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CONNECT THE WORLD
Al Qaeda Respond to the Killing of Osama bin Laden; Widespread Demonstrations in Syria; President Obama Thanks Troops; What it Takes to Be a SEAL; Coca-Cola Turns 125
Aired May 06, 2011 - 16:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM CLANCY, HOST: Gone, but not forgotten -- al Qaeda admits its leader is dead, but vows to continue its war on the West.
Pakistan steps in, trying to untangle the web of security aid surrounding the terrorist leader.
Plus, the neighbor bin Laden didn't know he had -- how the CIA silently kept watch over his compound.
And a global icon turns 125 years old. Like other soft drinks, now forced to defend its effect on our health.
Those stories and much more tonight, as we connect the world.
Al Qaeda says Osama bin Laden did not build an organization that would die along with him, warning the United States will pay for killing him. The terror network issued its first statement since U.S. commandoes took the life of bin Laden at his secret hideout in Pakistan. Materials seized at that compound show bin Laden's isolation had not reduced him to figurehead status as so many experts said. Instead, he had a direct operational role in plotting Al Qaeda attacks in recent years.
Amateur video from one of our Turkish affiliates said to show the compound in Abbottabad on the night of the raid. Now, you can see the fires burning there. And at one point, there's a possible explosion. U.S. commandoes blew up a damaged helicopter before leaving the scene early on Monday mg.
The top U.S. counter-terrorism official has said it's inconceivable that bin Laden didn't have some kind of support system right there in Pakistan. Today, an attempt to try to unravel that.
Nic Robertson joins us now life from Abbottabad with news of dozens of arrests -- Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, the government here has been having a security sweep in the city, arresting people who live close to bin Laden's compound and in other locations in Abbottabad.
What they're telling us is they're arresting anyone who had any connections with the bin Laden compound and the people inside there, the bin Laden family and the courier's family, anybody who, perhaps, delivered meat or milk or had any dealings with them whatsoever.
The government wants to question them to find out if they're just simply a commercial relationship, that they were selling them that meat or those -- that -- that milk. Otherwise, it's going to -- it says it will drill down to see if they had any nefarious connection -- were they helping protect bin Laden, were they helping support him, were they part of an Al Qaeda network or Al Qaeda sympathizers.
So those arrests coming this evening, just before dusk, and continuing into the night here. Earlier in the day, however, there had been an anti- government protester by one of the leading Islamic political parties here.
CLANCY: Nic --
ROBERTSON: It's anti-American, but it's relatively peaceful. It's also relatively small, about 600 people here. This is a rally organized by the largest Islamist party here, the Jamaat-i-Islami.
The calls here have been saying, "America go! America go! America -- USA a terrorist!"
What they're telling the people in the crowd here is that the United States is the root of the problems here in Pakistan, the root of the terrorism and the root of all the problems and that the United States should leave the country, get out and go.
They're saying your show is over, the United States, leave.
This rally had been called right out of the Friday prayers, but it is relatively small. This is a city with about half a million people. And if you come out over here and come with me back this way, you get an idea of just how small it is.
So we've worked our way from the top edge of the protest up here to the corner here. And you can see the speakers gathered up there, addressing the crowd, telling them that they should support this particular party, the Jamaat-i-Islami, that they should support them in calling them to throw out the United States.
But what's very interesting about this rally is that they're telling the people here that Osama bin Laden wasn't living in that house just a few miles from here, that it was Pakistani nationals. And they're accusing the United States of violating Pakistan's sovereignty and of terrorizing women and children inside the house. That's the message here today from these people.
But this crowd very peaceful so far, listening to the speakers, following the chants, but a very peaceful protest.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ROBERTSON: So there, what we were hearing from the people there, it was very interesting because they weren't being joined by other protesters from inside the -- inside the city there. It's -- this was going to catch and cause wider -- wider protests. One would have expected more people to jump in and join them.
CLANCY: Nic, they have called for the people of Pakistan to rise up, to question, to attack their own government, and, in particular, of course, attack Americans.
But what is the likelihood that people in Pakistan are going to be listening to that?
ROBERTSON: Well, so many of them, the al Qaeda sympathizers, will be. But there will be a lot of people here in Pakistan that are going to listen to it and say, look, al Qaeda has brought death to our families, it attacks our security forces and we'd rather, thank you very much, have support and economic aid from the United States than listen to al Qaeda's message.
So for some people, it's going to -- it's going to strike a chord.
But I think for the majority people in this country, it's not going to be something that they're going to rally to. Yes, they get angry when there are drone strikes in their country by the United States. Yes, they get angry what they see what their government calls the sovereignty of the country being sort of run roughshod over by a U.S. Special Forces team coming in here to bin Laden's compound.
But does this make them want to join al Qaeda, for -- for the vast majority, absolutely not. They're Muslim, but not of the type that al Qaeda is, which is a very violent, violent brand of Islam -- Jim.
CLANCY: Nic, very quickly, I want to ask you something. The experts told us this man, Osama bin Laden, was a figurehead, a spiritual leader, an icon. Now we find out from the data he was far more.
ROBERTSON: Yes, guess what, five years, as we understand he was in this compound, not going out, he had -- he had plenty of time to stay involved in the dealings of -- of al Qaeda on even a day-to-day basis, or certainly if not day-to-day, week by week. He could stay involved in the input and planning.
The data recovered so far shows that he was involved in discussing a plot that would have taken place later this year in the United States. These were on written notes kept inside his compound. Many, many data storage devices there.
So, yes, bin Laden, rather than being on the run, not able to plot and plan for al Qaeda, appears to have been very much involved in what they were doing, where they were going to do it, who was going to do it and how they were going to do it -- Jim.
CLANCY: Nic Robertson, our senior international correspondent, on the scene in Abbottabad in Pakistan right now.
Thanks, Nic, as always.
All right, very important developments here. We've got some videotape that came out. Intelligence analysts are poring over that right now -- poring over that right now, poring over a lot of data that shows just how much of a role bin Laden still maintained, operationally, strategically inside al Qaeda.
But all the while, bin Laden didn't know it, he had CIA operatives for neighbors, living for months up to the raid. Surveillance from their safe house helped to gather enough evidence for President Obama to give the order.
Scott Shane, with "The New York Times," is one of the U.S. journalists reporting this story today.
He spoke earlier with CNN.
SCOTT SHANE, "NEW YORK TIMES" REPORTER: SHANE: We don't know exactly where it was, but I've been told that there was a line of sight to the compound. And, of course, they had to move into this place -- apparently, move in a lot of photographic equipment and other kinds of spy gear without attracting the attention not only of the people in the bin Laden compound, but also Pakistani intelligence and police, who, of course, didn't know that the CIA was onto this house.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fascinating. So, this spy equipment, this technology they moved in, can you describe it to us?
SHANE: Well, I think they -- they used just about everything they could think of. They -- they supposedly observed behind, you know, sort of one-way glass, so no one could look in at them, but they could look out. They used ordinary sort of telephoto lenses with cameras taking pictures of anything that sort of moved in the area.
They also used infrared equipment, eavesdropping equipment, to try to pick up both any cell calls made in that area. There was no -- apparently no land line phone or Internet -- and, also, apparently, to try to actually pick up the sounds of the voices from inside the compound.
COSTELLO: And you say in the article that they did notice a tall man who would take daily walks and they sort of nicknamed him "the pacer."
Can you tell us more about that?
SHANE: Well, I mean, it is -- it is sort of fascinating because Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, had said that even when they went ahead with this operation, they were only 60 to 80 percent sure that bin Laden lived in that house. A very tall guy, obviously, but I gather that the angle that they had to observe from didn't allow them to estimate the exact height of the people walking around.
So they were aware that a man came out regularly for 20 minutes and sometimes as long as hour-long walks just around the compound, inside the wall, but they never were able to get -- you know, get a line on him to -- to determine for certain that it was him.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CLANCY: Also today, we're learning more about bin Laden's role in al Qaeda's -- in al Qaeda after he was forced underground. U.S. investigators say information collected from his compound shows a very different picture than many experts predicted. He was working at operational, even tactical, levels. We know that bin Laden was part of the al Qaeda discussions about a -- that possible attack on U.S. rail systems.
Jeanne Meserve gives us a closer look at how the discovery of that plotting led to a nationwide alert.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Information gleaned from the materials seized at Osama bin Laden's hideout indicates that in February of 2010, al Qaeda members discussed a plan to derail trains by putting obstacles on the tracks. A U.S. official says they made specific mention of doing so over valleys and on bridges, presumably to maximize the potential for catastrophe.
The notice that's been sent out to law enforcement does not mention any specific city or rail system, officials say. But the plotters did discuss having the attacks coincide with the 10 year 9/11 anniversary in September.
U.S. officials are going out of their way to say that this was aspirational, not operational. There was no indication that there is any imminent threat to rail systems in the US. In the words of one official: "It doesn't appear to be anything more than an idea on paper."
