Shrapnel From Afghanistan VI


The first significant American encounter with a revitalized Taliban came in eastern Afghanistan on June 28, 2005, when four Navy SEALs were ambushed in a well-organized attack, and a helicopter with SEAL and Army Special Forces reinforcements sent to assist them was shot down…


The Taliban were joined in their depredations by other extremist groups, most notably those led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (to whom we had provided weapons when he was fighting the Soviets) and Jalaluddin Haqqani…


Two thousand six had been the bloodiest year since 2001…


I made my first visit to Afghanistan in mid-January 2007, less than a month after being sworn in…



from the memoirs entitled



U.S. Secretary of Defense

Robert Gates

Copyright 2014


My intent upon becoming secretary had been to give our commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan everything they needed to be successful: I realized on this initial visit to Afghanistan I couldn’t deliver in both places at once…


That Afternoon we helicoptered east across the snow-covered mountains to Forward Operation Base Tillman, at an elevation of some 6,000 feet in eastern Afghanistan, only a few miles from the Pakistan border and near a major Taliban infiltration route…


I was met by Captain Scott Horrigan, the commander at FOB Tillman, who gave me a tour.  His troops were partnered with about 100 Afghan soldiers in this fortified outpost in the mountains…


Captain Horrigan was overseeing road building, negotiating with local tribal councils, training Afghan soldiers ~ and fighting the Taliban.  His base was attacked by rocket and mortar fire at least once a week.  The range of his responsibilities and the matter-of-fact way he described them and conducted himself took my breath away…


We had to transition from European-favored comprehensive nation-building toward a more focused counterinsurgency, no matter how much it upset the Europeans.  If we had learned one lesson from the surge in Iraq, it was that we had to give the people a sense of security before anything else could work…


Given Afghanistan’s history, if the people came to see us as invaders or occupiers, or even as disrespectful, I believed the war would be lost…


And so, with some 33,000 U.S. troops in-country, several thousand more en route, almost 31,000 coalition troops there, and the commander’s pending request for another 20,000 troops or so, a troubled war in Afghanistan would be handed off to a new president…


To be continued…


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