CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERROR
Produced and Directed by Greg Barker and Mark Anderson
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I want justice. There's an old poster out West, as I
recall, that said, "Wanted dead or alive."
ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE, the inside story
of those uncertain days after September 11th.
COLIN POWELL, Secretary of State: what does this mean? What do I have to do to get the world
behind us in this time of terrible tragedy and crisis?
ANNOUNCER: The story of how America pieced
together an international coalition against terror.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, Deputy Secretary of Defense: There was no war plan of any kind for
ANNOUNCER: And how the Afghan rebels and U.S.
ned to fight a new kind of war.
MARK, Captain, Commander, Special Forces A
Team 595: We would bomb the snot out of them in
the morning. The ground forces
would move into their assault positions, but they were at the gallop, firing
their assault weapons, scaring the hell out of the Taliban.
ANNOUNCER: And finally, the story of how Usama bin
Laden eluded their grasp.
Col. JOHN MULHOLLAND, Special Forces
Commander, Afghanistan: In hindsight,
I mean, would we like to have done more? Absolutely. I mean, would
we like to walk out of the mountains with bin Laden in hand and his
cronies? Certainly. But it didn't happen.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE, the successes and
failures of America's Campaign Against Terror.
NARRATOR: On the morning of September 11th, 2001,
President George W. Bush was visiting a grade school in Florida. Minutes before, a plane had hit the
World Trade Center. Bush had been
told it looked like an accident.
front of a classroom of 2nd-graders, the president learned of the second
plane. His chief of staff
whispered, "America is under attack." As the president gathered his thoughts, his national
security team began to react.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, National Security Adviser: At that point, I thought, "My God,
this is a terrorist attack. And so
I went into the Situation Room to try to locate the National Security Council
principals. And you're just kind
of carried along by adrenaline in trying to deal with the- the moment.
NARRATOR: After consulting with his advisers, the
president made his first brief statement.
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I've ordered that the full resources of
the federal government go to conduct a full-scale investigation to hunt down
and to find those folks who committed this act.
*AARON BROWN, CNN Anchor: We're getting reports now that we have
a large fire at the Pentagon. The
Pentagon is being evacuated. The
RICE: I called the president and he said,
"I'm coming back to Washington." We said that we didn't think that that was a good idea
because Washington is under attack, and we don't know what else is coming.
POWELL, Secretary of State: I was in Lima,
Peru. And suddenly, my assistant came
in and handed me a note. And the
note said a plane had gone into the World Trade Center, which immediately
raised the issue of not an accident, terror. I immediately turned to my assistant and said, "Get the
plane. We've got to go home."
Lima to Washington, D.C., I had all that time to think about what had happened
and what it was going to mean. By
then, I also knew about the Pentagon, of course, and the fourth plane that had
crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. So clearly, America was under assault, serious assault.
DUFFY, "Time" Magazine: Bush's impulse on September 11th was to counter-strike immediately. At one point, while he's flying around
the country on September 11th, waiting to come back to Washington, he actually
tells an aide, "I want to hit him hard. I want- I want to get him." And I think he was told, you know, "There's nothing we
know- we don't know what to hit yet, and we don't have anybody in place to do
NARRATOR: The president finally returned to White
House at 6:30 that evening, and in a short address from the Oval Office, he
gave the first hint of how America might respond.
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I've directed the full resources of our
intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to
bring them to justice. We will
make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those
who harbor them.
NARRATOR: Immediately after his speech, Bush
called a meeting of the National Security Council. His advisers were certain the attacks were the work of al
Qaeda, Usama bin Laden's terrorist network, based in Afghanistan.
RICE: Everybody assumed that it was al Qaeda
because the operation looked like al Qaeda, quacked like al Qaeda, seemed like
NARRATOR: CIA director George Tenet explained
that al Qaeda was unlike any enemy America had faced.
RICE: George Tenet was relating that part of
the problem here would be not just to deal with their home base in Afghanistan,
but to deal with their tentacles in other places. The president said, "Then we're going to have to have a
strategy to defeat them, even if we have to do it one by one."
NARRATOR: In the immediate aftermath of the
terrorist attacks, America received an outpouring of sympathy from around the
world. The Bush administration set
out to translate that emotion into concrete support for a war against
POWELL: How should we
respond? My job now is secretary
of state. I'm not the chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of staff anymore, but my mind is thinking militarily. But diplomatically, what does this
mean? what do I have to do to get
the world behind us in this? And what opportunities might exist in this time of
terrible tragedy and crisis? And I
suggested to the president and my other colleagues that this was an opportunity
to begin pulling together a worldwide coalition.
NARRATOR: Bush began building that coalition on
September 12th with a call to America's closest ally.
BLAIR, Prime Minister of Great Britain: President Bush was obviously shocked, outraged by what had happened, but
I remember he was very calm in the conversation. He said immediately, "There is no point in some instant
response that means nothing. So
we've got to think this thing through to make sure that we go after these
people in a way that's going to be effective and that is going to eradicate
I remember saying, "You have to work out who's responsible. You have to prove to the bar of public
opinion who's responsible."
RICE: Prime Minister Blair was concerned
about evidence. The president was
quite clear that he believed with every bone in his body that it was al Qaeda
and that there was no question in his mind.
NARRATOR: Support from Britain was one
thing. But to fight al Qaeda,
America needed friends close to Afghanistan. The most crucial was Pakistan, Afghanistan's southern
neighbor. But it was aligned with
Afghanistan's rulers, the Taliban. And although Pakistan had been America's cold war ally, relations had
soured. President Bush had never
spoken to the Pakistani leader, Gen. Musharraf.
**Gen. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, President of
Pakistan: [television address] Let me say that the people of Pakistan
are deeply shocked and outraged at the dreadful terrorist attacks in New York
and Washington. I wish to assure
President Bush and the United States government of our unstinted cooperation in
the fight against terrorism.
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I appreciate that statement. And now we'll just find out what that
means, won't we. We will- we will-
we will- we will give the Pakistani government a chance to cooperate and to
NARRATOR: Bush had another problem. He had to prepare the nation for the
war he had already decided to fight.
RICE, National Security Adviser: The president had said to the national security principals the day
before, "We are at war," but it didn't seem the right time to declare
war, in effect. And so instead,
the president the next day, he said, "This is a war, and we're going to
have to tell the American people that we're at war." And he did it, actually, without any
preparation or paper in front of him. It was a perfectly natural thing for him to say. And he did discuss it with the National
Security Council principals, but it was not a written statement. He simply went out and called it an act
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: The deliberate and deadly attacks which
were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of
terror. They were acts of war.
NARRATOR: The president had declared war before
he or his advisers knew what that war would entail. The U.S. military had no contingency plans for an all-out
war in Afghanistan. It could
launch cruise missiles almost immediately. But President Clinton had already tried that two years
earlier, with strikes on bin Laden's training camps inside Afghanistan. Bush clearly expected more.
September 13th, the president received a key briefing from the CIA director and
his chief of counterterrorism. The
CIA said it did have a plan for Afghanistan, an "unconventional war,"
as first reported by Bob Woodward.
WOODWARD, "The Washington Post": That day, he had a briefing by the CIA, which came up with a core plan
for attacking bin Laden and the al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Cofer Black, the head of the CIA's
Counterterrorist Center, briefed the president in a very animated way, said,
"We have a plan. We've been
operating secretly in Afghanistan for years. We know some of the opposition forces. We know some of the tribes. We can go in there. We can kill these people." He literally said, "They will
have- they will be dead," and using an old African term, "They will
have flies crawling across their eyeballs."
Bush and the rest of the war cabinet was very impressed with this because it
was a solution. It was at least an
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these
buildings down will hear all of us soon!
RICE: The president went up to New York to
Ground Zero for the first time, but he sent the vice president and Secretary
Rumsfeld and Colin Powell and me to Camp David ahead of him on Friday night to
begin to talk about what we were going to face. And I can remember getting there and sitting at dinner with
these folks and thinking that the country was going to be OK because we had
turned from the sense of great loss and tragedy - a sense that will always be
with us - but to a sense of American resolution to get this job done.
NARRATOR: At Camp David that weekend, the
president and his advisers would debate what kind of war America should fight.
POWELL: By the time the meeting took place on
Saturday morning at Camp David, where we assembled to look at military options
and exactly what we were going to do as we moved forward, it had all begun to
sink in, the extent of this problem.
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm going to ask the secretary of state
to say a few things, and then the attorney general.
RICE: How wide a war should we declare? Should we talk about the war on
terrorism as just against al Qaeda? What about states that- with which we had hostile relations, that even
if they weren't directly supporting al Qaeda, were clearly a part of the
insecurity that we were now feeling? Iraq fell into that category.
NARRATOR: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
allowed his deputy to argue that now was the time to move against Saddam Hussein.
WOLFOWITZ, Deputy Secretary of Defense: We
have multiple objectives. And as
the president again said from the beginning, this is going to be a broad
campaign. It's not going to end
quickly. One of those objectives
is the al Qaeda network, and again, not just one man but the whole
network. The second objective is
state support for terrorism. And a
third is this larger connection between states that support terrorism and
states that develop weapons of mass destruction.
POWELL: And Paul put a case forward that,
ultimately, Iraq would have to be dealt with, and this was as good a time as
any to consider it.
listening to it all and hearing the arguments back and forth and listening to
the vice president, the director of central intelligence and others, the president
made the decision that everybody will understand us going after the
perpetrators, and Iraq will be there, and other regimes that mean us no good
and mean the world no good, will be there when this is over, and we can look at
those as problems later on.
NARRATOR: With Iraq set aside, the focus would be
on al Qaeda and the state that protected them, Afghanistan, a land-locked,
mountainous nation where both the British and Soviet empires had met humiliating
RICE: When we put the map out on the table-
and you look at the map and you look at Afghanistan and you look where it is-
and I think the color kind of drained from everybody's faces.
WOLFOWITZ: There was no war plan of any kind for
this operation. I mean, it was so
far from what we were thinking of that we were really starting from scratch.
RICE: The stories of British defeats in
Afghanistan and Soviet defeats in Afghanistan, not to mention the potential for
instability in Pakistan- it sits there on the Iranian border- Iran, with which
we have no relations- states like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan- I think everybody
thought of all of the places to have to fight a war, Afghanistan would not be
NARRATOR: Again, CIA director George Tenet put
forward his solution, a covert war. The plan called for CIA paramilitary officers to link up with
anti-Taliban guerrillas inside Afghanistan. They would later be joined by small special operations units
from the military. These teams
would call in precision air strikes that would destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda
WOODWARD: Tenet had a much more detailed
refinement of his plan and briefed how they can go into Afghanistan and how
they can attack the terrorists worldwide. And Bush loved it.
NARRATOR: By Monday, September 17th, when
President Bush returned to the White House, he'd made his decision to back the
CIA's plan for an "unconventional war."
RICE: Probably the most important conclusion
that he came to was that this military action that we were about to take had to
look different than what the United States had been doing over the last 10
years or so. It could not just be
an air campaign. It could not just
be a cruise-missile campaign. There had to be boots on the ground. We had to have a ground presence to demonstrate our
seriousness. And probably that
single insight governed more of what we did than anything else. And that was the president's.
NARRATOR: Later that day, the president delivered
an impromptu ultimatum to the Taliban: Give up bin Laden or face the
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Usama bin Laden is a prime
suspect. And we're going to find
those who- who- those evildoers, those barbaric people who attacked our- who
attacked our country, and we're going to hold them accountable. And we're going to hold the people who
house them accountable. The people
who think they can provide them safe havens will be held accountable. The people who feed them will be held
accountable. And- and the Taliban
must take my statement seriously.
NARRATOR: That same day, the president instructed
Colin Powell to issue a series of demands to the Taliban's main backers, the
government of Pakistan.
POWELL, Secretary of State: Because the
Pakistanis supported the Taliban, to some extent the Pakistanis had some
responsibility in this, as well.
ARMITAGE, Deputy Secretary of State: We
sat down with Secretary Powell and determined what sort of things would one
want from Pakistan. And we hit on
several major, major items that ran the gamut from cooperation with sealing
their border and stopping al Qaeda from- and Taliban, from escaping the border,
down through- and the seventh point being that should we be unsuccessful in
getting the Taliban to turn over bin Laden and should we decide that both the
Taliban and bin Laden were engaged in this, that Pakistan would help us
"destroy" - and those were the words - bin Laden. It was not a letter, it was a seven-point
"non-paper," as we say in the business.
NARRATOR: Pakistan's intelligence chief, the
pro-Taliban General Mahmood, was already in Washington. He was summoned to the State
ARMITAGE: It was a very brief, 15 or 20-minute
meeting, where I presented him with the list and told him that this was not a
negotiable list, it was all or nothing. He said that he was sure that he knew how the president thought, and the
president would accept these points and was with us. And I said, "With all respect, that's not good
enough," that "the president of Pakistan, President Musharraf, must
agree to these. And my secretary
will be calling a couple of hours."
the secretary called about an hour, 15 or 20 minutes after we'd finished the
meeting, and President Musharraf agreed to all the conditions without
NARRATOR: But the president of Pakistan was worried
about the domestic fall-out of cooperating with America. Islamic fundamentalism ran deep in
Pakistani society, and support for the Taliban was widespread.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Public sentiment here was against the
United States, especially because of our- the public having suffered a sense
of- a sense of abandonment after the cold war, where everyone was here and we
were in very high spirits together for 10 years, fighting in Afghanistan
against the cold war, together in a coalition, and suddenly everything
ends. Everything goes. Everyone goes off. And here we are, left high and dry,
fending for three million refugees and warfare in Afghanistan. So therefore, there was a sense of
abandonment. Very difficult
decision for me to join the coalition.
NARRATOR: Musharraf's greatest concern was that
America was demanding the use of Pakistani military bases and the right for
U.S. aircraft to fly over his territory on missions to bomb Afghanistan.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: These two aspects now were nightmarish,
I would say, where a few of our airfields being used. This was the most difficult decision.
Read the interview]
NARRATOR: President Musharraf had other reasons to
be cautious. Four of his top
generals bitterly opposed siding with the U.S. These generals had helped Musharraf seize power. If they turned against him, Musharraf
might be overthrown. And if that
happened, Washington's entire strategy for the war would be in jeopardy.
CHAMBERLIN, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan: We
may have been the biggest power in the world, but he was certainly the most
important leader in the world to us, at that moment. President Musharraf shared with me some concerns that both
he and his closest advisers had.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: I told Wendy also that this is our
cooperation against terrorism. You
must understand the fall-out, the domestic fall-out. Not easy- these decisions are not very easy. They're very difficult.
NARRATOR: To counter bin Laden's appeal,
Musharraf said he needed something tangible from America.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: An indication of cooperation and
assistance to Pakistan, understanding our internal problems- that was there.
WENDY CHAMBERLIN: I said, "Mr. President, are these
conditions?" He said,
"No, these are not conditions. These are concerns, concerns we have, because if the Pakistani people
are going to stick with me and make this change, they have to understand that
it's in their interests."
NARRATOR: On Thursday, September 20th, nine days
after the terrorist attacks, President Bush hosted Tony Blair at the White
*Prime Minister TONY BLAIR: This struggle is something that should
unite people of all faiths, of all nations, of all democratic political
persuasions. And I believe it
NARRATOR: That night, Bush would outline his war
plan to a joint session of Congress.
Minister TONY BLAIR: The president was about to make the
most important political speech of his life. And I remember, when we were going up in the lift together,
saying to him, "You must be really nervous before this big speech, and he said,
"Well, actually, I'm not that nervous about it because I know what I want
to say and I know what I'm saying is right."
DUFFY, "Time" Magazine: Bush kept a remarkably low profile for the first 10 days. His public statements were not terribly
steady. He seemed a little unsure
of himself. He kept repeating what
he was saying over and over. And
it wasn't until 10 days later that he came out and told the American public
what he was going to do, when he was going to do it, and why.
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: In Afghanistan, we see al Qaeda's
vision for the world. Afghanistan's people have been brutalized. Many are starving, and many have fled.
DUFFY: At the heart of the "why" was
a strategic decision to make Afghanistan an outlaw state, saying that al Qaeda
and the Taliban had taken over a country that wasn't really theirs in a way
that created a lawlessness far beyond Afghanistan's borders. And Bush said, "We're going to put
an end to that."
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: We're not deceived by their pretenses
to piety. We have seen their kind
before. They are the heirs of all
the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions, by
abandoning every value except the will to power, they follow in the path of
fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way to where it ends, in
history's unmarked grave of discarded lies.
NARRATOR: Just hours before his speech, the
president had instructed the military to begin planning for war.
TOMMY FRANKS, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Central Command: For some 10 or 11 years of Soviet
experience in Afghanistan, they introduced 620,000 people on the ground and had
15,000 of them killed and 55,000 of them wounded. So we took that as instructive, as a way not to do it.
NARRATOR: Most of the "boots on the
ground" the president wanted would be Army special forces, Green Berets
from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Although
prepared to deploy around the world, until now the special forces had not been
asked to develop contingency plans for Afghanistan.
JOHN MULHOLLAND, Special Forces Commander, Afghanistan: Afghanistan was not an area that the
United States had focused on in a great many years, since- primarily since the
end of the Soviet era there in Afghanistan, after they pulled out at the end of
the '80s. So we did not have any
experience in the country itself.
NARRATOR: The core of their plan would be the
insertion of small, 12-man units - known as "A-teams" - to lead the
fight on the ground.
Col. DAVID FOX, Special Forces Battalion Commander: A-team- that is the heart- that is the
heart and soul of special forces. That is 12 highly-trained soldiers. I like to say that they're the tip of the spear. They're the guys that are on the ground
that make things happen. They're
the individuals that build the rapport. They're the guys that are the tactical experts. They organize the- the indigenous
force, if you will, and prepare them for combat. They're the guys that are making things happen.
NARRATOR: For this strategy to succeed, America
would need allies inside Afghanistan. The most obvious choice was the Northern Alliance, a loose collection of
warlords who had fought the Taliban for seven years. The Northern Alliance controlled 20 percent of the
country. The CIA said it had
contacts within the alliance and could persuade them to cooperate.
WOODWARD, "The Washington Post": The military had no off-the-shelf plan ready. They had not been operating in Afghanistan, and so they were
behind. And the CIA came in and said,
"Here's how we can do it. We're ready. We have the
contacts. We have these paramilitary
teams which can go in."
NARRATOR: Yet a former CIA officer who worked in
the region says the agency overstated its capabilities.
GERECHT, Former CIA Officer: I
think there's a certain retrospective embellishment of what the United States
government was doing in Afghanistan before 9/11. This is certainly true with the Central Intelligence
Agency. Very little was going on. There was some increased contact, but
for the most part, agency officers didn't like going into northern
Afghanistan. They rarely went
the most part, the Afghans themselves didn't take them very seriously. The Americans would on occasion fly
into the Panshjir Valley, say, "Pretty, pretty please, tell us everything
you know about Usama bin Laden. Could you please do it in English, and could you please do it quickly so
we don't have to stay here overnight?" And then they'd fly out.
NARRATOR: To work with the Northern Alliance,
America would need the cooperation of Afghanistan's neighbors to the north,
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
POWELL, Secretary of State: Uzbekistan was
the one with an- of greatest interest to us, in the first instance, because it
was a direct line of supply down into the area of the Northern Alliance, and we
needed quick access to the bases in Uzbekistan.
NARRATOR: Yet these Central Asian republics had
once been part of the Soviet Union and were still closely aligned with Russia.
POWELL: The problem we worrying about, at that
point, was that the Russians have always been sensitive to what's going on in
Central Asia, and how would they react to a sudden American presence on their
NARRATOR: In Moscow, President Putin's top advisers
IVANOV, Foreign Minister of Russia: [through
translator] Would the U.S. use the war against
terrorism to establish a permanent military presence in Central Asia? Would they pursue other goals there
aimed against the interests of the Russian Federation?
PUTIN, President of Russia: [through
translator] This was a big problem for us, the
situation on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border, where we still maintain a
Russian military presence.
NARRATOR: Russia's national security adviser,
Vladimir Rushailov, was dispatched to Central Asia, his movements closely
tracked by the State Department.
ARMITAGE, Deputy Secretary of State: We
had information from our own embassies in each of the Central Asian states that
Mr. Rushailov was cautioning the Central Asian states against cooperation with
the United States at roughly the same time that I was trying to enlist the
cooperation of the Russian Federation.
NARRATOR: Tajikistan's president had initially
told American diplomats he was willing to cooperate. But now the Russian envoy encouraged him to think again.
RAKHMONOV, President of Tajikistan: [through
translator] We didn't have accurate information
about the American plans. What was the coalition's plan? What was its ultimate aim? Did they just want to destroy bin Laden
or destroy Mullah Omar, or capture them both? Or did they plan to go all the way and sort out Afghanistan's
problem? It wasn't clear to us.
NARRATOR: As Tajikistan and Uzbekistan vacillated,
President Putin decided Russia should help America secure Central Asia's
cooperation. Yet first Putin had
to win the support of skeptics inside the Kremlin.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: [through translator] The vast majority - even those that had
doubts - never questioned the necessity of cooperation. Any doubts were about the nuances of
how we could do it.
NARRATOR: On Saturday, September 22nd, Putin
called President Bush at Camp David.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: [through translator] It was my idea to call him. I told President Bush that after
decisions made by the Russian leadership, I had consulted my Central Asian
colleagues. I assured him that
they would support the USA and the world community in the fight against
RICE, National Security Adviser: President Putin was making very clear that the United-that the Russians
would have no problem with an American presence in Central Asia in order to
fight the war on terrorism. And
President Bush was making it clear that the United States didn't wish to
supplant Russian influence in that region. We knew it was the former Soviet Union and that Russia had
long-standing interests in the region, and that we had no intention of
permanent military basing in that area.
NARRATOR: Putin told Bush what he wanted in
return: closer ties to America.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: [through translator] We needed to develop our relations with
the West, and in particular, with the United States. The events of September 11th have given us the momentum to rethink
the world's relationship.
RICE: Back at the beginning, almost at the
beginning of this, the president had said through his tears that he could see
opportunities for new relationships. And here we had a vivid example of a new relationship that was budding
NARRATOR: Meanwhile, America's new relationship
with Pakistan was far from secure. Although President Musharraf had agreed to cooperate, his real aim was
to stop a war before it began. He
ordered his intelligence chief, General Mahmood, to go to Afghanistan and
persuade the Taliban to hand over Usama bin Laden.
If the requirement is Usama bin
Laden, we must try to get him out. If you can get him out and it solves all the problem, well, why the
NARRATOR: While pro-Taliban Pakistanis burned
President Bush in effigy, General Mahmood visited the American ambassador.
CHAMBERLIN, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan: General Mahmood rehearsed with me that he was planning a trip to meet
with Taliban officials to persuade the Taliban that the United States meant
business and that they would be well advised by a friend - because he
considered himself a friend - to cooperate on the crackdown on the al Qaeda.
NARRATOR: The Taliban's friend set off to meet
their leader, Mullah Omar, in Kandahar.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: I sent a letter to Mullah Omar also, my
own letter, telling him from my personal side that "Please accept
NARRATOR: General Mahmood secretly crossed the
border and met Mullah Omar. On his
return, he got a call from the State Department, asking about the meeting.
ARMITAGE: General Mahmood thought he had made an
impression on Omar, and he said that he had- he, General Mahmood, had put it
roughly in the following terms: "It's the well-being of 26 million
Afghanistan citizens against one foreign visitor, bin Laden. This is the- this is what you're
forfeiting if you don't do what the Americans want." As I recall, General Mahmood thought
he'd made some headway. But as it
turned out, he had not.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Unfortunately, this issue of
surrendering Usama bin Laden, the message was absolute obstinacy. They were not bending at all, not
yielding. That was the last straw,
actually. I was quite disappointed.
NARRATOR: With war approaching, British prime
minister Tony Blair traveled to Pakistan to deliver a personal message from
President Bush. The allies needed
to know that President Musharraf was fully on board.
Minister TONY BLAIR: We put everyone else out of the room
and just talked, the two of us, and that was important because I wanted to say
to him that I had spoken to President Bush. I was speaking for both of us in the conversation that I was
having. And really, I wanted to say
that Pakistan really should have nothing to do with these types of extremists,
or the Taliban regime. If Pakistan
helped, then we would help Pakistan.
NARRATOR: The time had come for Musharraf to
choose between his pro-Taliban generals and the West.
NARRATOR: In a surprise move, he dismissed
General Mahmood and other fundamentalists within his government. The U.S. ambassador was the first
outsider to hear the news.
CHAMBERLIN: He says, "Oh, incidentally,
several of my senior military officers will be retiring, and Mahmood will be
retiring." And I- my mouth
must have dropped because I asked him to repeat it.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Yes, I did tell her. I did surprise her.
CHAMBERLIN: But he took great pains to let me know
that this was not a firing,
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: I clarified, actually, that it has
nothing to do with whatever is happening in Afghanistan, nothing at all.
CHAMBERLIN: Now, President Musharraf took great
pains to explain this, and this is his line and he stuck with it.
NARRATOR: There was another vital piece of the
diplomatic puzzle that needed to be put in place, Iran. Dominating Afghanistan's western
border, Iran opposed the Taliban, but it was also a committed adversary of the
Minister TONY BLAIR: Now, Iran had no love for the Taliban,
but on the other hand, relations between the West and Iran were very poor. So I decided, "Well, we"- you
know, "We can't leave Iran out of this, and we've got to consult them
about it." You know,
"They've got a legitimate interest in the area."
NARRATOR: So the British foreign secretary, Jack
Straw, headed to Tehran, after first consulting with Washington.
GROSSMAN, Undersecretary of State: Our proposition was that we had to sort of find a way for the Iranians
to understand that the "with us, against us" applied to them, too,
and that they could find a way to be positive in this, and that certainly, they
had to find a way to be positive in the future of Afghanistan. They're there. They would play a role.
we felt that this was- that if the British foreign secretary could convey that
there had to be a future in Afghanistan after Mullah Omar and after Usama bin
Laden, that we wanted the Iranians to recognize they had an opportunity to do
something positive here.
NARRATOR: Straw's best hope was that he would be
able to persuade the Iranians to keep out of the conflict and stay neutral.
STRAW, Foreign Secretary of Great Britain: Of course, they understood that what happened in Tehran would be
communicated to the United States, so we had to, as it were, not agree to
disagree but come to an understanding. And the understanding was that the Iranians recognize the reality that
the United States was going to lead this coalition. That being so, and given the very difficult history of
relations between the United States and Iran, there was so much the Iranian
government could do, but not more.
NARRATOR: The Iranians agreed not to interfere,
as least for now.
also needed help from Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, whose governments
felt under threat from Islamic fundamentalists. In Saudi Arabia, homeland to most of the September 11th terrorists,
the U.S. maintained a huge high-tech airbase. But the Saudis would not allow it to be used to attack
fellow Muslims in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld set out to bring the Saudis back in
J. FEITH, Undersecretary of Defense: He
didn't go there with a shopping list. He didn't go there with a list of so-called "deliverables,"
either. He kept the discussion
general and strategic, and he wasn't there to bargain. They were able to give us all kinds of
support, public and secret, without worrying that they were going to get
graded, as it were.
More on forging the coalition]
NARRATOR: While Rumsfeld had tea
with the king, backstage officials struck a deal. America would not be allowed to fly planes out of the
airbase, but it could use its command center to direct air strikes, which was
all the U.S. really needed.
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [television address] On my orders, the United States
military has begun strikes against al Qaeda terrorist training camps and
military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. These carefully targeted actions are
designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations
and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime.
NARRATOR: The night of October 7th, just hours
after President Bush announced he had launched America's war against al Qaeda
and the Taliban, al Jazeera broadcast a tape of Usama bin Laden in which he
tried to justify the September 11th attacks.
*USAMA BIN LADEN: [subtitles] What America tastes today is trivial
compared to what we have suffered for decades. Our nation has tasted humiliation and contempt for more than
DUFFY, "Time" Magazine: One of the different aspects of this new kind of war is that, in
addition to having a front on the battlefield, there was a front on the
airwaves. And while George W. Bush
and his national security team spent a lot of time working the American public
and the coalition against Usama and the Taliban, so did Usama bin Laden. And through the use of al Jazeera and
the other ways in which information is distributed now in Central Asia, bin
Laden and al Qaeda very effectively put their message and their goals and their
beliefs in real time up on the air.
NARRATOR: For the first several days, the air
strikes were intensive, but their effectiveness was questioned. Bin Laden's training camps were hit,
but they had already been largely abandoned. The Taliban's infrastructure was pummeled, but after decades
of war, much of it had already been destroyed. And inevitably, there were civilian casualties.
*TALIBAN OFFICIAL: American terrorist attacks on
Afghanistan are continuing the genocide of Afghan civilians in the main cities
of Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat and Jalalabad. The only significant achievement these
intensified air raids brought for the Americans is a wave of anti-American
campaign throughout the world.
*DONALD RUMSFELD, Secretary of Defense: [press conference] The Taliban and the al Qaeda, including
Usama bin Laden, have gotten up day after day since October 7th and told lies
about what has been done. Is it
possible, at some point, that a civilian was killed? Yes. We've
announced here at this podium that a civilian was killed, and it was an
accident and unfortunate. And we
regret the loss of any innocent life. But that person was not killed by us. That person was killed when the al Qaeda and bin Laden
attacked the United States and killed thousands of people and caused us to have
to go into that country and root out those terrorists before they killed
NARRATOR: Bombing alone would clearly not be
enough. America turned to the
TOMMY FRANKS, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Central Command: Since about 20 percent of Afghanistan
was controlled by the Northern Alliance, it made perfect sense to us that this
would be a place to see what we could leverage, which opposition forces we
could support in order to accomplish our mission.
NARRATOR: CIA paramilitary units had already
linked up with key Northern Alliance leaders.
DUFFY: From the beginning, it was the CIA
operatives, the intelligence guys, who went in first, armed not so much with
pistols but with cash. They went
in to buy off warlords, to get various Afghan factions to join forces and unite
against first the Taliban and then al Qaeda.
NARRATOR: The plan was that special forces units
would quickly link up with Northern Alliance commanders who'd been vetted by
the CIA operatives. Only the
special forces teams had the training and laser-guiding equipment to call in
the precision air strikes that could tip the military balance against the
Taliban. Yet the special forces
teams had yet to receive their orders to move into Afghanistan.
*DONALD RUMSFELD: If we had- how to phrase this so that
it's perfectly clear again. We
have not- we've got- I mean, the- yeah, I mean, we've got- we've got- I'm
disinclined to talk about things that are in process. And if we had significant numbers of U.S. military on the
ground, it would have been known by now.
WOLFOWITZ, Deputy Secretary of Defense: Rumsfeld was just pushing and pushing- "When are the special forces
people going to get in?" You
can't just drop bombs from the sky without a lot of precision about where the
targets are, so that the bottleneck in achieving that objective, about which there
was no disagreement- the bottleneck was getting our special forces people on
the ground to direct those air strikes.
NARRATOR: A full 12 days after the bombing
campaign began, the first special forces A-teams were inserted into
Afghanistan. They had been briefed
with the latest intelligence from the CIA.
Sgt. 1st Class, Special Forces A Team 555: They came up and said, "All right, you guys are it. You're going in first, and this is
where you're going." They
couldn't tell us where the front lines were. That was one of the questions. We said, "OK, this is where we're landing. Where are the front lines? Are we getting shot at as soon as we
tactical information is "Where are the bullets flying?" You know, "Who's in command? How many troops?" All that stuff. That information we didn't get.
NARRATOR: One team joined General Dostum, whose
forces were positioned 55 miles outside the key northern city of
Mazar-e-Sharif. A classic warlord,
Dostum had made and broken alliances with every faction, including the Taliban.
Captain, Commander, Special Forces A Team 595: First about 20 horsemen came galloping
up. They're armed to the teeth,
looking pretty rough, you know, the heavy beards. Your typical Soviet small arms is what they possessed, light
machine guns, AK-47s, RPGs. And
they- and about 10 minutes behind them, another 30 horsemen arrived with
Chief Warrant Officer, Special Forces A Team 595: The intelligence we got on him at first
wasn't nothing like it was when we saw him. Totally different.
Sgt. 1st Class, Special Forces A Team 595: They said he was a frail, wounded man, yeah, you know, just kind of your
old guy. He had diabetes. He was crippled. Nowhere was he like that.
Captain, Commander, Special Forces A Team 595: He was healthy as an ox. I mean, he came riding up with his
Northern Alliance horsemen and jumped off his horse.
BILL: Thanked us for coming.
Former CIA Officer: There was an understanding in the
beginning, I think, on the part of the Pentagon, that perhaps the agency
paramilitary forces would, quote, "know the terrain and know the people
better." That wasn't true,
and I think the Pentagon discovered that, that, in fact, the cultural
knowledge, the on-the-ground knowledge on the part of the agency forces was no
better than their own.
NARRATOR: General Dostum told the special forces
he was pleased to see them and was eager to launch a new offensive against the
MARK: General Dostum- he had this incredible
map that was hand-drawn, of all the- the entire country of Afghanistan, the
major roads, lines of communication and all the known cities, the major cities
and the known Taliban locations. And he quickly explained his strategy and campaign plan to us.
BILL: Said, "This is what I want to do
MARK: So right away, six members of the
detachment, including myself, would mount horses for the first time. And we would ride with General Dostum
approximately four hours to his mountain headquarters.
BILL: It was an incredible- I mean, we were
going up stuff that- you know, a foot wide, and you were 1,000 feet up on a
cliff, that you knew if you fell, you were dead. And it was very invigorating, I think is probably the-
MARK: This was our first chapter in the Wild
Wild West events that we would participate in every day.
NARRATOR: Further south, at Bagram Airbase
outside Kabul, the local Northern Alliance commander showed a second special
forces team the front lines nearby, where the Taliban and al Qaeda were
Sgt. 1st Class, Special Forces A Team 555: He was there the first day. He was the one who was showing us to the famous tower. We didn't go down there to call any of
our aircraft in. We were just
going to survey the front lines.
BABAJAN, Northern Alliance Commander, Bagram Airbase: [through translator] The Americans didn't know this area at
all, but we'd been fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda here for three years. We gave the Americans all our
intelligence about enemy positions.
FRANK: And he starts pointing out all the
enemy positions. You know, like,
"You mean that's al Qaeda right there and that's Taliban?" And he knew, "Yeah, that's General
So-and-So lives in that house," and you know, "This is where his
lines are." And we said,
"Wait a minute," got on the radio. "Hey, any aircraft coming this way?" You know, like, "Yeah, be there in
two hours." So he called back
up, had these guys bring down some laser equipment, and we started dropping
BABAJAN: [through translator] When we saw these bombs for the first
time, we were very happy because it was so precise. They were just hitting the targets.
FRANK: The air campaign had started I'm not
sure how many weeks before that, and they were- they weren't really hitting
anything. They were up at 25,000
feet, just dropping area targets. And he wasn't impressed with that. And then when we came down there and started hitting pinpoint targets
only maybe a kilometer in front of us, they were, like, "All right, this
is for real." You know,
"It's time to start." They were all happy. They
were giggling and- you know, and that's when we really built rapport. The food got a lot better that day.
NARRATOR: But America's budding relationship with
the Northern Alliance was causing grave concerns in Pakistan. Pakistan was worried about the fate of
Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns of the country's south. The Pashtuns were traditional ethnic rivals
of the Northern Alliance, and Pakistan itself had a large Pashtun minority.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: The concerns were that Afghanistan
would have descended into chaos, you know, as it did, when the- at the end of
the cold war, when the Soviets left. There would be ethnic in-fighting, warlordism and strife in the whole of
NARRATOR: After the Soviet withdrawal from
Afghanistan in 1989, the warlords who now formed the Northern Alliance, then
called the mujahadeen, had taken the capital, Kabul, terrorizing the local
Pashtun community. The mujahadeen
had killed thousands- old men, women and children. In Pakistan, President Musharraf worried that history might
*Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: [television address] I think we will return anarchy and the
atrocities and the criminal killing of each other again. To avoid that, certainly the Northern
Alliance must be kept in check.
NARRATOR: Colin Powell flew to Islamabad to
reassure President Musharraf that the Northern Alliance would not be allowed to
dictate the war's outcome.
POWELL, Secretary of State: We had to do
some careful conversationing with President Musharraf, if I can invent that
word, to keep him calm. I said the
Northern Alliance was really the only coherent functioning military
organization that we could partner with and use, as we undertook our military
NARRATOR: Powell told Musharraf that this time,
the Northern Alliance would be kept out of Kabul. But Musharraf wanted something more: economic assistance to
show his people this war was in their interest.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: I was very, very, frank with him, and I
did tell him, again, as a general to a general, I said, "I'm going to be
extremely straight and frank concerning debt relief."
Every time we got together, he would raise this issue of debt. He said contracts were being canceled
for goods that were made in Pakistan. It became a very, very unstable situation, and he was starting to pay a
great price for it.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: I said, "If you really want to
assist us, this is the area that we seek assistance."
POWELL: I said, "Mr. President, Mr.
president, I've got it. I've got
it. It's burned in my forehead
forever, debt relief. Even my wife
can see it now."
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: I think, yes, we drove this point home
NARRATOR: After America's intervention, the
International Monetary Fund gave Pakistan a $1.2 billion loan, and Musharraf
accepted that the Northern Alliance would have a role in any future Afghan
*Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: [press conference] We agreed that durable peace in
Afghanistan would only be possible through the establishment of a broad-based
NARRATOR: That meant America would have to rein
in the ambitions of the Northern Alliance's political leader, Professor
Rabbani. Rabbani was an Islamic
scholar who had been president of Afghanistan when the mujahadeen last
controlled Kabul. Many feared
Rabbani wanted to reclaim the presidency for himself and again persecute the
*BURHANNAUDIN RABBANI, Northern Alliance
Political Leader: [subtitles] No true Afghan can allow our country to
suffer any longer under the hands of invaders who have subjected Afghanistan to
ruin and destruction.
NARRATOR: To help control Rabbani, Washington
turned to Russia, which had supported the Northern Alliance since 1994 against
their common enemy, the Taliban. Two weeks into the bombing campaign, President Bush traveled to Shanghai
for an economic summit. There he
discussed the Northern Alliance with President Putin.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: [through translator] President Bush asked us about our views
on Afghanistan. I raised the interests of our partners in Afghanistan, the
Northern Alliance. I said that
pushing out the people who had risked their blood to fight the Taliban terror
would be counterproductive.
RICE, National Security Adviser: But
what was really important in that meeting was that they came to a general
agreement that you had to have a broad-based government to rule Afghanistan
after the defeat of the Taliban. And President Putin agreed that he would, indeed, send this message loud
and clear to all of their allies.
NARRATOR: President Putin arranged to meet with
Professor Rabbani in Tajikistan on his way back to Moscow. They met as soon as Putin arrived at
VLADIMIR PUTIN: [through translator] I assured our Afghan colleagues that we
would stand by the Northern Alliance. I told them that we would support Afghanistan, but it must be a
friendly, neutral, independent state.
RABBANI: [through translator] He said, "We accept that you need
support in your fight against the Taliban."
NARRATOR: But then the Russian president came to
VLADIMIR PUTIN: [through translator] I told him that President Bush and I
agreed that a stable Afghanistan will only be achieved if the government
includes all ethnic groups- in particular, the Pashtuns.
NARRATOR: As Russia brought pressure on Rabbani,
America was beginning to look for a Pashtun leader who could help form a
unified, post-Taliban government. One possible candidate was Abdul Haq, a renowned warrior who'd fought in
the CIA-sponsored war against the Soviet occupation.