Well, I asked whether or not higher-ups in al Qaeda had sanctioned this plan, I was told there's no indication that this was blessed by Osama bin Laden or any other Al Qaeda leader.
It's worth noting that terrorists have repeatedly struck rail systems, in London and Madrid, for example. They are open, hard to secure, so it's no real surprise that they continue to be discussed.
Also, when news of Osama bin Laden's death was announced, many rail systems, recognizing the potential for retaliatory strikes, increased security. Operators are well aware they are potential targets.
Experts say that they continue to pore over the material that was taken in the raid in Pakistan. There is an expectation that there will be many more notices and bulletins of this sort to come.
Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CLANCY: Our next guest here on CONNECT THE WORLD says that -- he has been following, I should say, Osama bin Laden practically as long as the U.S. military.
Sajjan Gohel joins us now from London to talk about all of the day's developments.
He's director of international security for the Asia-Pacific Foundation.
Is it a bigger blow to al Qaeda if it's revealed, as many say it has been today, that Osama bin Laden had a day-to-day role in some of the operational activities, the strategic activities, of al Qaeda?
SAJJAN GOHEL, ASIA-PACIFIC FOUNDATION: To some extent, yes, it does, Jim.
Of course, bin Laden was very important. He was not just the leader of al Qaeda, but he was the figurehead for the global jihadist movement. He was also important to al Qaeda because of the fact that he brought in the finance and the money to help build its infrastructure.
But I would say that, keep in mind that al Qaeda has not successfully carried out a terrorist attack since the 2005 London tube bombings. Their last major plot was the 2006 airline liquid bomb plot, which was disrupted.
So the group has not really had the ability to carry out major mass casualty plots like it perhaps did in the early aftermath of 9/11.
So, in many ways, bin Laden's demise kind of reflected al Qaeda's weakness.
CLANCY: Osama bin Laden may be worth more to al Qaeda dead than he was alive.
GOHEL: Very much so. He can now be portrayed as a martyr, as an indulge who died for his cause. It all depends on how al Qaeda spins it for propaganda purposes. There will be individuals, like his deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Anwar al-Awlaki, who's tied to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, that will utilize this for recruitment purposes, for stirring up resentment, encouraging followers to seek out retribution, encouraging lone wolf attacks by independent terrorists.
Certainly this will now be a platform that could rejuvenate many of the terrorist groups in a way in terms of recruiting and radicalization.
CLANCY: As the Pakistanis tonight are apparently arresting people that may have ties to that compound, what do you expect could come out of that?
Could we see some -- some people within the military or intelligence getting a finger pointed at them?
GOHEL: Well, certainly there has been a lot of accusations about the role of the military, and especially the murky intelligence agency, the ISI, as to what was Osama bin Laden doing in Abbottabad, not in the tribal areas, not in a mountainous cave, but very close to the urban center of Pakistan.
And we do know that in the past, the ISI has faced accusations of turning a blind eye to activities of a number of terrorist groups.
Of course, bear in mind that bin Laden wasn't the only terrorist in Abbottabad. Umar Patek, a senior person within the Jamaat-i-Islami terrorist group, responsible for the 2002 Bali attacks, was also in Abbottabad and arrested earlier in the year in -- in that city.
So there are a lot of questions that are being accused of the intelligence service. And it's likely that there could be a lot of embarrassment coming out, especially based on what the Americans retrieved from bin Laden's house in terms of the disks and the hard drives. It could, perhaps, provide details as to who bin Laden was being assisted by inside Pakistan.
CLANCY: Who takes over and what's the risk that there's a fight for the number one spot?
GOHEL: Well, that's an interesting question. If you look at al Qaeda central, it's likely that Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian physician, bin Laden's deputy for so many years, is likely to take over. In many ways, he was already leading the group's operations. He was the one issuing the video messages and the audio messages that we see on TV or on the Internet.
He's ably assisted by the protege of al Qaeda, Abu Yahya al-Libi, who serves as an ideologue and as a planner.
But in many ways, Al Qaeda central's time is somewhat gone. They've been superseded by their affiliates, groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan Taliban and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. in many ways, they've assumed the mantle of trying to carry out transnational terrorist groups. And we've also seen the growth of lone wolf terrorism.
So bin Laden may have served a purpose. His message still continues. It's the ideology that is most powerful and that is something that will be utilized by whoever wants to take up that mantle.
CLANCY: Sajjan Gohel, really appreciate you talking with us here tonight, getting your perspective.
GOHEL: My pleasure.
CLANCY: Now, you may not know much about the elite U.S. commandoes who carried out that raid. And that's, well, the way that they would like to keep it. Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, we're going to take a closer look at America's most feared fighting force, the highly secretive Team Six of the Navy SEALs.
