On the one-year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks,
FRONTLINE tells the behind-the-scenes story of the U.S. and world response.
The first hour of "Campaign Against Terror" chronicles--through interviews
with Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Pakistani
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and other key players--how complex
diplomatic maneuvering led to the formation of an international coalition
against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It also details how the White House,
Pentagon, and the CIA moved quickly to develop a plan for fighting a new kind
The second hour of this documentary focuses on how this first war of the
21st century was fought.
Immediately after Sept. 11, Secretary of State Colin Powell began laying the groundwork for a diplomatic coalition to fight the war on terror. It was a new role for the former general and hero of Desert Storm. "My mind [was] thinking militarily, but diplomatically, " Powell recalls, "What does this mean? What do I have to do to get the world behind us on this? ... I suggested to the president and my other colleagues that this was an opportunity to begin pulling together a worldwide coalition."
Meanwhile, the CIA and U.S. military drew up plans for an "unconventional war"
in which CIA officers would link up with anti-Taliban guerrillas inside
Afghanistan. They would later be joined by small U.S. special operations units
who would call in precision airstrikes on the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It was to
be a war of many bombs, a handful of U.S. troops on the ground, and America's
Afghan allies taking on the bulk of the fighting.
Footage in "Campaign Against Terror" shows how in Afghanistan's north, U.S.
forces hooked up with the Northern Alliance, a loose collection of
warlords who had fought the Taliban for years. U.S. Special Forces soldiers
shared with FRONTLINE their stories of how this unusual alliance worked.
However, in the Taliban's stronghold of southern Afghanistan, there was no
Afghan resistance group who could join forces with U.S. troops. The U.S.
sought a leader in the South untainted by Afghanistan's culture of warlords and violence, and a candidate soon emerged: Hamid Karzai, a diplomat from a prominent family in
Kandahar whose father had been assassinated by the Taliban.
"Campaign Against Terror" moves back and forth between the Bonn
Conference -- where world leaders were discussing Karzai's possible role as
interim chairman in a post-Taliban Afghan government - and Karzai's dramatic
Within days of secretly entering Afghanistan in a daring nighttime motorcycle ride across the Pakistan border, Karzai was nearly killed by the
Taliban, and the United States moved to give him support. Later, he was wounded by a misdirected American bomb. FRONTLINE talks with the
U.S. Special Forces soldiers who fought alongside Karzai in the decisive
battles that would ultimately defeat the
Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
Finally, with the Taliban regime collapsing, a new
offensive was launched in the mountainous region of Tora Bora
where Al Qaeda forces were believed to be congregating in fortified cave
complexes. Despite weeks of heavy bombing, however, many Al Qaeda managed to
slip across the border to Pakistan -- including, many believe, bin Laden and
key Al Qaeda leaders.
While many defend the campaign in Afghanistan
as a success--Al Qaeda's infrastructure was destroyed and a new Afghan
government, headed by Hamid Karzai, took shape--critics
say this first phase of the campaign against terror was
a half-victory since important Al Qaeda leaders and Mullah Omar, the Taliban
leader, remain unaccounted for.
Did the U.S. military rely too heavily on Afghan forces to do the fighting?
And what about the controversy over wartime atrocities? This report looks at
allegations that Northern Alliance forces killed Taliban prisoners as they were
being transported to Sheberghan Prison after the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif.
The program concludes with President Bush giving his January 2002 State of the
Union Address a month after the Tora Bora offensive. The President emphasizes
the successful side of the Afghan campaign and outlines his vision for the
next phase of the war on terror--to confront what he called an "axis of evil"
formed by states like North Korea, Iran and Iraq. He does not mention the
name "Osama bin Laden."
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
FRONTLINE + wgbh + pbsi
photo © reuters newmedia inc/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014
WGBH educational foundation