Posts Tagged ‘Nato strategy’
The Sunday Times, Combat Outpost Monti, Kunar Province
Specialist Alexander Miller had been watching a mysterious Afghan standing in a cornfield for 20 minutes. But it took only a split second for the American soldier to be mortally wounded.
As Miller turned his back momentarily, the Afghan picked up a weapon hidden at his feet and fired a burst. One of the rounds tore into the 21- year-old soldier’s groin. Troops rushed to apply pressure to the wound as they called in a helicopter, but he was dead on arrival at the nearest field hospital.
Miller, a keen roller-hockey player with a goofy smile, left behind a girlfriend in Clermont, Florida. He was one of three American soldiers killed in the battle for Barji Matal, a village in the eastern province of Nuristan that nestles in a fertile valley surrounded by the barren peaks of the Hindu Kush.
Nuristan’s rugged landscape, dotted with stone huts encircled by farmland, formed the backdrop to Rudyard Kipling’s short story The Man Who Would Be King, written when the province was still called Kafiristan or “Land of the Infidels” for its struggle to resist the spread of Islam. American commanders say little has changed since the story was written: the province’s clans still retain a fierce independence.
US troops clash daily with Taliban militants over control of this isolated region on the Pakistan border. But as President Barack Obama reconsiders his overall strategy in Afghanistan, military officials on the ground are questioning the purpose of sending soldiers into sparsely populated areas such as Barji Matal when the army lacks the resources to hold on to them. They argue that such battles reduce the military’s capacity to conduct counterinsurgency operations along the porous border with Pakistan.
It was in mid-July that President Hamid Karzai asked for 100 American soldiers to go to the village after Taliban militants overran it.
The soldiers believed they could secure Barji Matal within a week, allowing 500 farmers to return to their work in the flour mill and cornfields. But the date for their withdrawal came and went with soldiers bogged down in close-quarter combat. One was killed instantly when a Taliban fighter popped up 10 yards ahead of his position and loosed off a burst of machinegun fire.
“We made the decision to stay to ensure that we didn’t spend all that money, blood, sweat and tears for nothing,” said Captain Albert Bryant, commanding officer of C Company in the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division. Read the rest of this entry »