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CNN Live Event/Special

Inside the Taliban

Aired December 11, 2010 - 20:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Find yourselves a good position and fight them one by one.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): God helps the holy warriors.

COOPER: A convoy approaches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Let the first vehicle pass, and then start the attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Shoot those sons of shit, you hear! Shoot their brains out! God is great!

COOPER: This is the Taliban as you have 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 Mujahideen. 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.


COOPER: Why would you do this?

PAUL REFSDAL, NORWEGIAN FILMMAKER: Because we've been fighting the Taliban for nine years. I thought it was time that someone we met them and actually try 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 and fighting the Norwegians as well.

REFSDAL: It's very important that the 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.


COOPER: How did you go about making contact with the Taliban?

REFSDAL: You have to use an Afghan contact, an Afghan journalist, an Afghan fixer and they send a request to this commander asking him, this journalist, he wants 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 and 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 (voice-over): 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 the Commander Davran. He's an important commander in the province and he's the one who guaranteed for my safety.

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


COOPER: What did you think about them before you went out there, what was your image of them?

REFSDAL: I have been listening for nine years to all the bad things 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 am thinking, maybe this is not such a good idea, you know?

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 (voice-over): So we start walking into this very narrow path and we see two Taliban fighters standing behind the rock. They're watching us.


REFSDAL: They have long hair, a big beard, and they're really stone-faced fighters.

I tried to greet them and tried to read their faces. There's 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 (voice-over): He has nothing but their word, their promises to protect him. For Paul Refsdal, there's no turning back.




COOPER (voice-over): Paul Refsdal is training his translator to help do some filming. 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 travelled with insurgent groups in conflict around the world.

REFSDAL: Here I am staying with the (inaudible). There's me in Kosovo. That's when I had hair on my head.

COOPER: On October 3, 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 are 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 (through translation): He is really scared of us. It looks to him that we're scared of him. He's a pumpkin head!

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: 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're fighting tall, white men. I'm a tall, white man coming there wanting to film them. I tried to film them and they're kind of a little bit stiff, and they don't know really what to do.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): What are you doing? Pretend the camera is not there, 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 at their mind that I'm a spy, then I'm finished because the 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 fear.


COOPER (voice-over): Some fighters want to remain obscure, but most show their faces.

REFSDAL (voice-over): You know, gradually, after a day, they dropped the mask and they get used to me and my camera.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Me? Yes, you look at him!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Is it dangerous?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): No, it's not dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): He's filming us to show that these are the bad guys. You look at him like an Arab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Will they put a reward on you like on Osama?

REFSDAL: All of these fighters are under the command of Davran, the Taliban commander who approved Refsdal's visit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): What is this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Take it and buy yourself some chickens.

COOPER (voice-over): As long as Refsdal agrees not to reveal this location, Davran grants him full access and the protection of being his host.


COOPER: 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): Davran spends hours each day on the radio coordinating with dozens of fighters hidden throughout the hills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Can you hear me? Hello? Khyber? When we were at the frontline -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): We lost our minds because of all the noise. You remember the evening you were shooting? A vehicle was hit and destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): I will take action anytime you want.

COOPER: Davran plans attacks and prepares weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): 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: Do you know if any of that's true?

REFSDAL: You know, this is like a fishing story. You have that in the Taliban, you have -- because they don't have the insights into the U.S. side, so they make up stories. They have commanders exaggerating their achievements.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): 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 joking. I'm not afraid.

COOPER: But a U.S. officer at coalition headquarters tells CNN there's no record of any reward for information leading to the capture of Davran. Davran says he joined the Taliban to drive out foreign forces from his district. The Taliban make money by taxing locals and their businesses. In some parts of the country, that includes the opium trade. Davran says he relies on contributions to fund his operation and commands his forces from a house built of stone and clay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Can one or two men come here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Don't you have the number of Kochwal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): No, the phone is turned off.

COOPER: Now to prepare his fighters for an attack.


REFSDAL: One day Davran 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 Mujahideen should be, that you should be honest, you should be fair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Be just. God appreciates justice. One of my request 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.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Fight for our freedom, our religion, our honor and we fight for our land. We are fighting for these goals. What are their goals? For what purpose are they fighting for us? Are they oppressed? Have they been treated unfairly? Are they living in a dictatorship?

COOPER (voice-over): With a final prayer, the meeting ends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Let us pray. God protect us. Help us to achieve our Sharia goals. Give us freedom and destroy the infidels and oppressors. 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 from where they have never been seen before, from behind their own front lines. Refsdal is with a commander named Davran and his small band of fighters.

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

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

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): We need weapons on both sides. When we fire with the heavy weapons, their infantry will not be able to do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): 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, the Taliban are talking about how to do their attacks, where to position their weapons, how will the Americans react and how can they pull out of the ambush without being hurt themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Can you hear me, Khyber? Can you hear me? In this place, the Americans are under attack from all sides. Sometimes, one group attacks, sometimes another.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): There's a helicopter - 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 are jets flying over. It's like we're living close to an airport.


COOPER (voice-over): The time has come for the fighters to prepare their weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): I put it in the wrong way.

COOPER: And set off for battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Tell the children 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 are 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Make everything ready. Do everything accurately. Are the Americans on their way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Yes, they are on their way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Are you in the second position?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): We have arrived at our positions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): That's OK. Take care of yourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Let the first vehicle pass and then start the attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Paugi? Paugi, are you ready?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Shall I attack? Shall I -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Attack. Attack, with the help of God!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): God slaughter our enemies. I seek refuge with you against their evil. God give victory to the holy warriors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): God is great! God is great! God is great!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Tell Nasrat to change their position except those in the defense.


REFSDAL: The interesting thing was the conversation going on.

COOPER (on camera): What did they say? REFSDAL: They were swearing a lot.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Shoot those sons of --, you hear?! Shoot against the checkpoint, shoot those donkey -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Use the rocket launcher, Rafiq! Shoot with the launcher!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Hit the checkpoint hard!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The patrol has been stopped, a vehicle destroyed and the people inside were sent to hell. When the Americans are wounded, they fire back like this.

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 good fighters?

REFSDAL: The Taliban are like most Muslim insurgents. When they have spare time, they read the Koran, 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're not very accurate.

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

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

COOPER: Do you feel uncomfortable?

REFSDAL: Yes and no. I mean, I can say I'm a journalist, I just filmed what happened.


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

CNN contacted the U.S. press officer at coalition headquarters. She searched through 1,800 reports from October 2009 and said, quote, "to be clear, we have no reports of any Taliban attacks in that area during the time frame given."

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

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


REFSDAL: This is the 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.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell him what he did. 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 five years old, she was afraid of me. And I asked, is she afraid of me because she thinks I'm an American? And Davran said yes, yes, that's the reason.




COOPER: 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 make quite clear to the Taliban. I don't want you to 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 Davran, this means both being a father and a fighter awaiting his next chance to attack.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Here are your headlines this hour. Iran announced today it no longer needs any other country to create nuclear fuel. It said it now has the ability to make yellowcake as a component to enriching uranium.

Sorry, this is the wrong story that we're reading here. We're going to come back after a break, and we'll do this again. We're back in a moment.



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, they have a lot of spare time, and the favorite sport they have is throwing rocks. They have competition, who can throw the rocks further than the other ones.

COOPER: The rules are simple.

DAVRAN (translated text): Here are the rules. Stay here and do it like this. OK. OK. Don't cross this line.

COOPER: Longest toss wins.

DAVRAN (translated text): You have three turns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated text): Stay back!

COOPER: Assad, Davran's top lieutenant, referees. Soon this contest becomes a showdown, Davran 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 impression of Davran?

REFSDAL: Davran is -- strikes me as a kind of wise old man. Davran is a soft leader, in a way.

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

DAVRAN (translated text): Do it like this. It is very difficult! COOPER: Davran's last toss is the longest, but it's not without some controversy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated text): You cheated!

DAVRAN (translated text): Why? I did it this way. You can do it, too.

COOPER: So Davran wins again. No one, it seems, can or will beat the boss.

REFSDAL: Well, the importance is that this is everyday life. This is the Taliban. I mean, it shouldn't be a surprise, 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. Davran is called back to the fight, and Refsdal's reporting takes a surprising turn with the arrival of this man. His name is Abdul Rahman and he is a Sharia judge used by the Taliban to enforce their strict religious laws.

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

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

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

COOPER: Rahman explains his interpretation of Islamic law.

ABDUL RAHMAN (translated text): 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, they 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 (translated text): 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 their permission. But he told the man that, 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. Where there's 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 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.



LEMON: I'm Don Lemon. Here's a look at your headlines this hour. U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke is in critical condition tonight in a Washington hospital following surgery for a tear in his aorta. Holbrooke is the Obama administration's special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan. He was hospitalized yesterday after becoming ill during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Secretary Clinton visited Holbrooke earlier today. His family is also by his side tonight.

Sarah Palin is in Haiti tonight as part of a humanitarian delegation led by evangelist Franklin Graham. The former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate has not commented on the trip. Her visit comes as Haiti fights a massive cholera outbreak that has killed more than 2,000 people. The delegation is expected to stop at a cholera clinic to deliver holiday gifts to children.

And in North Carolina, more than 1,200 people gathered today to remember Elizabeth Edwards. The estranged wife of former senator and Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards died Tuesday after a six- year battle with cancer. She was 61 years old. Her daughter, Cate, was among those who eulogized Mrs. Edwards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CATE EDWARDS, DAUGHTER: She will always be that source of light to us, I know, pointing in the right direction. Every lesson that she's taught us has become part of our ethic. All the grace and strength that she showed during her own life will hold us up in the hard days we face in our own lives. Every smile and every hug she gave us we'll someday pass on to our own children. My greatest hope and the greatest ambition that I can think of is that we will each honor her by being the people that she taught us to be, and that by doing that, she'll live on in each of us.


LEMON: And those are your headlines this hour. A CNN documentary, "Taliban," continues right now.


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 use that for all the ambushes as a long-distance weapon against U.S. vehicles.

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

REFSDAL: When I stay 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 much.

COOPER: And yet they fight almost constantly.

DAVRAN (translated text): Ghairat, do you hear me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated text): Mujahed, do you hear me?

DAVRAN (translated text): Ghairat, who was there above you? Was it Omar?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated text): It was Omar.

DAVRAN (translated text): 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.

DAVRAN (translated text): Khyber, Khyber, do you hear me? Khyber, get out! Where it is! Do it, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated text): If I see it, you will see. It will catch fire.

DAVRAN (translated text): God willing. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated text): Find yourselves a good position, a strong position. Take down those bullies one by one.

DAVRAN (translated text): 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 to 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, and 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.

DAVRAN (translated text): It functions at 95. This button.

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

DAVRAN (translated text): Omar wants to talk to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated text): Yusef, do you hear me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated text): How are you, brother? Are you well?

REFSDAL: They are talking like teenage girls and --

COOPER: They talk like teenage girls?


COOPER: Just talking, gossiping, shouting?

REFSDAL: Yes, yes, about everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated text): Thank God, everything is fine. What about you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated text): 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 (translated text) (singing): We have decided to make them cry. We have put on the belt of holy war.

REFSDAL: They don't have television, so the entertainment that they have is the one they make themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated text) (singing): Wherever I find the enemy, I will attack. All the youngsters are holy warriors, all the mountains are our bunkers.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated text) (singing): The order of Commander Davran and the attack of Omar was and will be successful.

COOPER: Refsdal has been with Davran 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: One afternoon, there's this plane flying around in the area. And Davran says, Stay in the house.

COOPER: Throughout the day, the plane continues flying, and Davran 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: It 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, the Taliban, they know that this gunship is used when there are 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 can hear it. They're flying around. It's firing down in the valley. I put on the camera just to record the sound, then suddenly, Davran comes knocks on door, says something. He said, Just get out. Leave your things. Get out. Run. We found an old, you know, abandoned shed and we slept there during the night. All the time, we heard -- 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 Davran. I could see that something really bad had happened.

COOPER: Davran says a dozen people, including his top lieutenant, Assad, have been killed in a special forces raid. REFSDAL: Davran 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, Davran flees with his family. Omar, Davran'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 ground-breaking reporting by embedding with Omar. After four weeks of waiting, they connect and begin the journey to Omar's hideout.

REFSDAL: I meet with Omar. We walk for several hours up 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 with Davran, I was spying for the coalition, and both my translator and I will be executed tonight. So that's kind of --

COOPER (on camera): But 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: Hadn't 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 a guest?

REFSDAL: Well, that's out of the window.

COOPER (voice-over): Omar has broken his word. Paul Refsdal has 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, it seems like he changes subject. And every time the -- 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 asks for a ransom.

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

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

COOPER: You're negotiating.


COOPER: For your life.

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

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

REFSDAL: And they get back with our options. There's 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 Davran, asking for help. Soon Davran 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 Davran, 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 (ph). He says that, Today you're going to be released. Of course, we don't believe him.

COOPER: Refsdal and his translator are loaded onto 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 Omaha has sold us to another group. If we're turning left, we're heading to the town and we're free. So that's kind of nerve-wracking going down there. And then we take the left.

COOPER (on camera): And so you knew you were going to be freed.


COOPER (on camera): 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 Davran's hideout. Davran survives, but unconfirmed reports indicate two of his children are killed. And Omar gets back into the hostage-taking business, capturing, then releasing another journalist.

(on camera): Was it worth it?

REFSDAL: I think so. There's no way other to report from the Taliban than actually meeting the Taliban. If you meet the Taliban, you never 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: 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.