The Losers In The War On Terror

As the numbers of al-Qaida prisoners being moved to Guantanamo Bay increases, it's beginning to emerge that all over Afghanistan there are literally thousands more, held by local commanders in makeshift prisons.

Thirty miles north of Kabul, traveling fast and low across the Chimalli Plain, U.S. military Chinooks are avoiding enemy fire to take part in the ongoing search for remaining al-Qaida fighters.

But, reports CBS News Anchor Dan Rather, you don't have to take a military helicopter to find al-Qaida here, you just ask the warlords.

One man says there are more than 100 al-Qaida prisoners being held in various villages nearby, some of them Arab.

He should know, he had nine captives until one man escaped. He agreed to let CBS News meet the remaining eight and told us they were from Pakistan — the type of al-Qaida fighters most hated in Afghanistan.

These few prisoners are all that was left of an al-Qaida group surrounded by Northern Alliance soldiers — the rest blew themselves up with hand grenades.

They looked as if they'd been badly treated. One claimed to have been tortured.

Their doubtful future makes the al-Qaida prisoners being flown into Guantanamo — shackled, blindfolded and in some cases under sedation — look like the lucky ones.

There are more al-Qaida prisoners at the Bagram Air Base outside of Kabul. U.S. military police jailers say they're being treated well.

"Their hands are bound behind in the front (and their) feet are bound. Essentially that's the way it is. They're given blankets and they just sit there," said one soldier.

"Any medical needs they have we tend to those. They get fed three meals a day. They get nice new clothes when they come in," he said.

It was obvious that new clothes are only one of the things the men being held by the warlord needed desperately.

One man was in bad shape — his hand was horribly infected and he was running a fever.

It was also clear from the body language of the eight al-Qaida prisoners that they were hopeless and terrified. The local warlord, whose property they seem to be, said no one here sees them as fellow Muslims, they're just hated invaders.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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