McFARLANE, Former National Security Adviser: I had met Abdul Haq in the early 1980s. He was an Afghan patriot and an extraordinary military
talent. We sought to connect them
to people here, primarily the CIA, that could provide that essential logistic
and communications support. Unfortunately, we got a very cold shoulder. They told us that he had been extraordinarily effective and
yet uncontrollable, that he always did more than he was asked to do, which
seems to me to be a credit, not a debit.
NARRATOR: Abdul Haq was ready to lead a small
band of Pashtun warriors back into Afghanistan, hoping to spark an anti-Taliban
rebellion in the south.
*ABDUL HAQ, Pashtun Tribal Leader: The time come many people like me, we
come to the conclusion now we should take a gun to bring peace and security to
this country, and we have a good chance because there's one united
leadership. And for that, we need
to take a gun to get rid of these people who don't want to have peace and
NARRATOR: Haq left Pakistan without any help from
McFARLANE: At the 11th hour in Peshawar, an agency
person came to him and said, "Do you want some radios?" And given the long history of their
rejection of him, he assumed that that was so that they could track him more
than provide support.
NARRATOR: Soon after crossing into Afghanistan, Haq's
convoy was ambushed by the Taliban. He called for American help, but it was too late. A Taliban spokesman announced his
*TALIBAN SPOKESMAN: [press conference] The new phase of American action on
Afghanistan including the infiltration of their agents, the arrest and
execution of Abdul Haq by the security forces of the Islamic [unintelligible] of Afghanistan. In addition, American wicked designs
against Afghanistan are continuing.
NARRATOR: What America was actually looking for
was a very different kind of Pashtun leader, someone untainted by Afghanistan's
culture of warlords and violence. Hamid Karzai was a diplomat from a prominent family in Kandahar, whose
father had been assassinated by the Taliban. And Karzai was well liked in Washington, where he'd been
quietly lobbying for American aid to help bring Afghanistan's decades of civil
war to an end.
WOLFOWITZ: I recall quite early on - it may have
been after October 7th, it might even have been before - when the CIA briefed on
the various potential allies in Afghanistan, that among very few people they
could identify in the south, Hamid Karzai was, I would say, already in their
eyes the most promising.
NARRATOR: By mid-October, Karzai, too, had
decided to sneak across the Afghan border on a mission to persuade his fellow
Pashtuns to rise up against the Taliban. He had American encouragement but little practical support. Armed with only a satellite phone from
the CIA, Karzai snuck across the border.
KARZAI, Pashtun Leader: I did not tell
anybody that I was leaving. We
went on two motorbikes.
INTERVIEWER: Two motorbikes?
INTERVIEWER: You and who else?
KARZAI: Me, one of my friends that accompanied
me, and another motorbike with one more man. That's it, two motorbikes, four people.
INTERVIEWER: Four people?
KARZAI: Yes, straight on the main highway, through
the main entry point, just moved into Afghanistan. And camouflaged, of course - hard turbans and all that - so
that people wouldn't recognize us.
NARRATOR: Karzai arrived in a small Pashtun
village on the outskirts of Kandahar, the Taliban's religious and military
stronghold. Karzai's relatives
were surprised by his sudden appearance.
KARZAI: When they saw me there, they were just
frightened. They couldn't believe
that I could be so crazy, to go on motorbikes like that without any security,
without any people, just leaving it completely to luck.
Relative of Hamid Karzai: [through
translator] The Taliban were all around us- just
over there, right here in the village. We hid Karzai in my house the first night. It was very dangerous.
NARRATOR: Pashtun tribal leaders told Karzai that
with no weapons or troops, his mission was suicidal.
They said, "It's extremely
reckless to come and endanger your life like that, and through that kind of
endangerment of your life, you also put at risk the whole
population." They said,
"You must come with strength. Go to the United States, come back with the resources and money and
weapons and all that, and begin from a point with strength."
NARRATOR: Within days, Karzai found himself
surrounded by Taliban forces. Karzai called for help. America rushed in an air drop of weapons.
KARZAI: The next morning, the Taliban attacked
us, about 500 of them. We were 150
by that time. We began to fight
them. Imagine, if they had
attacked us just one day before that, we would have been finished because we
had no weapons at all.
*DONALD RUMSFELD: [press conference] We have, I know, delivered ammunition
and some supplies to him. Within
recent days - in fact, I think, while I was in Pakistan - at his request, he
was extracted from Afghanistan with a small number of his senior supporters and
fighters, I believe for consultation in Pakistan.
NARRATOR: Karzai has since denied he left
Afghanistan, but American officials maintain he was rescued by a special
WOLFOWITZ, Deputy Secretary of Defense: The first decision to get U.S. forces involved was when we learned he
was in trouble and had to be gotten out. And the decision was, we wanted to get him back in very quickly. And it was at that time that the
decision was clearly made, when he goes back in, let's make sure that he has
the kind of support that the Northern Alliance commanders have with our special
NARRATOR: One month into the bombing campaign,
Hamid Karzai was back in Pakistan. Abdul Haq was dead, and America had less than 100 troops inside
Afghanistan. The Taliban were
still entrenched, and bin Laden remained at large. Washington was feeling the pressure.
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: This is a struggle that's going to take
a while. And it's- it is not one
of these Kodak moments. There's no
moment to this. This is a long
struggle in a different kind of war.
Minister TONY BLAIR: We're talking a lot at that particular
meeting about the military action itself because at the time, there were people
having doubts about it. Was it
going to be successful, or was it not? And I believed very strongly and
continue to believe that we had to make sure that we were targeting the troops
of the al Qaeda, rather than simply pummeling the infrastructure.
DUFFY, "Time" Magazine: Progress was hard to see. The Northern Alliance had hardly moved out of its strongholds in the
north, and the Taliban seemed completely in control of the strategic cities on
the way to Kabul, and Bush was getting frustrated. He wanted more progress. He wanted more action. He wanted to see the good guys advance, and they weren't advancing.
NARRATOR: Bush's impatience filtered down to U.S.
troops fighting on horseback with General Dostum.
Captain, Commander, Special Forces A Team 595: I did receive a message that there was
a sense of urgency, that you need to get moving, you need to get going. And at the time I read this message, I
was sitting on a mountaintop at about 11:00 PM at night, had just been riding
all day. And we've been on the
ground for over a week now, and we've watched and fought alongside these
Northern Alliance guys. We had
attacked every single day.
now I get this report saying, "Hey, you need to get off your ass and get
moving." I sat down, at that
point, and wrote out a very detailed, lengthy message that described again,
"We are moving by horseback. We are advising a man in how best to employ his horsemen and light
infantry in attacking Taliban armor. We are outgunned technologically in that area, as far as the Northern
Alliance fighters are concerned."
received word several days later that it went all the way through the chain of
command to Mr. Rumsfeld, to President Bush.
NARRATOR: With the reality of the covert war
hidden from view, U.S. Central Command offered the public its first glimpse of
American ground troops in action. In Operation Rhino, Army Rangers and Delta Force operatives struck two
targets in southern Afghanistan and then promptly withdrew.
DUFFY: The nighttime drop into the airbase was
dramatic, and it was carefully leaked to the media in advance, so that we knew
it was coming. We were all
prepared to write about it or to run it on our networks. But it isn't clear exactly what its strategic
or even tactical value was.
TOMMY FRANKS, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Central Command: The objective was to prove that
coalition forces are in this for the long haul, that we will go anywhere we
choose to go, part information operation and part in order to prove that we
will place our forces in the middle of that country and, in fact, in Mullah
NARRATOR: By late October, the president's
national security team was looking for a way to win at least one victory before
the Afghan winter set in.
RICE: We were getting a little concerned that
the Northern Alliance didn't seem to be moving. And we've been bombing for several weeks, and now winter
would be coming fairly soon. And
what could you achieve? What
objectives could actually be achieved on the ground before winter came?
POWELL: There was a great deal of nail
biting. And the public always
tends to get impatient with operations that don't go as neatly and quickly and
cleanly as they might wish. All of
us were watching this and trying to make a judgment as to where the main effort
RICE: There were two possibilities. One was to try to do something more
spectacular, like make certain that Kabul fell before winter. The other was to take what was that
time the nearest city, which was Mazar-e-Sharif, an important city, also a city
that allowed you to open a land bridge between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan so
that humanitarian aid could get into the country. There were a lot of reasons to think about Mazar-e-Sharif.
NARRATOR: The troops closest to Mazar were
General Dostum's fighters and their special forces "A-team." Yet Dostum didn't have enough troops to
attack Mazar on his own. He would
need the support of other Northern Alliance warlords who were his long-time
rivals. It was up to the Green
Berets to bring these warlords together for the assault on Mazar.
Captain, Commander, Special Forces A Team 595: We used the common bond of uniting
their forces together from three ethnic factions - Hazaras, Tajiks and Uzbeks -
who all have fought against each other, to unite against the Taliban. And the special forces soldiers became
the glue that are holding these ethnic factions together.
NARRATOR: With Dostum and his rivals cooperating,
the full might of U.S. air power rained down on the Taliban's front lines
MARK: We were just blasting holes through
this defense by using the B-52s. They became our aerial artillery. We would bomb the snot out of them in the morning, right up until the
ground forces would move into their assault positions about mid-afternoon.
NARRATOR: For the first time in the war, the
Taliban lines cracked.
MARK: We have now the horsemen. Once they close with the Taliban, their
technique can best be described as the swarm. They were at the gallop, firing their assault weapons- not
accurately, but it was scaring the hell out of the Taliban. And they would simply ride down any
Taliban that attempted to resist against them or refused to surrender.
NARRATOR: Days later, the Northern Alliance
entered Mazar in triumph.
Sgt. 1st Class, Special Forces A Team 534: It was like a scene out of an old World War II movie or something because
we moved into the town by vehicles. And the streets, the roadsides, even outside of the city, going into the
city, were just lined with people, you know, cheering and clapping their hands
and just celebrations everywhere.
NARRATOR: After the collapse of Mazar, thousands
of Taliban and al Qaeda fled east to Kunduz, pursued by General Dostum's troops
and pounded by U.S. air strikes. When the city finally fell, thousands of Taliban were taken
prisoner. Those suspected of being
al Qaeda were transferred to American custody. The remaining were turned over to General Dostum and his
troops. On a road outside of town,
General Dostum was filmed supervising the prisoners.
Captain, Commander, Special Forces A Team 595: General Dostum has a very nasty, sort
of ruthless reputation, and so does everybody else in that part of the
country. No one's clean over
NARRATOR: What happened next would stay a secret
for months. In late August, Newsweek magazine reported on its investigation
of claims that many of the prisoners were killed as they were being transported
by the Northern Alliance to Sheberghan prison near Kunduz.
BARRY, "Newsweek" Magazine: Kunduz was the last Taliban stronghold in the north, and thousands of
prisoners surrendered there at the end of November. And what we have found is that, certainly, several hundred
prisoners, perhaps many hundreds of prisoners, instead of being sent home or
sent to prison in the normal way, were loaded secretly into containers, freight
container trucks, which were then sealed, and they were left to
asphyxiate. And by the time the
trucks drew up at Sheberghan prison in the courtyard, they were all dead. One of the drivers said to us that when
they opened the doors, the dead spilled out like fish.
NARRATOR: Because U.S. special forces were rarely
far from General Dostum's side, it raises the question of whether they knew or
could have prevented these alleged atrocities.
MARK: Yeah, I want to answer that. No member of this detachment ever
witnessed any atrocities being committed. And we talked extensively with all the Northern Alliance commanders
about respecting basic human rights. And at no time did they plan or - that we're aware of - attempt to
conduct any of these atrocities.
BARRY: On the issue of what the United States
personnel knew and when, it is not clear to us precisely what 595 knew and when
they knew it. It is clear that
from the beginning of this year, the Defense Department and officials elsewhere
in the administration knew, first of all, that there were allegations of mass
slaughter of prisoners from Kunduz, and secondly, that there was a mass grave
outside the prison. And it's clear
to us that they did nothing about it and didn't want to know. And I'm reminded of the old proverb,
you know, "There is none so blind as them that will not see."
NARRATOR: On the battlefield, the collapse of
Mazar-e-Sharif on November 9th was a turning point. The Taliban no longer seemed invincible, and the Northern
Alliance set its sights on Kabul.
Explore map of key battles]
ARMITAGE, Deputy Secretary of State: We
realized that from Mazar on down to Kabul is pretty much a steady, flat plain,
and one can rush down with impunity. And so we saw that things had shifted rather dramatically, both in terms
of morale for the enemy and in terms of strategic position for the Northern
Alliance. They had a clear shot to
NARRATOR: At the United Nations in New York,
President Bush urged the Northern Alliance to stay out of Afghanistan's
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [press conference] We will encourage our friends to head
south across the Shomali plains but not into the city of Kabul itself. And we believe we can accomplish our
military missions by- by that strategy.
NARRATOR: Weeks of American air strikes around
Bagram Airbase, just north of Kabul, had already decimated the Taliban's
defense of the city. The bombing
gave the local Northern Alliance commander the impetus to move towards the
BISMULLAH KHAN, Northern Alliance Commander, Kabul: [through translator] The American bombing had been very
effective. So we started our
attack in the morning, and by 2:00 o'clock, we reached the gates of Kabul
POWELL: The situation on the ground was
unfolding quickly. We needed a
political solution quickly in order to have something ready to put into Kabul.
NARRATOR: As Taliban lines imploded, the Northern
Alliance political leaders were coming under increasing pressure from
ABDULLAH, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan: We had a meeting of leadership council, where President Rabbani and
Professor Sayyaf and the other leaders were all present. We were being told by the Americans to
not go into Kabul without a political agreement.
NARRATOR: President Bush wanted the United
Nations to pave the way for an Afghan government of national unity. But the U.N. initiative was moving much
slower than events on the ground. The Bush team turned up the pressure on the United Nations.
BRAHIMI, U.N. Envoy to Afghanistan: They were always impatient to find out whether we had a plan and what
were we waiting for.
NARRATOR: Lakhdar Brahimi was a former foreign
minister of Algeria, with years of experience working to bring peace to
Afghanistan. He urged caution
rather than quick action.
BRAHIMI: What I was saying is that "Let's
talk to the parties and see how ready they are and when they are ready to
really talk business. And also,
let's make sure that we know what is happening around Afghanistan and that all
the players are going to go along" because, you know, conferences between
Afghan parties, we had plenty.
POWELL: At the very end of the discussion, I
asked for the floor. And Mr.
Brahimi was there in the room with the secretary general, and I said "Let
me just summarize this with the following observation: speed, speed,
NARRATOR: But events on the ground had taken on a
life of their own.
Sgt. 1st Class, Special Forces A Team 555: We had known there was an agreement between Fahim Kahn and General
Franks, I believe, that he was going to stop short of Kabul. And I went up and I talked to General
Sharif. General Sharif was, like,
"Sure, we'll stop." And
he goes, "But you know, some of the local commanders have family down
there," you know, and he kind of let it be known that they weren't going
NARRATOR: On the pretext of restoring order, the
Northern Alliance seized Kabul. At
dawn, tanks and truckloads of fighters streamed into the city. The Northern Alliance political leader,
Professor Rabbani, took up the trappings of power. He moved back into the presidential palace. America and its allies waited to see if
this time the Northern Alliance could restrain its troops.
NARRATOR: Across the border in Pakistan,
President Musharraf thought his worst fears were coming true and worried that
ethnic chaos might spill over into his own country.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: It brought home the criticality of the
political strategy. We saw that
everything is crumbling, and the political strategy is not in place again.
POWELL: I tried to assure President Musharraf,
and we conveyed to the Northern Alliance that we're going work with them, we
were going to use them, we were going to help them to be successful. But at the same time, they had to
understand - and I made this point to President Musharraf - that when this was
all over, we're interested in a multi-ethnic Afghanistan.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: My concern was that all of them will
start fighting again between themselves.
POWELL: To our pleasure, they did not do the
kind of things they did previously. They understood that this was a different game.
NARRATOR: The Bush administration sent veteran
diplomat James Dobbins to deliver a message directly to the Northern Alliance:
They would not be allowed to keep control of Kabul.
DOBBINS, U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan: I gave him a fairly clear message that what we were looking for was a
reconstituted and broadened government and that assistance to and through the
central government would not flow until that process of enlargement and
reconstitution had taken place.
ABDULLAH, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan: James Dobbins said, "This victory was made possible because of our
efforts, as well as yours. And so
there are rules of the game."
NARRATOR: These rules meant that the Northern
Alliance and Professor Rabbani would have to give up the presidential palace.
ABDULLAH: At this stage, President Rabbani might
not like the idea of transfer of power. But when there is a solution for Afghanistan, what we will vote for, or
what we will go for, will be the solution, not a certain person.
NARRATOR: In discussions behind the scenes, Hamid
Karzai was emerging as a compromise leader.
DOBBINS: The first people to raise Karzai as a
possible candidate for chairmanship of the interim administration was the head
of the Pakistani intelligence, and then the next was Foreign Minister Abdullah,
when I met with him. And of
course, these were sort of traditional antagonists. And indeed, both of them had spoken with extreme suspicion
about the other, and yet they had come to similar conclusions about who might
be an acceptable sort of compromise candidate as the head of the new Afghan
ABDULLAH: The name of Hamid Karzai was mentioned,
and I was not sure- I had heard that he was in either in Pakistan or in
Afghanistan but not sure. But my
answer was quite content about the name.
NARRATOR: In fact, Hamid Karzai and a special
forces A-team, along with a handful of CIA agents, had just reentered
Afghanistan, where they were joined by a few dozen of Karzai's own poorly
JASON AMERINE, Commander, Special Forces A Team 574: In my dealings with Hamid Karzai, as
far as the campaign planning, a big concern of his was that he just did not
want to come off as a warlord. You
know, there's a certain contradiction in trying to win the peace by fighting
for it. I was wanting to build a
big guerrilla army and start a big fight. He was wanting to and succeeding and just getting all of Oruzgan
Province to simply surrender to him.
NARRATOR: But two days after Karzai reentered
Afghanistan, the Taliban sent a large convoy north from Kandahar to crush his
popular rebellion before it began.
I won't say it was panic, but on
our side we had 11 special forces soldiers and a bunch of highly motivated, if
not untrained guerrillas, numbering somewhere between 30 and 60, opposed by,
you know, maybe 100 vehicles, maybe as many as 500 men that were coming up
there, who were probably very angry and really wanted to retake the town.
KARZAI: We dispatched some of our forces and
some of the American forces that had come, three or four of them, to a point
overlooking the highway. And they
took positions there and directed aircraft towards that force.
NARRATOR: With Karzai's fate hanging in the
balance, laser-guided air strikes pounded the Taliban's best troops.
Sgt. WES McGIRR, Special Forces A Team 574: They were just pouring in the birds because we had the hottest situation
going right at that time. We were
in immediate contact and in immediate danger, so they just started throwing in
the birds, so- they were just raking them up.
JASON AMERINE: I've heard different estimates of how
many of them we killed. It's hard
to say for sure. But I think,
psychologically, what happened was the Taliban launched a very large force with
a lot of- a lot of well-trained soldiers, according to the accounts I received,
and we'd crushed them and sent them back to Kandahar.
NARRATOR: In a culture dominated by warlords,
Karzai's first military victory brought him instant credibility.
Col. DAVID FOX, Special Forces Battalion Commander: That's when it really became apparent
that, you know, he was the man. He
is- he's the guy that's going to lead Afghanistan in the future. And so that's when he- he took on a
completely different amount of significance.
KARZAI: We actually underestimated the whole
thing all along, the impact that this movement of ours had.
NARRATOR: As the Taliban's power slipped away,
near Bonn, Germany, the United Nations finally convened a conference on the
future of Afghanistan. Delegates
from traditionally hostile ethnic factions opposed to the Taliban were brought
together for the first time. But
Professor Rabbani, still the most powerful man in the Northern Alliance,
refused to attend.
