on the ground
with us?


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 this operation.

ANNOUNCER: And how the Afghan rebels and U.S. soldiers lear 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.

In 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.

Dr. 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 White House-

CONDOLEEZZA 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.

COLIN 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."

From 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.

MICHAEL 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 the hitting."

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.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Everybody assumed that it was al Qaeda because the operation looked like al Qaeda, quacked like al Qaeda, seemed like al Qaeda.

NARRATOR: CIA director George Tenet explained that al Qaeda was unlike any enemy America had faced.

CONDOLEEZZA 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 terrorism.

COLIN 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.

TONY 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 them."

And I remember saying, "You have to work out who's responsible. You have to prove to the bar of public opinion who's responsible."

CONDOLEEZZA 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 participate.

NARRATOR: Bush had another problem. He had to prepare the nation for the war he had already decided to fight.

CONDOLEEZZA 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 of war.

    *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.

On 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.

BOB 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."

And Bush and the rest of the war cabinet was very impressed with this because it was a solution. It was at least an attack plan.

    *[September 14, 2001]

    *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!

CONDOLEEZZA 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.

COLIN 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.

CONDOLEEZZA 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.

PAUL 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.

COLIN 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.

After 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 defeats.

CONDOLEEZZA 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.

PAUL 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.

CONDOLEEZZA 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 our choice.

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 fighters.

BOB 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."

CONDOLEEZZA 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 consequences.

    *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.

COLIN POWELL, Secretary of State: Because the Pakistanis supported the Taliban, to some extent the Pakistanis had some responsibility in this, as well.

RICHARD 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 Department.

RICHARD 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."

And 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 exception.

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.

Pres. 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.

Pres. 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.

WENDY 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.

Pres. 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.

Pres. 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 House.

    *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 will.

    *Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: We got to go. Thank you all.

NARRATOR: That night, Bush would outline his war plan to a joint session of Congress.

Prime 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."

MICHAEL 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.

MICHAEL 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.

Gen. 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.

Col. 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.

Lt. 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.

BOB 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.

REUEL 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 there.

For 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.

COLIN 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.

COLIN 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 flank?

NARRATOR: In Moscow, President Putin's top advisers were anxious.

IGOR 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?

VLADIMIR 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.

RICHARD 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.

IMOMALI 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.

Pres. 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.

Pres. 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 terrorism.

CONDOLEEZZA 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.

Pres. 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.

CONDOLEEZZA 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 with Russia.

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.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: 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 operation then?

NARRATOR: While pro-Taliban Pakistanis burned President Bush in effigy, General Mahmood visited the American ambassador.

WENDY 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.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: I sent a letter to Mullah Omar also, my own letter, telling him from my personal side that "Please accept reality."

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.

RICHARD 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.

Pres. 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.

Prime 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.

    *Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [press conference] I personally condemn this human tragedy-

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.

WENDY 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.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Yes, I did tell her. I did surprise her.

WENDY CHAMBERLIN: But he took great pains to let me know that this was not a firing,

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: I clarified, actually, that it has nothing to do with whatever is happening in Afghanistan, nothing at all.

WENDY 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 United States.

Prime 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.

MARC 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.

And 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.

JACK 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.

America 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 line.

DOUGLAS 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.

    *[October 7, 2001]

    *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 80 years.

MICHAEL 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 thousands more.

NARRATOR: Bombing alone would clearly not be enough. America turned to the Northern Alliance.

Gen. 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.

MICHAEL 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.

    *REPORTER: [press conference] Are U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan now?

    *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.

PAUL 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.

FRANK, 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 land?"

The 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.

MARK, 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 General Dostum.

BOB, 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.

BILL, 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.

MARK, 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.

REUELGERECHT, 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 Taliban.

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 today."

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 entrenched.

FRANK, 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.

Gen. 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 bombs.

Gen. 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.

Pres. 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 Afghanistan.

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 repeat itself.

    *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.

COLIN 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 operations.

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.

Pres. 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."

COLIN POWELL: 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.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: I said, "If you really want to assist us, this is the area that we seek assistance."

COLIN 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."

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: I think, yes, we drove this point home to him.

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 government.

    *Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: [press conference] We agreed that durable peace in Afghanistan would only be possible through the establishment of a broad-based multi-ethnic government

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 Pashtuns.

    *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.

Pres. 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.

CONDOLEEZZA 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 3:00 AM.

Pres. 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.

BURHANNAUDIN 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 the point.

Pres. 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.

ROBERT 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 security.

NARRATOR: Haq left Pakistan without any help from the CIA.

ROBERT 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 execution.

    *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.

PAUL 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.

HAMID 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?

HAMID 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?

HAMID 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.

HAMID 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.

MOHAMMED, 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.

HAMID KARZAI: 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.

HAMID 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 operations team.

PAUL 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 forces.

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.

Prime 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.

MICHAEL 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.

MARK, 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.

And 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."

I 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.

MICHAEL 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.

Gen. 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 Omar's home.

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.

CONDOLEEZZA 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?

COLIN 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 should be.

CONDOLEEZZA 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.

MARK, 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 outside Mazar.

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.

BOBBY, 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.

MARK, 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 there.

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.

JOHN 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.

JOHN 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]

RICHARD 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 Kabul.

NARRATOR: At the United Nations in New York, President Bush urged the Northern Alliance to stay out of Afghanistan's capital.

    *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 capital.

Gen. 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

COLIN 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 Washington.

ABDULLAH 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.

LAKHDAR 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.

LAKHDAR 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.

COLIN 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, speed."

NARRATOR: But events on the ground had taken on a life of their own.

FRANK, 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 to stop.

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.

    *AFGHAN FIGHTER: [beating another fighter] You killed my brother!

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.

Pres. 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.

COLIN 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.

Pres. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: My concern was that all of them will start fighting again between themselves.

COLIN 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.

JAMES 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 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 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.

JAMES 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 government.

ABDULLAH 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 trained troops.

Capt. 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.

Capt. JASON AMERINE: 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.

HAMID 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.

Staff 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.

Capt. 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.

Lt. 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.

HAMID 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.

BURHANNAUDIN 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.

JAMES 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.

So 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.

HAMID 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.

BURHANNAUDIN RABBANI, Northern Alliance Political Leader: [through translator] Our representative phoned and said, "We are under serious pressure to form a government here."

ABDULLAH 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 agreement.

NARRATOR: If the Northern Alliance pulled out of the talks, America's strategy for Afghanistan would be in jeopardy.

JAMES 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.

COLIN 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.

COLIN 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.

IGOR 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 ABDULLAH: He passed a message that there the world expect an agreement. "You shouldn't expect that without an agreement, our support can continue."

NARRATOR: Russian pressure did the trick. The younger members of the Northern Alliance leadership decided to mutiny.

JAMES 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.

BURHANNAUDIN 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.

HAMID 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 much."

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.

Lt. 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.

Lt. 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.

Capt. 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.

HAMID 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.

Lt. 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.

HAMID 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.

Capt. 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 continues.

Capt. 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.

Lt. 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 you."

NARRATOR: Minutes later, Karzai learned that the Bonn conference had named him Afghanistan's new leader.

HAMID 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.

And 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.

Lt. 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 most.

REUEL 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 people.

Lt. 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.

SUSAN 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.

Col. 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.

I'd 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.

Gen. 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.

SUSAN 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.

There 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.

BILL, 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.

SHANE, 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.

SUSAN 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."

Gen. 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 ceasefire.

Col. 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.

SUSAN 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 make.

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.

In 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.

SUSAN 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.

What 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 the battle.

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? 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.

One 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 his.

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.

Capt. 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 made it.

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 destructive weapons.

MICHAEL 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 Iraq.

    *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.



Campaign Against Terror

Mark Anderson
Greg Barker


Kate Leonard-Morgan

Chris Buchanan

Paul Dosaj
Sally Hilton

Michael H. Amundson

Sarah Anthony
Hannah Lewington

Jean Simon

Paul Foss

Will Lyman

Ray Brislin (USA),
Tony Poole (UK),
Chris Morphet (UK),
Stefan Thissen (Germany),
Christopher Wood (Russia),
Peter Jouvenal (Afghanistan)
Claudia Rizzi
Greg Barker

Mike Boyle (USA)
Pete Peters (USA)
Simon Parmenter (UK)
Rob Miles (UK)
Frank Bubentser (Germany)
Mikhail Fedulov (Russia)
Terry Hillman (USA)

Jim Sullivan

Michael H. Amundson


Charles Bruce

Daniel Edge

Clare Healy

Masha Slonim
Rodric Braithwaite,
Igor Maskaev,
Paul Bergne

Sue Temple

Stephanie Hunter

William Willson,
Elizabeth Murray

Declan Smith
Liz Fay
Masha Oleneva

Roger Kennedy

ABCNEWS Video Source
Agence France Presse
Al Jazeera
BBC Television
Camera Planet Archive
Gamma Presse
ITN Archive
Katz Pictures
NBC News Archives
NTV Moscow
Pakistan Television
Rex Features
Saudi Television
Tajik Television
The White House Photo Library
Eric Draper

Norma Percy & Brian Lapping

Copyright 2002 Brook Lapping Productions


Tim Mangini

M.G. Rabinow

Wendy Smith

Steve Audette

Michael H. Amundson
John MacGibbon

Chetin Chabuk

Mason Daring
Martin Brody

Erin Martin Kane

Christopher Kelly

Jennifer McCauley

Dennis O'Reilly

Jessica Smith
Diane Hebert-Farrell

Jenna Lowe

Jessica Cashdan

Mary Sullivan

Danielle Gillis

Lisa Palone-Clarke

Eric Brass
Jay Fialkov

Adrienne Armor

Alex Fitzsimmons

Tobee Phipps

Sarah Moughty
Kimberly Tabor

Stephanie Ault

Sam Bailey

Wen Stephenson

Catherine Wright

Robin Parmelee

Ken Dornstein

Karen O'Connor

Sharon Tiller

Michael Sullivan

Marrie Campbell

Jim Bracciale

Louis Wiley Jr.

David Fanning

A Brook Lapping production for WGBH/FRONTLINE and Channel 4 in Association with Paladin InVision, Ltd.

(c) 2002

FRONTLINE 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,, or write an email to

Next time on FRONTLINE: For 10 years FBI agent John O'Neill, who was obsessed with Usama bin Laden.

    1st MAN: He said that we're at war with these people-

ANNOUNCER: He warned of the threat to the United States.

    1st MAN: -that they are here to hurt us.

ANNOUNCER: But FBI headquarters had stopped listening to him, so he took a new job as head of security at the World Trade Center.

    2nd MAN: The night before he died, he had said to me, "We're due for something big."

ANNOUNCER: The Man Who Knew, a FRONTLINE investigation.



To order a VHS copy of Campaign Against Terror, call PBS Home Video at 1-800-PLAY-PBS. [$29.98 plus s&h]

Funding for this program was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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

home + on the ground + assessing the campaign + with us or against us? + fighting on two fronts: a chronology
epilogue + discussion + interviews + links & readings + introduction + video + reporter's notebook
producer's chat + tapes & transcripts + press reaction + credits + privacy policy
FRONTLINE + wgbh + pbsi

photo © reuters newmedia inc/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation