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Live From Afghanistan: American Base in Cuba to Be Home for al Qaeda Detainees; Plight of Afghan Orphans; Is Iraq Next Target of War on Terror?

Aired January 6, 2002 - 20:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN with Bill Hemmer. From Kandahar to Cuba, a new maximum-security prison, soon home to hundreds of al Qaeda detainees.

The forgotten toll, the poorest of the poor, the orphans of Afghanistan.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They sleep 12 to a room with nothing more than a thin blanket against the winter chill and it will become even colder here in the coming weeks.


ANNOUNCER: The flashpoint of Kashmir.


ASH-HAR QURAISHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Near Khotley (ph), in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, this girl's mother was killed when Indian shells exploded near her.


ANNOUNCER: Flashbacks and predictions from a potential future target in the war on terror.


RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Saddam Hussein praised the country's military and predicted the failure of any attempts to attack Iraq.



JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. We appear to be having difficulty with our satellite signal from Afghanistan right now. Just as soon as we can get that straightened out, Bill Hemmer will be joining us in just a few minutes. We're working on that.

In the meantime, police in Tampa, Florida say the crash of a small plane into a skyscraper yesterday was an apparent suicide by a teenager who says he supported Osama bin Laden. Fifteen-year-old Charles Bishop left behind a note that said his actions yesterday were deliberate. Tampa's police chief detailed the contents of that note this afternoon.


CHIEF BENNIE HOLDER, TAMPA POLICE: During a subsequent investigation and a search of the scene, a note was found, which belonged to Bishop. According to the note, Bishop clearly stated that he has acted alone, without any help from anyone else. He did, however, make a statement expressing his sympathy toward Osama bin Laden and the event, which occurred on September 11, 2001. More importantly, at this time there is no information to support Bishop's connection with any terror organization.


WOODRUFF: During his brief flight, 15-year-old Charles Bishop violated air space at MacDill Air Force Base, a facility considered a command center for America's war on terrorism. He also ignored orders from a Coast Guard helicopter to land and was killed when his plane slammed in the upper floors of the Bank of America building. No one else was hurt.

The U.S. Marines in Kandahar are keeping quiet about one of their latest missions, at least a dozen helicopters left the base at Kandahar Airport for Helmand Province late on Saturday night. There has been speculation that Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, is hiding there. The Marines returned just a few hours later.

Military officials say one of the reasons they won't reveal any details of this mission is because the targets they hit may be struck again and they don't want to tip their hand.

The number of Taliban and al Qaeda detainees being held by U.S. forces is growing and they now include some very high-profile figures, among them, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Zaeef. He was deported from Pakistan yesterday after being denied asylum by both Islamabad and by the United Nations. Zaeef is being held on board the USS Bataan along with American Taliban fighter, John Walker.

Meanwhile, another 25 detainees were brought to the U.S. base at Kandahar Airport last night. Now, that brings the 300, the number of being held by U.S. forces. Some of them may soon be transferred to the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Military officials say the Naval station there is being prepared for that possibility. They say Guantanamo will be able to hold up to 2,000 detainees. Some of them could be arriving within days.

For more now on the plans to send those detainees to Cuba, let's go to CNN's Jeff Levine. He's live at the Pentagon.

Good evening, Jeff.

JEFF LEVINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Judy. We have learned that some new U.S. soldiers are already on the ground at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. As you say, their mission is to guard al Qaeda and Taliban detainees.

Now, some of the first soldiers to head out are a military police unit from Fort Hood, Texas. They loaded up today for what is admittedly a very dangerous assignment. But the men tell us that they are ready.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mission is so far is we'll be going to Central Command AOR to get some detainees and bring them back to Cuba, sir.

QUESTION: And a little bit about, what does it feel like to be going on a mission like this, to know you're actually now going to be part of the effort? How does it make you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm fortunate to be picked for this mission and we're very excited to go get the job done, sir.


LEVINE: This is among the initial deployments. It will ultimately grow to about 1,00 troops from various military installations over the next few days, according to a spokesman at the U.S. Southern Command. But the weather, we understand, on the East Coast is slowing down the operation at least a little bit.

Now, once the soldiers do get to Cuba, they've got a very, very big job ahead. They have to construct a maximum-security facility for up to 2,000 prisoners. At the moment, there's only a small holding facility for Cuban detainees, but that will change as military construction crews build barracks, mess halls and military facilities on the base.

The new U.S. force is being described as -- quote -- "careful and robust" since these prisoners are considered extremely dangerous fanatics. Now, that's one reason why the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo was chosen for this prison. Essentially, there's nowhere to go, as you can see, except the ocean or a no man's land filled with mines.

Now, in addition to U.S. military personnel, FBI agents will be there. Other intelligence community officials will be there. They're going to be questioning these detainees. Their goal, Judy, is to crack the terrorist network.

WOODRUFF: Jeff, do we know, will they be building this facility, this maximum-security facility from scratch or there's something there already? LEVINE: Well, it's not totally from scratch. There is a facility there to hold people who are in violation of immigration and naturalization rules or laws. In other words, people that may have fled various countries and tried to get to Miami and their status is questionable. So they wind up at Guantanamo. But that's only a small facility.

This is, in effect, something the size of a huge prison in the United States. So the troops ahead will have a very, very big job. They have to construct a large facility. It's like a mini city that they're going to be building and they have to build it in a hurry because these detainees are, in effect, located all over the place and they're going to have to be taken somewhere. They cannot be held where they're currently building. They're going to have to be taken to a very, very secure facility.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jeff Levine is reporting from the Pentagon. Thanks, Jeff.

LEVINE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Well, now, we think we've got that satellite signal problem straightened out with Afghanistan. Bill Hemmer joins us from there.

Bill, we sort of saw you a minute ago, but I think you were in the dark. Now, we can see you.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, yeah, indeed you're right, Judy. I can tell you, you know, Jeff can hang at the Pentagon. Quickly, I want to ask him a question here in minute. But I can tell you it's difficult many times to broadcast from southern Afghanistan. And electricity is scare and we're running on a generator power. Sometimes it's there and sometimes it's not. A few moments ago, it wasn't. It's back now. We'll keep our fingers crossed throughout the rest of this broadcast here.

Jeff, I'm curious to know this though. There is increasing talk here in Kandahar about how to do it, how do you transport these detainees a half a world away? From here, there doesn't appear to be any hard-core plan. Is the Pentagon talking there about any plan as to how to transport these men half a world away?

LEVINE: Obviously, that is an issue and we understand some of these detainees are on ship. That would be one way of doing it. Some might be brought by air. But I think you have to consider that since these detainees, these prisoners, are considered to be extremely dangerous, how you take them must be considered with great caution. Also, it can't be ruled out that some rescue effort might be undertaken or some suicide mission might be undertaken by terrorists who are out there and want to make some sort of a statement or want to make some sort of a gesture against the United States.

In any case, we don't know the operational details. And I'm sure that the Pentagon is going to want to keep that closely held. I think the obvious inference, however, Bill, is that you're going to see shiploads of detainees brought to Guantanamo. And I think perhaps that's once of the unstated reasons why the Pentagon made that choice. You can approach Guantanamo by air, you can approach it by sea and it's highly secure. So whatever route you choose, in effect, you do have what you would call a secure option.

HEMMER: All right and a plan that may unfold within seven to 10 days. Jeff Levine at the Pentagon. Jeff, thanks. And Judy, we're back with you shortly in Washington.

In the meantime, LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN continues now. I want to talk more now about the issue of Pakistan and the immense cooperation the U.S. has had with Islamabad. Let's go to the border now with CNN's Kamal Hyder who continues to watch the Pakistani army there and their surveillance of the possibility of fleeing al Qaeda fighters. Kamal joins us now from the border.

Kamal, good morning.

KAMAL HYDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill, another cold morning in the mountains. Yesterday, after a pause of almost 24 hours or a little over 24 hours, allied bombers returned, flying over Pakistani territory, which they are permitted to do under the arrangement and Pakistan's alliance with the allied forces. These aircraft were bombing positions within several kilometers, which would be two to three kilometers from us. And that bombing continued throughout the night.

This morning at 4:00 again, intense bombing going on in the Zavara (ph) area. This is north of Miram Shah and the Zavara (ph) area was known for arm caches and stockpiles of ammunition. The Pakistan army, of course, has been watching this very close and their positions are, in some cases, less than two kilometers or one kilometer from the area that is being bombed.

Now, the allied aircraft have returned over the skies of Ghost in a very big way. And we've seen these attacks in progress throughout the night -- Bill.

HEMMER: Yeah, Kamal, on the issue of detainees, again, on Saturday night, we saw 25 more come here to Kandahar, all were originally based in Pakistan. Do you have any indication from your location there, Kamal, that more detainees are being in Pakistan that may be turned over to U.S. authorities?

HYDER: Yes, Bill, we were told by the political authorities there, as well as by the military that anybody who is -- does not have any relevant documents or anybody crossing the border right now since the border has been seized, is apprehended and if there is suspicion that these people may be foreigners or terrorists, then there's screening. And the screening process is quite intricate. It goes through several levels and even here, in the Miram Shah area, several people have been apprehended and given over to the authorities -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Kamal Hyder on the border, the Afghan- Pakistani border. Kamal, thanks to you for that reporting there. Now, to Kabul where the interim leader, Hamid Karzai, was talking on Sunday about tracking down Osama bin Laden, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban founder. Hamid Karzai vows to bring these men to justice. But he says Omar may have slipped away for the time being.


