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Syria Turmoil; Looking Forward in the United Kingdom; Crisis in Horn of Africa

Aired August 12, 2011 - 08:00:00   ET


ANNA COREN, HOST: Welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.

Hello. I'm Anna Coren, in Hong Kong.

We are watching Syria as more reports of violence come in across the country.

Well, after the riots come the raids. British police hunt looters.

And can Manchester City knock their neighbors off their premiership perch? We'll preview the new English Premier League season.

We begin in Syria, where mounting calls for an end to the violence continue to go unanswered. Idlib province, in the northwest, is the latest battleground. Activists say at least one woman was killed earlier today in clashes in the city of Khan Sheikhoun, and at least eight people were killed elsewhere on Thursday. We're also hearing reports that President al-Assad's army has arrested 200 opposition activists in the northwestern city of Saraqib, as well.

Well, so far, Syria has endured five long, bloody months of this crackdown. Human rights groups say more than 2,400 people have been killed since the uprisings began.

We want to take you back through some of the clashes that have brought us to this point.

It all began in Daraa. In the southern city here is one of the earliest videos that we have showing thousands of protesters chanting and marching through the streets of Daraa in mid-March, shortly after the government's first crackdown.

Well, things only grew worse from there. More crackdowns, more senseless killings of civilians.

This is amateur video taken from the city of Saida, in May, not far from Daraa. And here, you can hear the sounds of heavy shelling as government forces moved into the city.

Well, flash forward two more months, further north to the city of Hama. And here, you can see that not much as changed. You can hear screams and repeated gunfire as giant plumes of smoke rise up over the city.

We rely heavily on witnesses to tell us what is actually happening inside Syria because of tight government restrictions. Syrian state media report a group of journalists were actually allowed inside the city of Hama on Thursday with a government commission, but CNN was not among them.

Well, our Arwa Damon is following events closely from Beirut in Lebanon and joins us now.

Arwa, those journalists who obviously are under strict government control, what are they saying?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anna. And this was a very, very well-coordinated, well-guided tour by the government, as is the status quo whenever they do end up letting select groups of journalists into Syria. But based on the reporting, most certainly what is depicted as the image of a city fully under siege.

Still, even though the military has withdrawn its tanks, has withdrawn its heavy weaponry, there are still troops stationed throughout there, there are still troops stationed on the rooftops. Many of the images emerging show shuttered shops, show streets strewn with debris. Part of it because of the tanks that have gone on, part of it because the residents that were trying to set up these makeshift barricades to stop the military onslaught.

And most certainly, it's very difficult though, as a journalist, I have to say, when you are on these guided tours, to try to get an accurate idea of what is taking place, quite simply because one is constantly under the very careful watch of the government. So residents, when they do end up talking to you, do so knowing that the Syrian government is listening.

I actually just spoke to a resident of Hama who said that he was at a demonstration that took place after Friday (AUDIO GAP) anti-government slogans. Syrian security forces opened fire on them. He said that these individuals were wearing plain clothes, but carrying weapons. And he said that the same thing took place at a number of other mosques throughout the city. So, while the tanks may have withdrawn from Hama, most certainly the military crackdown there still continues.

COREN: Arwa, we're having a few connection problems, but I do want to ask you another question.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come out saying that she does not recognize President Bashar al-Assad's presidency, if you will. We've been talking about this growing chorus of international condemnation all week. She is now calling on China, Russia, Turkey and India to join her in taking a strong stance.

Is this likely to happen?

DAMON: Well, that's going to be what we're going to have to wait and see, because those four countries that you mentioned there, they are countries with very strong economic ties to Syria. They are countries that really could deliver that economic blow to Syria that many will argue is what is going to eventually force the regime to step down. Quite simply, draining its coffers.

Just to give you the example of China, China has really developed its economic ties with Syria. According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, trade volume between the two countries in 2001 amounted to $220 million. By 2010, that had gone up to $2.2 billion.

And so, the logic behind trying to pressure these countries to take a stronger stance, would be to literally force the Syrian government into such a position where it would find itself unable, for example, to pay the salaries of the soldiers. That, ideally, for those who are opposing the regime, would lead to more defection. It would also then put the pinch on Syria's business community that, up until now, has largely stayed silent, at least publicly silent, but it is also a community that could put that needed additional pressure on the regime.

Because quite frankly, the U.S. acting on its own unilaterally, that is not going to impact this government. Neither, really, to a certain degree, is European action, because we've already heard from various government officials that they are perfectly happy to exist in a world where Europe does not exist for them. And they do constantly (AUDIO GAP) in the East, and they will turn to them for help.

