American Spartan

THE PROMISE, THE MISSION, AND THE BETRAYAL

OF SPECIAL FORCES MAJOR JIM GANT

by Ann Scott Tyson

copyright 2014

( excerpts as book review )

~

Jim fell hard for the desert civilization code and its ethos of Pashtunwali in 2003, while living with the Mohmand tribe and fighting the Taliban alongside them in Konar Province.  He related to their warrior creed as parallel to the life he’d embraced himself as a Green Beret and one he preached to lead his small band of men into battle.  It resonated with the ancient laws abided by the obedient three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae in 480 BCE.  Honor, strength, and loyalty were not empty platitudes to Afghanistan’s tribes; they were as important to tribal members as were water and wheat.  As important as they were to Jim.  As important as Jim assumed they were to the U.S. military establishment.

In 2010, as Jim prepared to return to Afghanistan, he increasingly realized that the only way to stabilize the country was to empower the desert civilizations, the Pashtuns still living in the rugged lands bordering and inside Pakistan.  It was the pursuit of this honor, through physical courage and battling a common enemy, that Jim believed would allow him to become close to the Pashtuns.  To ally with these proud fighters, to befriend them and help them recover their economies while also giving them the power to defend themselves, would not only take the fight to the Taiban but also draw disgruntled Taliban foot soldiers back to their villages…

~

Jim viewed the Taliban’s top leaders ~ Islamic extremists such as the one-eyed Mullah Omar ~ as championing a dogmatic, tyrannical movement that by its very nature threatened to dismantle the millennia-old rule by tribal elders.  If the U.S. military were to convincingly help village elders take back their clans, defend their honor and traditions, and return their tribes to the authority of these egalitarian peer councils, the Taliban would be hollowed out and ultimately destroyed.  The men who left the villages to join the Taliban in the turmoil of the civil wars would come back and take their rightful places inside their tribes.  With no foot soldiers, the Taliban would lose power.  The best way to empower the rough-hewn tribes, Jim believed, was with small teams of Special Forces such as his ODA 316, living among them one warrior to another.  Once one tribe was secure, the team would leave and knock on the qalat of the tribe next door and start all over.  It required little manpower or money, but could help Afghanistan begin to change from a war-torn terrorist haven to a more stable U.S. ally…

~

“Why are you Americans here in Afghanistan?” he asked.

“Our country was attacked.  We came here to fight the Taliban and others responsible for this,” Jim replied.  Then he pulled out a laptop and showed Noor Afzhal video footage of the Twin Towers crumbling to the ground on September 11.  “My men and I are warriors.  But we are not here to fight you,” Jim said.  “We want to help you.”

Noor Afzhal was visibly moved.  He was silent for a moment, and took a sip of tea.  Then he spoke again to the young American.  “If you can come all the way to Afghanistan from the United States to help us, then why should I not help you?” Noor Afzhal said.  “We don’t want the Taliban here.”  …

~

“If they were doing this all over Afghanistan, the war would be over,” said Drew, the machine gunner.  “This works.  It’s something you have to see to believe.  It’s a different kind of warfare.  Sometimes you use bombs and bullets, and sometimes you need another method ~ relationships.”  …

~

Petraeus had championed the initiative at the top levels of the U.S. and Afghan governments for the past year and a half.  The program had taken off rapidly since Petraeus and his subordinate commanders, Brig. Gen. Miller and Col. Bolduc, launched it in the summer of 2010.  With the U.S. military initially choosing the locations, distributing the weapons, and controlling the pay, U.S. Special Forces teams quickly recruited, armed, and trained thousands of local police around the country by early 2011…

~

Hard-core insurgent commander Maulawi Basir… was associated with the strict and violent Salafist strain of Islam…

~

The tribe’s influence on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border held major appeal for Jim.  One of the primary goals of his one-tribe-at-a-time strategy was to leverage the tribes to help uproot the insurgent safe havens in Pakistan that were vital to sustaining the Taliban’s war in Afghanistan.  The Mohmand, Safi, and Mushwani tribes all had large populations on either side of the border…

~

But his main message, driven home by his deepening ties with the Safi and Mushwani leaders, was that the tribes held the only key to victory.  He knew it, and the Taliban knew it…

~

Often families contained some adult males who were serving in the Taliban and others who worked for the government…

~

Afghans living in the high rugged valleys were isolated from the settled towns below.  With no forces to protect them, they had little choice but to provide Taliban fighters with food, water, shelter, and refuge if they needed it, or face beatings or other retribution, and Jalil’s family was no different…

~

“When I am up in the Shalay, they say I am working for the government.  When I am down here, they say I am Taliban!” Jalil fumed.  “I just want my family to live safely with no one bothering us.” …

~

Buried in the fine print was an abrupt change of mission for Jim’s team:  Tribe 33 was to close down its base in Mangwel no later than January 15, 2012…

~

It described the move as part of the overarching U.S. military transition to the Afghan government and security forces in preparation for the withdrawal of most American forces by 2014…

~

We agreed that as a strategy, pulling out of the Mohmand tribal area and leaving behind the Afghans who had most steadfastly supported the arbakai program from the very first ~ when the risk was greatest ~ made no sense.  It reflected a catastrophic misunderstanding of the importance of the hard-won relationship with the tribe and the advantages of maintaining that tie.  The Mohmands and Manqwel had set the example that other areas and tribes wanted to follow.  The arbakai in Mangwel and the rest of the district were the most powerful security force in the area.  Jim’s bond with the tribe was what created the potential for expanding the arbakai into other areas and winning over former Taliban.  Reaping those benefits required a long-term commitment.   He knew he could not remain in Mangwel forever, but his team had been in the village just ten months.

Jim and I worked together on a memo that urged Wilson to postpone shutting down the Mangwel base, arguing that it could undermine security in the area and pointing out that the district government was ineffective and corrupt…

~

The Safis had dominated the oft-contested Konar Province for centuries.  An uncompromising and war-driven tribe, they were at the center of the last major tribal uprising against the central government in 1947, the first to fight the Soviets in the Konar in the 1980s and the first to stand up to the Taliban there in the 1990s.  It had taken years, dating back to 2003, for Jim to build his relationship with the Safi elder, Haji Jan Dahd…

~

The U.S. command could not have devised a better way to sabotage the Chowkay mission and alliance with the Safi tribe than by pulling Jim out in this way…

~

“They can think whatever they want,” Dan said of his commanders.  “But you know, and I know, and the people we worked with know, we have been honest with our country and tried our level best to win this war that has gone on for eleven years…”

~

Linn advised Jim again of the allegations against him: alcohol and drug use, misappropriation of fuel, misuse of government funds, and an inapropriate relationship with me…

~

In April, Jim obtained a copy of Lt. Col. Kirila’s complete Article 15-6 investigation into the alleged misconduct by him, Dan, and the rest of his team…

~

The investigation contained facts but also many false or inaccurate statements.  It recognized the achievements of Jim and his team, but also created a sensationalized, tabloid picture of Jim’s misdeeds…

~

As charges mounted against Jim, Dan and others who had served under him were being drawn into a widening witch hunt by the command in Afghanistan…

~

1st Lt. Thomas Roberts… meanwhile, was hailed by the chain of command as a whistle-blower and paragon of moral courage…

~

We learned that the qalat in Chowkay had been abandoned by Capt. Fleming and his team about a month after Jim and Dan were pulled out.  After the team alienated the arbakai, who in turn stopped manning the observation points in the high ground, Taliban attacks intensified again on the qalat.  The team lost critical intelligence on the Taliban that Jim had gained through his relationships with arbakai commander Sadiq and others.  Fleming decided occupying the qalat was untenable, and blamed it on Jim by claiming it was in a poor location…

~

One of the documents, found in bin Laden’s quarters, was an English copy of Jim’s paper, “One Tribe at a Time,” with notes in the margins…

~

Another document uncovered was a directive from Osama bin Laden to his intelligence chief.  The directive mentioned Jim by name, and said he was an impediment to Al Qaeda’s operational objectives for eastern Afghanistan and needed to be removed from the battlefield…

~

editor

Rawclyde

!

Love Story

~~~

Inside Edition

July 1, 2014

~~~

Major Jim Gant was a genuine American hero, a decorated Green Beret. He first met Ann Scott Tyson in Washington, where she was a reporter for one of the nation’s most respected newspapers ~ The Washington Post.

Gant told Inside Edition, “I asked her out to dinner six times before she said ‘Yes.’”

It took just a week for her to know, saying, “When you fall in love with someone, it’s not really a choice you make.”

His timing couldn’t have been worse. Gant was soon deployed to Afghanistan. He grew a beard and adopted traditional Afghan clothing and lived like an Afghan, fighting the Taliban. He was even dubbed, “Lawrence of Afghanistan,” much like that legendary hero of World War I, Lawrence of Arabia.

Gant said, “I studied him and have much admiration and respect for what he did. When people talk about me with the T.E. Lawrence, I’m very honored and humbled.”

For an entire year the major lived in a remote village, commanding a Special Forces unit known as the Spartans, and by his side was the woman he wooed back in Washington—Ann Scott Tyson.

Inside Edition’s April Woodard asked, “Did you break some rules to get Ann there?”

He replied, “I broke a whole lot of rules. There were a lot of rules broke. Vast majority of them was to move the mission forward.”

Remarkable as it seems, she was determined to follow her heart and be with the man she loved. She even lived like an Afghan woman.

She said, “I wore Afghan clothing. I kept my head covered. I wore very baggy clothes.”

Danger was everywhere. Tyson displayed combat courage of her own by going along on missions and filming fierce firefights up close.

She said, “We were in one of the most dangerous provinces of Afghanistan. There are images in my mind that will never go away.”

She even bears a tattoo of the Spartan unit. “I am the only woman who has one,” she said.

~~~

~~~

But their strange world of love and war came crashing down when Major Gant’s commanders discovered their romance.

Gant said, “Everything I was as a person, a commander, a Special Forces soldier—it was over in the blink of an eye.”

Instead of Lawrence of Arabia, some started comparing him to the delusional Colonel Kurtz from the Vietnam-era film Apocalypse Now.

He said, “Kurtz references have always been amusing to me.”

Gant was demoted to Captain. He was stripped of his Special Forces honors, and asked to leave the Army.

She said, “They had been doing things, questioning all sorts of decisions. It wouldn’t have taken a whole lot of an excuse to pull him out. That is essentially what happened.”

In the midst of war, this couple found love. Now, in peace, they are finally married.

“Neither of us were looking for a relationship. Neither of us were expecting to fall in love,” she said.

~~~

Ann Tyson & Jim Gant in television interview

~~~

The Washington Post
Jim Gant, the Green Beret
who could win the war in Afghanistan

by Ann Scott Tyson / January 17, 2010

~~~

It was the spring of 2003, and Capt. Jim Gant and his Special Forces team had just fought their way out of an insurgent ambush in Afghanistan’s Konar province when they heard there was trouble in the nearby village of Mangwel. There, Gant had a conversation with a tribal chief — a chance encounter that would redefine his mission in Afghanistan and that, more than six years later, could help salvage the faltering U.S. war effort.

Malik Noorafzhal, an 80-year-old tribal leader, told Gant that he had never spoken to an American before and asked why U.S. troops were in his country. Gant, whose only orders upon arriving in Afghanistan days earlier had been to “kill and capture anti-coalition members,” responded by pulling out his laptop and showing Noorafzhal a video of the World Trade Center towers crumbling.

That sparked hours of conversation between the intense 35-year-old Green Beret and the elder in a tribe of 10,000. “I spent a lot of time just listening,” Gant said. “I spoke only when I thought I understood what had been said.”

In an unusual and unauthorized pact, Gant and his men were soon fighting alongside tribesmen in local disputes and against insurgents, at the same time learning ancient tribal codes of honor, loyalty and revenge — codes that often conflicted with the sharia law that the insurgents sought to impose. But the U.S. military had no plans to leverage the Pashtun tribal networks against the insurgents, so Gant kept his alliances quiet.

No longer. In recent months, Gant, now a major, has won praise at the highest levels for his effort to radically deepen the U.S. military’s involvement with Afghan tribes — and is being sent back to Afghanistan to do just that. His 45-page paper, “One Tribe at a Time,” published online last fall and circulating widely within the U.S. military, the Pentagon and Congress, lays out a strategy focused on empowering Afghanistan’s ancient tribal system. Gant believes that with the central government still weak and corrupt, the tribes are the only enduring source of local authority and security in the country.

“We will be totally unable to protect the ‘civilians’ in the rural areas of Afghanistan until we partner with the tribes for the long haul,” Gant wrote.

A decorated war veteran and Pashto speaker with multiple tours in Afghanistan, Gant had been assigned by the Army to deploy to Iraq in November. But with senior military and civilian leaders — including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan; and Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command — expressing support for Gant’s views, he was ordered instead to return to Afghanistan later this year to work on tribal issues.

“Maj. Jim Gant’s paper is very impressive — so impressive, in fact, that I shared it widely,” Petraeus said, while McChrystal distributed it to all commanders in Afghanistan. One senior military official went so far as to call Gant “Lawrence of Afghanistan.”

The abrupt about-face surprised the blunt-spoken major. “I couldn’t believe it,” Gant said in a recent interview, recalling how his orders were canceled just days before he was set to deploy to Iraq. “How do I know they are serious? They contacted me. I am not a very nice guy. I lead men in combat. I am not a Harvard guy. You don’t want me on your think tank.”

Gant, who sports tattoos on his right arm featuring Achilles and the Chinese characters for “fear no man,” is clearly comfortable with the raw violence that is part of his job. An aggressive officer, he is known to carry triple the ammunition required for his missions. (One fellow soldier referred to this habit as a “Gantism.”) But he is equally at ease playing for hours with Afghan children or walking hand-in-hand with tribesmen, as is their custom.

As a teenager in Las Cruces, N.M., Gant was headed to college on a basketball scholarship and had no plans to join the military until he read Robin Moore’s 1965 fictionalized account of Special Forces actions in Vietnam. Captivated by the unique type of soldier who waged war with indigenous fighters, Gant decided to become a Green Beret and scheduled an appointment with his father, a middle school principal, to break the news.

Enlisting in the Army soon after his high school graduation, Gant became a Special Forces communications sergeant and fought in the Persian Gulf War. Later, as a captain, he served combat tours in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, and one in Iraq during the height of the violence there in 2006 and 2007.

Intellectually, Gant is driven by a belief that Special Forces soldiers should immerse themselves in the culture of foreign fighters, as British officer T.E. Lawrence did during the 1916-1918 Arab revolt. In Iraq as well as in Afghanistan, Gant relied on his Special Forces training to build close bonds with local fighters, often trusting them with his life.

In Iraq in December 2006, a roadside bomb flipped over Gant’s Humvee twice and left it engulfed in flames, with him pinned inside. Members of the Iraqi National Police battalion that Gant was advising pulled him out. Soon afterward, Gant led those same police in fighting their way out of a complex insurgent ambush near the city of Balad, saving the lives of two policemen and an Iraqi girl while under heavy fire, and deliberately driving his Humvee over two roadside bombs to protect the police riding in unarmored trucks behind him.

Gant earned a Silver Star for his bravery, but he remembers most the goat sacrifice the police held for him that day. “We had just won a great battle. We had several [police] commandos there, with several goats, and they were putting their hands in the blood, and putting their handprints all over us and on the vehicles,” Gant recalled in a 2007 interview. He felt both strange and honored. “It’s something I will never forget,” he said.

Under Gant’s plan, small “tribal engagement teams,” each made up of six culturally astute and battle-tested Special Forces soldiers, would essentially go native, moving into villages with rifles, ammunition and money to empower tribal leaders to improve security in their area and fight insurgents. The teams would always operate with the tribes, reducing the risk of roadside bombs and civilian casualties from airstrikes.

The U.S. military would have to grant the teams the leeway to grow beards and wear local garb, and enough autonomy in the chain of command to make rapid decisions. Most important, to build relationships, the military would have to commit one or two teams to working with the same tribe for three to five years, Gant said.

Such a strategy, he argues, would bolster McChrystal’s counterinsurgency campaign by tapping thousands of tribal fighters to secure rural populations, allowing international troops and official Afghan forces to focus on large towns and cities. Building strong partnerships with the tribes, whose domains straddle Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, could also prove critical to defeating insurgents entrenched in Pakistan’s western tribal areas, he contends.

Adm. Eric Olson, who leads the 57,000-strong Special Operations Command, said in the latest issue of Joint Force Quarterly that Gant’s proposal is “innovative and bold” and likely to have “strategic effects.” And in recent congressional testimony, Gates agreed that the U.S. military should step up cooperation with Afghan tribes, saying many security responsibilities are likely to fall on them rather than the Afghan army or police force.

Thorough intelligence analysis should drive the selection of the tribes, Gant said, noting that the U.S. military has already gathered much of the intelligence. “There are 500-page documents breaking these tribes down. You would be shocked how much we know about who is who,” he said.

Gant’s proposals go well beyond the more cautious tribal-outreach efforts underway in Afghanistan, where the U.S. military is experimenting with neighborhood-watch-type programs such as the Community Defense Initiative, in which Special Forces teams partner with tribes selected by an Afghan minister. With time running out, Gant believes tribal engagement must be bolder. “We are trying not to lose, not trying to win,” he said. (Gant’s experiences helped shape the CDI effort, and he is currently preparing to return to Afghanistan to implement his vision, according to a senior military official.)

Still, Gant acknowledges that his strategy has risks. The teams would depend on the tribes for their safety. “American soldiers would die. Some of them alone, with no support. Some may simply disappear,” he wrote in his paper on the strategy. Another possibility is that intertribal conflict would break out between two or more U.S.-backed tribes. “Could it happen? Yes. Could it cause mission failure? Yes. Could we have to pick sides for our own safety? Yes,” Gant said. But he believes that if American advisers forge strong ties with the tribes, the chances of such conflicts can be minimized.

Gant’s greatest fear is that the United States will lack the fortitude to back the tribes for the long haul, eventually abandoning them. He, for one, plans to stick with his tribe in Afghanistan, at least to fulfill a personal promise to return to Konar province to see elder Malik Noorafzhal, now 86.

“I am not here to imply that I think I could win the war in Afghanistan if put in charge,” Gant wrote in his paper. “. . . I just know what I have done and what I could do again, if given the chance.”  

