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THE SITUATION ROOM

East Coast Storm Warnings; Pres. Obama's Mideast Push

Aired September 1, 2010 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

Storm warnings are up as hurricane Earl grows and grows and eyes the East Coast. Evacuations have now been ordered for vacationers in North Carolina's barrier islands and all the way up to New England. People in coastal areas are being urged to make preparations, but it's still not clear what kind of impact this category 4 storm will have. CNN's Rob Marciano is standing by in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

So, let's go to our meteorologist Chad Myers first. He's at the CNN Hurricane Headquarters in Atlanta. We got a forecast just a little while ago, Chad. Tell our viewers what we know.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It shifted to the west, to the left, closer to North Carolina. The storm literally refuses to make that big turn. The turn that's been forecast for ten days by the computer models, should have been out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, that never happened. So, the track continues off toward the northwest. A little bit of a slight shift to the north here and that's great news. It needs to make that turn very quickly in order to get out of the way of North Carolina.

Notice, well into the cone now is North Carolina at 115 miles per hour in the overnight hours of Thursday night into Friday. So, tomorrow night into Friday morning is when the closest approach to North Carolina will be at a very significant hurricane pace. And then, maybe a second potential landfall still in the cone, somewhere around the Cape Cod area, maybe even the eastern sections of Long Island and still in the cone.

Notice how this has shifted back off to the left to, the west, at 105 miles per hour, that would be a significant impact. Far enough away right now from New York City to maybe just make some rain showers in the outer bands, but this is still a big storm, and it was upgraded to category 4 just about an hour ago, back up to 135 miles per hour, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, if you are at the beaches, let's say whether in Virginia or Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, all of the way up to the Hamptons, let's say, how worried should you be right now?

MYERS: Well, if you don't mind staying inside and staying away from the windows and reading a book, you're probably all right in most cases. I would say not the same case for North Carolina. You need to get out of there for North Carolina, but the problem will be these rip currents. All of this wave activity will be pounding the shore. All of the water wanting to pile up on the shore, itself, on the beach, and then those sand bars that are out in middle of the ocean, one will break.

You don't know where it's going to break, but when it does, all that water is going to rush out into the ocean. As that water rushes out, if you're in the water right there, you will be rushing out, too. And that's where all of these rescues are going to be for the rest of this end of the week and then maybe even into the beginning of the weekend because the waves will still be here. You need to stay out of the water all of the way from Florida on up into Massachusetts.

BLITZER: Well, we're going to stay in close touch with you, Chad. Thanks very much. Whatever course Earl does take, the coastal areas, as you just heard, they are bracing for an impact from this powerful storm. Our CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano is over in Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina. I assume folks are getting ready there, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you would assume that, but we haven't seen the flurry of activity that we would expect with a major hurricane is bearing down on a susceptible coastline like it is here. We haven't talked to many people who are entirely too worried. We haven't seen much activity at the stores, and aside from the mandatory evacuations in parts now down in Hatteras and in Ocracoke Island, we haven't seen a mass exodus off of the outer banks of North Carolina.

The last time that these folks had any sort of real storm roll through was back in 2003 with Isabel. Technically, they get a tropical storm of some way shape or form hitting this area once every two years. So, you would argue there's a little bit of storm or hurricane amnesia here. Not many people that we've talked to seem to be that worried. It, you know, is another gorgeous day here. You look at some of the surf out here. The surfers are out there. The swimmers have been out.

Yes, there's a rip current issue, but generally speaking, you were just seeing some larger swells roll in, and the surfers seem to be relatively happy. So, when you're talking about a storm of this size and magnitude, a category 4 storm that is now forecast to get this close to this sensitive shoreline and winds, hurricane-force winds, I don't know if Chad mentioned this, hurricane-force winds extend 90 miles out from the center, tropical storm force winds 200 miles.

Now, most of those are on the eastern, the right-hand side of the storm, but nonetheless, if you get that storm to be 40 or 50 miles in the coastline which is what we think will happen, you're going to hurricane-force winds here. If it jogs a little bit farther to the west, you're going to get major strength, a category 3 or 4 force winds here. So, that's going to be the issue with the pounding seas and surf here and beach erosion as well. And then the winds are going to be the damage as well. And you may remember, Wolf, in Isabel, you know, there were portions of the roadway here that were completely cut because of the storm surge, both on Pimlico Sound and off the ocean. So, I think the folks here are not quite as prepared either mentally or physically for this storm as I'd like them to be.

So, hopefully, that storm makes a turn, but as Chad pointed out, it's being very, very stubborn at this point, and we will all have to wait to see what happens, but I'm looking just off camera here, and there's somebody having a party right now and not a care in the world. That certainly is worrisome, Wolf.

BLITZER: Hold on for a second, Rob, because your colleague, Chad, is still with us. I want to bring him back into this conversation, Chad. It's still possible, this weather could move to the west and cause even more serious damage than we're concerned about right now?

MYERS: Certainly. 40 miles to the left. 40 miles of this thing moves. Now, that still 36 hours from where it is now to here. It only has to move this far, literally. If it goes to the left that far, that is a direct hit with a major hurricane on a barrier island. People will be in trouble. People that are there will be in trouble. Those islands will be overwashed with water because of the wave action. Some of the waves under the hurricane right now, under the buoys, 30 feet.

OK. So, they won't be 30 feet when they crash on shore, maybe 15 or 20, but that's higher than the island in some spots, that water will be going right over the top of the island and like Rob said, not only just washing out the roadway, washing out the island and literally making a new island from one where now there is kind of a river that goes right between where that one island was, now, there'll be two with a river in between.

BLITZER: And just before Labor Day weekend, the end of summer here on the East Coast of the United States, an awful, awful time to be worried about this. Never a good time, but this is not a good time especially. All right. Guys, we're going to stay in close touch with Chad and with Rob. Thank you very much.

Another important story we're following, new information coming in. President Obama has brought Middle Eastern leaders to the White House for a high-profile, high stakes relaunch direct face-to-face Israeli and Palestinian peace talks. Our senior white house correspondent Ed Henry is standing by. Ed, they're getting ready for a dinner over the White House and will be hearing from these leaders. I take it you got some advanced text of what the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is going to say?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We got some new information of what the prime minister is planning to say. This is about an hour from now in the east room before they headed in for this private dinner. Significant issue just for the president in the Rose Garden with some of his top officials basically issuing a challenge and saying that earlier today, he told both Prime Minster Netanyahu as well as President Abbas, that basically, there's a window of opportunity here, and they cannot let it slip away.

Significance is that it appears the prime minister is willing to take on that challenge and is saying that he is ready to do a deal. He is ready to compromise, and he takes on the skeptics head on in these remarks who believe that he's a hard-liner and not ready to compromise at one point saying, I've been making the case for Israel all my life, but I did not come here to win an argument. I came here to forge a peace.

And very interesting also, addresses at least twice his Palestinian counterpart directly saying at one point, quote, "there are many skeptics. There are many reasons for skepticism, but I have no doubt that peace is possible. President Abbas, we cannot erase the past, but it is within our power to change the future." Now, I was talking a little earlier to one senior diplomatic source close to these talks who is telling me quite bluntly. His quote was "Netanyahu is not stupid." He knows there's a historic opportunity here and that he has reputation for being a hard-liner and not willing to compromise.

And there are people around these talks who are wondering if maybe now he is ready to deal. A second senior diplomatic source close to the talks telling me flatly, quote, "Netanyahu is ready for a deal. He is looking at his legacy." This source, basically, is saying that he knows that he got this reputation for not being willing to deal, and he is now ready to come to the table here for these direct talks to show that he is serious.

Now, whether or not he follows through or whether or not the Palestinians follow through as well, there could be all kind of other roadblocks that remains to be seen, but in these remarks obtained, the prime minister seems to be signaling he is ready to compromise, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry is going to be watching it. We'll watch that dinner. We expect the president and the four leaders, Ed, to speak at the start of that dinner, is that right?

HENRY: That's right. We're expecting all four leaders in addition to the president. The four leaders were referring to the Israeli prime minister, the Palestinian president, but then on the sidelines here of these talks, you have King Abdullah of Jordan. He may speak as well. He is going to be here as well as President Mubarak of Egypt. Finally, when they go behind closed doors for dinner, another key player is going to be added to this equation, the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Now, the quartet representative trying to push all this along. President Obama invited him as well. So, a lot of important players here. I was told that at one point there are going to be dozens of people at this dinner. There have been plans. They have all kinds of delegation officials, but in the end, the president shrunk this down. He wants a small working dinner where they can try to push this along. Before tomorrow, the key leaders here, the Israelis and the Palestinians go over the state department, go behind closed doors with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to try to really do the hard work of actually bridging the divide here, Wolf

BLITZER: And they want this resolved within one year.

HENRY: One year.

BLITZER: If possible. All right. Ed, thanks very much. Jack Cafferty is coming up next with the "Cafferty File."

Then, a new twist in the terror arrest following a flight from Chicago to Amsterdam. The former suspects are now free. How did the investigators get this case so wrong?

Also, the Afghan ambassador to United States is suddenly removed from his post. He says he's the victim of a smear campaign. I'll ask him why. He is here in SITUATION ROOM.

And major conditions changes in conditions for those 33 miners trapped underground. We're going to show you how their lives are suddenly improving suddenly.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here. He has the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The federal government is filing yet another lawsuit against Arizona concerning the heated issue of illegal immigration. This time, the justice department is going after a Phoenix area community college system. The feds say that the school discriminated against almost 250 non-citizens by making them show extra immigration paperwork before they were hired. Officials say that violates an anti-discrimination provision in a federal law.

This latest lawsuit comes less than two months after the justice department sued Arizona over its tough new immigration law. A federal judge has put on hold the most controversial parts of that law, including the requirement that police check the immigration status of anyone they stop if they think that person might be in the country illegally. In the meantime, the state department has decided to include Arizona's new law in a human rights report to the United Nations.

The U.S. included its legal challenge to the Arizona law as an example of the way the federal government is protecting human rights. Say what? Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is outraged and rightfully so. She is demanding that reference be dropped. Governor Brewer says it's downright offensive that a state law would be included in a report to the United Nations about human rights. There's more.

The justice department is also investigating Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona, for possible civil rights abuses. Sheriff Arpaio is known for being tough on immigration enforcement, unlike our federal government.

Here's the question, how many lawsuits should the federal government file against Arizona over immigration issues? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: You know, it's angering, Jack, so many of those folks is that you know who are some of the members of that United Nations Human Rights Commission that the U.S. submitted this report to?

CAFFERTY: Of course. And Governor Brewer is absolutely right to be furious about it. I mean, how dare the state department include an example of a law in Arizona in the lawsuits by the justice department as some sort of an example to the rest of the world about how we're upholding our stand against human rights abuses. It's offensive.

BLITZER: Yes. A lot of people are really upset about this. This story is not going to go away. All right. Jack, thank you.

Meanwhile, two Yemeni men who were arrested while en route to Yemen from the United States have now been freed. They were held in the Netherlands as possible terror suspects after concerns were raised in the United States about items found in their luggage, but Dutch authorities now echo American officials in saying there was absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing.

Let's bring in our national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She's an external board adviser to both the CIA and the homeland security department. What happened here, Fran?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, FORMER BUSH HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: You know, what's interesting, Wolf, I think, interestingly enough, that all the federal officials did what we would have expected them to do. A guy shows up at the airport in Birmingham, dressed in layers of clothing on a hot day, and so they bring him to secondary. They check his luggage. They find the suspicious items. They satisfy themselves. There's no contraband there. They let this guy go on to Chicago.

Turns out in the investigation, these guys were not travelling together. Lots of suspicious things, suspicious items in one suitcase. Suitcase checked on a flight, international flight, that this guy isn't travelling on, but in terms of the investigation, the federal government is satisfied that they did what they should have done, and that their international allies, the Dutch, followed up at their request and they satisfied themselves.

Interestingly, one of the things that was not frankly done according to sort of the rules of the game was the luggage that went on in Chicago went on without a passenger all of the way to Washington.

BLITZER: Washington Dulles, because they missed that connecting flight that would have taken them to Dubai and then Yemen.