Up next, we're going to continue to keep our eye on Syria, where we've watched a day of defiance that left more than two dozen people dead.
CLANCY: They show up daily wanting to join the fight, young men, retires, university students who are now learning the art of war. They have little to arm themselves with, but they are driven by what they have suffered and what they have lost at the hands of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces. Stay with us as we meet the rebel soldiers preparing to fight against the odds.
I'm Jim Clancy at the CNN Center.
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.
I want to give you a look at some of the other stories that we're following right now.
The United Nations says it's going to be sending a humanitarian assessment team to Syria in the coming days. The situation on the ground deteriorated further Friday, with more than 30 people, including protesters and security forces, reported killed in widespread demonstrations.
Let's get more from Jonathan Mann.
JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A day of defiance in Syria -- thousands of protesters took to the streets after Friday prayers in cities across the country. They're fed up with the regime, but Syria's government blames outside forces for the recent violence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a lie. There is no outside forces. Those people are peaceful protesters. This -- this has been going on for seven weeks now. The only part in Syria that is all -- holding guns and has tanks and using brutal force are -- is the Syrian government and the Syrian regime.
MANN: Witnesses say government forces fired on protesters in the city of Homs. State TV reported Syria's military began pulling out of the protest hub of Daraa on Thursday. But one activist tells CNN despite government claims, the troops remain. Tanks were also reported in the western city of Banias. And activists, who asked not to identified, said the situation there is getting worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Banias now, there is no medicine, no meat for kids. We ask the international opinion, the international community, a lot of nations, to help us, to stop some -- the -- the massacre in Syria.
MANN: Amnesty International says more than 500 people have been killed since March. Thousands more have been arrested. The European Union said Friday it is imposing sanctions on 14 Syrian officials, but President Bashir Assad is not among them.
Jonathan Mann, CNN.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CLANCY: A British coroner cleared rescue services of failing to respond quickly enough to the London bombings all the way back in 2005. If you remember, 52 people lost their lives when suicide blasts ripped through the capital's transport network. The coroner ruled that the victims would have died from their injuries even if they had been treated minutes sooner.
The oil roller coaster, well, that's not stopping any time soon, it looks like. Crude prices went back above $100 a barrel, boosted by a U.S. jobs reports that was stronger than expected. But then those oil prices retreated slightly. This followed a 10 percent drop in oil prices in the past week amid fears of an economic slowdown.
Former Beatle Paul McCartney set to get married again. The musician's publicist announced that he's engaged to girlfriend, Nancy Shevell. It would be McCartney's third marriage. He and Shevell have been seeing each other for several years.
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.
Still to come, they're elite and right now they are the toast of all America -- we're going to show you just what it takes to become a Navy SEAL.
First, though, a look at a very different fighting force. Many are students, some are retirees You're going to meet the rebels fighting for freedom in Libya.
CLANCY: Welcome back, everyone.
You're with CONNECT THE WORLD.
I'm Jim Clancy in for Becky Anderson.
Britain has led the charge in expelling Libya's ambassador and other diplomats in the past week. Well, now, France has followed suit, declaring 14 diplomats loyal to Moammar Gadhafi persona non grata. The French Foreign Ministry gave the officials between 24 and 48 hours to leave the country.
France has taken the lead, too, in supporting the rebels fighting Colonel Gadhafi. And it's the support the rebels say that they desperately need.
Sara Sidner is there taking us inside Libya's main rebel camp, where the only thing in abundance is morale.
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wide-eyed youth watch as their commanders give step-by-step instructions on how to handle weapons, most of which are twice as old as the young men who will use them. These volunteers were here when Gadhafi forces stormed their city and they're itching at a chance to go to the front lines.
Among them, Faisal Faraj, a university student who is now learning the art of war instead of studying science.
FAISAL FARAJ, VOLUNTEER FIGHTER (through translator): I have never done this before, but I'm determined to learn and go on.
SIDNER: There is a lot of determination here, partly because there is deep suffering. Many of these young volunteers have friends, family members or neighbors who have been injured or killed, as protesters in the streets or on the front lines, by Gadhafi forces.
FARAJ: In the beginning, we went out protesting peacefully, carrying banners and demanding more freedom. They responded with bullets and they were attacking us in a ruthless way.
SIDNER: Now, more than two months on, rebel leaders say young men are still showing up daily. But now they're able to train their fighters longer and better.
