by Alex Thomson
Channel 4 News
Channel 4 News has obtained rare film of Taliban fighters on the Afghanistan frontline, including footage of their attacks on US forces. Channel 4 News Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson looks at what the film tells us about the insurgents and their tactics.
Even if I did want to do it, I would not be allowed to by ITN. Nor would anybody here. But out there in the wide open world of the freelancer, Paul Refsdal did it. He did it brilliantly well.
If he hadn’t slightly overplayed his hand at the last moment, he would have got away with it unscathed and pulled the whole thing off. But even as it is, he has emerged from Afghanistan with footage the like of which has not been seen I will bet, in nine years of war.
Because that’s what it’s like if you want to seek out the Taliban or other insurgent groups across Afghanistan and set up what the west would call an “embed” with them. It’s a helluva risk.
Paul is at least alive to tell the tale and sell his story. Though not without a six day kidnapping under murky circumstances. The Norwegian cameraman insists that no ransom was paid.
It all starts with the moment when you move beyond the point of return. When the RV finally takes place up some distant mountain track in the east of the country in this case, Kunar Province.
Unsmiling, heavily armed fighters suddenly materialise and then there you are, out there, on your own, with nothing but trust to keep you going. From behind their turban-masked faces they are smirking, saying quietly to each other, “He’s really scared of us, isn’t he?” And so it went on for the whole of the first day as they trekked back up to their command post.
Day two and things had calmed a little. Commander Dawran – who set the whole thing up – made it plain that Refsdal is a guest. And that is that. Under Afghan custom they will now pretty much lay down their arms to protect him. Rather, on this occasion, than shoot or behead him as a suspected spy.
And by the second day the faces are being revealed, they are laughing around and joking: “If I appear in this people are going to say ‘Who’s the country boy?’” His mate laughs and adds: “He’s filming us all to say look here – these are the bad guys.” And things begin to fall into something of a routine.
video no longer available
Living with the Taliban on the Afghan frontline
Updated: August 27, 2014
Behind The Taliban Mask: The Other Side Of Afghanistan’s Front-line
Journeyman Pictures on Feb 25, 2014
Though they would eventually kidnap him, the Taliban granted journalist Paul Refsdal unprecedented access. This exclusive documentary shows us a side of the Taliban that we have never seen before.
Battle for Kandahar is on
1.8 Billion Barrel Oil Find in Afghanistan
Afghan civilian casualties, protests insue