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Postcards from the Front Lines
Images from the Tora Bora Region of Eastern Afghanistan

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audio Listen as NPR's Eric Weiner reports the latest details from the Tora Bora region. Dec. 28, 2001.

A tank belonging to one of the local Afghan warlords.

A tank belonging to one of the local Afghan warlords. Notice that someone has written on the turret: "NYPD."
Photo: Eric Weiner, NPR
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Dec. 28, 2001 -- A spokesman for Afghanistan's new Defense Ministry says Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan, under the protection of a radical Islamic group. But that's only one of numerous conflicting reports that the Pentagon has received about the Saudi-born fugitive. And the latest videotape of bin Laden sheds little light on the mystery of his whereabouts -- or even if he is still alive.

Meanwhile, U.S. special forces troops continue to search the Tora Bora region of eastern Afghanistan, NPR's Eric Weiner reports. About a dozen soldiers from U.S. special forces have set up a small base camp near the bombed-out cave complex that recently housed al Qaeda fighters. The Americans are dressed in civilian clothing, and look relaxed, apparently convinced that bin Laden's supporters no longer pose a threat there.

Everywhere on Tora Bora, there is evidence of the massive bombing campaign, and the equally ferocious ground assault by local Afghan fighters. NPR's Eric Weiner reports that unexploded bombs on the ground represent just one of the dangers facing U.S. special forces, and their Afghan comrades, as they scour the caves in this mountainous region.

Weiner reports that some of the caves may be booby-trapped and that the Pentagon's earlier plan to send U.S. Marines to search the caves has been put on hold indefinitely. Instead, the United States is trying to entice local Afghan fighters to conduct the search themselves.

But many Afghans are reluctant to do so, Weiner says. They've already defeated al Qaeda and scooped up most of the weapons and ammunition they left behind. And there is a cultural issue as well; Afghans are hesitant to unearth the graves of fellow Muslims.

U.S. officials are hoping that the lure of money and weapons will convince them to take up the grim and dangerous task.

In Depth

searchVisit Eric Weiner's photo gallery on images from the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border. Nov. 26, 2001.

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