TOWNSEND: That's right and that's a problem. That's not a federal government problem. That's an airline problem. United Airlines is going to have to explain certainly to the Department of Homeland Security how that bag --

BLITZER: They maintained that on domestic flights, Chicago to Washington, they don't necessarily have to match up every piece of checked luggage with the passengers on board. That's only required on international flights.

TOWNSEND: I suspect. You know, Wolf, I was out at the Department of Homeland Security yesterday talking to senior officials about this very case, and while they were satisfied with their own performance, they got grave concerns about this, and I suspect, the secretary, John Pistole, the head of TSA, will be talking to the airlines about how to strengthen that system and ensure that luggage is not moving without passengers.

BLITZER: And they also say all that suspicious material found in the checked luggage, the cell phones, the box cutters, the knives, those were gifts supposedly that were taking home to relatives and friend in Yemen.

TOWNSEND: Well, one thing we can be sure of, Wolf, is both of these guys are now of matters of interest to the federal government and the intelligence community, and they'll certainly get watched from here on out.

BLITZER: All right. We will see what happens. Thanks very much.

A diplomatic uproar, Pakistani officials leave the United States in protest over what happened to them in Washington Dulles airport. We're learning new details. Stand by. You'll learn them as well.

And is the afghan president's behavior becoming increasingly erratic? We're talking about Hamid Karzai. I'll ask the outgoing Afghan Ambassador of the United States. Guess what? The ambassador has just been fired.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Hi, Fred, what's going on?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf. Hello, everyone.

The auto industry is reporting a heavy hit in August sales. Toyota, General Motors and Ford are all reporting disappointing figures today. Toyota sales plunged by 34 percent. GM dropped 25 percent and ford reported 11 percent drop from a year ago. Forecasters predict this will be the worst August since 1983 for car sales industry-wise.

And Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Gates presided over the official ceremony today marking the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the pre-dawn hours of March 20, 2003, columns of coalition troops set off across the desert and marshlands from Kuwait en route to Baghdad. Last week, after 7 1/2 years, that tested our mettle like no conflict in recent American history, the last of our combat units followed that same dusty highway out of Iraq on their way home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Announcing the start of operation "New Dawn," Biden made clear that while the combat mission is over, U.S. support will continue. He also urged Iraqi leaders to form a government which has not happened since election six months ago.

And while work continues to permanently seal the well in the Gulf of Mexico that spewed millions of gallons of oil, Cuba is planning its own offshore drilling. American oil experts who recently met with Cuban officials say the country is planning to drill seven exploratory wells in east area of the gulf. Cuba currently produces oil from onshore wells and imports the rest that it needs -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Fred, thanks very much.

President Obama is restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. It's a high-profile hands-on effort to try to move the Israelis and the Palestinians toward a final peace deal.

Also, Afghanistan's long-time ambassador to the United States is suddenly ordered to vacate his post. He is here in the SITUATION ROOM." We'll talk about, that. We'll talk about Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan.

And clean clothes, solid food, and even music. But conditions are starting to improve at least a little bit for those miners trapped half a mile underground.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Earlier today, there was a tense standoff that went on for several hours over at the Discovery Channel headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, right outside Washington, D.C. It has now ended in bloodshed, police fatally shooting an armed suspect. The hostages, all of them are free. They are fine. Let's go straight to CNN's Brianna Keilar. She's in Silver Spring watching this story. Update our viewers, a lot of interest earlier in the day, what exactly happened?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the latest that we know, police told us that they shot this suspect, James Lee, who -- and he is now dead. They shot him when it became apparent to them that the hostages were in danger. They had been monitoring him on the Discovery Channel's security cameras, and they actually had a police officer, it appears inside the lobby area of the first-floor area.

And so, when it was apparent that the hostages were in danger, that's when they took this action. Listen to what the chief of police for Montgomery County said just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The suspect is reported that he pulled out the handgun that he came in with and pointed it at one of the hostages. It's unconfirmed now whether he actually fired the weapon or not. But at that point, our tactical units moved in. They shot the suspect. The suspect is deceased.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Now, at that point in time, police negotiators had been on the phone with James Lee for almost four hours, they said. They'd been in negotiations with him, and that is when they took this action. They, what they could see actually, we were told off camera by the police chief, looking at video footage inside, Wolf, is that one of the hostages went to move, that they saw Lee draw his weapon and point it at the hostage and that is when one of the police snipers shot and ultimately killed Lee.

At this moment, his body is actually still in the Discovery building behind me, because he came in with explosive devices strapped to his body, but also two boxes, and two backpacks, police told us, of what is potentially explosive devices. So, they are going through the process right now of poring over this crime scene and trying to determine if these are dangerous items and exactly how they can go about clearing them.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar is working the story for us in Silver Spring, Maryland. Thank you, Brianna.

We're getting new, pretty amazing pictures coming in from NASA on hurricane Earl. Chad Myers is over at the CNN Hurricane Center working this story for us. Chad, explain what we're seeing?

MYERS: Well, we have Earl, we have Fiona, and now, we have Gaston, and earlier today, this space station flew right over Earl. It's amazing pictures. Wait until you see the eye in this. There it is, right in the middle. It feels like they're going to fly us right in the middle of this. A large storm just filling up the entire frame of your picture here. Hundreds of miles across.

Now, again, a Category 4 hurricane, 135 miles per hour. You get Category 4 to get above 131. So it's barely a Category 4. But it's still there. A major hurricane is considered a Category 3, so we're well above that. And you see the swirl bands there on the bottom.

For a while, as this was flying in, we were watching it. And there's no real up and down when you're in space. It looked like -- you know, as you're looking at it, it looked like the world was up here, and Earl was like in Antarctica. But obviously, there is no north, south, east, west when you're up there and you're looking at it from the International Space Station, and it kind of looks like they're from the underneath part of the world, but amazing shots as the International Space Station, upside down, flew right over the top of Earl today. BLITZER: Well, it looks like it could be a busy few weeks with Earl, Fiona, Gaston, and who knows what else is going to fill up that alphabet down the road.

MYERS: Of course.

BLITZER: Chad, thanks very much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BLITZER: There is some new video coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Those miners trapped thousands of feet underground in Chile, and conditions for the men are said to be improving, at least somewhat. Karl Penhaul is joining us now with more.

What's the latest, Karl?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, for the last ten days since those miners were discovered alive, rescue workers have been sending them down through narrow bore holes, four inches in diameter, about that thick, everything from food, water, clean clothes, rubber boots, camp beds, and medicine. And the effort has really paid off, because in this new video, we can see that the miners seem to be in great spirits.

At some points they're crowding around the Chilean flag that has been sent down into that cabin, 2,300 feet below the ground. And they're shaking it, shouting greetings to their families, behaving almost as if they're a soccer crowd down there.

And then one of the miners on the video takes us through the cabin where the miners have been confined to now for 27 days. And he says the conditions are improving, that the people are feeling much more comfortable now.

You can also hear music playing, and that's because the rescue workers have sent MP3 players and speakers down into cabin. And then at one point after he jokes and says a couple of the guys are dancing and we are getting ready for this afternoon's party, you hear one of the miners shouting off camera, "Don't forget to tell them to send us the blow-up rubber doll."

Well, those kinds of comforts they are obviously not going to get at this stage, Wolf. They've also been denied a request for beer that they made very early on. The smokers down there however are getting nicotine patches to help them through some of the withdrawal symptoms.

But in kind of a more serious side, one of the miners did send thanks to the rescue workers. He said, "We know we're here for the long haul. We realize you're working around the clock. It's going to take us a long time to get out of here." But he says, "We will be patient. We will wait for you to come and get us," Wolf.

BLITZER: Good to hear that their mood is good. It could be Christmas by the time they come up to the top. All right, Karl, thanks very much. We wish those miners only the best. Diplomatic controversies embroiling Washington right now. One involves the sudden firing of the Afghan ambassador to the United States. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about what's going on.

And a group of top Pakistani officials are going home in protest. They say they were humiliated at Washington's Dulles Airport. We're learning new details. Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's been a shake-up at the Afghan embassy here in Washington, D.C., where the Afghan ambassador suddenly has been ordered to vacate his post amid a controversy swirling back home. Ambassador Said Jawad is here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about what's going on.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in. I assume you're still the ambassador right now, but they've told you it's over. Why?

SAID JAWAD, FORMER AFGHAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Well, at first, I probably served as ambassador for the past seven years where we established the embassy from the ground-up, and I'm very thankful for the support I've received from friends here, particularly, to make this happen. Seven years is a long time to serve as ambassador.

So my term is going to be ending by September 22. Usually the term of the ambassadors are between three to five years, so it's fairly normal for the ambassadors to end their term at some point.

BLITZER: But there's been -- there's been some controversy, because this is a sudden shock to a lot of people, and many U.S. officials were telling me they were shocked to hear this, as well. They say it raises questions about President Hamid Karzai. What's going on over there?

JAWAD; I was not given an explanation about the reason of the end of my term, but basically, as I mentioned, seven years is a long time, and I did expect at some point to leave this job.

BLITZER: Did they give you advanced warning that this was happening, that this was -- your tour of duty would be over? Or did they suddenly just say it's over?

JAWAD: No, they've asked me to come back to Afghanistan to join the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that my tour of duty will be over by September 22.

BLITZER: They just told you that. Let me read to you from "The Washington Post" story about your leaving. Karzai has made a series of hasty firings in the past few months. Last week, he dismissed a deputy attorney general who had been involved in corruption investigations of government officials. In June Karzai abruptly fired the interior minister, Hanif Atmar and intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh. And what some U.S. officials are saying to me is he seems, President Karzai, to be behaving somewhat bizarrely right now, that they're surprised by what he's doing.

JAWAD: Well, I report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so that the authority that, Wolf, actually is in charge of appointment and removal of the ambassador is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but as far as the dismissal of some very, very qualified officials in Afghanistan, I really cannot comment. They were in a different situation and different condition.

But as I mentioned, I had the privilege, actually, of serving Afghanistan and being the face of a new Afghanistan and here establishing the embassy from ground up and making it one of the most successful embassies of Afghanistan abroad.

BLITZER: And then they tell you to go home. Here's another quote from the article in "The Washington Post." I want you to respond to this. "Jawad" -- that's you -- "has been the subject of what he called a smear campaign in Afghanistan over the past few weeks. Several Afghan Web sites published photographs that purported to show people consuming alcohol, and women dancing in sleeveless dresses at an embassy party to celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan."

You've seen all those accusations. You know that Muslim women are not to drink alcohol and certainly women are not supposed to be sleeveless. What do you say about those smears that were leveled against you back in Afghanistan?

JAWAD: First, these completely false allegations and doctored pictures that portrayed as if there was an event at the embassy of Afghanistan on the second day of the holy month of Ramadan, while I was in Colombia and Brazil during that time. We never had an event at the embassy. The pictures were doctored. This was a smear.

BLITZER: So who is out to get you, like that's spreading these rumors and these smears?

JAWAD: A few hard-working, ethical Afghan that are in the Afghan government are subjected to a broad campaign smear both by the opportunistic inside the government, and those fanatics outside the government. So there's a war in Afghanistan, so they use this information and misinformation and propaganda in different ways.

But at the same time, we have hundreds and thousands of messages of support for what you have accomplished, what you have done in here, so we've been here for a long time. People know what we stand for.

BLITZER: Will you go back to Kabul, Afghanistan, right now to serve in the foreign ministry?

JAWAD: I will serve Afghanistan, certainly. I'm not a career diplomat. I joined the government from the private sector to for a vision of building a peaceful, prosperous Afghanistan. I will continue to work with that vision, but if it is outside the government or inside government, I have not decided yet. But I have never been a part of the government for a long time. My past is private sector.

BLITZER: Some reports are saying you're going to stay here in the United States?

JAWAD: Yes, I will stay here for transition, because my family lives here and my son is going to school. So for a short time, I'll be here, and then I'll make the decision.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, we wish you only the best. We wish, of course, the people of Afghanistan only the best. We hope that there is peace and security and democracy in Afghanistan one day.

JAWAD: Thank you very much. Appreciate that.

