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CNN Newsroom

Aired September 25, 2001 - 04:30   ET


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CNN CO-HOST: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I am Shelley Walcott.

TOM HAYNES, CNN CO-HOST: And I'm Tom Haynes.

Two weeks after the most devastating attack ever on United States' soil, prime suspect, Osama bin Laden appears to have issued a statement. A Middle Eastern News Organization says it has received a hand-delivered letter, believed to be from bin Laden, urging Pakistan to resist American forces.

WALCOTT: That's right. President Bush, meanwhile, is freezing U.S. assets of bin Laden and 26 other individuals and groups suspected of supporting terrorism. We continue our coverage of America's New War with a few reports beginning with a look at Russia's role and cooperation with the United States.

Russia and its Central Asian neighbors wielded much influence on the Afghan region.

Here's Matthew Chance.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the United States positions its forces for a possible strike against Afghanistan, the Russian president has been (INAUDIBLE) unprecedented his note on conditional support for U.S. military action. In the national address, Vladimir Putin said Russian airspace would be open for humanitarian flights only. But he said Russia was prepared, if necessary, to take part in what he called an international search and rescue operation.

Old Russian objections to U.S. presence in the former Soviet Central Asian states have been essentially dropped, even though the area we're still holding to some of Russia's most sensitive military instillations. There's also a confirmation, Moscow is stepping up its provision of weapons and training the anti-Taliban forces in Northern Afghanistan.

SERGEY IVANOV, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: We didn't ask anything in return, expect one thing: of course, intelligence from the American side, because it can't be a one-way road. That's obvious. We share information reached out on terrorism as a whole, not only concerning Afghanistan, but the other areas where the terrorism has widely spread recently.

CHANCE: Moscow says rebel fighters in the breakaway Russian Republic of Chechnya have links to international terrorist organizations, like that of Osama bin Laden. Europe and United States have condemned Russian military excesses there, making sanctioned air strike from Yugoslavia. The national missiles have the sense of old strained relations with Washington. Analysts say the banner of a "War Against Terrorism" makes fundamentally changed relations with the United States.

SERGEY ROGOV, POLITICAL ANALYST: We said them enemy, enemies for proper (INAUDIBLE), and from the last ten days with the current partnership, but we were neither enemies nor friends. Today, we have again a common enemy for the first time since 1945. And usually, when nations have a common enemy, they reach a strategic alliance; so the Russian-American relations can go beyond the Cold War, and fortunately, step by step become a cozy alliance-type relationship.

CHANCE (on camera): So the Kremlin has finally set eyes exactly what it will do to support the United States, and its declared War Against Terrorism. Officials have made it clear they do not intend to deploy Russian troops on the ground in a combat role inside Afghanistan. The Kremlin says the United States and its more traditional allies will have to fight there, alone.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.



U.S. military planners are getting some diplomatic help from another country as well. Kazakhstan, the former Soviet Republic, has given the United States permission to use its airspace and will provide its airfield, if it is asked, in a potential strike against Afghanistan. That would mean American planes, most likely fighters, would be just 200 miles away from the Afghan border, much closer than any other options currently available.

GEN. DON SHEPHERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: What you are saying is the result of mass triple diplomacy here. The two enemies of military action are security -- you need to be in a secure place so that you can defend yourself -- and also distance from the area that you are intending to strike. Kazakhstan, being only a couple of hundred miles from Afghanistan, would be very, very convenient for launching strikes.

HOCHMUTH: Since Afghanistan is landlocked, getting permission from neighboring countries to use their airspace is critical. Pakistan has given U.S. permission to fly over. Still, those planes will have to take off from aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea or from the U.S. naval base on Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean.

SHEPHERD: Distance limits you in the number of, what we call sorties or flights that you can go to the area. Diego Garcia is around 2,000 miles from the area, and so the number of flights that you can get airborne by the time you go there, return, or replenish the weapons on your airplane, refuel, and get back is very limited. So the further you get, the less flights you can put over the country.

