Taliban Talks Tough About U.S. Escalation

Taliban spoke to CBS News deep in Afghanistan

If there was a question whether President Obama would continue U.S. missile strikes that target terrorists in Pakistan -- the answer came Friday. Pakistani officials said un-manned aircraft carried out two attacks in north Waziristan -- killing at least five militants. Terrorists use that region as a staging ground for attacks in Afghanistan.

CBS News traveled deep into Taliban territory -- where they're preparing for a new battle with U.S. forces. CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports.

The rugged country south of Kabul is too dangerous for outsiders. So a CBS Afghan cameraman drove alone to ask Taliban sub-commander Khaled Wardak if he was ready for the 2,000 extra U.S. troops headed his way.

The more soldiers they send, he told CBS News, the more casualties we'll send back.

At the time of 9/11, the Taliban was ruling Afghanistan in partnership with al Qaeda. But after its defeat, the organization splintered - and has since become much more complex.

These days, the men who mount these deadly attacks are a shifting web of Islamic extremists, fighters who hate foreigners, drug smugglers and villagers just desperate for a job.

The U.S. military plans to take them on -- in cooperation with the new Afghan Army. Some 6,000 recruits go through basic training in Kabul every ten weeks.

But the truth is some of them could quite easily switch sides.

"A lot of it is money. It just depends how much they're going to get paid through the Afghan national army, or how much they're going to get paid from the Taliban or whatever insurgency they're with,'' said sgt. Robert Potts.

And is there a danger some could rejoin the Taliban - and take all these new skills with them?

"Absolutely. A lot of them could take that fighting on elsewhere,'' said Potts.

The last time the U.S. armed its allies in Afghanistan was the 1980's, when the CIA funded mujahideen to fight the Soviet Army. Fifteen years later, those same fighters had morphed into the Taliban and al Qaeda.

Arsalah Rahmani remembers it well. He was a fighter, then a senior Taliban official.

Now he's switched sides again, to sit in the Afghan Senate.

The military by themselves can't solve this conflict, he says. In the end there must be a political solution.

U.S. commanders agree. In this country of fragile loyalties, this time they won't win on the battlefield alone

  • Elizabeth Palmer
    Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."