Monday, April 16, 2007
Kidnapping threat grows in Afghanistan

An image from a videotape shows a French aid worker held hostage in Afghanistan wearing a headscarf.

Every time I come to Kabul, Afghanistan, there's an explosion. In September, a suicide bomber attacked a military convoy in downtown Kabul moments after I arrived at the airport. Yesterday, an IED exploded soon after I got to my hotel. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

When a blast occurs, we try to get to the scene as quickly as possible. We have to be careful, of course. In Iraq, there's often more than one attack at a time. A suicide bomber detonates a device, and then minutes later, after a crowd has gathered to help the wounded, another suicide attacker blows himself up. We haven't seen that in Afghanistan yet, but many here fear what is coming next. There's been a steady increase in IED attacks, suicide bombings, and now kidnappings.

Last month, the government of Hamid Karzai released several Taliban prisoners in exchange for a kidnapped Italian reporter. (So much for not negotiating with terrorists...) By all accounts, the Italian government put severe pressure on Karzai to make the deal. The Taliban know there are fractures in the NATO alliance, and kidnappings are a way to put stress on that alliance. In the case of the Italian journalist, the Taliban hoped to turn Italians against their government's involvement in Afghanistan and make the Karzai government look weak for giving in to their demands.

Many Westerners in Afghanistan now feel like they could be targeted by the Taliban. Some French aid workers were kidnapped recently and are still being held, and intelligence briefings we've received seem to indicate the risk of kidnapping is greater than it's ever been before.

When we were here in September, many American soldiers told us they felt forgotten. So much money and manpower has gone into Iraq, and yet in Afghanistan, there have not been enough troops to beat back the Taliban and there are even reports of shortages of equipment. In September, we were embedded with soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division. They have had their tours extended, and most military planners expect an increase in violence in the coming weeks as the weather warms.

Over the last several months, I've received a lot of letters from the parents of soldiers serving here, and I promised many of them we would not forget about what their sons and daughters are doing in Afghanistan. So we've returned here, in part, to bring attention to this often overlooked war.

We've also come to shine a light on the drug trade here. Afghanistan now accounts for more than 90 percent of the world's supply of heroin. Most of the heroin found on America's streets comes through Mexico, but just about everywhere else, Afghan heroin is dominant. Last year, there was a bumper crop, and this year, it is expected to be even bigger.

The poppies that are farmed here and turned into heroin bring billions of dollars to drug traffickers, and all that money leads to corruption. The corruption is corrosive -- its tentacles reach into all echelons of government, experts say, and the democracy of Afghanistan is under real threat from it.

As you can see, there's a lot for us to cover this week, so I'm pleased to be joined here by CNN Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen and CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson. I think you'll be surprised by what we've found so far. Peter interviewed a would-be suicide bomber two days ago, and Nic has filed a number of fascinating reports for us. We will focus on Afghanistan all week. I hope you watch.
Posted By Anderson Cooper: 9:07 AM ET
  16 Comments
Thanks for going there -- if only the U.S. government had done the same instead of meddling in Iraq's civil war, things might be better in all 3 countries now.
Posted By Anonymous Mac, San Jose, Calif : 3:53 PM ET
Anderson;

Finally news of importance and enough of this Imus junk. Anderson thank you for going to Afghanistan and showing the other side of this war on terror. As a Canadian I am very proud of the peace keeping work of our soldiers and their American counterparts. I can not wait to see the stories that Peter, Nic and you bring to us this week.

You and the entire 360 team are in my thoughts and prayers, please stay safe and if nothing else do what Forrest Gump would do and "RUN". Know we are all watching and praying for the whole teams safe trip and return home.
Posted By Anonymous Megan O. Toronto ON, Canada : 3:54 PM ET
Whenever a government bestows freedom upon a group of criminals in order to save the life of an innocent individual it's not a sign of stability, control and well-established power. I'm sure your reports will shed more light on this. Thank you for risking your safety and even lives to bring this information to our homes. Hope to see you all back home safe. Take care.
Posted By Anonymous Mariela, New York, NY : 4:08 PM ET
Dear Anderson,

I am glad to see that CNN has decided to revisit the real beginning of the battle against al Qaeda. The success or failure of the United States' involvement in Afghanistan will give us an idea of what to expect in Iraq.

I will be interested to hear if Peter Bergen thinks there has been any progress made by President Pervez Musharraf and President Hamid Karzai in an effort to try and curb the flow of Taliban fighters across the border into Afghanistan since the January visit of Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Also, does he believe that the increase in the use of roadside bombs and "direct attacks" is evidence that the insurgents are now using more sophisticated and coordinated methods of attack, and does he feel that the level of aggression has increased?

Since the Taliban uses drug money to fund their terrorist activities, what is being done in an effort to offer farmers to engage in alternative types of cultivation? More importantly, does it seem to be working?

Please let our troos know that they have not been forgotten and that we care deeply about them.

Afghanistan is such an unpredictable place; please be vigilant over there and don't take any unnecessary chances.

Take care,
Jo Ann
Posted By Anonymous Jo Ann Matese, North Royalton, Ohio : 4:16 PM ET
Anderson

In Iraq you and Michael Ware have talked of the different factions in the war there; is it the same in Afghanistan and if not how is it different? What is the overall planned stragegy for this war or is there one?

Also, the drug money from the opium the Taliban is growing and selling - does this fund their war activities solely? Is there any way for American forces to combat this crop (like burning it?).