HOCHMUTH: Even closer to Afghanistan and Kazakhstan are countries like Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. None has offered any concrete help to the United States, but as Matthew Chance reported, Russia won't object if they do. Each is home to many Muslims who sympathize with the Taliban.

SHEPHERD: We have to very careful about our relationships with these countries that are key to our success. The closer you get to the action, the better. So Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and even Kyrgyzsnstan are all key to the things that we may want to do. But we want to be very careful not to destabilize those governments. The same thing's going on in the Middle East. It's very dicey.

HOCHMUTH: The one big question, though, is just how effective American fighters and bombers can be in Afghanistan, which is a desperately poor country with few significant military targets left after an ongoing civil war and its war against Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

SHEPHERD: There are going to be a lot of special forces action in this because of the target set. There's not a lot of infrastructure that lends itself to the fighters and bombers. We have it all those. We would be able to take care of whatever is there. Special forces will be very important.

HOCHMUTH: Throughout Afghanistan, the tension is mounting in anticipation of potential air strikes. Adding to the tensions, continued battles between Taliban forces and an opposition alliance that controls parts of the country.

For that, we go behind the front lines in the north of Kabul to CNN's Chris Burns.


CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a night bombarding the Taliban with tank fire, Northern Alliance forces claim to make progress toward the capital Kabul. At a hillside alliance position, soldiers stand and watch as more artillery and machine gun fire ring out to the distance. They show off three Taliban fighters they say they captured the night before.

But any hard-fought games could easily slip away, as fighting rages in a no-man's-land river valley between the two forces. Truckloads of troops reinforce the alliance's ragtag army of about 15,000. Overhead, a Taliban jet dropped a bomb nearby, trying to chip away at Northern Alliance resolve.

(on camera): Just over my shoulder is the front line. The Northern Alliance says it seized three Taliban checkpoints after heavy bombardment overnight, but the Taliban are fighting to take them back.

(voice-over): Though some Northern Alliance commandos boast they can take Kabul in days, the general overseeing the front line here says it will be a longer struggle. "We have been fighting on this line for three years," he says. "Sometimes we advance, sometimes the Taliban advance, but insha Allah, God willing, we will get to Kabul by winter."

Another commander says, "U.S. air strikes would speed in a light advance toward Kabul."

For now, the human flow is in the other direction, refugees fleeing Kabul in a steady stream. Their stories suggest that Taliban is girding itself for a showdown. "They are taking people hostage," he says, "they give them a (INAUDIBLE), and send them to the front line." Families get caught in the middle, as two forces battle on. The one force hangs on to the hope that it will soon get help from American airpower.

Chris Burns, CNN, in Northern Afghanistan.


WALCOTT: Michael McManus joins us now for the story of a young Afghan man who welcomes help in other forms from around the world.

MICHAEL MCMANUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Shelley. We are about to meet a 20-year-old who has taken on some big responsibility since his family fled their Afghani home. Ahkmal Rouf is now a refugee in Pakistan. He has given opinions on how to fix the country of Afghanistan, and also shares with us some long-term dreams for his home. Part two of Sid Akbar's journey through Pakistan continues now through a young man's perspective.


AHKMAL ROUF, PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: My name is Ahkmal Rouf. I'm here for just seven years with my family. This is an antique shop, and I'm working here for just a month, or just maybe half a month. At first, why we came here. Just we have seen so many difficulties in Afghanistan. I'm actually belonging to Kabul. Because those facilities that we can have in our countries -- here not. It's a little bit difficult for us.


ROUF: Those freedoms that we have in our country, here we cannot, because we have immigrated here.

SID AKBAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So what do you think of current government, the Taliban?

ROUF: Yes, I should mention that they are ruling, but they are ruling by power. Something that, for example, they don't want to girl, woman to stay down there. I know maybe it will be dangerous for me that I'm going to mention these words against them. But they are not just -- something that they are ruling by power.

AKBAR: By force. ROUF: By force, by force. Different groups were fighting in Afghanistan. For example, I think no one helps Afghanistan. If the government, when they capture soldiers, are taking objections, not for people -- actually, we need someone to help, to think of Afghanistan, just not think of themselves, just think of Afghanistan, think of people. Just we don't have someone to help like this Afghanistan.

My family, my father just hates guns. He don't want to see us with guns. He don't want to see us to fight. He is someone that wants us to be just in school and courses and just to learn. One of my plan is this that when I go there -- back to Afghanistan, so maybe I start -- maybe I can open a computer course down there, maybe some facilities, Internet facilities down there, and some English courses. I want to go back to Afghanistan and help my people, because I love my people, I love my country, everything I love.


MCMANUS: Be sure to join us tomorrow for our third and last installment with Sid Akbar. I will sit down and talk with him for some reflection on his travel to the Pakistani region.

HAYNES: U.S. stock surged high on Monday with both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq Composite Index up. Consumers nationwide are being encouraged to get back to their normal lives and back to spending.

Allan Chernoff reports on the outlook of the economy.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Potamkin Buick and Chevrolet in midtown Manhattan says vehicles are selling again with low financing rates that allure shoppers.

PHILIP LOMBARDO, POTAMKIN SALES MANAGER: People have been showing up again this week, as opposed to last week, when there was a problem of the bin Laden story and because of the disaster and all.

CHERNOFF: It is the critical question facing the economy now: To what degree will consumers resume spending, especially on big- ticket items like cars?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm still a little anxious about what's happened. I think I am still suffering from some posttraumatic stress.

CHERNOFF: Even the public's concerns about security declines in the stock markets and rising layoffs no one can know for sure.

ROBERT HORMATS, GOLDMAN SACHS IMI: It's awfully hard to predict how severe the damage to the economy will be because of the terrorist act. The economy was weakening even before those terrorist acts. It will be considerably weaker as a result of them.

CHERNOFF: Many forecasters do expect a recession, and for some industries, it can already be labeled a virtual depression: airlines flying near empty planes, slashing schedules, and awaiting a $15 billion government bailout package. U.S. carriers have announced 80,000 layoffs since the attacks. In the next few days, Delta plans thousands more. Hotels have seen occupancy rates sink.

J. W. MARRIOTT, MARRIOTT HOTEL GROUP: It's very tough. We rely tremendously on air travel, and as you know, air travel is low down, and so we are going to have a very tough September.

CHERNOFF: Aircraft maker Boeing is suffering order cancellation, and insurance companies are facing claims in the billions of dollars. Yet some industries stand to pride: military contractors and security services. Then, there are companies whose sales tend to hold up, no matter what the economy is doing -- supermarkets, food and drug manufacturers, as well as makers of medical products and the hospitals they supply.


Increased federal spending and lowered interest rates in the Federal Reserve should help businesses, but most important of all for the future of the economy is the degree to which Americans return to one of their favorite pastimes, shopping.

Allan Chernoff, CNN Financial News, New York.

WALCOTT: New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani says he expects the city's economy to recover from the downturn it took after the attack. Voices from the White House to the Great White Way are encouraging jittery tourists to return to New York. Both tourists and residents, though, are drawn to the site known as ground zero.

Jason Bellini reports.


JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the barriers on Wall Street, traders on lunch break come outside to look at nothing -- nothing but smoke from the once omnipresent towers of the World Trade Center. The traders are here for their day job, but curiosity brings others.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have this, this horrendous feeling that I have to see it.

BELLINI (on camera): Why did your mom bring you down here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we wanted to see what happened and to see the full thing.

BELLINI: The World Trade Center?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wanted to see what I (INAUDIBLE). BELLINI: From this distance, you can't see rescue workers. You can't really make out what exactly you are looking at, but that doesn't stop -- go from mourning pictures that immortalize their proximity to a great historic disaster.

(voice-over): Over and over, people say it feels more real to see it with their own eyes. They are not warriors; TV is just not good enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, when you see things on TV, you know (INAUDIBLE) made for a TV story because we all know it isn't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You smell it and you see the people and as they come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we're not with the World Trade Center. You know how big they always appeared, and then imagine now; we have to feel exactly what it's like if they're not there in that state.

BELLINI: But as they try to capture this reality, some people find a moment of solitude behind their cameras. The World Trade Center is mesmerizing in death, as it was in life.

Jason Bellini, CNN, New York.



WALCOTT: You know at a time when we are all learning some of life's greatest lessons, the value of family is one of the most powerful.

At the University of Colorado in Boulder, CNN's Stephanie Oswald spent some time with families reconnecting after the tragedy.


STEPHANIE OSWALD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As a freshman in the Reserve Officer Training Corps, Nicole Chapman (ph) is continuing a family tradition. She was in grade school when her father was flying stealth fighter jets over Saudi Arabia.

JOHN CHAPMAN (ph), NICOLE'S FATHER: How are you doing?


J. CHAPMAN (ph): You're doing OK?

N. CHAPMAN (ph): Yes. When he was to go before I was 9, and I didn't know; my mom told me he was doing paperwork.

OSWALD: A decade later, Nicole was in the army, and this time there's no attempt to hide from reality.

J. CHAPMAN: Even more important is that I had a chance to hug her after she has seen all this on the TV. Even more, people have to say it's still the greatest country in the world."

OSWALD: Retired from the Air Force just three months ago, John Chapman (ph) now flies for a commercial airline.

J. CHAPMAN: I know she is young, and I know she is only a freshman in college, but I think she is going to find herself very deeply involved in what they calling a continuing War Against Terrorism, and of course, I'm concerned.

OSWALD: Matin Afzal (ph) is deeply involved in the war against ignorance. A senior at C.U. and a member of the Muslim Students Association, some are attacking his belief.

MATIN AFZAL (ph): Immediately, I thought they're going to pinpoint this on, you know, the religion of Islam or some Muslim terrorists, Arab terrorists, and some Middle Eastern country. So I knew that was going to happen immediately. I mean it's kind of the usual suspects, as they were saying for many years.

OSWALD: Matin's (ph) family flew in from Philadelphia for parents weekend for the fourth time in four years, despite his mother's fear of flying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I even told Matin (ph) on the telephone, I am sorry, Matin (ph), but I will not be able to make it this time, because I was so scared of flying. And he said, Oh, Mom, you're coming.

SAEED AFZAL (ph): As a parent, it's our duty to work with them and try to talk about this fears and how to look at the positive side of this thing.

OSWALD: Saeed Afzal (ph) has a strong message for his son.

S. AFZAL (ph): A fear should not dictate our life. Optimism and hope -- and the hope, you know, the mercy and blessing of the Lord -- that is what we need.

OSWALD: More than 1,500 families face the challenge of travel to reunite this weekend.

DR. ELIZABETH HOFFMAN, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO: We need to remind ourselves and our children that these things do pass, and that life cannot stop because of these things.

OSWALD: It's a weekend for respect and cheering in the football stadium and the time to check out the new drawing room.

N. CHAPMAN (ph): This is my room, Dad. This is my corner.

J. CHAPMAN (ph): I know.

OSWALD (on camera): The parents weekend also includes the golf tournament, pep rally, and campus tours. But this year, for many families, first it is something else -- not on the usual rocks (INADUDIBLE). UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will tell you that the emotion that is most common in me right now is fear. I am very scared. And also ...

OSWALD (voice-over): Families also rally for understanding, and, in these times of uncertainty, claim to what they're sure of.

MATIN (ph): I am proud to be a Muslim in America, just to have the sense of freedom to practice my religion and the general openness in the community and the supportiveness of the American public.

N. CHAPMAN (ph): I would die for this country. I love this country very much, and that is why I joined RBC.

OSWALD: A celebration in full spirit -- and for these families in their first meeting since September 11, also a celebration of students here.

Stephanie Oswald, CNN, Boulder, Colorado.


HAYNES: Over the last couple of weeks, it seems Americans have been measuring their losses but also strengthening their bonds.

WALCOTT: And that was certainly the case for a group of Naval Academy grads who gathered for their 30th class reunion. While one of their own wasn't there, his memory certainly was, though, as Tom Rinaldi reports.


TOM RINALDI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like 30,000 others, they gathered on in Annapolis this afternoon to watch a football game, their beloved Navy, their alma mater, picking on (INAUDIBLE). It was a Naval Academy class of 1971's 30th reunion, a gathering where celebration would unite with sorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My first call, that was to my wife, and she said, The Pentagon is gone, and I said, it's impossible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I started thinking about which one of our classmates could have been sitting at behind the desk, because these are guys that fly off aircraft carriers or jump out of airplanes. They put their lives at risk all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know he said almost immediately that we have lost one of our own.

RINALDI: When American Airlines Flight 77, down from Washington, Dallas, to Los Angeles, crashed into the Pentagon the morning of September 11, the pilot was Charles Burlingame. He was a Naval Academy graduate -- Navy, class of 1971. His classmates, his company mates, his naval brothers started finding out just hours later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cried. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My initial reaction was disbelief and shock, and I am not angry. Also I am trying to stay right now not angry because I know the next thing is probably extreme sorrow. I am trying to stay (INAUDIBLE).

RINALDI: Before joining the airlines, before becoming a Navy reservist, before being a fighter pilot, they knew him simply as "Chic" (ph). The son of a Navy man, his life's central dream was flying, and he came to Annapolis like the rest of them to begin chasing the water in the sky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was really a future fighter pilot, and somehow began as relatively poor, but (INAUDIBLE) we found the guy that fits the mould of the old top of America list.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have these things for you that you couldn't ask anybody else. He couldn't ask his normal friends in the time he could actually (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A very selfless individual, selfless, putting everyone else ahead of himself, always there to help out, always lend a hand. But when it was his turn, he'd shoulder the burden. His shoulder was on the wheel, and he carried his load and probably half of someone else's.

RINALDI: From their first nervous days as naval aviators who would become military men, and now as friends, many as pilots themselves, Burlingame's class has struggled with an unanswered question which crashed along with Flight 77 and with the unresolved feeling left behind in the ashes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first time I listened to it -- thank God it wasn't me. Hmmm -- I said Hmmm, because I could not think about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do know perfect, but really doubt my mind that Chic (ph) is going to be at war and probably (INAUDIBLE), because there have been no way he had left that airplane which went down that day, without struggle.

RINALDI: In the wake of September 11, as so much was canceled all over the country, some in the class of '71 wanted to cancel this reunion too, but they didn't. Instead, they gathered for memorials first and for friendships eternal; though their hearts were broken, their bonds would not be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There must have been 600 to 800 American Airlines pilots (INAUDIBLE) attended. I was just thinking that ultimately, we have lost those men virtually. All that were Washington crew members, that were not flying on duty that day, showed up at Chic's (ph) memorial. All that they thought of was Chic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically, now it's the time to do this. There isn't a better time to do this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we were at the naval academy, we bonded in a very special way. They love this country, and they love each other, and to leave him, one of our classmates, in the way that we lost him and think it before -- the savage way that he was taken away from us, it made this reunion special.

RINALDI: So, they watched a football game. Navy lost, but the class of '71 had its own victory.


HAYNES: And that is CNN Newsroom for Tuesday.

WALCOTT: Stay tuned to CNN throughout the day for continuing coverage. Bye-bye.




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