Aftermath Of A War On Terror

The entrance to the Bernard Mathews food processing factory is disinfected against the transmission of Avian Flu at Holton in Suffolk, England, February 3, 2007.
Andrew Stuart/AFP/Getty Images
Two years after the United States launched an attack on a site believed to be the headquarters of alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan's Taliban government has allowed CBS News to view the destruction.

In part one of a three-part report on Afghanistan, CBS News Anchor Dan Rather reports that the Taliban refuses to extradite the man U.S officials believe is behind the recent attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

If there were any doubts left about America's increasing vulnerability to terrorism, they were blown away two weeks ago just as surely as the hardened steel exterior of the USS Cole.

Almost immediately, the American intelligence community focused on Osama bin Laden, a man already wanted for the 1998 twin bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa that left more than 200 dead — including 12 Americans.

A grand jury indicted bin Laden for the bombings in federal court almost two years ago, and U.S. authorities would like to put him behind bars. But he remains beyond their grasp. Safe and protected, bin Laden is thousands of miles away somewhere in Afghanistan.

Inside Afghanistan
Read the rest ofCBS News Anchor Dan Rather's series of reports:

Part Two: Afghanistan's Veil Of Oppression

Part Three: An Afghan In America

Sayed Rahmatullah is a senior official with Afghanistan's Taliban government, a militant Islamic regime that fought its way to power and now controls most of the country. "If we hand him over right now, what would we answer to the people?" he asks.

They refuse to give up bin Laden, insisting the case against him isn't convincing. Rahmatullah says, "The only thing we see from the United States is stiff demands that the man should be extradited. But if I ask you — I mean the people of the United States — if they were instead of us, would they give the man to a country who has already tried to kill him?"

Two weeks after the 1998 embassy bombings, the United States struck back at bin Laden, dropping cruise missiles on his alleged terrorist training camp in eastern Afghanistan.

The Taliban, who believe President Clinton ordered the strikes to divert attention from the Monica Lewinsky scandal, have never allowed an American camera in to see the damage — until now.

"Still we canot believe it…that it was done by a man — by a country that was our friend once," Rahmatullah says as he conducts a tour of the damaged area.

By bombing bin Laden, the United States may have unwittingly helped him. By demonizing the alleged terrorist they have turned him into a local hero.

"He is a real hero for us — for the Muslim," says one man sympathetic to bin Laden.

The Taliban know, says Laili Helms, an adviser to the Taliban, if they throw bin Laden out, the people will throw them out. "If the Taliban were to hand over bin Laden tomorrow, the day after the Taliban wouldn't exist anymore, because people in the country would turn against them," says Helms.

And so the Taliban dig in their heels.

Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering met with Taliban officials just a few weeks ago. "This is something that's become fairly tiresome because we have presented the full indictment," says Pickering. "They didn't say we're ready to deliver Osama bin Laden, which is what I wanted to hear."

So while Afghanistan's domestic politics keep bin Laden protected, an American destroyer lies wounded and 17 of its sailors are dead and gone.