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Why is America Failing in Afghanistan?

- DR. Abdul-Qayum Mohmand

CNN International News with Christiane Amanpour

Analysis of “CIA World Factbook” (1981-2012): Dimensions of anti-Pashtun Conspirac
US forces in Afghanistan nearly destroyed vital airfield
We Are Those Two Afghan Children, Killed by NATO While Tending Their Cattle
Former Islamist Warlord Vies for Afghan Presidency
Pakistan releases top Afghan Taliban prisoner in effort to boost peace process
Losing the War in Afghanistan
Obama’s troop increase for Afghan war was misdirected
Afghan security vacuum feared along "gateway to Kabul"
Objections to U.S. Troops Intensify in Afghanistan
The Great Afghan corruption scam
War zone killing: Vets feel 'alone' in their guilt
Was Osama for Real? And Was He Killed in 2001?
Afghanistan withdrawal: The risks of retreat
The Real Reason the US Invaded Afghanistan
The Definition of a Quagmire
Huge Uncertainty' in Afghanistan
Controversial ID Cards Expose Ethnic Divisions In Afghanistan
Afghanistan: The Final Curtain Call for NATO?
Afghanistan After 9/11: A Mission Unaccomplished
Why Should Taliban and Other Insurgents Refrain from Negotiation With the US & NATO? By: Dr Mohammed Daud Miraki, MA, MA, Ph

Exclusive: Karzai family looks to extend boss rule in Afghanistan.

Intrigue in Karzai Family as an Afghan Era Closes
For Afghans, Two Outrages, Two Different Reactions
Double blow to west’s Afghan strategy
Does the Taliban need a diplomatic voice?
Afghanistan: Lessons in War and Peace-building for US
Afghan women opposed by former allies
Q+A - Haqqani: From White House guest to staunch U.S. enemy
Haqqanis: Growth of a militant network -BBC
Afghanistan shelves plans for ambassador accused of fraud
Afghan nominated as ambassador to Britain was accused in US of fraud
U.S. deal with Taliban breaks down
The Loneliness of the Afghan President: Karzai on His Own

NATO's Third Alternative in Afghanistan

On the Road: Interview with Commander Abdul Haq:- The Tragedy of Abdul Haq
When the Lion Roared: How Abdul Haq Almost Saved Afghanistan
AFGHAN WARRIOR: THE LIFE & DEATH OF ABDUL HAQ
Pakistan’s ISI: Undermining Afghan self-determination since 1948
Mineral Wealth of Afghanistan, Military Occupation, Corruption and the Rights of the Afghan People
M. Siddieq Noorzoy
Why Isn’t the UN Investigating and Prosecuting the U.S. and NATO for War Crimes Committed in Afghanistan?
Corruption and Warlordism:
Abdul Basir Stanikzai
In Afghanistan, U.S. contracts aren’t crystal balls, but they come close
The great Afghan carve-up
Anatomy of an Afghan war tragedy
Terry Jones Actually Burns a Qur’an and No One Notices
Q+A-Are Afghan forces ready to take over security?
Guantánamo Bay files rewrite the story of Osama bin Laden's Tora Bora escape
Winning Afghan hearts, minds with explosives
Afghanistan’s Mercenaries
KABUL’S HORIZONS
Who is winning Afghanistan war? U.S. officials increasingly disagree
Afghanistan: The Trouble With The Transition
From the Archives: In Quest of a ‘Greater Tajikistan’
The 1980s mujahideen, the Taliban and the shifting idea of jihad
Afghanistan's Karzai complains about interference
Karzai, US ambassador at odds over private security

Karzai Tells Washington Post U.S. Should Reduce Afghan Operation Intensity

Excerpts from Afghan President Hamid Karzai's interview with The Washington Post
What the Afghans Want
New US approach to Afghanistan insurgency: Vindication for Pakistan?
Putting Some Fight Into Our Friends
Afghans 'abused at secret prison
Why We Won’t Leave Afghanistan or Iraq
Indo-Pakistan proxy war heats up in Afghanistan
Canada’s elite commandos and the invasion of Afghanistan
U.S. retreat from Afghan valley marks recognition of blunder
Five myths about the war in Afghanistan
Marine who resigned over ‘conscience’ speaks at MU
The Afghan media may have grown since Taliban rule ended, but not so press freedoms
Mystery holes and angry ants: another Afghan day
Kabul Bank's Sherkhan Farnood feeds crony capitalism in Afghanistan
Marjah War
Operation Moshtarak: Which way the war in Afghanistan?
Q&A: Why Marjah, why now?
In Jalalabad, hope is fading
Seeking reconciliation, US units meet remote Afghanistan tribes
Once Again, Get the Hell Out! "Ending the War in Afghanistan"
Blackwater Kept a Prostitute on the Payroll in Afghanistan; Fraudulently Billed American Tax Payers
Wild West Motif Lightens US Mood at Afghan Bas
In southern Afghanistan, even the small gains get noticed
 Afghanistan war: US tries to undercut Taliban at tribal level
 Soviet lessons from Afghanistan
Are actions of 'super-tribe' an Afghan tipping point
Taliban: Terrorist or not? Not always easy to say
Q&A: Who else could help in Afghanistan?
Vietnam Replay on Afghan 'Defectors'
Washington's Refusal to Talk about Drone Strikes in Pakistan Meets Growing Opposition
Afghanistan summit: Why is the US backing talks with the Taliban?
Taliban's leadership council runs Afghan war from Pakistan
Why buy the Taliban?
2 Afghanistan conferences: No solutions
An Alternative to Endless War - Negotiating an Afghan Agreement?
Do the Taliban represent the Pashtuns?
Afghanistan asks ex-presidential contender to tackle corruption

Tehran Sets Conditions For Attending London Conference On Afghanista

Pakistan says reaches out to Afghan Taliban
Taking It to the Taliban
The Afghan Taliban's top leaders
How significant is Mullah Baradar's arrest?
Secret Joint Raid Captures Taliban’s Top Commander
What's the Quetta Shura Taliban and why does it matter?
What's behind latest Taliban attack on Kabul? See Images of the Attack By WSJ

Pakistan Version of Islam and Taliban ?????
Lahore fashion week takes on Talibanization in Pakistan

Loyalties of Those Killed in Afghan Raid Remain Unclear

After Attack, Afghans Question Motives or See Conspiracies
Gates: Taliban part of Afghan ‘political fabric’

IG: Afghan power-plant project ill-conceived, mismanaged

Taliban intensifies Afghan PR campaign

Taliban Overhaul Their Image in Bid to Win Allies
Karzai plans to woo Taliban with 'land, work and pensions'
Peace scheme mooted for Taliban
Bombs and baksheesh
But By All Means, Continue the Happy Talk on the Afghanistan War
Karzai Closing in on Taliban Reconciliation Plan
Last Exit Kabul
How To Get Out Without Forsaking Afghanistan's Stability
Afghan Recovery Report: Taleban Buying Guns From Former Warlords

'Jesus Guns': Two More Countries Rethink Using Weapons with Secret Bible References

Gun bible quotes 'inappropriate'
Text of Joint declaration of Afghanistan-Iran-Pakistan trilateral meeting
Garmsir Protest Shows Taleban Reach
Rugged North Waziristan harbors US enemies
The Arrogance of Empire, Detailed ( The Untold Story of Afghanistan )
Appointment of Afghan counter narcotics chief dismays British officials
In Afghanistan attack, CIA fell victim to series of miscalculations about informant
Rebuilding Afghanistan: Will government take hold in this post-Taliban town?
Rare bird discovered in Afghan mountains
Blackwater, now called Xe, in running for work in Afghanistan despite legal woes
How Soviet troops stormed Kabul palace
Afghan children 'die in fighting'
Afghanistan war: Russian vets look back on their experience
U.N. Officials Say American Offered Plan to Replace Karzai 
Learning From the Soviets
U.S. faults Afghan corruption body's independence
Intensify fight against corruption, says Afghan meeting
Afghan ministers cleared of charges
Drone aircraft in a stepped-up war in Afghanistan and Pakistan
U.S. Air Force Confirms 'Beast of Kandahar' Secret Stealth Drone Plane
Kissinger's fantasy is Obama's realit
Taliban shadow officials offer concrete alternative
Talking with the Taliban
20. Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart
'Yes, there was torture and people were certainly beaten': Afghan warden
Why we should leave Afghanistan
US pours millions into anti-Taliban militias in Afghanistan
Pakistan to US: Don't surge in Afghanistan, talk to Taliban
A Plan C for Afghanistan
Finding decent cabinet is Karzai's big challenge
A way to get around Karzai in Afghanistan
Corruption fight boosted by 'Afghan FBI'
US demands Afghan 'bribery court'
Afghanistan plans court for corrupt ministers
The man leading Afghanistan's anti-corruption fight
Win hearts and minds in Afghanistan to win the war
Gates blocks abuse photos release
New U.S. Afghan prison unveiled, rights groups wary
War in Afghanistan: Not in our name
How the US Funds the Taliban
Afghan gov't says UN representative out of line
Cabinet of Warlords
Afghanistan and the lessons of history
Clinton says Karzai ‘must do better’
Recognizing the Limits of American Power in Afghanistan
After Afghanistan election, governors seek distance from 'illegal' Karzai
Karzai was hellbent on victory. Afghans will pay the price
Matthew Hoh: Please refute what I'm saying, we are stuck in the Afghan civil war
As US looks for exit in Afghanistan, China digs in
America's Top Diplomat Tells 'Nightline': 'Not Every Taliban Is al Qaeda'
Obama Can’t Make Russian Mistake in Afghanistan
10 Steps to Victory in Afghanistan
Will Obama change Afghan strategy?
Does the U.S. still have a vital interest in Afghanistan?
Pashtuns and Pakistani
The Afghan '80s are back
Pashtun peace prophet goes global
Afghan Road Builder's Dream Thwarted by Violence
A white elephant in Kabul
The Afghan Runoff: Will It Be a No-Show Election?

Ashraf Ghani- Afghanistan's Disputed Election Complicates U.S. Strategy

On Assignment: Into the Maw at Marja

Patrick Witty & Tyler Hicks
The New York Times


Afghanistan Cross Road CNN


The last frontier


Bruce Richardson
 

Articles

CIA: Buying peace in Afghanistan?

With Bags of Cash, C.I.A. Seeks Influence in Afghanistan
CIA Ghost Money: Karzai Confirms U.S. Gives Funds To Afghan National Security Team
What the CIA’s cash has bought for Afghanistan

Khalilzad: A Satan Whispering in the Hearts of Men
The Afghan trust deficitt
Will We Learn Anything from Afghanistan? Part 1
Getting Out of Afghanistan: Part 2
William R. Polk
General’s Defense on Afghan Scandal Ducks Key Evidence
Afghans want Taliban peace talks
Bombing Weddings in Afghanistan: It Couldn't Happen Here, It Does Happen There
Hekmatyar's never-ending Afghan war
Covert American Aid to the Afghan Resistance; A Top-Secret U.S. Foreign Policy Plot to Induce and Effect Soviet Military Intervention
Afghan brain drain fears as Karzai urges education reforms

US considers launching joint US-Afghan raids in Pakistan to hunt down militant groups

Real security in Afghanistan depends on people's basic needs being met
Intractable Afghan Graft Hampering U.S. Strategy
Former Taliban Officials Say U.S. Talks Started
Taliban ready for talks with US, not Karzai government
Emboldened Taliban Try to Sell Softer Image
Leaked NATO Report Shows Pakistan Support For Taliban
Insight: Few options for Afghan, U.S. leaders after Kandahar massacre
Presenter: Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Daoud Sultanzoy, Tolo Television
NATO’s measured exit plan in Afghanistan faces new obstacles
BFP Exclusive: Karzai Clan Attorney Threatens US Journalist, Uses Intimidation Tactics
Afghanistan Chronicles
Arduous path to Afghan 'end-game'
Fear in the classrooms: is the Taliban poisoning Afghanistan's schoolgirls?
A comment on the recent events of student poisoning in Afghanistan
Rape Case, in Public, Cites Abuse by Armed Groups in Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s Peace Talks Hit Brick Wall
THE ANATOMY OF US’S DEFEAT IN AFGHANISTAN
VOICES OF EMPIRE: FROM CIA’s CULTURAL GREAT GAME TO GLOBAL GREAT GAME TODAY
WHITE PAPER FOR THE PERMANENT PEACE IN AFGHANISTAN
King Karzai
A Federal System of Government is Not Suitable for Afghanistan
CHINA AMO DARYA OIL DEAL
Analysis: Where Afghan humanitarianism ends and development begins
U.S. Envoy: Kabulbank Was 'Vast Looting Scheme'
Speaking with the enemy: how US commanders fight the Taliban during the day and dine with them at night
Afghanistan: Operation Enduring Musery
How to Win Peace in Afghanistan
For Karzai, Stumbles On Road To Election
Cruel human toll of fight to win Afghan peace
Criticism of Afghan War Is on the Rise in Britain
Troops 'fighting for UK's future'
Operation in Taliban hotbed a test for revamped U.S. strategy
Covering Crucial Afghanistan Operation
Afghans still skeptical about Obama
US Defence Department struggling with public release of report on bombing in Afghanistan
Afghanistan on the Edge
Q+A: Who are the Pakistani Taliban insurgents?
Afghanistan Past & Present
Bombs for Pashtoons and Dollars for Punjab
Help! I'm being outgunned on K Street!
ANGELS CHASING DEMONS: “Jesus Killed Mohammad”!
U.S. tested 2 Afghan scenarios in war game
America's Top Diplomat Tells 'Nightline': 'Not Every Taliban Is al Qaeda'
Obama hearing range of views on Afghanistan
What Do Afghans Want? Withdrawal - But Not Too Fast - and A Negotiated Peace
Will Obama change Afghan strategy?
What Do Afghans Want? Withdrawal - But Not Too Fast - and A Negotiated Peace
Afghans tricked into U.S. trip, detained
In the Afghan War, Aim for the Middle
Obama pulled two ways in Afghanistan
Obama Can’t Make Russian Mistake in Afghanistan
10 Steps to Victory in Afghanistan
Gates: Mistake to set time line for Afghan withdrawal
Afghans question what democracy has done for them
High stakes in Afghan vote recount
Two Perspectives On Resolving The Afghan Postelection Crisis
Does the U.S. still have a vital interest in Afghanistan?
Pashtuns and Pakistanis
The Afghan '80s are back
How to Lose in Afghanistan
US in Afghanistan proposes revamped strategy
US 'needs fresh Afghan strategy'
US looks to Vietnam for Afghan tips
Lessons from Vietnam on Afghanistan
Afghan Pres. Skips Country's 1st TV Debate
A proud moment for Afghanistan
Rival to Karzai Gains Strength in Afghan Presidential Election
Afghan presidential candidate withdraws in Karzai's favor
America and international law
Hamid Karzai pulls out of historic TV debate just hours before broadcast
Karzai says no to first Afghanpresidential debate
Afghan election: Can Karzai's rivals close the gap?
Karzai opponents hope to beat him in second round
Afghanistan's Election Challenges
For Karzai, Stumbles On Road To Election
Pentagon Seeks to Overhaul Prisons in Afghanistan
Cruel human toll of fight to win Afghan peace
Karzai’s gimmick
Well-known traffickers set free ahead of election
US president sets Afghan target
U.S. Inaction Seen After Taliban P.O.W.’s Died
Why the Pentagon Axed Its Afghanistan Warlord
Earn our trust or go, Afghans tell GIs
The Irresistible Illusion
Running Out Of Options, Afghans Pay For an Exit
We've lost sight of our goal in Afghanistan
$2,000 for a dead Afghan Child, $100,000 for Any American Who Died Killing it
The strategy is sound – but success is not assured
Operation in Taliban hotbed a test for revamped U.S. strategy
Covering Crucial Afghanistan Operation
Pentagon Seeks to Overhaul Prisons in Afghanistan
Echoes of Vietnam
A Response To General Dostum
Obama orders probe of killings in Afghanistan
Obama admin: No grounds to probe Afghan war crimes
US president sets Afghan target
U.S. Inaction Seen After Taliban P.O.W.’s Died
Afghanistan's Election Challenges
The Irresistible Illusion
Earn our trust or go, Afghans tell GIs
Running Out Of Options, Afghans Pay For an Exit

We've lost sight of our goal in Afghanistan

The strategy is sound – but success is not assured
Stakes High in Afghanistan Ahead of August Elections
$2,000 for a dead Afghan Child, $100,000 for Any American Who Died Killing it
Ex-detainees allege Bagram abuse
Petraeus Is a Failure -- Why Do We Pretend He's Been a Success?
Fierce Battles and High Casualties on the Frontlines of Afghanistan
End the Illegal, Immoral and Wasted War in Afghanistan, says BNP Defence Spokesman
Outside View: Four revolutions
Pakistan's Plans for New Fight Stir Concern
France: liberty, equality, and fraternity – but no burqas
 

 

 

 

 

Echoes of Vietnam

Even the Coalition commanders in Afghanistan wonder if they can win the war
Will history repeat itself in Afghanistan?

British military intervention in Afghanistan has a chequered history, making it easy to conclude that British forces will fail again


 


What Happens When the U.S. Leaves Afghanistan?  
Source: USA TODAY By:    

NANGALAM BASE, KUNAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN - A former resistance fighter during the Soviet occupation of his country, Afghan Col. Turab Adil knows that Afghans can put up a good fight.

He recalls how in the 1980s the mujahedin, as they were known, slipped through the hills and valleys to drive out the Communist superpower and its attack helicopters, tanks and fully armed troops.

Today's Afghan army will fight just as ferociously against Taliban fighters, but Adil and others say it can't defeat them under the current U.S. military strategy that calls for the withdrawal of all combat forces by the end of 2014.

"When the coalition forces leave, there will be a lot of problems for us," Adil says in the halting English he learned at an Afghan university.

The U.S. military's exit strategy in Afghanistan is to maintain security now established in southern Afghanistan while shifting enough combat troops to the east to dismantle the Taliban there. A trained force of Afghans will be expected to keep the peace. But weeks of interviews with Afghan soldiers and U.S. troops on the battle lines in eastern Afghanistan cast doubts on that strategy. Recent Taliban attacks -- the latest on a major U.S. air base -- and insider "green-on-blue" shootings against coalition forces only amplify these doubts.

After almost 11 years of war and nearly 2,000 Americans dead, Ahmed Majidyar, an Afghanistan expert at the American Enterprise Institute, says Afghan security forces will not be self-sufficient, as the Pentagon hopes under the current scenario.

"Over the last few years there has been tremendous progress in the Afghan National Security Forces," he says. "But when it comes to logistics (supplies and support for Afghan troops), intelligence gathering and decision-making, they still need help."

Even so, the help will be diminishing at a critical moment in the counterinsurgency strategy as the coalition moves to dislodge Taliban strongholds in eastern Afghanistan. A withdrawal of 30,000 troops ordered by President Obama will be complete in October, reducing troop strength from a peak of nearly 103,000 last year to 68,000.

The military challenge presents just one of many problems in a country plagued by corruption and with a long history of frustrating foreign forces. Indeed, some experts suggest the job -- winning, however defined -- cannot be completed given the myriad hurdles and other issues, such as neighboring Pakistan's support for the insurgency.

The United States should "recognize the limits of its power," says George Friedman, who heads the private intelligence firm Stratfor and author of The Next Decade, a book that lays out where conflicts might occur.

"U.S. strategic interest in Afghanistan has been achieved. It's disrupted al-Qaeda in that country, and it needs to withdraw."

Two very different forces

Combat Outpost Kalagush is in Nuristan province in eastern Afghanistan on the border with Pakistan's Northwest Frontier, the one permanent U.S. base in the province.

Life here is not easy. To escape the scorching summer sun, Afghan soldiers often rest in the shade under barracks propped up on cinder blocks. Fresh water for drinking, cooking and bathing is sometimes scarce.
"We are Afghan. We can deal with all kinds of difficulties," says Col. Sher Khan, the new commander at Kalagush.

The Taliban bulked up its presence in the mountains here after U.S. troops withdrew years ago amid deadly attacks on two outposts that drew constant fire. The outpost is divided: U.S. forces are on one side and Afghans on the other. American soldiers have hot showers, good food and air-conditioned barracks. Afghan soldiers are cramped into metal storage containers turned into sleeping quarters.

On this day, U.S. adviser teams are training Afghan soldiers to take the lead in military operations. Capt. Marcus Morgan, an American adviser at Kalagush, sees progress. He says Afghan commanders have shown initiative and leadership in planning and executing missions, noting that Afghan forces sometimes patrol without U.S. backing.

"They are completely in the lead outside the wire," Morgan says.

But Afghans going it alone? That's another issue. "If they get into a firefight and can't handle it on their own, they can call on us."

In three months, no one will be there to answer. All U.S. troops at Kalagush are to leave the base by the end of the year.

Khan says what his men really will miss is U.S. firepower and aircraft, which he says may not be forthcoming under current withdrawal plans. They can handle the ground fighting, Khan says, but need the U.S. military to come to their aid when things get out of hand. If not, he says, they will likely be overwhelmed by attackers.

"Our soldiers are very well-trained, but we need the right weapons to defend this area," he says. "There are times we'll need to drop troops behind enemy lines, and we'll need air support."

Some in the international coalition suggest that an accommodation must be made eventually for the Taliban to share power with the U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai. But many Afghan soldiers do not see it that way.

The Taliban is a clerical movement that rose up during Afghan civil wars in the 1990s, and many current Afghan military officers remember life under its rule. A harsh brand of Islam was imposed on Afghans. Its adherents demanded men wear beards and denied schooling for women. Girls could be married off at age 9. Homosexuals faced the death penalty.

The Taliban banned music, alcohol and even kite flying. Those who disobeyed were subject to summary execution. Amnesty International and others condemned the Taliban's reign, but the regime was in little danger until it refused to turn over Osama bin Laden to the United States.

You can't whitewash it'

The Pentagon says its counterinsurgency strategy will succeed, and that the withdrawal of allied forces will not allow Afghanistan to once again become a base for the export of Islamic terrorism that it was under the Taliban.

"The stakes are very high," U.S. Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, said recently. "The fact that we were attacked on the 11th of September (2001) is a direct line relationship between what happened on that day and what could happen again if we don't get this right."

Recent Taliban attacks have provided fodder for critics of the Obama administration's position that the country has been sufficiently pacified to pave the way for an exit.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., complains that Obama is pulling out for political reasons and jeopardizing eventual victory against a potent enemy. Obama's Republican rival for the presidency, Mitt Romney, says the president was "misguided" for announcing a withdrawal date to the enemy.

The president defends today's strategy, arguing repeatedly that he is winding down the war "responsibly" and believes the Afghans can handle security themselves.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the green-on-blue attacks represent the "last gasp" of the Taliban. But Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the attacks spell trouble for U.S. aims.
"You can't whitewash it. We can't convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it. Something has to change," Dempsey told Armed Forces Press Service on Sunday.

Anthony Cordesman, an Afghanistan expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, does not see a "clear transition plan" to the Afghans that will work. He says the current strategy could give the Taliban an opening to take over and resume the kinds of terror activities that prompted the U.S.-led invasion.

"I think what you may see is a whole bunch of localized power struggles," Cordesman says. "Where it gets to be dangerous is when you have rival warlords with enough power to take over larger areas."

Defining a good day'

The eastern province of Khost is a haven of the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based Muslim terror group that along with other militant groups aligned with the Taliban have been building forces here for years and in Paktika, Ghazni, Kunar and Wardak provinces.

Adil, the Afghan army colonel, insists his men can hold off the Taliban in Nangalam. But the narrow road connecting Nangalam to points of supply is riddled with buried mines and often controlled by Taliban checkpoints. He says he needs U.S. air support to safely deliver supplies such as food and ammunition.

"A lot of people in this area are helping them (militant groups)," Adil says.

Adil says he will be at a great disadvantage if U.S. helicopters are no longer circling during firefights. And removal of U.S. high-tech capacity means they can't keep up scans of the night landscape to spot impending assaults on their remote base here.

"One day we might get hit with 10 mortars, the next day only two or three, which for us would be a good day," he says.

The U.S. military recognizes the strain on the Afghan army as it make the transition from working with the U.S. forces to replacing them.

The strategy, according to Lt. Col. Jay Bullock, who leads the U.S. security adviser team at Nangalam, is to "try to find simple Afghan solutions" to the challenges they'll face once U.S. forces leave so they "can learn and grow on them."

The U.S. advisers are training Afghan soldiers to fire heavy artillery left behind by the Soviets, who invaded Afghanistan in the 1980s and lost thousands of troops in a nearly decade-long conflict. So far, the training is progressing slowly but steadily, the advisers say.
Sgt. Zaren, who like many Afghans here goes by one name, studies maps of the area around the base to calculate distances for effective fire.

"I just want to be able to fire the artillery to keep the Taliban away," Zaren says.

Maj. Christopher Thomas, spokesman for the 4th Brigade Combat Team 4th Infantry Division, says that the shortcomings of the Afghan forces in the east is a real concern. But, "there have been real improvements" in the Afghans' ability to be a self-sustaining fighting force.

"Right now the focus is putting the Afghans in the lead," Thomas says. "Let them get a bloody nose, but don't let them get a broken nose."

Capt. Hugh Miller, who fought along the Pech River during a 2009 deployment, says that if Afghan forces here can control the supply lines and provide effective firepower, they should be able to keep the enemy under control.

"Those are the two things that if they can get good at, we don't need to be here," Miller says.

Majidyar agrees with Miller's assessment but says there is something more that the Afghans must do that they have yet to do alone: root out and destroy militant havens.

"They (Afghan forces) aren't trained to do that, not equipped to do that and don't have the ability to do that," Majidyar says.

Uncertainty ahead

Mountain ranges here are full of caves and small villages where the Taliban and other groups stage ambushes on coalition forces. U.S. helicopters fly in and destroy militant havens.

The possibility of losing American backing worries some Afghan villagers.

Haji Noor Ullah, an elder from the village of Nangalam in the Pech River Valley, says facing the Taliban unassisted is a daunting prospect. He acknowledges that many Afghans here support the Taliban, but the many who do not might have to fall in line or risk violence. After all, that's been the model in years past.

"We will face a lot of troubles in the future," he said of the Taliban. "This is a very dangerous region."

There have been few serious attacks on Kalagush since the current unit of Americans arrived here in the spring, says the company commander, Capt. Adam Marsh. He agrees that the lull is "unusual" given the area's reputation for a heavy presence of militants.

"It's possible that they are just waiting for us to leave," he says.

 

 

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