Before Afghan Vote, Old Ally Vexes U.S.

British soldiers and U.S. Marines are both battling the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

Here, it's the British who are under attack deep in Helmand province, hemmed in by Taliban fighters, reports CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan.

"The firing was coming about 400 meters northwest from compounds one and two," said one British soldier.

In areas like this where the Taliban is so strong, there is no possibility of voting in this week's presidential election.

Militants have used intimidation and threats to scare Afghans away from the polls: saying they'll cut off their ink-stained finger, the mark that voters will carry to prevent fraud.

In other parts of Helmand, U.S. Marines have been fighting to clear the Taliban out, in the hope some people here will be able to vote.

While the fight in the south is against the Taliban, in the northeast of Afghanistan the U.S. is battling an old ally: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Backed by the U.S., he helped defeat the Russians in Afghanistan; now he is trying to defeat the U.S.

CBS News was able to interview Hekmatyar through an intermediary who took our questions to him at a secret location. We found him as defiant as he was the last time we spoke to him a year ago.

"Our jihad and resistance will continue until such time that the last soldier of the occupying forces has left our country," Hekmatyar told CBS News.

He claims to have 25,000 fighters but no one is able to verify that number. What is not in doubt: U.S. troops in Hekmatyar's area have been facing an increasingly deadly enemy. An insurgent video shows a small U.S. outpost under sustained attack, and U.S. soldiers being airlifted to safety.

With the election now only three days away, neither Hekmatyar nor the Taliban has been able to stop enthusiastic campaigning across the country.

And in spite of the violence and threats, millions of Afghans are still expected to cast their ballots in Thursday's election.

  • Lara Logan

    Lara Logan's bold, award-winning reporting from war zones has earned her a prominent spot among the world's best foreign correspondents. Logan began contributing to 60 Minutes in 2005.