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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN

Black Hawk Down in Central Iraq; A-10s Up in Air Supporting Ground Troops; Torture Room Found in Iraqi Prison

Aired April 2, 2003 - 22:00   ET

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

AARON BROWN, HOST: Baghdad. Thursday morning there, 7:00, and the smoke covers the city. And just outside the city, the end game is on. The beginning of the end.
There's no guarantee that the end will come quickly. And certainly the end is filled with uncertainty and great risk. But the beginning of the end seems to be where we are.

Good evening again, everyone. We begin as we do each night with the broad strokes of this day. A chopper down in central Iraq. That is the late headline.

The other headlines are drawn from points on a map. Each one closer to Baghdad than the one next to it. This is raising spirits and hopes, but also brings a measure of concern about what comes next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): As American artillery pounded away, week two of the war in Iraq began with reports of unqualified success. Some elements of the Army and the Marines had pushed to within only a few dozen miles of Baghdad and had effectively destroyed two divisions of the Iraqi Republican Guard.

Significant progress for U.S. forces to be sure. But the Pentagon was quick to raise a cautionary flag.

VICTORIA CLARKE, PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: As much as we are making good progress, and we are, the toughest fighting could lie ahead. The likelihood that they might use chemical weapons is in front of us now. So I just want to calibrate everybody. We are not underestimating how tough it could be going forward.

BROWN: The battlefield news is important because Karbala is only 50 miles from Baghdad and was thought to have been a major confrontation. It was not. As a result, three large American forces were close to encircling the Iraqi capital, facing far fewer Iraqi soldiers.

From all the approaches to Baghdad, there were signs that American military units were converging. CNN's Walter Rodgers is with the 3rd Division of the Army's 7th Cavalry.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have seen huge convoys of supply troops moving ever northward. Indeed, all the arrows on the Army's maps seem to be pointing in the direction of the southern suburbs of Baghdad.

BROWN: Evidence of last night's battle was clear. This Apache helicopter practically disappeared from view as it landed in the desert not far from Karbala. But you could still see bullet holes in its skin, and in the window glass.

Then very late in the day, word of a Black Hawk crash. The helicopter brought down near Karbala by small arms fire.

CAPT. BRIAN MCCOURT, U.S. ARMY: It's a very quick-moving, very fluid battle. The armor and mechanized infantry and artillery pieces and personnel on the ground are moving at rapid speeds.

BROWN: Members of the 101st Airborne were on patrol in the central Iraqi city of Najaf, where there's an important Shiite mosque, a mosque that reportedly has been used as headquarters for some Iraqi fighters. For the time being, undamaged by the battle.

In the Iraqi capital itself, two new statements on behalf of Saddam Hussein, and a taped appearance as well. But once again, there is no indication of when this tape was recorded. An Arab television network broadcast these pictures of what it said were fighters from Yemen coming to the defense of Baghdad. Even as 19-year-old Private First Class Jessica Lynch arrived in Germany for treatment, there emerged more details of her extraordinary rescue.

It took place here in Nasiriya. And according to "The Washington Post," it was a combined operation by both the CIA and four different Special Forces teams. Those teams also recovered bodies from the same general location, and it seems probable they are the remains of American soldiers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) regime, our life was very bad. You can't say anything.

BROWN: And in various parts of Iraq there were clear signs that the residents were not only welcoming coalition troops, but they were helping them as well. In the south, during a nighttime operation, a local man helped the British identify members of a guerilla group, the Fedayeen. It seemed clear that along a very broad front, from Basra in the south to Najaf in the center of the country, and on the edges of Kirkuk in the north, that the progress on the ground in general was going the coalition's way this day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: The big picture tonight. And I will start to assemble the small pieces of that picture. And we begin with the downing of the Black Hawk helicopter. Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is following that. So we begin with Jamie. Jamie, good evening.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, this has to begin with the standard Pentagon caveat, which is that initial reports are often incomplete, sometimes wrong. But nevertheless, based on those initial reports from the battlefield, it appears a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter was brought down by small arms fire, shot down near Karbala in southern Iraq.

The Black Hawk has a capacity to carry 12 people. And we're told that there were 11 casualties. Seven deaths and four people injured in this incident in which the helicopter was shot down. But shortly after, we're told that by Pentagon officials the U.S. Central Command put out a release, saying that they believe there were only six people on the helicopter, and not confirming any casualties.

Now that could be explained if some of the casualties were on the ground, as opposed to actually on the helicopter. But they're being more conservative in what they're saying publicly than what we're hearing from the battlefield reports coming into the Pentagon -- Aaron.

BROWN: Two questions. First, on the Black Hawk, talk for a second or so on how the Black Hawk is used in combat, what it's used for.

MCINTYRE: Well, it's often used as quick troop transport. It does have a gun on the side of it and can be used for offensive operations. But often it's used in a support role, either to provide command and control, to quickly transport troops from one place to another, and also used in search and rescue and various other operations like that.

So it's a very versatile helicopter. It's probably the workhorse helicopter of the U.S. military fleet.

BROWN: OK. Now, on the second subject, Reuters reporting that Republican Guard units moving south from Baghdad to try and block U.S. advance, reinforce positions. Can you add to that?

MCINTYRE: Well, I've talked to some Pentagon officials here. And they confirm that some elements of Republican Guard units are moving south. But exactly what they're doing is not clear.

It's assumed that they're reinforcing units in the south since the U.S. is attacking from the south. But it's not a major movement of like an entire division. There are some elements moving. And at this point, it's unclear exactly whether they're trying to reinforce units in place, or whether they're trying to actually move in some offensive manner against the United States forces. And that's where it stands at this point.

BROWN: I know you're developing this. So walk away from the question if you need to. Do you know if they are coming from north of Baghdad, through Baghdad, and south? Or are these part of the ring around Baghdad that were designed to protect the city itself?

MCINTYRE: Well, I think they're north of Baghdad, but how far north I don't know. And they are moving to the south.

Again, small elements, pockets of forces. And it's also not clear who's directing them or whether they're getting any central direction. So a lot of unknowns as the U.S. closes in on Baghdad.

BROWN: A lot of unknowns. Jamie, thank you. Jamie McIntyre, senior Pentagon correspondent reporting off the top tonight.

There seems to be almost no limit at all to the punishment allied air power is inflicting on Iraqi ground forces. It must be terrifying to face from the ground. For days now, air operations have been going on around the clock from carriers in bases such as the one from which CNN's Bob franken joins us now live on the videophone. Bob, good day to you.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, the pace has continued for the last four days at what had been double what it was before. Close to 2,000 sorties flown. About 900 of those were actual military attacks. And about two-thirds of those were aimed at the Republican Guard.

And apparently the people here are delighted, they say, that apparently these attacks from the air have really had a lot to do with the softening of the Republican Guard, the debilitation of their forces, which of course has been reflected on the reports on the ground. And of course has meant that the ground troops for the coalition have been able to advance.

Now interestingly, the flights here have been up in the air longer than usual. The flights here are mainly the A-10 flights, the ones who support ground troops. They also support search and rescue missions. And we've been told by some sources out here that's what they were doing tonight.

We cannot report whether they were searching for the Black Hawk helicopter. But the search and rescue missions run out of this airfield, and now the one 150 miles to the north. And the A-10s apparently were up much longer than usual in support of that search and rescue mission -- Aaron.

BROWN: When you talk about they're up there supporting ground troops, they are attacking artillery positions, attacking tanks? Is that the kind of thing they're going after?

FRANKEN: Absolutely. The A-10s are just bristling with different weapons. They have bombs, they have missiles. They also have gattling guns that fire at such a ferocious rate, that they can shred a tank with the bullets. And that's exactly what they're doing.

They go up, they're slow moving, but they go up and they just dive into their adversaries and just rip them to shreds.

BROWN: And that's what's been going on now for four days, is what General Clark the other day talked about, as they attack these Republican Guard positions. They do it first from the air to soften them up, try and take the tanks and artillery out. And that's what you've been seeing, right?

FRANKEN: Well that's what's been going on. They are not letting up. This is something they say is going to continue. And as I may have pointed out earlier, a full two-thirds of the actual military attacks by the planes in the entire war are aimed at Republican Guard units. BROWN: Bob, thank you. Bob Franken, who is reporting from an air base there.

Speaking of General Clark, he'll join us a little later in the program. He's out West tonight, and he'll be coming to us about half past 11:00, I believe, Eastern Time.

Even during war, when 40 bombs hit a single spot, it will get your attention. That's apparently what happened late today in Baghdad. CNN's Nic Robertson has been following that and a number of other threads to the story that's going on in the Iraqi capital. He joins us from near the Iraqi-Jordanian border again. Nic, good evening.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Aaron. Not clear what those munitions -- what damage those munitions did in Baghdad. Certainly some of the bombing in the daylight hours of the day had caused some damage in Baghdad. Journalists were able to see collateral damage to a hospital in the west of Baghdad.

That hospital close to one of Iraq's trade fair sites. That also suffered collateral damage. But from my own knowledge of driving past that area, there is a very large military base just behind that trade fair area very close to the maternity hospital that suffered collateral damage. We don't know if that was the target.

Journalists aren't being taken to see the military targets in and around Baghdad. They are being taken to the collateral damage, and they are certainly shown civilians that are injured. Indeed, Iraq's information minister today said 24 civilians had been killed and 186 wounded in the last 24 hours. Those figures cannot be verified by us.

At this time, one of the only ways we can pick up information here to try and independently verify it, if you will, standing on the border between Iraq and Jordan, is to talk to those coming out of Baghdad and those headed back in. And there's one location here that's just the right place to do that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Leaving Iraq and over the border in Jordan, journalists held prisoner by the Iraqis pause for comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were in Abu Ghradi prison for seven or eight days. There were no specific charges.

ROBERTSON: The location, outside Abu Saifs (ph), the only 24- hour restaurant in the border town Ruashid (ph). A popular stop. These days, the nocturnal ebb and flow of customers going in both directions.

Tame (ph) from southern Iraq having his last supper before heading to Baghdad. "It's my homeland," he says. "I want to defend it from the American aggression." He's not alone. Two buses full with passengers break their journey, taking advantage of the last pit stop before they reach the border.

Taxi driver Ahmed (ph) taking his family, 3-year-old Rasan (ph), 8-year-old Imad (ph), and his Jordanian wife, Kifa (ph), back to his extended family in Baghdad. "I want to be with my family," says Ahmed. "We either live together or die together."

Traveling in the opposite direction, peace activists leaving Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the situation is very, very, very grim and very, very, very sad. Baghdad is, if you will, a city waiting for something terrible to happen.

ROBERTSON: After weeks protesting against the war, Abu Saifs (ph) offering a first meal in peace and a chance to reflect on what they left behind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean people are angry and sad that the war's happening. I hear a lot of fear for people's children, of course.

ROBERTSON: Taking stock following their trip out of Iraq, Algerian doctors consider the road ahead for the returning Iraqis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We saw this war with our own eyes. It's not a clean war. On the contrary, kids 6, 7 years old, all wounded, limbs amputated.

ROBERTSON: Time to move on. For those headed in the direction of danger, their rest now over. Next stop, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: And one of the surprising things here, Aaron, that bus headed just up the road from here over the border to the Iraqi side, when they crossed to the Iraqi side, this one little Iraqi outpost right on the edge of the desert, there's perhaps two dozen, three dozen, four dozen Iraqi officials there processing people. After that, it's a straight run down the highway to Baghdad.

The only thing they have to pass is U.S. Special Forces on the highway in the western Iraqi desert. It begs the question, how come this little tiny outpost of a few dozen Iraqis just a few miles up the road from here haven't thrown in the towel, haven't given up? They're cut off from Baghdad already -- Aaron.

BROWN: Lots of questions, actually. These people who are going back into Iraq, are they expecting to find a Baghdad that is already occupied by the Americans, has already been taken over, and that they'll carry on the fight after that?

ROBERTSON: That's not the impression they're giving us. They're giving us the impression that they think there's still time to go back, still time to put up resistance, still time to fight. They're divided between those two camps: those who say, yes, we want to go back and fight for our country, and those who say, look, we just don't want to be separated from our families. We're Iraqis. That's where we belong, back with our families, and that's why we want to be there.

People are not giving us an indication that after the United States, the coalition controls Iraq, that they will continue to fight. But they're definitely saying this is a time to go back. They still have time to put up some resistance -- Aaron.

BROWN: And quickly, what do you make of the Iraqi -- or Al- Jazeera's decision to stop working out of there because of restrictions the Iraqis have placed on them? Is that in any sense in your mind a sign of Iraqi desperation, that they're fussing with Al- Jazeera?

ROBERTSON: It can perhaps only be read that way. Al-Jazeera have such a broad reach here in this region. People do watch them and watch them because they're getting some of the best access.

Iraq typically over the last few years and during the war now has afforded the Al-Jazeera teams ask and most Mosul in the north, Basra in the south, and Baghdad better access than the Western journalists, freer access, more reporters, more teams. They're allowed to work out of their own house on the banks of the Tigris. They don't have to work in the hotel where all the other journalists are forced to be.

So this is surprising that Iraqi officials would try and take this position with Al-Jazeera to send out one of their journalists, close down another journalist. And it's interesting that Al-Jazeera should in a way fight back. It has perhaps some leverage here.

And if my judgment of Iraqi officials is in any way correct, they will not take very kindly that Al-Jazeera is trying to react and put some leverage back on the Iraqi authorities to release these restrictions placed on their journalists.

BROWN: Nic, thank you. We'll develop the Al-Jazeera side of the story as we go along tonight. Nic Robertson, thank you.

Kelly McCann, the former Special Forces major, is with us for a bit tonight. And we've got about a minute here. Al-Jazeera is a side bar to the big story. The big story in some ways is, the closer the Americans get, the greater the risk of something catastrophic happening. Fair?

KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: There's no question. That is fair. And the reason is because of the weapons capability.

We're now firmly in the range of those weapons. The 155- millimeter cannons, et cetera. The other thing is, Aaron, the forces have been attriting all along. They're now supposed to be reporting combat ineffective. Really, they're getting maneuvered into a position that if they wanted to defend in depth, they have to limit other avenues of approach.

BROWN: So now we're talking the possibility of chemical weapons, chemical-biological weapons -- one or the other.

MCCANN: It would make tactical sense. Now it may not make political sense, because of course, as you know, once he uses them, the last 12 years are known to be a lie.

BROWN: Well if you're going down, it probably doesn't -- I mean I don't want to think for him or anyone. I'll think for me. If you're going down, it probably doesn't make any difference what people think of you.

MCCANN: That would be true I think within the Ba-ath Party. I don't think it's true within the Iraqi people.

BROWN: Fair point. Kelly, we'll get back to that and more on how the Americans are prepared for that sort of thing as we go, because they are. We need to take a break first. Our coverage continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We know the United States would like to avoid as much as possible the kind of close combat that can be dangerous. But militants in some parts of Iraq have made that impossible. Ryan Chilcote went along on the hunt for militants in Najaf, where the search wasn't just street to street, the search was literally house to house.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Grunts from the 327th Infantry's 2nd Battalion, better known as No Slack, marched through a patch of palm trees, black clouds of smoke, and 69 landmines, into Iraq's holy city of Najaf. The second day of an attack to root out Fedayeen paramilitaries who have used the city as a safe haven to launch attacks against U.S. forces for more than a week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go.

CHILCOTE: The goal: to deny the Fedayeen's movement...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a family of six (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CHILCOTE: ... while causing minimal disruption to the largely pro-American Shia population and its religious sites.

(on camera): Searching house to house, street to street is slow, tedious and dangerous work. If it comes to this in Baghdad, things could take a very long time.

(voice-over): But first, some of the cities on the way to Baghdad, like this one, will have to be secured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You ready?

CHILCOTE: Teams of four move with painstaking procedure a dozen blocks deep into the heart of Najaf. Sergeant Michael Bowers (ph) from Virginia sharing my take on the day.

(on camera): What do you think about this door to door, street to street stuff?

SGT. MICHAEL BOWERS: Long and tedious.

CHILCOTE: No Slack took no casualties and no return fire. They did see a lot of visibly pleased locals, though. Many of the Fedayeen they were told fled north to Baghdad. Still, they could come back, and there's no telling how many of them are still at large. Ryan Chilcote, CNN, with the 101st Airborne in Najaf, Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: In just 20 minutes tonight we've seen the many different faces of the war from the importance of air power and big tanks to this house-to-house stuff. There are some stories reported from Iraq that the military brass would surely like to restrict or suppress entirely.

Then there are stories they want the world to see. And this is clearly one of them. Evidence, the coalition says, the Americans and British of torture at the hands of Saddam Hussein's regime. The story comes from British pool reporter Clive Mowry (ph).

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLIVE MOWRY, BRITISH POOL REPORTER (voice-over): Outside a police station in southern Iraq stands a mural of this country's leader. Saddam Hussein's dreaded internal security police were based here. This cabinet is locked.

Saddam's portrait adorned every room. Not anymore. And downstairs, cells.

This one barely four feet by eight, with no windows and a filthy pillow and mattress. In other rooms, hooks hang from the ceiling. This room is bare, but for two old tires and an electricity cable. We are later told the torturer might use the tires to stand on while water is poured on the floor and the prisoner electrocuted.

In this room are the identity cards of scores of Iraqi men aged between 20 and 40. It's a crime here not to have your I.D. card with you at all times. Why do these men no longer need theirs?

We later found one man who didn't want to be identified, who gave up some of the secrets of the police station. He tells me there was a tariff system. If you committed a crime but paid enough money, you wouldn't be tortured.

We spent days trying to find more people willing to speak on the record about torture in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. This man would only talk to us within the safety of a Royal Marines commando base. And if he was a prison guard and Saddam Hussein walked into his jail? "I'd cut him into 50 pieces," he tells me. In the distance, as smoke rises from the battlefield, Iraq's tools of oppression are being taken away. Clive Mowry (ph), Abu Al Khasib (ph), southern Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: That is one picture, one piece of the puzzle that is a very complicated country of Iraq or at least a very complicated and brutal government that exists there now in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. You see the capital on a Thursday morning. The smoke and clouds mixing in the skyline.

A sense that just outside the end is coming. Pointed at them. In an op-ed piece in today's "New York Times," our next guest writes that the Republican Guard that is just outside the city now can either hunker down outside of Baghdad and die slowly, or maneuver and die quickly. In other words, the combination of patience on the ground and power in the air seems to be working -- the plan.

Still, there is much to be done and much to talk about with retired General Merrill McPeak, who served as U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff from 1990 to '94. General McPeak joins us tonight from out west in Portland, Oregon, the Rose City. General, it's good to see you tonight. Is the role of air power now becoming day by day less important?

GEN. MERRILL MCPEAK, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): No. I think typically we think of air power as a fighter pilot or a bomber crew dropping munitions. And it is -- that's a very important part of it.

But if you look at the whole thing, what you ought to remember tonight is those tanker crews that are out there refueling the fighters and giving them the legs to get up to the fight and the time on target to stay there, for both the U.S. Air force and the Navy, or the AWACS guys and the joint stars guys, the command and control aircraft that are up there making it come true, when I say when they move we're going to kill them fast, let's hope that this information that some of the Republican Guard troops are on the road is accurate. Because if that's correct, they're going to -- that highlights them as a target to these command and control reconnaissance systems, and we will kill them fast.

BROWN: The more they expose themselves, the greater risks they are?

