SURMAD, Afghanistan – Thousands of white strips of paper lay scattered across the dirt brown plains of Afghanistan's eastern Paktia province Sunday, messages and warnings from the U.S.-led military coalition:
"Hand over Taliban and Al Qaeda or you will be destroyed. Come forward with information about Taliban and Al Qaeda."
The pamphlets littered plains leading to mountains where U.S. jets are attacking Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, pounding the cave complexes that are honeycombed throughout the snow-drenched peaks.
U.S. aircraft dropped thousands of the leaflets overnight. Children ran through the rock-strewn field to collect them. They pushed and shoved each other to get at them, giggled and read what was written in Afghanistan's two most common languages, Pashtu and Dari.
Each paper had a message for the people of the area. "Give any information you have about Al Qaeda or Taliban to the coalition forces," one leaflet urged.
Pashtu is the language of the country's largest ethnic group, the Pashtun. They dominate eastern Paktia province, where it is believed Al Qaeda and Taliban are regrouping with the distant help of leaders believed to have escaped to Pakistan.
Al Qaeda and Taliban in the mountains also are believed to be receiving assistance from Pakistani militants, and from rogue elements of Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency, although Pakistan denies the last charge.
The messages were to the point: "The international community is watching. It sees. Do not help Al Qaeda or Taliban or you will be destroyed."
Pictures accompanied the warnings. One showed a pickup truck packed with what looked like Taliban soldiers with Kalashnikov rifles.
The earth around the valley town of Surmad shook as bombs pounded the rugged peaks. Giant plumes of black smoke rose.
Overhead, B-52 bombers roared, trailing white jet streams across the clear blue sky.
Haji Mohammed Gul stopped his vehicle on the rutted dirt road to collect some leaflets. "All night the bombs fell. We were awake. listening," he said.
He read the pamphlets, and their messages, meant for him, and his neighbors:
"The Taliban and Al Qaeda are not good people. They use your women and children as human shields. Turn them in to the coalition. They are bad people."