COREN: Arwa, just quickly, we know that the government is currently targeting a couple of cities in its crackdown. Perhaps give us a sense to what is taking place there and why people are continuing to take to the streets. This is quite extraordinary that, despite all the bloodshed, they are continuing to take to the streets and protest.

DAMON: It really is extraordinary, Anna, and especially because a lot of these demonstrators, they know that they are more likely than not to come under fire. But we see, for example, today this massive demonstration taking place in Homs. I do believe we have live stream video of that.

But Homs is not necessarily under siege like in other parts of the family, but one most certainly where this military (AUDIO GAP) is still taking place, according to activists, over the last two days, Wednesday and Thursday. More than two dozen people were killed in demonstrations there, and yet you see these images of what looks like a fairly sizeable demonstration.

These are people taking to the streets in a city where, just the day before, there were casualties who were reported. And we continuously see these acts of defiance throughout.

We do have these ongoing military offensives in the east, in Deir Ezzor. A big focus there, also a big push in the northwestern part of the country, in Idlib province. And still, people continue to demonstrate, simply because they say at this point, they do not have a choice. The regime absolutely must go.

COREN: Arwa Damon, in Beirut.

Thank you for that update.

We do apologize to our viewers about the connection problem there.

Well, turning now to the United Kingdom, where the rioting may have ended, but the wounds certainly remain. As a mass cleanup and rebuilding gets under way, questions are now being asked about the police response.

Well, Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament the police reaction was inadequate when the rioting began. He mostly blamed what he calls opportunistic thugs for the violence. He also points a finger at social media, which rioters reportedly used to organize. Cameron's government has summoned Facebook and Twitter, as well as Research in Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry, for a meeting to discuss their roles.

After the riots come the raids. Photos of suspects have flooded the Internet, have been broadcast on television and printed in the newspapers. And it is working.

Well, this is the response. London's Met Police have been hunting down the alleged looters one by one, and London's courts have been working through the night to process the more than 1,800 people who have been arrested.

Mr. Cameron is also giving police more powers and weapons to combat the social unrest, even considering calling in the army. But as Dan Rivers reports, whatever decisions are made, they are unlikely to please everyone.


DAN RIVERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After the disorder of the past few days, now the postmortem -- how did it come to this? The prime minister was clear that the police were caught off guard.

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There were simply far too few police deployed onto our streets, and the tactics they were using weren't working. Police chiefs have been frank with me about why this happened. Initially, the police treated the situation too much as a public order issue, rather than essentially one of crime.

RIVERS: We saw in vivid detail by Tuesday the police were heeding calls for more robust action. This, the scene in Canning Town, east London, as officers pursued a zero tolerance of gangs.

Now the police will be given new powers to arrest masked men like this simply for what they're wearing on their faces.

CAMERON: We're going to give the police the discretion to require the removal of face coverings under any circumstances where there's reasonable suspicion that they are related to criminal activity.

RIVERS: For the first time, the police used these armored Jankel trucks to clear looters from the streets. The government is also considering adding curfews, rubber bullets and water cannon to the police tactics. But there was also this rebuke for senior officers who dismissed the idea of using the army to relieve pressure on the police.

CAMERON: It is the government's responsibility to make sure that every future contingency is looked at, including whether there are tasks that the army could undertake that might free up more police for the front line.

RIVERS: But police officers are resistant to that idea and are also concerned about government plans to cut the 137,000 officers in Britain by 16,000 by 2015.

HUGH ORDE, ASSOC. OF CHIEF POLICE OFFICERS: And what we are focusing on is making sure we are as efficient as we can be and minimizing the impact of those cuts on the front line. And what we're seeing at the moment is a recent report has shown we are achieving that. The front line is being protected, but other ancillary jobs we do sadly will have to stop. And there's some hard choices to be made, but make them we will.

RIVERS: Any reduction in police numbers is a sensitive issue in Britain. In the past, both main parties have competed to appear tough on crime. But in light of scenes like this, police numbers are now politically explosive, an issue that will dominate the debate about austerity and where the cuts should fall for months to come.

Dan Rivers, CNN, London.


COREN: Well, it was days before the police managed to fully regain control of the country's streets. But what was behind the anger we saw, and to whom was it directed?

With more on that, our Atika Shubert joins us from London.

Atika, we can blame it on hooligans, on opportunistic thugs. But there are obviously much deeper issues at play here.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. There's not just one single factor. There does seem to be a very complex and deep- rooted anger at stake here.

