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Transcript

RETURN OF THE TALIBAN

PRODUCED BY
Martin Smith

CO-PRODUCED BY
Scott Anger and Chris Durrance

WRITTEN BY
Martin Smith

CANADIAN SOLDIER: Hold the ground there!

ANNOUNCER: The news from Afghanistan is bad.

CANADIAN SOLDIER: The Taliban are looking at us right now.

TALIBAN FIGHTER: Allah u Akhbar!

ANNOUNCER: In recent weeks, a revitalized Taliban has pushed to within a hundred miles of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

RICHARD ARMITAGE, Dep. Sec'y of State, 2001-05: The situation in Afghanistan is a little more dire than we've seen publicly portrayed.

ANNOUNCER: Much of the problem is rooted here, just over the border in Pakistan's wild and lawless tribal areas, and in the help the Taliban has received from Pakistan's clandestine services.

CROWD: [subtitles] Down with America!

ASFANDIHAR WALI KHAN, Chief, People's National Party: Before 9/11, we were openly supporting the Taliban.

ANNOUNCER: And that support has also helped al Qaeda regroup.

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, President, Pakistan: We didn't even know that they are there. It was al Qaeda in South Waziristan, in the valleys by the hundreds.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, a failed state, a home to al Qaeda, a Taliban sanctuary. FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith reports on the Return of the Taliban.

NARRATOR: After the fall of the Taliban five years ago, some experts warned of a nightmare scenario: the Taliban and al Qaeda would escape from Afghanistan into neighboring Pakistan and set up new command centers far out of America's reach. One of them is here, Pakistan's oldest city. Peshawar is gateway to the Khyber Pass, capital of the Northwest Frontier. Long a free-wheeling center for drug smugglers, gun runners and jihadists, this was the birthplace of al Qaeda in the 1980s. Today the city is a new base of operations for the Taliban. The Taliban's influence is increasingly clear. Billboards are now censored. Women on the street are fully covered. Conservative mullahs hold high political offices. Those in the know here tease visitors with rumors of al Qaeda's most wanted men.

IMAM QURESHI: [subtitles] Zawahiri roams around in Peshawar, but I can't say more or there could be consequences.

MARTIN SMITH, Correspondent: Do you know if bin Laden is healthy?

IMAM QURESHI: [subtitles] Yes, he's alive and in good shape.

NARRATOR: Mullah Yousef Qureshi heads Peshawar's largest mosque.

MARTIN SMITH: Many Taliban leaders stay in Peshawar. True?

IMAM QURESHI: [subtitles] I don't think they stay here permanently, but they come and go to Peshawar because the border is so close.

NARRATOR: On the western edge of Peshawar, a roadblock marks the entrance to Pakistan's tribal lands. Beyond this checkpoint, the Pakistani government has little or no control. Most foreigners are prevented from entering. This is the story of what is happening in this forbidden zone.

RYAN CROCKER, U.S. Ambassador, Pakistan: The tribal areas have never been an integrated part of the state. Regular army forces had never been stationed there on any kind of long-term basis, ever. The British never did it. There is no question that Taliban have tremendous sway in these areas.

NARRATOR: The tribal area stretches 500 miles along the Afghan border and is divided into seven districts, or agencies, from Bajaur in the north to the Waziristans in the south. The Taliban has used the area to regroup and rearm. The Pakistani government has failed to stop them. Intimidation and brutal terror are their tactics. This is Taliban justice. They videotaped this incident last December. A gang of local thieves is shown strung up with their stolen money.

LATIF AFRIDI, Human Rights Attorney: And they killed 17 persons in presence of hundreds of people. They were slaughtered, and their bodies were hung-you see the poles-for three days so that the people could be terrorized.

TALIBAN: [subtitles] We have killed these people and sent them to God. God will bring them to justice.

LATIF AFRIDI: And since then, they established their rule.

CROWD: [subtitles] Long live Osama bin Laden! Long live Mullah Omar! Long live North Waziristan!

NARRATOR: FRONTLINE chartered a helicopter and flew into North Waziristan. Pakistani soldiers based here are largely confined to this old British fort. When FRONTLINE requested a vehicle patrol to see the area, the army refused. Just a few months ago, the Taliban took over the nearby town of Miran Shah and held it for three days.

LATIF AFRIDI: They occupied Miran Shah, and then government was compelled to fight and fire at them. The local leaders, they have never been arrested. The government is so powerless that they can't deal with them, and the result is that the Taliban power is growing every day.

NARRATOR: Unwilling to drive us into town, the army instead took us on a short foot patrol into the surrounding desert. Along the way, soldiers stopped a passing car.

PAKISTANI OFFICER: OK, hold it. Search them closely, and I'm going to call the QRF. [Quick Reaction Force]

NARRATOR: They questioned four men.

PAKISTANI OFFICER: [subtitles] What are you carrying?

MAN ON GROUND: [subtitles] We have Pepsi, some dates, two grenades, RPG-7s and two guns.

