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U.S. to Slow Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan; Pistorius to Be Transferred to House Arrest Tuesday; Israel Steps Up Security after Wave of Knife Attacks; Social Media Playing Role in Attacks in Israel; Putin's Approach to Syria "Unconstructive"; Pyongyang's Lavish Rewards for Loyalists; The Taliban Targeted Women in Kunduz Occupation; NBA Reality Star Lamar Odom Fights for His Life. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired October 15, 2015 - 10:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Hi, there, welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow.

We begin with a new delay in the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In less than an hour, President Barack Obama is expected to announce plans

to keep nearly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan for much of the next year. It will be the second drawdown delay he's announced this year.

Nick Paton Walsh traveled to Afghanistan earlier this year. He joins us now from Istanbul, Turkey.

What does this announcement tell you, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: It tells us that all the claims made by U.S. officials in the past few years, that the Afghan

national security forces were able to go it alone, which meant that (INAUDIBLE) drawdown to personnel just inside the U.S. embassy, were 2017

was viable.

Well, that has been radically reassessed. It tells you that Barack Obama, perhaps seeing the fate of Iraq, had little choice, frankly, other than to

withdraw troops during the early part of his presidency, doesn't want a similar fate in Iraq to befall Afghanistan.

We're looking at, according to leaked announcements, briefings from administration officials, pretty much the same level now being continued

until Barack Obama leaves office.

He's set in the trajectory for the troops to lower down to 5,500 by early 2017. But that effectively passes the decision about their future levels

to his successor. Of course, whoever it is, Hillary Clinton, perhaps, or any Republican contender will take office then.

So really I think a response perhaps to the vast gains the Taliban have made in and around Kunduz in the north of the country, not traditionally

their stronghold in the past months or so. The broader climate of violence there, which has afflicted 30 out of 34 provinces, causing refugees

internally across Afghanistan and perhaps a reflection to the Afghan security forces, I say, despite the billions poured in to creating them,

aren't really able to hold the Taliban back.

Robyn, there was a saying during the lengthy U.S. presence there, that while the Americans who have the fancy watch, it's the Taliban who have the

time. They're basically waiting for their moment, not expending their resources early, in order to be able to challenge the Afghan government

when the Americans and their firepower begin to withdraw.

That clearly has happened here. And despite a leadership change at the top of the Taliban, Mullah Omar's death being announced and Mansoor being put

in particular place instead, we are now dealing with a Taliban very much resurgent on the battlefield, taking their first city in Kunduz. They've

now withdrawn from it since 2001 recently -- Robyn.

CURNOW: But there's also real concern about the prevalence, the growth of ISIS.

WALSH: There is, yes; and while initially Afghan officials suggested that ISIS weren't really getting hold it appears that certainly in the east of

the country, Nangarhar and we've received pictures, some of the first of their presence in Afghanistan back in March, it appears that they are

growing in strength.

It's not, many say, exported from Syria or Iraq. It is basically those disgruntled with the Taliban, perhaps seeking the better financing, perhaps

more attractive to a disenfranchised younger generation, more radical branding of ISIS to better their own positions.

Now hardcore societies have been reported in places where ISIS have control. And there are said to be gaining ground. And there are in fact

also apparently often clashes with the Taliban as well, who consider them to be a direct immediate challenge to their rule in other parts of the

country as well.

But the bigger issue here is frankly also how the government responds to this. You have to bear in mind that President Ashraf Ghani, accomplished

technocrat, popular in the West as he is, is sharing power with the man he fought an election against, Abdullah Abdullah, who's the chief executive of

that same government.

They still don't have a defense minister. So despite the fact that the West considers President Ghani so much more affable, so much more

comfortable with a sustained Western presence, he's still basically -- he was a power in place. And that will affect the ability to respond to a

revitalized insurgency across the country.

The real key issue is, in the years ahead, whether that small pocket of U.S. troops being announced today in the White House, a sustained 10,000,

that special forces enablers, the ability to carry out airstrikes and perhaps to go into battle with Afghan special forces like we saw in Kunduz

in direct airstrikes to assist them in the fight against the Taliban.

Does that permanently hold in check the Taliban or is it simply putting the finger in the dam?

Eventually their force will grow, potentially the Taliban's, that is, and the fate of Afghanistan may turn backwards -- Robyn.

CURNOW: So much at play, Nick Paton Walsh, thanks for that update.


CURNOW: Well, later this hour, I'll speak with the executive director of the program Women for Afghan Women. Hear what she has to say about the

devastating impact Taliban gains have had on women, particularly in Kunduz.

Also at the top of the next hour we'll, of course, have full coverage of President Obama's announcement on Afghanistan.

Oscar Pistorius will be released from prison and transferred to house arrest in less than a week. The former Olympic athlete has been behind

bars since last October, when a judge sentenced him to five years for culpable homicide in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

David McKenzie joins me now live from Johannesburg.

Hi, there, Dave. Pistorius should have been released two months ago.

Why now?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, we're having this exact same conversation, as you say, two months ago, expecting the imminent

release of Oscar Pistorius from Kgosi Mampuru Prison.

But then there was that 11th-hour intervention by the Justice and Correctional Services minister who said he wanted to put that release on

hold. And he threw it to a parole review board, which then threw it back to the parole review and a parole board at that prison.

Now they are saying in fact he can be released on Tuesday, nearly a year pretty much since he went into prison, under strict terms and correctional

supervision, which is essentially house arrest -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Indeed; do we know -- we don't know the conditions of his parole. But there are quite broad guidelines given under South African law.

MCKENZIE: That's right, Robyn. He won't be allowed to drink alcohol. His movements will be severely restricted. We do believe he's going to his

uncle's house in an upmarket house in Pretoria. He will have to do some kind of community service.

Now the people we spoke to who saw Oscar Pistorius pretty often in prison said he wanted to work with kids and he wanted to get out there and put out

a positive message. So we do believe he will be out of that house to do that community service.

We don't exactly know how and they're not releasing those strict terms. This isn't a release into the free world, as it were. It is a house arrest

and he could be largely invisible for some time.

Reeva Steenkamp, the model who he killed, his family have spoken through their lawyer to us. They said that this wasn't unexpected. They are, of

course, disappointed and they say it won't bring Reeva back.

But opinion is relatively split in this case in South Africa. Of course South Africa and the world hung on every moment of that epic trial here,

when this very well-known South African athlete fell from grace, though he could go back to prison, because an appeal is due to be heard next month.

CURNOW: So it's not all over. David McKenzie in Johannesburg, thanks so much for updating us.


Still to come, what's fueling the violence in Israel? We'll look at the influence of social media.





CURNOW: Welcome back, I'm Robyn Curnow, you're watching the INTERNATIONAL DESK.

As Israel confronts a wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks, leaders there are furiously responding to remarks by a U.S. official. A U.S. State

Department spokesman said there are reports of Israel using, quote, "excessive force" in response to the violence.

The Israeli defense minister accused Washington of misreading the situation. And the justice minister said police in the U.S. would act the

same way.

Israel says heightened security measures will continue, including checkpoints in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Plus licensed

gun owners have been asked to carry their weapons.

Let's get more from Erin McLaughlin; she's standing by live in Jerusalem for us.

Hi, there, Erin; the whole of Israel very much on edge.

ERIC MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Robyn. People are apprehensive, some saying that they're looking over their shoulder in a way

that they haven't done since the second intifada.

An example of this heightened anxiety is an incident that happened on board a train to Haifa earlier this morning. Israeli police say a group of

Israeli soldiers were on the train, someone saw something that they thought looked suspicious. One of the soldiers screamed out, "Terrorist."

Another soldier opened fire, shot his gun on board this train. And the train eventually reaching the station. Everyone got off, they searched the

train and found nothing. It was a false alarm.

But it really sort of illustrates just how people are on edge. And that's because, you know, in the -- in the wake of what had been really extreme

security measures, thousands of additional police deployed in Jerusalem and in cities throughout Israel. There's also been checkpoints introduced into

predominantly Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem as well as increasing numbers of security guards on public transportation.

We're continuing to see these attacks yesterday; two attacks, one outside the Old City and then one at a bus station in Central Jerusalem. In both

cases, Israeli forces shooting these suspects, Palestinian men.

And at least three Israeli civilians were wounded in the process. So people here, both Israelis and Palestinians, say they're very, very scared.

People are bracing for what could happen next.

CURNOW: "The New York Times" has called it "the intimacy of violence," these stabbing attacks. But that intimacy in many ways also expressed in

the measures Israelis are taking to protect themselves buying tear gas, pepper spray, stun guns, batons and, of course, guns.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, absolutely. And Israeli officials are encouraging gun owners in Israel who have licenses to carry their guns, they say, in self-

defense. But it has to be said, you know, while Israelis are terrified at all of this, Palestinians are incredibly scared as well. They're very

scared at these checkpoints, when Israeli officials are searching their vehicles.

Palestinian mothers are saying they're afraid to leave their homes with their children. Some people are saying that they're afraid to reach for

their cell phones in public in fear that an Israeli police officer might misinterpret that as something else.

So both sides living in apprehension, both sides right now living in fear. And there's no clear answers as to what can stop these so-called lone wolf

attacks, attacks that are very difficult to predict and very difficult to prevent because the people who are carrying them out, Israeli officials

say, for the most part, are operating on their own initiative.

CURNOW: Thanks so much. Excellent point there, I want to follow through, Erin McLaughlin in Jerusalem. And as Erin was saying, this region is no

stranger to violence but these attacks are unusual, young Palestinians stabbing civilians and police seemingly at random.



CURNOW (voice-over): Some say, though, they've been incited by cellphone video like this and encouraged or even recruited via social media.

I spoke to Israeli social media analyst Orit Perlov about what's happening. She says it's individual acts that are driving this current spate of

violence with no central leader.


ORIT PERLOV, ISRAELI SOCIAL MEDIA ANALYST: What you see here is you have a brain in Gaza. You have multiple hands in East Jerusalem. And you have

the religious fuel coming from Ramallah and from Omil Batem (ph). And one is not connected to the other one.

I mean, you don't need to be in the same physical geographical place to drive each other. I call it, in the article, I call it like it's a monster

with no, you know, like an octopus with no brain and multiple hands. And that's why it's so difficult to manage or to train because ideas can come

from one place. Because of social media, you cannot bury an idea anymore.

To kill the Internet is almost impossible. And if you try to take down Facebook pages or YouTube clicks, you know, in a second, (INAUDIBLE) you're

going to have hundreds. So it's a little bit -- it's work like a musician, it's very difficult to take the volume down when we're talking on social



CURNOW: OK, that's Orit Perlov there.

Well, Russia carries out nearly 3 dozen strikes against what it calls terrorist targets in Syria as President Vladimir Putin carries out his own

strike against the Obama administration. Our correspondent in Moscow has the latest. Stay with us. You're watching the IDESK.





CURNOW: Russian president Vladimir Putin is criticizing Washington for refusing to work directly with Moscow to find a solution to the Syrian

civil war. Now his comments could further inflame relations with the West.

The U.S. and others argue Moscow is trying to prop up the Assad regime with its air campaign. For more, let's turn to Matthew Chance in Moscow.

Hi, there, Matt. Those comments and others from Mr. Putin.

They suit his narrative, don't they?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They do, to the extent that Russia has cast itself, Vladimir Putin has cast Russia as the

only country that is apparently willing to stand up and fight and put, you know, combat forces into the fight against Islamic State.

Of course, the Russians say that it's Islamic State that they are targeting first and foremost; in their latest press release from the Russian defense

ministry, the Russians say that they carried out 33 combat missions over the course of the past 24 hours, indicating there's been something of an

escalation in the amount of airstrikes that Russian warplanes have been carrying out in Syria.

All of them apparently, according to the list of targets that have been provided by the Russian defense ministry associated with Islamic State from

various places around Damascus, Hama, Idlib, Aleppo, some places where, of course, the Islamic State do not have territory.

And so it's pretty clear that some of the groups that the Russians are attacking are other rebel groups that are not ISIS but are merely opposed

to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

You're right, though, Vladimir Putin extremely frustrated at the fact that there is continuing criticism in the West and in the United States but, in

particular, about the Russian campaign. Take a listen to what he had to say earlier in Kazakhstan.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): I do not quite understand how our American partners could criticize Russia's actions to

fight terrorism in Syria when they reject direct dialogue on a major issue of political settlement.

I believe this position to be unconstructive and it seems that the weakness of the American position in this case comes from the lack of any agenda on

those issues. It looks like there's nothing to talk about.

But, nevertheless, we leave the doors open and hope for constructive dialogue with all participants of this complicated process, including our

American partners.


CHANCE: All right. Well, the dialogue that Vladimir Putin is referring to there is an offer he apparently made when he was at the United Nations

Security Council late last month for a high-level delegation of U.S. military officials to come to Moscow, the Russian capital, to discuss

greater and deeper coordination of the military efforts on the ground in Syria.

That was basically yesterday rejected by Washington. There have been talks, though, between the two sides, if you like, between the Americans

and the Russians, military-to-military talks about how to prevent each other from shooting each other out of the skies in those increasingly

crowded spaces in the air over Syria.

Those talks are continuing, although they haven't gotten an agreement as such about how best to manage that situation.

CURNOW: Matthew Chance, thanks for that.

Well, millions of North Koreans live in extreme poverty, many of them suffering from chronic malnutrition as well. Even heat and electricity can

be hard to come by. But those living in Pyongyang are seeing big benefits pop up in their city, as Will Ripley shows us.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's lunch time in Pyongyang. The North Koreans say we're the first foreign media to come aboard The

Rainbow, four stories, eight restaurants and cafes, 11,000 square meters, all floating on the Taedong River.