Overnight, the courts have been working 24 hours to clear the enormous number of suspects that have been arrested, almost 2,000 at this point. And the picture that we're getting of the people involved in this violence, it shows that many of these people never had a criminal record, but seemed to join in, in the free-for-all, in the looting and the rioting. And many of them are under the age of 25.


SHUBERT (voice-over): As Britain reclaims its streets, many are now asking, how did a protest over the shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan in north London trigger a countrywide looting spree? Some have pointed to a yawning gap between rich and poor.

Youth unemployment is at record levels. One in five between the ages of 16 to 24 are out of a job, says the Office of National Statistics.

On Monday night, at the peak of the violence in London, this young man attempted to explain his anger to CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love England, everything about it -- roast dinners, whatever, blah, blah, blah. What I'm trying to say to you, sometimes there's like a bad balance. And we're getting the brunt of it. You have to start doing something for people like us.

SHUBERT (on camera): On Thursday, Prime Minister Cameron told MPs the problem was a culture of violence, teens that don't know right from wrong, absentee parenting that leads to gangs. But teenagers on the street told me it was more than that.

(voice-over): Nineteen-year-old Dominique Smith says she understands the frustration and anger of those who rioted because she believes her brother was also a victim of police violence.

DOMINIQUE SMITH, 19 YEARS OLD: Yes, there's definitely a lot of anger in the community. I think it's more because no one is listening to us. I mean, we can't get our point across. Nobody cares.

A lot of people just thinking that, what's the point in still talking and (INAUDIBLE)? We might as well just mash up the place because that's when we're going to get heard. But they don't understand, no one is going to listen to anybody when you're mashing up the place. They're just going to be, oh, look, you're just some hooligans.

SHUBERT: Others, like 18-year-old Kieza Silvera De Sousa, say that frustration doesn't justify the violence that followed.

KIEZA SILVERA DE SOUSA, 18 YEARS OLD: This is actually silly. I mean, people are saying that it's because someone got shot by the police. OK, fair enough. Someone got shot by the police, and it's probably unjust. But that's no reason to ruin people's livelihoods, going and breaking people's shops.

At the end of the day, that's not going to solve anything. That's not going to stop the police from being unjust.

SHUBERT: Cameron has issued tougher police measures and a gang injunction making it illegal to engage in gang activities. But that anger and resentment is still on the streets, and the government must now find ways to ensure the violence of this week doesn't flare up again.


SHUBERT: You know, one of the problems that the judges and the courts are finding is that so many of the suspects that have come in are minors under the age of 18. And in a lot of these cases, their parents are supposed to be there to help them through the legal process, but they're just too busy. They're at work, or they're absent and they're not there. And they're trying to figure out what to do.

Some of these kids are 11 years old and committing some of these acts of burglary and steeling. And it's a big question now, what to do with these kids?

COREN: Yes, a quite tragic story, isn't it? A real breakdown in society.

Atika Shubert, outside Scotland Yard.

Thank you very much for that.

Well, you're watching NEWS STREAM.

Still to come, helpless and at risk. We look at how Somalia's drought is taking a brutal toll on the youngest victims.

The U.S. military won't comment on them, but a new report says U.S. drone attacks a very real and deadly reality in Pakistan, with civilians paying a heavy price.

And it's day two of the U.S. PGA championship. Right now, Steve Stricker is sitting pretty, and a tormented Tiger is trailing.


COREN: Well, individuals and nations are being urged to dig deeper and give generously to help famine victims in the Horn of Africa. The United Nations says it has only raised half the $2.5 billion it needs to cope with the crisis. It's worried that many, many more people will die in the coming months from starvation and diseases like measles and malaria.

Well, the situation is especially severe in Somalia, where almost three million people need help right now. In Mogadishu, there are acute shortages of food and medical supplies. As always, the most vulnerable are children.

Well, CNN's Anderson Cooper highlights their plight.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are so many kids in Mogadishu's Banadir Hospital, the new arrivals are being treated in the halls. There are coughs and cries, but you don't hear much complaining. That takes energy, perhaps, and there isn't much of that.

Many children and their families have walked for weeks just to get here. This little boy can barely take any more steps.

There's no running water, no electricity. After 20 years of fighting in Mogadishu, there's not much left at all.

(on camera): A country which is the epicenter of a famine, now there's a catastrophe happening here. You would expect there would be more medicine, you would expect there'd be kids getting fortified milk or getting Plumpy'nut. But you don't see any of that, just mothers sitting with their kids, and many of the kids end up dying.

(voice-over): Mothers try to keep the flies at bay, fathers soothe their sickly kids. The worry, the fear, it's the same the world over. What parent can stand it when their child is in pain?

Many kids are able to bounce back. With quick intervention, they gain weight day after day. For others, however, the malnutrition is too far along.

CNN's Nima Elbagir introduced us to Abdullah Hasan (ph). He lost a daughter, now his 18-month-old son is sick as well.

(on camera): You must be very worried about your child. How long has your child been sick?

(voice-over): "For the last six months he's been ill," he says, "but as the famine has been tightened around us, no one has been able to help us. So then we came here, and now we're just hopeful."

In the corner of the room, Mohammed (ph) and his wife Rugia (ph) sit in silence. Between them we notice a small pile of cloth. It turns out it's covering the body of their son. His name was Ali. He was just 1 year old.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They came up from the areas held by Al Shabaab, and it was just so difficult to get out. It took them so long to get out, that by the time they arrived, there was nothing anyone could do for him. He died about two hours ago.

COOPER (on camera): So, this child has just died?


COOPER: And what will they do with him now?

ELBAGIR: They don't even have enough money to bury him, so they're just sitting here hoping that someone will come and someone -- you know, in this situation nobody has any money, but they're hoping that, together, people try and put money in together when things like this happen, and they can raise the funds. Otherwise, they have no means of burying him.

COOPER (voice-over): Mohammed (ph) and Rugia (ph) have already lost their two other children. Ali was the only child they had left.

(on camera): What will they do now?

ELBAGIR: They said they don't know. They're just going to -- for them, the most important thing is just to try and find a way to bury the child, and then they're going to try and figure out what they can do from here.

They have nothing. They left their entire family. They left everything in the areas they've come from and they have nothing here. The only reason they took that risk was to save the baby, and now the baby's dead.

COOPER: You've seen a lot of this over the last few weeks.

ELBAGIR: Yes. I mean, Mogadishu is always difficult. Somalia is always difficult.

People have been dying here for a while from the violence, the insecurity. But the famine is -- you know, the numbers here are extraordinary. The U.N. is estimating that nearly a million are going to die if the aid pipeline isn't strengthened, if more funding doesn't come in to sustain the aid effort here.

COOPER (voice-over): The aid effort is under way, but for too many kids it may already be too late. They are not numbers, not statistics. They are boys and girls, names, and with parents, boys and girls who have never had a fair chance at life.

Anderson Cooper, CNN, Mogadishu.


COREN: Heartbreaking images, aren't they?

Well, there are 12 million people in the Horn of Africa in desperate need of help. And here's how you can make a difference.

Just go to, and there you'll find a list of relief organizations that need your donations. Well, helping can also be as easy as sending a text. Find out how at

NEWS STREAM returns after a break.


COREN: Welcome back. I'm Anna Coren, in Hong Kong. And you're watching NEWS STREAM.

These are your world headlines.

As relative quiet returns to British streets, London's Met Police are hunting down suspected looters. Well, many have been named and shamed in national media, leading to raids across the country. Well, so far more than 1,800 people have been arrested.

Human rights groups say at least one person has been killed in clashes in northwest Syria. Well, meantime, a week long siege in Hama is said to have ended, but some activists say tanks remain in the city. Well, this comes as the U.S. Secretary of State calls on other countries to put more pressure on the Syrian regime.

The United Nation mission in Ivory Coast has condemned what it calls the extrajudicial killings of 26 people in the past month. Well, it blames the deaths on pro-Ouattara fighters. Despite that, President Alassane Ouattara has continued to pursue his former opponent. Authorities have charged 57 former army officers linked to Laurent Gbagbo's ousted regime.

Well, now to Pakistan and controversy over a new report into civilian victims of U.S. covert drone strikes. Well, the London-based bureau for investigative journalism says the drones strikes have killed hundreds of Pakistani civilians, nearly half of them children. Well, a senior U.S. official denies that and says the report is faulty.

Well, for the very latest on this story let's go to our Reza Sayah who joins us live from Islamabad. Reza, tell us about this report.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anna, this is obviously one of the most controversial issues when it comes to U.S.- Pakistani relations. It's an issue that's really undermined relations between Islamabad and Washington. It sparked a lot of heated debate. And I don't think there's any question that this latest report is going to fuel that debate.

Essentially, this is a report by UK based group of British and Pakistani journalists. It says these U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani soil are killing hundreds of civilians. And among those civilians are innocent children.

According to their findings, since 2004 there's been roughly 290 U.S. drone strikes. The study says they've killed more than 2,000 people. Among those 2,000 people, the study says 380 people, roughly, have been innocent civilians. And out of those 380, about 160 have been children.

This is obviously a study that doesn't bode well for Washington, the CIA and the Pentagon. Washington, of course doing its best to repair its image here in Islamabad and throughout Pakistan to win hearts and minds. This certainly works against Washington. A study like this that claims that a lot of these U.S. drone strikes are killing innocent civilians including children.

The big problem here, Anna, is lack of access to the tribal region where the majority of these drone strikes are taking place, so it's impossible for journalists, for anybody really to verify who is being killed.

So the bottom line is on one hand you have supporters of these drone strikes, namely Washington that's saying that these drone strikes are working, that they're taking out al Qaeda operatives and dangerous militants. On the other hand, you have critics of these drone strikes that are saying they're not working, they're killing civilians and fueling extremism.

But even so, these drone strikes have continued. They've increased over the Obama administration. And there's no indication at this point that they're going to stop. Washington is convinced that it's most effective strategy against militants on Pakistani soil.

COREN: So Reza, the U.S. government denying the figures. What's been the reaction from the Pakistani government?

SAYAH: Well, the Pakistani government is saying we told you so. This is a study that's at least bolsters their position that they're holding publicly. The Pakistani government, military's position is that these drone strikes are counter productive. They're killing civilians and fueling extremism.

I think the big problem here is this notion of the fight against militancy and extremism, that's where things get murky, because it's not a fight, it's not a war against a sovereign state and a country. I think everyone in this debate is pretty much in agreement that if the U.S. was at war with Pakistan these drone strikes would probably be legal and acceptable. But of course the U.S. is not at war against Pakistan, that's why critics say these drone strikes are a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. They're target killings, extrajudicial killings. Essentially critics are saying Washington is accusing, convicting and executing alleged militants without knowing who they are, without giving them due process.

Of course Washington and supporters of drone strikes scoff at the notion of giving these alleged militants due process and their day in court. And they say this is an effective strategy that avoids prolonged war.

But when you dig this deep you see how complicated this issue is. And you get a good look at the controversy, Anna.

COREN: It certainly is.

Reza Sayah in Islamabad, Pakistan, thank you very much for that.

Well, in neighboring Afghanistan it has been a very tough week for the American military. Five U.S. troops died in a roadside bombing in the south on Thursday and a sixth was killed in another strike. Well, those losses came only days after 30 Americans were killed when a helicopter was shot down by insurgents in Afghanistan on Saturday. Now that was America's worst loss of life in a single day since the war began 10 years ago.

Well, U.S. special operations forces conduct thousands of raids in Afghanistan every year, but the downing of a helicopter last Saturday was a relatively rare event for NATO. Well, CNN's David Ariosto is in Afghanistan's capital and joins us now from Kabul -- David.

DAVID ARIOSTO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Like you said, the helicopter is the primary means of travel here. And much of this train is rugged, unpassable, or will take hours by car or by truck. So the helicopter is a means by which NATO can travel throughout the country. And that is the reason why this helicopter, in addition to those large amount of casualties on Saturday, is such a vital and critical portion to this campaign here in Afghanistan.

Now in the wake of last week's losses, 30 U.S. service members including 17 Navy SEALs were killed. And like you said, five Americans killed yesterday, eight in total in the last three days. We decided to head over to ISAF headquarters here in Kabul and speak with Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson about the future of Afghanistan here and what NATO's role will play in it?


ARIOSTO: All sorts of speculation about what transpired. And I'm not going to ask you what operationally what goes into it, but I think one of the things that viewers at home would probably need to understand is these type of operations, how frequent they are, and the nature of special forces operations targeting insurgents.

BRIG. GEN. CARSTEN JACOBSON, ISAF SPOKESMAN: Operations by special forces, and in particular operations at night and using helicopters, are very common. In this type of war, this type of campaign that we're in where we are trying to get the insurgent leaders off the battlefield and using special forces for that purpose.

ARIOSTO: How frequent do these thing occur?

JACOBSON: Well, just without going into any detail, we had about 10,000 helicopter flights with special forces in theater in the last 12 months, conducting something like 2,500 operations. So it is very common.

If you take overall use of helicopters in this land that is very rugged and in part unreachable by normal ways or taking hours to drive there by car, helicopter is the transport medium of choice.

ARIOSTO: Talk to me about the difference between counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, but also in terms of some of the civilian casualties we've seen. Talk to me about that shift. Or how you see that play out?

JACOBSON: To put it into the term that the non-soldier can understand counterinsurgency is the bigger of the two. Counterinsurgency is the overall campaign. It entails all the measures to overcome the side effects of an insurgency, to control it, to limit it to areas. Counterterrorism is the fight against those who are basically in this country performing more and more horrendous acts -- planting bombs, roadside bombs with very simple triggers that are blowing up more and more civilian population.

ARIOSTO: And with this drawdown, with fewer forces going to be made available, will counterterrorism be the order of the day?

JACOBSON: We need to look at the capabilities. The capabilities that are need here will be left here. Numbers will go down.

ARIOSTO: What does an end game for NATO look like post-2014?

JACOBSON: The end game for NATO is to hand over security responsibility over all of Afghanistan to the Afghan National Security Forces, stepping aside as they are stepping forward, getting better in quality, and executing the missions on their own on a daily basis.

Once we have achieved that, the NATO mission can come to an end. Hopefully against only very reduced numbers of terrorists will have to be seen in the three-and-a-half years that we've got left.


ARIOSTO: Now a couple of critical points to take away from that interview. One, he was saying that roughly 2,500 special forces operations, all by use of helicopter, have taken place in the last 12 months. These are the individuals that are taking it to the front lines, fighting in some of the most high risk battles. There's often that adage that these are the best of the best, those 17 Navy SEALs among the top tier of America's fighting force. But they also take some of the highest risks. And when you look at it in the context of this many operations, it is quite telling.

Of course that can certainly not prepare anyone for this amount of loss of life, 30 American service members.

The other portion to take note of here is his reference in saying that as NATO forces drawdown, our operational capacities will stay depending on what that means in terms of the realities on the ground. Now we're seeing these increasing amounts of high profile attacks that major bringing -- major attack last week of that bringing down of that Chinook helicopter, but also a series of high profile assassinations that have run throughout the country, particularly south and east. These are border provinces that are traditionally more restive, more violent than other areas.

So as NATO draws down and some of these attacks swell in these areas, questions are starting to rise whether this represents resurgent Taliban force, or they're simply lashing out and this strike against the Chinook helicopter was fairly lucky on the part of the insurgents.

A lot of unanswered questions here in Afghanistan, but the reality at least in terms of NATO is that 10,000 U.S. soldiers are set to leave by the end of this year. The full surge force of 33,000 additional troops that came in last year will leave by the end of next year. And 2014 will represent the end of the drawdown date.

Now what that actually means, what international commitment will actually be here in Afghanistan really remains to be seen.

Residents here in Kabul, though, fearful of a resurgent Taliban.

COREN: Yeah, tough when there's still so much instability. David Ariosto in Kabul. Thank you very much for that insight.

Well, as Libyan rebels carry on their struggle to dislodge Moammar Gadhafi, those who aren't on the front lines are finding their own way to fight against the dictator. Well, as Michael Holmes reports, these weapons lend color to an otherwise grim picture.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: While fighters in Libya's war gather their weapons and rush to the front, Mohammed Zahmoul arms himself with cans of paint and heads for the nearest blank wall.

MOHAMMED ZAHMOUL, ARTIST (through translator): Everybody supports the revolution in some way or another. Some people fight, I use the brush.

HOLMES: Mohammed believes the brush can be as mighty as the Kalashnikov on the homefront. And his work is everywhere around his home town of Rujban in the country's western mountains.

ZAHMOUL (through translator): Building owners welcome it. Not single person said no. I get a lot of support.

HOLMES: Moammar Gadhafi has his own massive mural in Tripoli. Mohammed's paintings far less flattering. Gadhafi sucking on his country's oil reserves, pinned by a rebel flag, being launched out of Libya on a bomb.

MASSOUD BAJI, ARTIST (through translator): Each painting expresses something regarding the tyrant Moammar Gadhafi who has violated our rights.

HOLMES: 10 kilometers away in the rebel stronghold of Zintan, a kindred spirit, Massoud Baji, a calligrapher before the war, political artist since it began.

BAJI (through translator): The vampire represents the sucking of wealth from the people. He's not left anything for us. He kept us illiterate without education. He kept everything for himself.

HOLMES: Mohammed and Massoud work in different towns, but they share a very similar motivation. You're talking part political comment, part protest, a little humor thrown in of course, and above all else the ability to exercise freedom of expression for the first time.

BAJI (through translator): Now we can express ourselves freely, thank god. The chains have been lifted. Everyone can express themselves. Even a simple painting about the tyrant now we can paint. Before the revolution we could not do that. He would arrest, and in some cases kill us.

HOLMES: Here, with a backdrop most artists could only dream of and daytime temperatures they could only fear, Mohammed and his assistant, calligrapher Abdul Aziz (ph), work on his latest fresco. It's the bride of the sea beckoning the fighters to come and join here in Tripoli.

ZAHMOUL (through translator): What I have inside I can now express and put it on the walls. Before the revolution I was confined. Now I have all the freedom. I feel great.

HOLMES: Mohammed, a peacetime bulldozer driver, hopes to continue his new found role after this role, focusing less on conflict, more on peace.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Rujban, western Libya.


COREN: Lighter and more colorful side of war.

Well, just a few hours until the big kickoff. Fans of Manchester City have to wait until Monday, but for most football fans, the wait is almost over. In just under 24 hours, the English Premier League returns. And we'll be back with a preview in just a moment.


COREN: Well, the world's richest and most watched football league competition kicks off this weekend. And Alex Thomas is here to set it up for us. Hello, Alex.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Anna, with just over 24 hours to go until the new English Premier League season gets underway the biggest question mark appears to be over Arsenal's aspirations. Both Spain international Cesc Fabragas and France midfielder Samir Nasri are expected to leave the club. And neither are in Arsenal's squad for their opening fixture away to Newcsastle.

In fact, in the last half an hour, 45 minutes or so, we've been hearing consistent reports that the Fabragas deal has been done and he's already on a flight to Spain. We've tried to get in touch with both Arsenal and Barcelona. Press offices not picking up their phones. But this seems to be slightly stronger speculation than we've had in a Fabregas saga that let's face it has dragged out over 18 months or more.

Well, the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, held a press conference today, was asked about the transfers, trying to brush off that speculation, and instead put on a brave face about his side's prospects.


ARSENE WENGER, ARSENAL MANAGER: ...speculation is disruptive, but are not an excuse. You know, we have to deal with that. It's part of our job. People come in and out. What is important is that people who are focused on achieving things for this club and the (inaudible) of speculation since I'm here we are in the middle of that. It was (inaudible) with (inaudible) every year. And -- but I believe it's part of our job and we have to deal with that.


THOMAS: Of course Wenger's Arsenal and the rest out yet again to beat the defending champions Manchester United. They've invested significantly in their squad over the European summer looking for their 21st English Championship title.

Earlier in the week, United defender Nemanja Vidic told our own Pedro Pinto about which sides will pose the biggest threat to their reign.


NEMANJA VIDIC, MANCHEST UNITED DEFENDER: I would say Chelsea is always there, because they have experience, they have -- players are playing few years together. And they know each other very well. And they will be hungry to win this year, again, the title. City, they have a few signees. And I think they will be even stronger this year, especially because they play one year together and I think they will be bigger rivals.


THOMAS: Vidic of course promoted to United captain ahead of this season, one that's been billed as the closest Premier title race for years.

Pedro has also been speaking to football writers Gabriel Honigstein (ph) -- sorry Gabriele Marcotti and Raphael Honigstein. This week they said the local rivals Manchester City are a serious threat to United's dominance.


GABRIELE MARCOTTI, SPORTS WRITER: United will be more focused on winning the Champion's League this year. I think (inaudible) will be more difficult to replace than they'd anticipated. It's unclear whether Darren Fletcher is going to be able to contribute this year. And of course Pasculs (ph) is gone. You put all those things together, you look at Aguero joining Manchester City and possibly more signings to come and feel pretty good about City.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I think the City call is outrageous, because with this manager that hasn't been able to get a game plan going so far after over a season of the club I haven't seen anything to make me believe that he can form a team out of these talented individuals.

Raphael, you don't agree.

RAPHAEL HONIGSTEIN, SPORTS WRITER: No, I don't agree. I think he's got a game plan. If anything, he's got too much of a game plan more often than not. And perhaps they're playing too much of a tactical game for the Premier League.


THOMAS: Three real football experts there. You can see them debating what's going to happen in this season's Premier League in World Sport at 4:30 this afternoon if you're in London. Actually, they're going to talk about the Bundisliga in that show. And then at 10:30 tonight in the UK, or 11:30 if you're in central Europe, they're going to look ahead to England's Premier League -- Anna.

COREN: I think Pedro should tell us what he really thinks, don't you think?

Alex, tell us what are your thoughts on how the season will turn out?

THOMAS: Well, next to Pinto, Marcotti, and Honigstein I'm not sure my views are quite as relevant. I was fortunate enough to predict on before last season the top six actually. I got it all right, which means I'll probably get it all completely wrong this time. So don't ask me to put my bets on the line for you, Anna.

