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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Return of Space Shuttle Atlantis Delayed; Bush vs. Ahmadinejad; Interview With Afghan President Hamid Karzai

Aired September 19, 2006 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone.
A tough speech from the president of Iran tonight -- a tough crowd for President Bush -- the two leaders under the same roof, but miles apart.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Nuclear standoff at the U.N. -- did the two presidents move closer to a diplomatic solution or turn up the heat even more?

His country on the ropes? He begs to differ.

COOPER: ... Taliban, you think they have had a resurgence?

HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: No. I don't think they have had a resurgence.

COOPER: Afghanistan's president sits down with 360 and tells us why bombings and shootings and mortar attacks are actually a good thing.

Baby Abby taken at knifepoint -- tonight, thank goodness, she's safe and sound.

And stuck in space, but for how long? Floating space chunk delays a landing. That's best case. And the worst? Repair job, rescue operation, then no more shuttle program.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

Reporting from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And we will -- we will have the return of little baby Abby later tonight.

But we begin at the United Nations -- no pounding shoes or brandishing pistols, but some tough words, all the same, from a man already known for tough talk. At times, it seemed as though the cool green marble behind the podium at the U.N. General Assembly was about to turn red hot. That's the kind of quietly aggressive speech Iran's president gave this evening -- so, all the angles now on -- now on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's message, slamming this country on Iraq, slamming Israel, questioning the legitimacy of the U.N. Security Council and its resolution on his nuclear program.

Also tonight, President Bush's moment -- what he had to say, how it is being received, and whether or not anything that happened today, either at the podium or behind the scenes, will help resolve the nuclear standoff between Iran and the West.

Later, we will have an assessment from two points of view, a former insider, David Gergen, and one of the president's toughest critics, "New York Times" columnist Frank Rich.

First, we begin with what the Iranian president had to say, and CNN's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Iranian president arrived waving his hand, but was soon wagging his finger at the United Nations, Great Britain, Israel, and, above all, the United States.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Some seek to rule the world relying on weapons and threats, while others live in perpetual insecurity and danger.

Some occupy the homeland of others, thousands of kilometers away from their borders.

FOREMAN: While he blamed Western nations for virtually everything wrong in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, Ahmadinejad dismissed all international accusations that Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, suggesting, wrongly, that the International Atomic Energy Agency is perfectly happy with Iran's nuclear program.

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): All our nuclear activities are transparent, peaceful, and under the watchful eyes of the IAEA inspectors.

FOREMAN: Ahmadinejad went on to say, if there is nuclear tension, that, too, is the fault of America and its friends.

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Threats with nuclear weapons and other instruments of war by some powers have taken they place of respect for the rights of nations and the maintenance and promotion of peace and tranquility.

FOREMAN (on camera): The Iranian president is clearly trying to portray himself, despite all of this, as a man of peace and reason. But leaders here in Washington don't seem to be buying it.

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: I think he's a Hitler type of person. He has made it clear that he wants to destroy Israel. He's made it clear he doesn't believe in Holocaust. He's a -- he's a -- well, I'm -- we all know what he is.

FOREMAN: And Ahmadinejad says he knows what the world's biggest nations are, too.

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): They consider themselves the masters and rulers of the entire world, and other nations as only second-class in the world order.

FOREMAN: The Iranian president can certainly say now he's made his opinions known in America, even if much of the American delegation skipped it. But it is unlikely he made many friends.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Certainly not here in the United States, at least.

The Iranian president got the last word today; President Bush, the first. Each had his own audience to reach. Fair to say each has an image problem. Both came with baggage.

More now on the president's speech from CNN's John Roberts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rarely has President Bush faced an audience so skeptical. And, to a world body wary of his wartime policies, he made an urgent attempt at building bridges.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My country desires peace. Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false, and its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror.

ROBERTS: It was an acknowledgement of how America's image in the Muslim world has suffered, from an unpopular war in Iraq, myriad detainee scandals, and, most recently, the White House's unflinching support for Israel's attacks in Lebanon.

Middle East expert Jon Alterman says the president was in a particularly difficult position for this year's U.N. address.

JON ALTERMAN, MIDDLE EAST PROGRAM DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: He's still seen as a lone cowboy, and he's seen as a lone cowboy who also doesn't get results. His idealism comes across to a lot of Europeans as naivete. The -- the places where we have pushed for political change, from Iraq, to Lebanon, to -- to the Palestinian Authority, have all turned into a mess.

ROBERTS: With so much baggage, you would think the United Nations was the last place President Bush would want to be. But he sought to turn obstacles into opportunities, reaching out directly to people in the Middle East cauldron.

BUSH: To the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria...

ROBERTS: His message to them all? That the U.S. wants to be a full partner in the spread of democracy in the Middle East. But the administration's admitted miscalculations in Iraq may have people wondering just what that might mean for them.

BRETT SCHAEFER, JAY KINGHAM FELLOW IN INTERNATIONAL REGULATORY AFFAIRS, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: It's a difficult process. And you're right that there are enormous challenges. And the administration probably has made several missteps that have made things more complex. And -- but I challenge anybody to find any administration that hasn't taken any missteps here or there.

ROBERTS: While the advance of democracy is his ultimate goal, the more immediate task for President Bush is to corral the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council into stopping Iran's nuclear program.

The president warned has against letting the process stall. But France, China, and Russia are each playing their own games for their own interests. And some experts believe the Iranian nuclear can will be kicked far down the road.

ALTERMAN: My gut tells me this isn't a problem that is going to get solved in this administration. I'm not sure Iran is a problem that is going to be solved. This may be a problem that's managed by president after president after president.

ROBERTS: So, is there any good news for President Bush? Well, yes. Americans appear to be buying into his recent focus on the dangers of terrorism. A new "USA Today"/Gallup poll found his approval rating has popped at 44 percent now. After hitting rock bottom in the low 30s, it is just about where Republican strategists hoped he would be at this point in the election year.

(on camera): And there's more good news for Republicans. That same poll found that the Democrats have lost their advantage in who people would rather vote for. It is now evenly split. So, while the world continues to provide no end of headaches for President Bush, domestically, at least, things appear to be looking up.

John Roberts, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, as John just mentioned, the president's approval rating jumped. Not all the numbers were positive, particularly when it comes to Iraq. Here's the "Raw Data."

The latest "USA Today"/Gallup poll shows that 72 percent of those asked think Iraq is in the middle of a civil war, and only 41 percent think the war in Iraq has made the U.S. safer from terrorism.

So, given the numbers and the speeches today, and everything else on the president's plate, where does this leave him?

Joining from us now Greensboro, North Carolina, former presidential adviser David Gergen.

David, it's really good to see you. Haven't seen you for a while.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Yes, Anderson. Good to see you.

COOPER: First of all, what did you think of the Iranian president's speech?

GERGEN: Well, I think the best thing that happened for President Bush today was the Iranian president's speech.

President Ahmadinejad was so hostile and harsh, that I'm sure that the -- many Americans found in him a confirmation of what the president has been saying. This is a dangerous fellow, coming from a dangerous country.

Beyond that, I think the president did not have such a good day. I -- I'm sure his speech today was well-intentioned. I'm sure he genuinely wanted to reach out. He wanted to please both an American audience and a foreign audience. I don't think he succeeded -- succeeded at either task.

COOPER: Why? I mean, you know, I guess the -- the early headlines I was seeing was that, you know, he's -- he was trying to build bridges to the Muslim world. He was trying to go -- you know, sort of go beyond just to Arab leaders, and talk directly to -- to populations in -- in Afghanistan, in Iran.

Didn't work?

GERGEN: Well -- well, clearly, Anderson, his first audience is here at home. He's really focused now on -- on the elections in November. And, so, he was trying to reach the American audience.

But, you know, if you really read the response, you find many on the conservative side are unhappy with the speech, because they think he's going soft on Iran. And many on the other side, on the left, are -- are -- are unhappy, because he's now scolding and lecturing a country. Who is he to stand up and tell the rest of the world how to live and how to -- how -- you know, how to behave?

So, I don't think it worked with either side here.

In terms of building bridges, to go back to John Roberts' piece, the Europeans are going to take this as somewhat naive. And the Europeans really are moving away from our position, the president's position, with regard to sanctions.

And -- and I -- I -- unfortunately,, as much as we find the Iranian president's speech jarring, and we find it distasteful, there are many in the Middle East who are probably closer to his view of the world in U.S. foreign policy than they are to the Bush view.

So, I don't think -- I don't think we got very far at building bridges. It's going to take a lot of effort like this. It was -- basically, this was a -- the president basically restated his positions. He reaffirmed his positions, still the same iron fist, but in more of a velvet glove. And I think people understood that.

COOPER: It -- it is interesting. You know, he -- he continues to say this is not a war against Islam. And -- and, yet, this administration clearly has kind of painted the opponents overseas sort of members of this global jihad, as they refer to, with a very broad brush.

We -- we -- we haven't really been looking at the differences within the Muslim world. We -- we tend to kind of look at it as if it is this monolithic group, when, in fact, it is clearly not. There are so many divisions. And those are divisions which, frankly, the U.S. could do a better job of -- of -- of exploiting.

GERGEN: You are absolutely right.

If -- if -- in -- in the past, a president like Richard Nixon, as -- whatever else we may think about his morals, at least on the international stage, I can guarantee you he would not have lumped these people together.

What he would have done was try to divide and conquer, look for ways -- how do you break Syria off from Iran? How do you offer some incentives for Syria to act more peacefully? And then try to isolate Iran. Don't drive them all together. Don't try to take on Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood. Don't take on all these forces together and create a -- a coherent, united front -- front against you.

Divide them up. Conquer. Bring a few over as your allies. Bring -- neutralize a few others. And, then, you have got great strength from that. And I -- I think that the diplomatic community in the -- in the United States, and, indeed overseas, is quite troubled by this, what they see as a lack of sophistication in this approach, in which everybody is lumped together. They're all -- you know, it's forces of good vs. forces of evil.

And, as we know, in Iraq, you know, calling this forces of good vs. forces of evil, when our own General Abizaid was saying today, this is really not about the insurgency. It is becoming more about the sectarian violence. Some of our guys, who are on our side -- quote -- "the forces of good," you know, are murdering the other side.

You know, it's -- it's -- it is more complex. And he -- you know, the president has got a problem with his own military now. They are saying things which are out of tune with what he's saying.

COOPER: Not -- not in the -- the narrative, as Frank Rich, who is our next guest...

GERGEN: Yes.

COOPER: ... talks about in his new book.

David, it's good to talk to you. Appreciate you being on.

GERGEN: OK. Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Thanks.

Afghanistan's first Democratically elected president, Hamid Karzai, speaks before the U.N. tomorrow. Coming up, you are going to hear my exclusive interview, hear what he really thinks about our ally Pakistan's role in the war on terror.

Also, baby Abby kidnapped after a violent attack on her mother, she has been found alive -- how it happened and when -- what happens now.

And then there's NASA dealing with a real mystery. What is the object floating around the shuttle Atlantis? And could it scuttle more than just a scheduled landing?

And "The New York Times"' Frank Rich coming up next.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, run the numbers, and it is becoming clear that, love him or hate him, President Bush is going down in history as the most polarizing president since Richard Nixon. It wasn't always that way, especially in the days after 9/11.

Author and "New York Times" columnist Frank Rich has chronicled that everyone in a new book -- its title, "The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina." And, not surprisingly, it is pretty tough on the president.

Frank Rich and I spoke earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You are obviously very critical in this book about the Bush administration. I mean, every political administration lies, is deceitful. What -- what do you think makes this administration somehow different?

FRANK RICH, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think what makes this administration different is the sheer scale of the fiction that they told.

They concocted a story that was amazing. It took a country to war against a country that had nothing to do with -- with 9/11, with the people who attacked us, when America was attacked. Also, it continued, even after the war began, to be just incredibly elaborate.

I mean, look at something like "Mission Accomplished." "Mission Accomplished" was not just fiction, in the sense that it was announcing major combat operations had ended, when they hadn't. It wasn't just a -- a banner saying "Mission Accomplished." It was a scene from "Top Gun." This is really elaborate, smart stuff, has been incredibly effective, and, to some extent, continues to be, a bit.

COOPER: Why do you think this administration pushed to go war in -- in Iraq, especially in that summer of 2002?

RICH: Well, we don't really know.

And a lot of people who were even there say, it's like the "Rashomon" of wars. There's so -- there -- there's a lot of plausible reasons. We know there was a neoconservative contingent that saw this as a chance to bring democracy, in some way, to the Middle East, to set an example for the Middle East.

We know, obviously, there are interests involving oil. There are things going back to the 1991 Gulf War and -- and scores left to be settled.

But what was it really about? I feel, in part, it was an election year. We had knocked out the Taliban, or we thought we had, at least. Osama bin Laden had been lost in Tora Bora. And that was known by the administration, if not immediately by the American public. And this was sort of a handy next front.

COOPER: In the book, you write about -- about the -- the -- the push for war. You say: "The bottom line of the Bush catastrophe, the administration at once increased the ranks of jihadists by turning Iraq into a new training ground and recruitment magnet, while, at the same time, exhausting America's will and resources to confront the expanded threat."

I mean, doesn't this administration deserve some credit? I mean, they will point to the fact that there have been no attacks in the United States since 9/11 as a sign of, you know, that they have been doing something right.

RICH: Well, I think -- I think that case can be made. And I don't dispute it, although, of course, we don't really know.

