Reporters on the Job
• GONE AL QAEDA HUNTING: The Monitor's Scott Baldauf and his interpreter, Lutfullah Mashal, were tipped off by Afghan intelligence officials to the presence of an Al Qaeda training camp just over the border in Pakistan (page 1). They went to investigate, only to find the border crossing was closed at Nawa Pass, and at all checkpoints along the Konar Province border with Pakistan. Crossing at an "unofficial" border point was possible, but risky, says Scott. Villagers told them that route is the road that Al Qaeda forces use to launch their periodic rocket attacks on the US Special Forces' base at Asadabad.
Instead, they interviewed the chief of the border guards at Nawa Pass. He told him the name of the village where the training camp was located. "It was a bit tense. Local Afghans told us that if it became known that we were from an American newspaper, we could be arrested by Pakistani agents and dragged across the border. But nothing so dramatic happened."
Back in the city of Asadabad, they spoke with several shopkeepers who did business with the Al Qaeda camp in Pakistan. "The interviews with them and a handful of Afghan law enforcement and intelligence officials, all conducted separately, proved to be too compelling and similar to ignore," says Scott.
When Scott spoke with one US military official about the village, he confided in Scott that the US is interested but wary. "He told me that the truth about such camps is often relative: It's a time coordinate and a longitude and latitude coordinate on a map. But all that can change. And too often, it's someone calling someone else 'Al Qaeda' to settle an old score. Basically, he told me that 'Truth is relative, but personal vendettas are forever.' "
David Clark Scott