tv The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN May 1, 2012 1:00pm-3:00pm PDT
news. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." this is cnn breaking news. >> we're following the breaking news. dramatic developments. president obama's surprise trip to afghanistan exactly one year after the u.s. raid that killed osama bin laden in neighboring pakistan. less than an hour or so ago we got the first word of his arr e arrival at the bagram air base. he is now in kabul meeting with the afghan president hamid karzai to sign a long-term strategic partnership agreement at a rather precarious time for relations between the two countries. he will then make a televised speech to the united states, indeed to the entire world, in three and a half hours from now at 7:30 p.m. eastern time here in the united states. let's go straight to our white house correspondent brianna keilar. for this president, this is a
huge deal. set the scene. >> reporter: this is a big deal, wolf. a trip by the president of the united states to a war zone like afghanistan is extraordinary and this is only the third time that president obama has made this trip. it's been over a year. the last time he was there was in december 2010 and furthermore, at the presidential palace which is where he is right now for brief remarks with president hamid karzai and to sign the strategic partnership agreement with afghanistan to talk about the u.s. relationship with afghanistan beyond 2014. that's extraordinary. the last time the president was in afghanistan in december of 2010 he could not make that trip from bagram air force base which is about 30 miles or so north of kabul to the palace because of weather concerns, and certainly security is always a concern as the president is in the comfort of the air force base. if you look at past trip, wolf, the last one only lasted four hours and it's very late at night in afghanistan as the
president is doing this. >> this is not going last much longer. i suspect the president will be on his way back to andrews, the air force base outside of washington within a few hours or so. a very short trip to thank the troops and to sign the strategic cooperation agreement and to address the american people. there will be politics involved in the six months before the u.s. presidential election. some would say this is a bit risky for the president to be doing all of this right now on this, the first anniversary of bin laden's death. >> reporter: certainly politics do figure into this and this comes on the heels, wolf, of republicans criticizing president obama saying that he's been spiking the football ahead of this anniversary of the killing of osama bin laden. the obama campaign released a video that asked the question essentially would mitt romney have made the same call, not just to take out osama bin laden, but also to do it in the way that president obama did by sending in a team instead of doing it with perhaps some sort
of drone attack or something like that. i think it will be a while before we see how politics factor into this. it seems right now the republicans are holding their fire ahead of the president's remarks tonight at 7:30 eastern which he will make from bagram air force base. i spoke with a spokeswoman for senator john mccain who has been very critical of the president and he she said he is happy the president is visiting the tro s troops. i think you'll be having that later in your hour and i also e-mailed a senior adviser of mitt romney who say they are waiting to see what the president says tonight. >> a lot of people are waiting to see what the president says tonight. let's bring in nick walsh. he's in kabul. nick, what are you seeing, what are you hearing on the ground? >> reporter: very little,
indeed. about 6:00 this evening there were rumors saying obama was already here and that was flatly denied. and a great uncertainty as to whether he was coming at all and it's fair to say an hour and a half, two hours ago we heard the first helicopters. this city unusually quiet, frankly, suggesting that this visit was under way and confirmation about it, and this comes at an absolutely key time in the entire afghan-u.s. relationship. it's been a disastrous four month, really, anything from u.s. marines and urinating on corpses of insurgents and the burning of korans and the killing of 17 afghans in kandahar to the collapse of peace talks between the taliban in qatar. you can a lon li of disasters, really, and the strategic partnership agreement they're signing tonight is one spot of good news that diplomats and officials here have been
very keen to seize upon as a potential channeling for the way forward of this rocky relationship between washington and kabul. it will be signed tonight, but let's bear in mind who the sigity inaries are. we have barack obama facing re-election and president hamid karzai who has made it clear he does not want a third term here and suggested that perhaps elections may come early at some point next year rather than 2014 buzz he says he is concerned about the idea of the nato drawdown of troops coming at the same time as the country looks for successives. there is no obvious success. so this document paints a positive picture of cooperation and symbolic hand-holding for the decade after nato meets it. the biggest of which is exactly where does this insurgency fit into all of this? this document being signed in a city where just over two weeks ago insurgents lay siege to key institutions for about 18 hours, wolf. >> we also know that even inside
supposedly secure area like then tearior ministry in kabul, it wasn't that long ago that afghan security forces took a weapon and shot u.s. -- u.s. military personnel in the back of the head in a supposedly secure area, suggesting to so many folks around the world, especially here in washington, nick, that the united states can't even trust the afghan police and military for this kind of security. it raises all sorts of fears, at least to me, that the president of the united states is there right now. can they really trust the afghan security forces? what say you? you're on the ground. >> reporter: it's -- it's really undermined that feeling of trust because not only for these two men. senior officials who have many friends here mourn their loss constantly. it was one of many instants. there have been nine american personnel killed by men in
uniform. we are hearing helicopters again in the skies over kabul suggesting perhaps some further transportation. i don't know if that's the president leaving the presidential palace. back to your original point, wolf. this huge concern about the breakdown in trust between afghan soldiers and the americans to trust them to take over security here. these are isolated instances. they began a trend in the first part of this year and there are reports suggesting that american soldiers are posted to watch over their colleagues as they train afghans in various facilities across the country. there has been a longlasting impact on the psychology of the nato troops here. these unrelated instances as nato likes to say became a trend and began to undermind the confidence in nato trying to place in afghan security forces to take over the job of securing this country and also, i think, play on the mind of americans simply serving here and not
knowing how far they can trust the afghans they're supposed to serving alongside with, wolf. >> there is a lot of mistrust. a lot of folks are very, very worried. stand by. john king is with me. the president landed at almost 2:00 p.m. eastern, two hours or so ago. >> he gets off the 747 and gets in a helicopter and flies from bagram to kabul and we just received word from the pool of reporters that president obama and karzai signed the strategic agreement. they did it in the atrium. the commander in chief of the allied forces was there and ambassador crocker as well. president karzai thanked the people of the united states for helping the people of afghanistan over the past decade. he said i've come to the president to mark this historic moment for our two nations. neither afghans and americans asked for this war, but we stood
together. there will be difficult days ahead and nick walsh describing the security and political arrangements and president obama saying i'm confident the afghan people will understand the united states will stand by them and he said, wolf, this is significant. we will achieve our goal of destroying al qaeda and we have the capacity to wind down this war and have peace. obviously, the goal to continue to destroy al qaeda, but the symbolism of signing this agreement on this day, one year to the day after osama bin laden was killed, and this is an important policy moment, but let's not forget the white house frankly, they love the politics of this. the president of the united states on this day, signing this agreement will speak to the nation tonight. it was in afghanistan that al qaeda blotted the 9/11 attacks on the united states and it was in afghanistan that the navy s.e.a.l.s used a base there to go across the border into pakistan to take out bin laden one year ago. it's an important policy moment. from the white house perspective, very political. >> what does it is a to you, john? i know what it says to me.
they have a major, historic signing ceremony in the presidential palace in kabul, in afghanistan. the president, the president of afghanistan. they have to do it in the middle of the night. it is after 1:00 a.m. in kabul and they can't do it in daylight and they can't even have live coverage of an historic event like that. they'll feed tape in later. what does that say to you? >> it says they have continuing questions about the security. they have continuing questions of the sanctity of the afghan security forces. there have been times when they've turned on nato counterparts, can you trust the security arrangement? they tend to do these things under the cover of darkness so no been on the ground has a head's up. you are not allowed to report it until the president is on the ground. the security arrangements, some people would say are overdone, but if you covered the white house as both of us have, when the president of the united states and the secret service and military advisers say trust us, we need you to be careful here. it's best to be careful.