MUSTAFA SAGUZLI, FEBRUARY 17 MARTYRS BRIGADE: When the war started, it was almost like a picnic -- anybody who wants to fight can go by himself, carry an arm and go by himself.
SIDNER (on camera): Compared to the training they were getting in the very, very beginning and the training they're getting now, has that changed?
SAGUZLI: Yes. In the very beginning, we had short courses of two weeks, because the battle was moving so fast and we needed to have as much fighters as possible. Now it's taking one month to one month-and-a-half.
SIDNER (voice-over): Mustafa Saguzli has no military experience, but he's using his skills as a business owner and computer programmer to program the troops. The fighters are even going into specializations now.
Here, the skill to refurbish a weapon is as vital as the ability to use it. Fixing these dinosaurs is a tedious process. There shouldn't be smoke after firing this refurbished weapon, so it has to be fixed again.
The tired spoils of war come in every now and then. These armed jeeps were captured from Gadhafi's troops in Ajdabiya. They are in poor shape.
Officials here say they have received a few new arms from the country of Qatar, but have long been calling for NATO to give more. It hasn't happened.
The volunteers who keep showing up here range from 18 to this 61-year- old retiree. Fendi Faraj came out of retirement to fight against the very military he used to serve.
FENDI FARAJ, FORMER GADHAFI SOLDIER (through translator): What I witnessed as far as the army attacking the people, we cannot allow an army soldier to remain in the service.
SIDNER: So Faraj has vowed to teach the young to fight against the regime, knowing firsthand there is a massive imbalance in training and weaponry.
(on camera): Are you worried about these young boys who don't have enough weapons and are willing to go to the frontlines?
FENDI FARAJ (through translator): No, no, no, no. The youth want to live free. And if they die, they want to die a martyr. We only have two choices, either victory or martyrdom.
SIDNER (voice-over): It is a choice these volunteers make willingly. Some have even warned their commanders --
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CLANCY: We want to take you now live to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where U.S. President Barack Obama is appearing to -- preparing to speak before veterans of the Afghan conflict, soldiers who have just returned from Afghanistan.
This will be an interesting measure of just how much the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound --
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, Fort Campbell!
101st Airborne Division-Air Assault, hello!
General Colt, thank you for that great introduction -- it was great because it was brief.
More importantly, thank you for the extraordinary leadership that you've shown here at one of the largest Army bases in America.
And let me just say, I make a lot of decisions; one of the earliest and best decisions I made was choosing one of the finest Vice Presidents in our history -- Joe Biden, right here.
Chaplain Miller, thank you for the beautiful invocation.
I want to thank General Colt for welcoming me here today, along with your great Command Sergeant Major, Wayne St. Louis.
The Quartet and 101st Division Band.
All these troopers behind me -- you look great.
You noticed they kind of hesitated.
We got a lot of folks in the house. We've got military police and medical personnel. We've got the Green Berets of the 5th Special Forces Group. I think we've got a few Air Force here. Ohh --
Well, we thought we did. There they go -- okay. Come on.
And, of course, the legendary Screaming Eagles.
And although they're not in the audience, I want to acknowledge the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment -- the Night Stalkers -- for their extraordinary service.
Now, I've got to say, some of you are starting to look a little familiar -- because last December, when we were at Bagram, I was out there to thank you for your service, especially during the holidays. And we had a great rally, a big crowd -- it seemed like everybody was there from the 101st.
And since then, I know we've had quite a few homecomings. The Rakkasans.
And some of the Division Headquarters -- the Gladiators.
On behalf of a grateful nation -- welcome home.
Of course, our thoughts and prayers are with General Campbell, Command Sergeant Major Schroeder, and all of the Screaming Eagles and troops that are still risking their lives in theater.
And I'm so pleased that Ann Campbell and Marla Schroeder, and some of the inspiring military spouses are here. Where are they at? Right over there.
We are grateful to you. God bless you. There they are. Thank you so much.
This happens to be Military Spouse Appreciation Day.
And we honor your service as well.
Now, I didn't come here to make a really long speech. I know you're hearing that.
It's like, yeah, it's hot!
What I really wanted to do was come down and shake some hands. I came here for a simple reason -- to say thank you on behalf of America. This has been an historic week in the life of our nation.
Thanks to the incredible skill and courage of countless individuals -- intelligence, military -- over many years, the terrorist leader who struck our nation on 9/11 will never threaten America again.
Yesterday, I traveled to New York City, and, along with some of our 9/11 families, laid a wreath at Ground Zero in memory of their loved ones. I met with the first responders -- the firefighters, the police officers, the Port Authority officers -- who lost so many of their own when they rushed into those burning towers. I promised that our nation will never forget those we lost that dark September day.
And today, here at Fort Campbell, I had the privilege of meeting the extraordinary Special Ops folks who honored that promise. It was a chance for me to say -- on behalf of all Americans and people around the world -- "Job well done." Job well done.
They're America's "quiet professionals" -- because success demands secrecy. But I will say this. Like all of you, they could have chosen a life of ease. But like you, they volunteered. They chose to serve in a time of war, knowing they could be sent into harm's way. They trained for years. They're battle-hardened. They practiced tirelessly for this mission. And when I gave the order, they were ready.
Now, in recent days, the whole world has learned just how ready they were. These Americans deserve credit for one of the greatest intelligence military operations in our nation's history. But so does every person who wears America's uniform, the finest military the world has ever known.
And that includes all of you men and women of 101st.
You have been on the frontlines of this fight for nearly 10 years. You were there in those early days, driving the Taliban from power, pushing al Qaeda out of its safe havens. Over time, as the insurgency grew, you went back for, in some cases, a second time, a third time, a fourth time.
When the decision was made to go into Iraq, you were there, too, making the longest air assault in history, defeating a vicious insurgency, ultimately giving Iraqis the chance to secure their democracy. And you've been at the forefront of our new strategy in Afghanistan.
Sending you -- more of you -- into harm's way is the toughest decision that I've made as Commander-in-Chief. I don't make it lightly. Every time I visit Walter Reed, every time I visit Bethesda, I'm reminded of the wages of war. But I made that decision because I know that this mission was vital to the security of the nation that we all love.
And I know it hasn't been easy for you and it hasn't, certainly, been easy for your families. Since 9/11, no base has deployed more often, and few bases have sacrificed more than you. We see it in our heroic wounded warriors, fighting every day to recover, and who deserve the absolute best care in the world.
We see it in the mental and emotional toll that's been taken -- in some cases, some good people, good soldiers who've taken their own lives. So we're going to keep saying to anybody who is hurting out there, don't give up. You're not alone. Your country needs you. We're here for you to keep you strong.
And most of all, we see the price of this war in the 125 soldiers from Fort Campbell who've made the ultimate sacrifice during this deployment to Afghanistan. And every memorial ceremony -- every "Eagle Remembrance" -- is a solemn reminder of the heavy burdens of war, but also the values of loyalty and duty and honor that have defined your lives.
So here's what each of you must know. Because of your service, because of your sacrifices, we're making progress in Afghanistan. In some of the toughest parts of the country, General Campbell and the 101st are taking insurgents and their leaders off the battlefield and helping Afghans reclaim their communities.
Across Afghanistan, we've broken the Taliban's momentum. In key regions, we've seized the momentum, pushing them out of their strongholds. We're building the capacity of Afghans, partnering with communities and police and security forces, which are growing stronger.
And most of all, we're making progress in our major goal, our central goal in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that is disrupting and dismantling -- and we are going to ultimately defeat al Qaeda.
We have cut off their head and we will ultimately defeat them.
Even before this week's operation, we've put al Qaeda's leadership under more pressure than at any time since 9/11, on both sides of the border. So the bottom line is this: Our strategy is working, and there's no greater evidence of that than justice finally being delivered to Osama bin Laden.
But I don't want to fool you. This continues to be a very tough fight. You know that. But because of this progress, we're moving into a new phase. In the coming months, we'll start transferring responsibility for security to Afghan forces. Starting this summer, we'll begin reducing American forces. As we transition, we'll build a long-term partnership with the Afghan people, so that al Qaeda can never again threaten America from that country.
And, as your Commander-in-Chief, I'm confident that we're going to succeed in this mission. The reason I'm confident is because in you I see the strength of America's military --
-- and because in recent days we've all seen the resilience of the American spirit.
Now, this week I received a letter from a girl in New Jersey named Payton Wall. She wrote to me on Monday after the news that bin Laden had been killed, and she explained how she still remembers that September morning almost 10 years ago. She was only four years old. Her father, Glen, was trapped inside the World Trade Center.
And so, in those final, frantic moments, knowing he might not make it, he called home. And Payton remembers watching her mom sobbing as she spoke to her husband and then passed the phone to Payton. And in words that were hard to hear but which she's never forgotten, he said to her, "I love you Payton, and I will always be watching over you."
So yesterday, Payton, her mom, and her sister, Avery, joined me at Ground Zero. And now Payton is 14. These past 10 years have been tough for her. In her letter, she said, "Ever since my father died, I lost a part of me that can never be replaced." And she describes her childhood as a "little girl struggling to shine through all the darkness in her life."
But every year, more and more, Payton is shining through. She's playing a lot of sports, including lacrosse and track, just like her dad. She's doing well in school. She's mentoring younger students. She's looking ahead to high school in the fall. And so, yesterday she was with us -- a strong, confident young woman -- honoring her father's memory, even as she set her sights on the future.
And for her and for all of us, this week has been a reminder of what we're about as a people. It's easy to forget sometimes, especially in times of hardship, times of uncertainty. We're coming out of the worst recession since the Great Depression; haven't fully recovered from that. We've made enormous sacrifices in two wars. But the essence of America -- the values that have defined us for more than 200 years -- they don't just endure; they are stronger than ever.
We're still the America that does the hard things, that does the great things. We're the nation that always dared to dream. We're the nation that's willing to take risks -- revolutionaries breaking free from an empire; pioneers heading West to settle new frontiers; innovators building railways and laying the highways and putting a man on the surface of the moon.
We are the nation -- and you're the Division -- that parachuted behind enemy lines on D-Day, freeing a continent, liberating concentration camps. We're the nation that, all those years ago, sent your Division to a high school in Arkansas so that nine black students could get an education. That was you. Because we believed that all men are created equal; that everyone deserves a chance to realize their God-given potential.
We're the nation that has faced tough times before -- tougher times than these. But when our Union frayed, when the Depression came, when our harbor was bombed, when our country was attacked on that September day, when disaster strikes like that tornado that just ripped through this region, we do not falter. We don't turn back. We pick ourselves up and we get on with the hard task of keeping our country strong and safe.
See, there's nothing we can't do together, 101st, when we remember who we are, at that is the United States of America.
When we remember that, no problem is too hard and no challenge is too great.
And that is why I am so confident that, with your brave service, America's greatest days are still to come.
God bless you. God bless the 101st. And God bless the United States of America.
CLANCY: A stirring speech, there from US president Barack Obama for the troops that have gathered there, Afghan veterans. It was on an even keel, a somber tone.
You know, Barack Obama has said that he doesn't want to overplay the killing of Osama bin Laden, but speaking to those troops just back from Afghanistan, pretty hard to contain their enthusiasm for that event.
What we've been watching, here, really is a response to the sacrifices those troops and their families and so many like them have made over the last ten years in Afghanistan.
For many, the fact that the terrorist who carried out the worst attack by a foreign group in America's history was still running free was enough for them to justify that sacrifice to volunteer and go to Afghanistan. You just heard the president, there, expressing profound thanks for that sacrifice.
Well, Barack Obama has congratulated the Navy SEALs who carried out the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, that's what else he was up to this day. The president met the full assault force in private during the visit there at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, awarding them the Presidential Unit Citation. That is the highest honor that can be given to a unit.
What does it take to become a Navy SEAL? Why that particular team was perfect for such a crucial, such a risky and delicate mission. We'll have an answer.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The team that killed Osama bin Laden had gone through thousands of scenarios for assaulting a compound. Just like this group of Navy SEALs on US soil.
But the team that went after bin Laden was special, part of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group or DEVGRU.
STEW SMITH, FORMER NAVY SEAL: This SEAL team is the all-star of the SEAL teams.
LAWRENCE: Stew Smith is a former SEAL who says the men in that raid have at least five years as special operators.
SMITH: This SEAL team is based on combat experience. All these guys probably have 100, 200 missions.
LAWRENCE: The CIA provided detailed satellite pictures of bin Laden's compound, enough to build a replica where the SEAL team practiced. A senior defense official says for a time, they trained without knowing who their actual target was.
But by Sunday, they knew the location of every gate and window in that compound, the exact height of the walls.
JOHN BRENNAN, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: They operated according to that, and they didn't know when they got there exactly what some of the internal features of it would be.
LAWRENCE: The defense official says by the time the SEALs ran out of the house with bin Laden's body, they could probably count the exact number of steps to the helicopter outside.
LAWRENCE: Special operator training is brutal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't see (expletive deleted).
LAWRENCE: At least six months of sheer hell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go, Jonathan! Fletcher just passed you up!
LAWRENCE: But the men that took down bin Laden don't necessarily look like linebackers.
SMITH: They have a great deal of muscle, just not everybody's massive. You don't have to be six foot five, 250 pounds to be a SEAL.
LAWRENCE (on camera): And official told me that the White House left the actual selection of the team up to the military, and the question they asked themselves was, "How much force do we need?"