HAMID KARZAI, CHAIRMAN, AFGHAN INTERIM ADMINISTRATION: He is one man and one man can easily, you know, hide, can easily take a motorbike and go places. I take this example from my own experience with Afghanistan when the Taliban were there in all force. But I managed to move into Afghanistan and they could not find me for months. So it's easy for a man to escape and hide a lot. But we will keep looking and finally, he'll be in our hands.


HEMMER: Hamid Karzai in that same interview talked about the possibility of leniency for some Taliban fighters. But again, he reiterated, vowing justice for the two most wanted men here in Afghanistan.


KARZAI: They did not represent Islam. They did not represent Muslims. They represented terrorism. They represented violent. They represented turmoility (sic). They represented work against Islam. They have damaged our religion. They are criminals and they must face trial and they must be dealt with that way.

The common Taliban are just fine people. They've all gone back to their homes and they're with their families. What was important was this hard core of the radical terrorist elements who were within the Taliban and within the terrorists. Those were the people that were leading this force, that were leading this carnage against all other people and they should be arrested. Some of them are arrested. We are looking for the rest of them too.


HEMMER: Hamid Karzai also says at this point, he believes only 35; only 35 hard-core Taliban and al Qaeda fighters still remain at large in this country. And once again, he reiterates that his government now is determined to catch each and every one of them.

Also, in Kabul, there's increasing talk about the future for this country and really, the plight of Afghanistan started long before the U.S. bombing began here on the 7th of October. And increasingly, there is talk here in Afghanistan of how to get this country back on the future path of success and they start again. They say it's most important to begin with the children. CNN's John Vause now from an orphanage in the capital city.


VAUSE (voice-over): In many ways, these children are the poorest of Afghans, just some of the estimated one million orphans in the country who live in appalling conditions. Here at the Tahir Masqan (ph) Orphanage, one of two in Kabul, the toilets and showers don't work. The children use a bathing center once a week.

The main meal of the day, potatoes and beans. It's been that way for months.

"For about five or six months, the children haven't eaten fruit," says Mohammed Zahef Fazil, the director of the orphanage. "The children have many dietary problems."

They sleep 12 to a room, with nothing more than a thin blanket against the winter chill, and it will become even colder here in the coming weeks. There is no real medical care, either physical or emotional to deal with the years of trauma.

Many of these children, though, aren't even orphans, sent away by their families because the conditions here are often better than at home. Baha Wain (ph) is 13 years old. His six sisters and two younger brothers still live with their mother.

Still these children seem surprisingly happy like eight-year-old Shama Hamod (ph) who says he wants for nothing, possibly because he knows no better. He's been an orphan almost all his short life.

"A bomb was dropped on our house many years ago" he told me. "My mother and father were killed."

After being told of the hardships of these children, Hamid Karzai visited the al-Wadin (ph) Orphanage, the children from Tahir Masqan (ph) were brought over, crammed onto two old trucks for a chance to see the new interim leader face-to-face. Karzai promised these children more food and warm clothes for winter.

(on camera): It may not seem like much, but like almost everything else that Hamid Karzai has promised, there's little he can do without international aid, and if it doesn't come, perhaps the hardest thing he must do is explain why to these children.

John Vause, CNN, Kabul.


HEMMER: In a moment, the latest on India and Pakistan. It's the last flare up the U.S. wants in its current war on terrorism. The latest on Kashmir when LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN continues in a moment.


HEMMER: Now back to the issue of India-Pakistan. On Sunday, India accused Pakistan of flying a spy plane over its northern territory. India shot it down, but Pakistan countered, saying India was a set-up. They say it was India's airplane to begin with and they had no involvement in such a spy plane this weekend.

In the meantime, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair is meeting with Atal Behari Vajapayee in New Delhi, trying to diffuse tensions from both countries. On Monday, he'll be in Islamabad meeting with General Pervez Musharraf to talk about the same issue.

In the middle of all this matter, the crown jewel between these conflicts is the region of Kashmir. CNN's Ash-har Quraishi now on the political buildup and the military buildup that follows right with it.


QURAISHI (voice-over): With tensions still not quelled at the regional summit in Nepal, India and Pakistan continue to sit at the brink of war. As the two leaders shook hands, fresh clashes near the line of control in Kashmir. It's a way of life on the line of control and violent exchanges between Pakistani and Indian forces. Civilians on both sides are often caught in the crossfire.

Near Khotley (ph), in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, this girl's mother was killed when Indian shells exploded near her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Indian soldiers fired. When the firing started, I was near the door. There was a lot of heavy firing. My mother and aunt were outside. A bullet hit my back and leg.