~~~

Maj. Gant & Afghanistan children

~~~

One Tribe At A Time

by Maj. Jim Gant

http://www.stevenpressfield.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/one_tribe_at_a_time_ed2.pdf

~~~

Shrapnel From Afghanistan VIII

~~~

In mid-January 2010, I made my second and last trip to Pakistan…

~~~

I returned convinced that Pakistan would work with the United States in some ways ~ such as providing supply lines through Pakistan, which were also highly profitable ~ while at the same time providing sanctuary for the Taliban and other extremists, so that no matter who came out on top in Afghanistan, Pakistan would have influence.  If there was to be any reconciliation, the Pakistanis intended to control it.  Although I would defend them in front of Congress and to the press to keep the relationship from getting worse ~ and endangering our supply line from Karachi ~ I knew they were really no ally at all…

~~~

In Afghanistan, McChrystal continued executing his plan to devastate the Taliban on their home turf in southern Afghanistan, first in Helmand and then in Kandahar province.  After focusing his efforts in the south, he would swing the main effort to the eastern part of the country along the Pakistani border…

~~~

Then disaster struck…

~~~

I went in to see the president a little after three p.m. on the twenty-second.  The first words out of his mouth were “I’m leaning toward relieving McChrystal…”

~~~

excerpts

from the memoirs entitled

“Duty”

by

U.S. Secretary of Defense

Robert Gates

Copyright 2014

~~~

Obama then asked, “What if Petraeus took command?”  I told Obama that if Dave would do it, it would address my worst fears ~ Petraeus knew the campaign plan, knew Karzai, knew the U.S. military leaders in Afghanistan, knew the Europeans, and knew the Pakistanis…

~~~

I am convinced the Rolling Stone article gave the president, egged on by those around him in the White House, and himself distrustful of the senior military, an opportunity he welcomed to demonstrate vividly ~ to the public and to the Pentagon ~ that he was commander in chief and fully in control of the military.  Absent any effort by McChrystal to explain or to offer mitigating circumstances, I believe the president had no choice but to relieve him.  The article simply was the last of several public missteps by the general in the political minefield, a risky battlespace where he had little combat experience…

~~~

Karzai, who attended the Afghan part of the meeting (NATO summit in Lisbon on November 20-21), had proposed at his inaugural a year earlier that foreign forces end their combat role by the end of 2014, transitioning security responsibility for the entire country to the Afghans ~ not coincidentally, at the end of Karzai’s last year in office.  Obama embraced that date two weeks later in his December 2009 announcement…

~~~

Major General J. F. Campbell, commander of the 101st Airborne and Karzai’s and my host the previous May at Fort Campbell, provided a realistic picture of the tough fight in the east.  There were some areas, like the Pesh River Valley, he said, where a long-term U.S. troop presence was actually destabilizing.  The locals hated both us and the Taliban, and we were better off leaving them alone…

~~~

As much as President Bush detested the notion, our later challenges in Afghanistan, especially the return of the Taliban in force by the time I became defense secretary, were, I believe, significantly compounded by the invasion of Iraq.  Resources and senior-level attention were diverted from Afghanistan.  U.S. goals in Afghanistan ~ a properly sized, competent Afghan national army and police, a working democracy with at least a minimally effective central government ~ were embarrassingly ambitious (and historically naive) when compared to the meager human and financial resources committed to the task, especially before 2009…

~~~

The December 2009 decisions and related troop surge provided sufficient military forces to break the stalemate by rooting the Taliban out of their strongholds and keeping them out while training a much larger and more capable Afghan army…

~~~

For us, the chance of success will be significantly enhanced with a modest continuing NATO military presence after 2014 for training, logistics, intelligence, air support, and counterterrorism ~ along with financial support for the Afghan security forces.  If we signal early that we will support such a role, it will inform friends, foes, and those on the fence that we will not repeat our strategic mistake in the early 1990s of abandoning Afghanistan.  We know all too well the consequences of that mistake…

~~~

I am eligible to be buried at Arlington National Cemetary.  I have asked to be buried in Section 60, where so many of the fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan have been laid to rest.  The greatest honor possible would be to rest among my heroes for all eternity.

~~~

end

Shrapnel From Afghanistan VII

helm-fotr-high-elven-uc-jan2005-b&w

~~~

In a June 24 video-conference, McChrystal told me for the first time that he had found the situation in Afghanistan much worse than he expected.  In the south, he said, insurgents controlled five of thirteen districts in Helmand province.  Kandahar was under pressure, and much of the region was “not under our control.”  The Afghan forces in the south were at only about 70 percent of authorized strength, and there was a big retention problem.  In the east, the Haqqani network was expanding its operational reach, “but our guys have a pretty good handle on the situation there.”  Overall, he said, governance was very bad and creating a lot of problems: “There is no legitimacy.”  When I asked him if he had enough ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance), his answer provoked the only smiles in the session:  “Sir, I am genetically predisposed to never say I have enough.”…

~~~

excerpts

from the memoirs entitled

“Duty”

by

U.S. Secretary of Defense

Robert Gates

Copyright 2014

~~~

The priority, I said (in a memo to President Obama), should be to expand the Afghan security forces as quickly as possible.  Additional U.S. and allied forces should be considered a temporary “bridge” to train those Afghans while keeping the situation on the ground from deteriorating further, at least until the Afghans could protect their own territory and keep the Taliban and al Qaeda out…

~~~

We could not realistically expect to eliminate the Taliban; they were now a part of the political fabric of Afghanistan.  But we could realistically work to reverse their military momentum, deny them the ability to hold or control major population centers, and pressure them along the Pakistani border…

~~~

All this would give us a mission that the public and the politicians could easily understand: “Deny the Taliban momentum and control, facilitate reintegration, build government capacity selectively, grow the Afghan security forces, transfer security responsibilities, and defeat al Qaeda.”…

~~~

The original military plan had the deployments spaced out over more than a year.  The president correctly pointed out that that could hardly be characterized as a “surge” to recapture momentum.  He asked Petraeus how fast the surge had arrived in Iraq.  About six months, Petraeus said.  Obama decided the arrival of the troops in Afghanistan had to be significantly accelerated.  The military leadership ultimately agreed to get most of the troops there by the end of August 2010 ~ a logistical nightmare, but they managed it…

~~~

to be continued…

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…

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

~~~

excerpts

from the memoirs entitled

“Duty”

by

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…