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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Hunting the Taliban; Gun Battle Erupts Outside U.S. Embassy in Syria
Aired September 12, 2006 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're at a forward operating base very close to the Pakistani border, within sight of the border, the 10th Mountain Division here.
Incoming rockets, just about a daily fact of life for these U.S. soldiers. Today, we went out on patrol to find the launch sites. And what we saw was chilling.
ANNOUNCER: Hunting the enemy, finding their positions, seeing what they see when they target Americans -- on patrol with the 10th Mountain Division high in Taliban territory.
Virtue and vice, Afghan style -- from G-strings to bridal wear to a night at the mall, is it causing culture shock? We're on patrol with the Afghan morals police.
And remember Pakistan, our ally in the war on terror? In the hometown of a suicide bomber, at a radical Islamic rally, we see firsthand what the world is discovering. There's a new and growing base for al Qaeda.
ANNOUNCER: From Afghanistan, this is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Ground Zero of Terror. "
Here's Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: And thanks for joining us.
This literally is the ground zero of the war on terror here in Afghanistan. This is a forward operating base very close to the Pakistan border.
The men here are soldiers with Bravo Company, 3rd Brigade, of the 10th Mountain Division. They are tough, brave men, who every day go out beyond this wire and patrol in Taliban territory. They see al Qaedas, al Qaeda fighters. They hear them. They intercept them. They kill them.
There is active fighting going on. It's a very dangerous part of the world, literally the front line of the war on terror.
Incoming rockets, as we said earlier, a daily fact of life in this part of eastern Afghanistan for these soldiers.
Today, we went out on patrol. And, actually, you can see, this howitzer unit behind me is already readying -- we will try to find out exactly what -- what they're responding to. We heard some incoming fire a short time ago. They may be trying to target the position that the fire came from.
Actually, we're told that -- OK, there was an IED, apparently. They're -- they're going to be targeting what they believe is an IED site. They're going to be getting ready to fire this 105-millimeter howitzer.
They go out on patrol every day beyond this wire, not only just to go on patrol, but also to search known launch sites, where some of these incoming rockets are coming from.
Today, we went out on patrol with them. And it was an eye- opening experience, to say the least. Take a look.
CAPTAIN JASON DYE, U.S. ARMY: All the fighting was back in the...
COOPER (voice-over): Captain Jason Dye has served in Iraq, but says his mission in Afghanistan is far more dangerous.
DYE: Even before I came here, I was, like, thank God I'm going Afghanistan. It's going to be safer than Iraq. And now that I have gotten here, I can say for sure it is exactly the opposite of what I thought. It is dangerous here. There's a lot of stuff going on.
COOPER: Dye commands Bravo Company, 3rd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division. His base is dangerously close to the Pakistan border.
DYE: This is one of the main infiltration routes for the enemy, because they have begun to do a lot more rocket attacks. We used to get a rocket attack maybe once a week. Now it is every other day, every couple of days, every day. And they have resorted to that and IEDs and mines.
COOPER: Captain Dye doesn't know for sure, but he believes Taliban militants are learning how to make IEDs from foreign fighters trained in Iraq.
DYE: There is a trainer coming out here, telling them how to do stuff. That's what my intelligence tells me.
COOPER: To stop jihadists and the Taliban from crossing into Afghanistan, Captain Dye and his men routinely patrol the rugged mountains along the border.
(on camera): The problem for the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division who patrol this area is that this border is really a border in name only. It is incredibly porous. People can move back and forth. Intelligence sources we have talked to are concerned that, now that the Pakistan government has signed a cease-fire deal with Taliban militants, that those cross-border incursions are only going to increase.
(voice-over): The soldiers fire mortars to clear areas they have been attacked from in the past.
DYE: Before, they maybe had 30 guys in this whole area. Now I'm estimating they probably got about 250.
COOPER: The terrain is extremely difficult, the slopes steep, the environment, treacherous.
(on camera): What is so strange when you're on patrol is, even if the soldiers don't make contact with the enemy, even if you don't see any enemy fighters, you know that they were here. On a lot of the trees, you find these, these cross marks or horizontal slashes. They're reference points, helping enemy fighters figure out where to fire rockets that will hit the forward operating base.
(voice-over): The markings are everywhere. Further up the mountain, the unit checks out a destroyed bunker position.
(on camera): About two weeks ago, U.S. helicopters passed over this mountain noticed this bunker. There were fighters inside. They fired rockets, later called in an airstrike. It's been destroyed now.
But what remains, you can see it's pretty well built. These large stones were used to create like a supporting wall. Over here, there is some heavy timbers which were probably used to build the roof of the bunker. Soldiers say as many as 10 or 15 fighters could have used this bunker at any one time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
COOPER (voice-over): From the bunker's firing position, there is a direct line of sight to Captain Dye's base, but there's no sign enemy fighters have been here recently.
On the way back down, however, the soldiers get some troubling news.
(on camera): The unit has just received some intelligence. And we can't tell you how they received it. But it indicates that there may be fighters in this area. It could mean an ambush. It could be just talk. It could be nothing at all. It just means that the soldiers have to be extra vigilant as they head back down the mountain.
What do you look for?
DYE: Movement. Personnel. Anybody gathering in a spot that looks odd. People trying to hide in the tree line, that sort of thing, spotters. Usually, the locals don't go up into these hills. If you see someone sitting on them, that's a spotter. COOPER (voice-over): On this patrol, however, there are no spotters, no ambush after all. Captain Dye and his men head safely back to base, one mission down, countless more to go.
DYE: I mean, I have a family. All these guys have families. We're out here fighting, so that we don't have to do this at home, so that our families can stay safe. And that makes you feel good. It makes you feel like you're doing something.
COOPER: Of course, it is not just U.S. soldiers who are out there. There are Afghan national army troops.
And we have just gotten a report that, about half-a-mile from this base, some Afghan national army patrol -- an Afghan national army patrol was hit by an IED.
What's interesting about that and of great concern about that, of course, not only just the potential loss of human life -- and we haven't been able to confirm whether there are any casualties in that IED explosion or not among Afghan national army troops -- but it is a sign of the increasing use of al Qaeda-style tactics by the Taliban, and, in some cases, by al Qaeda fighters.
What the soldiers will tell you is that they are seeing an increase in IEDs and vehicle-borne explosive devices. This 105- millimeter howitzer is getting ready to fire. What they fire at are known launch sites of rockets, the kind of places, that kind of bunker that we just saw in that piece.
It is a common occurrence here just about every day. There was an incoming fire a short time ago. We heard it off in the distance. No U.S. troops were -- were injured in that. But -- but this -- this howitzer team, they gets the coordinates of known sites where rockets have come in, in the past, and they -- they fire 105-millimeter shells.
These shells are accurate to a range of some 12 miles. They can hit the -- the mountains, which are far -- far away. It is, as we said, something that happens just about every day here.
What -- basically, the way it works is, they get the coordinates radioed to them. They position up the howitzer, and then get ready to fire.
There's an active battle going on, not just with Taliban troops, but also, as we have said, with al Qaeda fighters, and also just common criminals affiliated with the drug trade here in Afghanistan.
Increasingly, the al Qaeda fighters are using propaganda as much as possible, trying to turn the local population against U.S. forces, keep them against U.S. forces and the government of Hamid Karzai. But also they make basically propaganda films and put them on the Internet. In particular, we have -- we just came across one that was posted on the Internet, which is allegedly showing a vehicle-borne IED, a VBIED, as the U.S. military calls it. It is a startling look. And we are going to show you this tape. It is an example of the kind of propaganda that al Qaeda is putting out on the Internet on a regular basis.
We haven't been able to independently confirm that the attack you are about to see actually took place or took place as they portray it on the film. They say that (AUDIO GAP) They have no record of such attack. But, clearly, there was some sort of an explosion.
We got this tape. The translation is from Memory (ph), which is an Israeli monitoring group. And, again, we haven't been able to independently confirm the activities on the tape took place.
But take a look. It is an example of the propaganda that al Qaeda is putting out there just about every day.
COOPER (voice-over): On the video, we see a man showing off a trunk filled with mortar rounds. Mortars like these are commonly used in suicide car bombs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I pray to Allah that this operation will be vengeance upon the American pigs and their apostate collaborator dogs.
COOPER: The would-be suicide bomber, called Abu Muhammad, makes a statement. From a name we hear later on the tape, he appears to be from Yemen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To my family and friends, I say, we will meet in paradise, Allah willing.
COOPER: The video then cuts to inside the bomber's car. A crudely rigged detonator is attached to a wooden board.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will carry out the operation within a few minutes.
Test it for the last time, Muhammad. Only 10 minutes left until the operation. What do you feel, Abu Muhammad?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel a great calm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In your heart?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I pray that Allah accepts me. I have never felt so calm in my life.
COOPER: For a brief moment, we see the man who recorded these pictures. He urges the bomber forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allah willing, your prayers and ours will be answered. COOPER: The two men survey their target. A voice says the vehicles are American.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are the American cars.
COOPER: There is an edit in the tape. Now the suicide bomber is driving on the road, his white car clearly visible.
The video is shot from a distance while the bomber talks to the cameraman on walkie-talkie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you see them in front of me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see the Americans in front of you? Go on a little further, and you will see them in front of you. Abu Muhammad, there are Muslims behind you. Move a little faster. They are in front of you now. Place your trust in Allah, Muhammad. Remember, paradise, my brother. Remember paradise.
COOPER: You can hear the cameraman's heavy breathing, waiting for the explosion.
COOPER: The U.S. military says it has no record of such an attack. It is not clear whether this video is purely propaganda, or a blend of propaganda and an actual attack. On the tape, the cameraman drives off, rejoicing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glory to Allah, his prophet, and the believers!
COOPER: It is certainly a disturbing tape. Again, we haven't been able to independently confirm. We asked the U.S. military. They say they have no record of such an attack.
If it is accurate in what it shows, what is significant is that that is a foreign fighter fighting in eastern Afghanistan, according to what they are claiming, near the city Khost.
The U.S. military is quick to point out that -- that most of the casualties that U.S. forces are receiving here in Afghanistan don't come from IEDs or those vehicle-borne explosive devices. They come from direct-contact fighting with the enemy.
Also, the thing to point out is that, with those vehicle-borne explosive devices, more often than not, the people who are dying from that, besides the actual bombers, are civilians.
We were just in Kabul, and two U.S. soldiers were killed by a vehicle-borne explosive device. But about a dozen Afghan civilians were killed, as well. Some 27 civilians were wounded in that attack. It is Muslims who end up killing other Muslims. And that's most often the result of the attack. It looks like this unit is still waiting to receive orders for when exactly to fire.
CNN's Nic Robertson has been looking at how these tapes are made. It is an incredible elaborate production effort on the part of al Qaeda, who are very aware, well aware, of the importance of public relations. Nic Robertson has been investigating the company that makes these tapes, the union of al Qaeda that makes the tapes.
Take a look.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): It's Osama bin Laden in a now all-too-familiar al Qaeda message. But look at the logo at the bottom of your screen, Al-Sahab, Arabic for "The Clouds."
It screams al Qaeda, just as the roaring lion heralds an MGM movie.
Check out these other al Qaeda releases, this time, Ayman al- Zawahri -- again, Al-Sahab is in the corner -- same here with one of the London subway bombers.
Al Qaeda has corporate P.R., even using English subtitles...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't talked about American and British atrocities in the two Iraq wars.
ROBERTSON: ... and, sometimes, an American to get their message across.
The question is, just how and where on earth are they getting away with it?
(on camera): The where, now, they probably do it close to where they are. The Al-Sahab logo used to have location Pakistan on it. The how, now, that is the easy bit. All they need is a little camera, a laptop computer.
After all, that is how we put our reports together, throw in some fancy graphics. Then, all you got to do is print off the C.D. or tape.
(voice-over): Then, al Qaeda hands off the tape to someone it can trust to get their message out.
Ahmed Zaidan was working for Arabic-language broadcaster Al- Jazeera in its Pakistan office when someone called offering a news story, and set up a meeting.
AHMED ZAIDAN, AL-JAZEERA: Somebody called us to a very busy market, you know? And he gave us a tape, and never, ever thought that it's Osama. I never, ever expected that it would be Osama bin Laden tape. But that man who deliver this tape, he was half-covered face, and he told me, look, this is Osama tape.
ROBERTSON: In its relentless drive to self-promote, al Qaeda had suddenly, for a moment, made itself vulnerable, starting a trail that could lead to bin Laden. But finding that trail has not been so easy.
(on camera): And, even if they had been here, intelligence officials say it would have been nearly impossible to track the person handing off the tape. They could have disappeared into the crowds, gone into a tiny alleyway.
(voice-over): Over the years, Al-Jazeera became a favorite outlet for bin Laden and Zawahri, because it was nearby, with offices here in Pakistan, because it aired more of the tape than Western networks did, and did so in the original Arabic, and because, apparently, it didn't work with the authorities to help track them down.
(on camera): On another occasion, al Qaeda came right here, into the heart of Islamabad, the capital, went to the Al-Jazeera office up there, dropped off a tape in an envelope, with a guard outside.
ZAIDAN: And he brought the, you know, envelopes. And we open it. And it was -- the tape was inside. When we -- what you call -- play it, we came to know that it was Osama bin Laden tape.
ROBERTSON: Not just any tape. It was late October 2004. Bin Laden had recorded a special message to release before the U.S. presidential election, and trusted Al-Jazeera to get the message out.
Over time, Al-Jazeera got more picky about the clips it broadcast. So, al Qaeda turned to the Internet. It was to be easier and safer than handing tapes to Al-Jazeera, just find an Internet cafe -- there are plenty in Pakistan -- and upload your C.D.
(on camera): OK. So, imagine that I'm al Qaeda. I have just uploaded my disk. The guy behind me can see it now. The guy in the corner over there can see it. The guy down at the Internet cafe down the street can see it. The guy at the Internet cafe across the town can see it. They can see it at the other end of Pakistan. They can see it in London. They can see it in Washington.
Within minutes, it is distributed on multiple Web sites. They get global coverage almost instantly.
(voice-over): Al Qaeda's new electronic trail is harder to trace. We may never know the intelligence opportunities lost before the terror network went high-tech. But some messages, it seems, still come the old-fashioned way. This one appearing before the fifth anniversary of 9/11 once again showed up on Al-Jazeera. No one is saying this time either how al Qaeda delivered the tape.
COOPER: While Nic Robertson's piece was playing, they have been starting to open up fire with this -- this -- this howitzer. Let's show what happened a little bit during the break. Just, we rolled on it. The shell again. They use 105-millimeter shells. They are able to fire about 12 miles distance. They basically have a number of pre-selected targets, places that they have received fire from in the past.
So, they -- they are constantly readjusting the position of this 105-millimeter howitzer to different elevations. They want to be very careful -- careful about the coordinates, though. They check and recheck them, just to make sure that they are laying down fire in the exact location that they want.
Again, the -- the targets that they are firing at, they have not necessarily received incoming fire today from these particular targets. But these are known targets from the past, commonly used places where rockets are fired from.
Get ready for a rather loud blast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Check.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire.
COOPER: So, that's the fourth shell that they have fired so far this morning.
It will likely continue for the next several minutes. They have a number of targets that they have selected. Of course, any incoming fire that they get, they also immediately want to open up fire and return fire as quickly as possible.
And we're getting some more information about that IED blast that we heard a short time ago. We thought it was an incoming rocket. What we actually had heard was the IED blast. An Afghan national army patrol was hit. There were some American forces embedded with them -- no reports of any casualties, however, no reports of any fatalities, however. And we will -- we will try to get more update on that.
When we come back, we will talk to CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, as well as CNN international correspondent Nic Robertson, about -- about the fight that is happening right now outside this wire.
COOPER: Already a very active morning here at this forward operating base, 10th Mountain Division, here very close to the border with Pakistan.
I'm joined by CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, and also CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, who is author of the book "The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History." Guys, thank you for being with us in this obviously very busy morning.
You know, it is not just about fighting al Qaeda, fighting Taliban soldiers beyond -- beyond this wire. What is the other aspect of this? I mean, there's a civil affairs aspect to it as well.
ROBERTSON: It is heart and minds. It's classic counterinsurgency.
There are, out in the town, projects that have been paid for by -- with U.S. tax dollars. I was in the market just yesterday in the town near to here. It has been concreted over. It is paved -- a paved area of the market, roads built into the town.
The market, the store holders that I talked to there were very pleased about it, very pleased about the improvement for their business, improvement for security. Schools are being built. We will talk a little bit more about that later on, of course.
But this is exactly what the Taliban is trying to defeat. They are trying to -- they're trying to drive the people here away from the military. And they will do that with intimidation. But the message here is to help the people; then, they will support the government.
COOPER: Are you wearing your vest?
ROBERTSON: I am, indeed.
COOPER: All right.
You just got it underneath your shirt. All right.
COOPER: Just wanted to check on that.
Why would people support the Taliban here, though?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, partly, it's ethnic.
I mean, the Pashtun ethnic grouping is 40 percent of the country. That is why the Taliban has a lot of support. Part of it is maybe dissatisfaction with the Karzai government.
But there is not a single U.S. military officer I have spoken to in the last year or so who doesn't say the solution here is a political one, not a military one. Obviously, there's a military component.
But General Eichenberry, the leading general here, he has a line which I think is a good one, which is, when the roads run out, that's where the Taliban begins. And, so, his view is, the more roads, the more water, the more power, the more schools, that's the way to really defeat them.
COOPER: But it's a tough thing. I mean, in a country -- it's the same kind of situation in Iraq. When there's a hard security environment, it is very hard to build schools and to build roads.
ROBERTSON: And it is very hard to convince the people you have come here to help them, because they haven't seen you before.
COOPER: And that you're staying.
ROBERTSON: That you're going to stay, that you want to help them, because the people here who have been here before, the people who hang around outside of the villages, and come in and intimidate them, have -- have been telling them and will tell them, the U.S. troops are not your friends. They're against you. They're a different religion. Whatever it is, they will use arguments against them.
So, for people here, it is new. This is a new situation. Can they put their faith and trust in it, from what they're seeing, what we were hearing yesterday? Yes, they can. But the Taliban are going to work against that. And you still get that. You get that sense of fear from people, as well.
COOPER: And, Peter, how much is al Qaeda working with the Taliban?
BERGEN: Well, according to both al Qaeda itself and U.S. military sources, al Qaeda is providing logistics, advisory, you know, advice, and maybe bin Laden giving some orders as well, according to one of the Taliban commanders who gave an interview to Al-Jazeera. He said, "We are getting commands from Osama bin Laden," which is interesting.
Guys, we are going to talk to you a lot more ahead.
First, though, let's go to John Roberts with the "360 Bulletin," more of the latest top stories -- John.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey. Good evening to you, Anderson.
Today was primary day for the nine states and the District of Columbia holding their contests -- so far, no surprises. In New York, Democratic Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer, and attorney general candidate Andrew Cuomo all won their races handily.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIOT SPITZER (D), NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: The man who lied about being with JonBenet Ramsey the night that she was murdered is on his way to another jail cell. John Mark Karr was taken from Boulder, Colorado, today to Sonoma County, California, where he faces child pornography charges. Karr was arrested in Thailand in connection with JonBenet's death, but DNA testing cleared him of the crime.
If he's ever captured, the American face of al Qaeda may face serious criminal charges. Sources tell CNN that prosecutors are debating whether to charge Adam Gadahn with treason, in addition to an earlier charge of providing material support to terrorists. The California-born Gadahn has become a mouthpiece for al Qaeda, preaching hate against America. Gadahn moved to Pakistan in the mid-1990s.
As Bermuda cleans up from Hurricane Florence, yet another potentially major storm is forming off of the coast of Africa. This tropical depression is moving toward the Caribbean and the United States, though it is too early to tell whether it is going to hit land or re-curve back out into the ocean. Forecasters expect it could become a hurricane by Friday.
And 200 miles above the Earth, a tricky home improvement job for the International Space Station -- today, two astronauts from the shuttle Atlantis went outside to begin installing a 45-foot addition. Taking energy from the sun, the $372 million solar panel array will supply the space station with more electricity for future missions. The only problem was, while they were up there, they lost a bolt, and they don't know where it went.
And that's the latest 360 bulletin -- Anderson.
COOPER: John, thanks very much. We will check in with you a little bit later on.
A dramatic battle today outside the U.S. Embassy in Syria -- gunmen storming the building. We will bring you the latest on that and who may be behind the attack -- when this special edition of 360, live from Afghanistan, continues.
COOPER: That was a scene in Damascus, Syria, where Syrian security officials thwarted an attack on the U.S. embassy. They killed three attackers, wounded a fourth, who's now in custody. One Syrian guard was killed, 13 other people wounded. Syria suspects an al Qaeda offshoot group.
CNN's Anthony Mills has more.
ANTHONY MILLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A burned out car. Weapons in the road. Blood stains on the ground. And a van loaded with gas canisters primed to explode. Evidence of what appeared to be an attempt to a two stage attack on the U.S. embassy in Damascus. Syria's information ministry says attackers armed with automatic weapons and grenades set off a car bomb close to the embassy before attempting to storm it. Syrian security guards fought them off.
From U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a cautious response.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't know, and it's too early to tell, who might have been responsible for the attack. Obviously, we will do the forensics on it and begin to try to get a sense of what happened there.
MILLS: The Syrian embassy in Washington blamed U.S. policies in Lebanon and Iraq for fueling extremism, terrorism and anti-U.S. sentiment.
Hisham Melhem is Washington bureau chief for the Arabic newspaper, "An Nahar".
HISHAM MELHEM, LEBANESE JOURNALIST: What I see in Syria giving this latest attack against the American embassy is the shape of things to come. Likely, we are going to see similar attacks taking place against governmental targets, as well as foreign western interests, including embassies.
MILLS: Syrian ambassador to the United States Imad Mustapha suggested a radical Islamic group may have been involved in the U.S. embassy attack.
IMAD MUSTAPHA, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: In the past two years low scale terrorist attacks took place in Syria. And some of them were related to a fringe group called the Soldiers of Lebanon, and Asham (ph) in Arabic, and probably there might be -- there might a relation to this group and this attack.
MILLS: In June five people were killed when Syrian security forces fought what they call Islamic militants in downtown Damascus close to the defense ministry.
MILLS: The anti-American sentiment in the region really fueled by the continuing military occupation of Iraq and by the suggestion that in a recent Israel/Hezbollah conflict America didn't call for an immediate cease-fire -- Anderson.
COOPER: Anthony, how much anti-American sentiment in Syria is there now? Is it growing?
MILLS: There is a lot of anti-American sentiment in Syria, in Lebanon, throughout the region. And it's been around for a while. It was, of course, always related to the perception that the United States was not playing a fair role with respect to the Israel/Palestine conflict.
But of course, also the continuing military occupation in Iraq, and most recently the suggestion that by not calling for an immediate cease-fire here, America contributed to continued killing.
COOPER: Anthony, appreciate that report, disturbing though it is.
They are continuing to fire here this 105 millimeter Howitzer. During the report they set off one round. They are getting coordinates to fire again. Again, this is not a responding to any direct incoming fire that has occurred. They are trying to target positions that they have been hit from in the past, targets that the Taliban al Qaeda fighters have used in the past to fire rockets, to fire mortars at this forward operating base.
This is a forward operating base very close to the Pakistan border. It is really ground zero in the war on terror here, as I said last night. There's been a lot of debate about the war in Iraq and whether that is a central front in the war on terror, whether it should be or should have been a central front on the war on terror.
There's really no debate about what is happening here in eastern Afghanistan. This is the front line of the war on terror and the fighting going on out there.
You know, it was interesting. I went out on patrol and the soldiers really see a direct correlation between what happened on 9/11 and the people they are fighting against right now.
There is a strong attitude of going out there every day and trying to intercept these fighters who are crossing over from Pakistan trying to kill them, trying to route 9ph) them and separate them from the population here and build better relations here in eastern Afghanistan.
When we come back, some of the problems that the new democracy in Afghanistan are facing. A rise not only in drug trade but a slip in some Islamic values. A rise of prostitution, drinking alcohol. We're going to show you what the government of Hamid Karzai may be doing about it very soon. Be right back.
COOPER: Power here in Afghanistan. Some five years ago one of the most controversial aspects of the rule was a government ministry called the Vice and Virtues Ministry. They had police literally roaming the streets, intercepting women if their veils were showing too much of their (AUDIO GAP) -- or if their bears were too short. Or if women were unaccompanied by men.
Some here believe that some of the freedoms that democracy have brought have gone too far, and now the government of Hamid Karzai is talking about bringing back the ministry of Vie and Virtue. Take a look.
COOPER: The video is grainy, taken surreptitiously in an illegal Kabul brothel. The women are Chinese prostitutes. The men, Afghans and westerners paying for sex. A brothel in Kabul would have been unthinkable under the oppressive rule of the Taliban.
Now it's one sign of how much things here have changed. In the markets there's music. Once outlawed by the Taliban, CDs are everywhere. You can also buy DVDs. Jean-Claude Van Damme is popular. So is American wrestling.
There are beauty parlors and bridal stores, even a modern mall where 21-year-old Narula (ph) sells perfume.
"Under the Taliban," he says, "I couldn't have had this business. They would have taken all of this from me."
(on camera) Despite democratic reforms and newfound freedoms, Afghanistan remains a very strict Islamic society. And many people here are simply uncomfortable with the pace of social change.
There's widespread corruption, the drug trade is booming and Taliban is on the rise.
Now the government of Hamid Karzai is threatening to crack down. Police are raiding restaurants that are accused of serving alcohol to Afghans. They've arrested dozens of suspected Chinese prostitutes, and now they're threatening to bring back a government ministry which under the Taliban became synonymous with human rights abuses, the so- called Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Discouragement of Vice.
(voice-over) Under the Taliban, the vice and virtue police controlled the streets, enforcing strict, sometimes arbitrary Islamic law. Women could be beaten if their ankles or wrists were visible. Men could be arrested if their beards were too short.
The government minister who'd be in charge of the new Vice and Virtue Department insists the mistakes of the past won't be repeated.
"We wouldn't be punishing anyone," he says. "All we'll do is advise people and show them the right way."
While most Afghans are outraged by the growing corruption and illegal activity, some are afraid the move to police morals will once again go too far.
"The Taliban doesn't have a presence here," she says, "but their mentality is present here. Members of the parliament have a Taliban mentality. Sometimes they're worse than the Taliban."
Malaka Diama Amin (ph) was whipped by the Taliban and worries the few rights Afghan women have won in recent years may now be in jeopardy.
"Women are still scared of intimidation," she says. "They don't feel comfortable when they're outside. Afghan women haven't received 10 percent of their rights."
While the resurgence of the Taliban is not yet a threat to the democratically elected government of Hamid Karzai, it may yet threaten many of the freedoms that have come along with it.
ROBERTS: Anderson Cooper live from Afghanistan. We'll be back in just a moment. Some technical problems, as you could imagine, over there at that forward operating base. The technology hangs sometimes by a little bit of a thread. They are scrambling, as you can imagine right now, as well, to get him back on the air. And he should be back just as soon as possible.
Sarah Chayes was a reporter sent to cover the fall of the Taliban. Instead, she witnessed its chilling rebirth. She says that she no longer trusts the Afghan government. Anderson's interview with her coming up next on 360.
COOPER: Who is the Taliban and why have they been able to come back? We wanted to talk about that with Sarah Chayes. She was a former reporter with NPR when she first came to Afghanistan back in 2001 to cover the -- the new Afghan government. She's stayed here, living in Kandahar. She now runs a relief group there.
Her book is "The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban". She joins me now from Kansas City, Missouri.
Sarah, thanks for being with us. Do you think the Taliban is a homegrown group or do you see them as something based in Pakistan?
SARAH CHAYES, AUTHOR, "THE PUNISHMENT OF VIRTUE": Very much based in Pakistan. And you can see it. You can see them crossing the border. You're seeing them cross the border. The camps that have been training them. The money is coming from across the border. They are Afghans.
But what's interesting is when I've asked, you know, villagers the Taliban who were in the hills, let's say, around your village that are -- and are getting food from you every night, are they from your village? And people tell me, well, no. The accent is different. They're from the next province over. They're from Hillman province (ph) or they're from Zabul (ph) province.
So, you know, it's a kind of complicated sort of invasion, because it's an invasion using Afghans, but they're definitely coming from across the border.
COOPER: When you talked to Pakistan government officials they say, "Look, we're doing everything we can to try to hunt down the Taliban." But you know, they really haven't arrested any big Taliban leaders since 2001. Why is that?
CHAYES: In my view they're really are trying to buy off the American government with al Qaeda operatives. And Al Qaeda operatives don't really interest them very much, because that's what has brought the United States into the region in the first place. So if you look at the last couple of years, there's been an al Qaeda operative kind of offered up, you know, to Washington about once every two or three months. And that's made it difficult...
COOPER: Why would they want the Taliban to -- why would they want the Taliban still have power, to still be able to conduct operations in Afghanistan?
CHAYES: It's -- there are two different agendas. Al Qaeda has an internationalist agenda which have never really interested Pakistan. Pakistan was, you know, really manipulating religious ideology for regional purposes so that they could kind of expand their grip on Afghanistan so they would sort of have territory to fade back into if they ever got into a conflict with India. That's my view.
COOPER: And so why would Pakistan, though, want the Taliban to still be an effective force, to still be able to operate? Why wouldn't Pakistan go after the Taliban, inside Pakistan?
CHAYES: Well, because the Taliban are helping them destabilize Afghanistan. What they don't want in Afghanistan is a stable, healthy democratic country that might start to make, for example, Pashtuns in Pakistan wonder why they don't have a stable, healthy democracy.
And it also is a way of trying to control the country by proxy. That's, you know, it was Pakistan that really ginned up the Taliban in the first place in 1994, as a way to try to control Afghanistan by proxy.
COOPER: We talked to some locals in Jalalbad who say, you know, they look back fondly on the Taliban days. They say they -- at least they had security. Do you hear that?
CHAYES: I hear it all the time. And it has nothing to do with ideology. I hear it all of the time about security and not just security, corruption. I now am having people tell me, "You know what? Under the Taliban, OK, maybe the chief justice of the Supreme Court might extract bribes, but every single day you didn't have to cough up money for government officials the way do you under this government."
And they remember that also stuff got done under the -- under the Taliban. Like you could get a license plate for your car within a reasonable amount of time. It's like you know what? The Taliban actually knew how to run a railroad. And their rules were draconian and their punishments were worse, but at least you knew what the rules were.
COOPER: Sarah Chayes, it's good to get your expertise. It's certainly troubling. The level of corruption here is just startling to someone like me who's just come here for the first time since 2002.
Sarah, I appreciate you talking to us. Would love to have you back on the program.
When we come back we're going to take a look at al Qaeda's country of choice, Pakistan. How they are operating there and why that has, in many ways, become the epicenter of terror throughout the world. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Some of the surrounding hills -- some of the surrounding hills by this forward operating base and the watch tower there manned, of course, 24 hours a day. They always have to stay vigilant. The soldiers from Bravo Company, 3rd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, who have been here now for some seven -- seven or eight months. Many of them are on this tour.
It is -- it is an interesting place to be. Today the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, said that the focus of terror has shifted from al Qaeda to the Taliban. He says the al Qaeda doesn't have its roots in the people.
CNN's Nic Robertson was traveling there in the border regions around Pakistan, and he found in some cases they certainly do seem to have some pretty deep roots. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should my words have no impact upon you...
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With chilling premeditation, London bombers Mohammed Sadik Khan and Shizak Tanweer rail against the west. They were British born, but their terror attack in London last July was to leave a trail that led right back here to Pakistan, a trail that reveals how this country has replaced Afghanistan as al Qaeda central.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) You may wonder if you deserved this.
ROBERTSON: There are few details of what they did, but this is what we know. Pakistani immigration takes their pictures. They pass through the airport and almost disappear.
(on camera) One of the places he visited when he came back, according to intelligence sources, was this madrasah religious school. Though inside officials deny he was here.
(voice-over) The only other known sighting was his parents' village, Chaltforth 77 (ph) in central Pakistan. I head there, but I'm in for a surprise. The vilified suicide bomber in London is a local hero here.
(on camera) I want to find out why Tanweer came back to Pakistan so I've come to his family's house here to find out.
Is there a Mr. Tanweer here? Mr. Tanweer?
(voice-over) A woman answers. For a few minutes, it looks like she might talk.
(on camera) What's she saying to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give her her son back?
ROBERTSON: Can I give you your son back? He came here before the attack, and I'm just trying to learn something.
Well, it seems that the family really doesn't want to talk. They haven't sent a man to the door. They just sent a woman. And that's a real indication here that they don't want to engage us on this issue. And she's clearly very angry and very upset that we're here.
(voice-over) Tanweer had visited his local mosque. After he blew himself up villagers held prayers for him. I head there next.
(on camera) Why, when he came back didn't people here try to talk him out of it?
(voice-over) They all deny meeting him or going to his memorial service.
(on camera) After the interview right here I found out that somebody was at the back of the crowd saying are we fools? Would we tell him anything? And then I discovered that many of the people here, although they denied it, attended Tanweir's (ph) funeral prayers. I've also learned that Pakistani reporters, they support his attack.
(voice-over) Just how Pakistan became the new center of gravity for al Qaeda has to do with history. Pakistan was founded on Islam. It is the only Muslim country with a nuclear bomb. Afghanistan is on one border and the disputed region of Kashmir, which Pakistan wants back from India, is on the other.
Kashmir is where many young Pakistanis seek to do their jihad, and the country's political leaders have long been content with letting extremist groups openly train and then fight against India.
But these same Kashmir jihadists are brothers in arms of al Qaeda. They've long shared training camps and recruits. That doesn't seem to matter to the country's former intelligence chief, the man who headed Pakistan's version of the CIA.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kashmir is a liberation cause. It is not terrorism. I don't know why it has been dubbed, labeled a terrorist movement. I think the Americans have got to make their position very clear on this.
ROBERTSON: It was into this Kashmir and al Qaeda nexus that the two London bombers came. Western intelligence sources say they originally came to fight in Kashmir but were convinced to turn their anger on Britain.
They got explosives training and other instructions here from al Qaeda's leaders now using Pakistan as their base, relying on Kashmiri groups for help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are now training people in small groups. And most of their -- you can say most of their offices -- most of their headquarters.
ROBERTSON: The picture that's emerging is not pretty for Pakistan's western allies like the U.S. Al Qaeda seems to hide out here. It's where most of them have been captured since 9/11.
And today's new terror attackers seem to gravitate here. Pakistan, not Afghanistan, is now al Qaeda's country of choice.
(on camera) Pakistan appears to have become al Qaeda central.
SHAUKAT AZIZ, PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: Let me say that nothing is farther from the truth.
ROBERTSON: In this scorching, sun-baked cemetery, I'm reminded of just how deep the ties are between al Qaeda and Pakistan. This is Shehzad Tanweir's (ph) grave, one of the London bombers. It has his date of death down here: the 7th of July, 2005, the day he blew himself up.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Chaltforth 77 (ph) village, Pakistan.
COOPER: When we come back the hunt for the leader of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. Who dropped the ball? How did he get away when 360 continues, live from Afghanistan.
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