Five years after 9/11, American soldiers are still being wounded and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush says their sacrifices are necessary to ensure that no more Americans die in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
Marine Capt. Andrew Del Gaudio couldn't agree with the president more. The mission still remains clear to him as he has been fighting up close in Ramadi, Iraq — one of the most dangerous places in the violent Sunni triangle
"I look at it as any insurgent we kill over here is one less person that will fly an airplane into the World Trade Center or any other building in the United States," Del Gaudio told CBS News correspondent Lara Logan.
But as these two wars drag on with no end in sight, some people such as Afghanistan expert Barnett Rubin, the Director of Studies and Senior Fellow at New York University Center on International Cooperation, believe the fighting is making America less safe.
"I think it is very hard for Americans who have not traveled in this region to understand the very high level of anger at the United States throughout the Muslim world," he said.
In Afghanistan, that anger has helped fuel a resurgence of the Taliban — an enemy America thought it had defeated. Instead, the very people who once harbored Osama bin Laden have made this past year the bloodiest ever for U.S. troops.
"After five years of effort, the Taliban are now more powerful than they have been at any time since they were removed from power," Rubin said.
Logan and a CBS News crew drove just two hours south of the Afghan capital, Kabul, to get to an area under Taliban control. After months of negotiations, their leaders agreed to an interview with CBS News, but Logan was required to wear traditional dress.
More than 100 Taliban fighters brazenly flaunted their weapons a mere 10 miles from the nearest U.S. base. They told Logan they wanted to drive the Americans out of Afghanistan and are also fighting a much larger war.
"We are fighting first for our religion, our country and our earth," a masked member of the Taliban told Logan.
Since the 2001 U.S. invasion, the Taliban have adopted new tactics and today they're using roadside bombings and suicide attacks which are hallmarks of al Qaeda — a sign the two groups are now closer than ever.
"Those people who are against American interests are Al Qaeda," the Taliban fighter said.
Afghanistan is seen as the spiritual home of al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden and his followers are determined to get it back no matter how long it takes. The Afghan government doesn't believe bin Laden has been inside that country since he fled U.S. and Afghan forces five years ago.
U.S. intelligence says there's been absolutely no word on bin Laden in Afghanistan for at least 10 months. The most widely held belief is that he's just across the border inside Pakistan beyond the reach of U.S. forces.
"If the Taliban did come back into power, even if the Taliban were to gain control over a significant area, that would provide a base for al Qaeda," Robert Templer, an expert on Islamic extremism from the International Crisis Group, said. "It would provide a greater ease of movement, of flexibility, training camps, all those sorts of things that we saw before 9/11."
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