But what's interesting is when you look at the expenditure. And because football is such a business now as well as a sport. If we examine how much Manchester City have outlayed on players, you can see their $82 million for their signings Aguero, Clichy, Savic so far followed very closely by Liverpool $81.2 million, and Manchester United of course recruited Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea more than twice United's traditional rivals Arsenal and Chelsea. Arsenal in particular going for a lot of youngsters and Chelsea's new boss Andres Villas-Boas going for some rather unknown European players that he thinks can bolster the squad as he looks to change a generation of Chelsea footballers that are getting a bit over the hill some would say, although they'll be keen to prove they're critics wrong.

It really is a close call for the Permier League title, but more pertinently Anna, who is going to finish in the top 4? Aresenal without Nasri and Fabregas huge question marks over whether they can stay there under Arsene Wenger's reign which lasted a decade-and-a-half they have never finished outside the top 4. Can they still do it and even go on to challenge for the title?

COREN: Well, Alex, with your record my money is on you. Alex Thomas in London. Good to see you, thank you.

Please stay with News Stream. The weather details are next.


COREN: The weekend for me is certainly just hours away and our Mari Ramos has the weather forecast.

Mari, how is it looking?

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hours away for me too, only got like four left.

Anyway, let's go ahead and take a look over here. Let's go ahead and start with you guys across east Asia. You know what? This time of year we continue to see those rains that just form right along the coast here of China. And that is continuing as we head through the next 24 hours. We're still seeing some significant rainfall totals across some of these areas. Look at that, over 100 millimeters of rain easily, 170 as we head there just north of Shanghai.

This is what the satellite image looks like. And we can still see that frontal system kind of stuck here. It looks like most of the rain showers now moving farther to the north. And a lot of that moisture trailing northward also toward the Korean peninsula.

The rain started yesterday. And that moderate to heavy rain will be shifting as we head into the weekend more toward this area. So watch out for threat for flooding and can't rule out mudslides, but generally drier as we head back over here toward mainland China on the other side of the Yellow Sea. And that front stretches all the way farther to the southwestern parts of Japan who will also start to see some rain showers as we head into the weekend.

As far as the rainfall totals, nothing too extreme, but because it's been so persistent just keep an eye out. And watch out for travel delays as well. Five to three centimeters widespread, locally heavier in some other areas.

And right over here as we head into Shanghai and then farther south into Fujiam (ph), that's where the rain could actually be a bit heavier.

I want to quickly take you toward Australia and New Zealand, definitely feeling like winter here. Not bad in Sydney right now at 13, but notice Canberra, Melbourne and even Hobart, that's where the temperatures are the coldest.

And then back over toward New Zealand as well. You know, winter time can be brutal across these areas sometimes. And not doing too bad here across Australia, but as we head into New Zealand we do have a couple of weather systems that are starting to pop up. A push of cold air coming in. So definitely look for that, temperatures that will be plunging as we head even into Monday. So the entire weekend a mix of snow and rain of very strong winds. And we could see even into the lower elevations of the South Island all the way up to Wellington even we could see maybe some snow flurries accumulating in those areas. Maybe some significant snowfall in the higher elevations.

As we head into Europe, there's a few areas to watch. Generally quiet as we head across the Mediterranean. But back over here toward the UK and Ireland, again another weather system coming along. We told you about this earlier how we'll get that trail of moisture that will continue through here. Those weather warnings are out because of heavy rain for some of you there.

And then back over here as we head over toward the Black Sea, I told you about this storm yesterday. It has moved on now over into the eastern side of Turkey, but there you see it right there, Anna, drier now. But this is the first rainfall they had in Istanbul since July. So it was a good soaker.

Back to you.

COREN: Yeah. Mari, you have a great weekend. Good to see you.

Thank you.

Well, it's time to go over and out there for the catch of the day in Hawaii. Well, no one knew what to make of those strange looking animal when 10-year-old Rocky Horn (ph) fished it from the water. Sure, it's an octopus, but with its unusual webbing he needed some expert advice. Well, turned out it's a rare blanket octopus and it doesn't just look weird, this species is known for several other oddities. What males are less than half an inch long, but get this females can grow to more than six feet.

It also has an unusual defense mechanism, ripping the tentacles off jellyfish to use as a weapon against predators.

Well, with all that going on, just as well Rocky has decided to give the specimen to researchers.

Thank you, there.

Well, that is News Stream, but the news certainly continues here at CNN. World Business Today is coming up next.