October 5, 2009
The governor of the remote eastern Afghanistan province of Nuristan, Jamaluddin Badr, reported Monday, Oct. 5, that NATO and Afghan soldiers had besieged a Taliban force in the Kamdesh district the day after eight US soldiers and two Afghans were killed in two deadly attacks in the province.
He said police officers, including the top district commander were missing. The Taliban say they are holding 13 police including the police chief.
The Taliban attacked the US-Afghan force Sunday with rocket propelled grenades, machine guns and rifles from a mosque and a nearby village. US Col. Randy George reported the joint force had repelled the attack in a gun battle that inflicted heavy enemy casualties. He added:
"Coalition forces' previously announced plans to depart the area as part of a broader realignment to protect larger populations remains unchanged."US forces have suffered some of their worst casualties in the east, where they have tried to control remote mountain passes used by Taliban fighters as infiltration routes from Pakistan.
The number of NATO casualties in the eight-year conflict peaked in the year 2009 to 386 including 228 Americans. Gen. McChrystal's request for more troops to determine its outcome awaits a White House decision on strategy
October 4, 2009
As President Barack Obama huddles with top advisers about the future of Afghanistan, he must figure out how best to approach a troubling and complicated conflict.
Should he blanket the nation with up to 40,000 more troops, as recommended by the top commander in Afghanistan? Or should he focus on a more narrow counterinsurgency campaign, aided by Special Forces and drone Predators, as advised by Vice President Joe Biden?
Whatever approach Obama takes will have repercussions in North Carolina, home to two of the military's top bases, the Marines' Camp Lejeune and the Army's Fort Bragg. Nearly 17,000 troops from the twobases now serve in Afghanistan -- about one-fourth of the nation's military presence there.
Beyond the full-time military, hundreds of N.C. National Guard soldiers have cycled through the country, flying Apache helicopters in combat, running detention centers and sending C-130 supply missions into the nation's far-flung rural regions.
Members of North Carolina's congressional delegation are considering the president's decision. Nearly half its members sit on committees related to the war effort. North Carolina's lawmakers are talking with generals, reviewing intelligence reports and hosting visitors from Afghanistan's parliament.
Many say that before choosing a military solution, they first must figure out the United States' long-term goals in Afghanistan.
"The core question is: What is the threat to the United States?" said Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell of Biscoe.North Carolina's lawmakers said in interviews that they want to achieve as much as possible -- a stable Afghanistan, a defeated terrorist network -- but acknowledged that the path to success is lined with pitfalls.
No matter what, said Republican Rep. Sue Myrick of Charlotte, "We can't walk away from it. We cannot just leave, because if we did, [the Taliban] would totally take over."
Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, and other senators met last week with Obama's national security adviser, Gen. Jay Jones, to talk about Afghanistan. Hagan is scheduled to meet this week with Obama's diplomat for the region, Richard Holbrooke.
"We've got to be sure the Taliban is not using Afghanistan for terrorism, and we've got to defeat the al-Qaida extremists along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border," Hagan said.Hagan, who serves on the Armed Services committee, in May visited Afghanistan's Helmand province, the region of some of this summer's most intense fighting.
Although she has read the internal report of Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who has recommended up to 40,000 more troops in Afghanistan, Hagan isn't ready to endorse it.
"We're not here for nation-building. I'm not into that," Hagan said. But, she added, she wants to help Afghans develop the country's economic stability and national security.Hands off, or on?
Most of the state's lawmakers hesitated to make a recommendation for Obama.
"I don't want to be prejudging or presuming anything," said Kissell, a member of the House Armed Services committee whose district includes part of Fort Bragg.But an expert on Afghanistan at UNC-Chapel Hill said lawmakers ought to have a role in shaping policy on the issue.
"All these discussions revolve around having a clear-headed picture of what the strategic goal is from a U.S. perspective: What do you want to happen in Afghanistan?" said Andrew Reynolds, a political scientist who visited Afghanistan frequently between 2003 and 2007.But Reynolds, who returned from Pakistan a week ago, said he isn't sure any long-term plan exists.
"There are different strategic goals," he said. One goal would be to create an Afghanistan that will not harbor international terrorists who could attack the United States.
Another, far-reaching goal would develop a stable democracy in the country, he said.
"It's not clear the White House or Congress has an idea of where we're going from here," he said.Myrick, who serves on the House Intelligence committee, said she worries about terrorists expanding their networks beyond Afghanistan -- not only into Pakistan, but also North African countries such as Somalia and Yemen.
"I have real concerns that we're not paying enough attention to that," she said.Myrick says Obama should step up the nation's human intelligence-gathering network even as he pushes ahead in Afghanistan. She said the primary focus should be on protecting the United States.
"It's not our job to decide what the government ofAfghanistan should be," Myrick said.Last month, Democratic Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill led a seminar for members of Afghanistan's parliament who were visiting Congress as part of an exchange program that Price helps run for emerging democracies.
Price, who traveled to Afghanistan in 2006, sees the nation's parliament as a bright spot in an otherwise struggling government -- one that gives him hope for the country's future as a democracy.
Afghanistan needs to become a state that can control its own borders and serve its citizens, he said.
"I'm not expecting a Jeffersonian democracy," Price said. "We're talking about a government that's legitimate in the eyes of its people."State's high stakes
Whatever Obama decides, it's certain that North Carolina's military community will continue to play a role.
The Army's elite Special Forces troops, which are used for high-risk counterinsurgency work, train at Fort Bragg. Members of the 82nd Airborne learned last month their tour in Afghanistan would be extended 50 days.
And this week, the Department of Defense announced its 773rd casualty in Afghanistan. Lance Cpl. Jordan L. Chrobot, 24, killed in Helmand province, was stationed at Camp Lejeune.
By now, an estimated 68,000 troops are serving in Afghanistan, but they continue to face challenges in equipment, reinforcements and rest, said Rep. Mike McIntyre, a Democrat whose district includes a part of Fort Bragg.
"You've got to be sure they're taken care of," McIntyre said.McIntyre, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said he wants to root out terrorism, improve intelligence, and ensure that Afghanistan's military and police forces are properly trained.
But he already knows that he supports McChrystal's request for additional troops to bolster those now serving in the war zone.
"Clearly we are at a crossroads," McIntyre said. "Now is not the time to downsize."