Pelley: A decade of reporting from Afghanistan
"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."
With those words, spoken by President George W. Bush one month after the 9/11 terror attacks, the war in Afghanistan -- "Operation Enduring Freedom" -- began.
This week on "60 Minutes," Scott Pelley marks the tenth anniversary of the war with his report from Afghanistan, "Running the War."
Meanwhile on Overtime, we're looking back at Scott's decade of reporting from Afghanistan, and we begin with his piece "Mission Impossible," which aired February 6, 2002.
It was four months into the war, and the U.S. had had an early victory: the Taliban had surrendered control of most of the country. It certainly hadn't disappeared, however, and U.S. politicians, soldiers, and diplomats warned that if our forces left before stabilizing the country, the Taliban would re-emerge - a theme that comes up again and again in our coverage of this war.
On this assignment in 2002, Scott spent time with an Army Special Operations mission in what he called "Afghanistan's forbidding deserts." While there, one U.S. Army major told Scott that despite progress pushing back the Taliban, it wasn't time for the U.S. to leave. He said: "If we just eradicate the immediate threat and then allow it to all come back in five or 10 years, we'll be back here again."
In 2007, Scott was back there again for "60 Minutes" reporting his story "Bombing Afghanistan." Now the situation was more ominous. The Taliban were clearly back, and fighting was the heaviest it had been since the start of the war.
Furthermore, the Afghan people were outraged by the number of innocent deaths caused by U.S. and coalition air strikes. Scott reported on the accidental killing of an Afghan family after a U.S. Air Force dropped two, one-ton bombs on their town. It was clear that continued civilian carnage would turn more and more Afghans against the U.S.
In 2009, Scott was back in Afghanistan, where he spent three weeks on the ground with the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Marine Regiment. These troops were part of 21,000 reinforcements that had been sent in to implement a new war strategy, on orders of a new president, Barack Obama.
In order to convince the Afghan people to support the new Afghan government, troops were ordered to use greater care to protect Afghan civilians, even if it meant that sometimes the Taliban escaped.
While the soldiers worked to implement their new orders, the Afghan people were still focused on an old problem. As one villager warned Scott, "You can't hide the sun with two fingers . . . the Taliban are everywhere."
Which brings us to present: the tenth anniversary of the war. President Obama has sent in a new team to win this war: Marine Corps General John Allen and career diplomat Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Scott interviews them both this Sunday on "60 Minutes," and they explain the new challenges and direction of this decade-long war.
One final note - a moment in history.
On October 7, 2001, the U.S. launched air strikes against targets in Afghanistan, and soon thereafter President Bush spoke to the country from the Treaty Room of the White House. Here is part of that 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.
More than two weeks ago, I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands: Close terrorist training camps. Hand over leaders of the Al Qaeda network, and return all foreign nationals, including American citizens unjustly detained in our country.
None of these demands were met. And now, the Taliban will pay a price.
Initially the terrorists may burrow deeper into caves and other entrenched hiding places. Our military action is also designed to clear the way for sustained, comprehensive and relentless operations to drive them out and bring them to justice.
The name of today's military operation is Enduring Freedom. We defend not only our precious freedoms, but also the freedom of people everywhere to live and raise their children free from fear.
To all the men and women in our military, every sailor, every soldier, every airman, every Coast Guardsman, every Marine, I say this: Your mission is defined. The objectives are clear. Your goal is just. You have my full confidence, and you will have every tool you need to carry out your duty.
Thank you. May God continue to bless America.
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