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CNN Newsroom

Aired November 28, 2001 - 04:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

SUSAN FREIDMAN, CO-HOST: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Susan Freidman.

SHARON FRAME, CO-HOST: And I'm Sharon Frame.

Leaders in and around Afghanistan look to rebuild the nation's political and economical future. It is a huge and complex task. More on the challenges in just a minute.

FREIDMAN: An update now on the war on terrorism. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft says the United States has filed federal charges against 104 people in its terrorism investigation, about half of them are in custody.


JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Department of Justice is waging a deliberate campaign of arrest and detention to protect American lives. We are removing suspected terrorists who violate the law from our streets to prevent further terrorist attack. We believe we have al Qaeda membership in custody, and we will use every constitutional tool to keep suspected terrorists locked up.


FREIDMAN: In Afghanistan, the U.S. military is stepping up pressure on the Taliban in their southern stronghold, Kandahar. Air strikes continue to pound the area and at least 600 marines are now on the ground near Kandahar.


ANNA SCRUGGS, COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA: Hi, my name is Anna Scruggs, and I'm from Columbia, South Carolina.

I would like to ask CNN if, during the course of our attacks on Afghanistan, we eliminate the Taliban government -- what is our responsibility in response to rebuilding the country?

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Our president has made it clear that we are not going to get into nation building, in other words, rebuilding Afghanistan. Out military mission is to create the conditions necessary to stabilize Afghanistan.

Then the United Nations will be brought in to produce a political solution that is acceptable to all parties. Then we will turn over the rebuilding of Afghanistan to aid agencies through the U.N. and other agencies out there, hopefully to rebuild the country and hand Afghanistan back to the Afghan people.


FRAME: Far from the fighting, delegates from four Afghan groups are working toward creating a post-Taliban government. The talks are sponsored by the United Nations and opened on Tuesday near Bonn, Germany.

We have two reports detailing just what is at stake for all concerned. We begin with CNN's Bettina Luscher.


BETTINA LUSCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thousands of miles from their homeland, divided by their rivalry for power but united in their fight against the Taliban, Afghan factions are tackling the most pressing task, how to run Afghanistan now that the Taliban are on the run. The United Nations urges them to grab this chance.

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI, U.N. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE: You who are taking this responsibility must show unprecedented courage and leadership. You must place the interests of your people first above all other concerns, only then will this process, this attempt to break the cycle of misery and destitution, conflict and violence stand a chance of success.

LUSCHER: These words, a message from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the meeting. "The Northern Alliance clearly holds the most cards. Its troops drove the Taliban from power and its delegate Yunus Qanooni pulled rank against the other groups who, after all, are in exile."

"We have come to Bonn from inside Afghanistan," said Qanooni, "as representatives of those people who have resisted foreign aggression for more than 23 years and who have defended the independence and religious and national values of their country." But he also said the Northern Alliance was ready to transfer power to what he called the real representatives of the Afghan people.

While the Northern Alliance controls most of Afghanistan, its delegates here realize they have to share power with people like those sent by the former king, Zahir Shah, still popular with many Afghans.

ABDUL SATTAR SIRAT, KING SHAH'S DELEGATE: We hope that we will start the first step, an urgent step to reach that point to establish a supreme council of the national unity and to form an interim executive body in Afghanistan and to bring the peace finally to the Afghan people.

LUSCHER: The international community is ready to help with millions, if not billions, of dollars in humanitarian aid and reconstruction, but only if the Afghans compromise and come up with a united interim government.

But there was also a promise.

JOSCHKA FISCHER, GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We want the people of Afghanistan to know that they will not be left on their own when the conflict with al Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban regime comes to an end.

LUSCHER (on camera): The chances for a success at this conference are uncertain. Old rivalries, ethnic and political differences have plagued Afghanistan for decades and they will be difficult to overcome in just a few days.

Bettina Luscher, CNN, at the Afghan Talks near Bonn, Germany.



ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the Northern Alliance currently in control of much of Afghanistan, privately U.S. officials question whether it will agree to share power as part of a broad-based post-Taliban government, a concern echoed publicly by experts.

FREDERICK STARR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: From the beginning, though, they have made promises that they had no intention of keeping. And they have broken them. And they have done this repeatedly. And their purpose has been to set up, de facto, a government that is ruling in Kabul.

KOPPEL: Despite warnings by the U.S. and others not to enter Kabul, Northern Alliance forces broke their promise and took the city. Northern Alliance President Rabbani ignored U.S. and international warnings not to return to Afghanistan. Rabbani also rejected calls for an international security force to secure Kabul. And Northern Alliance leaders had to be pushed to join other Afghan groups at this week's talks in Bonn, talks Rabbani has said are only symbolic.

But a spokesman for the Northern Alliance insists it is serious about eventually sharing power.

HARON AMIN, NORTHERN ALLIANCE: Our aim is not to monopolize power or hoard power, but to engage with others in establishing a broad-based government in Afghanistan.

KOPPEL: For its part, at least publicly, the Bush administration prefers to be optimistic.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: They're there. They've been pledged to a broad-based government all along. They've maintained that commitment. They've shown up at the talks. They've participated. And we'll see what the Afghan parties produce.

KOPPEL (on camera): But being realistic, the Bush administration isn't taking any chances, telling the Northern Alliance and other Afghan opposition groups that U.S. aid to rebuild their country is linked to building a broad-based interim government. Said one senior administration official overseeing Afghan policy: "I don't want to be Pollyanna-ish. We recognize there may be resistance."

Andrea Koppel, CNN, at the State Department.


FRAME: Rebuilding the Afghan government is just the beginning. It's likely going to take much time and money to get the people in Afghanistan back on their feet. Two reports now on rebuilding the economy of this war ravaged country beginning with Tom Mintier.


TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A foundation is laid for yet another building in yet another refugee camp in Pakistan. The Taliban they fled from no longer control the country, but more than 3 million Afghan refugees are a long way from home.

A political situation is being discussed in Bonn, Germany, but on the battlefields inside Afghanistan, the talking is still with guns. In Islamabad, they are talking about rebuilding Afghanistan after more than 2 decades of war. More than 200 delegates are here for a meeting sponsored by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and the United Nations. Reconstruction will be a slow and costly process, but one everyone acknowledges, should have Afghans in control.

MIEKO NISHIMIZU, WORLD BANK: How dare we think about rebuilding Afghanistan without listening to the sovereign people of Afghanistan. How dare we continue the very exclusion that has blighted the lives of the Afghan people so long.

MINTIER: The 3-day meeting will tackle some difficult and expensive problems. Some studies put the price tag at 10 billion, and possibly as much as 20 billion dollars. The cost to rebuild the nation, create an economy, heal the fractures of society.

SULTAN AZIZ, U.N. PROJECT SERVICES: What has taken 23 years to be destroyed, cannot be rushed. Just as we hear that a political space needs to be constructed for Afghans to sort things out, so it seems to me that we need much the same about recovery and rebuilding.

MINTIER: The last year of peace in Afghanistan was 1978. The country was self sufficient, and even exported agricultural products.

Now it no longer feeds itself. Health care and infrastructure are gone. Despite offers of aid, life for the next generation will be difficult. With one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, Afghanistan needs everything. Hospitals, schools, roads, and something aid agencies cannot provide. Rain.

Three years of drought have made even the efforts to feed families from the land impossible.

(on camera): Rebuilding Afghanistan, according to the experts, has to be done from the inside out by Afghans. Unlike other reconstruction programs in places like East Timor and Cambodia, where ex-patriots controlled most efforts, it should be different this time. Afghans say they should be provided the means to rebuild. Doing it their way, say the experts, will be the best way.

Tom Mintier, CNN, Islamabad, Pakistan.



JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The trucks are rolling on Pakistan's border highways but more of them carry no cargo, only the empty burden of the conflict in neighboring Afghanistan.

"In the current situation transportation has been stopped, there's little movement," says a leading member of Chaman's Chamber of Commerce along the border with Afghanistan. "Until the situation returns to normal," he says, "our business isn't going to be any good."

Timber from Afghanistan bound for Pakistan, wheat from Pakistan destined for Afghanistan, everything imaginable is part of a billion- dollar trade stretching from the Arabian Sea to the Central Asia republics.

Feeling the pain, the men who drive the big rigs across Afghanistan's rugged mountains and deserts.

(on camera): All things considered, they make Willie Nelson's band of gypsies going down the highway look like the Vienna Boys Choir. Still, Afghanistan's truckers are concerned about the situation.

(voice-over): "The Americans are bombarding Afghanistan," said this one. "Nobody can go there, the roads are blocked."

Business has plummeted 90 percent in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the U.S. Fearing hard times ahead, businessmen are openly calling for the return of King Zahir Shah.

"If he can make peace, we'll be happy," says Lala Khan (ph), a major trucking operator. "In his government there was peace, other governments destroyed everything. The Taliban were fine. There was peace but no development."

Investors here have hundreds of millions of dollars tied up in Afghanistan, money they could lose unless peace and development replace anarchy in the country.

It was the business sector here that helped the Taliban rise to power more than five years ago. Today, they are asking the Taliban to step aside and let someone else take over the wheel. Jim Clancy, CNN, along the Afghan-Pakistan border.


FRAME: Freedom of the press is a right Afghans have not had in a long, long time, but that is beginning to change. A new radio station called "Voice of Afghanistan" was launched on Tuesday. The station is based in London but will broadcast news and commentary via short-wave radio in Afghanistan.

And radio isn't the only medium creeping its way back into the country, "Anis Newspaper" is making a comeback as well as it gears up to cover the biggest story yet.

Harris Whitbeck has more.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Kabul newspaper editor proudly shows off the cover of what he says is a revolutionary edition. For the first time in five years a newspaper shows a picture of a living being, and the subject is a woman's right demonstrator in downtown Kabul. Things are rapidly changing in this country, and the printed press, albeit controlled by the new rulers of the city is catching up.

"We have good content now," says the editor of Anis Newspaper, so it is obvious that people want to read us.

(on camera): Do they have the freedom to write whatever they want now?

(voice-over): These reporters say they now have about 50 percent more freedom to report what they want to. And they hope to eventually write whatever they like.

(on camera): But with printing facilities virtually in ruins and paper and ink scarce, Afghanistan's revamped newspapers are hard to come by.

(voice-over): The sole printing press in the country is a burnt- out hulk. Machines have been destroyed and tons of newsprint turned to ash. While papers like Anis and "The Kabul Times" are able to put some 5,000 copies in circulation every two weeks, even people like Mohammed (ph) Bakhhshi (ph), who runs the printing press, resort to electronic means to get their news.

On this day, he is listening to news about the conference in Bonn that he hopes will result in a new government for Afghanistan. And in a country hungry for the news, one of the fastest-selling items here are these improvised satellite dishes made from tin cans.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ANNOUNCER: Teachers, make the most of CNN NEWSROOM with our free daily classroom guide to the program. There you'll find a rundown of each day's show so you choose just the program segment that fits your lesson plan. Plus there are discussion questions and activities and the guide highlights key people, places and news terms. Each day find hot links to other online resources and previews of upcoming desk segments.

It's all at this Web address where you can also sign up to have the guide automatically e-mailed directly to you each day. It's easy. It's free. It's your curriculum connection to the news. After all, the news never stops and neither does learning.

FREIDMAN: As we continue our look at "The Other Side of Africa," we take you to a fascinating, mysterious hidden city. Timbuktu is located in the West African nation of Mali, a landlocked country that lies mostly within the harsh confines of the Sahara. Mali is nearly twice the size of France and about four-fifths the size of the U.S. state of Alaska. Timbuktu is centuries old, yet throughout its existence no train or paved roads have ever reached its storied (ph) city walls. Despite this, the legend and lore of the seemingly mythical city is known and well documented.