RABBANI, Northern Alliance Political Leader: [through translator] In
Bonn there could be no decision taken on a new government. I said that if my representative was
put under pressure, he should walk out saying "I have no authority."
NARRATOR: Rabbani sent a delegation led by Younus
Qanooni, a relatively junior member of the Northern Alliance. He was ordered not to agree to
anything. But in the opening
ceremony, Qanooni hinted he was more flexible than Professor Rabbani.
*YOUNIS QANOONI: [subtitles] Fighting and holding onto our monopoly
of power is no longer an honor. We
want to do our utmost to support the proposals of the United Nations.
NARRATOR: Behind the scenes, America was working
to promote Hamid Karzai as Afghanistan's new leader, canvassing support from
Russia and even Iran.
DOBBINS: I mentioned the name to the Russian
representative in Bonn, and he said, oh, they'd had good contacts with Karzai
over the years, doing well, and he was- he was well regarded in Moscow. I had a meeting with the Iranian deputy
foreign minister in Bonn, who said, oh, yes, Karzai had lived for a while in
Tehran, and they knew him well and had a high regard for him.
it did strike me that Karzai was probably a natural politician and somebody
who'd had an unusual ability to gain confidence in a number of different
quarters and among people who'd generally been quite antagonistic to each
other, and that this kind of skill was probably one of the qualifications we
were looking for.
NARRATOR: In a surprise move, the U.S. arranged
for Hamid Karzai to address the conference from inside Afghanistan.
KARZAI: I spoke to them on satellite telephone
from a very, very cold room. I was
sitting with some of the poorest members of the Afghan community at that time
when I was making that speech. And
I had no speech written. I just
spoke from my mind.
NARRATOR: Karzai made an impassioned plea for the
factions to set aside their differences for the sake of their nation. His speech had a sobering effect on the
conference, but within days, old ethnic rivalries and suspicions had
resurfaced. Professor Rabbani was
resisting demands to give up the presidency.
RABBANI, Northern Alliance Political Leader: [through translator] Our representative phoned and said, "We are under serious pressure
to form a government here."
ABDULLAH, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan: Professor Rabbani said that the delegation should return back. They should come back. They are not authorized to sign an
NARRATOR: If the Northern Alliance pulled out of
the talks, America's strategy for Afghanistan would be in jeopardy.
DOBBINS: The United States had certainly come to
the conclusion that- that this was an essential and maybe irreplaceable
opportunity, that if this meeting broke up without a conclusion, it was going
to be very difficult to get another meeting.
POWELL, Secretary of State: The answer
was, "Do not let them break up. Keep them there. Lock them
up, if you have to. We do not want
this to go anywhere else. We're
almost there, and this is the time to grind it out on this line. And if they go off, I don't know when
I'll get them all back together."
NARRATOR: Colin Powell again asked the Russian
foreign minister to bring pressure on the Northern Alliance.
POWELL: I called Igor and let him know that
this thing was starting to slip away from us and to make sure that he
emboldened his representatives there to keep them there.
IVANOV, Foreign Minister of Russia: [through
translator] We called on the Northern Alliance and
on Mr. Rabbani himself, for the sake of the cause they'd all been fighting for,
to find a solution during the Bonn meeting.
ABDULLAH: He passed a message that there the
world expect an agreement. "You shouldn't expect that without an agreement, our support can
NARRATOR: Russian pressure did the trick. The younger members of the Northern
Alliance leadership decided to mutiny.
DOBBINS: I spoke to Abdullah on the
telephone. He said that, "We
are going to go ahead. We'll go
ahead with or without Professor Rabbani's agreement."
NARRATOR: Rabbani saw he was isolated.
RABBANI: [through translator] I said, "That's fine, though in my
view, this proposal is neither legal nor logical. But for the sake of peace and unity in our country, I will
accept it, even though I'm not satisfied with it. I consider it not only illogical but a heresy."
NARRATOR: At his base north of Kandahar, Hamid
Karzai received an unexpected phone call from the man who'd vowed never to
leave the presidential palace.
KARZAI: I received a call from President
Rabbani, and he told me that he likes to endorse me as the next president. And I said, "Thank you very
NARRATOR: With Karzai on track to become
Afghanistan's new leader, senior U.S. officers were sent to join the special
forces already at Karzai's side.
Col. DAVID FOX , Special Forces Battalion Commander: My basic orders were to link up with
Hamid Karzai, become his military adviser and assist him in seizing
Kandahar. And the overall intent
was to gain Pashtun support for the interim government.
NARRATOR: By taking Kandahar, the U.S. hoped to
capture senior Taliban leaders believed to be hiding in the city.
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I said a long time ago one of our
objectives is to smoke them out and get them running and bring them to
justice. We're smoking them out,
they're running, and now we're going to bring them to justice.
NARRATOR: On December 1st, the special forces and
Karzai's troops began to advance towards Kandahar, the Taliban's last holdout.
Col. DAVID FOX: Karzai didn't have much of a force, but
what he did have were farmers, shopkeepers, well-meaning friends, and they all
wanted Karzai to see that they were supporting him. So I don't know if you've ever seen one of those desert
off-road races, but within a few kilometers, the cars are just zig-zagging back
and forth, and they all want to be seen by Karzai. They'll run up to his vehicle, drive up to his vehicle, wave
and then head on back.
NARRATOR: Here at the village of Shawali Kowt,
Karzai's forces met resistance from the Taliban.
JASON AMERINE: There were also Taliban along the ridge
line across the river from us, also firing machine guns at us. And the fire wasn't overly accurate,
but we were definitely catching a lot of rounds in our direction.
NARRATOR: As the battle continued, Hamid Karzai
was actually negotiating with the Taliban leadership for their surrender.
KARZAI: December 5th, we had arrived at the
gates of Kandahar. I had a meeting
one day before with some of the Taliban, and they said they would come the next
day again to bring me the text of the- the preparations that they were going to
make an agreement with us to surrender. I said, "Fine."
NARRATOR: With the Taliban delegation on its way
to deliver the surrender of Kandahar, the special forces commander called for a
new round of air strikes.
Col. DAVID FOX: I don't know if the sun hit it just
right or what, but we saw a cave entrance approximately two-and-a-half
kilometers to our south, had a flight of F-18s overhead, had identified the
cave entrance. They put the lasers
on it to guide the laser-guided munitions in there and to hit the target. The Air Force controllers, in the
meantime, were talking to a B-52 overhead.
NARRATOR: The B-52 carried a powerful 2,000-pound
bomb. On the ground, a forward air
controller who’d just joined the special forces unit, mistakenly gave the
B-52 the coordinates for his own position. Hamid Karzai was in this building about 100 yards away.
KARZAI: A big bang, and the doors and windows
flew out of their places. And I
got injured. They thought that
this room was being attacked by the Arabs, that they had recognized where I
was. And so they pulled me out of
the room and took me outside. There we saw that there were bodies all around.
JASON AMERINE: I lay there in the dirt. I kind of ran my hand over my body,
confirmed that I still had all my body parts. Initially, I remember starting to scramble towards the edge
of the hill, and then I just knew that what had hit us was our own bomb.
NARRATOR: Three Americans and at least
twenty-three of Karzai's Afghan fighters were killed. Dozens more were wounded. An Afghan soldier standing near Hamid Karzai was
decapitated. It was the worst
friendly-fire incident of the war, and an official investigation into its cause
JASON AMERINE: We laid all our casualties in the backs
of all these Toyotas and Datsuns, and we lined them up as we waited to get on
the helicopter. We had an American
flag, which we laid over Dan Petithory. Me and a couple of guys had cared for his remains ourselves, you know,
placed him in a sleeping bag and did what we could to make sure that he was,
you know, properly dealt with. You
know, and the sight of that American flag was something that, I mean, all of us
just- it really got to all of us. When we were out there waiting for the evacuation, I went over and sat
down next to Dan and just cried my eyes out for a while because I had to get it
out of me then.
NARRATOR: The special forces commander went to
tell Hamid Karzai what had gone wrong.
Col. DAVID FOX: He asked me what- you know, what had
happened. And I said, "As far
as my understanding and as far as what I know now, I believe it was a- it was
one of our bombs has fallen short." And he looked and me and he- you know, he- you know, he asked, you know,
"How could that have happened?" And I- you know, I told him that, "I really couldn't tell
NARRATOR: Minutes later, Karzai learned that the
Bonn conference had named him Afghanistan's new leader.
KARZAI: I received a call from a good old
friend of mine from the BBC. She
said, "Hamid, we just got the news that you are being chosen as the
chairman of the interim administration." That was- I said, "OK." I could not concentrate. My mind was all towards the- the evacuation of the dead and
the wounding and the identification of bodies and all that.
just within a few minutes of that call, I received a call from Mullah Kibula, a
good commander in Kandahar, saying that he's on his way to that place, together
with senior-most Taliban officials, the minister of defense, the minister of
interior, and this and that, to deliver their surrender.
*TALIBAN SPOKESMAN: Today [unintelligible] agreed to surrender
Kandahar and other places peacefully to the leaders of tribe.
NARRATOR: Two days later, U.S. special forces led
Hamid Karzai into Kandahar. The
Taliban and al Qaeda leadership were nowhere in sight.
Col. DAVID FOX: As part of the surrender, in the
negotiations for the surrender in the south, I am sure that key Taliban leaders
escaped during those negotiations. What I believe is that the Taliban believed if they kept Karzai at bay
and set a date to surrender, that this gave them the time to pick up, get in
their vehicles and drive off.
NARRATOR: With only a handful of forces on the
ground, the American military could not prevent the escape of the men it wanted
GERECHT, Former CIA Officer: As
we've seen, I mean, a lot of the people have been able to flee either into
Pakistan, Kashmir or Iran. There's
no guarantee that we could have stopped that, but certainly, if we'd had more
American armed forces on the ground, if we had nor relied on Afghan surrogates
as much, who did not prove as nearly as effective as I think the Pentagon
initially thought they might be, we could have, in all likelihood, caught more
Col. DAVID FOX, Special Forces Battalion Commander: If there were more soldiers on the
ground, could have some of those escapes been prevented? Probably. But I think the right mix was on the ground at that time
because what you have is, you have the- actually, the Afghans liberating their
country with the assistance of a small, small U.S. element, versus - or vice -
the large American force on the ground occupying all the major cities and
making it look an awful lot like the Soviet occupation.
