In Afghanistan, U.S. Troops Target Haqqani

A soldier on patrol in Afghanistan, photographed by CBS News producer Mary Walsh. She traveled to the war-torn country to produce a report on Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
CBS/Mary Walsh
An insurgent attack on two U.S. Army outposts in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border killed eight U.S. soldiers today - the biggest American loss in more than a year.

The deaths push the U.S. total this year to 238 - the highest annual death toll of the war.

American troops have been on the offensive too. CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark, embedded with a U.S. mission in eastern Afghanistan, has more.

Clark is with U.S. troops hunting down Jalaluddin Haqqani's terrorist network in eastern Afghanistan. Haqqani, one of America's most wanted men, was once courted by the CIA. Now he's now accused of killing American soldiers.

A local tribal leader, Haqqani is linked to al Qaeda and allegedly operates from his safe haven in Pakistan.

On these targeted missions, soldiers are after the bomb makers and their materials. So far, U.S. forces have uncovered four weapons caches and detained around seven suspects. Even if some missions turn up with nothing, it's still a show of force in the heart of Haqqani territory.

U.S forces call this network the most dangerous threat to Afghan security.

"You know when you are fighting Haqqani," said Lt. Col. Rob Campbell, commander of the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry, "based on the size of the force and how committed they are and how close they'll get up to you and fight you."

Apache helicopter gunship camera video shows Haqqani fighters trying to escape after an attack on a U.S. base in the mountains of eastern Paktya province. The Apache and troops on the ground hunted them down. All the fighters were killed.

"I was actually the one talking to the apaches at that moment," said Lt. Ryan Swisher of the 4-25 Infantry Brigade, 40th Cavalry. "It was just a matter of as soon as they give a report, there is one guy shooting at your element there, to get it to the guys who are closest at that moment. They did it by the book and made it successful."

As winter begins to take hold, the US. military believes many Haqqani fighters in Eastern Afghanistan will head to neighboring Pakistan for more training.

"As he goes away, we are still here working with the people creating that environment that it's going look different when he gets back," Campbell said.

As the traditional fighting season ends, the number of attacks against US. forces is expected to fall. But now they will start a different mission - convincing Haqaani's tribesmen to turn their backs on their leader and set their weapons down.