But I think it is a very good thing that we haven't been attacked. However, all the evidence in -- in the rest of the world suggests that jihadists are multiplying, that they're certainly attacking elsewhere and -- including in the West, and the whole Middle East in general has just become more and more unhinged since we went into Iraq.

COOPER: Does it seem to you that this administration has sort of played down Afghanistan over the last several years? Or -- or maybe it is just the media's fault. I -- I'm not sure.

RICH: It has gone south, as you have reported and others have reported, in Afghanistan.

The situation is perilous there. You have the NATO commander essentially begging the coalition for more troops. And none of this does the administration want to publicize, because this was the one slam dunk that was successful, knocking out the Taliban in Afghanistan. And now the Taliban is resurgent. And it's an incredible indictment, again, of poor planning, poor execution, and a kind of a ad hoc practice of war policy.

COOPER: It's a fascinating book, "The Greatest Story Ever Sold."

RICH: Thank you.

COOPER: Frank, thanks for being with us.

RICH: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, we will have more from President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan later in the program.

Also coming up: baby Abby, just 11 days old when she was kidnapped, her mother stabbed. Well, the baby is safe. We are going to tell you how police were able to find her.

First, Randi Kaye has a "360 Bulletin."

Hey, Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.

Thailand's army chief has declared himself the country's new leader. It happened while Thailand's prime minister was in New York at the United Nations. He insists his government is still in control, and has declared a state of emergency.

Meanwhile, the head of Thailand's army has declared martial law and has taken international news channels, such as CNN, off the air.

John Mark Karr has been offered a plea deal for the child pornography charges he faces in California. Under the deal, Karr would get credit for time served and would be placed on probation for three years. Karr confessed to killing JonBenet Ramsey in August, but was cleared when DNA tests failed to connect him to the crime.

Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" today. McGreevey is plugging his new memoir, "The Confession." You may recall, the former governor made headlines two years ago, when he told the world he was a gay American and admitted to having an extramarital affair with a male employee. Today, he talked about what it was like living a double life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW")

JAMES MCGREEVEY (D), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: ... manage my own life.

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": Why was -- why was it morally abomination? Because you were married?

MCGREEVEY: Because I was married.

(CROSSTALK) MCGREEVEY: And I wasn't who I was. I mean, I had -- I -- I lied to myself. I lied to my God. I lied to my wife. And, so, at some point in time, I thought I could control my own destiny.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: McGreevey says he hopes his book leads to public acceptance of his homosexuality.

The FDA is investigating whether a stronger strain of E. coli is behind the deadly outbreak linked to fresh spinach. Investigators are also at nine farms in California, searching for the possible source of the outbreak. Sixteen new cases were reported today, bringing the total to 131 people affected in 21 states now -- Anderson.

COOPER: Randi, thanks very much.

New and dramatic developments in the case of a missing baby apparently kidnapped from her own home, baby Abby just 11 days old. Her life had barely begun -- coming up, the ending that everyone was hoping for, but a lot of people didn't actually expect -- some good news, that.

Plus: The fury that Pope Benedict says he didn't mean to provoke, what is it going to take for the fury to die down? -- when 360 continues from New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, tonight, an incredible break in a story that we have been following: the alleged kidnapping of an 11-day-old infant.

The details are sketchy, but this much is clear. Tonight, Abby Lynn Woods is safe, and a suspect in custody. The baby had been missing since last Friday, when her mother was attacked inside their home. We have been reporting on this story now since the beginning.

Joining me now in Union, Missouri, is a law enforcement official, Sheriff -- I'm sorry, Sheriff. What is your full name?

GARY TOELKE, FRANKLIN COUNTY, MISSOURI, SHERIFF: First name is Gary. And last name is Toelke -- T-O-E-L-K-E.

COOPER: So, Gary, how did -- how did you find the -- little Abby?

TOELKE: Well, we -- we received a call -- or some information from a family member of the suspect that they had the child, and that the child was OK. And we sent detectives to the location. And the child was handed over to Detective Subke, who works for our office.

COOPER: What -- what kind of condition is she in?

TOELKE: Good condition. They called an ambulance to the scene, just basically to -- to check the child out and make sure she was OK. They transported her to the hospital in Washington, Missouri. And the doctors examined her, and -- and said she's in good health.

COOPER: Is that where she is now? She's in the hospital?

TOELKE: No. Actually, she's been released, and -- and is with family this evening.

COOPER: Do you know, has -- has she been reunited with her parents yet?

TOELKE: Yes, sir.

COOPER: What about the -- the woman who, I mean, allegedly kidnapped this baby? Where -- what is she -- where is she?

TOELKE: She's in custody right now. She will eventually be brought here to the Franklin County jail. We are still a little bit -- we have a lot of work to do on this, obviously, yet. We don't know a whole lot about her background. She lived in that area. But we have still got some legwork to do.

COOPER: And -- and any idea on motive, I mean, what was driving this woman?

TOELKE: Well, from what we understand, she had been pregnant and was supposed to have had a miscarriage last Friday.

The victim had a sign at one point in front of their yard that announced the baby was home. It -- I think it was "Welcome home, Abby," or something similar to that. And we are assuming, since this lady lived out there, she was going up and down the highway, would have seen that sign. When she had the miscarriage, and lost her child, she was wanting to replace it.

We don't that for a fact, obviously, but that's what it appears at this time.

COOPER: And -- and she was living just some -- some five miles away from where baby Abby lived?

TOELKE: Right.

It was about five to seven miles south of there on a -- on a road called Yellow Dog Road. It runs off Highway 47. Highway 47 is the road that runs in front of the victim's house.

COOPER: Have you ever seen anything like this in -- in -- in your jurisdiction?

TOELKE: Thank God, no.

COOPER: What -- what do you -- I mean, I guess on -- on the one hand, if -- you know, there is some sympathy for this woman who had a miscarriage, obviously. But, I mean, do you know what she will be charged with? Do -- where does the investigation go from here?

TOELKE: Well, it will be up to the prosecuting attorney. He's going to review the information that we have tomorrow morning. And, then, he will make the decision on what charges are filed.

COOPER: Did she make any statements to you?

TOELKE: I haven't spoken with her. In fact, I haven't even seen her.

They -- I'm sure they are interviewing her now, or -- or at least -- or, you know, have already. But, you know, she hasn't been brought here to our location yet. So, there's -- there's still, you know, a lot to be done. And -- and there's still a lot that we don't know.

COOPER: Well, we appreciate you telling us what you do know. And -- and it's certainly a happy ending for -- for little baby Abby.

Thank you so much, Sheriff. Appreciate it.

TOELKE: Thank you for having me. Appreciate your help.

COOPER: Well, in Afghanistan, attacks by the Taliban are growing. And Pakistan, the neighbor that is supposed to be an ally in the war on terror, has signed a cease-fire with the enemy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARZAI: I was taken aback. Who are these Taliban that -- that a deal has been signed with? Why can't we find them? Who are their leaders?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Afghan President Hamid Karzai talking about how he reacted when he first heard about the cease-fire deal -- coming up, my exclusive interview with the president facing new threats from the terrorists that once ruled his country.

And a special report on the unfinished war that is still raging in Afghanistan. Five years after the war on terror began, we take you inside the battle zone, right to the front lines, the war there more dangerous than ever, perhaps -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In a moment my exclusive interview with Afghan's president, Hamid Karzai. Afghanistan is where the war on terror began and today President Bush signaled just how big a problem it remains. He said he'll hold joint talks next week with President Karzai and his neighbor, Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan.

Taliban appears to be regaining a foothold in Afghanistan, the violence certainly getting worse. Yesterday alone two suicide bombings and another bomb. The death toll, at least 18 people; wounded, more than 60 people in all. The three explosions did. Many of those were children.

All of this in a region that was supposed to be a success story in the war on terror. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This evening we welcomed the distinguished interim leader of a liberated Afghanistan, Chairman Hamid Karzai.

COOPER: Nearly five years ago Hamid Karzai entered the world stage. With the help of U.S. might, he vowed to rid his country of terrorists and the radical Islamic militia known as the Taliban and bring democracy to his people.

Today, Karzai is the democratically elected leader of Afghanistan. President Bush said the Taliban regime has been overthrown.

But it's clear from the faces of these men and a suicide attack that I witnessed on my first day in Kabul last week, that the Taliban have returned and so has the terror.

PETER BERGEN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: The Taliban is certainly more dangerous than they were in 2002, 2003 when they sort of receded into basically being a nuisance. Now they are a major tactical problem for the Karzai government and for coalition forces in Afghanistan.

COOPER: We saw firsthand their tactics of fear. This is one of to dozens of schools built by the U.S. military that have reportedly been destroyed by the Taliban.

Every day the fighting seems to be getting worse.

(on camera) We're actually now just getting some fire -- some rockets have been fired. There have been about 20,000 U.S. troops and 20,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan. They're fighting insurgents, the Taliban, criminals and al Qaeda.

Also, Afghanistan's war against drugs is a losing battle. The reality is Afghanistan supplies more than 90 percent of the world's heroin supply.

There is another huge problem next door: Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf struck a peace deal with the pro-Taliban militants who continue to flow back and forth from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Still, tonight Karzai believes his country is on the right path, but is it?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, that's the question. Tomorrow, President Karzai addresses the U.N. General Assembly. His visit to New York comes at a crucial time for his country, as we saw first hand when we were in Afghanistan last week.

I spoke to President Karzai earlier today, an exclusive interview on the eve of his speech at the U.N. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Why have the Taliban and their allies been able to have a insurgence, come back?

HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: Resurgence.

COOPER: Do you think they've had a resurgence?

KARZAI: No, I don't think they've had a resurgence. There has been an increase in terrorist activity in Afghanistan, no doubt. That's not the return of the Taliban or their allies.

COOPER: The government of Pakistan has now signed a cease-fire deal with Taliban militants in North Waziristan. When you first heard that, what did you think?

KARZAI: I was taken aback. Who are these Taliban that a deal has been signed with? Why can't we find them? Who are their leaders?

COOPER: They're now saying no cross border activity, no militant activity, no training. No foreign fighters. Do you believe them?

KARZAI: Why can't we find them? Where is there organization? Where is there structure? They have people who speak for them. They have spokesmen. We never see them. We can't find them. To be relevant (ph) that has a political presence, it must be known, must be present (ph).

Now, we know within the Pakistan side, the agreement within Pakistan (ph), President Musharraf told me that. Within days of signing of that document, we saw the increase in terrorist activity in Afghanistan. So we wonder whether that deal is good for us or dangerous for us in Pakistan. When I see President Musharraf, I will discuss this with him.

COOPER: Already the trends are not good.

KARZAI: Already, the trend is terrible.

COOPER: Without being able to pursue militants in Pakistan, without being able to deny them a base of operations, can you defeat those Taliban elements that are still out there?

KARZAI: No.

COOPER: The key is Pakistan?

KARZAI: The key is -- the key is destroying the sources of training, equipping, financing, motivating and directing toward us in Afghanistan. And this will dry that source, which we should have done a long time back, which I kept talking to the world community about from the very beginning. We will not see peace in Afghanistan. You will not see an end to the killing of your soldiers in Afghanistan.

COOPER: U.S. officials I've talked to, military officials, intelligence officials, and Afghan officials who say privately -- many won't say publicly -- that they believe the Pakistan government wants a vibrant, alive Taliban as a trump card for what may happen down the road in Afghanistan, that they want a destabilized Afghanistan.

KARZAI: Well, that -- if they want that, then it's a serious mistake. Because instability in Afghanistan will automatically mean instability in Pakistan. And it is neither in their interests nor in our interests nor, indeed, in the interest of the international community, because that's why they're there to defeat terrorism.

COOPER: U.S. military officials, or intelligence officials, have told me Mullah Omar is in Queta (ph) or in the surrounding areas. No doubt about it, guaranteed. And other Taliban leaders are clearly in that area, as well.

KARZAI: Yes, they are there.

COOPER: And Pakistan says they're in Kandahar.

KARZAI: We are very sure about it.

COOPER: No doubt in your mind?

KARZAI: Absolutely no doubt.

COOPER: Mullah Omar is alive and well and living in Pakistan?

KARZAI: No doubt about it. And we have informed the government of Pakistan about their addresses, their places. They say it's old, ancient (ph), that it was true some time back. So it could be true today again.

Again, we hope, as President Musharraf has declared, the Taliban is an extreme threat to the world, and that we will get together and find a mechanism that would enable us to have a proper implementation of the fight against terror in Pakistan and in Afghanistan.

COOPER: A lot of the U.S. soldiers I talked to, went on patrol with, said they feel forgotten when they -- when they come back to America. People don't know what's going on in Afghanistan.

When you look at a NATO commander who's asking for more troops and, yet, no NATO countries are coming up with more troops, when billions of dollars which have been promised have not been delivered. Do you sometimes feel that Afghanistan has been forgotten?

KARZAI: I'm very grateful to the American people, to the United States, for what they've done for Afghanistan. They have given us billions of dollars.

We are grateful for what we have been given in reconstruction. There are your soldiers losing their lives in Afghanistan and others, as well.

Now, are we grateful? Yes. Has it been good help? Yes. Do we need more? Of course. If we're given more we'll be very, very grateful, and we need it.

COOPER: Thank you very much for your time. Appreciate it.

KARZAI: Welcome, sir.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, about 20,000 American troops are fighting in Afghanistan right now. Their mission often eclipsed by the war in Iraq.

Coming up in the next hour on 360, we're going to do a special report: "Afghanistan: The Unfinished War". We spent almost a week with American soldiers from Bravo Company, 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division and elsewhere in Afghanistan. One of the most dangerous jobs in the military. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): The soldiers fire mortars to clear areas they've been attacked from in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before they maybe had 30 guys in this whole area. Now I'm estimating they probably have 250.