NARRATOR: With Taliban regime defeated, the U.S.
government shifted its focus to Usama bin Laden.
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: We're hunting him down. He runs and he hides. And- but as- as we've said repeatedly,
the noose is beginning to narrow.
NARRATOR: Bin Laden and his followers were
reportedly regrouping south of Jalalabad, in the impregnable mountain caves of Tora
Bora, where he had eluded Soviet troops more than a decade earlier.
GLASSER, "The Washington Post": There had been extensive reports from the beginning that Tora Bora was
where bin Laden and the other al Qaeda people from Jalalabad had fled. And it was pretty obvious that this was
a significant stronghold in the mountains outside of Jalalabad, that somebody
needed to go in there and, you know, take a look around.
NARRATOR: Yet America had only a dozen special
forces in the Tora Bora region. And the military had only just begun working with General
Hazrat Ali, the local Northern Alliance warlord.
JOHN MULHOLLAND, Special Forces Commander, Afghanistan: One of the main questions early on was
how many forces could Hazrat Ali actually muster to go into this- you know,
this massive, mountainous area, to go after and seal this area and search it in
detail and prosecute an operation up there.
be a liar if I didn't say that, certainly, if the option had been there to put
significant American forces on the ground, you would have had a more
conventionally competent force to do conventional search, seizure, isolate,
cordon and search kind of operations. But that force really wasn't available yet, and there was great impetus
to do something to move up into these mountains.
HAZRAT ALI, Northern Alliance Commander, Tora Bora: [through translator] Yes, we were in a hurry. But we were not ready or well prepared
for this battle in Tora Bora.
NARRATOR: American air strikes had already begun,
but General Ali's troops had yet to start their offensive.
GLASSER: Hazrat Ali showed up at the hotel where
all the journalists were staying at about 10:00 o'clock at night, announced,
"The campaign has begun. The
offensive will begin in Tora Bora." He believed bin Laden was there, and as far as we can tell, the first
group of people did move out overnight that night up to Tora Bora, you know,
basically, just- just hopping in pick-up trucks and driving down the road,
carrying nothing with them.
was no regular military supply line. There were no doctors. They
had no food for the men. The men
had no equipment to speak of. And
they had no organized chain of command. And they had fighters from three different Afghan factions all charging
up to the mountains at the same time.
NARRATOR: For several days, American bombs rained
down on al Qaeda positions, as General Ali's troops continued their chaotic
advance up into the mountains.
Sgt. 1st Class, Special Forces A Team 572: We called close air support for General Ali's troops. We would pretty much soften them up, while
General Ali's troops would push forward. We kind of did, like, a leapfrog thing, so we would engage targets and
al Qaeda troops that we saw, and General Ali's troops would advance again.
Master Sgt., Special Forces A Team 572: The lines were thin, and al Qaeda started retreating backwards so- and
they started pushing real quick in over about- over, like, a three-day period.
NARRATOR: It looked as if the net around al Qaeda
was being tightened. Then an
argument between General Hazrat Ali and a rival Northern Alliance warlord
threatened the entire operation.
GLASSER: One of the warlords, Hajji Zaman, who
was the big rival of Hazrat Ali, had been in contact, in radio contact with
some of the al Qaeda fighters, negotiating their surrender. And what played out was this sort of
extraordinary scene, which we saw happen, where Hazrat Ali is standing at his
checkpost there, and over the radio comes Hajji Zaman, who's even farther up
the mountain, and he says, ``I've negotiated a deal."
HAZRAT ALI: [through translator] A representative of Usama bin Laden
told Zaman that he wanted to negotiate al Qaeda's surrender. But then I said, "This is just
trick. Al Qaeda don't
surrender. They're criminals and
will just use the delay to run away."
NARRATOR: U.S. commanders refused to accept any
JOHN MULHOLLAND: No. You know, we are- we're going to prosecute this fight, and
if they- they are always- they are always able to surrender. You know, we will accept their
surrender whenever it occurs on the battlefield, but it will not be because
we're not going to continue to press the fight.
NARRATOR: The air strikes in Tora Bora
continued. Here, as elsewhere in
the long bombing campaign, there were numerous civilian casualties.
GLASSER: There were a large number of civilian
casualties in villages near Tora Bora. There's some explanation for why some of those things occurred, and what
it leads you to think is that the Americans did have what they believed to be
military targets, but they were targets in the middle of villages, in places
where they knew there were likely to be large numbers of women and children
around. So on the one hand, you
could say they were legitimate targets. On the other hand, they were targets in villages. So that's a decision that you have to
NARRATOR: The U.S. and Afghan governments have
made no official estimates of civilian casualties. News organizations say that they have documented more than
400. Some groups suggest that the
actual number may be much higher.
Tora Bora, when the fighting was over, hundreds of al Qaeda operatives had been
killed. About 60 were taken
prisoner and eventually transferred to a U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba. Large numbers of al Qaeda
had slipped across the border into Pakistan, where they could again regroup to
fight another day. There was no
sign of Usama bin Laden.
GLASSER, "The Washington Post": What we later heard, when we went back to investigate more than a month
later, what had actually happened in Tora Bora was that of the approximately 60
or so prisoners captured by the Afghans at the end of the fight, they gave a
pretty consistent story that bin Laden had been there. He came, he was there with at least one
of his sons, possibly his senior lieutenants, possibly including Doctor
Zawahiri. He gave a speech,
rallied the men to martyrdom and drank tea, according the prisoners, and went
back into the mountains and disappeared.
that means is that there was never any net or cordon around Tora Bora and that
bin Laden was able to move fairly freely at that point, even in the midst of
JOHN MULHOLLAND, Special Forces Commander, Afghanistan: In hindsight, I mean, would we like to
have done more? Absolutely. I mean, would we like to walk out of
the mountains with bin Laden in hand and his cronies? You know, certainly. But it didn't happen, and I think it's a mistake for people to cast too
glaring an indictment of that operation, not understanding fully the context of
what was going on with the battlefield at the time, what was available, and the
urgency of which people wanted to see things happen.
Lessons of the military campaign]
NARRATOR: To win its covert war against the
Taliban, the U.S. required a remarkably small number of "boots on the
ground" in Afghanistan, fewer than 200 special operations troops. Despite its successes, that very
strategy held inherent dangers. America had aligned itself with guerrilla leaders like General Dostum,
whose troops would later be accused of possible war crimes. And the small number of U.S. soldiers
on the ground made it nearly impossible to ensure the capture of the al Qaeda
leaders who had ordered the attacks on America.
week after September 11th, President Bush had said he wanted Usama bin Laden
dead or alive. In late December,
after bin Laden had disappeared, he was asked what he thought now.
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: So we don't know whether he's in a cave
with the door shut or a cave with the door open. We just don't know. There's all kinds of reports and all kinds of speculation. But one thing we know is that he's not
in charge of Afghanistan any more. He's not in charge of the- he's not the parasite that had invaded the
host, the Taliban. That's- we know
that for certain. And we also know
that we're on the hunt, and he knows that we're on the hunt. And I like our position better than
NARRATOR: One month later, in his State of the
Union address, as close to a victory speech as he would make, the president
emphasized the successful side of the war. He did not mentioned the name Usama bin Laden.
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: The American flag flies again over our
embassy in Kabul. And this evening
we welcome the distinguished interim leader of a liberated Afghanistan,
Chairman Hamid Karzai.
NARRATOR: Three of the Green Berets who'd fought
alongside Karzai were invited to the speech.
JASON AMERINE: When I went to the State of the Union
to see Hamid Karzai again, and there was that standing ovation, it was sort of
a moment of triumph for all of us, too. It was- as I said, it- as much as the deaths of, you know, everybody -
J.D., Dan, the other 23 or 24 Afghanis who also died, Cody Prosser - it was
still a moment of triumph for all of us - them, too - that here he was, he'd
NARRATOR: In his speech, Bush outlined his vision for the
next phase of the war against terror: to confront what he called an "axis
of evil" formed by states like North Korea, Iran and Iraq.
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: The United States of America will not permit
the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most
DUFFY, "Time" Magazine: The American public has now seen George W. Bush go to war once. A president's experiences in war tend
to dictate what happens next. Bush's own father, when he went into the Gulf war, talked about his
experience in Panama a year earlier as a dress rehearsal for that
conflict. Well, if George W. Bush
decides to go into Iraq, he's had a dress rehearsal, but it's not clear that
this unconventional type of war is one that you can apply to an invasion of
*Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Steadfast in our purpose, we now press
on. We have known freedom's
price. We have shown freedom's
power. And in this great conflict,
my fellow Americans, we will see freedom's victory. Thank you all. May God bless.
AND DIRECTED BY
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White House Photo Library
Percy & Brian Lapping
2002 Brook Lapping Productions
Brook Lapping production for
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is a production of WGBH Boston, which is solely responsible for its content.
ANNOUNCER: This FRONTLINE special report continues
on line, where you'll find a behind-the-scenes account of our interview with
Hamid Karzai, an interactive map of key battles with Taliban and al Qaeda forces,
a chronology of U.S. efforts to build a world coalition against terrorism, plus
extended interviews with special forces soldiers, key U.S. decision makers and
world leaders. And find out on the
Web site if this report will be shown again on your PBS station and when. Then join the discussion at PBS on
line, pbs.org, or write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
time on FRONTLINE: For 10 years FBI agent John O'Neill, who was obsessed with
Usama bin Laden.
ANNOUNCER: He warned of the threat to the United
ANNOUNCER: But FBI headquarters had stopped
listening to him, so he took a new job as head of security at the World Trade
2nd MAN: The night before he died, he had said to me, "We're due for something
ANNOUNCER: The Man Who Knew, a FRONTLINE
order a VHS copy of Campaign Against Terror, call PBS Home Video at
1-800-PLAY-PBS. [$29.98 plus
for this program was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur
Foundation and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
is made possible by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like
you. Thank you.
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