- Title: AFGHANISTAN: U.S. troops help rebuild former Taliban stronghold
- Date: 21st April 2011
- Summary: THE ARGHANDAB VALLEY, NORTH OF KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN (RECENT - APRIL 2011) (REUTERS) UNITED STATES ARMY SOLDIERS ON PATROL NEAR COMBAT OUTPOST KOWALL VARIOUS OF U.S. ARMY SOLDIERS ENTERING A LOCAL POLICE POST NEAR COMBAT OUTPOST KOWALL U.S. ARMY SOLDIERS HOLDING A MEETING WITH A LOCAL VILLAGE REPRESENTATIVE AT A POLICE POST NEAR COMBAT OUTPOST KOWALL (SOUNDBITE) (English) COMMANDER OF THE 1-320 FIELD ARTILLERY REGIMENT, 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION, U.S. ARMY LT COLONEL DAVID FLYNN, SAYING: "Based on our intelligence, assessment of the situation, we told them (ANA commandos) they should go to Khosrow Sofla, because Khosrow Sofla we assessed to be the heart of the enemy's command and control and its base camp. I call it the Taliban 'center of excellence'. So we sent the commandos in with the U.S. Special Forces on July 25th to start the clearance of Arghandab essentially for our side of the river. " (MUTE) THE ARGHANDAB VALLEY, NORTH OF KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN (RECENT - APRIL 2011) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF BOMB CRATERS IN KHOSROW SOFLA WORKMEN CONSTRUCTING A NEW HOME IN KHOSROW SOFLA WORKMEN LAYING BRICKS FOR A NEW HOME IN KHOSROW SOFLA THE ARGHANDAB VALLEY, NORTH OF KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN (RECENT - APRIL 2011) (REUTERS) BRICKS BEING THROWN INTO A WHEELBARROW IN KHOSROW SOFLA WORKMEN CONSTRUCTING A NEW HOME IN TAROK KALACHE WORKMEN SHOVELLING CONCRETE IN TAROK KALACHE U.S. ARMY SOLDIERS WALKING PAST WORKERS PRAYING IN THE VILLAGE OF TAROK KALACHE EXTERIOR OF NEW MOSQUE IN VILLAGE OF LOWER BABUR ARGHANDAB DISTRICT GOVERNOR SHAH MOHAMMED SAYING A PRAYER AND CUTTING THE RIBBON TO OPEN NEW MOSQUE IN LOWER BABUR (SOUNDBITE) (Pashtun) ARGHANDAB DISTRICT GOVERNOR SHAH MOHAMMED SAYING: "This is a big day. This was a Taliban area and nowadays we have security in the area and in the whole district. The people are very happy and were able to build and open the mosque right here." ARGHANDAB DISTRICT GOVERNOR SHAH MOHAMMED TALKING WITH AFGHAN NATIONAL ARMY OFFICERS FOLLOWING THE OPENING OF THE NEW MOSQUE DOOR WITH CROSS PAINTED ON IT AT COMBAT OUTPOST NOLEN DOOR WITH SIGN EULOGISING SLAIN SOLDIER BRANDON M KING PLAQUE AT ENTRANCE TO COMBAT OUTPOST NOLEN
- Embargoed: 6th May 2011 11:55
- Location: Afghanistan, Afghanistan
- Country: Afghanistan
- Topics: Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVAE0CT2VNH6FZINEJIEYGSNU73S
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Last July, venturing outside Combat Outpost (COP) Nolen in the lush Arghandab Valley was a risky proposition for U.S. troops.
Insurgents had surrounded the small military base, located deep in a traditional Taliban stronghold north of Kandahar city, with minefield of home-made explosive devices.
Soldiers on patrol stayed off the roads and cut through vineyards and pomegranate orchards in an effort to avoid a lethal misstep.
During one four-day period of intense fighting, three men died and 20 were injured.
Today, a wide gravel road winds past COP Nolen, leading to four new military outposts established in the past six months.
On a recent battlefield tour, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel David Flynn, who is in charge of western Arghandab, escorted officers from a unit that will replace him and his men on a walk that would have been suicidal a year ago.
Flynn helped co-ordinate ANA commandos, a part of the Afghan army, and U.S. troops in their efforts to clear mines from swathes of land in the valley.
"Based on our intelligence, assessment of the situation, we told them (ANA commandos) they should go to Khosrow Sofla, because Khosrow Sofla we assessed to be the heart of the enemy's command and control and its base camp. I call it the Taliban 'center of excellence'. So we sent the commandos in with the U.S. Special Forces on July 25th to start the clearance of Arghandab essentially for our side of the river," said Flynn.
An aggressive push against insurgents last August, plus a series of controversial air strikes had reduced some Taliban-held villages to little more than rubble.
Flynn says the targeted villages had been abandoned by civilians and laced with homemade weapons that were fatal to his soldiers and would be a risk to anyone returning to the area and therefore must be cleared.
Flynn added the U.S. has committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebuilding and is confident his team has not been duped by local power brokers in allocation funds and land.
Cultural and linguistic barriers, and complex relationships that are overlooked or misunderstood by outsiders, have often channelled foreign money into questionable hands in the past.
A walk through what was once the village of lower Babur revealed a narrow strip of rubble surrounded by orchards and forest on both sides, testimony to the force of U.S. bombing.
Rebuilding has begun in Khosrow Sofla and Tarok Kalache, and a pile of bricks had been delivered the previous day for workers constructing the new homes, while at lower Babur a new mosque has been opened.
"This is a big day. This was a Taliban area and nowadays we have security in the area and in the whole district. The people are very happy and were able to build and open the mosque right here," said Arghandab district governor Shah Mohammed.
A short distance from the new mosque is Strongpoint Stansbery, one of the small military posts that Flynn says are vital to maintaining security in the Arghandab valley.
Afghan police checkpoints now dot roads between small villages, overlooking budding grape vines and fruit trees, although in some orchards and vineyards only stumps are left.
Despite the current air of stability and increased security, no one is sure what will happen when spring is fully under way and insurgents return from waiting out the winter to start the traditional "fighting season."
Flynn says the insurgents have been slow to return, but cautious optimism remains.
Plaques on walls and eulogies on wooden doors act as a reminder of the soldiers who have died in the line of duty fighting the insurgents.
"The hardest part is when you got here and you hear that first explosion and you know your group is out, or one of the teams are out and when the name comes back, and you spent the last year working with this soldier and finally he got hit. You see your buddy laying there and you can't do shit for him. Helicopter can't land because you have RPGs going off, and if the helicopter lands it's going to be blown up because everywhere's a mine field," said U.S. Army staff sergeant George Robinson.
Over 1,500 U.S. soldiers have died in the 10-year-old war in Afghanistan, a cause which has become increasingly unpopular in the United States as well as Europe.
The Obama administration has promised to begin a troop drawdown this summer, but officials have remained vague on the size of the initial withdrawal from current levels of about 100,000 and how quickly troops would be sent home.
Critics say that calm in Afghanistan does not equal victory, because with all foreign combat troops due to pull out of Afghanistan by 2014, the insurgents only need to play a waiting game.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None