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CNN'S AMANPOUR

Battle Underway to Liberate Mosul from ISIS; Russia to Temporarily Halt Aleppo Fighting Thursday; UK, French Officials Rush to Process Calais Minors; Unaccompanied Minors at Risk in Calais Camp. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 17, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, day one of the fight for Mosul to oust ISIS from its major Iraqi stronghold and shrink the caliphate.

U.S. coalition spokesman joins us from Baghdad.

Also tonight, Russia says it will give Aleppo an eight hour humanitarian break. The U.N. says that's not long enough. And an FSA commander tells

us he wants more weapons to defend the city.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to protect our children so that we don't drag them out of the rubble.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: And they are alone, living in the jungle, in conditions fit only for animals. Now, a trickle of refugee children are finally being allowed

to leave the Calais camp and reunite with family here in the U.K.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

The battle for the most important ISIS stronghold in Iraq is officially underway. Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced that he's ordered his

troops to dislodge ISIS from Mosul, which they captured at lightning speed more than two years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAIDER AL-ABADI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I am announcing today the beginning of these remote operations to liberate you

from the brutality and terrorism of ISIS. God willing, we will meet soon on the ground of Mosul, and we will all celebrate the liberation and your

freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: About 100,000 troops were involved led by the Iraqi military and Kurdish Peshmerga. And also buttress by U.S. air strikes and a dizzying

array of militias. Several thousand ISIS fighters in the city are hunkering down and digging in. And Iraqi military has been dropping

leaflets urging as many as a million civilians there to shelter in their homes and disconnect gas lines.

The U.N. warns that if they all flee, it could trigger a massive humanitarian disaster. So at the end of day one of this fight, I spoke to

the U.S. coalition spokesman Colonel John Dorrian in Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Colonel Dorrian, welcome to the program.

The battle for Mosul is underway. How many U.S. forces are helping and what is the intent of the U.S. support there?

COLONEL JOHN L. DORRIAN, OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Well, one of the things that we really have that is a capability that the

Iraqis need is we have the capability to provide logistical support and we also are providing air strikes and advice and assistance as they move into

their attack position and move toward Mosul.

So the air strikes help to disrupt Daish and to kill Daish fighters, leaders and commanders. And this facilitates the Iraqi security forces as

they move closer to battle; it helps them be successful once they engage.

AMANPOUR: What is your assessment after the first 24 hours of this offensive?

DORRIAN: Well, the Iraqi security forces attacked at dawn. And since that time they've made substantial progress along several avenues of advance.

So they've enveloped the city and they are moving in. The noose is tightening on Mosul.

What they've encountered is moderate resistance. This is small arms fire, indirect fire, things like mortars. And then, of course, we see the

improvised explosive devices that are a part of Daish's tactics, techniques and procedures in previous battles.

AMANPOUR: How heavily do you expect, given the experience in other areas, Daish, ISIS to dig in, to mount any kind of serious resistance?

DORRIAN: Well, Daish have been in this city for more than two years. So this is Iraq's second largest city. They've built elaborate defenses.

There's these tunnels, trenches, improvise explosive devices. They've put up barriers around the city. And all these things complicate the Iraqi

security forces advance.

Now, we've provided a lot of specialized training to the Iraqis. We've given them the tools and the tactics in order to defeat these kinds of

defenses, but we make no mistake. We do expect this to be a very tough challenge for the Iraqis for a variety of reasons, not least of all, it's

just the largest battle they've taken on to date.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about these civilians inside Mosul, and also, the relative ease or difficulty of retaking Mosul? I ask Prime Minister Abadi

what he expected the people to do.

Listen to what he told me when I spoke to him a few weeks ago in New York.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[14:05:10] AMANPOUR: Are you counting on them to be able to rise up as well?

ABADI: Exactly, I'm counting on them to do this, because to be honest with you, Mosul is supposed to be easier than these other cities outside Mosul,

which we'll be liberating, because these are the outskirts. They are supposed to be more pro-Daish than the city itself. But you never know.

We have to plan for the worst, yes. We are planning for a fight for many months. But we anticipate the fight for Mosul will be easier than probably

Ramadi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Colonel, do you think it will be easier than Ramadi. And do you think it is reasonable to expect the people to rise up and defy Daish, and

work with the Iraqi forces?

DORRIAN: Well, I think this is going to be a very tough battle. And that's why the Iraqis have spent so much time to tell the people of Mosul

that their liberation is at hand. They've been given detailed instructions of what to do. They've been told to try to stay, you know, in order to

stay out of harm's way and stay out from being got in the crosshairs, in a crossfire between Daish and the Iraqi security forces as they advance.

The Iraqis have put in a lot of time in order to try to protect civilian life. The exact opposite of what Daish had done. We think that this is

going to be a very tough challenge. There is something like a million people. We understand that many of those may become internally displaced

persons. And the Iraqis are going to do what they can to protect them and to provide for them, as they leave the city.

AMANPOUR: How worried are you about all these desperate militia forces, different groupings, joining this battle? We understand that the Peshmerga

and some of the Shiite groups apparently have been told to stand outside the city, allow the Iraqi forces to go in. But there is a huge sensitivity

towards some of the paramilitary forces or the paramilitary units, the militias.

How worried are you about them all playing ball so to speak?

DORRIAN: Well, you know, this being the size and the city that it is, we think that this is just going to be a very complicated battle. We think

the Iraqis are prepared for that. We think that the civilians that are there could end up being house fighting. They're going to try to give

civilians and the means to get out of harm's way. But make no mistake, it's going to be very complicated battle. They'll do everything they can

to protect civilian life.

And we'll be there attacking with precision. The coalition uses precision strikes. We try to hit Daish fighting positions and Daish command and

control nodes, and what that does is it reduces the possibility that Daish can take civilian shields as they try to escape.

AMANPOUR: All right, Colonel Dorrian, thank you very much indeed for joining us from headquarters in Baghdad.

DORRIAN: Thanks. Very good to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: And next up, we go across the border to Syria, where the fighting is just as fierce. A commander for the Free Syrian Army talks to

me from Aleppo.

But first these images from Save the Children of families fleeing Mosul on foot. The charity is desperately appealing for safe routes out of the city

for civilians.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:10:30] AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

As the battle for Mosul is underway now, next door in Syria, Russian and Syrian forces continue to pound the country's largest city, Aleppo. But on

Thursday, the fighting may pause for a little while.

Russia says for eight hours, it will hold attacks so that civilians and rebels can leave. The U.N. says that is not enough time to deliver aid.

Syrian opposition fighters aren't ready to run. They are holding on to Eastern Aleppo, where I spoke to a local commander Mulham Ekaidi, who

dismissed the Russian force.

He told me even their overwhelming military might can't dislodge the opposition forces. And he appealed for more high quality weapons to defend

the city against the Russian and Syrian air strikes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: What damage are the air strikes doing?

MULHAM EKAIDI, DEPUTY COMMANDER, FASTAQIM MOVEMENT (through translator): The Russian air strikes are not accurate at all. And that's why they are

not able to hit or pinpoint hitting the fighters. They cannot hit the fighters, who are fighting against the regime.

The Russian air force and the regime air force are not able to inflict any serious damage on the fighters. But they make up for that in ability by

hitting hospitals. They have hit water treatment plants and other civilian facilities.

AMANPOUR: You are the commander of a movement called Fastaqim. I want to know who you are and are you fighting alongside Al-Nusra in Eastern Aleppo.

EKAIDI (through translator): I am not the top leader, I am the deputy leader of Fastaqim, which is one of the factions in Aleppo. As for Al-

Nusra, anyone who is following the Syrian affairs knows that Nusra front has no actual presence inside Aleppo. Everyone here knows it.

However, there is a focus and concentration on Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which is a new name for Al-Nusra. In order to create justification for Russians

and Bashar Al-Assad to target hospitals and civilians in Aleppo. If Jabhat Fateh al-Sham or Al Nusra was there inside Aleppo, does that justify the

bombardment of a whole hospital, for example.

The recent initiative, which talks about the evacuation of Al Nusra fighters is only used for justification for bombing Aleppo. But

international law or the human law allow anybody to target civilians, even if they were terrorists inside a city.

Unfortunately, this kind of rhetoric only is meant to create a justification for Russians and the regime to commit their crimes in Aleppo.

I will say it again, anyone who follows the Syrian affairs knows that Aleppo is -- Aleppo does not have any fighters of Fateh al-Sham or Al-

Nusra.

AMANPOUR: You've heard from Secretary Kerry, you hear the world leaders talk about Aleppo. There does not seem to be any military intervention

that will come to help you.

Are you getting any weapons at least?

EKAIDI: Unfortunately, let me say the friends of Bashar Al-Assad, who is a first class war criminal and who lost legitimacy since 2012, has spared the

United States administration itself. Their criminal atrocious regime with no legitimacy whatsoever has sincere friends who spare no effort to help

it.

We have been hearing for years from the U.S. administration and others that they will not militarily intervene in Syria, which is practically a green

light to Bashar to continue his massacres. We don't want them to come to our help. We just want high quality weapons that will enable us to defend

our people and our land.

[14:15:05] AMANPOUR: Do you have high quality weapons? Are you getting more high quality weapons?

EKAIDI: We now have to say that the friends of Syria have provided some aid for the Syrian fighters who defend the Syrian people. But that aid is

not a match at all to the Syrian -- to the Russian might, the Russian air force and the Russian missiles.

The kind of weapons that we have been receiving from our friends cannot provide any balance in power. The Syrian revolutionaries now will need

antiaircraft missiles. That's what we need in order to stop the air strikes that kill our people.

We need to protect our children, so that we don't drag them out of the rubble. We want to defend ourselves against the missiles that even strike

bunkers, even underground bunkers are being bombed by the Russian air force, with the pretext that there are terrorists down there. All we need

is the ability to defend ourselves from such weapons.

AMANPOUR: Commander, finally, you hear that the battle for Mosul has started to destroy ISIS in Mosul. Does that give you hope for Raqqah or

for battles to come to Syria?

EKAIDI: You know, the destruction of Daish will help the Syrian revolution. You know, that Daish did not kill as many Syrian civilians as

the regime has killed. However, we believe that bombing ISIL will eventually help the Syrian people. Unless we -- unless we allow the media

to make believe as if Daish was the biggest problem.

The biggest problem is the regime and its Russian allies. We want the media to focus more on the massacres committed by the regime and its

allies, not on ISIS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Commander Ekaidi in besieged Eastern Aleppo.

And when we come back, we look to those who escape the horrors of war. The children who journeyed from Syria to the jungle. The refugee camp in

Calais and they've done it alone.

A lucky few have now arrived in Britain. And we asked why it took so long to roll out the humanitarian carpet for them. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[14:20:00] AMANPOUR: They are on British soil now and soon to be reunited with family at last.

This was the scene in South London today. More than a dozen unaccompanied refugee children, who have endured the squalor and the horrors of the

Calais jungle camp are now in the U.K. They've been finally allowed in to reunite with family here. But this is just a handful of hundreds of

youngster whose have been cleared to come.

The British and French governments are rushing to process them before they raise the settlement.

And joining me now is Martha MacKenzie of the charity, Save the Children. She's been working with the British home office to bring these children

here to the U.K.

So, first of all, you must be thrilled that this tiny handful at least has made it here.

MARTHA MACKENZIE, DEPUTY HEAD OF GOVERNMENT RELATIONS, SAVE THE CHILDREN: We are. We are really, really pleased to finally see progress. As you

said, it's been a really long time coming. So the fact that more and more children are now coming across, we're expecting more in the next few days

and weeks. It's really great news.

AMANPOUR: How many are you expecting? Because from what we understand, somewhere in the region of 400 of those children have already been cleared,

have been investigated, identified as having family here. And they've still been languishing in those terrible conditions all along.

MACKENZIE: Well, that's right. And I think one of the problems is that we still don't know how many children we can expect. We know that there are

several hundred who absolutely do have family links in the U.K. and could be reunited. But there are several hundred more whose best interest it

would be for them to be in the U.K. They don't necessarily have family here, but they haven't actually thought going through that process and

that's what we're really worried about.

AMANPOUR: Well, before I get into the nitty, gritty of that, let me ask you, because you've just returned from the jungle. Give me an idea of what

it's like for those children there.

MACKENZIE: I mean, it's an appalling place for children. You can't imagine somewhere less suitable. And we've spoken to children who have

traveled from Syria all the way across Europe and said the Calais is the worst place that they've been.

It's so, so dangerous. Children don't have loved ones there. They don't have people that care for them. They're in these kind of really unsettling

circumstances and really falling prey to quite nefarious characters, people traffickers, kind of the worst kind of abuse. It's not a place for

children.

AMANPOUR: And some of them have been sexually abused. I've seen and heard reports of them being targeted with all the teargas as the authorities try

to -- whatever they try to do in that camp. Jumping on to trucks and lorries to try to come over here, risking their lives.

MACKENZIE: That's right. We've seen an increase in sexual abuse. Quite systemic sexual abuse as these very vulnerable children are targeted. And

actually as they get more and more afraid of what is happening, a lack of information, the camp being demolished, the jumping on top of lorries in

the middle of the day and we've seen children killed, killed being knocked off lorries, that desperate to get out of there and find alternative

solutions.

AMANPOUR: And that's because there is no place to redistribute them around France?

MACKENZIE: Well, it's unclear to us why this is so bad, and why it's been taking so long. There hasn't been a real systematic approach to Calais.

The British and the French government getting together and actually providing accommodations for those children.

And as the demolition looms, that's what we're really worried about. We think there are about 1,000 children, unaccompanied children inside Calais.

And there is still isn't a plan for all of them. There still isn't accommodation for all of them. And that's what we've really hammering to

the French and the British government. We need to have than plan.

AMANPOUR: And we've heard, I mean, over the couple of years that these refugees have been coming here, that many, many children, a large

percentage of children are just falling off the books. They're just disappearing. They're going into the black economy. They may be killed.

MACKENZIE: Oh, absolutely. We know that the last time a part of the camp was demolished. Around 120 children went missing. Just completely

disappeared. And actually, this has been characteristic of the refugee crisis right across Europe. Interpol estimate that in 2015, around 10,000

children went missing. They're just falling through the cracks and falling prey to people traffickers and just some of the most unimaginable

experiences.

AMANPOUR: So it is extraordinary for me to hear you say that these kids -- and we're talking sort of teenagers of 16 and under, right?

MACKENZIE: Yes.

AMANPOUR: So all these kids will come without parents and have to fight their way through this horrible process, say that Calais in France, one of

the most civilized countries is Western Europe is the worst place they've been since leaving Syria.

I mean, how is that possible? Two civilized governments, two governments talk about the human rights, the rights of people, morality and western

democracy, Britain and France, leaving these children to languish.

How is that -- how is that even happening?

MACKENZIE: Well, it is astonishing. And the reason that they tell us it's the worst place they've been is because nobody cares about them.

AMANPOUR: But that's not true. We know that.

MACKENZIE: And we know that, but that's what they feel like when they are in Calais.

AMANPOUR: Oh, sorry, the children say that. I'm sorry. I thought you said the officials said that.

MACKENZIE: No, the children. They say that even in Syria, they have family. They have people who cared about what happened to them. Actually,

in Calais, they don't.

And so, I think, what we're really kind of calling on is actually some systematic response to this, somebody standing up and taking responsibility

for these children. And I think the real nervousness is the politics is getting in the way, that sense of whose responsibility is it, who's

claiming responsibility and that's why we haven't seen a plan.

[14:25:00] AMANPOUR: But these are children. They are not terrorists. They've all been cleared. And what's more, they are legally entitled to

come to this country because they have family who have already said that they will take them. And yet for years, they've been languishing.

You're the government relations person for your charity, what is the answer that they give you?

MACKENZIE: Well, right now, at least we're seeing several hundred we think coming --

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: And it is late. Why are they taking so long?

MACKENZIE: I mean, there is a bit of backwards and forwards between the French and British government to be honest. Who is taking responsibility

for what? Whose role is it to actually come into the camp and play that role in terms of identifying children, getting load of this paperwork,

where it's essentially bureaucracy getting out of their way. And there really has been a passing of the buck that's completely characterized this

crisis.

It's been impossible to get kind of genuine information out of Calais. What is going on? Even our teams are on the ground, even when we're there,

what form of information is being given to children. And, although, it's good that we're seeing some children coming across, it's still the case.

We are still seeing children going missing everyday, because we can't give them -- as Save the Children, we can't give them up-to-date information...

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: You can't save them.

MACKENZIE: ...about what is going to happen to them. And that is the real travesty.

AMANPOUR: You talk about the Calais bureaucracy, but what about here in Britain. The home office -- have they blocked the arrival of these kids.

Are they slow? What is their responsibility? Where have they fallen down?

MACKENZIE: We would like them to be quicker. We don't believe that they've blocked the arrival. There has been kind of dragging of feet by

both governments in terms of sourcing out this issue. And there has, I think, this bureaucracy, the sense of actually how quickly are we following

up these claims. Are we making this an absolute priority? I think, previously, we weren't seeing it as an absolute priority. But actually the

remarkable speed with which children are now coming across to what we're being promised over the course of this, it suddenly has rocketed to the top

of the political agenda.

AMANPOUR: And just to layout the urgency, this camp is going to be raised to the ground.

Do you know when and will you have gotten all the kids out by then? All the kids that can come here.

MACKENZIE: So we know that the process is starting on Monday. So it is incredibly soon. And it was meant to start this Monday and it's been

delayed by a week. But I mean, it's starting really soon. And we don't think we would have got all the children out. And that's what we want to

say over and over again to the British and the French governments. Set out a plan and let us tell the children what that plan is.

AMANPOUR: And, again, if they don't get out, they are wandering somewhere around Europe on their own.

MACKENZIE: They're going to go missing. They're going to fall into the hands of people --

AMANPOUR: But this is a crime. How does this even possible?

MACKENZIE: Exactly. I mean, these are the questions that we ask ourselves everyday. These children are falling through the cracks.

AMANPOUR: Well, we should be asking the responsible government officials.

Martha MacKenzie, thank you very much indeed for being here.

MACKENZIE: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: And that is it for our program tonight. You can always listen to our podcast, see us online and always follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.

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