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Interview with David Cameron; Examining Afghan Opium Brides

Aired January 24, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. "A divorce" -- "Pandora's box" - - "Russian roulette" -- "bold." That's how the European press reacted to the gauntlet thrown down by Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, in his dramatic euro speech.

The speech yesterday is the most important move taken by Cameron as prime minister and one that could determine Britain's and Europe's future role on the world stage. He called for a simple in-or-out referendum in 2017, a vote by the British people on whether to stay or leave the E.U.

Before that time, Cameron says, he intends to renegotiate Britain's deal with Europe to reform what he calls the ineffective bureaucracy holding the country back.

President Obama weighed in in a phone call to the prime minister, expressing his concern that a British exit could weaken the E.U., America's largest trading partner. Critics accused Cameron of playing politics, caving to the demands of the noisy euro skeptic minority on his right flank. But that is not how Cameron sees it.


DAVID CAMERON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: I never want us to pull up the drawbridge and retreat from the world. I am not a British isolationist, but I do want a better deal for Britain, but not just a better deal for Britain. I want a better deal for Europe, too.


AMANPOUR: And the British people are, at best, ambivalent about E.U. membership. Forty percent support staying in as the relationship stands now. But look at this interesting trend. For the first time under Cameron's leadership, more Britons now want to stay in the E.U. than want to get out. And in a moment, I'll have my interview with the British prime minister.

Now here's a look at what's coming up later in the program.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): In Afghanistan, a marriage made in hell. As the government makes war on the opium trade, farmers are forced to ransom their own priceless daughters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If they take me, I will kill myself. What else can I do?

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And a world away, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York, an extraordinary gallery of Islamic treasure has opened eyes and a million minds.


AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit. But first, my conversation with the British prime minister, David Cameron, on the fallout from yesterday's dramatic euro speech.


AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Cameron, welcome. Thanks for joining me from Davos.

CAMERON: Pleasure.

AMANPOUR: So it's the morning after, Mr. Prime Minister. Any regrets?

CAMERON: No, not at all. I think it's really important that we've set out a plan for how we get change in Europe that will benefit all of Europe, making it more open, more competitive, more flexible, and how we secure Britain's place within that.

And I think it's a very important step forward and I'm pleased with the reception that the speech has got from the business community, from the public and also some positive responses from some of my European colleagues in government, too.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you, because actually there are a couple of positive responses about the idea of talking about these things, but there are a lot of negative responses as well.

Look, I fully get it, I understand the frustration of many Britons over what you say is a sclerotic, you know, bureaucratic one-size-fits-all policy. But many are saying while the logic may be great, it's a grand gamble as well.

How are you going to convince your European partners that they will work with you? They're already saying you can't cherry-pick what you want to keep and what you want to ditch.

CAMERON: Well, first of all, I'd say that I think the greatest gamble for Britain would be to sit back and do nothing. The fact is, the European Union is changing, because over half the members have the single currency and just under half, including us, aren't members of the euro. We're not going to join the euro -- this change is underway.

And the debate about Britain's place in Europe is also underway. Much better, in my view, to step forward, to shape that debate, to shape the future in Europe, rather than to sit back with the danger that then Britain could drift towards the exit. So I think that's the first thing I would say.

Second of all, Britain is a very positive player in the European Union. We're the ones who helped secure the largest single market anywhere in the world. We're the ones who, with others, pushed for the oil embargo on Iran and very tough sanctions on Syria.

You know, Britain is not isolationist; we are the ones, of10, who step forward and take solidarity action with European partners. Take what the French are doing in Mali. Who's their strongest supporter? Who's supplying them with transport planes, logistics, and help? It's we, the British.

So we're very positive players. Of course there will be tough negotiations ahead, but I don't doubt that, with goodwill, we can improve the European Union for everybody.

AMANPOUR: So do you believe after all that, after all that you said, do you believe that you will get your European partners to renegotiate the treaty to your satisfaction?

CAMERON: Well, I think there is a renegotiation coming anyway because of what's happening in the euro. When you have a common currency, a euro amongst some of the members of the European Union, you need to make changes. You have to have a banking union. You have to have elements of a fiscal union.

You know, if you think of all the things that the American states have had to do together because you share the same currency, the dollar; you think of all the things that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have to do together because we have the pound, you need some of those things, at least, to happen in Europe. And that's why there's going to be change, anyway.

What I'm doing is saying, while we make changes to suit the euro, let's also make changes to make the whole of the European Union more flexible, more open, more competitive. Let's make sure that powers can flow backwards towards nation states as well as forward to the center.

It's those sorts of changes that I think will bring the European Union closer to its people.

AMANPOUR: And what are those powers, specifically, that you want to flow back, for instance, to Britain?

CAMERON: Well, what we've said is we think there's a whole range of areas where the European Union has legislated too of10 and gone too far, covering areas like social and employment legislation, environmental legislation, a whole series of areas.

I mean, just one example, the hours that hospital doctors work in Britain is, you know, that's dictated sometimes by rules passed in Brussels. There, you know, that really isn't necessary in an open, flexible, competitive Europe.

We're not putting a list of demands on the table and saying we'll storm off if we don't get them. What we're saying is we should in Europe have changes that will benefit all of the countries of the European Union, but which, at the same time, will, I think, make Britain more comfortable with her place in the European Union.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, you say you're not going to storm out of the union, necessarily, but you have raised this issue of the referendum. And many people were hoping that you wouldn't bring that up in your speech.

You've deferred it for several years, but is that the slow roll towards the exit?

And what if you do not get what you want in the intervening years? How will you campaign in this issue of the referendum, to stay in or to stay out?

CAMERON: Well, I think the referendum is vital, because, in the end, we should have the consent of the people for what we do. We should trust the people. Now, I believe we'll secure the changes that we need and I will be able to recommend to the British people that we vote to stay in the European Union. That is what I want to do. That's the fight that I want to have.

But I think we have to rewind a little and ask ourselves why we're in this position. And the fact is, the development of Europe over the previous years and decades, we have had treaty after treaty, of10 when the British people were offered a referendum, and then it never actually happened.

And this is one of the things that's led to the disaffection about Europe. So I think the act of holding of a referendum after we've had this renegotiation is the right thing to do.

In the end, you need the consent for your people for the path you want to take your country in.

AMANPOUR: A lot of your speech, certainly the last third of it, was acknowledging the risk and saying that, you know, the question we have to ask ourselves is is this the very best future for our country, getting out of the E.U.?

You spoke about Britain's weight on the international stage. You talked about how the British have become used to business and employment and the sort of connections with the rest of the world.

Is that not all at risk if you come out of the E.U., if the referendum doesn't pass?

CAMERON: Well, I think Britain would be better off in a reformed European Union, but I think the right approach is to seek that reform and then hold that referendum. Look, I think we should have, as I've said, an honest debate. People shouldn't overestimate the arguments on either side.

But clearly there are important benefits from belonging to a single market, the freedom to travel and to live in different parts of Europe. These are all benefits.

But we've also got to address some of the downsides that have grown up in recent years: too much cost, too much rigidity, too much of the European Union interfering into parts of national life where it really shouldn't go.

Now, if we can address those issues, and I believe that we can, I think the British people will be much more comfortable with their position in the European Union. But that -- as I said, I think the biggest risk for Britain would be to sit back and do nothing.

AMANPOUR: As you know, Prime Minister, your best and staunchest friends here in the United States, some of your best neighboring friends, for instance, in Ireland, are very, very worried. Even the head of the CBI, the Confederation of British Industries, are worried about the impact in all sorts of -- in all sorts of ways.

Your -- one of your predecessors, Prime Minister Tony Blair, the former prime minister, said today it reminds him of the "Blazing Saddles" Mel Brooks comedy, in which the sheriff put the gun to his head, and said, "If you don't do what I want, I'll blow my brains out." You're just going to have to watch out, he said, that one of the 26 doesn't say, "Well, go ahead."

Do you acknowledge this huge risk and this gamble that you're taking?

CAMERON: Well, as I say, I think the risk lies in doing nothing. And what I'd say to Tony Blair, of course, who was prime minister for 10 years in Britain -- part of the problem is that we have the Amsterdam Treaty, the Nice Treaty, then the Lisbon Treaty.

And at no stage was the British public consulted in a referendum, even though in other countries on occasion there were referenda. And Tony Blair made it worse in many ways by promising a referendum on the European Constitution, that then became the Lisbon Treaty, and then withdrawing that promise while he was in government.

AMANPOUR: And finally, Prime Minister, do you think you'll be remembered as the prime minister who led Britain out of the E.U. or who managed to keep it in the E.U.?

CAMERON: Well, it's for other people to write your history, to write your legacies --

AMANPOUR: Well, if you were a betting man.

CAMERON: -- I mean, I hope I'll be remembered -- well, I hope I'll be remembered as someone who did everything they could to get the British economy back on track, to strengthen Britain's society and Britain's place in the world, and to secure Britain's place in a reformed European Union.

I think that is what I want to achieve. There are obviously a huge amount of work in the years ahead, but I feel very confident and positive that, having set out a plan, I think explain to the world, to our European partners, to the British people, to British business, everyone can see there is a plan to change Europe for the better and to secure Britain's place in it.

And to those who disagree, I would just say, you know, you can't attack a plan if you've got nothing to attack it with. This is the right way forward for Britain. It's in our national interest; it's also in Europe's interest, too.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister David Cameron, thank you so much for joining me.

CAMERON: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And as we said, the United States has a keen interest in the future of the European Union and Britain's place within it. But the person charged with facing that challenge won't Hillary Clinton anymore. The next U.S. secretary of state will be John Kerry, who sat through his confirmation hearing today.

After we take a quick break, another corner of the world that Mr. Kerry will have to deal with: Afghanistan. As the government makes war on the opium trade there, there are innocent casualties, young girls, ransomed to appease drug traffickers. Opium brides, when we return.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Now imagine having to use your daughter to pay back a debt. That's what's happening right now in Afghanistan. It's a horrifying reality in the ruthless and ongoing opium trade that's dominated the country for decades.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): As 90 percent of the world's opium, the raw source of heroin, comes from Afghanistan, growing poppy there is a lucrative job and farmers often have to borrow cash from drug traffickers to start growing their own.

But as the government cracks down and destroys illegal crops, some farmers don't have the means to pay back their debt. What happens next is almost unimaginable and it's tragically documented in the award-winning frontline film, "Opium Brides." Take a look.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): The smugglers will take me by force and my mother can't stop them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): This is a really bad place. I beg you. Whatever they want, give it to them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): I have to give my daughter to release my husband.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): We have heard they use them for sex.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): They're way more dangerous and powerful than the Taliban. My son and daughter are their prisoners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): You must bring $20,000 with you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): I have to kill myself. What else can I do?


AMANPOUR: And that is just a trailer from the powerful film that's been made by investigative reporter Najibullah Quraishi and producer Jamie Doran, and they join me both now.

Welcome, thanks for being here.

Najibullah, let me ask you first, these are your country people. You're talking to these women, to these girls, both of the girls who were showed in that trailer, both of them were given away, were taken away by the drug dealers.

What happened to them?

NAJIBULLAH QURAISHI, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "OPIUM BRIDES": So basically, when they've taken them, they take to other countries, like Pakistan, Iran and then they're using them for several things, like for sex slavery, drug transporting, things like that.

AMANPOUR: They become drug mules? And sex slaves?

QURAISHI: (Inaudible).

AMANPOUR: And it's -- and they're just trafficked all over the place?

QURAISHI: It's kind of what they were calling like a big mafia, international mafia. And they just in shifting from Afghanistan to big traffickers, to Iran, to Pakistan.

AMANPOUR: Jamie, how did you zero in on this story? And how difficult was it to get these girls and their -- and their parents and the drug traffickers to open up?

JAMIE DORAN, PRODUCER, "OPIUM BRIDES": We were actually working on another story around the table, "Dancing Boys of Afghanistan," and at that time we were approached by various people.

We were told the story of a fellow called Razim Khan (ph). We call him Razim Khan (ph) in the film. And it just seemed too awful to be true. But as we discovered, I mean, there are some images we couldn't even show in the film.

AMANPOUR: Like what?

DORAN: One farmer, one poor farmer who couldn't pay the traffickers back and refused to give his daughter away -- and we actually have the entire film of his -- him being beheaded with a penknife. And that's what they do if you refuse to hand over your daughters.

AMANPOUR: Is there anything the government can do, Najibullah? I mean, is there anything that -- the government knows this stuff is going on and they've promised to crack down.

QURAISHI: Of course, government knows that. And this is kind of system which is going on from last years and years and years, that traffickers approach the farmers. They're giving some advance money to grow poppies. And they know everything.

But by destroying their crops, basically government is destroying their families, their life. And the -- I don't think -- I cannot say if there is a solution because our job is just expose and hope the government, Afghan government find a solution or the policymakers find some solution for it.

AMANPOUR: Well, let's just look at one little girl, who you did expose in this film, look at what she said. And she was one of the lucky ones, or luckier, because she managed to escape.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They wouldn't allow me to change my clothes. They wouldn't give me soap to wash them. My clothes became worn out on my body. They did every possible cruelty to me. I really fear that those smugglers will take me again.


AMANPOUR: So, Jamie, she thinks she could be taken again. Is there any kind of halfway house, some kind of center that these girls who've come back can at least be protected?

DORAN: We did find one kind of halfway house. But (inaudible) only covered for about 30-35 girls. We're talking about many, many hundreds, probably running into the thousands. And constantly they're on the move. They're on the run from the traffickers.

And you know, they go to various villages and then, of course, the traffickers arrive in the middle of the night with AKs, with Kalashnikovs, then take the girls at gunpoint. Their fathers never see them again. The mothers never see them again.

I don't know if there's a solution because the world demands poppy cultivation for its heroin addiction. So you know, maybe the blame shouldn't just be put onto the Afghan government. Maybe we should be looking inside ourselves a little more.

AMANPOUR: And it really has been a huge question, a huge issue, what to do about this. So for -- ever since the U.S. and the West intervened, because you're absolutely right, it is their primary -- one of their primary cash crops.


AMANPOUR: And what to make of this drug, like maybe make it into medicinal purposes or uses, of course, that hasn't really happened. But you found also some government officials who wouldn't admit to you on camera what they knew, but off camera they did.

What did they say about this?

QURAISHI: They all know, even the ministers in Kabul, everyone knows what's going on on those territories. They all know. The problem is, those areas are all belong to the Taliban. And they couldn't go there. Even NATO. They go for an hour or two and they couldn't stay there for longer. And the officials, they all know that things -- I mean, all the time, it's going on.

DORAN: I think there's something important, if you don't mind me interjecting it, slightly. The role of NATO and the United Nations is fascinating in this situation because -- and it doesn't come out solidly enough, sadly, in the reports that come out, but the U.N. and NATO ISAF will tell you it's not their responsibility nor do they advocate the destruction, the eradication of the poppy.

But they supply the protection for the police to actually do it. So they're saying on one hand, we have nothing to do with this. But the Afghan police couldn't do without NATO support.

AMANPOUR: And with the NATO support, very shortly going to be withdrawn, do you think that'll make any difference?

QURAISHI: I think it will go to worse, really. So if by being -- NATO is in Afghanistan; nothing happened the last over 10 years. What will happen after when they are leaving their troops out? So it's going to be worse.

And on the other hand, I interviewed one caliph (ph). We didn't include this one, but our international version is -- has that interview. I asked the caliph (ph) why you allow traffickers to take the girls from here? He said, this is not my job. This is their job. But once we against the NATO and the government, we are together. But otherwise, we have separate businesses.

DORAN: You have to catch that the Taliban want the money. They charge a fee to the traffickers, $250-$350 million a year that Taliban are making, even when we were there in Afghanistan in Kabul at one point. A firefight right beside where we were, that lasted for 23 hours. And you know that the Taliban, a lot of the weaponry that were using was financed through the poppy.

AMANPOUR: And just beyond this, I mean, look, I've covered this a lot, too, the women, the children at issue, you know, some 50 percent of Afghan girls get married as girls. They -- the U.N. calls that 18, but it's often much, much younger. Any change in that demographic, do you think, likely?

QURAISHI: Unfortunately not. You're saying 50, but I am agreeing with 70.

AMANPOUR: You think 70 percent?

QURAISHI: Seventy percent of girls, they get married even at the age of 10, 12 or 15 or -- and unfortunately, it's going to be increased, the number.

AMANPOUR: Well, thank you so much for exposing it; thank you so much for joining me today, Najibullah Quraishi and Jamie Doran, "Opium Brides" on Frontline. Thank you so much. And we will be right back with a final thought.



AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world of cultural diversity filled with a thousand years of priceless treasure. In the wake of 9/11, just as people were hungry for knowledge of all things Islamic, the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York closed the doors of its collection of Islamic artifacts. For eight years, it lay dormant while a painstaking renovation began.

Fourteen months ago, the collection was reopened and renamed the Galleries of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and later South Asia. These 15 glorious galleries have become one of the museum's most popular attractions and this week they welcome their 1 millionth visitor.

And that is it for tonight's program. Thanks for watching. And you can always contact us on our website, And just before we go, a quite shift of subjects, we want to give you a glimpse of the record cold snap here in the U.S. and across the pond.

Take a look at this fire in Chicago. The water from the fire hose turned to ice. And in Wales, some chilly chimps in a primate sanctuary do their best to stay warm.