Friday, September 08, 2006
Tortured border is terrorist haven
On a map, the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan seems complicated enough -- a tortured squiggle running back and forth. Fly over that squiggle in a helicopter and you get a sense of just how impossible the border is to patrol. There are twisting river beds, mountain trails, stunning cliffs -- nothing like any border I've ever seen.

Small wonder why it's been a haven for the Taliban and possibly even Osama bin Laden since the United States drove them from their Afghan strongholds.

We spent hours today flying over North Waziristan with members of the Pakistani military. They were eager to show us how they're sealing off the border between North Waziristan and Afghanistan.

At one point, I was just a couple of miles from Camp Tillman, an American forward operating base in Afghanistan that I'd visited just a few months ago. The base named after Pat Tillman, the former NFL player killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. At the time of my visit, a couple of the soldiers told me about being out on patrol and taking fire from insurgents, who then disappeared across this same border back into Pakistan.

Now, a very gracious Pakistani general was telling us that he's got it all under control. Yes, some individuals might make it across the border -- one or two -- but certainly no vehicles. And he was telling us something else -- that the deal the Pakistani government has just cut here in North Waziristan that allows the Taliban and other local groups to police themselves as long as they don't try to spread trouble across the border in Afghanistan would actually make the border safer.

Others have a different take on the deal, calling it akin to putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.

The general is a sincere and gracious man and was clearly proud of what Pakistani army is accomplishing along the border. But we're going to be on Afghan side of this border once again in just a couple of days. What do you think we are going to hear from the U.S. soldiers this time?
Posted By Henry Schuster, CNN Senior Producer: 6:05 PM ET
  16 Comments
As a soldier, I would tell you that we are doing the best we can to make the world a better place. Fighting against a powerful entity..Make you believe that we are in control even though soldiers are dying everyday. But how can you fight and most of all WIN against an enemy who is everywhere and you don't even know in an unknown country. I would tell you that we are courageous.
Posted By Anonymous Johanne, Ontario, Canada : 7:49 PM ET
The only comment that comes to mind is: "what an unholy mess." Literally. This whole nightmare stems from religion, or rather how some groups use religious trappings to foist their own agendas on the world. It's not just Islam, either. All major religions have been mis-used in a like manner.
Posted By Anonymous Scott, Houston TX : 7:53 PM ET
Hey Henry-
I HOPE the U.S. military will be able to tell you that they have caught Bin Laudin. Gee, I hate this escalated violence. I know two kids that were recently deployed to Afghanistan. One in the Army and one in the air force. I call them kids because they are not even old enough to buy a beer. I am still hoping and praying that peace will come soon. Stay safe.
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann Taylor Nacogdoches, Tx : 8:07 PM ET
Hi Henry,
I think you'll get a thousand different answers from every single question you ask. That seems to be part of the problem..It's obvious that each country involved has a take on the situation far removed from each other. Maybe if they could all agree that hateful, angry killings will no longer be tolerated then at least it would be a starting point to get them on the same page..Until then I simply have no words..Talk is cheap, solutions are gold..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann , Buellton,Calif. : 11:56 PM ET
If we can't pursue the enemy across this border then I feel we are just wasting our time and resources. Our military men must be just frustrated as hell. We can see them leaving, after they have just fired on us, but we can't go after them? Give me a break!
What ever happened to fighting terrorism wherever it occurs, and that included the "those that harbor them" if I remember right. Another empty threat, and the Taliban/AlQaeda know it. This is like boxing with both arms tied behind our backs.
Posted By Anonymous Bill, Appleton, Wisconsin : 8:07 AM ET
I think it's great what some of the Pakistani military is doing, for that reason I don't want to bash all of them but, at the same time, I am sure there is alot of corruption in their system.
Posted By Anonymous Ben Morgan, Virginia beach VA : 1:23 PM ET
The issue of the Afghanistan and Pakistan border is so important, and yet it is so difficult to get the real facts about what is going on. The Canadian press is also reporting that Quetta is an acknowledged command centre for the Taliban. So, if money and materials are not coming over the border, where are they coming from and how is the Taliban in Afghanistan getting re-supplied? It sounds as if the Taliban in Pashmul, Afghanistan is quite well supplied. The Pakistan ambassodor to the U.S. has been interviewed several times on CNN, and Anderson interviewed him again for the Friday evening broadcast. Despite persistent questioning from Anderson, the ambassador seems quite convinced that they are securing the border. Thanks for trying to provide more clarification. It's a critical issue for the troops in Afghanistan... and is hitting even closer to home with Canadian troops fighting in the south of Afghanistan.
Posted By Anonymous Vicky, Ottawa, ON : 3:43 PM ET
If I believed for one minute that the U.S. soldiers could actually tell it like it is without the Pentagon/Rumfeld, etc. monitoring their every word, maybe I would believe what may come out of this interview. As far as the General goes....yea...right! The Tailban is policing itself....hey, I have some prime realestate for sale.....anyone buying????
Posted By Anonymous Moe, Liverpool, NY : 11:36 PM ET
I would like to comment as a soldier stationed at another forward operating base not too far from Camp Tillman; as a matter of fact, where you are staying today. The Pakistani general you quoted is a little less than truthful... that or misinformed. Insurgent fighters regularly attack our patrols and then scurry back to their safe haven on the other side of the border in Pakistan. Unfortunately, we (US and Afghan Military) are unable, due to political restraints, to persue them across the border.

