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CNN Presents: Taliban

Aired February 27, 2011 - 20:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Find yourself a good position and fight them one by one.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Taliban fighters prepare for battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God helps the holy warriors.

COOPER: A convoy approaches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let the first vehicle pass and then start the attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shoot those sons of shit, you hear. Shoot their brains out.


COOPER: This is the Taliban as you've never seen them before. In battle, in their homes, in their hideouts. Rare, exclusive images behind enemy lines.

Norwegian filmmaker Paul Refsdal first came to Afghanistan in the 1980s to report on the Mujahidin. Now he returns on a dangerous assignment, one that will take him to one of the country's deadliest regions. It's an assignment that could get him kidnapped and killed.

(On camera): Why did you want to do this?

PAUL REFSDAL, FILMMAKER: Because we've been fighting the Taliban for nine years. I thought it was time that someone met them and actually tried to show who these people are.

COOPER: Why risk your life to tell the story of these people who are fighting the U.S. government or fighting the Norwegians as well?

REFSDAL: It's very important that people know who we're fighting because at the present, people doesn't have a clue really.

COOPER (voice-over): Refsdal's plan is to spend 30 days living with the Taliban. But securing this extraordinary access is difficult and dangerous.

(On camera): How did you go about making contact with the Taliban?

REFSDAL: You have to use an Afghan contact, Afghan journalist, Afghan fixer, and they send a request to this commander asking him -- this journalist, he want to come and stay with you for a while.

COOPER (voice-over): Refsdal wants to visit a Taliban stronghold in Kunar Province, a volatile border region where fighters move freely, where al Qaeda is active, where the terrain is treacherous.

REFSDAL: It's a very mountainous terrain. It's like Switzerland, basically, so it favors insurgents and it doesn't favor, you know, mechanized troops.

COOPER: Paul Refsdal reaches out for access and waits in Kabul. Finally he receives word.

REFSDAL: I'm waiting in Kabul about six weeks. Finally I get an approval.

This is Commander Dawran (ph). He's an important commander in the province and he was the one who guaranteed for my safety.

COOPER: This will be the first time that Dawran has received a western journalist. Refsdal's fate will entirely be in the hands of the Taliban.

(On camera): What did you think about them before you went out there? What was your image of them?

REFSDAL: I'd been listening for nine years to all the bad things that the Taliban has done or is supposed to have done. And then I'm going into the area to meet them. And at that moment, you know, for the first time, I'm thinking, oh, maybe this is not such a good idea. You know? I'm --

COOPER: You started to have some doubts.

REFSDAL: Yes. But that is really the point of no return.

COOPER (voice-over): Refsdal and his two-man crew drive to a prearranged spot. They leave the car and start hiking to reach the Taliban hideout.

REFSDAL: So we start walking into this very narrow pass. And we see two Taliban fighters standing behind a rock. They are watching us. They have long hair, big beard, and, you know, they're really stone faced fighters.

I tried to greet them, you just try to read their faces, and there's no -- actually no emotion so I don't really know what will be my fate at that moment. Either I will succeed in filming the Taliban or I'll just be another kidnap victim.

COOPER: He has nothing but their word, their promises to protect him. For Paul Refsdal, there's no turning back.


REFSDAL: I think you are wrong now. More, more, more.

COOPER: Paul Refsdal is training his translator to help do some filming.

REFSDAL: If you have problems keeping still, you can hold your breath.

COOPER: For decades Refsdal has reported from war zones.

REFSDAL: This is 20-year-old Paul Refsdal going to Afghanistan, going to war for the first time.

COOPER: He's traveled with insurgent groups in conflicts around the world.

REFSDAL: Here I am staying with Maoist Shining Path guerrillas. There is me in Kosovo. Yes, that's when I had hair on my head.

COOPER: On October 3rd, 2009, Refsdal begins one of the most dangerous assignments of his career, going behind enemy lines to report on a group of Taliban fighters.

There were many different Taliban groups fighting for many different reasons. What they share is a strict interpretation of Islam. In Taliban-controlled areas, girls aren't allowed to go to school. Women must remain covered in public. Those caught violating Islamic law can be maimed or stoned to death.

Refsdal starts filming, aware of the Taliban's reputation for brutality but unsure of who these fighters really are. Everyone is tense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is really scared of us. It looks to him that we're scared of him. He's a pumpkin head.

COOPER (on camera): It's interesting because looking at the video that you shot, it's almost like a lot of the fighters don't know what to make of you.

REFSDAL: They are fighting tall white men and I'm a tall white man coming there wanting to film them. I try to film them and they are kind of a little bit stiff. They sit like this, and they don't know really what to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretend the camera is not here, be normal.

COOPER (voice-over): Their distrust could mean Refsdal's death.

REFSDAL: There's also the danger of the Taliban turning against me. If they somehow, you know, make up their mind that I'm a spy, then I'm finished. Because spies will always be killed.

Of course, you have a fear, but if you have chosen the job of covering a war, you cannot get it risk-free.

COOPER: Some fighters want to remain obscure, but most show their faces. REFSDAL: You know, gradually, as the days passes, they dropped the masks and they get used to me and my camera.

COOPER: Slowly the fighters begin to relax, even joke around.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you look at him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it dangerous?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it is not dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is filming us to show that these are the bad guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You look to him like an Arab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will they put a reward on you like on Osama?

COOPER: All of these fighters are under the command of Dawran, the regional Taliban commander who approved Refsdal's visit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take it and buy yourself some chickens.

COOPER: As long as Refsdal agrees not to reveal this location, Dawran grants him full access and the protection of being his host.

(On camera): When somebody says that you are their guest, that has power, that has meaning.

REFSDAL: That's kind of a holy thing. You know, if you have accepted a guest, you are supposed to be willing to sacrifice your life for this guest.

COOPER (voice-over): Dawran spends hours each day on the radio coordinating with dozens of fighters hidden throughout the hills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you hear me? Hello? Khyber? When we were at the frontline we lost our minds because of all the noise. You remember the evening you were shooting. A vehicle was hit and destroyed. I will take action anything you want.

COOPER: Dawran plans attacks and prepares weapons.

DAWRAN: Now it is on rapid fire. Now on a single shot. You can use your finger. Then rapid fire. This is a good weapon.

Our friends from the Korengal Valley killed 30 Americans with such a weapon. The Americans even admitted it.

COOPER (on camera): Do you know if any of that's true? REFSDAL: You know, this is like a fishing story. And you have that in the Taliban. You have -- because they don't have the insight into the U.S. side, so they make up stories. They have commanders exaggerating their achievements.

COOPER (voice-over): Dawran claims his battlefield successes have made him a target of the Americans who put a price on his head.

DAWRAN: The reward amount was 400,000 dollars. Paul is asking me if I'm afraid because the Americans put a reward on me. I told him I've never lied in my life. And I'm not joining. I'm not afraid.

COOPER: But a U.S. officer at coalition headquarters tells CNN there is no record of any reward for information leading the capture of Dawran.

Dawran says he joined the Taliban to drive out foreign forces from his district. The Taliban make money by taxing the locals and their businesses. In some parts of the country that includes the opium trade.

Dawran says he relies on contributions to fund his operation and commands his forces from a house built of stone and clay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can one or two men come here?

DAWRAN: Don't you have the number of Kochwal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, the phone is turned off.

COOPER: Now to prepare his fighters for an attack.

REFSDAL: One day Dawran says he's going to have a meeting with his fighters, and they're going to talk about, you know, the jihad, the fight. He explains the reasons for fighting and how -- you know, how a good Mujahidin should be, that you should be harmless, you should be fair.

DAWRAN: Be just God appreciates justice. One of my requests is that God is with us every hour in our struggle. God is with us. During the Russian invasion, someone asked me when the victory will come. The answer was if the holy warriors are honest and fight only for the sake of God, then victory will come soon.

REFSDAL: He has a strong religious element, and that is that God will destroy them, the invaders.

DAWRAN: We fight for our freedom, our religion, our honor and we fight for our land. We are fighting for those goals. What are their goals? For what purpose are they fighting us? Are they oppressed? Have they been treated unfairly? Are they living in a dictatorship?

COOPER: With a final prayer, the meeting ends.

DAWRAN: Let us pray. God protect us. Help us achieve our Sharia goals. Give us freedom and destroy the infidels and oppressors. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.

COOPER: Now it's time for his ambush to begin.


COOPER (voice-over): Taliban fighters gather before an attack, awaiting their final orders. Norwegian journalist Paul Refsdal is filming the Taliban as they've never been seen before, from behind their own front lines.

Refsdal is with the commander named Dawran and his small band of fighters.

REFSDAL: I don't really know how many men he has. At certain times there's 20, sometimes there's just five fighters.

COOPER: The smallest among them, one of Dawran's own sons.

REFSDAL: I knew he was going out on the ambushes and he was carrying a machine gun. I mean, the gun was actually the same size as he was. For Dawran, it's not something bad to send your 12 or 13-year-old son out to fight. His son will come to heaven when and if he dies in this war.

COOPER: Inside Dawran goes over strategy with Omar, a local sub commander who's brought his fighters to help.

DAWRAN: We need weapons on both sides. When we fire with the heavy weapons, their infantry will not be able to do anything.

OMAR: If we have one weapon on each side, and both of them fire at once, our people can move down. That will be a good plan.

REFSDAL: This is the everyday situation in the Taliban. They're talking about, you know, how to do the attacks. Where to position the weapons. How will the Americans react. And how can they pull out of the ambush without, you know, being hurt themself.

DAWRAN: Can you hear me, Khyber? Can you hear me?

OMAR: In this place, the Americans are under attack from all sides. Sometimes one group attacks, sometimes another.

COOPER: Dawran, it seems, is always on alert.

DAWRAN: There is a helicopter.

OMAR: no, it might be a tank. Take a look outside.

REFSDAL: The thing is in that area, all the time when I'm there, there's air activity. There is jets flying over. It's like we're living close to an airport.

COOPER: The time has come for the fighters to prepare their weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I put it in the wrong way.

COOPER: And set off for battle.

DAWRAN: Tell the chickens to take cover and take cover yourself. There is an ambush against an American patrol in Tantil. Eighty holy warriors are participating. They have taken positions in eight different places in groups of ten men. They positioned on both sides.

REFSDAL: This is a picture of the main valley. And you have a paved road going there. That's the only road the U.S. forces can use when they bring supplies or troops east/west in that area.

DAWRAN: Make everything ready. Do everything accurately. Are the Americans on their way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they are on their way. Are you in the second position?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have arrived at our positions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's OK. Take care of yourselves. Let the first vehicle pass and then start the attack.

DAWRAN: Paugi? Paugi, are you ready?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shall I attack? Shall I?

DAWRAN: Attack, attack, with the help of God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God, slaughter our enemies. I seek refuge with you against the devil. God, give victory to the holy warriors.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God is great. God is great.

DAWRAN: Tell Nasrat to change their position, except those in the defense.

REFSDAL: The strange thing was there was a strange conversation going on.

COOPER (on camera): What were they saying?

REFSDAL: They were swearing a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shoot those sons of shit, you hear? Shoot against the checkpoint. Shoot those donkey (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Use the rocket launcher, Rafiq. Shoot with the launcher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hit the checkpoint hard. You hit the vehicle. You hit it. Long live, long live.

REFSDAL: Apparently, they hit one vehicle, and that's why they make some, you know, like a high five. I never see any vehicles hit at the time when I'm there. DAWRAN: The patrol has been stopped, a vehicle destroyed and the people inside were sent to hell. The fighting continues, as you can see. When the Americans are wounded, they fire back like this.

COOPER (voice-over): On the radio, a Taliban fighter sings a victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will not back down, I am victorious in battle and I am ready to fight.

DAWRAN: Even in war he is acting like this.


REFSDAL: The Taliban they were very active. I mean, more active than I thought they would be militarily.

COOPER (on camera): Are they -- are they good fighters?

REFSDAL: The Taliban are like most Muslim insurgents. When they have spare time, they read the Quran, they don't train. What I could see from the firing, they were not very accurate.

COOPER: They weren't very accurate?

REFSDAL: No. But they're not afraid of dying, but they are not very accurate.

COOPER: Do you worry about being criticized for watching an ambush of coalition forces?

REFSDAL: Yes. I -- you know, I understand that this is very emotional for people, especially the people in the armed forces.

COOPER: Do you feel uncomfortable, though?

REFSDAL: Yes and no. I mean I can say I'm a journalist. I just film what happens.

COOPER (voice-over): But did the fighters really damage any vehicle or kill any coalition forces as they fought? The answer seems to be no. Apparently the attack wasn't even worthy of a report.

CNN contacted a U.S. press officer at coalition headquarters. She searched through 1800 reports from October 2009 and said, quote, "To be clear, we have no reports of any Taliban attacks in that area during the timeframe given."

After the ambush, Dawran heads back to his mountain hideout where he lives with his wife and children.

DAWRAN: Do you want go to uncle? He can take you around in a car. Yes? Yes? Look at me. Come here.

REFSDAL: You know, this is a man earlier in the day, I saw him leading a ferocious attack against U.S. forces, and now he's sitting there with his kids. REFSDAL: Tell him what he did.


DAWRAN: Ask him why he broke it. Ask your uncle why he broke it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't want to.

REFSDAL: This girl, she's about 5 years old. She was afraid of me. And I asked is she afraid of me because she thinks I'm an American? And Dawran said, yes, yes, that's the reason.

DAWRAN: Don't do that.

COOPER (on camera): Some people might see this and think that you're trying to humanize this force which is attacking American troops.

REFSDAL: Yes, but I show what I saw. I show the everyday life of the Taliban. I made quite clear to Taliban, I don't want you to make any -- arrange anything special for me. It's an important piece of the war to see these people how they really are, I think.

COOPER (voice-over): For Dawran, this means being both a father and a fighter. Awaiting his next chance to attack.


Don lemon, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Here are your headlines.

Moammar Gadhafi remains in power in Libya -- for now. But there are growing signs he's becoming increasingly isolated. Libyan security forces in a key town near Tripoli have switched sides and joined the protesters.

Britain's foreign secretary today echoed President Obama saying it is time for Gadhafi to go.

In Chile, a candle lit vigil was held today to mark the one-year anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake that killed 521 people.

Chile's president told mourners he remembered the disaster as if it happened just moments earlier. But he's said that Chile is moving forward and that nearly half of the hundreds of thousands of destroyed homes, schools and hospitals have not been rebuilt.

Shocking new details now about the death of four Americans hijacked by pirates. A source says two of the pirates left instructions to their colleagues to kill the hostages if they did not return from negotiations with American official aboard a Navy ship.

The two pirates were taken into custody not standard negotiation practice. Hours later U.S. forces boarded the hijacked yacht and found the four Americans dead.

The astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery are prepping for the 11-day mission's first spacewalk tomorrow. Discovery docked at the International Space Station on Saturday. It's developing or delivering, I should say, a storage module, a science rig and some spare parts. This is Discovery's 39th and final flight.

Those are your headlines this hour. I'm Don Lemon. "CNN PRESENTS" "Taliban" continues right now.

COOPER (voice-over): Some men gather together, taking a few warm-up tosses. A usual pickup game but an extraordinary scene.

This is Afghanistan. These are Taliban fighters. And Norwegian filmmaker Paul Refsdal has a seat on the 50-yard line.

REFSDAL: The Taliban has a lot of spare time. And the favorite sport they have is throwing rocks. They have a competition who can throw the rocks further than the other ones.

COOPER: The rules are simple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here are the rules. Stay here and do it like this. OK. OK. Don't cross this line.

COOPER: Longest toss wins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have three turns. Stay back.

COOPER: Assad (ph), Dawran's top lieutenant, referees. Soon, this contest becomes a showdown. Dawran versus Omar.

(On camera) Tell me about Omar. What was your impression of Omar?

REFSDAL: Omar seemed like a stereotype of a Taliban fighter, how we maybe imagine him. I mean, he seemed wild.

COOPER: What was your first in impression of Dawran?

REFSDAL: Dawran strikes me as a wise old man. Dawran is a soft leader in a way.

COOPER (voice-over): And Dawran has tips for everyone, even his main competition.

DAWRAN: Do it like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very difficult.

COOPER: Dawran's last toss is the longest, but it's not without some controversy.


DAWRAN: Why? I did it this way. You can do it, too.

COOPER: So Dawran wins again. No one, it seems, can or will beat the boss. REFSDAL: The importance is that this is everyday life. This is the Taliban. I mean, it shouldn't be as surprised but it tells us that boys are boys all around the world.

COOPER (on camera): Do you think -- are they using you for propaganda?

REFSDAL: The film I have made is not what the Taliban would perceive as propaganda.

COOPER: Because it's not necessarily about showing images of attacks?

REFSDAL: They believe that showing strength, that's propaganda. Showing them as humans, that's -- they don't understand any purpose of that.

COOPER (voice-over): Soon, the game is over. Dawran is called back to the fight, and Refsdal's reporting takes a surprising turn with the arrival of this man.

His name is Abdel Rahman. And he is a Shariah judge used by the Taliban to enforce their strict religious laws.

REFSDAL: My first reaction is oh, that's a problem. That is when you will be judged, sentenced as a spy.

COOPER: But Refsdal's fear of Rahman quickly fades.

REFSDAL: He's smiling, and we start to talk.

COOPER: Rahman explains his interpretation of Islamic law.

ABDUL RAHMAN, LOCAL TALIBAN JUDGE: In Islam, there are solutions for everything, such as criminal, legal, and social issues. If a person cuts off another person's hand, then according to Islamic law you have the right to retaliate and cut his hand off. It's the same with the ears, the teeth, the eyes and the nose.

REFSDAL: His job is going around having different courts. If there's a thief, if there's a land dispute, the Taliban may have like local administration including a court. In a way, you're used to seeing fighters and you think it's all about the war, but they have their own society, so to say.

COOPER: Even the trees, Rahman says, are under his jurisdiction.

RAHMAN: If someone cuts the trees, he must pay a fine of 500 Afghanis. A man down there cut down two trees and somebody told us.

REFSDAL: You're not supposed to cut down trees without permission. But he told the man, you're forgiven, you know? It's part of Afghan Islamic tradition to show mercy.

COOPER (on camera): How did it seem like local people responded to the Taliban in their area? REFSDAL: The local people was the Taliban. These were people helping the Taliban. When there is no Afghan government presence, then the Taliban is the government.

COOPER (voice-over): And this is why Refsdal believes the Taliban will likely have to be part of any political solution for Afghanistan.

REFSDAL: In Afghanistan, a solution is power sharing, you know? It must be some way that the Afghan can live alongside all other Afghans. You cannot continue this war forever.

COOPER: For now, Afghanistan remains gripped by war and fractured by politics.

Coming up, Paul Refsdal's luck runs out.


COOPER (voice-over): High in the Afghan mountains, Taliban fighters return to their positions, preparing for another attack.

REFSDAL: They have at least one old Soviet anti-aircraft gun positioned in one place in the mountain. And they used that for all the ambushes as a long distance weapon against U.S. vehicle.

COOPER: Refsdal says it isn't much, but it's all the fighters have.

REFSDAL: When I stayed with the Taliban, what I observed was very little weapon, few ammunition, old weapons. I mean, these are weapons -- guns that are 25, 30 years old. And ammunition is the same age, more or less. So they don't have -- they don't have much.

COOPER: And yet, they fight almost constantly.

DAWRAN: Ghairat, do you hear me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mujahed, do you hear me?

DAWRAN: Ghairat, who was there above you, was it Omar?


DAWRAN: OK, OK, get yourselves to number two.

REFSDAL: These guys, the Taliban, were doing, you know, two and three attacks every day. So they were very active.

DAWRAN: Khyber, Khyber. Do you hear me? Khyber, get out. Where it is. Do it, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I see it, you will see -- it will catch fire.

DAWRAN: God willing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Find yourselves a good position, a strong position. Take down these bullies one by one. DAWRAN: Assad, everything is OK. Tell all the comrades to get to safety.

Assad, prepare yourself. As soon as they get out, take action against them. Get a good position to see the target. Long live, long live.

COOPER (on camera): It's interesting just to see in their daily life how kind of routine the war has become. They do an ambush, then they spend the rest of the day sitting around gossiping on the radio.

REFSDAL: They sit and drink a lot of tea and they have some games they are playing.

DAWRAN: It functions at 95. This button.

REFSDAL: They are using walkie-talkie all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Omar wants to talk to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yusuf, do you hear me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you, brother.? Are you well?

REFSDAL: They are talking like teenage girls.

COOPER: They're talking like teenage girls?


COOPER: Just talking, and gossiping, chatting?

REFSDAL: Yes. Yes, about everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank God, everything is fine. What about you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is fine here. And at your place?

COOPER (voice-over): As the day fades, radio chatter gives way to songs of holy war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SINGING) We have decided to make them cry. We have put on the best of holy war.

REFSDAL: They don't have television. So the entertainment that they have is the one they make themself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SINGING) Whenever I find the enemy, I will attack. All the youngsters are holy warriors, all the mountains are our bunkers.

REFSDAL: One Afghan, he composed a song and he sings it to show respect for the Taliban. You know, these words are just rhetoric.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SINGING) The order of Commander Darwan and the attack of Omar was and will be successful. COOPER: Refsdal has been with Dawran for eight days. Over and over the Taliban have attacked U.S. forces from the same positions. Now it seems the Americans are ready to respond.

REFSDAL: During the afternoon, there's this plane flying around in the area. And Dawran say stay in the house.

COOPER: Throughout the day, the plane continues flying. And Dawran is concerned.

REFSDAL: All the time there's jets, the sound of jets flying around. And the Taliban, they don't care about it. But there's one plane that scares them.

COOPER (on camera): What is it about that plane that scares them?

REFSDAL: There was the sound of this transport plane that scared them. And this is a plane equipped with a lot of heavy machine guns even a cannon. And the thing is that the Taliban they know that this gunship is used when there's some special forces operations. It's used as a support, air support, during these kind of operations.

COOPER (voice-over): Finally the plane goes away. Night falls and Refsdal is asleep, but not for long.

REFSDAL: Midnight, I was woken up by the sound of this plane. I could hear it flying around. It's firing down in the valley. I put on the camera just to record the sound. Then suddenly Dawran comes, knocks on the door, says something, he said, just get out, leave your things, get out, run.

We found old, you know, abandoned shed and we slept there during the night. All the time we heard the firing.

COOPER: The explosions continue. It will be hours before Refsdal knows what's really happened.


COOPER (voice-over): By daybreak the next morning, the American attack is over. The valley below is quiet, and Paul Refsdal emerges from hiding.

REFSDAL: We wake up very early, and we walk back to the house of Dawran. I guess, you know, something really bad had happened.

COOPER: Dawran says a dozen people including his top lieutenant Assad have been killed in a special forces raid.

REFSDAL: Dawran is sitting there, he's actually crying. He's crying like a kid because he lost his second in command. And, you know, several people he knows.

COOPER: Fearing he'll be the next target, Dawran flees with his family. Omar, Dawran's sub commander, prepares to return to his home base and makes Refsdal an interesting offer. REFSDAL: He gives me his phone number, and he says I should call him. I can go to his area. I can film with him.

COOPER: Refsdal returns to Kabul, determined to continue his groundbreaking reporting by embedding with Omar. After four weeks of waiting, they reconnect and begin the journey to Omar's hideout.

REFSDAL: I meet Omar. We walk for several hours in the hillside to one village. Everything seems OK.

COOPER: Everything seems OK, but it's not.

REFSDAL: Then the next day, we are asked to go to another house. After a couple of hours, one of the fighters come. And he said he's from al Qaeda. OK. And he has information that when I was in Dawran, I was spying for the coalition and both my translator and I will be executed tonight. So that's kind of --

COOPER (on camera): This wasn't Omar?

REFSDAL: No, this was not Omar. This was a friend of Omar's.

COOPER: But hadn't Omar given you his guarantee of your safety?

REFSDAL: Yes, yes, yes.

COOPER: And he said you were his guest?

REFSDAL: Yes, yes.

COOPER: So what happened to the whole Pashtun --

REFSDAL: Yes. Yes.

COOPER: Sacred bond of being their guest?

REFSDAL: Well, that's out the window.

COOPER (voice-over): Omar has broken his word. Paul Refsdal's gone from honored guest to kidnap victim. Now his life is on the line. Refsdal begins to reason with his would-be executioner.

REFSDAL: Every time I kind of corner him in the discussion, he seems like he changes subject, and every time his conclusions are that we will be killed and we will be beheaded. It's going to happen tonight.

COOPER: After several anxious hours, a hopeful sign. His captor asked for a ransom.

(On camera): Did he say how much money he wanted?

REFSDAL: He says he want $500,000. And I said this, that's not possible. I wanted them to bring them down, to bring this sum down, to make them understand that there's not going to be a lot of dollars.

COOPER: You're negotiating. REFSDAL: Yes.

COOPER: For your life.

REFSDAL: Yes. But that's -- you know, that's Afghanistan. You never -- you never pay the asking price, so to say.

COOPER (voice-over): Refsdal and his translator make a counteroffer, $20,000.

REFSDAL: And they get back with other options. There is prison exchange, there's ransom, there is conversion to Islam for me, or if none of these three, it's beheading. I send the kidnappers the message that I could convert to Islam.

COOPER: Refsdal's captors accept the offer. And he converts.

REFSDAL: I kept my word, but Omar, he didn't keep his. I was not released.

COOPER: Yet again Omar has broken his promise. Now he wants conversion and the $20,000 ransom. Refsdal's given a phone to arrange for the money himself.

REFSDAL: This is -- I mean, this is Afghanistan. I'm negotiating with the kidnappers and I'm making my own ransom phone calls.

COOPER: Refsdal takes the chance to make a few critical calls and even manages to get word to Dawran asking for help. Soon Dawran and other Taliban leaders call Omar.

REFSDAL: Omar was under pressure from the Taliban to release me.

COOPER (on camera): Why?

REFSDAL: I think for Dawran, this was a matter of -- in a way, I was still his guest. For the main leadership, let's say, of the Taliban, it is embarrassing for them that a hostage converting to Islam is still being held.

COOPER (voice-over): It's a glimmer of hope, but it doesn't last long. Five days into his kidnapping, Refsdal's ordeal takes what may be a fatal turn.

REFSDAL: The fighter from al Qaeda, he came and he told me Omar has received an offer from another group. They want to buy me for $50,000. That is really bad news.

COOPER: Bad news because another group might kill him for propaganda purposes or demand even more ransom money. The situation is spinning out of control. Then on day six, an unexpected turn.

REFSDAL: The fighter from al Qaeda comes, and he has some new clothes. He says, today you're going to be released. Of course, we don't believe him.

COOPER: Refsdal and his translator are loaded on to a truck for one of the scariest rides of their lives.

REFSDAL: We're driving down a dirt track, and when we get down to the paved road, if it turned to the right, you know, we are heading to the Korengal Valley and then Omar has sold us to another group. If we're turning left, we are heading to the town and we are free. So that's kind of nerve-racking going down there. And then -- we take the left.

COOPER (on camera): And so you knew you were going to be free?


COOPER: That must have been the greatest left turn of your life?

REFSDAL: Yes, yes.

COOPER (voice-over): Refsdal is released and returns to Norway. He insists that he never paid any ransom. Two weeks later an air strike destroys Dawran's hideout. Dawran survives but unconfirmed reports indicate two of his children are killed. And Omar gets back into the hostage taking business, kidnapping, then releasing another journalist.

(On camera): Was it worth it?

REFSDAL: I think so. There's no other way to report from the Taliban than actually meeting the Taliban. If you meet the Taliban, you never know, you know, I mean, if you're going to be a guest or a hostage, you know? But that's the risk you have to take.

COOPER (voice-over): The risk you have to take to understand the Taliban, an enemy still eluding American troops, still killing coalition forces, still fighting to win control of Afghanistan. Even after a grinding decade of war.