MCPEAK: Absolutely. Now we'll get them over time. If they hunker down and sandbag and camouflage themselves and so on, but you have to dig them out in that scenario. Once we force them into maneuver, as apparently our guys on the ground now have impelled them to move, then it becomes a much easier job for our guys in the air.

BROWN: Let me ask you a question I worry that you'll hate, actually. What might an Iraqi general be thinking right now?

MCPEAK: You know I've thought a lot about that, Aaron. I mean Americans don't typically do what we call red-teaming, trying to figure out what the other guy -- how the world looks to the other guy. But just try to imagine yourself as an Iraqi general tonight.

You can sit there and take this pounding or you can hit the road and you're toast in a few hours. The world must look pretty grim to these guys. And, by the way, we've concentrated heavily on the action by the 3rd (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the Marines down south. An awful lot of things are happening out west, where our Special Forces are operating, and up north, which aren't being reported on because it's mostly special operations troops, or it's being underreported. So if you're an Iraqi general sitting in your foxhole down around Baghdad, the world is looking pretty grim right now.

BROWN: Do generals ever think, look, we can't win this thing, but what we can do is sucker them to this place, inflict a lot of casualties. It's the best we can do, we might as well do that? Or is that the kind of thing a political leader might do but a general would never do?

MCPEAK: Yes, I think that's more a political gamut. And quite frankly, I'm a lot less optimistic on the political side. I think we ought to make a sharp distinction here between two types of criticism that are being made. Some, even retired senior officers, are criticizing the plan, saying we don't have enough force there, one way or another.

I disagree with all that. And I don't think it's helpful. Our guys on the ground are doing great. The plan is being executed well. We just have to be a little patient.

But there's a second kind of criticism that says the political run-up to this thing was pretty ugly. The administration has managed to back us into a position where we've lost a lot of friends. Our closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico, are not on our side. Some of our oldest allies, France.

And so we've done a pretty good job on splitting NATO, the most successful military coalition in history. And so we've reduced our friends and multiplied our enemies in the political run-up to this, and that I think has enormous strategic consequences.

Remember, we never lost a battle in Vietnam, we just lost the war because the politics of it was so clumsily done.

BROWN: General, it's always nice to talk to you. Thank you.

MCPEAK: You bet.

BROWN: General McPeak is in Portland, Oregon out west tonight. We'll take a break and update the major headlines of the day. And when we come back, we'll take a look at the return to Germany of Jessica Lynch, Private First Class. A freed prisoner of war.

A short break first.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BROWN: Thank you, Heidi.

New York City just banned smoking in all public buildings, all restaurants and all bars. So there'll be a lot of people looking for nicotine patches, I suspect.

COLLINS: I think you're right.

BROWN: Thank you very much.

COLLINS: The story of Private First Class Jessica Lynch is worthy of anything Hollywood could dream up. A young girl from the country, small town West Virginia, captured in a faraway combat zone, rescued by commandos and now recovering in safety at a military hospital in Germany.

It seems we know the beginning and the end. There's a lot in the middle that remains a mystery.

Wolf Blitzer pieces together what we do know.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a classic extraction mission last night in Nasiriya last night involving elements of the army, air force, navy and marines.

According to the U.S. military, it started with a diversionary attack elsewhere in the city and, coming in under cover of darkness, a team of Army Rangers and Navy Seals few into the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Nasiriya on air force MH-60 special forces helicopters.

They came away with Private First Class Jessica Lynch and 11 bodies, possibly American casualties.

CNN military analyst General Don Shepperd says it probably went down like this.

GEN. DON SHEPPERD, U.S. ARMY (RET.): This appears to be a typical joint forces special operation seizure of an individual. Probably had a couple of days of intelligence warning, they confirmed that intelligence, then most likely a diversionary attack by the marines, insertion by air force special operations helicopters, security of the facility, in this case a hospital, by Rangers, then rescue of the individual by Navy Seals, also supported by close air support by AC-130 gunships and probably fixed-wing aviation standing by.

A classic operation and very successful.

BLITZER: With the necessary forces on hand, planning for this mission was likely formulated in less than a day and Shepperd says was likely comprised of more than 100 Army Rangers and more than 40 Navy Seals.

CENTCOM announced that there were no coalition casualties on the mission.

Lynch had not been heard from since she and 14 of her comrades of the 507th Supply Company took what's been described as a wrong turn near Nasiriya on March 23.

Five were POW's and showcased on Iraqi television. Two were killed and the other eight listed as missing, Jessica among them.

Wolf Blitzer, CNN, Kuwait City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Well, there's a lot we don't know.

We'll turn to Kelly McCann for a second, because when you talk about the scope of the operation, the number of people that were involved, the risks that the Americans took to go get one soldier, someone who was in the business you were in when you were -- it's got to bring a smile.

KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: It absolutely does, and I can tell you that the operations that actually put their hands on her and carried her out, they will never feel like that again, unless they do it again. That's what they live for.

BROWN: What -- when you talk about an operation, it sounds very complex to put it together in a day. There's not much time to rehearse it. So how do you prepare for that kind of moment?

MCCANN: There's a lot of joint inner-operability training that goes on -- as General Shepperd said...

BROWN: Stop. Tell me what that means.

MCCANN: Basically, that marines can work seamlessly with navy assets -- the navy assets, Seals, can work with Army Rangers. That Army Rangers can work with the special units in the air force. That's always a constant state. They're always training there.

These operations are fairly classic. There are three real elements. One is, of course, the method of insertion. You want to have your reconnaissance and surveillance out there, and they've got literal eyes on the target. They're confirming the target. Usually, co-located with snipers that can engage targets of opportunity at the right time.

Then you have a security element. That would be the Rangers, and they probably came in with at least a company of Rangers, that strong point perimeter defense, to keep Iraqi responding units coming into the picture, so they can hold them at bay, firing outward, and making sure also that no one escapes out the back door, that they could engage those.

And then right into the center of that secure envelope is the assaulters, Aaron. And they had very, very discriminant shooting skills, very, very highly trained, and with them are breachers. So the breachers can move and basically breach through concrete, they breach through cell doors, seamlessly, quickly, and the momentum is staggering. To be an occupant in one of those buildings, it's like standing there having a locomotive come at you and you can't get out of the way.

BROWN: Just, quickly as you can, do the people who know that they -- the people who took her out, literally, who got to her room or her bed, do they know who they are before they go in, or might it be one of 100 people?

MCCANN: No, they would have had at the operational briefing that, potentially, these people would be in there.

BROWN: Thank you, Kelly.

I'm sorry, we have to take a break here or go on? OK. More on Jessica here, for a second.

Jessica Lynch, the Private First Class. We said she grew up in a small town in West Virginia, about 900 people in that town, every one of them touched by her capture the first Sunday of the war, and everyone of them moved by her release yesterday.

Jessica's unit was the 507th. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports from her area.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hope and war are an emotionally dangerous mixture. For Jessica Lynch's family, hope turned out to be a powerfully rewarding force.

GREG LYNCH, FATHER OF JESSICA LYNCH: That's about all we've got to hold on to, is faith and hope. If we lose faith and hope and quit praying to the Lord, there's no hope, so you got to keep it soaring high.

LAVANDERA: Families of the other soldiers in the 507th Maintenance Company are finding momentary comfort in the excitement of Lynch's rescue. It reinforces the possibility that dreams can come true.

CLAUDE JOHNSON, FATHER OF POW: And I think it is great that she is back, and that gives everybody hope that...

LAVANDERA: Claude Johnson can't stop thinking of holding his daughter again. A banner awaits Shoshana Johnson in the families front yard in El Paso, hopeful preparations for a hero's homecoming.

JOHNSON: As I have said previously, it's not just about Shoshana. It's about all of the prisoners that are over there, and I hope and pray that each and every one of them can come home safe, just like Jessica did.

LAVANDERA: Some families have seen their loved ones on television. That has helped.

But the families of those soldiers still missing in action have little to hold on to at this point. Army counselors know this is a grueling test of emotional strength, especially for young family members.

PEGGY BROWN, FT. BLISS FAMILY ASST. CTR.: A lot of the children are having difficulty in school. They're having difficulty sleeping. Some of them are having problems with their own siblings, fighting and lashing out. Some of them have shown signs of depression, and those are all being addressed.

LAVANDERA (on camera): The military has counselors ready to help all of the families whose loved ones are prisoners of war or still listed as missing in action. Each of these families is anxious awaiting any kind of word from the battlefield.

Until then, hope is every family's best friend.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Ft. Bliss, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Our coverage continues after a short break. This is CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Mostly we focused on Baghdad south. We turn our attention now to the northern part of the country, where American air power has certainly been important, but where the fighting on the ground is between Iraqi forces and Kurdish forces primarily, with some assistance of American special forces.

Ben Wedeman is in that part of the country for us and he joins us now.

Ben, good evening.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good evening, Aaron, or good morning for us.

Here in Kalak, big changes. Yesterday, just before sunset, the Iraqi forces pulled out of the ridge behind me. Kurdish forces were quite surprised. They had been expecting it for so long that they'd become accustomed to expecting, and actually were surprised when it actually happened.

The Iraqi forces, we're told by senior Kurdish commanders, have pulled back about five miles in the direction of Mosul and their position, according to what we could hear last night, came under bombing, coalition bombing, once again.

Now, this occurred the same day as it appears north of Mosul the Iraqi army is also on the run.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WEDEMAN (voice-over): Retreat cut short. Iraqi army trucks smolder on the road to Mosul, shattered by American missiles.

The trucks were hauling ammunition and now useless antiaircraft guns.

Unexploded mortar rounds litter the road as do the simple possessions of what by all accounts were reluctant soldiers.

Kurdish fighters found plenty of leftover war booty. A villager shows us the Iraqi Army gas mask he picked up and what he thinks of it. Some things the Iraqis left behind were more welcome, like this disabled truck, quickly commandeered with the help of a tractor, or this.

This is the file of the Iraqi Army that shows the placement of landmines in this area.

"There are hundreds of them around here," says Ahmed (ph), the mine- clearer.

Further up the road, Kurds stop Arabs from Mosul and question them about the whereabouts of the Iraqi troops. Their cars searched for weapons.

All love for the leader Saddam Hussein, says this graffiti. If there was love, it left with the Iraqi army.

(on camera): In the space of just a few hours, Kurdish fighters were able to advance more than 13 miles on the road to Mosul, pursuing an Iraqi army showing all the signs of demoralization.

"None of the Iraqi soldiers want to fight," says Sabas Babidi (ph), commander of the local Kurdish forces. "But they're afraid of the execution squads and the Fedayeen Saddam."

U.S. troops on a rooftop in the Kurdish village of Kanalin (ph), until Tuesday under Iraqi control.

No hesitation here to celebrate the end of Baathist rule.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very happy, very happy, just freedom. Saddam is dictator. It is -- it is a bad man.

WEDEMAN: The Americans directed air strikes, but according to the Kurds didn't fire a shot.

Kurdish troops move into the old Iraqi positions, but they say they won't stay here for long. Their plans are to keep on moving, slowly but steadily, to the south.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Now it appears, Aaron, it's going to be another day of air strikes in this area. this morning, we've been watching as planes have been going in the direction of Kirkuk, in Mosul, and also to the south of here. So it appears the pressure on the Iraqi army in this part of Iraq is continuing to mount.

BROWN: But is there, Ben, much of an American ground footprint there?

WEDEMAN: Certainly yesterday in this area north of Mosul, it was very palpable. There must have been more than two dozen of them in that area, and they were clearly very closely coordinating with the local Kurdish forces.

Now we do know, for instance, more than 2,000 of these troops have arrived. Many of them are special forces in addition to members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and we understand now that an agreement has been worked out with Turkey whereby the United States can bring overland food, medicine and other supplies to the troops in the north, and obviously this contingent is going to be growing and going to be playing a greater roll on the ground as we saw yesterday -- Aaron.

BROWN: Ben, thank you. Ben Wedeman, in the northern part of Iraq.

We take a break. When we come back, we'll talk with Robert Kagan, a very astute observer of the European-American relationship, the Middle Eastern-American relationship. Some effort now to put them back together again from the breach caused by the diplomacy, or lack of diplomacy depending on your point of view, leading up to the war.

We take a break first.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Robert Kagan joins us now. He's joined us before on the program. He's an expert on things Middle Eastern and European, a forceful writer on a variety of issues. We're always pleased to get his take on things and we're happy to see him again tonight.

Mr. Kagan joins us from New York.

Bob, nice to see you.

Secretary Powell is out to try and put some pieces back together. Is Secretary Powell really the person to watch or is the most important person in the diplomacy here Tony Blair?

ROBERT KAGAN, AUTHOR: Well, that's an interesting question.

I think Tony Blair is clearly trying to play a key role and is playing a key role in trying to bridge the gap between the United States and Europe, but quite honestly the Europeans do need to hear from the American administration that the Americans do want to try to repair some of the damage, so I think it's very important that Colin Powell has gone out to meet with the Europeans.

He hasn't been out there that much, and I think it's important that he's out there now.

BROWN: Is it more than making nice? Do they have to see some concrete step that the American government, the Bush administration, is prepared to take that they agree with?

KAGAN: Well, I think the issue that people are focusing on right now is post-war Iraq and the reconstruction process, and specifically what role the U.N. is going to play.

I would say that a lot of Europeans want to see the United States accept at least some kind of U.N. role. I think the administration is willing to accept that, and that's becoming clear today.

But it's also true, you know, that some of the music is also helpful, because we've had such a bad state of relations over the past few months, that even people saying nice things to each other is actually helpful at this moment.

BROWN: I saw a poll, a French poll, done the other day, which showed that the French, who overwhelmingly opposed the notion of a war, were at about 60 percent prepared to send their troops in to a post-war coalition in Iraq. They want a piece of it.

KAGAN: Well, that's probably true, and there's probably several reasons why France wants a piece of it. But I've sensed -- and people see in Paris now that there is a certain amount of second-guessing going on as to whether perhaps President Chirac went a little bit too far in his opposition to the United States.

A very prominent French official, Jacques Delore (ph), once the commissioner of the European Union, has essentially criticized Chirac for putting himself too much in opposition of the United States.

And there's a sense in Europe in general that the idea of Europe standing in opposition to the United States is not good for Europe as well as not being good for the trans-Atlantic relationship.

BROWN: And that's essentially the Blair position, isn't it, that there can be some counter-balancing here, but essentially there's one side.

KAGAN: That's right, and Blair is trying to find a way for the United States and Europe, I think, to assemble a new partnership.

Obviously, we're not going back to the old Cold War strategic partnership. Those circumstances were different. We don't have those circumstances today.

We have to evolve into some kind of new partnership, and Blair is playing a role in that, and I think many Europeans believe increasingly that whatever else is true, Europe and the United States standing opposed to one another is not in anybody's interest.