Rudi Bakhtiar reports.


RUDI BAKHTIAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just say the name and you know its legend. Timbuktu, the farthest place a human being can travel. A small windswept oasis in West Africa, this fabled city sits in the middle of the forbidden African desert, and it's surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of more desert, as far as the eye can see. Mysterious, inaccessible, harsh and remote, these words have been synonymous with Timbuktu for centuries.

MOHAMMED IBRAHIM CISSE, TIMBUKTU MAYOR (through translator): Life in Timbuktu is hard. We're a thousand kilometers from the capital, there aren't many roads, airplanes are expensive and the telephone costs a lot as well. Not everyone can afford to have a telephone in their own home.

BAKHTIAR: Timbuktu lies about 12 kilometers north of the Niger River flood plain. It is considered the door to both the Sahara Desert, which lies to the north, and the Sahel, a semi-desert area of Mali that lies to the south. Because of its location, Timbuktu was at the crossroads of some of Africa's most historic trade routes. Caravans have passed through this remote region since about 300 AD. And according to history, nomadic trading people played an important role in Timbuktu's humble beginnings.

NOUH AG INFA YATTARA, MINISTER: Timbuktu was founded in 11th century by the Qur'anic (ph) people, mainly four great tribes. And those four tribes used to come from the desert during the rainy season and camp here where the camel and the canal (ph) met that Niger River then. In the beginning when its -- the hot season came, they go back in the desert and leave their heavy things, their people who are sick or for one reason they couldn't do the nomadism. They leave them among an old lady named Buktu. And Tim means place of or well of. Timbuktu is the well or place of Buktu, that old slave lady's name.

BAKHTIAR (on camera): Timbuktu's location left it pretty open for attack so control of the city kept changing hands. From about the 1200s to the late 1800s, it was ruled by the Mali Empire, the Torrac Nomads (ph), the Songhai Empire, Morocco, the Falani People (ph) and the Bambara Kingdom (ph).

(voice-over): Before the discovery of gold in the Americas, two- thirds of the world's gold supply came from West Africa and Timbuktu was a key stop on its journey to Europe and the Mediterranean. Salt was as valuable as gold in the ancient world, and Timbuktu had ample quantities of both. But these were just two of the many exotic products bought and sold in this storied city of ever shifting sand.

YATTARA: The seven products of Sahel used to arrive here in Timbuktu. The seven products were gold, ivory, slaves, animal for circus, ostrich eggs and feather, oil, palms and granite. Then the northern side also came seven products. The first one is guns, powder, materials, wine, horses, beads and salt. They came here to be exchanged here in Timbuktu, and Timbuktu economically was very strong.

BAKHTIAR: Historians and archaeologists alike compare the rich cultural heritage of the Niger River Valley with that of ancient Greece and Egypt's Nile Valley. One key reason: along with the trade and commerce that passed through Timbuktu came the scholars.

YATTARA: In 15, 16 century, really what that -- that was the golden age of Timbuktu with the kingdom of Songor (ph). That was the time when the mosque of Sankore became very famous. The reason is that the annex of that mosque became the old University of Timbuktu.

BAKHTIAR: By the mid-1500s, the city had three universities and nearly 200 Qur'anic schools. At its height, more than 100,000 people called Timbuktu home. Of these, more than 25,000 were students and scholars.

YATTARA: The book was the thing -- the most exchanged product during that time in Timbuktu. And that is where Timbuktu was very high intellectually and culturally, and that is the age today Timbuktu and Mali and all Africa is trying to give back to Timbuktu.

BAKHTIAR: These are the great treasures of Timbuktu today, books, manuscripts, letters and documents, thousands of themm survivors of the city's ancient libraries. Though the paper has yellowed with age and the pages are noticeably brittle and flaky, the painted colors are still vibrant and the handwritten script is as legible as the day it was first set to paper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have about 20,000 manuscripts. They tell stories and geographies about things of the past. The oldest book is the Islamic Book of Law from the year 1104. We have some letters that date from the 6th century.

BAKHTIAR: This is the Ahmed Baba Center, named after one of Timbuktu's most well-known ancient scholars. It houses thousands of items, including a 16th century biography of Mohammed, poems, historical chronicles, fatwas (ph), biographical dictionaries, scientific texts and ancient copies of the Koran. The center was founded in Timbuktu in the 1970s as part of a U.N.-sponsored initiative. The aim, to preserve these fragile sources of African history and Arabic-Islamic cultural heritage.

Part of that effort includes the work of men like these, they're making boxes for the storage of fragile texts. And in some cases, creating new, if somewhat rudimentary, bindings for old books hoping to protect the ancient writings from further damage and deterioration.

Timbuktu's wealth of the written word came about through the time-consuming and painstaking process of hand copying. Students studied and duplicated text borrowed from their mentors. Reproductions were also made of manuscripts carried by travelers who passed through the city. For centuries, such texts were collected by local families throughout the southern Sahara and stored in boxes, closets and chests.

Key among them is the treasure-trove accumulated by the Haydara (ph) family.

(on camera): This is one of the largest private libraries in Timbuktu. It houses over 6,000 volumes of manuscripts that the Haydara family has been collecting since the 16th century.

(voice-over): The library rivals the Ahmed Baba Center for the sheer volume of ancient material it holds. A grant obtained from the Mellon Foundation in the United States enabled the family to construct a building to house and better preserve these priceless pieces. It opened in January 2000 as the Mama Haydara (ph) Memorial Library. Prior to that, the family had kept its rare finds at home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have 5,000 manuscripts and we have several copies of the Koran. We also have manuscripts of theology, astronomy, astrology, mathematics, chemistry, stories, music, physics, geography, et cetera.

BAKHTIAR: The dry desert climate of Timbuktu has delayed the disintegration of these antiquities so far, but destructive insects and annual bouts of humidity from the region's rainy season are still a threat. Funds are still being sought to chemically preserve the aging paper documents. Historically, the people of Timbuktu amassed such private collections as a sign of wealth and education. Today, the effort to locate and catalog these rare resources is more urgent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): So that everyone may have a chance to read them and who are interested in knowing information or searching for information because everyone writes in it. There are many stories. These books are very rich in material.

BAKHTIAR: To this day, there remains about 60 private collections, ancient reminders of Timbuktu's once golden past as a center of Islamic learning. Although Timbuktu today is not much more than a remote sweltering outpost, it hopes to regain its former glory by preserving its ancient past and sharing it with the rest of the world.

An explorer once said that to arrive in Timbuktu, you need three miracles.

YATTARA: The first one is to believe that Timbuktu exists. The second one he said is to cross the Sahara Desert from the nearest point to arrive in Timbuktu. And that used to take 40 days on camel without eating and drink for the camels and the guides used to use stars to arrive here. And to cross that desert if there exists a dust storm, they have problem. The more days and nights they lose, the more supplies of food and water they lose. So their chauffeur (ph) dies, their trip. But sometimes they have to fight physically military against some other desert tribe while willing to still have the whole caravan.

But he said if you can do this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so you cross the desert, you arrive to Timbuktu, you will find all those plenty products in Timbuktu. But you need the third miracle to be very wealthy because you have to reface the same desert to go back again -- to re-cross (ph) the desert to go back where you came from.

BAKHTIAR: Rudi Bakhtiar, CNN, Timbuktu.


FREIDMAN: Your passport to Timbuktu is valid on the Net. Head to and take a peak at the photo gallery.

FRAME: And tomorrow, we will journey to Ethiopia, walk along the remains of a palace of a Queen of Sheba and visit the magnificent churches of Lali-Bella (ph).

FREIDMAN: Be sure to check it out and join us again tomorrow.

FRAME: See you then. Take care.




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