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Ground Zero of Terror; Hunting Bin Laden; Escape from Tora Bora; Fighting the Taliban; U.S. Embassy Attack; Target: al Qaeda; Taliban's Return; Taliban Terror; On Taliban Turf

Aired September 12, 2006 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're coming to you tonight from a forward operating base close to the border with Pakistan where the Taliban and al Qaeda are everywhere and Osama bin Laden could be anywhere. The question tonight, how did that happen?
ANNOUNCER: Hunting Osama, from the heart of Pakistan to the mountains of Tora Bora. An exclusive report on the search for bin Laden and how we may have let the most wanted terrorist slip through our fingers.

Taliban terror, bombing schools built by U.S. troops.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bad guys are here. A lot of people are afraid to do anything about it.


ANNOUNCER: It's the latest tactic of fear in Afghanistan and the greatest threat against Americans.

And deadly attack. A car bomb targets the U.S. embassy in Syria as gunmen try to storm the building. Was al Qaeda behind the assault? We'll have the latest.

From Afghanistan, this is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Ground Zero of Terror." Here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Thanks for joining us on this hour of 360, live from this forward operating base. We can't tell you exactly where it is, but it is very close to the border with Pakistan.

Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division every day going out beyond the wire, hunting down al Qaeda fighters, hunting down Taliban militants, hunting down common criminals linked to the burgeoning drug trade here.

If you think that they spend most of their time hunting down Osama bin Laden, you would be wrong. They have their hands full trying to stop people from infiltrating across the border from Pakistan, trying to stop rockets from being fired into this forward operating base and also trying to build bridges with Afghan people and separate the enemy from those people.

There are powerful obstacles in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, as CNN's Nic Robertson found out firsthand.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): I start a journey that will take me across Pakistan and into Afghanistan. The conclusion is startling. The leads are limited. No one has seen him in years.

Most recent intelligence reports have him located towards northern Pakistan, the Chitral Region, possibly slipping northwards across the remote lawless border into Afghanistan and possibly north again into the equally remote and lawless Tajikistan.

(On camera): Or he could be hiding here in a quiet suburban street in one of these nice big houses. Or he could be hiding on this crowded street or in one of these buildings just 10 feet away and we wouldn't know. Or maybe he isn't in the country at all.

(Voice-over): The reason we don't know, Pakistan's former intelligence chief tells me, is simple, people like bin Laden better than they like the West and they won't rat him out, even for the $25 million reward.

HAMID GUL, FORMER PAKISTAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF: Because there is no cause. On the basis of cause, you get glean information and intelligence, which is real good. But by just donning our money, you cannot get the kind of information that you're looking for.

ROBERTSON: That's one strike against catching the world's most want man. Another, I'm learning from a religious leader who knows Osama bin Laden, is just how easy it is to evade capture, even in Pakistan's capital. He was accused of plotting to blow up government buildings and the U.S. embassy.

ABDUL RASHID GHAZI, PAKISTAN MULLAH: There was a time in 2004 when the whole army was after me. They were searching me. And I was living in Islamabad. They were searching everywhere in Pakistan. And I was living in one small house in Islamabad.

ROBERTSON: And if that Pakistani security failure isn't shocking enough, he tells me more.

GHAZI: I have one man who was going and taking my messages. I would leave my cassette and that's it.

ROBERTSON: Sounds familiar. Bin Laden continues to release audio messages. Journalists Amir Mir, whose outspoken criticism of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has cost him several jobs, tells me what many here think, but few dare to say.

AMIR MIR, PAKISTANI JOURNALIST: As long as Osama is at large, Dr. Zawahiri is at large, Musharraf thinks that he will rule this country with the full blessings of the U.S.

ROBERTSON: It forces me to ask Pakistan's army spokesman how serious they are about the hunt for bin Laden. LT. GEN. SHAUKAT SULTAN, MILITARY SPOKESMAN: It still is a major task even with us, but this is not the only task. This may be one task in the whole campaign. The whole campaign has a lot many other things to do.

ROBERTSON: I'm realizing bin Laden has more than gone underground. He's slipped off the radar.

(On camera): We're walking already into Afghanistan here, it's what, just a few hundred meters away?


ROBERTSON: I head towards Afghanistan. From the Pakistan side of the border, I ask the general in charge about the hunt.

Do you think if Osama bin Laden were here today, the people in around here would tell you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would hope so, certainly.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): He seems less than convinced and for sure, it's not a daily priority for his troops.

(On camera): Just a few miles away over here on the Afghan side of the border, bin Laden has also slid down the daily to do list. Today's patrols are far more focused on today's clear and present dangers -- foreign fighters, the Taliban and criminals.

(Voice-over): Patrols still go out, but the environment is increasingly hostile. Taliban, al Qaeda's ally against the war on terror, hold more sway. Their threat of violence, enough to intimidate most Afghans into silence.

COL. JOHN NICHOLSON, U.S. ARMY: We're here to defeat the insurgency in Afghanistan and to enable the government of Afghanistan to extend its reach out to all of its people. And that is our primary focus. Now, if in the course of that we run across Osama bin Laden, we'd be very happy to roll him up and bring him to justice.

ROBERTSON: I'm reminded of my conversation with Pakistan's military spokesman.

SULTAN: For a long time we haven't gotten information about him or his activities.

ROBERTSON: Absolutely nothing?

SULTAN: No information.

ROBERTSON: The trail's gone cold?

SULTAN: Well I won't like you to put these words into my mouth.

ROBERTSON: No one wants words put in their mouth, but it does seem to be the truth. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Hmm. We'll talk more about how real the hunt against bin Laden is with Nic Robertson and Peter Bergen in a moment.

You know, yesterday on the program we took you on a tour of Osama bin Laden's last known residence here in Afghanistan, in the city of Jalalabad. That compound pretty much destroyed and looted. It was from there that he fled under U.S. pressure, under bombing pressure to the mountains of Tora Bora and then simply disappeared. The question is, how did he disappear?

Well, here's a quick look at some ideas of how he got away.


COOPER (voice-over): Just two months after the 9/11 attacks, November 2001, the bombs began falling on Tora Bora in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

The best U.S. intelligence said this was where the world's most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, was hiding out.

Gary Berntsen was the covert CIA operative in charge of Operation Jawbreaker, the name he says was given to the hunt for bin Laden in Tora Bora.

GARY BERNTSEN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: In mid-November when the Taliban collapsed in Kabul, in the Kabul area, on the Shamali Plaines, that battlefield, we went into the city and almost immediately I received intelligence that bin Laden had fallen back into Mongahar (ph) Province.

And no sooner did the city fall and we received that intelligence, I started to receive a steady stream of reporting. And you could mark it on a map. You could see him moving from one point to another as different individuals who were reporting to them were calling in sightings of bin Laden.

COOPER: He says with his small team, eight CIA and military operatives, Berntsen watched and waited.

BERNTSEN: At that point I would send four men into the mountains, two of them were CIA, two of them were JSOC, Joint Special Operations Command from the military. They had been folded into my team. The four of those Americans, with about 10 Afghan guides/guards, would go up into the mountain, looking for bin Laden. I sent them on a scouting mission. It was a very, very dangerous thing they did. We knew that he had fallen back with approximately a thousand people.

COOPER: He felt it was time to call for air strikes, but he says it quickly became clear that he was dangerously short of manpower on the ground.

BERNTSEN: I believed that the Afghans were not reliable enough and I requested the support of the U.S. military in the form of ground forces. I asked that a battalion of rangers be sent in, 600 to 800. I thought that with those forces we could close, counter and destroy bin Laden and his forces.

COOPER: But those forces never showed up.

BERNTSEN: No, they didn't come. We would receive Delta Force. A 40 man element of Delta Force would come. So you had roughly 60 Americans up there conducting combat operations against bin Laden and his force with the aid of a number of forces from what was called the Eastern Alliance.

COOPER: When the battle of Tora Bora ended, Osama bin Laden was gone. Most likely using his knowledge of the mountain fortress's complex system of caves and tunnels to make his way into Pakistan.

BERNTSEN: I believe he crossed into Pakistan on the 16th, 15th or 16th of December. It was probably the same day I left the country.

COOPER: Officially, both the White House and the Pentagon would say the U.S. never knew bin Laden's location with certainty, let alone that he was in Tora Bora.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We have seen repeated speculation about his possible location, but it has obviously not been verifiable. Had it been verifiable, one would have thought that someone might have done something about it.

COOPER: And they've never acknowledged that granting Berntsen the troops he says he requested might have ended the hunt for Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora a little more than two months after the September 11th attacks.

BERNTSEN: It was just unfortunate that we didn't get the ground forces that we had requested. Had they been provided earlier in the month of December when we initially requested them, possibly we could have ended his life and destroyed the leadership of al Qaeda.


COOPER: Well, let's talk about the past. Let's talk about the present. The hunt for Osama bin Laden right now with Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson, also Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen, who has met bin Laden and wrote the book, "The Osama bin Laden I know."

I got to say, from your guys reporting and what we talked about, it doesn't sound, other than perhaps covert intelligence work, that there are a lot of people actually physically hunting for Osama bin Laden.

ROBERTSON: If they come across him, they'll get him. They'll nab him. But the bottom line is, there are other people who are actually perhaps more actively engaged on the ground, trying to target troops here. Gobadine Hek Matear (ph), somewhere in the border region, a former warlord. He's on the scene. Jaladine Hikani (ph), another warlord. He's on the scene. These are all people that are running groups against the troops here, so the day-to-day need is to find them, connect with them as well as Taliban insurgency as well.

COOPER: Do you agree with that, Peter?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes. And of course, U.S. troops can't cross the border into Pakistan. And that's where -- the consensus is he's in Pakistan. U.S. senior military officials telling me, Chitral, an area way up on the north...

COOPER: Which is farther north than the notion that a lot of people had previously thought?

BERGEN: Yes, it's way up, almost to the border of China. Intelligence sources here are telling both of us that he might be in a place called Bajor (ph), which is just south of Chitral. I think there's a consensus that he's on the northern part of that Afghan- Pakistan border.

COOPER: What do you make of those critics, some of whom you've talked to in Pakistan, who say, look Musharraf doesn't want the guy caught essentially because it keeps his government important to the United States?

ROBERTSON: Well certainly, his political opponents say that at the moment, that he plays the card I'm the only guy that can help you, the United States, to track him down. Get rid of me, you'll get a different government. They won't help you. I'm here stopping these fundamentalists in my country rising to power. You need me. This is the equation his critics say he's playing. They want the politics backed, democratic politics. They don't want a military dictator, which they feel he's become.

COOPER: Pakistan, of course, says look, they're doing all they can. They've had some high-level al Qaeda arrests.

What's your perception of how effective they've been against al Qaeda and in the hunt for Osama bin Laden?

BERGEN: Well, again, this is a high level value of targets of al Qaeda. They've been very effective against bin Laden. Obviously, it's been a zero. But let's add the U.S. government to that. I mean, I've talked to U.S. intelligence officials and counterterrorism officials in recent weeks and they say we don't have much collection, an intelligence term for we don't have human intelligence, we don't have signal intelligence on bin Laden. They may have it on Ayman al- Zawahiri, the number two, a little bit better, but bin Laden -- it's actually been years now. It's already hit a brick wall, the hunt, I think.

COOPER: It's amazing when just flying to get to this remote base. And you fly over these people's homes, and they're like mini forts, a wall to compounds. And anybody could be living in there. And unless you have intelligence on the ground, unless you have the cooperation of local people, you're not going to find out. ROBERTSON: And in these communities here, the tradition is that you don't give information to outsiders. You don't talk to outsiders. You keep yourself to yourself. And the reason they have such high rules is there are fights that go on here. This is a violent tribal area. You defend your territory. You give nothing to outsiders and you don't share information. That's the environment.

COOPER: I talked to the Pakistan ambassador to the U.S. the other day. He said the people in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the people along the border in Pakistan are with the central government. I found that surprising because that doesn't seem to match facts on the ground.

BERGEN: I don't think that's ever been true. Even when the British were around. I mean, this has been an area where people are very independent, as Nic says, they want all the people to mind their own business and just, they want to do their own thing, very tribal society.

COOPER: Peter, appreciate it.

Nic, we're going to speak to you a little bit later on in the broadcast.

When we come back from break, we're going to have more here from Afghanistan. We're also going to go to Iraq where a growing influence of al Qaeda. And the question is, does America have enough troops on the ground to deal with what many say is a growing threat of al Qaeda fighters as part of that insurgency?

Also we'll take you back on patrol here on the frontline of the war on terror, on patrol where some soldiers who have fought in Iraq say, the combat they are seeing here and the mission they have here is far more dangerous than what they dealt with in Iraq. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even before I came here, I was like thank God I'm going to Afghanistan. It's going to be safer than Iraq. And now that I've 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: A dramatic day in Syria today. An attack on the U.S. embassy, gunmen storming the building after setting off a car bomb.

CNN's Anthony Mills is in Beirut, Lebanon, monitoring the situation. Anthony, what's the latest?

ANTHONY MILLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, fairly murky in as far as who exactly was responsible for this. We had Syrian officials suggesting that a fundamentalist group, a fundamentalist Islamic group, Jundushan (ph), soldiers of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) may have been responsible. But it's not entirely clear what exactly that group is, who's in it, where it was formed, how it was formed. A lot of unanswered questions.

We do know, though, Anderson, that over the last year and a half, two years, Syrian forces have battled sporadically with Islamic fundamentalists in Syria -- Anderson.

COOPER: Anthony, talk a little bit about the level of anti-U.S. sentiment in Syria today.

MILLS: There's a lot of it. It's been fueled for several years because of the view that the United States is not playing a fair role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Then of course you have the continued United States military presence in Iraq and continued civilian deaths there. That's also fueled it. And most recently, Anderson, here in Lebanon, the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and the United States' failure to call for an immediate cease-fire. A lot of people seized on that and said it was therefore complicit, and prolonging the deaths here in Lebanon.

COOPER: Anthony, appreciate that report. A bloody day, of course in Iraq today, 18 people killed there in bombings, in shootings. Baghdad police say that they have found some 60 bodies, believed to be victims of the growing sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni groups. Of course, al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni group, is increasingly active in the province of Al Anbar. And a recent classified report, a Pentagon report, reported by "The Washington Post" yesterday, says that the U.S. military has too few troops in Al Anbar to deal with the growing threat.

CNN's Michael Ware has traveled extensively through the region. He joins us now from Baghdad.

What do you make of that, Michael? Are there enough -- well, we'll talk to Michael in a moment. First let's take a look at his report.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American soldiers in al Qaeda's heartland in Iraq. And a gaping black hole in Washington's global war on terror. Ramadi, where U.S. forces suffer as many as two combat deaths a week, battling daily with insurgents coordinated by Osama bin Laden's commanders.

COL. SEAN MACFARLAND, CDR. BDE., 1ST ARMORED DIVISION: And Al Qaeda, as you probably know, they want to establish a caliphate basically from Pakistan to Spain, with its heart here in al Anbar Province. And of course the capital of al Anbar is Ramadi.

WARE: President Bush himself points to al Qaeda's claim on al Anbar.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We see the strategy laid out in a captured al Qaeda document found during a recent raid in Iraq which describes their plans to infiltrate and take over Iraq's western Anbar Province.

WARE: It's from here in this farmland called Jazeera (ph), on the opposite bank of the Euphrates River from Ramadi that U.S. military intelligence believes al Qaeda in Iraq runs the headquarters.

MAJ. MATT. EICHBURG, EXEC. OFFICER, 1ST INFANTRY: When they come to do their command control, they're planning their resupply, if you will, and then their transit. A lot of the guys that are responsible for some of the bigger attacks, they live out here.

WARE: Jazeera (ph) is the size of New Hampshire, but the Pentagon posts just a few hundred soldiers here. The military term, economy of force applies. American officers say that means they only have one-third of the troops needed to quell al Qaeda's stranglehold.

But a new rotation in the battle-scarred city brings new tactics. Until now, the southern suburbs barely saw a U.S. boot on the ground. But by thinning troops in outlying areas, he U.S. military is building outposts in suburbs once owned by insurgents.

LT. JASON RICHARDSON, BRAVO Correct., 1ST INFANTRY: Our intel told us that insurgents would gather out here in numbers from 10 to 50 and meet up and rally, get in their cars and move on and execute missions.

WARE: This mosque was an Iraqi al Qaeda base. Home to the group's local leader. And now, this U.S. outpost sits next door. From here, infantry patrols push out with lists of the wanted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the one that hit my brother.



WARE: His patrol goes into what locals dub the Mujahadeen village. But now Al Qaeda adjusts its tactics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, they'll fire random mortars, develop and adjust sneaky ways to put in IEDs. It's a dangerous, it's a very difficult war to fight, but it's not -- I don't know how to put this.

WARE: And now a sniper war. This U.S. soldier looking for targets as al Qaeda does the same.

RICHARDSON: We saw a car pull up, a guy get out the front seat, climb into the backseat, remove a panel from off his car and aim from the car to our rooftop position, which unfortunately resulted in the death of one Marine who was on the rooftop. So -- but, I mean, we can't shoot every car that comes by but.

WARE: Though the attacks and U.S. deaths continue, the new plan is having an effect. Al Qaeda still dominates the insurgency, but it's had to adapt. MACFARLAND: And we're seeing a steady decline in the types of complex and the size of the types of the attacks that we have experienced here in the past.

WARE: But the Marine general commanding al Anbar says, right now he does not have enough troops, U.S. or Iraqi, to win against the al Qaeda-led insurgency. A reality Colonel MacFarland faces on the ground.

MACFARLAND: The folks that we are fighting are the same kind of folks that took down the World Trade Center and drove an airplane into the Pentagon. And these people here want to turn al Anbar into what one smart guy called al Qaedastan. And right here, this is our opportunity to stop that vision in its tracks.

WARE: But to the soldiers and Marines here, there's a fear, that without reinforcement, that opportunity could be lost.


COOPER: Michael, what we've seen in the past with the U.S. military moving troops from one restive region to another to try to sort of plug that hole, get more boots on the ground. At this point, is that going to work in al Anbar?

WARE (on camera): Well, Anderson it depends on what your objectives are. I mean it's moving chess pieces across the board. The bottom line is, there's simply not enough American troops in al Anbar right now to defeat the al Qaeda-led insurgency. So, if you're prepared to wait, if you're prepared to suffer the fact that for ever day that passes, al Qaeda continues and arguably becomes stronger, then, yes, shifting troops around can work.

But the bottom line is, if you want something fixed now, if in the President Bush's global war on terror this is seen as that gaping black hole and it needs to be plugged, then no, you need to punch in more troops immediately.

The other thing is, the U.S. needs to embolden the political allies it has in al Anbar. They are looking to separate the homegrown Iraqi insurgents, essentially the Baath party, from the al Qaeda insurgents. A lot more can be done to speed up that process -- Anderson.

COOPER: Michael Ware, appreciate that report. Stay safe, Michael, in Baghdad tonight.

When we come back, we'll take a look at the growing use of Iraq- style tactics, al Qaeda-style tactics here in eastern Afghanistan, IEDs, a vehicle born explosive devices, suicide attacks.

But first, let's go to John Roberts in Washington, with a "360 Bulletin" -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Anderson. Today, was primary day for nine states and the District of Columbia. The most closely watched race, Rhode Island. Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee beat his conservative challenger, the mayor of Cranston. Chafee is under fire from conservatives for bucking the party line on many issues including Iraq. He's going to face Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in November.

In New York, no surprises. Democratic Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Gubernatorial Candidate Eliot Spitzer and Attorney General Candidate Andrew Cuomo all won their respective races.

The "Associated Press" is reporting that air traffic controllers at a Lexington, Kentucky airport complained about their working conditions to federal officials months before the Comair jet crash that killed 49 people. "AP" says the controllers sent letters to Kentucky senators and to the FAA, reportedly describing a hostile work environment and short staffing on the overnight shift. Federal guidelines call for two people to be in the tower the morning of the crash, but only one was present.

And a new tropical depression has formed off of the coast of Africa. Forecasters expect it to grow into a hurricane by Friday. The storm is forecast to head toward the Caribbean and the eastern United States, though it's still uncertain whether or not it's going to make landfall. It could become Tropical Storm Helene late today or tomorrow. By the way, Tropical Storm Gordon is now a hurricane, the third of the season. Though is it not expected to be a threat.

That's it from state side. Now, let's go back to Afghanistan. Here's Anderson.

COOPER: Hey, John, thanks very much. Appreciate the update. When we come back, we'll take you back out on patrol and show you how fighting the Taliban here in eastern Afghanistan is made all the more difficult because they're able to go back into Pakistan, and U.S. troops can't follow. Stay tuned.


COOPER: Welcome back. We're coming to you from this forward- operating base. As we said, very close to the border with Pakistan.

The fighting here, as intense as it is, may soon intensify even further. The reason for that, Pakistan has signed a cease-fire deal with Taliban militants on the Pakistan side of the border. In many cases Taliban military units have left their checkpoint, have gone back to their barracks, essentially turning over checkpoints of Taliban militants who live in the area.

U.S. intelligence sources have told us those militants can relatively easily cross the border fight here in eastern Afghanistan and then go back over. And in some cases, Taliban leadership have controlling the action from cities like Quetta in Pakistan.

That's where CNN's Nic Robertson went to investigate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTSON (voice-over): Watch as this man threatens our cameraman. He and his friends don't want to be filmed. It's un- Islamic, they say. Off camera they describe themselves as Afghan Taliban.

But these streets they brazenly stroll are not in Afghanistan. This is Quetta, a major Pakistani city, close to the Afghan border. Exactly what's happening here is explained to me by Pakistani Journalist Amir Mir.

MIR: Pakistan is essentially for the Taliban. Almost their entire leadership of Taliban is hiding in Quetta.

ROBERTSON: In Pakistan.

(On camera): In Afghanistan American intelligence officials say, the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, is also living in Quetta.

In London, senior British government officials says they angry Pakistan has not rounded up the Taliban leadership who they say are planning and plotting and getting stronger from the safety of Pakistan.

(Voice-over): Tensions are mounting. The British and American death toll at the hands of the Taliban is rocketing. Talking to Pakistani officials, I realize nothing incenses them more than insinuations they turn a blind eye to the very men who kill their coalition partners across the border.

SULTAN: Let me make it very clear, that whoever says Mullah Omar is in Pakistan, we would very clearly like to know the evidence so that we can move against it.

ROBERTSON: But the Pakistanis are moving against some Taliban in a way you wouldn't expect, by making peace with them.

(On camera): Roughly, how many soldiers who do have you have on each border checkpoint?

To get the details, I head to Pakistan's tribal border area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm able to indicate to you the border once we go up there.

ROBERTSON: The general in charge tells me the Taliban he targets are homegrown Pakistani Taliban. And it's costing his soldiers dearly. Hundreds have been killed.

GEN. AZHAR, PAKISTANI ARMY: At night they will put some IEDs on the road. And later on, once the, one of the comrades is going, they will just blast it off from the remote control.

ROBERTSON: The Pakistani Taliban have been releasing attack videos reminiscent of Iraqi insurgent propaganda. Even their terror tactics like IEDs seemed honed in Iraq.

AZHAR: They also started resorting to -- which was a new phenomenon in this area to the suicide killing.

ROBERTSON: In this mountainous border area, where U.S. troops say Pakistani Taliban regularly cross into Afghanistan, Pakistani officials say Pakistani Taliban are growing ever more popular. So they decided to negotiate, not fight.

(On camera): The Pakistani government is very keen to show the world that its new deal with the tribes in north Waziristan can work, that they can effectively put an end to any Taliban cross border raids going into Afghanistan.

LT. GEN. ALI MUHAMMAD: We have not struck the deal with the Taliban. It is with the -- all the tribes of north Waziristan agency, which includes Taliban also because they're living there, they're the people of that area.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The governor tells me, Pakistan will strike more deals like this. It seems they are taking care of their own problems first, apparently ignoring the Afghan Taliban on their soil.

Indeed, Pakistani officials claim they can't spot them among the quarter million Afghan refugees they say are in Quetta.

SULTAN: Who is Taliban amongst them and who's not Taliban amongst them? You can't differentiate because everyone is having the same beard, the same turban, the same dress.

ROBERTSON: Such cooperation hardly orders well for the next five years. Afghan or Pakistani, all Taliban have a common ideology -- driving Americans and other Westerners out of Afghanistan.


COOPER: Hmm. Well, the Taliban has brought something else back here to eastern Afghanistan, terror. American soldiers here building new schools. The Taliban tries to blow them up. We'll show you that ahead.

Also we'll take you back out on patrol with soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division into the mountains of eastern Afghanistan along the border and s


COOPER (voice-over): 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's incredibly porous. People can move back and forth.

(On camera): Intelligence sources we've 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.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got international terrorists, who are your al Qaeda, very household names. You've got the Taliban. And you've got your general criminals in and around the area that are trying to capitalize on the fledgling government here in Afghanistan.


COOPER: Lt. Purnell (ph) describing the enemy that these soldiers face every day out here. What the soldiers here, 10th Mounted Division, are fighting a counterinsurgency. They're not just trying to kill the enemy, and they're certainly trying to do that, but they're also trying to separate the enemy from the people as much as possible.

And they're trying to help the people by rebuilding roads, building wells and building schools. But of course for every school that the U.S. army builds, the Taliban would like nothing more than to destroy it. One school here nearby that they built, that the Taliban did just that.

CNN's Nic Robertson takes a look.


ROBERTSON (on camera): If you want to see what the Taliban are attacking, just check out the remnants of this school. The U.S. military had just finished helping fund and get it built.

(Voice-over): That was several weeks ago, when the class was not in session.

LT. DANIEL GORDON, 10TH MOUNTAIN DIVISION: Once we heard that actual explosives were placed into it, it just -- just kind of took the wind out of all of our sails because we had high hopes for this place.

ROBERTSON: High hopes because the Army is running a counterinsurgency and that means showing Afghans they're here to help. It's exactly what the Taliban is fighting to stop and they're ratcheting up their campaign.

(On camera): Back down there, there's two classrooms. They haven't been too badly damaged. This is where the major destruction begins. The roof has been blown off, the walls completely blown apart. And this appear to be the spot where the explosives were placed. This crater in the ground here, that's where they were placed. Up there, shrapnel splattered on the freshly painted walls.

(Voice-over): The Afghan government says this isn't the only school that's been attacked this year. They say so far 150 have either been attacked or threatened. That's a 70 percent increase over last year, they say. Soldiers say villagers already offered to help rebuild the school. But ask them who did it, and you can see the Taliban tactics of fear and intimidation are paying off.

GORDON: The villagers haven't said really anything to point it out. You know, they still live in a lot of fear due to the large amount of activities that happen in this area.

ROBERTSON: As we drive towards the nearby town, I see more of the Army's efforts to win the people over.

(On camera): The army is also helping the townspeople build a new road. It's vital to improve the economy and the security. Its classic counterinsurgency techniques, as the Army says, to separate the people from the enemy.

(Voice-over): The center of the town running through the bazaar is now paved, courtesy of U.S. tax dollars. Afghan contractors built it and made money. Everyone seems to have made friends. This is how a counterinsurgency is supposed to work.

(On camera): I notice we're walking around, you're not wearing your body armor here, you've taken your helmet off?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. None of the local people have it on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They feel safe enough to be in here. I'm in their community. I'm secure. If they feel secure, I'm secure.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): According to this traitor, everyone does feel secure and is grateful to the U.S. army. I look for another traitor to ask about the school attack and suicide bombers I'm told operate in the area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you, my friend?

ROBERTSON (on camera): Your English is better than mine.

He's very friendly, but will he tell me who's behind the attacks?

God knows better than us, he says. We are scared of them.

Army Translator Asad Ahmadi, an Afghan-American from Glendale, Arizona, has been here two years helping to win the local population over.

Today, handing flyers out, explaining who attacked the school. He understands better than most why people are afraid to talk.

ASAD AHMADI, ARMY TRANSLATOR: The bad guys are here. A lot of people are afraid to do anything about it. They control most of the places around here. ROBERTSON: With sharp lessons in non-cooperation, it's clear counterinsurgency here is only just beginning and has a long way to go.

Nic Robertson, CNN, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border.


COOPER: Hmm. When we come back, you'll meet an American woman who has risked her own life to go inside the Taliban and see things from their perspective, how they see the battle here in eastern Afghanistan. We'll be right back.


COOPER: The government of Pakistan says they're doing all they can to combat Taliban militants inside Pakistan. The question is, are they really?

Our next guest, Kirsten Schmidt, has spent a number of months inside Pakistan as a journalist and documentary filmmaker, covering the Taliban in Pakistan. I talked to her earlier from London.


COOPER: Kirsten, you spent time with Taliban in Pakistan. How free are they to operate there, to move and to move back and forth across the border?

KIRSTEN SCHMIDT, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: I would say they're fairly free. I mean, the Taliban is deeply penetrated throughout Pakistan in all four areas of the state, of the country, all four state. They are in Waziristan. They're in the North-West Frontier Province. They are all along the Caricaron (ph) freeway. They're in Jammu, Kashmir. They are well established in Pakistan and they've always been like that, even pre-September 11th.

The Talibanization was a serious problem for the Pakistani government. In some ways, the Americans declaring this war on terror gave them time to take a breath and sort of re-establish themselves.

COOPER: And so, essentially, the Taliban militants who are living in Pakistan, they can cross over the border here into Afghanistan, fight, and then cross back over?

SCHMIDT: They can. In fact, you know, some of the army there are sort of -- they go on both sides. They can often be paid off. Their allegiances change back and forth all the time, so it's really hard to judge how tenable that border actually is. A lot of it is very mountainous terrain, very difficult to maintain. So, it is fairly easy for them to cross that border.

COOPER: How linked are they to al Qaeda? I mean, intelligence sources we've been talking to over here feel that increasingly the Taliban, at least in the eastern Afghanistan, is adopting al Qaeda- style tactics, IEDs, suicide attacks. SCHMIDT: Yes, that's absolutely true. I think at one point, it was that the Taliban was the official government in Afghanistan with this internal group of al Qaeda which was absolutely a terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden.

At this point, the psychology there is so unclear that a lot of people who are in the Taliban just from propaganda schemes and also the media, they suddenly start saying, I'm Taliban, maybe I'm also al Qaeda, without even being recruited into the organization.

COOPER: Kirsten, it's a fascinating story. There's a lot more to talk about. We've love to have you back on. Thank you very much.

SCHMIDT: Thanks a lot, Anderson.


COOPER: That was Kirsten Schmidt.

When we come back, we will take you deep into enemy territory. On patrol with soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division. See what they see and what the enemy sees of them every day.


COOPER: It's so strange when you're on patrol, 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 to helping enemy fighters figure out where to fire rockets that will hit the forward operating base.



COOPER: Before we leave you tonight, we want to take you back on patrol with the brave soldiers here from the 10th Mountain Division, who every day have gone out on this wire in confronting the enemy. Here's some of what they see every day.


COOPER (voice-over): Captain Jason Dye has served in Iraq, but says his mission in Afghanistan is far more dangerous.

CAPTAIN JASON DYE: Even before I came here, I was like, thank God I'm going to Afghanistan, it's going to be safer than Iraq. And now that I've 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. They've begun to do a lot more rocket attacks. We used to get a rocket attack maybe once a week. Now it's every other day, every couple of days, every day. And they've 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's 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's incredibly porous. People can move back and forth.

Intelligence sources we've 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've been attacked from in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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's 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 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 passing over this mountain noticed this bunker. There were fighters inside. They fired rockets, later called in an air strike. It's been destroyed now. But what remains, you can see is well built. These large stones were used to create like a supporting wall. Over here there's 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. (Voice-over): From the bunkers' 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. Could mean an ambush, 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.

(Voice-over): What do you look for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I have a family. All of 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 (on camera): And we'll have a lot more from this forward operating base in a moment. Stay tuned.


COOPER: Want to thank a number of people for their hospitality to us here at this forward operating base and in our time so far in Afghanistan. Lt. Col. Paradise (ph), Sergeant Major Wood, Sergeant Fiddler (ph), also Captain Jason Dye, who we went on patrol with, who was commander of this base, Colonel Nicholson, as well. And of course, General Eikenberry as well. They've given us amazing access and we really do appreciate it. Also, our thanks to all of the men here on this base from the 10th Mountain Division, Bravo Company, 3rd Brigade. They're doing remarkable work in very dangerous circumstances.

We'll be from Kabul tomorrow. I hope you join us for another special edition of 360.

"LARRY KING" is next.


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