NARRATOR: They were arrested and taken back to the base. About a mile beyond, the soldiers at this outpost said that they were attacked every other night by Taliban with rocket launchers and machine guns. According to Pakistani officials, hundreds of al Qaeda militants are harbored in this area. The leader of the Taliban here and the man who protects al Qaeda is a local warlord, a former Taliban government minister, Jalaluddin Haqqani.

AFRASIAB KHATTAK, People's National Party: Commander Jalaluddin Haqqani is a very senior Taliban leader who was their chief of army staff. He has been based in Waziristan since 1970s. He's the general commander of all Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Waziristan and southern Afghanistan.

[www.pbs.org: More on Jalaluddin Haqqani]

NARRATOR: Across the border in Afghanistan, Haqqani and other Taliban commanders have had enormous success attacking coalition troops. Since 2004, coalition casualties have more than tripled. Suicide bombings have risen dramatically. IEDs are common. The Taliban have been fighting for control of Afghanistan for a long time. Back in the 1990s, they were largely created by Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, which helped them impose a brutal order on a fractured Afghanistan.

[www.pbs.org: More on the Pakistan-Taliban alliance]

Then came 9/11. On September 11th, 2001, the chief of Pakistan's ISI, General Mahmoud Ahmad, was visiting Washington.

RICHARD ARMITAGE, Dep. Sec'y of State, 2001-05: I asked him to come into my office. I was going to make a series of demands on him that would be very difficult for Pakistan.

NARRATOR: The U.S. demanded that Pakistan stop all support for the Taliban and arrest all al Qaeda operatives entering Pakistan.

RICHARD ARMITAGE: I said, "No American will want to have anything to do with Pakistan if, in our moment of peril, you're not with us. It's black or white." And he wanted to tell me about history. And he said, "You have to understand the history." And I said, "No, the history begins today."

NARRATOR: General Mahmoud took the message back to President Pervez Musharraf. The choice was stark. Supporting America meant betraying his own Inter-Services Intelligence, the ISI.

STEVE COLL, The New Yorker: He had to deal with an organization that had been so close to the Taliban and was, in many cases, sympathetic to al Qaeda that he couldn't be sure of its loyalty. And if he moved too aggressively and alienated those officers and their sympathizers in the army, he could create a real problem for himself.

NARRATOR: Under American pressure, Musharraf purged ISI chief Mahmoud and some other top Taliban loyalists, but he did not take on his political allies in Pakistan's powerful pro-Taliban religious parties.

STEVE COLL: The Taliban depended right up until 9/11 on an infrastructure that was rooted in Pakistani religious parties that were themselves managed by ISI.

CROWD: [subtitles] God is great!

STEVE COLL: These religious parties are crucial because they have money. They control ministries. They control budgets. They have political office now.

PROTEST SPEAKER: [subtitles] Pakistan will not be an American base!

STEVE COLL: That was why there was such a broadly-based infrastructure when the Taliban themselves came under assault after 9/11.

NARRATOR: Immediately after 9/11, Pakistani mosques began collection drives to support the Taliban.

[October 2001]

ELDER: [subtitles] We have collected over $4,000, 25 kilograms of gold and almost 120 kilograms of silver. Twenty truckloads were sent to the mujahideen in Afghanistan. And there is more stuff here.

NARRATOR: They sent not just money, blankets and clothes, but weapons.

ELDER: [subtitles] Our forefathers battled with these weapons. We defeated the British with them. America has Stinger missiles and very expensive weapons, but we will fight them with these.

NARRATOR: Deputy Secretary Armitage had specifically demanded that Pakistan prevent any volunteers from going to Afghanistan.

MEN IN TRUCK: Jihad! Jihad!

NARRATOR: Musharraf's government did nothing to stop them.

LATIF AFRIDI, Human Rights Attorney: And the result was that there was an inflow of Talibans and jihadis into Afghanistan.

INTERVIEWER: [subtitles] Where are you going?

MUJAHID: [subtitles] To Afghanistan.

INTERVIEWER: [subtitles] Why?

MUJAHID: [subtitles] For jihad.

INTERVIEWER: [subtitles] Jihad against whom?

MUJAHID: [subtitles] Against America.

NARRATOR: America's massive bombing campaign scattered the Taliban forces. In a matter of weeks, they were either dead or on the run. The most wanted al Qaeda fighters, including Osama bin Laden, were holed up in the mountains of Tora Bora. American strategy depended on getting the Pakistanis to man their side of the border.

Gen. ALI MOHAMMED JAN AURAKZAI, Former Pakistan Commander: We used to call them the no-go areas or the inaccessible areas. We had the maps, but they were not very accurate. The borders are unguarded. When this operation was launched, we assessed the situation because Tora Bora is just next to our border. That is opposite Kurram agency and Khyber agency. I mean, I wouldn't say that we were able to seal the border 100 percent, and the possibility of some trickling through or infiltrating through the gaps, I mean, cannot be ruled out. I can't really say that.

AFRASIAB KHATTAK, People's National Party: Some of the al Qaeda camp followers did come this way, and they were arrested and handed over to the United States. But some senior al Qaeda operatives received a whisper into their ears, since they had connections in Pakistani intelligence agencies, that there are safe passages. They were advised to travel south inside Afghanistan before crossing over into Pakistan. And this is exactly what they did. They went into Waziristan, which was vacant. There was no deployment on borders.

ASFANDIHAR WALI KHAN, Chief, People's National Party: Now, why was Waziristan left vacant then? Why were the roads in Waziristan kept open?

MARTIN SMITH: What's the answer?

ASFANDIHAR WALI KHAN: Because we wanted to safeguard our assets.

MARTIN SMITH: The ISI wanted to-

ASFANDIHAR WALI KHAN: Yes.

MARTIN SMITH: �safeguard its assets?

ASFANDIHAR WALI KHAN: Because everyone knew that the easiest routes into Afghanistan were Miran Shah and Mir Ali.

MARTIN SMITH: So they were let in.

ASFANDIHAR WALI KHAN: They were let in.

MARTIN SMITH: And why did Musharraf's army allow this?

ASFANDIHAR WALI KHAN: Why do you forget? Before 9/11, we were openly supporting the Talibans.

NARRATOR: The Taliban were welcomed by their fellow Pashtun tribesmen. With them came an assortment of al Qaeda Arabs, Uzbeks, Chechens and other foreign fighters. They were also welcome.

STEVE COLL, The New Yorker: This is a population that regards them with sympathy and active support. And it's not just a few people, it is the tribal leadership, it is the tribal population, it is the religious parties. They are in friendly territory.

NARRATOR: Some U.S. military officers argued that the U.S. should pursue al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan. Others warned against it.

Prof. BARNETT RUBIN, New York University: The experience of trying to conquer those areas with troops throughout history has not been a happy one. The British could not do it. They had 50,000 troops there in the 1930s, more than in the entire rest of the British empire. They still did not conquer it. The terrain is not one in which conventional armies can fight successfully against the tribesmen there.

NARRATOR: The U.S. relied instead on the Pakistani military to pursue al Qaeda, but President Musharraf now admits that Pakistan did nothing.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: We didn't even know that they are there. It was al Qaeda in South Waziristan by the hundreds. There was no intelligence, basically. We lacked intelligence. After 9/11, the whole of 2002, I think, we didn't have intelligence. We didn't have human intelligence. We never went in.

NARRATOR: It was at that time that FRONTLINE first visited Western Pakistan. Prohibited from entering the tribal areas, we hired a local Waziri reporter named Hayat Ullah Khan.

HAYAT ULLAH KHAN: The tribals of Pakistan also have houses in Afghanistan.

NARRATOR: He was lent a camera and given a few pointers. These and other scenes provided some of the first glimpses of Waziristan to outsiders. The sympathies of the tribesmen were clear.

CROWD: [subtitles] Down with America!

CROWD: [subtitles] Long live the mujahideen of Waziristan!

[www.pbs.org: Watch more of the footage]

NARRATOR: It wasn't long before South Waziristan became a new center of al Qaeda's global operations. Several al Qaeda plots - one involving targets in London and New York - were traced back here. The leader of the South Waziri Taliban was a young charismatic tribesman, Nek Mohammed.

AFRASIAB KHATTAK: Nek Mohammed was a Taliban commander from Waziristan, who had headed a training camp of al Qaeda west of Kabul, in Afghanistan, and he received al Qaeda leaders in Waziristan. They were hiding with him. And his followers are still having foreign guests and they are still fighting al Qaeda's war.

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI, Editor, News International: When he became known, he was just 27 years old. And he became a commander of these Pakistani tribal militants who were harboring the al Qaeda members in Waziristan.

NARRATOR: The Americans put pressure on the Pakistanis to do something. Finally, after two assassination attempts on Musharraf, one linked to South Waziristan, the Pakistani army sent in gunships and 5,000 troops to a remote area known as the Shakai valley. They targeted several al Qaeda training camps and the home of Nek Mohammed. The fighting was fierce.

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI: When the Pakistan army and the Frontier Corps tried to take over his village, Kalusha, near Wana in South Waziristan, the army suffered a lot because they were sitting in ambush. So then they realized his power. They thought, "He has real power and he can strike back."

STEVE COLL: When the army started to take these hits after it got up there, Musharraf stopped the operations fairly quickly. I think the Americans were disappointed. They understood that these casualties were politically poisonous in Pakistan, that Musharraf was waging an unpopular war. Nonetheless, he was in for a dime. And the feeling, I think, on the American side was, "Well, let's go at least up to 50 cents before we quit." And instead, Musharraf began to promote this view that, "You don't understand how political change is effected in this part of the world. I'm going to negotiate and co-opt our rivals."

NARRATOR: Musharraf ordered his military and the ISI to negotiate a deal with Nek Mohammed.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: The agreement was that the militants either lay down arms or they are going to be shunted out of the place. And the locals are going to cooperate with the army in asking these militants to either get off Pakistan or lay down their arms.

NARRATOR: In April of 2004, tribesmen from across South Waziristan gathered outside the main madrassa in Shakai. Nek Mohammed agreed, according to the government, to lay down arms and register all al Qaeda militants living in South Waziristan.

RALLY SPEAKER: [subtitles] Praise to Allah for helping us reach this peaceful agreement.

NARRATOR: The government sent the 11th Corps commander to Shakai to bless the deal, General Safdar Hussein.

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI: Look, this is very important in the tribal context. Instead of the militants coming to the army, the army is going to their place, which means they recognized their strength and their influence. Then you go to a madrassa, which was, in a way, you know, the headquarters of the militants. And then you garland Nek Mohammed. You exchange gifts. You say that he's a brother.

NARRATOR: General Safdar then addressed the tribesmen.

Gen. SAFDAR HUSSEIN: [subtitles] When America's World Trade Center was hit by a plane, how many Afghan pilots were involved?

NARRATOR: In tribal headdress, he questioned why America had gone to war against the Taliban.

Gen. SAFDAR HUSSEIN: [subtitles] Since there were no Afghan pilots, why is there this situation in Afghanistan? Think about it.

NARRATOR: He then portrayed the Pakistani army as protecting the tribesmen from American bombs.

Gen. SAFDAR HUSSEIN: [subtitles] If the Pakistani government had not made such a wise choice, then just like America invaded Iraq and invaded Afghanistan, they also would have invaded the tribal areas.

NARRATOR: After weeks of fighting and over a hundred killed, all seemed forgiven.

NEK MOHAMMED: [subtitles] Whatever happened, happened. Whoever's fault it was, be it our fault or the army's, we will not fight each other again.

NARRATOR: But the militants wanted to be compensated, as well.

ISMAIL KHAN, Journalist, Dawn Newspaper: Oh, they were paid money also. This was part of the deal because some of these commanders had come up and said, "Look, you know, we owed a lot of money to al Qaeda because we had borrowed money for logistics, for support."

MARTIN SMITH: Wait a minute. The government of Pakistan, which is America's partner in the war, is offering back in 2004 to pay money to the militants to pay their debts to al Qaeda?

ISMAIL KHAN: Yeah. The then Corps Commander, he told us that these people had demanded money and that they wanted the money to pay their debt to al Qaeda.

AFRASIAB KHATTAK: It was really shocking to see Pakistan army entering into agreement with al Qaeda operatives. It was for the first time after September 11th that any state was not only entering into negotiation with al Qaeda but establishing peace with their help, which is really amazing.

NARRATOR: FRONTLINE asked to interview Corps Commander General Safdar, but in the spring of �06, he was undergoing treatment for cancer in a U.S. hospital. Instead, we spoke to the army chief spokesman and the current corps commander.

MARTIN SMITH: General Safdar Hussein went forward with negotiations in which money was being paid to the Taliban commanders, such as Nek Mohammed, so they could pay debts to al Qaeda. Is that-is that the way you understood it?

Gen. SHAUKAT SULTAN, Chief, Military Public Relations: No, the army was not involved in any kind of paying of money. There is no political negotiation which is done by the army. All the political negotiations are done by the government. None is done by the army.

NARRATOR: General Sultan is correct. It was the government that made payments to the militants. But the army was a party to the deal.

MARTIN SMITH: Your colleagues, your friends, as you call them, in the American military, were frustrated by your approach. What did they-how did they express it to you?

Gen. HAMID KHAN, 11th Corps Commander 2005 - present: Well, they thought that probably this agreement will go against the interests of our colleagues across the borders. And they thought that while we may get friendly with the-with these groups, they may continue to operate across the borders. And that was actually the reason of difference.

MARTIN SMITH: The United States military was frustrated when they saw the approach you took. Was that a successful strategy?

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: No, I think it didn't prove good. But one should never speak with hindsight. You have to apply all instruments. We thought if we reached an agreement, that would be the end of it. Now, it proved wrong because the people who got involved on the other side, they double-crossed.

NARRATOR: The Shakai agreement broke down almost immediately. Nek Mohammed claimed he had never agreed to identify or hand over any al Qaeda militants. He pledged to renew his jihad against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

AFRASIAB KHATTAK: Those people did not renounce violence in Afghanistan. And after that, they have held public meetings saying publicly that they will keep on fighting in Afghanistan.

RYAN CROCKER, U.S. Ambassador, Pakistan: I think what it showed is there are some people you simply cannot make deals with. To a simple Western mind, that seemed clear at the time. These guys have shown they are not going to quit.

NARRATOR: In the next months, the Taliban also took revenge on the very tribal elders who had helped them broker their failed agreement.

ISMAIL KHAN: What they did was they began targeting those pro-government tribal elders. They killed them one by one. They killed the head of Ahmadzai tribe, who was the highest-paid tribal elder in the whole of the tribal region. He was killed. The government didn't do anything, did not take any action.

NARRATOR: In the last two years, more than a hundred tribal elders have been assassinated. With Pakistan failing to stop Nek Mohammed, the U.S. negotiated a secret deal with the Pakistani army. Highly classified, it allowed the CIA to launch unmanned Predator aircraft, like this one, armed with Hellfire missiles, into Pakistani territory and target militants like Nek Mohammed.

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI, Editor, News International: The army said, "We have killed him," but the general perception is that he was killed by the U.S.

MARTIN SMITH: Through a Predator drone.

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI: With a laser-guided missile. And so many people were witness to what happened. The army still insists that "We killed him," but nobody believes the army.

NARRATOR: Nek Mohammed was buried as a martyr. His grave has become a shrine. The Pakistani army still tries to keep U.S. involvement in his death a secret.

MARTIN SMITH: Can you tell me who killed Nek Mohammed?

Gen. HAMID KHAN, 11th Corps Commander 2005 - present: Yeah. The Pakistani forces did that.

MARTIN SMITH: How?

Gen. HAMID KHAN: How? Through a strike.

MARTIN SMITH: What kind of strike?

Gen. HAMID KHAN: Well, it was a weapons system from one of the aircrafts.

MARTIN SMITH: He was not struck with a Hellfire missile?

Gen. HAMID KHAN: No.

MARTIN SMITH: From a Predator?

Gen. HAMID KHAN: No.

MARTIN SMITH: He was not?

Gen. HAMID KHAN: No.

NARRATOR: A few months later, Musharraf came to Washington.

[December 2004]

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: It is my honor to welcome a friend.

NARRATOR: But by now, the administration was preoccupied with Iraq. The hunt for al Qaeda was left to Pakistan.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: The president has been a determined leader to bring to justice not only people like Osama bin Laden but to bring to justice those who would inflict harm and pain on his own people.

NARRATOR: Musharraf went home with a $1.2 billion arms deal. Throughout 2005, militants continued to use Waziristan to launch attacks across the Afghan border. In North Waziristan, analysts were focused on warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani, the former Taliban minister of tribal affairs. A top Taliban commander recently confirmed on al Jazeera that Haqqani has become a principal architect of the Taliban's current offensive.

MULLAH DADULLAH AKHUND, Taliban Commander: [subtitles] Sheikh Haqqani and his sons are undoubtedly the battle commanders. They devise the military plans. He and I are in charge of things here.

NARRATOR: Haqqani is credited with introducing suicide bombing to Afghanistan.

TALIBAN FIGHTER: [subtitles] Only 10 minutes left until the operation.

NARRATOR: This video appeared on an al Qaeda Web site a few months ago.

TALIBAN FIGHTER: [subtitles] How do you feel, Abu Muhammad?

ABU MUHAMMAD: [subtitles] I feel a great calm.

NARRATOR: The driver is guided to his target, a convoy of two American Humvees, by a militant who kept his distance.

TALIBAN FIGHTER: [subtitles] Go on a little further. You'll see the Americans. May Allah accept you as a martyr, Abu Muhammad.

NARRATOR: FRONTLINE was unable to confirm if any soldiers died in this attack.

TALIBAN FIGHTER: [subtitles] Allah willing, we will annihilate you and help the Taliban until we die. Glory to Allah, His Prophet and the believers!

NARRATOR: But Haqqani has attracted hundreds of suicide bombers to Afghanistan.

MARTIN SMITH: Where does he get his money?

AFRASIAB KHATTAK: I think it is Middle East money that is still coming in. He has very strong Arab connections. Supporters of al Qaeda think that they can bleed Americans in Afghanistan. And they think they can create a new front for the United States in tribal areas. So they are investing money in this fighting.

NARRATOR: Fluent in Arabic, Haqqani has deep roots with Saudi intelligence, as well as with Pakistan's ISI and the CIA. During the anti-Soviet jihad, Haqqani received millions of dollars, as well as Stinger missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, explosives, and even tanks. Haqqani was also very close to bin Laden.

STEVE COLL: He controlled this area south of the Khyber Pass that was an obvious crossing point for volunteers like bin Laden who were based in Peshawar. And it's not a coincidence that when al Qaeda was formed along the Afghan-Pakistan border in the summer of 1988, its first camps were in Haqqani's territory. So bin Laden and Haqqani would have known each other for 15 years by the time bin Laden came across the border after Tora Bora.

MARTIN SMITH: So he's running into the arms of a friend?

STEVE COLL: A brother.

[www.pbs.org: Read Steve Coll's extended interview]

NARRATOR: Pakistan's ISI continued to work with Haqqani when he became a minister in the Taliban's government. In all, the ISI has worked with him for 20 years. The Americans have repeatedly asked them to capture or kill him.

MARTIN SMITH: Could the ISI today, in your view, find Haqqani? Do they know where he is?

Prof. BARNETT RUBIN, Author, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan: I'm sure that ISI knows where Haqqani is. That does not mean that it would be easy for them to arrest him.

MARTIN SMITH: Why not?

Prof. BARNETT RUBIN: Because Haqqani has many men who are very loyal to him, including many members of the ISI.

MARTIN SMITH: So where does that put the ISI? Whose side are they on?

Prof. BARNETT RUBIN: Well, I think they're- they- the ISI is on the ISI's side.

