the military. Even Queen Elizabeth did her part during World War II.

She trained as a driver in the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service. This pictures shows her in uniform on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in 1945. That's her on the left with her parents, Queen Elizabeth and King George VI, and then Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He's in the middle.

Up ahead, they're both Washington powerbrokers. He's white, she's African-American. They're married. Now they're speaking out on the discrimination they faced, among other things.

I'll speak with both of them. That's coming up live.

And al Qaeda appears to be training more terrorists and building more terror camps. Equally startling, it's happening in one of America's close allies, Pakistan. I'll speak with Pakistan's ambassador to the United States about this worrisome new development.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's our top story. Al Qaeda appears to regaining in size and strength, right inside Pakistan.

Joining us now, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Durrani, and CNN terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.

MAHMUD DURRANI, PAKISTAN AMB. TO U.S.: It's a pleasure.

BLITZER: It's a shocking development, and I want to get your side of the story. The suggestion is that in your country, on sovereign Pakistani soil, al Qaeda is regrouping in north Waziristan, one of the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, and is potentially planning terror attacks not only there, but around the world.

DURRANI: I think this is a total and gross exaggeration that the core group is there and they're building the way they are. There maybe an odd, you know, group of al Qaeda, but the projection that has been given today, including your television, CNN today, giving (INAUDIBLE) of the old printing (ph) and Osama bin Laden, this is not true.

BLITZER: Are you saying that in Waziristan, in Pakistan right now, there is no al Qaeda? That they're not regrouping, they're not training, they're not getting ready again?

DURRANI: No. There are two things.

There may be some elements of al Qaeda, but they're not training in large numbers. They are not regrouping. That isn't accurate. What I'm saying is, there maybe some elements of al Qaeda, but not in the force that has been projected.

BLITZER: What are you hearing, Peter? Because you've been studying this very closely, speaking with top U.S. and other analysts. PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think the view of U.S. military intelligence officials is that there are training camps in this area. They're not -- they're not large. We're talking 10 or 20 people training in bomb-making, inside compounds. This sort of thing is hard to see from there, hard to see from outside.

BLITZER: We know what 10 or 20 people could do on 9/11. So...

BERGEN: Well, and look at the London attacks of July 7, 2005. According to the British Home Office, two of the leaders trained in Pakistan with al Qaeda, met with al Qaeda, went back and implemented the attacks in London.

So I -- you know, I hear what the ambassador is saying, but clearly U.S. military intelligence officials and U.S. intelligence officials in general feel that there is some regrouping going on in the tribal areas.

BLITZER: The further suggestion, Mr. Ambassador, is that your government has actually made a deal with some of these tribal warlords there to stop Pakistani military forces from actually going in and cleaning out this situation.

DURRANI: It's very, very sad when people say this. I mean, Pakistan is one country which has literally put everything on the shelf (ph) right now.

They are fighting the terrorists. We are getting the maximum casualties even today.

We've had a number of terrorists, suicide bombers in our country from Peshawar, to Quetta, to southern Punjab in Islamabad. We are fighting this menace every day.

BLITZER: The suggestion is that Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, he's firmly committed, and he's been a target of al Qaeda, several assassination attempts. But there are other elements in your security services, intelligence services, the military that -- I don't know if they're in bed, but they're cooperating with these elements.

DURRANI: Totally and utterly incorrect, because I know the top (INAUDIBLE). I know the top and the medium level leadership in the army. There is no question, they're totally under control of Pervez Musharraf, they are doing exactly what he tells them.

There may be something wrong at the foot soldier level, maybe in (INAUDIBLE) on the border. Yes, it is possible. But overall, the military, the intelligence is totally committed. We are fighting for our own source (ph).

BLITZER: Peter, what are sources telling you?

BERGEN: Well, I mean, take -- let's look at the assassination attempts against General Musharraf. They did involve people in the Pakistani army. You know, lower levels, but that's according to the Pakistani government.

So, clearly, there must be some sympathy for al Qaeda and al Qaeda-like groups. As the ambassador says, it may not be at the top level, and it's certainly not official government policy. But the fact is, if you look at the suicide attacks in Afghanistan this past year, there were 139. That's more than in the entire history of the country. As the ambassador has said, there have been six suicide attacks in Pakistan just in the last month.

BLITZER: And here's the other charge, Mr. Ambassador -- and we want Pakistan to provide its side of the story. Osama bin Laden is hiding out someplace in this area in Pakistan. His number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is there. The leader of the Taliban is in Quetta. You've heard this suggestion many times.

I want to hear your side of the story.

DURRANI: My friend Peter has also said that once in a while. I think...

BLITZER: It's not just -- U.S. military sources.

DURRANI: Yes, but to the best of my knowledge and information, they are not in Pakistan. In fact, nobody knows where they are. If we knew where they were, they would have gone by now. This is total speculation.

BLITZER: Why is everyone speculating, Peter, that these guys, whether Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban, or Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, why is everybody working under the assumption that they're hiding out inside Pakistan?

BERGEN: Well, let me just say that the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency testified in January that the plot to bring down 19 American airliners, luckily averted in the summer of 2006, was directed from al Qaeda in Pakistan. He said that on the record in intelligence testimony.

But also, James Jones, who's the head of NATO forces, said in September, also in testimony before the Congress, that the leadership of al Qaeda -- of the Taliban, pardon me, was in Quetta, which is an area of Pakistan a.

BLITZER: Quetta's a major city. Why not simply go in there and clean it up?

DURRANI: Yes, it's easier said than done. But first of all, I don't think the leadership of the Taliban is there. That's totally incorrect.

You see, the problem is you have to clean out Afghanistan. The tribal area is a very small fraction of total Afghanistan.

I think Mr. Bush brought out in his latest address on what the problems are in Afghanistan. You have to sort those out. And there is far more space in Afghanistan than there is in the tribal area. BLITZER: Unfortunately...

DURRANI: So there are people there, you don't have control over that country. So why should they all come here? The leadership of the al Qaeda and the Taliban, in the best of my understanding, is in Afghanistan. I can't say that with, you know, certainty, but I do...

BLITZER: You suspect.

DURRANI: I more than suspect.

BLITZER: You believe it.

All right. We'll leave it there and we'll continue this.

Ambassador Durrani, thanks very much for coming in.

DURRANI: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Peter Bergen, thanks to you as well.

And up ahead in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, why are two presidential hopefuls, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator John McCain, boxed in by their respective stances on Iraq?

And a unique tale of race and romance. A Washington power company, where one is white, the other African-American. The former defense secretary William Cohen and his wife Janet, they write a book about their unique experiences. They're standing by live. You'll want to hear this interview.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: He's a former secretary of defense of Irish and Jewish roots, she's a successful African-American journalist. A Washington power couple by any definition, and yet even they are not immune to the cold glare of racism.

They've written a powerful story about their bond and the challenges they face. The book is entitled "Love in Black and White: A Memoir of Race, Religion and Romance."

Joining us our world affairs analyst, William Cohen, and his wife, Janet Cohen.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Mr. Secretary, let me start with you, because it's hard to believe when the two of you got married you faced discrimination, and it was -- it was a painful experience for both of you, but give us one example, Mr. Secretary.

WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, it wasn't as painful for us as it is for many people, but we certainly had to confront the issue of whether or not there could be a mixture of racists, and certainly that wedding took place in the United States Capitol, which was built on the backs of slaves during the early years. But our marriage would have been illegal as recently at 1967 in the case of Loving against Virginia. And as a result, the Supreme Court, they abolished those anti- Miscegenation laws, and as a result of that, people such as Janet and me were able to meet and to marry and to succeed.

But we encountered some discrimination, to be sure, in our personal appearances in various parts of the country. But it's not as intense as many other couples have had to face.

BLITZER: Because at one point -- I want Janet to weigh in a second. But at one point, you write you were ready to slug someone. Talk a little about that.

COHEN: Well, we in a restaurant in New York, and a table next to us, waiting to make contact with us. And as we got up to leave, they got up to leave, and a man came over to me and said, "Well, you're a public figure and you have to be careful who you're seen with."

And I said, "Well, what do you mean?" And he looked over at me and past me at Janet. And I said, "Mister I am over the age of 21 and free. I don't have to be concerned about anyone I'm seen with." But I had to restrain myself because it was clear that he thought he could get away with making a clearly racist statement about I had to be careful that I wasn't seen with a black person.

BLITZER: was clear to make a racist statement that high to be careful being seen way black person.

BLITZER: Janet, what was it like for you?

JANET LANGHART COHEN, JOURNALIST: Well, it was pretty easy. It's easier for our dynamic.

I think if I were a black male and Bill were a white female, we would have a different story to tell you in America. They're more accepting of this mixture of interracial marriage.

But for me, the funniest thing that happened was when one of Bill's colleagues in the U.S. Senate asked him, "Which one of Janet's parents is white?" And Bill said, "Why do you ask?" And he said, "Well, because she's so intelligent," and I thought, he's still in the dark ages.

BLITZER: It's hard to believe that that kind of mentality, Janet, still exists, but talk a little bit more about some of the -- I guess the reactions that when people see the two of you, what it's been like.

LANGHART COHEN: Well whenever we go to a ball game to see the Wizards down in D.C., after the game a group of black guys will come and just swarm Bill. Black people love him.

I think they love him and accept him, and wonder if I'm lost. Am I a wannabe or what's the thing here with Janet? But I don't think we've had any real serious problems as it relates to race.

COHEN: Part of it has to do, Wolf, we both have achieved positions of some success in our respected professions. And I think people accept that, or are more accepting of it.

We're not trying to be and aren't a poster couple for interracial marriage. What we want to the say is, let's go back and look at past. Anti-Semitism, certainly I experienced that in growing up, even though I am not technically Jewish. Nonetheless, I knew a lot about that. Janet growing up as a single parent mother in racist Indiana at that time, where the Klan was very active.

So we both came from positions of modest families growing up, experiencing discrimination, and yet we both have been able to meet. And again, to join hand in hand.

And what we want to say to the general public -- you know, follow your heart. Be with the one and marry the one you love, but just be aware that there are still consequences.

It's changing. America has come a very long way. It still has a way to go, but it only can happen in America that we could be together as we are. And I think that's true of many, many interracial couples.

LANGHART COHEN: And it's a union like this one that produced a Barack Obama.

BLITZER: And talk a little about that Janet, because he's running for president. His father was from Kenya, his mother was from Kansas, and he's obviously a rock star right now. But talk a little about the biracial aspect of Barack Obama from your unique perspective.

LANGHART COHEN: Well, the story -- or the question has been asked, is he black enough? And that question has been asked by my community.

And I don't think we're asking, is he -- is his pigmentation dark enough, or is he culturally black? I think they're asking the question, because you're black, do you empathize with our issues? Do you understand what our problems are? And if you become president, will you address those issues? Unlike so many other presidents who promise us everything and give us nothing.

COHEN: I have a problem with the question itself, Wolf -- Is America ready for a black president? It's as if we're still living in this mentality that if you're white, you're superior, and if you're black, you have to prove something beyond simply your credentials.

For so many years we've always said that black athletes could be running backs, not quarterbacks, they could be slugging outfielders but not pitchers. They could be assistant coaches, but not coaches.

We've seen each and every one ever those myths shattered. And I think that that's what's taking place in this country today with greater acceptance and respect for interracial marriage, or relationships, and that's something that I think is to the credit of America. To our great credit.

LANGHART COHEN: Well, you know, we've been to the moon and we're still asking these questions of, can a black person were president? Can a woman be president? And here I am a black female, and people often ask me, "Well, you're black and you're female. Hillary's in the race. Obama's in the race. Who are you going to choose?"

Well, I'm going to listen to the issues. I'm going to listen to the interests that are mine.

BLITZER: All right. That's a smart answer.

And I've known both of you for a long time. I've got to tell you, I read the book and learned a whole lot more. It's a great read, an important read as well, part of our "Uncovering America" series.

Let me thank both of you for coming in.

Our world affairs analyst, William Cohen, and Janet Cohen. The book is entitled, "Love in Black and White: A Memoir of Race, Religion and Romance."

Thanks very much.

LANGHART COHEN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's a real love story as well.

Up next, presidential candidate Mitt Romney heckled over his faith. We'll have details.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A shocking confrontation on the campaign trail. Mitt Romney heckled over his faith.

Let's go to CNN's Carol Costello -- Carol.

COSTELLO: You know, Wolf, I just talked with Romney's campaign. Kevin Madden (ph) told me the heckler's blunt comments were the roughest by far.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice over): A Florida retirement center, a heckler hurls insults at presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I want my testimony to read that I voted for a man who stands for the lord Jesus Christ. And you, sir, you're a pretender. You do not know the lord. You are a Mormon.

COSTELLO: It's something Romney has heard before. His easy response won him a standing ovation. MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the great things about this great land is we have people of different faiths and different persuasions, and I'm convinced that the nation -- that the nation does need -- the nation does need to have people of different faiths, but we need to have a person of faith lead the country.

COSTELLO: But Romney's faith will dog him. Although there are nearly six million Mormons in the United States, many Americans are confused about Mormonism.

The HBO show "Big Love" doesn't help. It's a show about a man with three wives who lives in Utah. Many viewers assume this polygamist family is Mormon, but the Mormon church outlawed polygamy more than a century ago.

Perhaps the more nagging question is about what the Mormons believe about the bible and Jesus Christ.

MICHAEL PURDY, MEDIA RELATIONS, THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS: We believe in God, the eternal father, his son Jesus Christ, and in the holy ghost. Jesus Christ is at the center of our worship, and we believe he is the son of God and the savior and redeemer of the world.

COSTELLO: Still, the Mormon belief in Christianity is different. They reject traditional Christian beliefs about the holy trinity. For example, they feel God was a person, as well as Jesus.

Evangelicals call Mormons a Christian cult.

Romney tried to change minds by inviting evangelicals to his home for some Mormon 101. He hopes the questions and the heckling will eventually go away.

ROMNEY: I don't think faith will become a factor in the final analysis, but it may become an issue people talk about early on. But ultimately they put aside those differences and focus on the capabilities of the individual candidates, their vision, their aspirations, where they'd take America and why they're running.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: As for who won, the heckler or Romney, well, Romney's camp says he got the standing ovation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much.

That's it for us.

Let's go to "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

CNN U.S.
CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNNAvantGo Ad Info About Us Preferences
Search
© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by CNN.com
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines