tv In the Arena CNN June 28, 2011 5:00pm-6:00pm PDT
family arrived in time to watch hidad's show. we are all so happy, we wish them all the very best. we couldn't be more excited for them. that is all from us tonight. "in the arena" starts right now. good evening, i'm eliot spitzer, welcome to the program. terror in kabul. when most americans think of afghanistan, we think of caves and rugged terrain. then there's the hotel intercongreinte intercontinental high atop a hill. their website calls it a summer palace. your destination in kabul.
luxurious furnishes, gourmet food, the kind you may see in a film about international diplomats. tonight it looks like a scene from "apocalypse now." the vast structure is engulfed in flames. taliban terrorists have been hurling grenades at the building. it's not clear if they're terrifying siege is over yet. how many are dead, how did the terrorists penetrate what was believed to be the safest place in the city? we'll have a live report from the hotel in just a moment. and full coverage of what this means to america's plan to leave afghanistan. but first, a look at the other stories tonight. los alamos is burning, 50,000 acres and counting. what if the fire reaches the nuclear lab? i'll ask, could this be another fukushima in the making? and the businessman who wants to be president.
herman cain knows his pizza, when it comes to the tough questions. >> that is not an answerable question. >> sure it is. >> can he take the heat? raise the debt ceiling or risk default? john cornyn has the answer. breaking news from afghanistan, at least eight people confirmed dead so far tonight in a brazen attack in kabul. a group of gunmen including suicide bombers stormed the hotel, firing on afghan security forces and everyone else who got in their way. the hotel was full at the time of the attack, with a wedding takes place pool side. information is still coming in. betty dam is at the hotel. what's happening now? >> well, now it's calming down a little bit, although i heard a
gunshot like a second ago. a very heavy gunshot going on now. the hotel is completely on fire now. it seemed to calm down, but i don't know, i'm approaching the hotel now, and -- >> as you get closer to the hotel, when you say the entire hotel is engulfed in flames sthrks a consequence of the attacks, do you know or can you know from the helicopters and nato helicopters came in later in the assault to try to finally kill the remaining taliban terrorists on top of the hotel? is that when the fires broke out. ? or were the fires set by the taliban in an effort to destroy the hotel? >> no, what we heard, is that the suiciders at some point after three hours of firefighters, went up on the roof, they started shooting at the helicopters and they
answered, with fire as well. and then the hotel started burning. >> now, you have been there virtually the entire day ppt taliban put out a statement in which they claim their terrorists, their troops were going floor to floor, room to room. do you have any verification that that is the case? do you know if the people were staying there were in fact chased by the taliban terrorists? >> yeah, they were going -- that's what we heard, they were going from room to room, and that's why it took so long. it took four and a half hours, an attack here in the hotel, people from the taliban, they claim that walking around, not exploding themselves immediately, but started shooting. whatt ehappened in the hotel, h many people were killed? >> it's unclear what happened, the reports that are coming out are contradictory evolving
moment by moment. just very quickly, as you are there, you're still hearing gunfire which would seem to refute the notion that we had heard maybe an hour or so ago that the last of the taliban assault terrorists have been killed? you are still hearing gunfire? >> no, i am approaching now. and the fire is starting again as we speak. i will try to find out what's going on. >> bette dam thank you so much, and stay safe. >> thank you. we are now joined by erin cunningham, she was at the hotel with bette and keeps us updated on all the developments and joins us by phone. can you hear me? >> yes. >> to the best of your knowledge, you were there earlier in the day, what happened at the beginning of this assault? what led everyone to understand the taliban was there? was it massive explosions? how did this evolve over the early hours? >> well, it began initially as an assault on the hotel where
the taliban insurgents apparently detonated their explosives at the gate of the hotel after gunmen formed in in order to take control of the premises. after that it evolved into a fairly intense artillery and gun battle over the course of five hours, i was here when rpg's were being launched from the roof by taliban instuurgents in the city as well as what sounded like mortar fire earlier in the morning. now, nato helicopters fired on the hotel, however, we're continuing to hear gunfire as we speak now. and ambulances are speeding back and forth along the roads leading to the hotel. the fire seems to have died out. but things are still very tense. >> do your best to give us a sense of what the security is as you enter the hotel.
we have been hearing so much about the beefed up security across kabul, but certainly in a hotel like this, what security would the terrorists have needed to breach? what would they have needed to go through in order to take over the hotel? >> with my view of the hotel right now, it's clear there are a number of hills with trees and other bushes that insurgents could easily take cover in in order to approach the hotel. now, i know that after began security forces maintain a number of checkpoints for vehicles and people along the roads and main entrances to the hotel. however, i don't know if they were prepared for an attack that would include insurgents coming up from either side of the hills to attack the hotel. >> so erin, if i hear you properly, despite having a full display of security at the
front, their open fields or open areas behind or on the sides of the hotel from which terrorists can simply approach laden with vests filled with explosives? it doesn't suggest you have a full perimeter or any meaningful security around the hotel at all? >> right. and that's not something i ask say for certain. but with the view that i have now, it looks like that would be an easier way to approach the hotel during an attack. however, i'm unsure if afghan security forces maintain security around the perimeter last night. >> i mean, i don't mean to ask a very elementary question, but how silly is it to have three checkpoints in the front and nothing on the side so terrorists can come over the hill and take over. this is a bad cartoon for how you structure hotel security. and yet we've been told this is one of the safest places in
kabul. is this typical of what you have seen, of the sorts of security that are implemented and put in place? >> right. yes, i think that a number of occasions the security has been inadequate in various places and very obvious breaches occurred when afghan security forces were guarding certain compounds, hotels, shopping centers, et cetera, in kabul. >> all right, erin -- >> unfortunately, right now, it's unclear how the attack unfolded from which way they approached, if the guard fired back at them. right now, all of the details are sketchy. no one is really giving us good information. but we're doing the best that we can. >> obviously this is not only a dangerous situation, we thank you for being there, but an evolving situation in terms of what we know and how much we will know at the end of the day.
seriously puts in doubt all the assertions about the improvements we have been told about security, especially around key places such as hotel intercontinental which is supposed to be one of the safest places in kabul. tom foreman here in d.c. is digging into where the intercontinental sits within kabul. he's found out more about how this attack played out. >> you were really hitting on key points you have to consider when you look at where this happened. let's fly into kabul and take a look at the general lay of the land. you see a lot of buildings down in here, the main city over here. right in this area is where we're going to look at the hotel itself. and i want to talk about the land in a minute. let's talk about the facility first. this building is a three-star hotel, 200 rooms, opened in 1969, the nation's first international luxury hotel. it's not connected to the intercontinental hotel chain that you know now. it was it no longer is.
this is a place that has attracted a lot of visitors to the area, the attack came at 10:00 at night when a lot of people would have been there. look at the area around it, if you look at it compared to the other ones a minute ago, there's a lot of open space out here. depending on the time of the year, you may have more greenery that sort of thing going on. if you look in at a ground level view of this place, you'll see it sits a bit up on a knoll here with a lot of potential approaches. a lot of ground to guard especially if your focus is on the roads coming in. i want to fly around and show you some of the other areas. you get a general view of what's around it. that's kabul university on this side. if you're guarding the roads, you're really only guarding one major entrance in this area, maybe some of this action over here, but again we widen it out, look at all the space we get around the hotel in general. there are houses and then a lot of empty space here, we talked about attacks coming in here,
who knows what security is like out here. we do know this, however, this is not that far, about two miles from where the government center is here, that's the distance we're talking about. it's an interesting way of looking at this. >> you make such an important point. the way they have set up the structure there, it sounds to me like a bank where you have a big guard out front and then a big back door with a sign over it saying the vault is here, and nobody guarding the back door. it sounds ludicrous. and we're seeing how infirm the security is. 10:00 at night, a lot of people hunkering down at the hotel. but also a lot of parties. there were diplomats from around afghanistan. do we know who was there and why? >> i don't know a lot of details of who was there? >> you can bet a lot of big players would traditionally stay at a place like this. if you move in here closely, you talk about the big road out front. look at all these little paths. this is a fairly decent dirt road leading up here, look at
all these paths. clear paths that have been trodden down by somebody, up through here there are paths cutting down through trees. similarly down here. any one of these can be a place where people on foot -- we're talking about a fairly small group of people could come toward the facility, again, the critical question is going to be what kind of perimeter security was around here, mindful of who the guests were in the hotel, particularly at that hour, that's what people are going to have to ask. you know this, i know this from traveling to a lot of places like this. when we talk about security, it is a relative term compared to what we're used to in this country. when you talk about security in kabul, there are places that are more secure and less secure. there's no place that's really secure by standards that we can rely on in the sense that we think we can in this country. >> i think that is a critically important point and thank you for that report. and clearly a devastating carefully coordinated attack on a tightly guarded hotel in
afghanistan's capital city. it appears to be a message from the taliban, we can do what we want and we'll still be there when you go. james rubin is a former state department official executive editor of the bloomberg review. and tricia dijanaro, one question before we go to break. do you think this is a message from the taliban to us to america and if so, what is it? in 15 seconds or less. >> it's a message, saying we're here, a sustainable political solution is not going to happen any time quickly, get prepared. >> clearly they're aware of the president's speech, the taliban are very good at information warfare, they want the world to know they can do what they can in kabul and you're leaving, we'll still be here, i think that's the message. >> it seems to me that this attack is their direct rebuttal, direct response to the president's speech of last week in which he claimed progress,
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frms the fail. the taliban attack on the intercontinental hotel in kabul. we're back with our guests. let me start with you, jamie. there are and have been caveats placed on claims of improved security by the president and general petraeus and others. at its root, is this really what progress looks like in kabul and afghanistan? >> yes, we need to realize this
is a big complex place. there is not going to be the level of security that the western world is used to, look at iraq, where people think we've succeeded to a degree, every day there's an explosion in a part of town and there's attacks in baghdad in the sunni areas, across the country and we think we're doing well there, and we are. we need to be careful about making relative judgment. general petraeus has been very careful in what he said about the gains that we've made. he's used these phrases over and over again, france i'll and reversible. fragile means with a concentration of taliban forces on a hotel like this in almost any city in afghanistan, they can take it over probably, overcome afghan security, and then the afghans have to call for the united states or others to come help them. that's the reality of afghanistan. the level of security the rest of the world is used to is never going to happen there in the
next year or two. there was progress, it was fragile and it's reversible. and what the taliban is saying now, if you guys are leaving, which is unfortunately the message they got, no matter how much the president tried to qualify it, the message they got is we're withdrawing. here's what happens when you withdraw. >> that's where i wanted to go, at a relative level you are correct. security is never going to be perfect, it will never be midtown manhattan, what we accept as real security here in the united states or even in most of the world, but let me ask you this, does it go beyond that and does it challenge the premise of the entire argument being made bit president which is that we have succeeded sufficiently, militarily to now enter a negotiated resolution with a willing partner on the other side? are they, whoever they may be? and that is a tough question. are they saying, forget it, we're not going to negotiate a meaningful peace with you. >> i think it challenges the
assumption that we've done anything substantial over the ten years, i mean in the last couple years for sure things changed. there have been missing links, though, and the firstling is that you're going to see an ongoing insurgency. the taliban believes they own afghanistan. the second part, we have been missing the civilian and relationship building part, where the military gets in there, they create some kind of semblance of nonviolence or calm, and then there's no civilian counterparts that come in there and help them with that. we're missing those two things, we're trying to ramp that up, but we haven't been able to do it quickly enough. they're telling us, we're not ready to go, and they're happy to see us go. >> the taliban which so quickly claimed responsibility for this attack, clearly wants us to interpret it in a particular way. what do you think the message is meant to be one week after the
president's speech? and is this either a precursor to a negotiation? they're saying the terms of the negotiation now shift? or are they saying forget it, we're not going to talk to you? >> the idea was that through the gains we've made over the last two years which are real but fragile and reversible. the idea was the taliban was going to feel sustained pressure through drone attacks and ground forces, sufficient to make them amenable to a negotiation that previously they weren't prepared to participate in at all. i believe from the people i speak to, there have been some signs of a willingness to negotiate. that doesn't mean a willingness to capitulate but a willingness to negotiate. there is a process where military power and diplomatic power have to be used in sync. we still have plenty of capability don't expect us to
roll over in these negotiations, and we're saying we made significant progress, and we're hoping the momentum has shifted and the taliban will be willing to anything other yat. that doesn't mean we get an outcome. just beginning talks, beginning negotiations is not a resolution to afghanistan. you have to succeed at those negotiations. >> there's two pieces of this negotiation, there are members that call themselves taliban that happen to be in a lot of governance positions throughout the country. i think the premise is to help those guys get on board and help those people come into the fold. the other part is what do you do with the leadership. the parts that are in pakistan right now, the hakani, omar himself. you're not going to be able to negotiate with any of these guys and you're not going to be able to bring them in government, unless you're willing to give up anything and everything we've gained now. which is probably very little. >> i agree with you.
i share your view, we gave very little. do you think this is also perhaps an internal fight within taliban? in other words, there may be some factions, let's begin the negotiations and others who are saying, let's make it impossible for those negotiations to move forward. it's difficult for the president at this moment to go before the american people as he's going to tomorrow at a press conference and rationalize and explain how he can begin to negotiate with a terrorist group like this that has just perpetrated this act? >> there are many different taliban at many different levels, the people who really have studied them for a lifetime and explained this to me, i don't pretend to be that person. what i understand, there are some in pakistan that have particular allegiances that you just mentioned, there are some who are local and are fighting occupiers, there are some who are just paid by outsiders, there's a whole bunch of taliban. the hard part for a negotiator, how do you identify sufficient
leadership that have control over all these people, so that if you make a deal with them, which again is still a hypothetical, it will be followed. all of this is an indicator, and the message you ask, is that this is really really hard. don't hold out great hope that a negotiated solution can resolve in afghanistan what we haven't been able to resolve ourselves on the ground with a major military force. >> let me pick up on what you just said, even if we negotiate and get to some resolution, the moment we disappear, what happens next? what is our capacity to enforce any agreement we enter when we're there once we leave? >> that's again the problem. we don't have any capacity to enforce. we have to figure out -- there's some talk that some taliban leaders want certain control over areas in the region, and some just want -- they want their position back. moammar wants his government back, that's the bottom line.
you're probably seeing two sides to this story. i think it's pretty naive to think we can negotiate with them. we need to get the afghans together. we need to take another opportunity -- we always fail to miss an opportunity. during the elections we did it, get them in a room and hold that space so they can figure out how they want to move forward and get their even political house in order, the way it's going now is just not working. >> as we've all just seen today how difficult and dangerous and treacherous this is, it knows no bounds. thanks for being here. evolving and complicated situation. up next, thousands of acres are burning in new mexico, what if they spread to the nuclear lab in los alamos. first, edye hill is here. what have you learned? >> 38 days before the government needs to borrow more money to pay its bills, democrats say approve it, republicans say first figure out how to cut spending. we'll talk to john cornyn about
what deal might work. elliott? >> looking forward to it. senator cornen will shed some light on where the republicans stand. when we come back, a warning for the los alamos facility. see" together a better deal. that's a hint, antoine. ooh! see what anandra did? booking your flight and hotel at the same time gets you prices hotels and airlines won't let expedia show separately. book it. major wow factor! where you book matters. expedia.
more nuclear sites threatened tonight by raging fires and flooding. this time not in japan, but right here in the united states. in nebraska, floodwaters from the platte river have surrounded the ft. calhoun power plant. the plant does contain radioactive material. in new mexico, a ferocious wildfire, one that's consumed 44,000 acres is lapping dangerously close to the loose alamos nuclear laboratory, a scary situation. joiningny again is a professor at city university and author of physics of the future. i want to talk about physics of the moment, the here and now. how scared should we be about
these disasters? >> this is an unprecedented situation. a triple whammy. two nuclear power stations in nebraska and a raging out of control fire on the doorstep of america's crown jewel. where the atomic p.m. was first created, it's impressive. >> the site in arizona was offline, they already shut it down, does that mean there's no concern about the triple meltdown in fukushima? being offline minimizes the risk? >> to some degree. however, it's like fukushima in slow motion. the tipping point was reached in the first few moments of the tsunami. the tipping point is when we reach 1,014 feet above sea water. at that point all hell will break loose. we're not there yet, floodwaters
are going down. >> just so it's clear, the water hasn't gone up 1,000 feet. that's sea level. this is a river it begins at 900 feet above sea level? >> if it goes seven more feet, it's going to be really bad. >> and then what happens? this nuclear power plant same design as fukushima? >> that's right, it's a carbon copy of the general electric reactor at fukushima. there are eerie parallels twenty two, but this accident is in slow motion. >> they'll have more time to clamp down, remove the waste. is is the issue of waste in a pool again something to be worried about? >> exactly. there's 600,000 to 800,000 pounds of high level nuclear waste. yes, the plant has shut down temporarily, but there's large quantities of nuclear waste on site. >> los alamos has a dozen does
he, 3.5 miles from the fires, where 60 mile an hour winds are blowing this fire. there are 30,00055 gallon drums of plutonium contaminated waste. they're stored above ground in fabric tents. this isn't sound safe to me. >> the news is, we no longer store our hydrogen bombs at los alamos, the experimental reactors have been secured. for the most part, the waste dumps on site have been secured. the danger is the 30,000 barrels of nuclear waste containing plutonium as you mentioned. if the fire gets closer and the winds are blowing the fire. at that point the canisters could pop open, releasing plutonium contaminated materials and perhaps even releasing plutonium in the air. it's the most toxic chemical known to science. a micro gram they can't see can give you lung cancer. that's what mystifies me.
>> this is something that's been put out by the concerned citizens for nuclear safety. if it's true, 30,000 of these 55 gallon drums with this plutonium contaminated stuff, does it make sense to store it this way at this time? >> you recall that the los alamos national laboratory is huge. it started checker board with all these nuclear waste sites. 11 years ago, we had an even bigger fire, and they had 11 years to secure these sites. some of the sites have not yet been secured. and the government itself is very tight lipped about the status of those canisters right now. they will admit that they're there. >> what is the disaster scenario. is it fire raging through all 30,000 canisters? or the canisters themselves open up? >> the government mentioned there's a canyon separating these 30,000 waste canisters
from the bulk of the fire itself, 3.5 miles away, with the winds whipping at 60 miles an hour, particles, embers can fly over and engulf these canisters, at that point they overpressurize, pop right open and contain fluids, not only contaminated clothing and gloves, but fluids, the fluids could begin to boil. the winds carry it downstream in a plume. >> real quick, the message here seems to be -- at least one of the many messages, just as it was in puke seem mark the real crisis we have not dealt with is waste dispose at. >> that's one of the big problems. remember our engineers don't plan for the 100 year storm. this is the 100 year fire. in nebraska we're seeing the 100 year flood. because we don't prepare for these things, when they happen, we're caught flat footed. in nebraska none of these
preparations were in effect last year. >> the black swan events, when you get a black swan not a white swan, things that aren't supposed to happen do happen, earth shattering, earth changing and they can prepare for them. >> we could have more inundated nuclear power plants. >> always great to get your insights, thank you for coming on. is running the company the same as running a country? i'll ask herman cain. he made a fortune selling pizzas. ♪ ♪ look at that car, well, it goes fast ♪ ♪ givin' my dad a heart attack ♪ [ friend ] that is so awesome. ♪ i love my car [ engine revving ] [ male announcer ] that first chevy, yea, it gets under your skin. ♪ a complete four course
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short time ago. >> joining me now is herman cain. thanks for joining me. >> my pleasure. >> you are running a campaign these days, both untraditional and revolutionary when it comes to what government does and how it does it. i want to ask some specifics here to get a sense of what it's going to be all about. >> you said that excessive regulation is inhibiting regulation. which regulation? >> shell oil did a study off the coast of alaska, they spent $2 billion. they were all ready to go do some drilling. at the last minute the federal government said we will not give you a permit when they had an indication earlier that they were going to get a permit. why wouldn't they get a permit? because they say that a study that they have indicates it's going to do harm to a town located 70 miles away.