He says this special SEAL team was selected because it best fit the mission, not because it's necessarily better than, say, Delta Force. He says a 12-man Green Beret alpha team might have been too small to assault a compound this size, whereas he knew they didn't need an entire battalion of Army Rangers. He said this special SEAL team was the best combination of size and capability. Chris Lawrence, CNN, the Pentagon.
CLANCY: Well, from giant urban billboards to tiny little kiosks in remote corners of the world. Coca-Cola, a true global brand. The soft drink celebrates a big birthday, and we're going to look back at how the success story all began.
CLANCY: The bottle is instantly recognizable all over the world. This weekend, Coca-Cola celebrates its 125th anniversary. The soft drink moved from one small corner store in the US state of Georgia to the sale of billions of units worldwide.
Not everyone is wishing Coca-Cola a happy birthday, though. Oh, no. Michael Jacobson is the executive director for the advocacy organization Center for Science in the Public Interest. In a recent article, he described non-diet carbonated soft drinks like Coke as "liquid candy," the largest single source of American calories, he says.
Michael joins me from Washington while Richard Williams is also there in DC. He's the director for policy research at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and he says soda getting a bad rap. It's all fizz.
Listen, I think we'd better hear first from Michael. Why do you want to spoil the birthday party?
MICHAEL JACOBSON, CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Well, I think Coca-Cola is a beloved company because of all the advertising that it's done over the decades.
But Coca-Cola and other soft drink companies are major causes of tooth decay, obesity, heart disease, major health problems in the United States. And I -- and that's why the Centers for Disease Control, a government agency, is part of a big effort to reduce soda consumption. So, it's OK to have --
CLANCY: All right. Well, let me get -- let me get the reality check, if I can, from Richard Williams.
RICHARD WILLIAMS, MERCATUS CENTER, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: Generally, sodas are a small part of the diet. A lot of states and the federal government have shown some interest in taxing these products.
But what happens if you tax these products? Most of the time, people will stick with sodas, because they don't perceive that there are very good substitutes. And even if they do substitute, they're likely to go to something on an ounce-for-ounce basis as about the same or even more calories.
CLANCY: You know, Coca-Cola has been around, Michael, for 125 years, that's what this is all about. Why didn't we have the problem of obesity all the way back to 1920, say, or even 1950?
JACOBSON: Well --
CLANCY: How can we put a -- point a finger at Coca-Cola or any soft drink, and that's what we're really talking about here?
JACOBSON: There's been an enormous increase in consumption over the last 40 or 50 years, and that's what has lead to the obesity epidemic, a major -- it's a major cause.
And it's worth noting that in the past 12 years, soft drink consumption has been declining, and the obesity epidemic in the United States has leveled off. Hopefully, soft drink consumption and other calories will decline and obesity will decline rather than just leveling off.
CLANCY: Richard --
JACOBSON: But I think it's especially important for your audience to realize that Coca-Cola and Pepsi are spending literally billions of dollars to market their products in China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Brazil. And those health ministries should be extremely concerned because those countries may well follow the same path that America has followed.
CLANCY: OK. Let me -- let's let Richard get in here, because Richard, what do you think it is? If it's not sodas?
WILLIAMS: I think Michael's absolutely right, sodas have declined, particularly in the last six years. In America, particularly for children, grain-based desserts and pizza have been growing. The problem is, you can't just focus on one food.
What happens is what I describe as a whack-a-mole effect. As soon as you push down on one risk, another risk rises. The question is, really, I think Michael has it exactly right, it's over-consumption. But it's not -- it shouldn't be just singling out any individual food.
CLANCY: Guys, under-exercise, too?
JACOBSON: That's a factor, but not nearly as big a factor as over- consumption of calories, especially soft drinks.
CLANCY: OK, 125 years old, Coca-Cola settling its birthday this weekend. One man, here, is telling us, well, we ought to cut back. I guess you're both saying that, aren't you?
JACOBSON: I think so.
CLANCY: All right --
WILLIAMS: Yes, absolutely cut back.
CLANCY: Michael Jacobson and Richard Williams, gentlemen, I want to thank you both. Sorry we didn't have as much time as we had hoped, but President Barack Obama was there at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and we had to listen to what he had to say. But I'm glad you came in for us.
WILLIAMS: Thank you very much.
CLANCY: It's an important message, goes right around the world.
JACOBSON: Thanks for having us.
CLANCY: We're all connected.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
CLANCY: All right. I'm Jim Clancy, and that is your world connected. I want to thank you for watching. We're going to be back in a second with the headlines, and then Michael Holmes and "BackStory" straight ahead.
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