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Kamal Hyder: Reporter's notebook

Kamal Hyder
Kamal Hyder  

(CNN) -- Journalist Kamal Hyder was one of the few journalists granted access to Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan in the weeks following the September 11 attacks, where he filed frequent dispatches for CNN.

He eventually left Afghanistan for neighboring Pakistan after the Taliban refused to guarantee his safety, as the threat of U.S. retaliation loomed.

During his reporting, Kamal traveled to eastern Afghanistan to speak with Afghan tribes as they faced a harrowing decision -- to side with the Taliban or the forces allied with the United States.

Hyder filed the following report on the mood in eastern Afghanistan, in his own words.

The mood (in Afghanistan) was very defiant. People got together in the capital Kabul and all these mullah's and chieftains and their cousins from across the border came there and discussed what they should do now that their country was under attack.

There was apprehension among the people. There was also excitement because the world had forgotten these people and suddenly they were center stage of the world community.

CNN's Kamal Hyder was one of the few reporters with access to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. (October 22)

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The Afghan loves a fight. He loves to show his chivalry and his bravado on the battleground and his guerrilla tactics. There are folklore tales about such things.

There was an element of excitement, as far as the men were concerned. They were all checking their weapons, trying to see if they had any money to buy more ammo from the black market that exists inside eastern Afghanistan.

They were carrying a lot of LMG -- light machine guns -- which spew out several hundred rounds a minute. They had AK-47s. They also had recoilless rifles used for destroying tanks. They had mortars.

I mean it's the tribal bond, which transcends everything else. It transcends beyond government. If your tribe decides to go to war whether you agree with him or not you'll stand up for the tribe. That's the feeling there those are the emotions. Most tribal chieftains would be very concerned about their own family, the cost of the war, the allegiance and what side they should ally themselves to. You have to think very carefully because this is a very fluid situation. You had loyalists of the king, and then you have the Taliban. Everybody is eyeing you for support.

Now, most Afghans are very pragmatic. Tribes are very pragmatic. If they see the wind is blowing in the other direction they might even sit down and say wait a minute, am I doing the right thing, do I need to get killed for this? Do I need to pay the price of my family? They have to think about self-preservation.

Many times you have found tribes talking against the Taliban. Why? Because they say wait a minute, it is our lives we have to be in control of.

We would keep an eye on what the people were talking about after they heard the news every day. And it was trying to get the feel of what a country feels like at war, before war and when war has broken out.

On the eve of war and on the day of war, how do people feel? It is not a normal life. Even though Afghanistan has been destabilized for 23 years, it was a strange feeling that something sad is happening, something uncontrollable is happening. And it was affecting people's lives because everybody thinks about their children. And one man said to me for example, "If I am hungry how am I going to fight?"


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