Supreme leader Kim Jong-un's recent field inspection, a lead story on state-controlled media, the announcer calling it a gift to the people.

RIPLEY: So this is where the leader sat, you marked this spot here?

RIPLEY (voice-over): At the revolving restaurant and others inspected by the leader, you can probably guess the most coveted seats.

RIPLEY: What do your customers say when they sit in this chair in particular?

"Everyone wants to sit here where the leader sat," she says. "They rush to grab it."

RIPLEY: Look at that line.

RIPLEY (voice-over): A week after opening, The Rainbow is seeing capacity crowds, 2,000 people in the first hour.

Factory worker Song Un (ph) brought his whole family.

RIPLEY: Is this affordable for everyday people here in North Korea?

"Anyone can come here. It's meant for all people," he says.

Menu items run the equivalent of a few U.S. cents to a few dollars. It's hard to calculate exactly how much the average North Korean earns; some

estimates say an entire family might bring in about $100 a month. Housing, health care --


RIPLEY (voice-over): -- basic food rations and other services, all free from the state. Virtually nobody owns a car. But they can still pay up to

$2 per ride at the Rungna People's Amusement Park.

"I'm so happy to watch my daughter on the ride," says grandmother Kim Auk- sung (ph).

Her family, among 3,000 people at the park, considered a busy night.

"I've tried all the rides," says her daughter, Cha Opiol (ph).

"This one is my favorite."

Some may consider this an odd investment for a nation with regular food and electricity shortages but it's part of a promise by the regime to improve

people's living standards.

We don't know what life is like in parts of North Korea we're not allowed to visit. Defectors and aid workers paint a far darker picture than these

sparkling lights. But here in the capital there are more new amenities each year, more new rewards for absolute loyalty to the leader -- Will

Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.


CURNOW: Thanks to Will for that report.

You're at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Ahead, a woman's charity in Afghanistan becomes a target of the Taliban. We'll talk live with the director of the

group who said her staff had to flee after the Taliban moved in. Stay with us.





CURNOW: You're watching the INTERNATIONAL DESK, I'm Robyn Curnow, here's a check of the headlines.


CURNOW (voice-over): Russian president Vladimir Putin is criticizing Washington for refusing to work directly with Moscow to find a solution to

the Syrian civil war. Mr. Putin says the Obama administration approach isn't constructive. The U.S. and other Western partners have condemned

Russian airstrikes in Syria.

Israel is on edge after a string of knife attacks in Jerusalem. There's an increased police presence around Palestinian neighborhoods. Checkpoints

have been set up and an additional 300 security guards have been recruited to protect public transportation.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to announce yet another delay in the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. We expect Mr. Obama to

address the American people in the next hour.

He'll call for U.S. forces to remain at their current level of nearly 10,000 troops throughout much of next year.


CURNOW: This week, Afghan forces retook the city of Kunduz after nearly two-week occupation by the Taliban. Kunduz is one of Afghanistan's largest



CURNOW (voice-over): The Taliban say they achieved their objectives there. One target: high-profile women and the offices of the organizations that

protect and support women.

Many women fled, including the woman who ran a shelter for female victims of violence.


CURNOW: Well, the executive director of that program, Women for Afghan Women, Manizha Naderi, joins me now from Kabul.

Hi, there. I just -- I want to get the particulars of your organization in a moment. But I just want your response to this announcement, that there's

going to be a delay in U.S. troops withdrawing.

Do you think that will make Afghanistan safer?

MANIZHA NADERI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WOMEN FOR AFGHAN WOMEN: I'm very happy to hear this news, it's very good news for Afghanistan, for the Afghan

people, for the whole region as a whole.

Yes, it will make Afghanistan safer, not just the fact that troops will be here but just the fact that the Taliban know that America isn't going

anywhere so soon. And they're not going to let the Taliban rule this country. That's going to make a big impact all over the place.

CURNOW: OK. So Manizha, the Taliban advance into Kunduz was chilling in many ways but particularly for women working or helping there.

What happened?

Who was targeted?

NADERI: It was a terrible time for all of us. We were working day and night to get our staff and our clients out of Kunduz, because we knew that

we were going to be on the top of their list.

We have been getting threatening calls, emails, even visits from them for several years now, telling us that we should close down the shelter, that

our staff, who are mostly women -- we also have men on staff -- but that they should stop working for this organization.

And we kept our work going. So we knew that we were going to be on the top of their list. But it wasn't just us; it was journalists, women and men

working for the government, soldiers.

Anybody who was active in society, in the government, we're all a target.

CURNOW: So then there was also, during the initial campaign, the Taliban campaign into Kunduz, there was that initial intimidation. Tell us, many

women fled. But then there was a secondary victimization, in a sense, via text messages and stuff. Tell us about that as well.

NADERI: Yes. I mean, yes, they came and took over; they came out of nowhere. Like the day before they invaded Kunduz, there was nothing going

on. It was the quiet before the storm. Our staff went home normally.

And at 2:00 am, they had taken over Kunduz and, at that moment, we knew we had to take everyone out because we knew that all of our staff and our

clients would be killed immediately. So we took everyone out.

And then as soon as our province manager left Kunduz, she started getting phone calls and text messages.

She got a call, a call from one of the Taliban commanders, saying, "Where are you? Where did you hide the women?"

And Hassina (ph), our province manager, told them, you know, we're not in Kunduz any more. We're in Kabul.

And even though they weren't in Kabul at that time -- but the commander said, "You're lucky that you fled, otherwise we knew what to do with you."

CURNOW: So will the members of your organization go back?

And what does this tell us about women's rights, even the small gains made not just in Kunduz over the past few years, but across Afghanistan?


NADERI: A lot of gain has been made for women across Afghanistan. And it's just the Taliban who don't want to have anything to do with women.

You know, they're the same Taliban, the same people, you know.

We've been hearing over the years that they've become more moderate, they're going to let girls go to school. But they proved in Kunduz what

they are and what they will do if they run this country again.

Yes. So we're definitely going back to Kunduz to work. You know, the people there need us, the women need us, it's a need. Having legal aid and

shelter for women is needed in this country. So we're not going to let the Taliban win this at all. We're going to find our way and we're definitely

going to start our office back again.

CURNOW: Manizha Naderi, thank you so much for joining us.

Well, still to come at the INTERNATIONAL DESK, a former NBA and reality star fights for his life in hospital. A live report with the latest on

Lamar Odom's condition. That's next.




CURNOW: Welcome back.

Two-time NBA champ and reality star Lamar Odom is fighting for his life in a U.S. hospital.

On Tuesday, he was found unconscious at a brothel in Nevada after using cocaine and a herbal sexual enhancement supplement.

Well, for the latest on his condition, let's bring in Paul Vercammen, who joins me now live from Las Vegas.

This is all very sad, isn't it?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely is because, by all accounts, anybody who knew him from the NBA and even any of the reality

shows, Lamar Odom is a very likable guy.

And so right now he's on life support in the hospital behind me. He's said to not be talking but a little bit responsive yesterday in contrast to

Tuesday, so it seems like some sort of improvement.

Khloe Kardashian, his estranged wife, by his side, and she would make any medical decisions, should there come a need for there to be a major

decision made in this case -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Indeed, you mentioned one of the Kardashian sisters; in many ways, his private life has overshadowed you know his professional sporting



VERCAMMEN: It has because, as you pointed out earlier, he's a two-time NBA champion. Well, then he got involved with the Kardashians and that whole,

you know, show that was on TV, the reality show and they became social media superstars, if you will.

In fact, his mother-in-law is Kris Jenner and she had gone on to social media today and tweeted out for everyone to pray for Lamar Odom and put in

there #staystrong, that sort of thing. So it's got its own energy and inertia anytime you involve the Kardashians and Lamar Odom and others.

CURNOW: Yes. And many would worry that it starts becoming a bit distasteful. But either way this is a man who has always had a troubled


VERCAMMEN: He has. And this is not the first time that he's had problems in this area. There was a 2013 driving under the influence conviction

eventually for him.

Also back in 2001, he admitted to violating the NBA's substance abuse policy twice and then, of course, the divorce and all of that. So a lot of

these things hanging over Lamar Odom's head. And people do forget about the championship years with the Lakers, two of them, and almost a third as

well, because he was in the NBA finals.

CURNOW: Has there been any response from the sporting world?

VERCAMMEN: There has been. And most of it has just been the highly favorable, you know, everyone from Kobe Bryant to LeBron James -- Kobe

visited him here, wanting best for Lamar Odom.

Again, as a teammate, thought very highly of, not a selfish player in a game, frankly, professional sports, filled with big egos, so an outpouring

of support for Lamar Odom.

CURNOW: Paul Vercammen from Las Vegas, thank you so much for updating us on that story. Thanks.

Well, that does it for us at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. Don't go anywhere. "WORLD SPORT" with Christina Macfarlane is up next.