Taliban Gaining Firepower and Confidence

It took two years, but al Qaeda fighters helped resurrect battered Taliban forces from the ashes of their defeat - arming and funding them.

It took months before the Taliban agreed to show CBS News their operations.

This was not like our last encounter with the Taliban three years ago when they were open to our visit. This time only our local Afghan team was permitted, reports CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan.

CBS News Special Report: The Road Ahead

What they found was disturbing. Inside a vehicle was an Afghan policeman the Taliban had just captured.

Taliban fighters swarmed his police car, then drove it straight into the local town, parading their victory - masters in the art of propaganda.

Their commander, Amir Hamza, boasted that they've seized many hostages from the main road.

"I can show you if you want," he added casually.

And show us they did. One captured policeman's hand was shaking with fear as he was forced to hold up his ID card, the U.S. flag clearly visible. We don't know what happened to him but the Taliban have executed many policemen.

One main highway is fertile ground for their attacks. Supply convoys don't make it through. Seven fuel trucks torched - a massive blaze - and another show of Taliban force.

These days not even the Afghan capital is safe. Taliban fighters are able to blend easily with the local population here, moving in and out of Kabul at will. They're able to carry out spectacular al Qaeda-style attacks with sophisticated military backing that many here believe comes from Pakistan.

Commander Hamza told us his Taliban had only a few small guns when they started to fight back against the U.S.

"Now we control the main road, close enough to see the American base," Hamza said.

Hamza is part of what's known here as "old Taliban," one of those who grew up during the Russian occupation in the 1980's, when the U.S. was arming Afghanistan's holy warriors to defeat the Soviets. After the Russians limped home, Afghanistan descended into civil war. Five years later, the Taliban emerged out of the chaos - a radical, religious and political movement drawn from Afghanistan's biggest Muslim tribe, the Pashtuns.

By the September 11 attacks of 2001, 90 percent of Afghanistan was in Taliban hands.

Commander Hamza told us: "After 9/11, when the Americans attacked, our government collapsed, but our organization did not. We went home and waited for orders."

One of Hamza's young fighters - or "new Taliban" - is part of a new generation, driven to fight the Americans out of deep hatred. He claims U.S. soldiers killed his father and two brothers. Now, he says, he will fight "to the last drop of my blood."

It took two years, but al Qaeda fighters helped resurrect battered Taliban forces from the ashes of their defeat - arming and funding them. Now the two have the same goal of defeating the U.S.

"Absolutely right. Absolutely," said Abdullah Abdullah, President Karzai's main rival. "And they are depending on one another in such a way that one cannot survive without the other."

The fight against the Taliban has become inseparable from the war against al Qaeda.

The momentum now is on the side of the insurgents and terrorists. They're watching anti-war feeling in the U.S. grow and they smell victory.

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  • Lara Logan
    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.