BLITZER: Said Jawad is the outgoing Afghan ambassador to the United States.

High-ranking Pakistani officials, meanwhile, taken off a plane, detained and interrogated at a U.S. airport, even though they were being hosted by the United States military. Another bizarre story. Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A group of high-ranking Pakistani officers returned home in protest last night after they were taken off of a plane, detained, and interrogated at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. Our Brian Todd has been looking into this bizarre story for us.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a Pakistani official has told me that these men were, in his words, humiliated. These men have returned to Pakistan in protest of their treatment in this incident, which occurred Monday evening.

This was a nine-member military delegation from Pakistan led by brigadier generals and at least one admiral. According to the Pakistani official I spoke with, they were on the way to a U.S. military conference at Central Command in Tampa, which they were invited to.

Now, after several legs of their trip from Pakistan, they landed at Washington Dulles Airport, boarded a United Airlines flight to Tampa. The Pakistani official tells me that, at that point, one member of the delegation made a comment, saying, "I hope this is my last flight," or words to that effect. Something like that. That made a passenger uncomfortable, according to this official.

And shortly thereafter, the Pakistani delegation was confronted by the flight crew. They were then escorted off the plane, and after some discussion, United Airlines tried to rebook them on a flight to Tampa the next day. The Pakistani official I spoke with says that, after consulting with their military commanders in Pakistan, the delegation decided to head back to Pakistan in protest. Contacted by CNN, a United Airlines spokesman would not comment on those specific accounts by the Pakistani official, but he did say, quote, "We recognize the inconvenience this caused, and we have apologized," Wolf.

BLITZER: Were these Pakistani officers, who were invited to come to the United States by the U.S. military, actually detained and interrogated?

TODD: That is where this story gets very murky. One Pakistani official is cited by the Pakistani newspaper, "Ghant" (ph) as saying they were detained and, quote, "they were treated like terrorists."

Another Pakistani official who I spoke with said they were at least temporarily taken to some area aside from the gate, where there were -- there were discussions and they were tried -- you know, they tried to rebook them.

Now, the TSA, we contacted them. The TSA says they never interacted with this delegation. The only agency left who might have been on the scene was the airport police. We contacted the Washington Metropolitan Airport Authority; have not heard back from them on this.

BLITZER: And there could be, though, some diplomatic fallout as a result of this instance?

TODD: There could be. This Pakistani official I spoke with said they voiced their displeasure and their disappointment in this to U.S. officials, but they said we have to move beyond this incident. We have to just move on from here. There's no word yet on whether this delegation is ever going to come back to this conference or even attempt to at this point.

BLITZER: Well, probably the conference is almost over by now.

TODD: Probably.

BLITZER: Did the U.S. government, the State Department, the Defense Department, did they react to this incident, which is pretty embarrassing?

TODD: We did contact a Defense Department official about this, and they said, yes, they were invited to this conference in Tampa, that they regret that this incident occurred. They have not apologized. It wasn't really -- they didn't have anything to do with this particular incident, but U.S. officials are aware of it, and they're -- I guess there are discussions with the Pakistanis ongoing.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Brian.

A big unveiling at Apple headquarters. We're going to show you what's new. Stand by.

Plus, Conan O'Brien, what he's going to call his new show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The change of command ceremony in Baghdad today. The U.S. top general, General Odierno, stepping down, on this, the first day of the new start, New Dawn, as it's called, Operation New Dawn, the start of the noncombat phase of the U.S. military operation in Iraq.

Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is embedded with the U.S. troops. Has some perspective from the troops who are now on the ground.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now, it's official. American troops who once led missions now assist Iraqi forces.

(on camera) What does September 1 mean to you?

STAFF SGT. BRADLEY BEAZER, 4-10 CAVALRY: To me, it means we've done well and we've worked ourselves out of a job. Which is what we came here to do in the first place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It means that I'm not going to have to come back.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): September 1 means more work for some American flight crews, especially those flying Black Hawks.

SPEC. NICOLE JONES, BLACK HAWK FIRST CLASS: We're the only -- one of the only support aircraft here since we had Chinooks that were here. They just recently left. It's picked up quite a bit for us.