MARTIN SMITH: Haqqani. Why don't you arrest him?

MUNIR AKRAM, Pakistani Ambassador to the U.N.: Well, I think Jalaluddin Haqqani, if- if he's found, I'm sure he'll be arrested.

MARTIN SMITH: But the ISI, certainly, is a very capable organization, with long-standing ties to Haqqani. Even post-9/11, you were talking to him. Why not arrest him?

Amb. MUNIR AKRAM: Arresting him might be something that we will have- have to do, but I'm not sure whether we know where he is or whether we are capable at this time.

NARRATOR: According to the U.S. military, Pakistan has not arrested any senior Afghan or Pakistani Taliban leaders.

STEVE COLL: When the Pakistan army is fighting the Taliban, they're fighting cousins. They're fighting brethren. They're bound by language. They're bound in some cases by tribal identity. Pashtun identity, tribal identity, though very complex and difficult for outsiders to fully map, is, whenever encountered, a very powerful source of pride and personal identity.

NARRATOR: The ISI has been more willing to cooperate when it comes to al Qaeda, but not without persistent pressure and help from the U.S. In December 2005, the Pakistan military announced an al Qaeda operative, Abu Hamza Rabia [sp?], was killed while making a bomb in his North Waziristan home. But then pictures showing tribesmen holding fragments of U.S.-made Hellfire missiles appeared in newspapers and on the Web. The photographs were taken by FRONTLINE colleague Hayat Ullah Khan.

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI, Editor, News International: Hayat Ullah was there. It happened in his village. So he showed the parts of the missile. He said this was an American missile and maybe it was fired by the Americans. So that was something really embarrassing for the Pakistan army because the army has been claiming that they are actually behind all these big aerial strikes.

MARTIN SMITH: You've seen the pictures of the missiles that were found on the ground after Abu Hamza was killed. Clearly, Hellfire missiles.

Gen. SHAUKAT SULTAN, Chief, Military Public Relations: I- I- I won't say that. I won't say that.

MARTIN SMITH: So what killed Abu Hamza?

Gen. SHAUKAT SULTAN: Well, he was killed through a precision strike. And as I said, that no one is going to give the details of an intelligence operation.

NARRATOR: FRONTLINE has confirmed it was an American Predator that fired the missiles. Meanwhile, Hayat Ullah Khan, who had embarrassed the government, was mysteriously abducted five days after his pictures were published.

HAYAT'S BROTHER: We both were going in a taxi.

NARRATOR: His brother was with him at the time.

HAYAT'S BROTHER: Another car came and he-and four-four men come from that car. They captured Hayat like this and sat him in their own car. We believe that government is involved in that kidnapping of Hayat Ullah because Hayat said to my mother, "When I published the pictures of the guided missile, that I know that government will harm me."

MARTIN SMITH: Can I bring up the case of the journalist Hayat Ullah Khan? Are you familiar with him?

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: No.

MARTIN SMITH: He took the pictures of the U.S. missiles at the Abu Hamza-where he was killed. And those pictures were then shown, and then a few days after that, he disappeared. Journalists' organizations, his family have all appealed to you to respond, to investigate. Are you familiar with this situation?

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Not at all. And I don't know at all. We don't know about it. If he disappeared, well, he may have disappeared. I don't know it.

MARTIN SMITH: But I am surprised that it's not something you are aware of.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: No, no. I am not really aware of.

NARRATOR: But after the next question, Musharraf seemed to know something about the case.

MARTIN SMITH: I was told by an American official that he was in Pakistani custody.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Not at all. That's not the case.

MARTIN SMITH: There's widespread belief that the reason he was picked up is because he embarrassed yourself.

Gen. SHAUKAT SULTAN: The point is that-where has he gone, who picked him up, we don't know. He's missing all right, but we don't know who picked him up.

NARRATOR: Six months later, Hayat Ullah was found in a ditch near his village in North Waziristan with five bullet holes in his head and back. His wrists were bound with government-issued handcuffs. Hayat Ullah is one of nine journalists killed in Pakistan in the last four years. The government has promised several investigations, but so far nothing has come to light. Besides the Taliban fronts in the Waziristans, another front operates out of northern Pakistan. Here the Hindu Kush mountains rise to over 25,000 feet. Hundreds of villages nestle in steep valleys below. Along the Afghan border is the Bajaur tribal agency. Intelligence officers and some local journalists believe this area is now the most likely location for bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri.

ISMAIL KHAN, Journalist, Dawn Newspaper: It's difficult to keep track of these guys because they move on. They change their locations very frequently, very quickly. But Zawahiri, he is doing most of the legwork. He's the high-profile guy who is more visible, rather than bin Laden, who's disappeared. You know, nobody knows-there's not even a murmur, not a whisper, not even a rumor of him being sighted anywhere. Before bin Laden, probably there are high chances that they would get Zawahiri first.

NARRATOR: In January 2006, a Pakistani interrogation of a captured al Qaeda operative indicated that al Zawahiri was going to be in Bajaur, in Damadola village, for a meeting and dinner with other al Qaeda leaders.

ELDER: [subtitles] All hell broke loose. We had no idea what had happened. We were asleep. It was 3:00 AM, and there was a loud bang!

VILLAGER: [subtitles] Everyone was running around. There were children and women. Everyone was screaming.

NARRATOR: American missiles had hit three houses. Eighteen people were killed. Four of them were al Qaeda operatives, but Zawahiri was not among them. Many of the dead were women and children.

RALLY SPEAKER: [subtitles] Our salvation is our religion!

CROWD: Jihad! Jihad!

SPEAKER: We will bring to America-

CROWD: [subtitles] Revolution!

NARRATOR: Pakistani religious parties held demonstrations across the country.

CROWD: [subtitles] Bush is a dog!

NARRATOR: The Pakistani government distanced themselves and said they had no role in the attack.

SHEIKH RASHID AHMED, Information Minister, Pakistan: We deeply regret that civilian lives have been lost in an incident in Bajaur Agency. We want to assure the people we will not allow such incident to reoccur.

NARRATOR: This time, they said it was an American operation.

MARTIN SMITH: Is that the only one that you will confirm was a missile strike?

Gen. SHAUKAT SULTAN, Chief, Military Public Relations: Yes, it was a missile strike.

MARTIN SMITH: But that's-

Gen. SHAUKAT SULTAN: And Pakistan government-

MARTIN SMITH: �the only one.

Gen. SHAUKAT SULTAN: Pakistan government confirmed it, and Pakistan government condemned it. I will not go into any of the details of the operations. We are more concerned about the sensitivity of our population.

MAN IN CROWD: [subtitles] Whoever is America's friend is a traitor!

MAN IN CROWD: [subtitles] Musharraf is a dog!

MARTIN SMITH: It seems that you've joined the war on terrorism at the urging of President Bush, but you've been faced with a very difficult situation vis-a-vis your own people.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: No, no, that's not the case. As far as the public of Pakistan is concerned, they are supportive of all that is happening.

MARTIN SMITH: When the Damadola strike happens, CIA comes in, runs a plane in there and attacks, and you've got demonstrations on the street and you've created more terrorists.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: The issue is, we have a clear agreement. Any action without our knowledge and without our clearance and approval and without our dictation is not acceptable to Pakistan. That is the agreement.

AYMAN AL ZAWAHIRI: [subtitles] It was an attack on the village of Damadola in Bajaur Agency.

NARRATOR: Two weeks after the Damadola missile strike, Ayman Zawahiri released a video message.

AYMAN AL ZAWAHIRI: [subtitles] Bush, want to know where I am? I am with my fellow Muslims. I am enjoying their support, their hospitality, generosity, protection and their help in the jihad against you.

NARRATOR: Even though it is considered a new base for al Qaeda's leaders, the Pakistani army has almost no troops deployed in Bajaur. This spring, another Taliban operations center ramped up activity south of the Waziri tribal areas, in Quetta, Pakistan. Afghan intelligence believes Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar is based here. Between here and the border is a madrassa. The locals call it "the factory." It turns out Taliban by the hundreds. When FRONTLINE sent a cameraman to the nearby border crossing, traffic was moving in and out unimpeded. The coalition has repeatedly asked Pakistan to clamp down on Quetta.

COALITION SOLDIER: Hold the ground there!

NARRATOR: Just over the border, near Kandahar, Afghanistan-

COALITION SOLDIER: Changing mags!

NARRATOR: �coalition forces are facing the stiffest resistance since 2001.

COALITION SOLDIER: There's some I-com chatter saying that the Taliban are looking at us right now.

STEVE COLL, The New Yorker: The Taliban have had a very successful spring and summer. They are using sophisticated tactics that they were not demonstrating before.

COALITION SOLDIER: How are they doing on the right? What are they doing on the right?

STEVE COLL: The geography where the Taliban is showing strength is more worrisome than a year ago or three years ago.

NARRATOR: In May of �06, Afghan President Hamid Karzai traveled to the border.

HAMID KARZAI, President, Afghanistan: [subtitles] We have exact information that in the madrassas of Pakistan, young boys are being told to go to Afghanistan and join the jihad.

NARRATOR: A few months earlier, Karzai had gone to Islamabad to confront Musharraf. He took with him a list.

AMRULLAH SALEH, Director, Afghan Intelligence: It was a target list- locations, training camps, telephone numbers and everything.

MARTIN SMITH: And President Karzai said, "Hand over the list"?

AMRULLAH SALEH: I put it on the table, and the president gave the file to President Musharraf. We have confronted them with facts and figures, but they deny it.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: I was very angry with him. Did he tell you that? I was very angry with him because I told him, "Were you waiting for a presidential visit to inform us about these things? Is that your sense of intelligence, you being the head of intelligence?"

MARTIN SMITH: It's not simply the Afghans that are complaining, it's the Americans. The Americans have made a number of statements recently, earlier this year, that Pakistan is simply not doing enough.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Who the hell is doing anything if Pakistan is not doing enough? Who is doing anything? Is Karzai doing something? Are they doing anything? Their whole countryside is rampant with Taliban today. When they are not being able to control that, they shift blame to Pakistan. Yes, indeed, in Pakistan there is a problem. Yes, indeed, there are Taliban supporters here who go across, but we are checking all that.

[www.pbs.org: Read the extended interview]

NARRATOR: Concerned about Musharraf's commitment, President Bush came to Islamabad in March of �06. He had just concluded a nuclear power deal with India, Pakistan's archenemy, straining US-Pakistani relations. Bush publicly put Musharraf on the spot.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Part of my mission today was to- was to determine whether or not the president is as committed as he has been in the past to bringing these terrorists to justice, and he is.

NARRATOR: But Bush was widely criticized for not offering Musharraf any new incentives.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: He understands the need to make sure our strategy is able to defeat the enemy. Do you want to say something to that?

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: May I- may I add to this, with your permission, the first element that one needs to be very clear is the intentions-

Prof. BARNETT RUBIN, New York University: What Bush is actually doing is saying, "I came here to see if you're really on my side." And he looked at Musharraf and he expected Musharraf to say something like, "Yes, we are the loyal followers of the United States of America." In other words, he expected Musharraf to commit political suicide.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: My intentions are absolutely clear that we are-

Prof. BARNETT RUBIN: If you want to get the president of an independent country to do what you would like him to do, I don't think you start by humiliating him in public. First you sign a nuclear agreement with India, and then you act like he's a schoolboy and you're coming to check up on his grades.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: We are moving forward toward delivering, and we will succeed. That is what I think.

NARRATOR: Other observers point out that regardless of incentives, Musharraf's power is limited.

STEVE COLL: Well, look, Musharraf would like a little more understanding from his allies in the United States about the limits of military force in the frontier, certainly Pakistani military force. I think if he could, he would deliver on two thirds of what the Americans would wish him to deliver on, but he has to worry about the loyalty of his own military and his own officers.

NARRATOR: Estimates are that Musharraf has already received up to $5 billion in U.S. assistance since 9/11.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: We have gained a lot financially, the economic upsurge that is going on, the economic turnaround that has taken place.

MARTIN SMITH: So it's been worth it.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Yes, indeed. Of course. We are getting our F-16s now. We are going to get them very soon. The defense cooperation has increased between the United States and Pakistan.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Good job. Great answer.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Thank you very much. Thank you.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Very good job.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Thank you. And debt relief that we got. I think it will account for about $4 billion to $5 billion in all. So I think let's not convert everything into money, but we have gained a lot.

NARRATOR: There is a policy debate in Washington over what to do with Musharraf. Some officials advocate cutting military aid. Others argue that America should stay the course, that Musharraf is, in an imperfect world, the best and only choice.

[www.pbs.org: More on the debate]

MUNIR AKRAM, Pakistani Ambassador to the U.N.: He's the only ally you have in that region who is capable of delivering on his promises. You have no other ally. The promise is a long-term campaign against terrorism and extremism. We will win it. It requires patience. It requires sacrifice on all sides. You pressurize Pakistan, you destabilize Pakistan, the most counterproductive thing to do is to press Pakistan more.

NARRATOR: The Pakistani government continues to believe that the answer lies in negotiating with the Taliban. Last month, back in Miran Shah, capital of North Waziristan, the government signed another ceasefire agreement, just as they did two years ago with Nek Mohammed. But already a Waziri mullah who was a party to the deal has violated the accord. He was killed while participating in a cross-border raid. The U.S. military says they are concerned.

STEVE COLL: The United States is beginning to recognize that its project in Afghanistan will fail unless it addresses the sanctuary and support that the Taliban enjoys in Pakistan. But the United States has not yet reached the point where it knows what kind of a new policy it is prepared to carry out in Pakistan and what price for that policy it's willing to pay.

NARRATOR: Last month, the U.S. ordered 5,000 more troops into the area opposite North Waziristan. For now, they remain on the Afghan side of the border.

In memory of our colleague, Hayat Ullah Khan, 1976-2006

RETURN OF THE TALIBAN

WRITTEN, PRODUCED & REPORTED BY
MARTIN SMITH

CO-PRODUCED BY
Scott Anger
and Chris Durrance

EDITOR
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PHOTOGRAPHY
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ANNOUNCER: There's much more of this report at FRONTLINE's Web site, including analysis of what the U.S. can do about the growing threat from militants in Pakistan's tribal areas, profiles of prominent Islamist militants and the terror plots that tie back to this region. Read Winston Churchill's dispatches from the tribal areas as a young journalist attached to British forces there, FRONTLINE's extended interviews, plus watch this program again on our Web site. Then join the discussion at pbs.org.

To order FRONTLINE's Return of the Taliban on videocassette or DVD, call PBS Home Video at 1-800-PLAY PBS. [$29.95 plus s&h]

Funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the Park Foundation, committed to raising public awareness.

FRONTLINE is made possible by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

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posted oct. 3, 2006

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