BROWN: And is there a sense that while it was fine for Jacques Chirac to oppose the war, when he seemed to threaten some of those smaller, newer democracies in the eastern part of Europe, that that was too far?

KAGAN: Absolutely. And, you know, the degree to which the European Union has been divided over this issue has been a very serious problem.

The European Union is a strong institution, but it can be made brittle by that kind of behavior. I think most people, including even in France, think that Chirac stepped overboard.

Now there's an effort within the European Union to try to pull things back together. You're going to see Blair meeting with Schroeder at some point. You may see Blair trying to patch things up with Chirac.

But again, the trans-Atlantic relationship is in a way crucial in order for the Europeans to get back together again.

BROWN: Bob, thanks for coming in tonight. Robert Kagan.

KAGAN: Thank you, Aaron.

BROWN: Author and writer. We're always glad to have him on the program.

We'll take a short break and we continue in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We have another of our video diaries that we've been bringing you as often as we can from CNN correspondents who are embedded, traveling with the troops.

Understand that traveling is of course an understatement and that the correspondent is not the story, the soldier is. But they have been sharing the food, the fortune, the fate, the hardship of the experience.

Tonight's account, CNN's Martin Savidge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind you, behind you, behind you, go.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Usually the scariest moments are the ones you did not anticipate at all.

One particular case, it was supposed to be a routine mission. We did find a team of demolition experts that were going about trying to blow up some abandoned Iraqi tanks and armored personnel carriers located behind a small village. It was as milquetoast as can be.

Suddenly out of an alleyway, wham, there comes in an RPG. It just fizzles through the air.

We had been trying to get a live report out all morning with no success. As soon as the shooting starts, bingo, the satellites all kick in and now we're going live in the middle of what was a firefight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's getting hot. Let's go. SAVIDGE (on camera): That looks like an armored personnel carrier. We're going to keep moving back because these also have ammunition inside of them. There goes your tank, down the end, and the secondary explosion (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you're all right, keep coming back. Let's pull back.

So the concern, obviously, that RPG, is that it came from the village and now who fired it. And do they have another one, obviously, which is why we're not going to linger too much longer.

(voice-over): You're trying to stay close to the military units and you're trying to carry on a normal narration to people who are sitting in their living rooms back home, all around the world perhaps, explaining what's going on, and it's a very bizarre situation to be in as a journalist.

(on camera): I volunteered to be an imbed. I wanted to be in a unit as close to the front or as close to the action, as we say.

Commanders with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines, who we are imbedded with, say that yes, they have had a problem with guerilla tactics that had been employed against the supply lines.

This is our vehicle. This is a civilian version of a Humvee. It has been nicknamed by our crew here "Warrior I." You might see it painting on the side. It has become a fixture, at least as far as with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines, the crew and the vehicle have been adopted.

It has a satellite dish that is up and operating. There is another on the other side, what we call a tracking satellite. This does allow us the capability when moving and not under some sort of blackout condition communication-wise, to show movement driving down the road.

We're on the move (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We're riding with them. This is our vehicle in conjunction with the convoy, heading West now, leaving Basra behind us and the oil field objective that they captured yesterday.

Those are our backpacks. Usually we would be laid out at night sleeping right there on the open ground. Sometimes we're in foxholes. Sometimes we're not. But it's just basically lay your bag in the dirt, climb in the dirt with the bag and then wake up the next day and do it all over again.

And then of course over here everyday we have a foxhole.

So the reason we're in the hole like this now is because about 10, 15 minutes ago we were warned that there was perhaps a SCUD incoming, so the prudent action was to climb inside our foxholes here and wait.

It's officially about 5:45. The war hasn't begun, but that could change in a hurry.

Many military conflicts, it's about 90 percent of frustration or doing nothing.

What you been doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sitting.

SAVIDGE: What you think about sitting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not too happy about it. We need to go.

SAVIDGE: There is a friendship obviously that develops. There is a camaraderie, not in a military sense, but in the sense that we are in this together.

There's an avenue of trust that has to be involved here, that perhaps does stretch the boundaries when it comes to true journalism. And what I mean by that is, we are in as much danger as the military force with which we are imbedded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How's it going, Marty?

SAVIDGE: Well, I figure by the time I get it done -- they told us we had five to eight hours to be here. I figure in five to eight hours, I'll be done. Which means we'll just then drive off and leave it.

By far, we're probably the most blacked out of any military imbed. We can film and videotape during these blackouts, we just cannot file, which in our case means live reporting or beaming signals and images back to Atlanta.

The worst part of it is not just the professional side. None of us can talk to home, and I'd like to call my family every now and then, just to let them know we're all right.

So it's a hard thing. It's depressing, both professionally and also personally. When you come out, it's like a black cloud has been lifted and, bingo, let's get to work.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Correspondent Martin Savidge in his video journal.

We'll talk a break, update the day's headlines.

Our coverage continues as you look at Baghdad on Thursday morning, approaching 8:00 there, our coverage continues after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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