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EXCLUSIVE: Embedded with the Taliban

Latest update : 2008-09-19

FRANCE 24 reporters accompanied a group of Taliban fighters on an attack against Afghan troops. The group’s leader has a warning for French troops after last month’s deadly ambush: leave now or face more.



Click here to read Claire Billet's 'Behind the scenes'


Wardak province in Afghanistan houses a road that connects the capital Kabul to the city of Kandahar. The road links the main US bases in the country, and is therefore a strategic target for Islamic militants.


In the heart of the province, our reporters met Taliban commander Abu Tayeb, who was preparing his contingent of warriors for combat.


The militants here are called “fedayeen,” meaning they are ready for suicidal combat, if necessary.


“All these fedayeen are heading out to fight the Holy War. Americans run away when they see them. If you ask them, they’ll put on a belt and blow themselves up,” Commander Tayeb told FRANCE 24.


Our reporters filmed a 20-minute weapons demonstration session near a hill located 100km away from the nearest US base. Judging from the jokes and camaraderie during the demonstration, it was obvious that the militants felt safe in the area. Haji Mullah, a Taliban militant, explained that this was due to the massive support of the local population.


“The population here supports the Taliban because they’re not cruel with them. They can stand up for their rights, in terms of landownership for instance. They don’t go through the government to seek justice, they go directly to the Taliban,” said Mullah. Other sources agree that the Taliban appears to be gaining support in the area.


The openness of Abu Tayeb and his men to foreign journalists might have a reason: that the group wants to make its position and its claims known. Abu Tayeb has a message for the French troops in Afghanistan, 10 of whom were killed in an ambush last month carried out by another Taliban group in the neighbouring province.


“I want to say something to the French soldiers. If they listen to the government and keep being American puppets, we will increase our attacks on them. They must change their politics,” said Tayeb. “This year and next year, we will do our best to enter Kabul and target the Americans and their allies.”


A Taliban attack – lessons in survival


FRANCE 24’s reporters filmed the Taliban group as they conducted weapons drills in preparation for an attack on an Afghan police checkpoint. Then, after a solemn prayer, the fighters headed out for the operation. A tense and heavy silence weighed on the group as they neared the checkpoint.


Our reporters moved away as the attack began, to try to find shelter in the open plains. The attack was apparently a success for the Taliban group: no one on the Taliban side was killed or injured.


The following day, the militants accompanied our reporters to inspect the damage caused. The police checkpoint was destroyed in several places. According to the governor of Wardak province, three police officers were killed and two wounded in the operation led by Abu Tayeb’s group.



Watch Claire Billet’s 26-minute report by clicking on the video at the top of the page, or watch it in 4 parts by clicking on the video links on the right.


Then watch Billet’s previous reports on Abu Tayeb and his men:


03/09/08: The enemy is also French, says Taliban commander

16/11/07: Meeting Abu Tayeb


Date created : 2008-09-12