QURAISHI: This region of mountains and valleys was at the heart of the original dispute between Indian and Pakistan. The first outright war between the two countries was fought over who would control it. And over 50 years later, it remains a political sore spot not only for Pakistanis and Indians but for some Kashmiris as well.

AMANULLAH KHAN, JAMMU & KASHMIR LIBERATION FRONT: This India- Pakistan business doesn't have only two parties, it has three, three. The basic party is Kashmiris.

QURAISHI: Groups like the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front are calling for an independent Kashmir, dismissing a 1948 U.N. resolution, which would hand the region over to India or Pakistan.

KHAN: Why should I become an independent man? Those resolutions don't have any provision on me to even work for independence.

QURAISHI: Independence, says both governments and even some Kashmiris, is out of the question.

SULTAN MAHMOOD CHAUNDHRY, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN CONTROLLED KASHMIR: I think that's what the resolutions says, that the future of Kashmir has to be determined according to the free will or the wishes of the people of Kashmir. But we are only given two choices in those resolutions in the -- in Pakistan and the majority of the people do want to join with Pakistan.

QURAISHI: Neither the diplomatic gain nor the military alert has succeeded in solving problems here. Islamabad continues to crack down on what India calls "Pakistan based militant groups operating from inside Kashmir." So far, New Delhi has not been satisfied. Accusations still fly. War still looms. And the fate of the Kashmiris is still uncertain.

Ash-har Quraishi, CNN, in Pakistan controlled Kashmir.


HEMMER: Now, we want to move further west, specifically to the country of Iraq. Saddam Hussein was talking tough again on Sunday. In Baghdad, it was Army Day and many people have felt the next target in the U.S. war might be Iraq. Rym Brahimi now reports from the Iraqi capital.


BRAHIMI (voice-over): At the tomb of the unknown soldier in central Baghdad, a brief wreath laying ceremony to pay tribute to Iraq's army, the institution that produced most of Iraq's leaders since it was created in 1921, but one that's been weakened by the wars it's had to fight in the last two decades.

Despite this, in a televised speech to mark the nation's 81st Army Day, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein praised the country's military and predicted the failure of any attempt to attack Iraq.

SADDAM HUSSEIN, IRAQI PRESIDENT (through translator): And as your debased enemies fell in the past, so will any aggressor if he lets himself be seduced into committing an evil act against you. Of course, he will be shamed well and would thwarted his base aims.

BRAHIMI: An indirect reference to recent efforts by some U.S. policy makers in Washington to make Iraq the next target of the U.S. led war against terrorism. The president also seemed keen to warn against attempts to divide Iraqis, emphasizing a strong bond between the army and its people.

HUSSEIN (through translator): We have told the invaders and the coveters in the thick of all battles that the homeland and the nation are held as a trust by you. The main demand of self-respect, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and faith, together with you, the people have told them, with the greatest preparedness and conviction that every Iraqi brother or glorious mother is after praising Allah, a first worthy and dependable project for the army of the people and the nation.

BRAHIMI (on camera): Most Iraqi officials have been keeping a low profile in recent weeks. More often than not, refusing to address questions from journalists about the threat of a U.S. attack in any shape or form, repeating only that their army is ready to face whatever is thrown its way.

(voice-over): And there's been a lot of the usual rhetoric and posturing for local consumption mainly in the press. Local media reported Iraq's defense minister assured Saddam Hussein that he was confident in Iraq's capabilities to confront whoever, as he put it, "dreams of harming Iraq."

Iraq's capabilities have been diminished by 11 years of U.N. sanctions that have prevented the army from updating its equipment and replacing what was lost in the Gulf War. It's not clear what improvements its been able to make despite the sanctions, but Iraqi media reports say the main focus of Iraq's military efforts have been to work on extending the range of its air defense system.

Rym Brahimi, CNN, Baghdad.


HEMMER: In a moment, a final word on the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. Where would the current war stand without the help from Islamabad? That's up when we come back, LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN, in a moment.


HEMMER: A final word tonight on the increasing relationship between the United States and Pakistan. Over the past few days, we have seen intense cooperation between the two. The former Taliban ambassador, Abdul Salam Zaeef, now in U.S. custody. The man accused of running the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, now in U.S. custody.

On a nightly basis here in Kandahar, we have seen more and more detainees, first apprehended in Pakistan, then later turned over to U.S. authorities. One has to think back a year ago. No one would have thought this relationship would be so critical. But at this point, it is crucial and one has to wonder where the current war would stand without the help, the cooperation and the assistance from Islamabad.

That's our program for tonight. Have a good night on Sunday. It's already Monday morning here in Afghanistan. We'll see you again tomorrow. Live from Kandahar, I'm Bill Hemmer. Thanks for watching.




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