COOPER: The terrain is extremely difficult. The slopes steep, the environment treacherous.

(on camera) What's so strange when you're on patrol, if even if the soldiers don't make contact with the enemy and even if you don't see enemy fighters you know that they were here.

On a lot of the trees you find these, these cross marks or horizontal slashes. They're reference points, helping enemy fighters figure out where to fire rockets that will hit forward operating base.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It was an eye opening trip for a lot of us, as you'll see next hour, starting at 11 p.m. Eastern Time.

Coming up ahead, the outrage continues over that controversial quote in a speech by Pope Benedict. Why his apology has not been enough for some and what he might have -- what he might have to do to mend fences with the Muslim world.

And a real mystery. NASA trying to figure out what is floating around the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Can you see it? When 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Muslim outrage over Pope Benedict XVI's remarks about Islam continues, with more Islamic groups today demanding a clear apology from the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, who will be addressing the general audience of the Vatican tomorrow. Joining me now to discuss the controversy that does not seem to be going away is John Allen, CNN Vatican analyst, and from Cairo, Egypt, Fawaz Georges, a Middle Eastern studies professor at Sarah Lawrence College, who is also a Carnegie scholar, who spent a year in the Middle East while working on a book on Arab and Muslim politics.

Gentlemen, thanks for being with us.

John Allen, you wrote a really good op-ed in "The New York Times" today. You wrote about what the Vatican calls reciprocity. What is that?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: Well, it basically means fair is fair. And the argument is that if Western governments provide protection of the law and religious freedom to Islamic minorities and other religious minorities, then Islamic governments ought to do the same thing.

And the most oft-cited example would be the Saudi government some years ago spent about $20 billion to put up the largest mosque in Europe in Rome in the shadow of the Vatican. They did that with the full support of John Paul II.

Yet today it is illegal for Christians to build places of worship in Saudi Arabia. It's even illegal to import Bibles. For that matter, it's very difficult for priests to step foot off the oil industry compounds and embassy grounds in order to deliver pastoral care. That's kind of an imbalance that sticks in some people's craw.

COOPER: And that was something that the pope -- one of the parts -- points that he was trying to make.

ALLEN: Well, I don't think it was a point he was trying to make in the speech. I mean, to be honest, I think if you read the speech in context, the reference to Islam was almost accidental. He was not attacking Islam. He was attacking irrationality in religion. He might as well have been talking about Christianity...

COOPER: But he wasn't.

ALLEN: But this clearly is a point, in terms of his relationship with Islam, that he wants to raise. When he said on Sunday that he wants a frank and sincere dialogue, this is one of the things he wants to be frank about.

COOPER: Fawaz, first of all, this thing about the discrepancy between the way Christians are treated in predominantly Muslim countries, the way Muslims are treated in predominantly Christian countries, fair?

FAWAZ GEORGES, SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE: Anderson, that's not the question on the table. The question on the table is the following.

The pope, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, quoted a very loaded historical reference in which he implicitly linked Islam with violence. Not only he linked Islam with violence; he linked the Prophet Mohammad, the founder of the Islamic religion, with violence.

And I think if you talk to all Muslims of all persuasions -- and I have been speaking to all Muslims of all persuasions -- they feel hurt that the pope, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, insulted their religion and their prophet.

We can sit down here and listen and talk about what Muslims should do and should not do. This is a legitimate question. But the legitimate -- the illegitimate question is for the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, to insult Islam and Muslims to use a very discredited historical reference.

I don't think we're asking, Anderson, too much from the leader of the Roman Catholic Church to show sensitivity, not only to Muslims but to other religions, as well. And I think, in this particular sense, Muslims feel deeply hurt, and I think the damage is really considerable, Anderson.

COOPER: John, what about that?

ALLEN: Well, I think the last point, the damage is considerable, is obvious. I mean, if we look at the evidence of the last few days, the kind of, you know, vast public mobilization of Islamic opinion, I think has been inordinate (ph).

COOPER: His apology was an apology for the reaction to what he said, not about what he said.

ALLEN: Well, you know, people have been parsing that apology since it came out on Sunday. I think from the Vatican's point of view the key point came when he said that this quotation from a 14th Century Byzantine emperor, which links Mohammad with violence, does not reflect his personal opinion. I think, from their point of view, that ought to have...

COOPER: But Fawaz raises a good point, which is -- his argument, though -- his argument, however, goes beyond just that one particular quote, John. I mean, he is, you know, being provocative. And he's saying that Christianity is a religion based on reason. The implication being that Islam is a religion which is not.

ALLEN: Well, I think that's a misreading of what he said. I mean, Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, is well aware that Christianity has its own sad history of irrationality.

COOPER: But he didn't talk about that.

ALLEN: No, he did not. And from a communications point of view, he obviously would have been well advised to do so.

COOPER: Fawaz, go.

GEORGES: Anderson, when I cite the quotation -- and I don't refute the quotation. And in fact, he did not cite the other, the so- called Persian scholar, who was having a dialogue with the Byzantine emperor. And this is not the first time, Anderson, where American viewers -- this is not the first time that the pope basically makes references which Muslims basically find extremely insulting.

And just since I am in Cairo, I spent last Friday, Anderson, at the Al Aza (ph) mosque. Al Aza (ph) mosque is one of the oldest and the most prestigious religious institutions in the Muslim world.

And I talked to the imam at the mosque, of the Al Aza (ph) mosque. I mean, in fact, Anderson, you might compare Al Aza (ph) to the Vatican. Of course, there is no organized church in Islam.

And imam of Al Aza (ph), the cleric of Al Aza (ph) said to me, listen, they talk about tolerance. What kind of tolerance is this? We believe in the people of the book (ph). We believe that -- in the prophets of the Christians and Muslims. Why do, basically, Christians feel obliged to insult our deepest values?

And Anderson, here again, for our American viewers, many Muslims in this part of the world do not see what the folks have in isolation. In fact, there is a widespread perception in this part of the world that there is a western onslaught against Islam and Muslims.

They talk about the Danish cartoons. They talk about the President Bush, President Bush using the term Islamofascism. And now the pope.

The pope's remarks are extremely sadist (ph), Anderson. This is a -- I mean, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. And in fact, most of the -- I heard some of the slogans chanted at Al Aza (ph). They're saying, well, look what the pope did was to supply religious justification for the president of the United States' war against Islam. Of course, I don't believe so, but Muslims do connect the dots.

Unfortunately, they basically say what the pope did was part of a systemic attempt to insult the religion.

ALLEN: Just briefly. It probably ought to be pointed out that the Vatican was one of the great critics, actually, of President Bush's war on Iraq on the world stage. So that particular connection for me to be probably doesn't really work.

GEORGES: Not this pope. Not this pope at all.

ALLEN: That's not true. Joseph Ratzinger pointedly said in the run up to the war in Iraq that there is no concept of preventative war in the doctrine of...

GEORGES: You know, John, during the inauguration of this pope he talked about the Christian/Jewish civilization. He never said a word about Islam.

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN: I don't speak -- it's a matter of historical record, as opposed to the war in Iraq.

GEORGES: I'm not defending -- I'm just talking about the fact that this particular pope has naturally followed the line that his previous -- I mean, predecessor...

ALLEN: No question about that. I just want the record to be clear this pope was opposed to the war in Iraq.

GEORGES: ... build bridges.

COOPER: I don't think you're disagreeing with each other. I think you're each speaking just a little bit past each other.

GEORGES: Not at all. I'm suggesting here -- I'm suggesting here that the pope -- I hope that the pope builds bridges between Christians and Muslims. And I hope that his visit to Turkey in the next few months, he will use his visit in order to begin the process.

ALLEN: I think we all...

GEORGES: ... build bridges between Christians and Muslims.

COOPER: We've got to go, but do you think -- John Allen, do you think that visit is going to go ahead?

ALLEN: Well, I think it's going to go ahead as long as the security situation on the ground stays stable. I think he desperately wants it to go ahead for precisely the reasons that your other guest just mentioned.

COOPER: It will be a fascinating trip.

John Allen, Fawaz Georges, appreciate your perspectives. Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

Onto a big concern for NASA tonight. The landing of the space shuttle has been postponed. Up next, what's keeping the shuttle in space an extra day. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The Space Shuttle Atlantis won't land as scheduled tomorrow. NASA engineers want an extra day to figure out what object is floating near the shuttle.

They spotted it on video this afternoon. NASA wants to determine if it's a vital part of the shuttle and whether the damaged spacecraft -- whether it damaged the spacecraft when it actually fell off. If it has, astronauts can do a repair job in space or, if necessary, head back to the International Space Station and wait to be rescued. Now if that happens, NASA has said it could mean the end of the shuttle program.

Straight ahead tonight, "Afghanistan: The Unfinished War". The new freedoms, the old corruption. Prostitutes and Islamic moral patrol, shopping malls and music. And always the Taliban and a resurgent al Qaeda.

American troops on the front lines. We'll take you there next on 360.

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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