Glad we will be getting more news on Afghanistan. I'm looking forward to the stories you and your crew have been working on. You and your crew stay safe and wear your flak jackets, etc.

If you get this twice I apologize - I got a server error message the first time I tried to post.
Posted By Anonymous Annie Kate, Birmingham AL : 4:21 PM ET
Hey Anderson

It would be unforgivable if we let the Taliban regain control in Afghanistan. To many of us, the war in Afghanistan is the war on terror. We often hear how bad it will be if we lose the war in Iraq; I think it would be worse if we lost in Aghanistan.

It sounds like you have a great line up of reports for us and I'm looking forward to watching. However, it looks like a very dangerous place to be so be careful and watch each other's backs.

Thanks for blogging and letting us know you're safe.

Christina, Windber, PA

PS Sorry about the earlier comment without the name, I hit the wrong key!
Posted By Anonymous Christina, Windber, PA : 4:23 PM ET
Anderson:

Scientific periodicals helped me with this one.

Under what circumstances, and how may democracy govern?

Democratic societies must have weapons of self preservation in place before they can be used to protect themselves.
The ability of extremism to find its way into the protective crevices of democratic order has been termed militant, or intolerant, depending on your view.
The rebels are pursuing democratic legitimacy while also employing violence on their own.
Removal of political views limits choices that are permitted, calling into question the legitimacy of the entire democratic enterprise.

Thanx for 360. Take care.
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Boston, MA : 4:25 PM ET
Thank you for remembering that there is a human factor to this war. Our young men and women serving over there are someone's son, daughter, father or mother and should be treated with respect - something our government and other media outlets have seemed to have forgotten.

Thank you CNN, 360 and Anderson Cooper for keeping the human factor out there.
Posted By Anonymous Marcia, Warren Mi : 4:27 PM ET
Yikes AC, I'm glad you are all safe. I've always wondered why they don't just burn or blow up the poppy fields? They seem to know where they all are. Doesn't the heroin trade fund the Taliban? I'm looking forward to your reports. Please be safe!
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago,Il : 4:27 PM ET
Anderson,
I know many young men and women who are curently serving in Afghanistan and I want all the brave soldiers to know that I remember them daily. Case in point, this week-end my son is getting married here in Texas. His best friend is serving our country in Afghanistan and unable to get a leave to come home and attend.
I have been fast forwarding through dusty photo albums reminiscing years of memories I have shared with all the kids growing up who are now great patriots serving in the middle east. Where did the years go? The laughter, tears and stories we have all shared will forever keep us bonded.
No matter what anyone thinks of this war, I want the soldiers to know that they are not forgotten. Each and every one are great heros.
The faces of these brave men and women are so vivid in my mind. All have family, friends and loved ones anxiously awaiting their safe return.
I have an empty photo album and my camera ready for the homecoming of those so dear to my heart. I hope and pray it is soon.
Thanks Anderson for returning to Afghanistan and remembering our soldiers. They need to know that they are appreciated beyond words.
God bless and keep you all safe.~
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann , Nacogdoches, TX : 4:59 PM ET
Good Lord, man, do you EVER really take a break??? Please be careful.
But seriously, we need to demand answers from our government about why they haven't done anything about Afghanistan. They need to be held accountable. These drugs have reached the U.S. so there are citizens here who are funding the Taliban. Anyone buying drugs should think about that next time they need a hit.
Posted By Anonymous Debbie, Denham Springs, LA : 5:49 PM ET
Hey Anderson,

I just wanted to thank you for continuing to focus on Afghanistan and the fight over there. I have a friend fighting over there, I haven't heard from him lately, but he is due home in June, hopefully. I wish there were more reports on what has been going on over there and I am very grateful for the attention you guys are giving Afghanistan.
Posted By Anonymous Cora C. Roseburg, OR : 7:04 PM ET
I heard the announcement on CNN that 360º was going live tonight from Afghanistan. It took the tragedy at Virginia Tech to dilute that coverage tonight. I was planning to watch. I still will but I know now that what I watch will be a lot different from what I anticipated.
I work at a college. The security guard here was frantic to print out the news. I was working offline so I hadn’t heard until she showed up…
People here feel safe. They feel sorry for Afghanis and Iraqis because they live with so much death and violence. Today we’re living it.
And yet many people all over the world seem to be addicted to danger and violence. These ways of living seem to be the only way they can focus on being alive.
I write to you Anderson what you always say to others in danger: “Stay safe.”
Posted By Anonymous Annabelle Echo Chicago IL : 8:23 PM ET
Hey Anderson,

First off, Be careful...

Thank-you for going to Afghanistan and focusing on what is actually taking place over there and remembering all the soldiers who are risking thier life for a better tomorrow.
Posted By Anonymous Tracy-Marie Anderson, N.S. Canada : 11:26 PM ET
Dear Anderson: We here in Canada had our worst casualty week yet last week in Afghanistan and as a nation are saddened and discouraged by the continuation of the deaths.Thank you so much for all you do!! It helps back home to hear some "news"! Please BE SAFE!!
Posted By Anonymous Sharon C, Toronto, Ontario CANADA : 3:35 AM ET
Anderson,
First and formost to you and your crew, be safe. It is time to change stratagies in Afganastan. Maybe we should go after the Taliban's source of income.
Posted By Anonymous Melanie Phoenix, Az : 4:09 PM ET
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