>> i don't know those facts, i'll defer to you on those facts. let's stick with innovation for a second. move outside the energy sector where i think most folks would say environmental regulation, given what happened in the gulf and bp. give me another area where regulation has time stymied the economy. >> the national labor relations board is trying to intimidate boeing. >> that's not innovation -- >> job expansion is innovation. >> i want to focus on innovation here. >> job expansion is innovation. >> this is where they were going to put a plant. >> yes, this is where they were going to put a plant. >> but that's a separate issue. i want to talk about any -- any one regulation that you think is stifling innovation?
>> elliot, ien cat give you one innovation, i'm speaking generally, and you're trying to pin me down on one. >> well, you're running for president, i think it's fair to do. >> the next time i come, i will have a specific point for you. >> that's a deal. >> let's do it that way. here's the other danger about me walking in here with one specific one. people will focus on that one, when there are many of them. we need to address the problem -- let me say this, elliott. my approach to every issue is to make sure we're working on the right problem, not working on one piece of the problem. secondly, make sure that we assign the right priority, not the one piece of the priority. this is what i'm saying we have to do a proper assessment, generally speaking based upon the feedback, the people closest to the problem, based upon the feedback, we feel as if they're overregulated. >> the ceo of ge is the chair of the president's job creation
commission, right? >> right. >> as part of what the obama administration is doing, they looked at all the regs out there with an effort to eliminate the regs that were cumbersome. >> do you know what they found? >> i'm asking you. >> i don't know what they found. >> have you seen the report? >> i have not seen the report. >> if they got business folks involved do you think they did an adequate job? >> i don't know, because i haven't seen the report. >> let's switch to the debt commission report. do you think they did a good job there? >> they identified a number of items, but they didn't produce a plan. >> i think it's a plan. i saw a plan to cut $4 trillion over a ten-year period, is that enough? >> no. >> how much should we cut this year? >> elliott, i can't tell you how much we need to cut this year until i look at the programs in detail as a person who has access to all the information. >> but wait a minute. >> elliott, you keep trying to pick a number a group, an item
and make that the whole case. this is why we don't solve problems in washington, d.c.. >> no, no, no. just so it's clear, i'm trying to solve problems by drilling down on facts and specifics, because general railities don't solve problems. >> i agree with you. >> saying you want too get rid of excess regulation sounds good, but it doesn't mean anything if you can't tell me which one. >> i can't tell you which ones right now. >> 4 trillion over ten years you said is not enough. >> i think the -- it's not enough because we added 4 trillion in two years. >> how much is enough? >> that is not an answerable question. >> sure it is. >> no it is not. no, it is not. >> unfortunately it is not enough. >> we grew it by 4 trillion in two years, and i happen to believe that if you approach solving the right problem, which is what i'm proposing, i am not going to let you pin me down on a specific. listen to me for a moment in
terms of what my approach to problem solving is. at least give me that. the first thing you do is make sure you are working on the right problem. secondly that you sign the right priority. this is my approach. you surround yourself with the right people so you can put together the plans, you can't put together a good plan to solve the problem until you do the analysis. and you're trying to extract one thing out of many in order to say, okay, yeah, i might be -- i would be able to give you -- >> i'll be able to give you a specific of some of these things in the future. >> are you saying you have not done the analysis yet? >> i've done some of the analysis on some of these issues. >> this is a number that you have to have some ballpark sense, how much do you think we need to cut over the next ten years so we can bring ourselves back toward balance? >> i think $5 trillion. >> we have to cut? >> i believe 5 trillion because we've already added 4 trillion.
we need to bring that down as well as start to dig into what we've already done. >> let me take something off your website. it says here, we're going to prioritize paying interest on the debt. then the defense, social security medicare bills and then put everything else on the table for drum 59ic cuts. >> if they had done it a year ago. >> is that a fair approach? >> that's a fair approach. >> the things i just listed, do you know what percentage of the budget that comes to? >> probably about 50%. >> it's actually closer to 65%. but fair enough. it's actually 2.367 trillion out of 8 trillion. that leaves a bit over 1.4 trillion left. total. how much do you want to cut out of that? >> i would have to look at, elliott. >> what i'm trying to understand is, i want to know right now the negotiations at the white house? >> right. >> they're trying to deal with
concrete hard numbers. >> yes. >> to figure out if we should raise the debt ceiling. if it were up to you, would you vote right now to raise the debt ceiling? >> i would not vote to raise the debt ceiling. a year ago, you could have put a plan in place where you would not have to raise it -- no, i'm not going to say what i would do in a crisis that i would not have allowed to happen. >> okay. >> i would not have allowed this crisis to happen. >> i'll accept that as a given, but now it has happened. you're going to president if you win this race on january 20th of 20123 much we've had the crisis, how much do you want to cut in next year's budget. >> i'm not going to answer that question for you, because i would not have allowed it to become a chris. you're not going to pin me on that, okay? i'm not going to answer that question. >> we have got to wrap -- it's always a pleasure to chat with you, it's fun and feisty, i hope you'll come back and have those specific answers for us. >> i'll come back, i hope you
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♪ questions are the answer ♪ yeah ♪ oh welcome back. breaking news from the intercontinental hotel in kabul, afghanistan, where the taliban attacked earlier today leaving at least eight dead and fighting continued until the top of the hour. breaking news, an american citizen who was in the hotel has just left. we have him on the phone. ahmed, can you hear us? >> very faintly, but i can hear you. >> all right. please describe to us, if you can, how long were you there, what did you see, how did this you be fold. describe the whole situation, if you could, please. >> well, from what i remember it
started in the evening time after dinner around i think 9:00 or 10:00. what sounded like initially actually i thought it was construction because ironically there was a sign on the elevator that said in farsi and english, forgive us for our construction noise, things like that. the lights turned out and the shots got louder it was clear it was gunfire and you knew something was going on. then it was just five or six hours, i wasn't keeping count. we just got out about an hour ago and i should say the reason i took this interview is that apparently there are a lot of people stuck here, including americans and turkish citizens who recently got picked up. i just wanted to make sure that everybody got out who needed to. because we just ran down from the hills. they told us everything was safe and then shooting started again,
and i don't really see a difference from that about half an hour ago and now. it seems like it could just start again any moment. >> mr. ahmed, when you first heard the shots, where exactly were you and where did you go? >> on the fourth floor, i was in my room. just come back from dinner, and the lights are out, so it's pitch black dark, and then we just heard gunshots sporadically. and then some explosions from here and there. and then the thing that i think i'm sure made everybody scared was the explosions seemed to be getting closer and closer and closer. eventually i heard gunshots. it sounded like it was on my floor. in general for the whole five or six hours, all i knew is that there were people shooting from inside the building. i didn't know who. and people shooting from outside back and forth at each other. i could hear glass breaking and all that.
i didn't know who was shooting, who was on my floor. eventually my family here in kabul, america is calling, the u.s. embassy is calling. they all said did you stay in the room? that's what i did and i would have done that anyway because i had no idea who was shooting back and forth. around 4:00 or 5:00 maybe, i could be off on the time, but i heard people speaking english which i'm guessing -- which sounded like foreign forces. so i figured that -- and then they started saying that people could come out and whatnot. they made us -- they made me put my hands up and speak very slowly so that, you know, i wouldn't get shot, but after that they escorted us away. so the kind of rescue was great.
the thing that i'm concerned about was they told us everything was safe literally, and people were laughing, speaking with their families. i was speaking with my family, but then shooting started. just within a few feet away, everybody ducked, and a few people remaining, including myself just ran down the hill and we're at the bottom of the hill now and it seems like it's all right here now because there's a lot of reporters and whatnot. >> what exactly are you doing at the hotel? why are you in that area? >> why am i in kabul i assume is the question. >> you said you have family there. >> i'm a ph.d. student. i came for this week, supposed to be leaving on friday. i have family here that i visited, and so i'm actually waiting for -- looking for my aunt's driver that is around here. so if you don't mind, if there's
nobody else that needs a ride which is actually why i wanted to stay here because there are a few people who just look completely lost, and i don't see them and i think they found a ride so -- >> mr. ahmed, can i ask -- can you still hear us? >> can you still hear me? >> we can hear you. >> i don't know if i'm talking -- >> no, we can hear you loud and clear. my question is did you come into any contact? i gather from your description that you didn't but i want to be clear, did you come into contact at all with anybody that you believe was from the taliban, those who are perpetrating these acts during the course of the shooting day? >> absolutely not. i mean, i think i might not be here if that was the case. i was imagining in my mind what would i do if i did. i thought, you know, maybe i could pass, i could convince them what they're doing is stupid, that, you know, to target civilians like this.
this is just -- people were just enjoying their dinner here, and, you know, it's just -- it's just really -- so, no, i didn't. and then, you know, to be honest since i have your ear now, it makes you very mad. i'm very mad about this war on all sides and all people who are participating. you know, if i had a message to give to mr. obama, i think he's a great man but i would say this war needs to end now, and this war that his predecessor started and could have been avoided. and forgive me for going off but this is what i was thinking in my room when i didn't know if i would see my wife again or see my family again, and i think this is thely of afghans for the past ten years. this war -- you know, and thankfully the loss -- the capture -- i'm sorry the killing of bin laden, see, i was sitting there thinking that could
have -- couldn't that have been done secretly without a war in the way that it was done? >> mr. ahmed -- >> you would have had the cooperation of all the neighboring countries instead of this war that's killed so many innocent afghans and continues to. >> can you ask you this question? >> sorry for going off but -- >> no, no. >> that's what i was thinking the whole time. i was actually angry. i was angry at the people carrying out that horrific deed, going here and shooting at innocent people. you know, this war that is just -- honestly, the feeling that keeps coming back is that it seems unnecessary. there could have been some other means. >> given what you have just gone through -- >> and i want president obama to think about that. i want everybody involved who has forces here on afghan soil to think about that. there's got to be a peaceful solution. this is crazy. >> mr. ahmed, let me ask you this, since you have just gone through this terrorist strike and you're at the hotel and there are we now believe at least eight people killed and you have family who live in
afghanistan -- >> i'm sorry, did you say there are innocent people killed because i was told that none were. only the attackers and terrorists were killed. did you say there were innocent people killed? >> the information is terribly sketchy at this point and so it may be that what you've been told will turn out to be the case. so let us put that aside. let's hope you're correct. >> we were told -- and the reason i'm asking is not just for wondering. it's personal. one of my best friend's fathers was one floor below me. wiss wi his wife and daughters and son were calling. he was one floor. i just went for a walk with him yesterday. and i have been told that he's been taken away from here, i have been told he's safe but i haven't seen him and that's the reason i'm waiting here. >> let's hope that is the case. let me ask you now, do you feel
safe now? >> that's what i was saying at the beginning, ma'am. like i feel safer than i have ever since it started, but at the same time like i said, about an hour ago or two hours ago when we were taken out we were told repeatedly everything is fine, everything is fine, and people were laughing, literally sitting there with their phones taking pictures and then gunshots started. and when you think about it, it makes sense because it seems -- the roads are open. anybody can come here from my observation. i could be wrong. >> mr. ahmed, can i interrupt for one second. >> i was a little -- if i can be, i know the people out there are doing the best they can. i think they're doing a great job. they're very -- they followed, and i think there were some -- the first soldier i met i believe was australian, and they were very -- all very