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Entries in John Campbell (2)

Monday
May302011

Memorial Day: Maj. Gen. John Campbell on Final Battlefield Tour of Afghanistan

U.S. Department of Defense(KUNAR, Afghanistan) -- This is Maj. Gen. John Campbell's last circle of the Afghan battlefields.

For one year, Campbell has commanded the deadly and dangerous 450 miles of Afghanistan that borders Pakistan, which means he has responsibility for 30,000 soldiers working at more than 150 combat outposts, many of them routinely attacked.

On one particular day, ABC News arrived at a small outpost in the Pech Valley, landing in a vast, dizzying pattern to confuse the enemy. The Americans and Afghans who live nearby had been under fire -- enduring eight or 10 mortar rounds -- just before ABC News arrived.

The soldiers, including West Point graduate Brian Kalaher, seemed almost numb to the attacks. Kalaher is in his third deployment.

"We brought in three children at our aid station here," Kalaher told ABC News. "One child, who was probably about 12 years old...died."

Even the death of Osama bin Laden was a day of mixed emotions.

"We had a soldier killed then too," Kalaher said, "so we were on blackout. So for us, it was a little different."

At every outpost ABC News visited, it seemed as if someone had died or been wounded. They've pulled through, with Campbell helping them along. Throughout the year, ABC News asked Campbell the same question during each visit: How many soldiers has he lost? In July, after only five weeks on the ground, Campbell lost 28 soldiers. He carried cards for each. In September, the number jumped to 76. In December, the number of deaths had nearly doubled to 141. Now as Campbell leaves Afghanistan, the stack of 217 cards has grown so large that he has to lug them around in his rucksack.

"It touches me deeply," Campbell said. "I've made decisions that have put people in harm's way. That's why I have to carry those things that tell me about those soldiers, about their family. I will carry that with me the rest of my life."

Campbell said he cried every time he lost a soldier. "I'm tearing up now talking about it," he said. "Thinking about that family who had a soldier who was killed, and his wife was pregnant. And that son, daughter will never see their father. Those kinds of things get to me."

To counter that pain and those numbers, Campbell thinks about the 4,000 Taliban fighters he said his soldiers have killed or captured in the past year. He adds to that the doubling of the number of weapons caches being found, and the significant improvement in the Afghan security forces.

Campbell said he wants the U.S. to continue fighting in Afghanistan after he leaves the battleground -- despite public sentiment -- because he doesn't want the effort already made here to be in vain.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May112011

US General Contends Bin Laden's Death Was a Blow to Taliban

Majid Saeedi/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- A top U.S. commander in Afghanistan believes the Taliban has more incentive now to give up their fight since the death of Osama bin Laden.

Major Gen. John Campbell, who directs NATO operations in eastern Afghanistan, said, "There's a great potential for many of the insurgents to say, 'Hey, I want to reintegrate'" back into Afghan society.

Campbell said it's not just the al Qaeda's leader death that might be discouraging to Taliban fighters, but also videos released afterward that don't show bin Laden as the dynamic force he presented himself to be.

Saying that bin Laden looked "alone and desperate" while wrapped in a blanket watching himself on TV, Campbell surmised, "I do think the death of bin Laden will cause some of them to think twice again.  And they're going to say, 'Hey, why am I doing this?'"

As it happens, Campbell is handing his job off to another U.S. general next week.  He doesn't think the U.S. and its allies should alter their strategy of going after the Taliban in the wake of bin Laden's death, believing instead that they should step up efforts to take the fight to a disillusioned enemy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio