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Kamal Hyder: Hiding deep in Taliban territory

Kamal Hyder  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Journalist Kamal Hyder has reported inside Afghanistan from an undisclosed location for his own safety. He just arrived in Islamabad, Pakistan, where he spoke with CNN about the latest developments in Afghanistan.

CNN: Can you give us an update on the military action?

HYDER: It has become quite apparent now that the intensity of the strikes across Afghanistan has increased and this is possibly because the targets that were hit earlier need to be hit again. There are, of course, targets of opportunities and targets which they are attacking after daylight reconnaissance.

But the intensity of the attacks could also be attributed to the fact that the surface-to-air missile threat has been taken out in the numerous waves of attacks on the airfields.

CNN: Are you getting any reports on casualties, either civilian or military, among the Taliban?

HYDER: Today our people in Kandahar told us that one of the places hit was an ammunition dump and after the dump was hit, projectiles were flying in all directions. There were fears that there may have been civilian casualties, but no confirmations.

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CNN: Up until now, we never knew where you were when you were speaking to us night after night. Can you tell us now where were you and what was it like being inside Taliban territory?

HYDER: I would not like to disclose the location of where I was because Afghanistan is at war and it would help the Taliban intelligence agencies to try and track down these people. So I hope you won't mind, but for the interest and safety of these people, I will not give that location.

The second part, I think it's a country at war and it has been a country at war for 23 years. But it saw a relative calm and stability during the Taliban simply because people were fed up with war. The people of Afghanistan are fed up with war. And therefore they even put up with some of the excesses of the Taliban, like the Vice and Virtue Ministry in Afghanistan, which basically terrorized the people. And there's restrictions on so many things, restrictions on how long the beard should be.

But the Taliban also gave security on the roads and highways. There was no fighting, no shelling. People could walk about. And they thought as long as they were alive and safe, they put up with the Taliban. That's one of the reasons the people put up the Taliban, not because they loved the Taliban, but because the alternative was fighting.

And now that war breaks out, people find again they have the horrible images. Most people have lost family members and they're terrified. Someone was telling me from Kandahar today, "The earth shakes when these laser-guided bombs fall, and we think it's a perpetual earthquake."

CNN: How dangerous was it for you as a journalist reporting for a Western media organization to get out of the country and how much secrecy did you have to go under?

HYDER: There was always the fear, the apprehension, that you're going to a country at war, where the intelligence agencies have been in a heightened state of alert, and you already know that many journalists who tried to get into Afghanistan were arrested, taken away by the intelligence.

And just the feeling of being put into a detention center when the city is bombed is a frightening experience, I'm sure. So we knew the risks were great, but we tried to avoid and be elusive and play cat and mouse with the intelligence.

CNN: What impact did these attacks have on the Taliban forces. We hear some reports of defections and desertions. Did you see any evidence of fracturing of the Taliban forces?

HYDER: There are reports of defections. We were not able to see anything on the ground and no evidence to suggest there are large-scale desertions. As far as loyalties are concerned in Afghanistan, loyalties shift with briefcases changing hands, economic benefits are looked at. And that is happening.

The situation is very fluid. There are some Mujahedeen commanders who did not like the Taliban who are now expressing total support for the Taliban. And on the other hand, you have people who are with the Taliban who have reservations, but they have not come out openly and joined the opposition.

At this moment, the situation is very, very fluid. And I think it would not be prudent to say there are massive desertions. These desertions take place on certain front lines in the north, but nothing in the south or anywhere else.


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