Entries in Afghanistan War (6)


Sunday Marked 11th Anniversary of War in Afghanistan

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- With virtually no fanfare, Sunday marked the 11th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, that was launched to destroy al Qaeda training camps and oust the Taliban regime that supported the terrorist group behind the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil.

While the major missions of the war were accomplished, including the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the U.S. and its coalition still have over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan with no plans to withdraw most of them until 2014.

The Taliban has proven a resilient enemy, which has vowed to never surrender in its goal to destroy the still fragile democratic government, which remains beset by corruption and an unstable security force.

Indeed, the Taliban issued a statement on Sunday to say that "With the help of Allah, the valiant Afghans under the Jihadi leadership of Islamic Emirate defeated the military might and numerous strategies of America and NATO alliance."

It went on to say, "And now after 11 years of unceasing terror, tyranny, crimes and savagery, they are fleeing Afghanistan with such humiliation and disgrace that they are struggling to provide an explanation."

In a sign that the U.S. and its coalition allies are stepping back from the fight, fatalities of Afghans security forces are running five times higher than those of their allies this year.

However, so-called "insider attacks" on U.S. and NATO troops have also increased, with at least 53 soldiers having died so far in 2012.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Setbacks Won't Deter Afghanistan Mission, Hillary Clinton Vows

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised Wednesday that the U.S. would stay the course in Afghanistan by continuing to hand over security responsibilities to national forces so that the U.S. and NATO can keep their promise to withdraw from the country by 2014.

Doubts have been raised recently over the progress of the war, given the latest string of "insider attacks" against coalition troops that threaten to set back the process of getting Afghan forces up to speed with the Taliban still seemingly intent on achieving a military victory.

With Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul by her side at the State Department, Clinton conceded, "These past few months in particular have presented obstacles and some potential setbacks and we know that difficult days lie ahead."

Clinton also brought up the grim milestone of 2,000 Americans soldiers having lost their lives in the 11-year-war that came in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  The U.S. led an international coalition on Oct. 7, 2001 to destroy al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan as well as ousting the Taliban regime.

She told reporters, "The American people have invested a great deal in Afghanistan’s future and, even though our role in Afghanistan is changing, this partnership will continue."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Prince Harry Heads to War in Afghanistan

Sgt Russ Nolan RLC/MoD via Getty Images(LONDON) -- Britain's Prince Harry is back on the front lines in the battle against terrorism in what will be a four-month deployment in Afghanistan.

A newly released video shows the prince, or Capt. Wales as he is known in the British army, arriving Friday in Afghanistan to take part in a top-secret mission to join coalition forces fighting the Taliban.  Prince Harry will report to Camp Bastion in Helmand Province in southeast Afghanistan, military officials said.

The prince's second trip to Afghanistan will entail flying Apache helicopters on various missions, including escorting other helicopters carrying troops and equipment, conducting surveillance missions and targeting Taliban fighters.

Harry, 27, qualified as an Apache helicopter pilot in February after completing a rigorous 18-month training program in the United Kingdom and United States that left him and his fellow trainees, "up to the challenge of operating one the of the most sophisticated attack helicopters in the world," according to a news release issued by Britain's Defense Ministry at the time.

Prince Harry was named as the best front-seat pilot, or co-pilot gunner, from his class of more than 20 fellow Apache helicopter pilots at a ceremony in February to mark the end of the training.  Harry's award was one of only two given at the end of the training course and marked the student whose "overall performance during the course is assessed as the best amongst their peer group," the ministry noted.

U.K. tabloid The Sun broke news in January that the 18-month training program included Harry, who first entered the military in 2005, being hooded and threatened in intense hostage training to prepare him for a possible return to Afghanistan.

Harry, the third in line to the throne, is the first British royal to complete that level of intense training, according to the Sun.

The prince's first deployment to Afghanistan, in late 2007, was scheduled to last three months but was cut short after 10 weeks when his cover was blown.  Harry was immediately removed from the field amid fears he could become a terrorist target.

"At the end of the day, you're in a war zone and you're responsible to look after yourself, the guy to the left, and the guy to the right.  And I think it's really that simple," he told ABC News' Bob Woodruff in 2011 of his service.

Camp Bastion, where Harry will be based, is the main British base and logistics hub for operations in Helmand.  Harry will join more than 28,000 civilian workers and service members, including 12,000 U.S. troops based at the adjoining Camp Leatherneck, at the base.

His return to military duty comes weeks after nude photos of his partying in Las Vegas were leaked on the Internet.

Harry, who, sources told ABC News, was in Vegas blowing off steam before reporting back to military duty, was reportedly caught in the photos after playing a game of strip billiards.  The photos, including one of Harry standing and covering his genitals and one in which he is bear-hugging a naked woman, made headlines but did little to derail the image of the much-loved prince, with many in Great Britain laughing it off.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Troops Engaged in Battle on Thanksgiving

US Dept of Defense(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- It's business as usual for the Oklahoma National Guard in eastern Afghanistan.

U.S. soldiers and their Afghan police partners showed off a Taliban machine gun they captured during a patrol Thursday. They also uncovered a cache of Taliban weapons, all before the Thanksgiving meal.

"We found some IED [Improvised Explosive Device] making materials. Some HME [homemade explosives], and a couple of mortar rounds. It was a good find," one National Guardsman told ABC News.

Americans across the world are celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday, but there is no break for troops on the front lines.

Oklahoma's 45th Brigade has faced a particularly tough fight in east-central Afghanistan. Since it fully deployed last July, 14 of its team have been killed in action. That included the first woman from Oklahoma to die on the battlefield, Pfc. Sarina Butcher, a 19-year-old mother. The previous brigade from Iowa saw four of its soldiers killed in action while it was deployed there.

Despite the casualties, officers there say the 45th brigade is a tight-knit group that continues to perform on the front lines.

"These guys continue to go out every day," said Battalion Cmdr. Lt. Col. Chuck Booze. "They strap on the body armor. They grab their rifles. They get into these vehicles behind me. And they go out every day and take the fight to the enemy."

Much of Oklahoma's 45th Brigade is composed of citizen soldiers who were uprooted from their jobs and sent to war.

Specialist Max Robinson, 19, was delivering pizzas in Oklahoma when he was called. Now his peers consider him a hero for ignoring enemy fire to save his fellow wounded soldiers.

Robinson received a Purple Heart Thursday by U.S. commander for eastern Afghanistan, General Daniel Allyn, who thought this would be the perfect day to give his own thanks, in person.

"Really, I want people to remember the people that were lost and the people who were hurt," Robinson said. "And again to my family, thank your everyone for the support."

Robinson, who was wounded while saving his fellow soldiers, has been nominated for a Silver Star.

After the ceremony, troops take a break for dinner to celebrate Thanksgiving. And then it's back to war.

Both Republicans and Democrats Thursday hailed the troops by thanking them for their service to the country. President Obama called 10 members of the U.S. armed services to thank each one of them for their service and sacrifice, and wished them and their families a Happy Thanksgiving.

"To all the service members eating Thanksgiving dinner far from your families: the American people are thinking of you today," the president said in his weekly address. "And when you come home, we intend to make sure that we serve you as well as you're serving America."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ten Years Later: What America Has Accomplished in Afghanistan

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- It's been 10 years since the first U.S. bombs fell on Afghanistan, 10 years since an American-led coalition drove the Taliban from power.

There is perhaps no one better able to explain the ups and downs that Afghanistan has endured in the last decade -- and the two decades of war before that -- than a kind, jovial man named Nimat Ullah Rekazai.

Like so many Afghans, Rekazai has often flipped sides, balancing a wish to follow people he believes in, with a desire to follow people he thinks will prevail.  Twenty-five years ago, he was fighting against the Soviets; 10 years ago, we was fighting with the Taliban.  But after 9/11, he threw his lot in with the Americans and the new, untested Afghan government.  In short, he was exactly the kind of person the U.S. needed in order to succeed there.

Rekazai was an example of early success, for Afghans and the U.S.  He founded nine NGOs, including small organizations that teach women to sew and use computers.  He says he volunteered for the CIA in his home town of Mehterlam, in eastern Afghanistan.  And for a while, he dismissed Taliban threats.  Insurgents -- he said he knew all their voices -- first called him on the phone, and then they wrote him a letter: Stop teaching girls, or we'll kill you.  They even gave him a date: Aug. 20, 2011.

When ABC News first met him, Rekazai was worried but resilient.  "These kinds of conditions motivate me," he said then.  "So I am continuing my work."

That was in July of this year.  Soon after that conversation, the Taliban made good on its threat.  Rekazai's brother and cousin were kidnapped.  The relatives called from a payphone after escaping to Quetta, Pakistan.  That kidnapping, and a U.S. departure from his town, have sent Rekazai into hiding.  He has stopped his work, saying it's no longer safe.  Now, he is on the run.  He hides in different cities, lying even to his family members about where he is.

"I live like a criminal," he told ABC News.  "I'm hiding all the time."

Looking at many corners of Afghanistan today -- 10 years later -- the singular complaint of so many people here is some version of Rekazai's: We are not safe.  Ten years ago, male residents of most towns and villages could travel safely; they knew an order and stability, even if it was born out of fear of Taliban repression.  But that's not the case anymore.

"The problem with Afghanistan is not winning the conventional war, but the guerrilla war that could follow, as the Soviets and British discovered," said former National Security Council official Kenneth Pollack.  "In each case, the initial conventional campaign was pretty easy.  What followed was the hard part."

Pollack spoke those words in late 2001, as Afghans were still dancing in the streets of Kandahar, and Kabul.  He had it about right.  That "guerilla war" still rages in parts of the country, and is to blame for much of today's trouble.

Ten years later, much of the early post-9/11 progress has been eroded.  Other areas -- good governance, to take an important one -- never progressed much at all.

But there is no denying certain bright spots.  Ten years ago, a woman in Afghanistan lived in an enforced shadow, shut out by the Taliban from schools and jobs and public institutions.  Ten years later, a woman in Afghanistan can study and work; she can vote, and she can stand for office.  Ten years later, there are women in the Afghan Parliament.

Ten years ago, children in Afghanistan -- boys only -- studied the Koran, or militancy, and little else.  Schools were shuttered, or burned to the ground.  Today, more than six million Afghan children are in school, according to the United Nations.  That's seven times as many as attended school a decade ago.  Shortages of teachers and classrooms persist, but now children -- boys and girls -- are studying and learning in ways that might actually help them, and their country, find a better future.

And 10 years ago, health care in Afghanistan was an unmitigated nightmare.  Again, women suffered disproportionately, forbidden from being alone in a room with a male physician.  Today, women and men both have greater access to a better level of care.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Nearly All Vets Proud of Their Service, but One in Three Believes Wars Were Not Worth It

Jupiterimages/Comstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new poll from the Pew Research Center out Wednesday finds that one in three U.S. veterans believes that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, weighing the costs and benefits.

Also from Pew Research, 96% of these veterans feel proud of their military service, yet more than four in ten of them report that they have had difficulties readjusting to civilian life at home. Similarly, 37% of these veterans say that they have suffered from post-traumatic stress, though not necessarily formally diagnosed.

More than 700 veterans who served after the September 11th attacks were surveyed as a part of this poll.

The full report includes additional statistics detailing the characterization of post-9/11 veterans, pre- 9/11 veterans, and the general public’s relation with the military.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio