Hidden Battles In Afghanistan

<B>Lara Logan</B> Enters Into Combat With U.S. Navy SEALs

Correspondent Lara Logan spent three-and-a-half weeks in Afghanistan with the elite U.S. Navy SEALs, the first time a journalist has been allowed to go with them into combat. She followed them on the hunt for one of the most sought-after members of the Taliban.
It was night at their base in southern Afghanistan. The SEALs, whom 60 Minutes can't identify for security reasons, were receiving final instructions from their team chief for a mission that would start in just a few hours.

Their plan was to go after a mid-level Taliban commander, but new intelligence had just come in that compelled them to switch targets at the last minute. They had a possible location for Rosie Khan, the most powerful Taliban commander in the south.

The SEALs knew he was the man financing and recruiting Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, and bringing them over the border from Pakistan.

Logan flew in with Army pilots from the National Guard, right into the heart of the Taliban insurgency. As they approached, people in the village were able to hear the pounding chopper blades, so the SEALs prepared to take fire and braced for impact.

The SEALs immediately surrounded the village to stop anyone from trying to escape into the nearby mountains. Meanwhile, the team commander was tracking his men over the radio.

They'd spotted a lone man heading away from the village. No one knew if he was the man they were after, but he had to be stopped. The Apaches dropped flares to mark the man's position.

But before the team commander could order his forces to hold their positions, he lost contact with the Apaches, so the SEALs on the ground returned fire and killed the man.

He appears to have been the primary target, the man the SEALs say they've been looking for during the past two years.

The SEALs moved through the village, expecting further resistance. Their job was to root out enemy fighters from the innocent people in the village. Any time they're fired upon, the SEALs automatically detain all the men.

An assault team secured each house, but they didn't find any other fighters. By now, the SEALs had brought the dead body down from the hill. They said he had $10,000 in U.S. dollars, and a stack about a half-inch thick of Pakistani rupees.

That's an extreme amount of money to have in this type of environment, an isolated little village in the middle of nowhere. The SEALs were able to identify the man, and found letters on him that were addressed to the exact individual they were targeting: "We feel like a 100, like 99 percent, that this has to be him."

Khan had become a legendary outlaw in southern Afghanistan, where American
forces had been hunting him for more than two years. He'd always managed to escape.

The SEALs said the death of Khan would cripple enemy operations in this part of the country.

When they're taking down a target like this, do they ever wonder if they'll find Osama bin Laden? "That would be sweet," says one SEAL. "You always think about that. You think you're gonna get lucky."

All the locals asked to identify Khan denied knowing him, which seemed unlikely in such a tiny village. Then, each detainee was fingerprinted, and his DNA was added to a portable database that's used all over the world.

The database contains profiles of potential terrorists like one man who gave the SEALs false information. When they ran his fingerprints, he turned up on the database as someone else. So while the other men were cut free and released, the SEALs took him back to base for further questioning.

But there would be little time for the SEALs to relax. Back at the tented compound, they had to prepare for the next mission. That meant cleaning their weapons, a constant battle against the dust that gets into everything. It also means testing their rifles at the range to make sure the sights are properly aligned.

Just two days after killing Khan, the SEALs were on the attack again. They heard that Khan's lieutenants were meeting in a remote village. "They potentially may be in this compound. So they're probably trying to re-group themselves and get some leadership established," says one SEAL. "So we're trying to take advantage of the opportunity and going in and either capturing them or killing them also."

The SEALs cautiously approached, but once they got inside the village, they found mostly women, children and old men. There were no obvious signs that enemy fighters had been there until they started searching.

They were looking for anything electronic – batteries, wires, and any kind of bomb-making material. This search turned up RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) rounds, complete with grenade launchers. It's a sign that there are people there who are not just simple farmers, even though everything looks peaceful and normal in the village.

When they questioned the people, the SEALs discovered that they'd missed the men they were after by just a few hours. So was this a wasted effort?

"No, they're really never wasted efforts, because when you come in here, what you do is you disrupt," says one SEAL. "Like we know that they've been watching us while we've been here, so they're ever presently, they're sitting around trying to watch what's going on."

And he says that most likely, the SEALs are being watched at that moment, which means they can never let down their guard. But they don't want to needlessly create more enemies, so they're quick to offer reassurances, especially to the women and children who're often frightened when these heavily armed strangers suddenly drop in.

The SEALs frequently bring along a special operations soldier, whose job is to help win over the locals by handing out basic gifts, and finding out what aid is needed in these poor villages.

The SEALs' role in targeting terrorists is a specialized part of the broader military effort to help stabilize Afghanistan. They've been on 58 missions over the last five months.

What is the most important thing that people should know?

"I would want them to know that this place is still dangerous, you know, you don't see it on the news all the time," says one SEAL. "Iraq is a very dangerous place, but there's still a lot of fighting being done here in Afghanistan."