>> you're dealing with the security of the president of the united states and the people that accompany him in trips like these. don't go too far away. we'll bring you all of the details of this extraordinary visit to afghanistan and the breaking news. we're staying on top of it. also coming into "the situation room." the cia call it enhanced interrogation. the man who oversaw the cia program is here to defend it. he says it led the united states to kill bin laden exactly one year ago today and saved american lives. there he is, jose rodriguez, the former head of clandestine operations at the cia. he's standing by live.
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ground in kabul, afghanistan, at the presidential palace. he and the president of afghanistan, hamid karzai have just signed a long-term strategic partnership agreement spelling out some framework, arrangements for the u.s. involvement in afghanistan beyond 2014. what the u.s. would be able to do militarily, economically, politically in afghanistan. a lot of details remain to be worked out. the president will be addressing the american people from afghanistan at 7:30 p.m. eastern later tonight. all of this unfolding in the aftermath, ten-years plus in the wake of 9/11, the cia began using what we call enhanced interrogation techniques. critics label them as torture. jose rodriguez oversaw the controversial program as the director of the cia's national clandestine service. he's written a brand new book just coming out this week titled "hard measures, how aggressive
cia action after 9/11 saved american lives." mr. rodriguez, thanks for joining us on this historic day, exactly one year after bin laden was killed. first of all, give us your reaction to the president of the united states signing this long-term partnership agreement with afghanistan in kabul just moments ago. >> wolf, i have really no comment to make. i just found out about this as i was coming here. you know, i think logical consequence after ten years of war, so i think it's a good thing. >> it's a good thing that the president has done this. when you say you have no comment, i'm just a little confused. you spent more than 30 years in the clandestine service in the cia. you rose to the top and were in charged of interrogating al qaeda terrorists, why wouldn't you have a reaction to seeing the president in afghanistan now. >> well, i mean, i have a
reaction to the effort that went into killing bin laden and all of the information that was gathered over the years that probably led us to where we are today, but i am surprised as everybody else in america about the trip today, and, you know, we'll have to see what the agreement is. >> and we'll wait for the details to come in. you say that the interrogation that you conducted of at least one, maybe two al qaeda terrorists, interrogation what we call black sites, secret locations around the world actually resulted in the killing of bin laden a year ago. explain your theory why that happened. >> yes. as a matter of fact, there is an open piece today in "the washington post" in which i say that the takedown of bin laden was an effort that went on for ten years, and it really gained
momentum after the establishment of the black sites and the capture of some of the high-value targets in charge of al qaeda over the years. it was not just one. it was the whole clan and many of them ended up in our black sites. >> because, as you know, the chairman of the intelligence committee dianne feinstein and carl levin, they just issued a report, a document and they say they have a 6,000-page report that's coming out that says you're flat wrong when you say the enhanced interrogation techniques had anything to do with the information that resulted in that courier who eventually led that navy s.e.a.l. team in abbottabad in afghanistan a year ago tonight. the cia, their statement says did not first learn of the existence of the ubl courier from detainees subjected to coercive interrogation
techniques. tell us why you think the two chairmen are wrong. >> wolf, i was in charge of the qatar terrorist center between 2002 and 2004, and then i was the head of the clandestine service. so i know a little bit about what went on, and i was there when we captured a couple of high-level al qaeda people who told us about the courier, and the courier was the key to getting bin laden. i remember reading the intelligence in 2004 when we first learned about the courier, and the fact that bin laden was concentrating on using only one courier to communicate with with al qaeda. he was not using the internet. he was not talking on the phone, was not using cell phone, and i thought to myself that this was very significant because he
would be a lot harder to get if only he communicated through one courier. so i remember it very clearly and reading all about the courier and it was the courier who eventually led us to bin laden. >> the courier did, and they say they reviewed 6 million pages of documents and records and interviewed everybody involved. they say the cia learned of the existence of the courier and his true name and location through means unrelated to the cia detention and interrogation program. they say you're flat wrong on this very sensitive issue, and i just want to give you a final word to respond. >> well, i don't understand it. i think it's baffling to me. >> did they interview you? >> they never interviewed me, but the -- the thousands of intelligence reports that came out of the enhanced interrogation techniques and the debriefing program are part of the record, and i just cannot
understand how they came to this conclusion. you know, eventually this whole thing would come out, and i believe that the american people will get a chance to see for themselves the -- the incredible intelligence that was acquired over the years coming from the black sites and from the high-level detainees. >> mr. rodriguez, we'll continue this conversation maybe on a day that there's not such dramatic breaking news. jose rodriguez. his book is entitled "hard measures. how aggressive cia actions after 9/11 saved american lives." thanks very much for joining us on this historic day. >> thank you for having me. >> thank you. >> we're on top of the breaking news coming into "the situation room" from afghanistan. we're awaiting the president's speech from the bagram air base in afghanistan. he arrived two and a half hours or so ago. reaction from the republicans beginning to pour in. we'll talk to a leading republican and the chairman of the house homeland security committee, peter king, he's
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long-term strategic cooperation agreement at the presidential palace. we'll eventually get videotape of that signing ceremony and hear what the president had to say. we do know that the president said based on a report we got from producers on the scene, he says the president says we'll achieve our goal of destroying al qaeda. we have the capacity to wind down this war and have peace. let's talk about what's going on with new york republican congressman peter king. he's the chairman of the house homeland security committee. first of all, your reaction, congressman king, to president obama's surprise visit to afghanistan for this signing ceremony today? >> well, as president and commander in chief, i applaud him being in afghanistan. i think it's important for the troops to see the president and certainly after all of these years of fighting where the troops have done such heroic work and did such an outstanding job. ink it's important for the president to be there and
signing the agreement with president karzai. he's our commander in chief and i wish him well. i think it is always good when the president of the united states can visit a war zone especially on such a key moment as this. >> you're not among the republicans saying he's spiking the football and doing a victory lap on this the first anniversary of binladen's death? >> i'm reluctant to say anything critical of the president when he's outside of the united states. that's certainly within his purview as commander in chief. i do think in the last several days where -- first of all, he did a great job in ordering the killing of bin laden. i know people in the situation room, and i know the tough decision he had to make and i give him full credit for that. i don't think it was right to put out campaign commercials being critical of governor romney and that was politicizing an historic event and i can't picture eisenhower doing that
and truman doing it. to me, it was a wrong thing to do, any also if we can get into that and you just had jose rodriguez on. you can say that he was able to have bin laden killed because of intelligence obtained in the previous administration. all of that, though, to me should not be the topic. he's entitled to mention the killing of bin laden, but to dwell on it the way he's done i think is a mistake, but having said that, his visit to afghanistan is perfectly right, and i applaud him for doing it. >> who's right and based on everything you know and you may not have access to all of the intelligence information, but i know you have access to a lot. jose rodriguez, the former has of cia's clandestine services or the enhanced interrogation provided the tip that resulted in bin laden's death or carl levin and dianne feinstein who say he is flat-out wrong? >> from all that i know, i agree with jose rodriguez. i can tell you the day that bin laden was killed i had a former
cia employee call me that day and detailed to me what he believes the information from the courier came from those interrogations. that was long before this debate even began. it was actually the day that bin laden was killed and from talking to people like general hayden and others, i believe that the enhanced interrogations were extremely important and extremely vital, and i think the president was wrong during the campaign referring to that is torture. i believe it was a necessary evil that had to be done at the time, but again, bottom line is that bin laden is dead. i think it was the combined efforts of the bush and obama administrations which is the way foreign policy should be run especially on key issues like this and the fact that the president's campaign has tried to politicize it in the last several day, i just think it's wrong. >> as chairman of the house homeland security committee, do you believe for all practical purposes al qaeda's operation, global operations for all practical purposes are
effectively dead? >> no, i don't. i think the al qaeda central has been dramatically weakened. now we have offshoots in al qaeda in the a are arabian peninsula and al qaeda in iraq and also al shabaab. in many ways, i doubt al qaeda could ever carry out another 9/11-type attack. they can still in some ways be more lethal because they're under the radar screen and they've met aft sized and morphed and we have to be concerned about the homegrown terrorists in our own country that are over the internet. so as we saw with the attack on times square, with the attempted attack on times square and the attempted attack on the new york city subway system that al qaeda offshoots are still capable of carrying out an attack. we have scored tremendous success over the last ten years. al qaeda is also adopting. i think we're ahead of them and we have to stay ahead of them and can't let our guard down. >> we're getting new pictures.
stand by for a second. i want to show viewers these pictures. this is the president of the united states and the president of afghanistan shortly after they signed their strategic cooperation agreement at the presidential palace in afghanistan. you see it right there and here are the two leaders walking out of the presidential palace. the u.s. flag and the afghan flag. here's a blunt question for you, congressman king. can the u.s. trust hamid karzai to deliver because he's been so erratic especially in recent years? >> he certainly is an inconsistent ally. i'm not here to argue for karzai, but i do believe we need to use whatever leverage we have with karzai and whatever influence we have with the afghan government no matter who is there. it's not because he's a friend of ours and not because we trust him. it's inning a of aing's interest and ours to make this work. this is not based on love. it's not based on friendship. it's based on the harsh reality of life and the fact that
neither karzai nor the u.s. wants the taliban to come back. if the taliban comes back then we have to worry about al qaeda coming back in and that will bring back the terrible days prior to september 11th and it was used as a base of operations to carry out attacks to the united states. to me it was a mutual interest, very hot/cold interest that we have with karzai in afghanistan have. >> thanks very much for joining us on this important day. he's chairman of the house homeland security committee. the president at that signing ceremony with hamid karzai said there will be difficult days ahead. afghan people will take control of their future. i am confident afghan people will understand that the united states will stand by them. the breaking news coverage, the president of the united states in afghanistan getting ready to address the american people from afghanistan. our coverage will continue in a moment including much more on the death of bin laden and the race for the white house. mitt romney marking the one-year
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you had a chance to speak with senator john mccain a moment ago. what did he say? >> reporter: he had been very, very critical about the political ad that the president's campaign put out boasting about getting osama bin laden and also hitting mitt romney on that issue, but on this particular trip, john mccain was anything, but critical. what do you think about the president's surprise, secretive trip to afghanistan? >> i think it's a good thing. i think it's always good when the president goes to where young men and women are in harm's way, and i think that many of us who have been involved in afghanistan are very supportive of the strategic partnership agreement which i'm sure he'll be talking about, and we think the agreement is good. we obviously would like to know the details. >> senator, you have been very outspoken, very critical of what the president did recently, politically with an ad boasting about getting osama bin laden and hitting mitt romney for it.
do you think that this trip is also part of his political campaign? >> no, i can't accuse the president of that. a lot of people both here and in congress including senator lindsay graham and senator lieberman worked on this strategic partnership agreement and it's important that we send a message to friends and enemies alike that the united states has a long-term commitment to afghanistan. this is not spiking the football in the end zone, as he said. >> no, i don't view it as that, and i wish the president would explain more often to the american people why afghanistan -- it's important that afghanistan not return to a base for a tacks on the united states of america. >> reporter: and, wolf, that is one of the main reasons why john mccain and probably other republicans are not criticizing the president because of the fact that they were criticizing him for not speaking enough about afghanistan except for the state of union address. he has not given a major address on afghanistan from june of
2011, almost a year ago. and john mccain is someone steeped in military history and of course, generally reference for the concept of commander in chiefsec spooing to the troops, another reason why he says this is a good thing and he does not believe that the president's policy of pulling the troops out by 2014 is good which is why he says the agreement that says the u.s. commitment will be longer than that. >> the think raing member of the senate arms services committee. jack reid is in afghanistan right now. he is joining us on the phone from kabul. senator reed, thanks very much for joining us. i take it you've known for a while that the president was going to be showing up for the signing ceremony with hamid karzai, that's why you're there right now, is that right? >> reporter: no, wolf. we are here to visit military personnel in afghanistan and we found out this afternoon the president would be coming in and
we were fortunate enough to be invited to the signing for the long-term relationship agreement. we are here to see the troops and talk to the commanders. >> is there a firm agreement as to how many u.s. troops will remain in afghanistan after 2014, senator reed? >> no, there's not. the military command is here, general allen and his colleagues are going periodically report to the president about the threat, the capability of the afghan forces and about the contribution of not just u.s. forces, but the nato forces and they'll advise the president on what the afghan forces will be and that's going to be done as the situation develops over the next several years. >> there's no agreement on how much aid, economic aid will be
provided to the afghans after 2014, is that right? >> that will probably be discussed in more detail in chicago because nato as well as other non-nato, but this strategic framework is the basis for discussion and the assistance -- in afghanistan for the next several years in order to continue to not only confirm the terrorists and insurgency -- [ indiscernible ] >> take us inside. you were at the signing ceremony that was just completed, is that right? >> yes. >> so take us inside the presidential palace in the afghan capital right now. first of all, security. how secure -- how dangerous is it right now for the president of the united states and some top senators and you're on a
congressional delegation there? >> well, the security precautions were, as you would expect, very rigorous. just a few weeks ago there was an operation within kabul, but this was a very carefully planned security operation. it was quite evident by the personnel, by the cooperation between afghan forces as well as u.s. security forces and, you know, i think this is something that the president was right to come here and is right now on his way to bagram to thank the troops. every day they face more dangers. >> all right. senator, stand by for a moment because we're just getting in the video now from the presidential palace in afghanistan. they're going to be showing us the actual signing ceremony of the president of the united
states. this is the raw video coming into "the situation room." there you see senator carl levin standing there together with david pluth, and senator reed. we are looking at you talking to the senior adviser and afghan officials there as well. we are getting ready for this signing ceremony. it occurred a little while ago, but only now the videotape is being fed in and we can see some of the pictures coming in. you can see some of the dignitaries arriving right now, and taking a closer look. there's ryan crocker, the u.s. ambassador to afghanistan on the left. there's general allen, the white house chief of staff, jack lew, and you can see him over there in the glasses and the darker hair. they're getting ready to be seated and jack reed to the left and carl levin and others and some of the afghan officials who will witness this historic
signing ceremony, and as i pointed out, this is basically a framework agreement for some ten years, but a lot of the details have to be resolved. how much u.s. economic and military assistance will continue to flow to afghanistan after 2014? how many u.s. troops will remain in afghanistan after 2014? what will be the role or will they remain in training? senator reed, you're still on the phone with us, and i assume you can't see and these were some of the pictures of the president walking in with hamid karzai. they're going to be speaking and right now they're going to be doing the signing ceremony, and i take it, senator reed, they signed the agreement first and then they spoke. is that what happened? no, they spoke first. president karzai led off and then president obama and then they signed the documents. >> all right.
let's listen to hamid karzai. senator reed, here's hamid karzai, the president actually -- looks like that videotape just froze. here's hamid car zashgs the president. [ speaking foreign language ] >>. >> all right. he's speaking in pashtun right if you. my pashtun is not that good and i don't think senator reed's pashtun isn't that good. senator reed, you were there and this is videotape feeding in right now. did he speak for long in pashtun or did he eventually get to english? >> his entire speech was in his language and then the president spoke in english. there were translation services for us in the audience, headphones. their speeches were short. both presidents were quite
complimentary and recognized the sacrifices of the citizens of both afghanistan and the united states in this common struggle and they were very short speeches and the documents aside and exchanged and signed by the other president to each other and the president was enroute to visit american soldiers in bagram air base. >> did you have a chance during the course of your visit to afghanistan to meet with the afghan president? because i've got to tell you, senator reed, and i know you quite well. you and i spent time together in iraq in 2005. you're very passionate on these issues as you should be. a former u.s. army ranger. did he explain some of the rather bizarre anti-american statements he's made in recent months to you? >> we met for about an hour,
senator karzai, senator levin and i and we made very clear, you know, that we were in a common effort, that we recognized the sacrifices of the military forces and people of afghanistan and that we suggested or just spoke and wanted to make sure he understood how important what he said was and how much it res tat nated in the united states and my listening to him this evening he was -- he did, in fact, recognize the sacrifices of the american personnel and diplomatic personnel in this effort and he also spoke about the issues of border security and what he could do and his
country could do to help strengthen their borders and also the capacity of his government to mete out corruption corruption. it was a very frank and candid exchange and about an hour-long meeting. >> stand by for a moment. i want to update viewers. senator jack reed is in kabul. he was at the signing ceremony between president obama and president hamid karzai. this is videotape feeding in and president karzai speaking in pashtun and unfortunately, we don't have a translation of what he is saying. we will hear from president obama and he'll be speaking in english and we'll watch this momentarily. john king is watching this. the problem with president karzai, john, and i covered him for a long time and he has a tendency to say one thing to the visitors and stuff that the u.s. wants to hear, but when he's speaking to his own folks back in afghanistan it's oftentimes very, very different and occasionally very bitterly
anti-american. >> not only to his own people at home, but local politics he has to play and sometimes the united states understands that after the horrific killing and i understand some of that language, and wolf, i don't know if senator reed is still with us, he appeared with mahmoud ahmadinejad and said things that most u.s. officials have found quite troubling. he's the president and now the lkted president and you go back to the bush administration, the days after 9/11, they said some days he's on and he says the right things and he starts to do the right things and other days he's ranting anti-american and forgive me, but the corruption record speaks for itself. the delays and the length of money and the length in training to get the afghan forces up to speed, speaks for itself, the lack of infrastructure, economic process speaks for itself and not saying for a moment that these aren't extraordinarily difficult challenges and there's a lot of frustration. ? i'm sure you're frustrated, senator reed.
senator reed is joining us on the foin from kabul as we await the remarks from the president of the united states at this signing ceremony. give us your thoughts of what john and i just pointed out to our viewers in the united states and around world that there are often times two very different hamid karzais out there. >> well, we may, again, in our discussion today with the president we made it very clear that his comments resonate far beyond afghanistan and that there has to be acknowledgement of significant sacrifices that not only we have made, but our nato allies and scores of other countries around the world. his comments this evening were in his native language, and they were positive, andt's what with i think people are hearing tonight. >> here's the president, senator reed. he's about to speak.
i want our viewers to hear president obama. >> leaders of the afghan government and the society who are here and most importantly to the afghan people, thank you so much for welcoming me here today especially in the beautiful surroundings. i, too, want to thank ambassador ryan crocker and national security adviser and their times for their extraordinary work that brought about this day. i've come to afghanistan to mark a historic moment for our two nations and to do so on afghan soil. i am here to affirm the bonds between our countries, to thank american and afghans who sacrificed so much over these last ten years and to look forward to a future peace and security and greater prosperity for our nations. neither americans nor the afghan people asked for this war, yet for a decade we stood together
to drive al qaeda from its camps, to battle insurgency and to give the people the possibility to live in peace and in dignity. the wages of war have been great for both our nations, but today with the signing of this strategic partnership agreement we look forward to a future of peace. together, we've made much progress. we reached an agreement to transition detention facilities to afghan control and to put afghans in the lead on special operations. today we are agreeing to -- to be long-term partners in combatting terrorism and training afghan security forces and strengthening democratic institutions and supporting development and protecting human rights of all afghans. with this agreement the afghan people in the world should know that afghanistan has a friend and a partner in the united states. mr. president, there will be difficult days ahead, but as we move forward with our transition
i am confident that afghan forces will grow stronger, the afghan people will take control of their future, and the disagreement i am confident that the afghan people will understand that the united states will stand by them, and they will know that the united states can achieve our goal of destroying al qaeda ask nd deny it safe haven, but at the same time we have the capacity to wind down this war and issuer in a new era of peace in afghanistan. mr. president, i'm reminded of all who made the ultimate sacrifice in afghanistan including members of your own family. i pay tribute to those afghans who have lost their lives alongside our men and women and sacrificed for their count rry.
our hearts are heavy as we remember so many who have died in this war. i am grateful that this agreement pays tribute to the sacrifices made by the american people in afghanistan, as i've said before, the united states has not come here to claim resources or to claim territory. we came with a very clear mission. we came to destroy al qaeda and we have enormous respect for afghan sovereignty and the dignity of the afghan people. together, we are now committed to replacing war with peace and pursuing a more hopeful future as earni as equal partners. we are committed to seeking a future of justice, peace, security and opportunity, and i am confident that although our challenges are not yet behind us, the future before us. thank you so much.
[ applause ] >> all right. so there it is. the president speaking, the president of the united states and the president of afghanistan. now they are signing this document and this strategic partnership agreement as it's called. they signed it a little while ago. this is videotape that is just feeding in from afghanistan. i should alert our viewers, the president now is out of kabul. he's out of the presidential palace. he's back at the bagram air base. he's going to be meeting with with u.s. troops. he's going to be speaking with u.s. troops. we'll have live coverage of that, we hope, coming in within the next half hour or so, and then at 7:30 p.m. eastern, about two and a half hours or so from now he'll be speaking to the american people, indeed, around the world live from afghanistan. john king was just watching all of this unfold. john, it's a dramatic development, an historic development that we are all watching very closely, but there are so many unanswered questions.
>> the biggest one is what exactly will be the next step of this relationship? you heard the president say afghanistan has a long-term partner in the united states. you heard him say his goal here is to tell the american people that after a decade, a little more than a decade in afghanistan he is winding down this war, but we know, wolf, this extends the partnership for another ten years. most combat troops will come out in 2014 and the number we don't know and it's a big number of concern for the american people and what are we talking about and what will the agreement be? as the president says he's ending the war and how many u.s. upon troos will stay in afghanistan for a second decade and it is the decade-long war that has most americans exhausted. 72% of pollsters. >> david frum, former speechwriter for president bush and now cnn contributor. what do you think about this, david? >> think the president will tonight, give, skeptics of this war a road map. on this anniversary of bin
laden's killing for which we're all grateful, and bin laden was sheltered by important people in pakistan. that seems undeniable and the reason the united states has not been able to act more effectively on pack tan stan is precisely this important -- has madis dependent on pakistan and as long as they're in afghanistan in such force, the more dependent they remain. >> now they'll shake hands and exchange these documents and a diplomatic procedure. paul begala is watching this unfold, watching this historic document exchange hans. paul, what do you think? >> i think david frum makes a good point. i do not see this as political at all. the war is very, very unpopular with the american people and they are weir of this war and they don't even support the president's timeline of 2014. we'll see how many troops he expects to lead there in 2024.
the president, i don't think his critics have, and he's being political here because frankly the position he's taken in afghanistan has been one that's not been overly popular with the american people. the american people are a war-weary people right now and it will be difficult enough to leave troops there until 2014 and there will be a great deal of skepticism to find out how many troops will be there until 2024. >> that's a long time and a lot of people will be wondering what's going on? i want everybody to stand by. we have a lot more coming up including the president of the united states and he'll be speaking to u.s. troops in afghanistan. we'll have live coverage. much more of the breaking news right after this. [ pilot ] flying teaches me to prepare for turbulence.
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and when the final chapter of this war is written, the historians will look back and say not only was this the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, but all of you also represented the values of america in an exampemplary w. i could not be prouder of you pp, and i want you to understand i know it's still tough. i know the battle's not yet over. some of your buddies are going to get injured and some of your buddies may get killed and there will be heartbreak and pain and difficulty ahead, but there's a
light on the horizon because of the sacrifices you've made. and that's why for michelle and me nothing is more important than looking after your families while you are here and i want everybody here to know that when you get home we are going to be there for you when you are in uniform and we will stay there for you when you are out of uniform because you've earned it. you've earned a special place in our hearts, and i could not be prouder to be your commander in chief. god bless you and god bless the united states of america, and now i want to shake some hands. ♪ ♪ ♪ >> all right. that's the audio. we don't have the video yet. we'll be getting the video fed in pretty soon from afghanistan with the president there speaking to u.s. military personnel at the bagram airfield. we are told most were u.s. soldiers from the first infantry
division, from the army's first infantry division. they congregated inside the hangar, a secure area of bagram airfield. the president traveled by helicopter from kabul in the presidential palace and kabul, the capital of afghanistan, back in chinook helicopters. the president of the united states is there. we are watching all of these dramatic, historic developments unfold. >> let's continue to cover the breaking news. under tight security and the cloak of secrecy, president obama was paying a surprise visit to afghanistan right now. all on the first anniversary of the raid that killed osama bin laden. the president has signed a strategic partnership agreement with afghanistan's president hamid karzai. he'll be addressing the american people later this evening. we'll have live coverage, of course, here on cnn and cnn international.
the president, all of this, coming as afghanistan remains in a war zone, a serious war zone full of potential dangers. let's bring in our pentagon correspondent, barbara starr. she's been to afghanistan on many occasions. barbara, set the scene for us. what's going on right now in terms of the strategic partnership between the u.s. and afghanistan? >> well, wolf, president obama is moving very quickly across afghanistan during this visit for a very simple reason. as he tries to move ahead with this strategic partnership keeping the details of this trip secret is key to keeping the president safe. it doesn't get much riskier than sending the president of the united states into a war zone. president obama arrived into bagram air base, afghanistan, under cover of darkness with extraordinary security measures. reporters traveling with the president were sworn to secrecy. the secret service is prepared for anything that could happen.
it starts with getting in. u.s. planes landing in afghanistan perform a corkscrew type landing making sharp banks and terms to avoid heat seeking missiles. the colonel knows first hand how dangerous it can be. now retired he told wolf blitzer about secretly taking george w. bush to baghdad in 2003 while combat raged. >> the challenge wasn't so much to get him in there because we easily fooled everybody and got him in there. the challenge was once he was on the ground and everybody knew he was there to get him back out again. so we worked very ha to make sure he had minimum time on the ground. >> reporter: any longer and terrorists might be able to set up an atc and overthe years, bagram, right where the president landed has become earned repeated rocket and mortar attacks. so the president quickly boarded a heavily armed helicopter for a half-hour ride to kabul with apache gunships providing
escort, even in the heavily protected area where the president met with hamid karzai is not totally secure. just last month the taliban pulled off mtiple attacks in the green zone where the presidential pallace, nato headquarters and the presidency is located. the secret service are there to make sure there are no attacks and only a handful of u.s. officials and top military commanders even knew the president was coming. less information, more security is the way the president's men make it happen. >> now, of course, the president is running for re-election as commander in chief. so as with all things white house in this election year, there certainly is a political component, and that's part of the represent yet president wanted to be seen signing thisment gra. he wants to have that relationship with afghanistan and certainly by all account wats the amer people to see him moving toward winding up the
combat phase of the war. wolf? >> i'm sure those military personnel at the bagram air base are pretty happy to see the commandern chief even though it's the middle of the night and they're congregated inside that hangar. we are getting ready to get those pictures to our viewers. stand by for that. nick payton walsh is in the afghan capital. talk about this agreement and this formal, strategic partnership agreement, nick, that the president just signed with president karzai. >> reporter: it's big on symbolic talk about their future partnership. it's big on talk of economic agreements and aid, how they want to be democraticlesnd commitments and the type of relationship they want to see po. at's when most nato troop will be gone from here. it doesn't address how much money will the unitestates be giving to afghanistan in the years ahead because that's ometsng congress has a
distinct say in it and it doesn't address the former issue. what kind of military presence will america have here once the nato campaign is finally drawn down in 2014. we're really talking about a president here who a year ago talked about the tide of war receding, making his third trip here in his political career to this country ahead of an election campaign on the anniversary of the death of osama bin laden, perhaps for many americans, a reason to end the war in afghanistan. he was the reason he came here in the first place and he died a year ago so many people sitting at home seeing this may be drawing the conclusion that perhaps we're seeing president obama trying to somehow bring this narrative to an end. there are many challenges ahead still here for american troops and there' is a difficult fighting season in the month ahead. >> what is it, 2:00 a.m. in the morning there? i don't know the exact time in afghanistan, but the fact that they had to sign this agreement in the middle of the night and
under these enormously difficult security concerns, obviously, they want to make sure that the president of the united states is safe. what does that say to you that they couldn't do this in daylight? they had to do this in the darkness of night? >> it's very odd. sabu is considere one of the est cities y see security around any presidential visit, but it's kept under enormous secrecy and there was panic seven hours ago when afghan media started suggesting that obama was in kabul. e roundiously it turned out that u.s.d afghan officials to say that was inaccurate and deep concerns about security and trying to ensure that there is security for the president. as you know, wolf, this city under attack. six months ago the u.s. embassy and other embassies again two weeks ago and another attack sustained and insurgents getting inside the ring of steel of ka prominent in the mind of the security
detail of president obama that couldn't be completely satisfied that kabul would be secure. of course, this is maybe his first trip to the presidential palace here. the last time he was here he stopped at bagram and which we can't ensure obama's security will be 100% confident about, wolf. >> nick pan walsh on the ground. weir getting still photos of the signing ceremony and hamid karzai, the president of afghanistan and president barack obama signed the strategic partnership agreement a little while ago. the president on the ground for three hours and six hours or so ago when there were reports tth pesidwas in afghanistan, those reports were inaccurate ahough folks knew something was in the works. the president landing at 00 p.m. eastern time in afghanistan. he'll be addressing the american people at :30 p.m. eastern time tonight from afghanistan before he boards that air force one 747
to fly back t washington, d.c. retid u.s. ay general james spider marks is here with me in "the situation room." what do you make from the military perspective of what's going on. still 90,000 u.s. troops in afghanistan and so many of them, tens of thousands are supposed to stay there for at least another two and a half years through the end of 2014? so many americans, if you look at the polls, they say why? get those troops out of there as quickly as possible. this is a mission that will have an unhappy ending no matter how long they stay. the president and our congress has established when that presence will end and that's 2014. clearly, the mission is drawing down and it's what with i would call settling. what's happening right now is there is a focus mission one which is to continue to track down, elimat reduce the taliban as well as any remnants of al qaeda that exist in afghanistan and clearly, elsewhere in the region there are missions that are ongoing and specifically in afghanistan
that mission continues and also, wolf, as you know, a very large part, an enduring part of the united states mission will continue to be to train the afghan security forces and to make sure that they have stood up and can carry this mission. >> they've trained 300,000 or so afghan security and police forces, but by all accounts, they're not ready to take over that country. the taliban, within a week, presumably, can come right back in despite billions, hundreds of billions the u.s. has spent and the loss of so much blood over these years. >> absolutely. i think i might disagree with you in terms of the taliban coming back, but i will say that there is a standard that's established and we have seen most recently that there are some rogue afghan security forces that have done things that are absolutely -- >> like shooting american troops in the back of the head. >> absolutely. things that we have to make sure will never happen again. the way you do that is you don't turn your back and walk away, you continue to work it to make
sure the standards will be met and that will endure our presence beyond between the 14. it will be an advising megz so these forces can be sustained. >> the afghan military, presume aeshlgs will take the lead in all of this. the question is are they really ready to do so or do they have the will to do so. i've spoken to many military personnel who come back from afghanistan and they lot of them don't have respect for the ghan military and they go when they want, they come when they want. >> the question remains that the standard has not been met and we have a timeline to make sure we can achieve this standard and possibly beyond. do we ton that path or do we leave right now? clearly, what we're doing is lean into the wind to make sure that we can get that standard closer and closer for these afghan security forces. there's a lot of reason to be concerned about the standard, but we can't wipe out all of the work that's been done and in
fact, paint all of the afghan forces with the same brush that we have several of these that clearly should be brought to justice. >> if someone said to you in october 2001, you were in the military at that time as i well remember, in may of 2012 90,000 american troops would still be fighting in afghanistan, what would you have said? >> of course not. i wouldn't have seen it as a possibility. remember when we went into afghanistan it was an immediate success and we reduced our numbers considerably. also in iraq, we had an incredible success and we were supposed to pull out very quickly and apparently that didn't happen in both of those cases. >> general, stand by for a moment because we're going to watch what's going on. you can see the president right after this signing ceremony greeting some of the members of the, you see jack reed, the white house chief of staff to your left and we'll continue the breaking news coverage from afghanistan right after this. you skip the counters, the lines, and the paperwork.
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we're awaiting -- here's the video. you see members of the 1st infantry division and other u.s. military personnel, the u.s. army personnel and marines, navy, air force. i assume there are coast guardsmen there as well. this is the bagram air base and the president is being introduced. i don't know if we have the audio of the introduction, but i'd be interested to hear what the general on the scene is saying, introducing the president. let's listen in.
>> of all 50 of the countries will come together in chicago. and when they're -- all 50 of the heads of these countries. now i wish you could all be in chicago at the same time. but we're not going to be able to arrange that, so what we did, what we did this evening is we have brought chicago to you. so, ladies and gentlemen of u.s. forces afghanistan, ladies and gentlemen of the international security assistance force, please join me in welcoming the president of the united states of america.
and our commander in chief, president barack obama. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> hoorah! ♪ >> how's everybody doing tonight? it is good to be back here with all of you! i've got a few acknowledgements i've got to make before i say what i've got to say. first of all, somebody who has served our country with the kind
of distinction that doesn't happen a lot, somebody who has been a leader for you and leader for our country for a very long time give your commander general john allen a big, big round of applause. we also have somebody who is john's partner on the civilian side and has made extraordinary sacrifices first in iraq and now in afghanistan, ambassador ryan crocker is here. please give help a big round of applause. all right. now, let me just see if i've got this right. we've got the 1st infantry division in the house?
we've got the 455th air expeditionary wing? we've got the task force mule skinner. we've got the 101st army field sustainment brigade. we've got task force pilot in the house and weave got task force defender in the house. and we've got me in the house. 82nd -- 82nd in the house? 82nd in the house? you know, somebody's going to be in trouble because they didn't have 82nd on here. anybody else i'm missing?
there you go. all right. i love all of it. now, listen, i'm not going give a long speech. i'll have the opportunity to address the nation from bagram just in a little bit. it's going to be broadcast back home during prime time so all i want to do is just say thank you. you know, the sacrifices all of you have made, the sacrifices your families make every single day are what make america free, and what make america secure,d here when you're in theater it's not clear whether folks back
home fully appreciate what's going on, and let's face it, a lot of times it's easier to get bad news on the news than good news, but here's the good news and here's part of the reason that i'm here. i just finished signing a strategic partnership agreement with afghanistan that signals the transition in which we are going to be turning over responsibility for afghan security to the afghans. we're not going to do it overnight. we're not going to do it irresponsibly. we're going to make sure that the games, the hard fought games that have been made are preserved, but the reason we're able to do that is because of
you. the reason that the afghans have an opportunity for a new tomorrow is because of you, and the reason america is safe is because of you. we did not choose this war. this war came to us on 9/11 and there are a whole bunch of folks here, i'll bet, who signed up after 9/11. we don't go looking for a fight. when we see our homeland violated, when we see our fellow citizens killed then we understand what we have to do and because of the sacrifices now of a decade and a new
greatest generation not only were we able to trump the taliban momentum, not only were we able to drive al qaeda out of afghanistan, but slowly and systematically we have been able to decimate the ranks of al qae qaeda, and a year ago we were able to finally bring osama bin laden to justice. that could have only happened because each and every one of you in your own way were doing your jobs. each and every one of you without a lot of fanfare and without a lot of fuss, you did your jobs. no matter how small or how big, you were faithful to the oath that you took toott this
nation. and your fmilies did their job, supporting you and loving you and remembering you and being there for you and so together you guys represent what is best in america, and you're part of a long line of those who have worn this uniform to make sure that we are free and secure, to make sure that those of us at home have the capacity to live our lives and when you're missing a birthday or you're missing a soccer game or when you're missing an anniversary, and those of us back home are able to enjoy it, it's because of you, and i'm here to tell you, everybody in america knows that, and everybody in america appreciates it, and everybody in
america honors it. when the final chapter of this war is written, historians will look back and say not only was this the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, but all of you also represented the values of america in an xem exemplary way. i could not be prouder of you. i want you to understand i know it's still tough. i know the battle's not yet o r over. some of your buddies are going to get injured, and some of your buddies may get killed, and there's going to be heartbreak and pain and difficulty ahead.
but there's a light on the horizon because of the sacrifices you've made. and that's the reason why for michelle and me, nothing is more important than looking after your families while you're here, and i want everybody here to know that when you get home we are going to be there for you when you're in uniform and we will stay there for you when you're out of uniform because you've earned it. you've earned a special place in our hearts, and i could not be prouder to be your commander in chief. god bless you and god bless the united states of america. now i want to shake some hands. ♪ ♪ >> all right. so the president in bagram at the bagram air base meeting with members of the u.s. military. you just saw the president there, a huge crowd there in a hangar there in representing the u.s., army, navy, air force
marine corps and coast guard. they are all inside and you heard the president salute them and now he's going go into that crowd and give the personnel the thrill of their lives. they'll be shake hand with the commander in chief, the president of the united states. let's assess what we've just heard. first of all to you, david frum, the former speechwriter from president obama, our cnn contributor and what do you think about the remarks to the troops? that's obama at his best. he's natural and he's easy with them and he emphasized the message of care and concern and emphasized the first lady's role, all good. what we are going to look for when he talks to the whole country is whether he can address the serious policy problems we've got as a result of this big commitment to afghanistan. >> he'll have a major address at 7:30 p.m. eastern, in about two hours from now we'll, of course, have live coverage. paul begala, you heard the president say to the troops that he'll be speaking to the american public in prime time here in the united states, at
least, on the east coast. i assume that's what the president's political advisers like. >> i suppose so, but i wonder if they haven't built a bridge too far. i don't know if you can improve on what you just saw. david frum makes a good point, he didn't have to in the setting with the troops go into the tough questions. how many more troops after 2014, mr. president? how much time? how much money? how much combat, he'll have to deal with that tonight, in the more formalized statements and sometimes they can be prof sorial and i saw this with president obama and i saw this with president bush. there is something deep and emotional and mystical between these commanders in chief and their troops. he understands, president obama has been to dover. he has seen the flag-draped coffins come home and he has seen the wounded warrior, he's talked to the families and you saw the emotion pouring out and i thought it was very striking when he said there's going to be heartbreak and pain and
difficulty ahead. that's the commander in chief talking to his troops in the finest american tradition. >> it is a great tradition as someone who traveled with presidents overseas to these kinds of operations. you look at the young faces of the u.s. men and women in the military in afghanistan right now, gloria borger is watching those young face wes me and all of those in the united states and around the world. you look at those young faces and you say to yourself, i'm sure the president says it to himself these are courageous individuals and all volunteers and who will come back to the united states alive. who will come back injured and who will come back with post traumatic shock, stress disorder or whatever? it's a heartbreaking situation for anyone, especially the commander in chief who keeps 90,000 u.s. troops in afghanistan at least for now. >> right. this is exactly when a president should be doing. meeting with the troops in a war zone, speaking as paul said, really from his heart, signing, by the way, a very important
agreement, a broad stroke agreement, but that paves the way for a path out -- >> in two and a half years, in two and a half years, so i think it's very difficult even for the president's political opponents to criticize a president in theater with the troops doing what the president is doing right now. >> what's been the reaction, at least so far? it's been three and a half hours or so since we learned that the president was safe on the ground in afghanistan from republicans. what are you hearing? >> i think republicans are not criticizing the president and i think they're smart not to criticize the president. wolf, i spoke with the senior adviser mitt romney who was very reserved saying the commander in chief was in theater and mitt romney has national security disagreements with the president and those are well known. this is not the time to talk about it and so republicans are holding back and you're not going to see statements released
from the republican national committee and i think, you know, they decided to hold back because this is what a commander in chief really ought to be doing. >> gloria, stand by for a moment as we continue to show pictures coming in from the bagram air base in afghanistan. the president greeting a lot of u.s. military personnel. young men and women who are gathered there and it's way in the middle of the night about two hours or so from now he'll address the american people from the bagram air base. there he gets a nice hug from a nice u.s. woman who is serving in the military right now all of this comes a year to the day they killed osama bin laden. he met and interviewed the terror leader in an afghanistan hideout way back in 1997. his latest book is entitled "man hunt, the ten-year search for bin laden from 9/11 to
abbottabad." it's just come out and our national security analyst peter bergen is joining us right now. peter, you spent a lot of time in afghanistan. you know this situation about as well as anyone. is this going have a happy ending for the united states when all of the dust settles? >> well, i think it has to, wolf. it doesn't matter if it's president obama or president romney or president hillary clinton or any future potential president of the united states. they all know the history of afghanistan. we closed our embassy there in 1989, basically switched the country off into the vacuum and came the civil war and the taliban. a version of that was replayed in 2002 and the george w. bush administration which had an ideological opposition in nation building did it on the cheap and we're now doing a serious effort and the strategic partnership agreement that has been signed today is an indication of the united states plans to be in afghanistan in some shape or form for the next decade and the devil is in the details and i've
been speaking and listening to senior administration officials describe the terms of that agreement and that, you know, there is no specific number on troop levels in the post-2014 afghanistan. afghanistan hasn't agreed to that particular number over the next year those details will be handed out and obviously that's a big -- if it's 5,000 troops that's one thing, and if it's 20,000 troop, that's another thing. another commitment that is, you know, mentioned in the agreement and again, the devil will be in the details and the implementation is there is a commitment to funding the afghan national security forces which estimates suggest will cost $4 billion a year going forward. the afghans will pay for some of that, other nato countries have paid for this of that and the united states has ended up with a good chunk of that and that's something congress has to get involved in in terms of the future funding operation.
so while there is -- i think this agreement is a very good thing and it's a good thing that's been signed and good for afghanistan and also good for countries in the region and no one wants to say in afghanistan the reverse is civil war, and there will be details, many details that need to be worked out and some of them we will hear about, wolf, on may 20th when the nato summit happens in chicago and some back room discussions on which countries will put up what kind of money and some of that, no doubt, will be announced at the nato summit. >> peter, i want you to stand by for a moment as we continue to watch these pictures coming in from afghanistan, and i want to talk about "man hunt." your brand new book and it's a new book with remarkable detail about the hunt for bin laden and what's going on right now. there's the cover of this new book. our conversation with peter bergen and the breaking news coverage coming out of afghanistan will resume right here in "the situation room" in a moment. world... ...with the best math scores.
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this was the president of the united states and the president of afghanistan about an hour or so ago. they walked into the presidential palace in kabul and they signed that historic strategic partnership agreement outlining in general, framework for what the u.s. relationship would be all about with afghanistan post-2014, presumably for a decade, but they've got a lot of details they've got to work out. how many u.s. troops will remain after 2014. how much u.s. assistance will be provided to afghanistan post-2014. the devil will be in the details, as they say. we are getting some more information from senior administration officials traveling with the president right now. they say the timing of the
president's surprise visit to afghanistan was driven by what they call the negotiations over the strategic partnership agreement and the desire by both presidents to sign the agreement in afghanistan prior to the nato summit in chicago later this month. these are new pictures coming in of the president when he was meeting with u.s. troops at the bagram air base. the officials did acknowledge, though, that the timing does coincide with this, the first anniversary of the u.s. raid that killed osama bin laden, to the day, in fact, the president arriving in afghanistan. the president -- the president, we are told, will mention the bin laden raid in his remarks less than two hours from now at 7:30 p.m. eastern. we are told his speech will run about ten minutes or so. that will be 7:30 a.m., eastern, and it will be 4:00 a.m. wednesday morning in the middle of the night in afghanistan when
the president delivers this major ten-minute address. we'll have live coverage here on cnn, cnn international around the world. we're expecting a statement from the afghan president hamid karzai. we'll bring that to you as soon as we get it. in the meantime i want to bring back our national security analyst peter bergen is the author of a powerful new book "man hunt. the ten-year search for bin laden," from 9/11 to abbottabad. he's had access to the hunt for bin laden. what was it like when you went into the compound in abbottabad, peter. just walk us through because they allowed you to go in there. you were in the bedroom where he was killed by members of the u.s. navy s.e.a.l. team 6. >> yea, after a considerable period of negotiation with the pakistani military and controlled access to the compound they allowed me to visit it on february 10th of this year, unbeknownst to me it was knocked down two weeks
later. the compound, we've seen these pictures a million times. obviously, from the outside when you get inside, the overwhelming impression i had was one of squalor, wolf. it was not -- they were not living large. they were growing their own crops in the field you're seeing here. there were -- you know, quite a crude kind of living situation. each of the three wives who lived in the compound had her own kitchen, relatively small with metal buckets suspended over the stove and pipes to suck kitchen smells to the outside. there was no air-conditioning in the place and it can get pretty hot in the summer. there were a few gas heaters in a place where it gets pretty cold in the winter. abbottabad is at about 4,000 feet and you're in the foothills of the himalayas. the place housed about 24 people. i was able to get a good look around -- the pictures we see here is two of bin laden's wives
were phds and were teaching the kids -- their kids, of course, most of them did not go to school for security reasons. i was able to tour the bedroom in which bin laden was killed. this is, i thought this would be like visiting hitler's bunker. it was actually somewhat different. it was really a squalid, unsush anicom pound. and i looked at the toilet in which bin laden would do his business. very small, the size of a closet with a very rudimentary hole in the floor and bin laden and his yemeni wife would squat over that which is not one would associate with the world's most wanted man, and he would type out to leaders of al qaeda trying to micromanage the affairs of al qaeda. one 48-page memo which i was able to review showed how basically the american drone campaign was really well
underserved by bin laden to be a big problem. he was advising his men to leave pakistan in the tribal regions where the drones are located and go into neighboring afghanistan. so, you know, it was interesting having spent 15 years of my life to see the place where he died, to see also the do you means that he was writing in the last year or so of his life, it painted a picture of a guy who was having -- not uncomfortable retirement, but in a prison of his own making, trying to maintain control over what remained of his organization, wolf. >> one of the amazing things you write in the book and peter, i want you to explain it on our viewers, you suggest that bin laden himself began to think that the 9/11 strike on the united states was a terrible miscalculation. what do you mean by that? >> well, i'm not sure that bin laden himself thought it was a terrible miscalculation. i think there were people in his immediate circle who were saying to him before or afterwards we
have, you know, this has been kind of a tactical victory that s you know, really causing big problems and in fact, some of the documents were covered in afghanistan after the fall of the taliban show that senior members of al qaeda were saying bin laden really screwed this one up. instead of getting what he wanted which was the united states to pull out of the middle east, instead now he's destroyed our base in afghanistan. he's destroyed, you know, put a huge amount of pressure on the organization. back here, these video pictures are interesting, these were taken by pakistani officials, but this area here that we're looking at was where they kept the cows. they kept cows for milk. they were always raising chickens and they were raising honey bees for honey, but you can see from these pictures this was not a luxurious compound that was originally portrayed as a million dollar mansion and certainly it cost some money to build, a few thousand dollars
and this was a kitchen area and they were used to living in a kind of pretty rudimentary way in afghanistan, obviously, the taliban was not the place where you could live a luxurious lifestyle. when bin laden was living in sudan, he was living without air conditioning and a very humble life. for his wives, this humble existence they were living in the compound would not have been much of a change. >> one quick point. i want you to alert our viewers, a man al zawahiri, the number one for al qaeda, the number two for a time, now the number one. does anyone have a clue where this guy is hiding out? is he living around the west point of pakistan? does he have protection from the pakistanis and others as so many people believe bin laden received that kind of protection? >> where is al zawahiri is the $25,000 question because there
is a million dollars on his head. american officials don't think he is in northern pakistan or in pakistan proper where bin laden was hiding. the hypothesis is he is more likely to be in the tribal region. he wouldn't be on the business end of a drone missile or captured or killed in some raid. the short answer is no one really know, but the general's consensus is that he's in pack stn's tribal regions. >> peter bergen is the author of "manhunt," the ten-year search for bin laden and it is just coming out this week. congratulations, peter. i recommend this book to all of our viewers in the u.s. and around the world. peter will be back with us in "the situation room" to discuss more about this book in the coming days. we are getting a statement from hamid karzai, the president of afghanistan. he just signed a long-term, strategic partnership agreement
with president obama in kabul, afghanistan. the president getting ready in about an hour and a half or so to address the american people from the bagram air base. we are watching all of the breaking news unfold. stand by. much more coming up right here on "the situation room." ♪ we were skipping stones and letting go ♪ [ female announcer ] nature valley granola bars, rich dark chocolate, toasted oats. perfect combinations of nature's delicious ingredients, from nature valley. ♪ nature valley granola bars, nature at its most delicious.
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these are new pictures just coming to "the situation room" from bagram and the u.s. air base in afghanistan. you see the president of the united states with a member of the united states military. a lot of the military personnel got into the hangar in bagram. inspiring words to the u.s. men and women who were on the front lines in afghanistan right now. a great thrill, obviously, for them. the pridñ sri vi afghanistan comes exactly aier after u.s. navy s.e.a.l.s gunned down osama bin laden, but there may be -- repeat, may be a new threat unfolding right now.
uthorities say they're on alert against quote, body bombs that could be deployed on flights to the united states. let's bring in our national security contributor fran townsend, she serves on the cia and homeland security external advisory boards. fran, what does this mean, body bombs, an alert saying that this could be a new threat? what's going on? >> you know, wolf, we heard this first about a year ago, the possibility that al qaeda operatives might try sneak explosives on to western aircraft by inserting it in their bodies. there was some belief that the assassination attempt against mow head benaef the head of the saudi sever involved such a bomb. turned out the saudis when they examined the incident found it was not but there were concerns and additional documents released post the bin laden raid. oftentimes we see bin laden or others in the organization thinking about new techniques, new possibilities, so we haven't
seen such a technique deployed b of crse there are concerns that operatives might at some pnt try to use this to get a bomb on a plane. >> i know you've been checking with people who are knowledgeable about the president's surprise visit to afghanistan today. what are you hearing from them? >> wolf, people felt this was long overdue. it's been over a year since the president has traveled to afghanistan. it's been longer than that i think since he's spoken about it and so there's a sense that this was long overdue. i think you can see from the pictures the troops welcoming the president, glad to see him there, welcoming his leadership, but i will say, i spoke to one soldier who is no long we are the military, had been there when president obama had first visited afghanistan and he said to me, look, it's not going to be lost on anybody that this is sort of a victory lap on the one-year anniversary, sort of expressing the wish that you know, we wanted him to come. we welcome him there but why does it have to be on the anniversary, as though there's something unseemly and political
about it being on this particular day. >> what goes into a visit like this by a. of the united states to a war zone, arriving in the middle of the night, signing a document 1:00 a.m. local time, speaking with u.s. troops 2:00 a.m., getting ready to address the american people 4:00 a.m. local time, what goes into the decision-making process? because obviously you got to keep the president safe. >> right, and that's first and foremost what's on the minds of everybody on his security detail and his entire staff. you know, people don't realize, wolf, he flies in under cover of darkness because it's safer. he's doing this at these hours because it's safer for him and for the staff. you've got to get the plane in there. it goes out, completely blacked out, shades are pulled, external lights are shut off. he comes in, makes a quick descent, put the plane down in bagram and you move him around quickly, one of the reasons the press isn't told until the last
minute about his trip there, and he doesn't say very long on the ground, denying our enemies the ability to set up a potential attack so until he wheels up and out of afghanistan, there's no one on his staff that really breathes easily until he's safely out of there. >> here's what worries me and let me ask you bluntly if it worries you, i'm concerned about the afghan military and police, some of them are infiltratoinfi some clearly would love nothing more than to god forbid take a shot at the president of the united states. how worried would u.s. secret service agents be when they look at the afghan security? there's got to be a liaison and cooperation with them. >> that's right, wolf with. when secretary pa net ta was last there, u.s. forces were asked to leave all weapons outside of the room and not bring them with them. unusual to separate the soldier from his weapons, part of the
concern that you're talking about. i don't have any doubt, look, the president is speaking and visiting with u.s. soldiers right now, but as you point out, there is no question that there will be a concern, we know there were at least two u.s. soldiers shot at the ministry of interior. there have been these sorts of incidents were afghan soldiers have shot. it's an aberration but one they'll take seriously to protect the president against. >> it will be a sigh of relief when they take off for d.c. relatively soon. fran, thanks very much. we'll take another quick break. more of the breaking news after this. we'll hear from hamid karzai, what did he have to say on this very important day?
following the breaking news, president obama landed in afghanistan under the cover of darkness a few hours ago, there on this, the anniversary of the death of osama bin laden, to sign a major agreement outlining the responsibilities of u.s. forces in the coming years. here is a portion of what the afghan president, hamid karzai, had to say.
>> translator: specific responsibility of all the forces who are in afghanistan and the past ten years they worked with us, helped us and support us, go back to their country and of course the people of afghanistan will never forget their help and their support and also the relationship with this country, we will start anew, start this relationship and we will continue with this relationship. mr. president, sir, i just want to say all the help and support from the people of united states to the people of afghanistan, i thank you for that, from the bottom of my heart, and i just thank you, and also, just want to thank you, sir, for aprovidig all the accessories to bring this strategic partnership for signing today or tonight and i just thank you and all of your team, ryan crocker, ambassador
crocker, general allen, i thank them for their hard work with our team, work together, patiently work together and continue this dialogue. today we will see the result of this talking and communication today we sign and i just want to thank you. i just ask you to, sir, to give your speech, sir, thank you very much. >> and there was the signing ceremony between the president of the united states, the president of afghanistan outlining a long-term strategic partnership agreement between the two countries. that's it for me. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." our special coverage of the president's surprise visit to off began stand continues right now on cnn. welcome to our viewers i'm wolf blitzer in