You were wondering what you would hear from the US soldiers this time - this is my take on it.
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous Soldier in Afghanistan (Hometown - San Luis Obispo, CA) : 7:17 AM ET
Having been on the Afghan side of the border at all the places you will visit, I can tell you that the soldier in Afghanistan is going to say "I know there is a war in Iraq, but do not forget about us,...we are fighting too!" If you look at the numbers deployed to both theaters and then compare it to the casualty totals, you will see that Afghanistan is just a dangerous as Iraq for our deployed forces. However, we have neglected our comittment to the U.S. forces serving in Afghanistan. This truly is the forgotten war.
Posted By Anonymous Kyle, Odenton MD : 7:41 AM ET
It's been five years since this fight was brought to the forefront, much longer than that since it actually began, and we still can't as a country seem place the blame where it belongs - with bin Laden and Zawahiri. Our coalition forces are doing the best they can in austere conditions to seal that border. In the meantime, we need to do much better as a nation trying to ensure it doesn't happen again. If that means you can't take your Starbucks on a plane or your bank account is monitored, so be it.
Posted By Anonymous GL, Omaha, Nebraska : 9:04 AM ET
This story sounds very familiar. The Viet Cong were able to play a very effective game of hide and seek along the Cambodian border. What a frustrating situation. This is where a zero tolerance unified effort is really important; coordination to eliminate the hiding places of terrorist organizations.
Posted By Anonymous Scott, Mobile, AL : 10:31 AM ET
My gut tells me that Pakistan knows where Bin Laden is and how to get him. They really don't want to however, because if they can control him in that region that keeps U.S. quite and extrimist content to know he is still alive and in the mountains. Just my opinion
Posted By Anonymous Willow Springs, Mo. : 12:15 PM ET
Is CNN going to find Bin Laden for us? Sadly, I wouldn't be surprised if you and your colleagues did. That is my sad commentary on this anniversary. You and your teams, behind and before the cameras, are extraordinary.
Posted By Anonymous Karoline, Burbank, CA : 2:47 PM ET
The frustration that leaks from these comments is inevitable, if you are only looking for a military solution: there is none. Our military presence in Afghanistan can only be a piece of a bigger puzzle: we can just prey that it stays there, does its job, and that it will cost as few lives as possible.
Posted By Anonymous Julian, Dublin, Ireland : 2:26 PM ET
Anderson Cooper deserves a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Al Queda-stan. It is evident that Taliban is a creation of Pakistan, which has a very good reason to keep Afganistan under its brip first os all and keep it from becoming in dependent and strong. Half of Pakistant, the 2 out of four provinces namely the North-West Frontier Province and Baloochistan are actually occupied Afgani territories. These 2 provinces were won by British wars during the Raj. There have been attempts in past by Afgans to free these w provinces from Pakistan control, A.K.A the Free Pakhtoonistan movement in 1960's. It is not a suprose that natives in these 2 provinces shelter Taliban. Islamabad has never been able to assert political control over these 2 states. This is why Pakistan cannot afford to have a strong Afganistan at its border. An indendent and strong Afganistan may as well mean an end of Pakistan as it exists today. Pakistan fears dismemberment if Afgans gain strength.
Posted By Anonymous Sneh A. Fields, Danville, CA : 2:37 AM ET
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