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Robertson: Taliban seek to present a 'clear view'

CNN's Nic Robertson
CNN's Nic Robertson  

EASTERN AFGHANISTAN (CNN) -- After forcing Western journalists out of Afghanistan over the last month, the Taliban invited a handful back in Saturday to give them their view of what's happening inside the country.

CNN's Nic Robertson is among the group of journalists, and he spoke to CNN anchor Daryn Kagan on Saturday while traveling with Taliban representatives from Pakistan toward Jalalabad.

KAGAN: We have an incredible opportunity to talk with Nic Roberston. Nic has had a chance to travel with the Taliban. He is joining us by phone. He is in eastern Afghanistan, just outside of Jalalabad. Nic, what have you been experiencing?

ROBERTSON: About an hour ago, the Taliban allowed the first group of journalists into the country in about the last month, a group of international journalists about a dozen of them. It was under the cover of darkness. There were many heavily armed Taliban with machine guns and rocket launchers at the border with Pakistan.

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The group of journalists is now en route to the city of Jalalabad, which apparently has been under attack this evening. The Taliban has agreed to bring in journalists at this time because they say that the world is not getting a clear view of what's happening to innocent civilians inside Afghanistan. And particularly, they brought this group of journalists inside Afghanistan to visit three villages around Jalalabad that they say were completely destroyed.

In fact, a spokesman for their Ministry of Culture and Information told the journalists that they would be taken to see these hospitals and these villages and innocent people and would see the sites of these bombardments. This is the first time the Taliban have allowed in a group of international journalists because they say their view of what is happening inside Afghanistan is not getting out to the world.

KAGAN: So we completely understand what your view is from within Afghanistan once you were brought in. You are completely under the Taliban's control and shown things that they want you to see?

ROBERTSON: We're about an hour into the trip, but that's the way it would appear to be. It will be with the government representatives of the Taliban, who will escort us on the trip and take us to visit the different facilities that they want us to see: the hospitals, the three damaged villages that they say are damaged on the outskirts of Jalalabad and eastern Afghanistan and any other things that they would like us to see.

They have warned the group of journalists that it would be unfaithful of them to try to go off gathering information and gathering stories by themselves. Essentially all the journalists have been put on notice that they must stay with the Taliban official representatives here.

KAGAN: There's been a lot of talk in the Western media of defections from the Taliban from soldiers heading into Pakistan or simply leaving the Taliban and its troops. Have you been able to find anything about that, or are you just going to get the party line from the people that you're traveling with?

ROBERTSON: It's very difficult to judge at this stage. Certainly, there are a lot of armed Taliban along the roads driving into the country. It is nighttime here, there is a curfew in place and there are no civilians that we have seen out on the road. The large number of checkpoints appear to be well-manned, and the soldiers appear to be well-armed as well.


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