LAWRENCE: The first full day of New Dawn is especially poignant for soldiers who slogged through years of fighting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

STAFF SGT. ADAM STEFFENS, 3rd BRIGADE, 4TH INFANTRY DIVISION: I've been here, you know, four tours and the change I've seen is remarkable.

LAWRENCE: Staff Sergeant Adam Steffens was part of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, then deployed twice during the most brutal fighting.

STEFFENS: It was really, really crazy for a couple years there. But now, I look back on that, and I mean, it's a breath-taking difference.

LT. COL. JOHN DIGIAMBATTISTA, MAYSAN, IRAQ: It is a significant thing for a soldier to see Iraqis that he might have trained two years ago, and they weren't that -- didn't have that much initiative. They weren't that well trained. They weren't that aggressive.

Now, to come back and see them, and they're doing operations on their own and we're following them. He's getting payback for that time that he's already spent here.

LAWRENCE: More than 4,400 American troops died fighting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Another 34,000 were wounded.

(on camera) When you look back at your experience in '05, '06, '07, was it worth it?

DIGIAMBATTISTA: Absolutely. A lot of individuals that made the ultimate sacrifice. A lot of soldiers here in Iraq, soldiers' faces and people I've worked with. And if their sacrifice can be worth where we're going, I think we're doing the right thing.

LAWRENCE: Ironically, some American troops are more optimistic about Iraq's future than many Iraqi people themselves. But the soldiers did tell me a lot of that good will that they're feeling right now will completely disappear if Iraq slides back into chaos again.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some of other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Fred, what do you have?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again, Wolf.

Hello, everyone.

Three explosions rocked a religious procession in Pakistan today, killing at least 28 and wounding more than 200. Watch the left side of this video, and you can see one of the explosions go off right there in the crowd.

Authorities suspect a suicide bomber is responsible for at least one blast. A senior government official blames the attacks on a security lapse.

And Apple introduced a revamped line for many products today. The Apple TV device dropped dramatically in price and is now just $99. It's also smaller, as Apple has ditched the video purchase model, focusing instead on people renting video.

There's also a new iPod line, the iTunes social network, and updates to the iPhone, iTouch and iPad, just about everything.

And Conan O'Brien took to the Internet today to announce the long-awaited name of his new show. Drum roll.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O'BRIEN, LATE NIGHT HOST: And -- bang! Here it is. "Conan." Simple, pure, like the man himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Oh, and so complicated. The comedian says he settled on the name after a lengthy process. "Conan" is set to premiere on our sister network, TBS, on Monday, November 8.

Wolf, I know that took a lot of thinking. What should I call it? What's my name?

BLITZER: Good name, "Conan." Good luck to Conan on TBS.

Thanks very much.

A little-known candidate captures the Republican Senate nomination in Alaska. We're talking about Joe Miller. He goes one on one with our own John King. That's coming up at the top of the hour.

Jack Cafferty is next here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is how many lawsuits should the federal government file against Arizona over immigration issues?

Jan in North Carolina: "I don't think Obama cares what we think any more than he cares what Jan Brewer and the residents of Arizona think. I wonder what will be the next state to be subjected to his wrath over something he doesn't agree with? The Democrats are going to have to pass a new tax so that we, the people, can pay for all the lawsuits against we, the people."

Charles, New Jersey: "How about none? Democrats are stupid to pursue this near election time."

Andy in Washington: "By all means, spend time and taxpayers' money on lawsuits as opposed to spending time and taxpayers' money trying to put a stop to illegal immigration, which rumor has it, is already against the law."

Denny writes, "However many it takes for Arizona to realize the error of its ways."

Jim in Michigan writes, "We have the most liberal immigration policy in the world. We let in more legal immigrants per year than any other country on the planet. I'm shocked this administration would fail to enforce our own laws and then go out of their way to sue a state that steps up to do it for them."

And Faye in Gilbert, Arizona, writes, "None. The feds need to get off their butts and do their job. Then Jan Brewer won't have to try to protect us from God knows who may be coming across the border."

You want to read more on this, you can go to my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack. Jack Cafferty reporting for us with "The Cafferty File."

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.