Taliban Vow Revenge

031902, story image, Nasrullah armed taliban sympathiser, JM CBS

Deep in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, trouble is still waiting for U.S. troops. Hundreds of armed Taliban sympathizers are barely 50 miles from the Shah-e-Kot Valley, where Operation Anaconda, the biggest ground offensive of the war, was fought earlier this month.

Speaking to CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey in a cave, and under terms of secrecy that required using a night scope, a man known only as Nasrullah warned that revenge is in the air.

"The tribes will put up every kind of resistance until they have defeated the Americans," Nasrullah said.

These are the men willing to seek revenge, among them Jallad Khan, who has a reputation as a ruthless leader of a powerful pro-Taliban tribal group and claims he has 400 gunmen ready.

"Disappearing from the battlefield does not mean the Taliban have completely disappeared," he said. "They can come back to life again."

Khan also had a warning: "I will create problems for the U.S."

The United States military does not consider that an idle boast.

"What we do know is that there are some folks down there right now with money in their pocket trying to regain support of the local population," said Maj. Gen. Frank L. Hagenbeck, the commander of coalition troops in Afghanistan.

Taliban and al Qaeda forces are regrouping in five areas, according to Afghan government officials. And U.S. officials acknowledge that "some" al Qaeda and Taliban fighters may have escaped Operation Anaconda to fight another day.

"Escaped? Of course, some people got out of Shah-e-Kot," said Hegenbeck, at Bagram air base north of Kabul. "But I take exception to any supposition that large numbers escaped. … We destroyed hundreds of al Qaeda's most experienced fighters and terrorists. We destroyed their base of terrorist operations and we eliminated their sanctuary."

Hagenbeck said that while Operation Anaconda was over and all U.S. and Canadian forces have been removed from the Shah-e-Kot Valley, al Qaeda and Taliban fighters would be actively pursued throughout Afghanistan.

"When we find pockets of resistance, we'll go after them," Hagenbeck said.

In Washington, CIA director George Tenet told a Senate hearing that al Qaeda's leaders are still at large while its foot soldiers are becoming harder and harder to track down in the mountainous terrain along the border with Pakistan, CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports.

"You're entering into another phase here which is actually more difficult because you're probably looking at smaller units who intend to really operate against you in a classic insurgency format," Tenet said.

Taliban and other sources say some of the most high-profile and influential members of the now-toppled Afghan government are now hiding out in Pakistan's lawless frontier region, protected by tribal leaders of their own Pashtun ethnic group, in an area where the central government's authority is limited.

Source say the list of fugitives hiding out in the Pakistani frontier include the Taliban's former defense minister, interior minister, deputy prime minister, and Amir Khan Muttaqi, spokesman for fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Many of the formerly powerful remain convinced that Prime Minister Hamid Karzai's hold on power depends on U.S. support and once the Americans are gone, members of the Taliban will have little trouble dealing with the Afghans who are now allied with Washington.

"I am waiting for the big war," explains one fugitive, former Taliban chief of security Mullah Towha. "America and Britain will have to leave one day, and then we will have a jihad against those Afghans who fought with them against other Muslims."

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