October 14th, 2010
12:44 PM ET

For these soldiers, winning over Afghans is a slow slog

COMBAT OUTPOST DURANI, AFGHANISTAN (CNN) — The armed Black Hawk helicopter lands along an open road in a remote valley. A small group of U.S. soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade kneel in the underbrush, weapons ready. They secure the landing zone for the less than one minute the chopper will be on the ground as we jump out quickly.

From the landing strip, it's a short climb up the hill to Combat Outpost Durani where just a couple of dozen soldiers are manning the post.

The first thing the soldiers tell us is everything is pretty calm in this region. But when I ask when is the last time the base got hit, they acknowledge there was enemy fire just the night before.

But this outpost is all about everything but combat. The small number of troops on this remote hillside are really on the front line of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

The main job of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in this valley is to work with the local Afghans to try to help connect the Afghan villagers with their government. It's an uphill battle, the soldiers say. The Afghan people are very suspicious of their government and not willing to accept the help from the U.S. troops most of the time.

"At least here in our villages we are responsible for, a big theme seems to be they just want to be left alone," said Sgt. William Michael Burns of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

"These people are really, I don't know ... They're disenfranchised from the Afghan government," observed Specialist Garrett Clary.

That's a problem because the underlying strategy for Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is to build better governance because with a more stable government, the Taliban no longer have as much influence.

Just a couple of days after we left Durani, the commander for all troops in eastern Afghanistan told reporters at the Pentagon that they've started to gain an upper hand on the Taliban.

"We have stopped that momentum and we've turned the tide a little bit," Maj. Gen. John Campbell said on Wednesday. "And this is fighting through a very, very tough summer. As you know, June and July had the highest number of causalities for coalition soldiers ever in Afghanistan. August, that went down. I think in September, that went down as well."

The men at Durani and throughout eastern Afghanistan still face plenty of insurgent activity. Attacks using rocket-propelled grenades, small arms and mortars are on the rise, they say. Commanders say there are a rising number of foreign fighters here.

All of that is presenting a challenge for the U.S. troops even as top commanders are beginning to identify the areas they will recommend to turn over to Afghan control.

But the bottom line right now in this part of eastern Afghanistan: nobody with boots on the ground (as the military refers to those on the frontline) is really talking about a military victory. They are talking about setting the conditions for the Afghans to take over so U.S. troops can go home.

soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. Dindy.....

    God never give anything if it is bad for our spiritual welfare. But Devil does it. So GOD IS NOT TO BE BLAMED.

    October 18, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      GOD said that He would give us the 10 Commandments to live by!!! It is up to you what You do with them!!!

      October 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. LarryKegel(US Army)

    I just wonder how many do it to save Their Families???

    October 18, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LarryKegel(US Army)

    It just shows how much they faked You out... Because Bin Laden is in Texas with His Family thanks to Bush Jr!!!

    October 18, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. The Christian Perspective

    I am completly aginst the fact of killing. But not if it is to defend our contry and other nations. Somthing I would like is for the muslum riligion to teach there belivers that suwicide bomming is bad! Not saing that thats what they teach.

    PS, exuse my spelling Im still in school

    October 18, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dindy.....

      Reply.. to the Christian.....
      Your comment is good. But what is happening now is.. Muslim religion or Muslims did not teach them the suicide bombing is bad and Muslims too kept quiet when all the terrible things were going on. So now US AND NATO are teaching them it is bad. Please pray that they will say no to Devil soon because Devil is the one who tell to use drugs and suicide .

      October 18, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. The Prophet Mohammed

    Make sure you wash your hands this time.

    October 18, 2010 at 6:21 am | Report abuse |
  6. The Prophet Mohammed

    @ Dindy- Gods court process is too slow.

    October 18, 2010 at 6:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Dindy.....

      Prophet M..Reply to
      God"s court process......... you are correct . Process is slow because God is slow to get anger 🙂 But his decisions are always correct. Also God reminded me that he is a spirit. God says ..we should not ask things in flesh (our desires) but ask anything in his will. So I am going to ask" Lord change this terrible situation and give a solution which can be accepted by every body . Because at the end we all want to live in peace .Let"s see what he will do then. No matter where we fight ...this is all his creation . Sadly few forgot it and made others to declare a war from attacking on 9/11 according to Devil"s wish 🙁

      October 18, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Major Variola (ret)

    You're going to leave, they live there, they know that. They know you'll lose, like the Soviets all the way back in

    But at least the dead from the long wars get memorialized, without waiting to lose, like Nam: the northwoodmemorial.com
    memorial is in Irvine, Ca, will be finished this month, and has space for 8K names of the Iraq/Afpak dead. Its more than half full, but it will be updated yearly. No need to wait in the new world order.

    October 17, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      At Least they are waiting like they Did years later with the Vietnam Military that was lose there!!!

      October 18, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      I already have Mine suite paid for all they have to do is Put Me into the Wall and They are through... I also have it set up so the American Legion will be There to put Me away!!!

      October 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. LordHasSpoke

    The comment that "these people want to be left alone" shows the disconnect. For centuries, the Afhan people have been fiercely independant. They do not like to be governed by anybody, whether it's the British in 1812 or the Soviets in 1980 or the US now. Please readup a bit more about a nation before going in. Runs in their blood, they are decendents of Alexander the Great. We can never conquor them.

    October 17, 2010 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      Very well put,LordHasSpoke. Thank you.

      October 17, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Prophet Mohammed

      @ Lord has spoke- You are a idiot, no they are not descendants of Alexander the Great, (He only conquered part of the area before he decided it only had rocks there) they are descendents of sheep herders, (Shepperds) and that is why it is so easy for the Taliban to influence they, becuase they are half sheep themselves. The Prophet has Spoken

      October 18, 2010 at 6:20 am | Report abuse |
      • LarryKegel(US Army)

        I just really wonder how many agree with Them and how many of Them are force with Threats of killing Their Families???

        October 18, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
      • The Prophet Mohammed

        @ Larry- I have no idea, I have met Afghan Soldiers whom the Taliban have tried to threaten and intimidate and they ignored the threats and have been fine and there are others who change sides out of fear to at least placate them, as far as percentages, no one knows.

        October 19, 2010 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  9. Robby

    I think the war in Afghanistan could ultimately lead to the collapse of the United States government, just like it did to the Soviet Union after 10 years of war

    October 17, 2010 at 6:02 am | Report abuse |
    • The Prophet Mohammed

      @ Robby- Listen here traitor, nobody cares what you think, go back to Pakistan.

      October 18, 2010 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
  10. brown

    ... "But this outpost is all about everything but combat..." Herein lies the problem!

    October 16, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. LarryKegel(US Army)

    You have to give them a reason to live!!! Look at the Poor Children in the US... They kill themselves and Others too!!! Because They feel They have nothing better than Their Gangs to look forward to... That is Why the President is trying to make This Country better not like the Tea Party and Republicans are trying to do!!!

    October 16, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dindy.....

      Larry kegel us army.... are these really your comments? I mean all of it Or anyone else comment under your ID?

      October 18, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. The Prophet Mohammed

    No problem Snitchatron, good post.

    October 16, 2010 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
  13. The Prophet Mohammed

    @ dindy Sri lanka, good post.

    October 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ernie Beatty

      Was it really,Phunnie boy? Since I'm not particularly religious,I don't care if you do usurp the name of Mohammed.He's the founder of Islam!

      October 15, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Prophet Mohammed

      Bert and Ernie, for your information Mohammed just happens to be the most poplular\common name in the world. I also happen to be extremely religeous, steelhead fishing is my religeon, the river is my temple, on the river I speak words of wisdom, so I am truly the Prophet Mohammed. The Prophet has spoken, fish on!.

      October 16, 2010 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  14. The Prophet Mohammed

    Oh....How SWEET!

    October 15, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. War

    How do you "win" over a nation? Which has been bombed and left to crumble all after you invade it. You tell them "my bad" want to be friends? What do you think is gonna happen?

    October 14, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • dindy Sri lanka

      Before US went Afghan people were loosing body parts there than now because Taliban were cutting them . even now Taliban kill more from there suicide bombing, Did you read last week news?. US has helped them when Russia invaded them and now US is after Al-queda with some Afghans support but.not after innocent Afghan civilians. al- queda fight for their belief. US fight to save whole world as al-queda want to kill all the people who are not Muslims.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
      • The Prophet Mohammed


        October 16, 2010 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      You train them to take care of Themselves that is how!!!

      October 16, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
      • LarryKegel(US Army)

        Will you blog that right-wing nonsense under your own name for a change? You know as well as I that what blogged above is not true!!!

        October 17, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Daniel-2

    The NATO forces are no more Heroes than the Russians were Villains. The fact remains that no foreigners belong in Afghanistan,pure and simple!!!

    October 14, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Patton

      Beautiful post,Daniel. Thank you.

      October 15, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
      • Daniel-2

        Of course not,Phunnie boy. I'm not speaking for myself but do quit dishonoring Gen.Patton as he commanded the 3rd Army during WW2 and stop belittling our troops while you're at it!!!

        October 15, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
      • The Prophet Mohammed

        LoL, I would NEVER dishonor the troops, Gen Patton though; well I don't care for the Officers so much as the NCOs and lower enlisted. General Patton suceeded from the hard work of the Soldiers.

        October 16, 2010 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
    • The Prophet Mohammed

      You're right, NO ONE belongs in afghanistan, there is nothing here, just dust, rocks and sheep, it sucks here.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
      • The Prophet Mohammed

        There are 129 species of fish in Afghanistan, many of them Sport fish species. If Afghanistan could clean up thier rivers and maybe work on the security a little bit, maybe Afghanistan would be worth saving. Can you imagine 10 years from now taking a fly fishing trip to Afghanistan? wouldn't that be something?

        October 15, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
      • LarryKegel(US Army)

        The Generals do not do the fighting the foot soldiers and Armor does!!! At Least Patton was with His Troops while They were fighting... Can You say that about all the other Generals???

        October 16, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      I bet the Afghanistan People don't feel the way You do!!! I'm sure They would love to have a Free Country...

      October 16, 2010 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
      • LarryKegel(US Army)

        I would use a fishing pole real and a hook to ketch fish!!! It worked for me when I was a kid...

        October 16, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
      • The Prophet Mohammed

        Larry, that's not fishing, that's called catching. There is not challenge that way. In Afghanistan they do somthing similiar just string, rock, hook and bait. They also use rat poison, just throw it in the water and wait for the fish to float up. If I was going to cheat, I'd rather use a hand grenade, at least just to say I did it before. Redneck fishing at it's best.

        October 17, 2010 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
      • atal

        No no no Larry, what you need is a 8 foot carbon fiber rod with a weight forward No5 line and a fine tippet for river trout. also it is a reel not a real.

        October 17, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  17. jrbill

    Let's see ... if I am an Afghan farmer and I know that if I help the US then the Taliban will kill me,
    while if I help the Taliban then the US might kill me, but probably not .... It's not hard to figure
    out what the farmer should do. It's harder for us to figure out to do: how do we win without
    becoming the taliban?

    October 14, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan in Lafayette, IN

      Jesus was the only one without sin and his teachings consisted of love and that especially of the sinner and as for sharia law it also punishes the sinner most severely which was against the teachings of Jesus! So if you as a Muslim have any love for Jesus you should stop downgrading other people and their faith because this also is against the teachings of Jesus and as I have heard from other Muslims, the teachings in the Koran!

      October 14, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan in Lafayette, IN

      I am not a Hindu nor ignorant or filthy nor am I a pot head pretending to be a god but if it pleases you to call all non Muslims these names to make you feel like your a better person than others then you have a serious insecurity complex problem!

      October 14, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan in Lafayette, IN

      So you call Jesus a prophet but then he is a liar because when he was with the Sanhedrin he had told them that he was the Christ. How then can you call him truth of 360 degrees?

      October 14, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • dindy Sri lanka

      God is holy. Our holiness is just a rug front of God . So why you judge or let down others . We are god "s foot stool. God does not need our help if God want to do something. If god want to bless someone God does not ask you or mine or your al-queda friends permission. God do it. This war is not going to end as far as if some Muslim want to kill others for what they believe in their flesh. . Be careful . God is the supreme Judge not you or some of Muslims like you.

      October 15, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      Don't You think it would be more profitable if they farmed goods that all People in the world would need!!! Look at Thailand, Vietnam, Korea and other Countries that Farm food to sell to Other Countries... They are not making the money by growing dope for the Tarriest!!! The Drug Dealiers are making all the money...

      October 16, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
      • The Prophet Mohammed

        Why grow stuff other countries can use when they can sell drugs? That's a dumb question. Afghanistan doesn't think about the big picture, they think about the here and now, also Afghanistan has a huge drug problem among thier own people. They are stuck in a rut and it's going to take a lot more than planting different crops tho change that, you need to change the way they think.

        October 16, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
      • Dindy.....

        Larrykegal US army) Farming china..korea.....Good Post.

        October 18, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      Dan in Lafayette, IN: The Jewish live under the same rules Jesus did... If His Believers would go by GODS rules too maybe They be more like Him!!! You People keep saying what would Jesus do... But then You do the complete opposite!!! Maybe You be better off to live under GODS rules instead!!!

      October 16, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  18. krehator

    Waste of time. It takes a fraction of the effort to make them hate Americans. It would take decades of reporgramming to make a big impact. We tried the "hearts and minds" approach before in Vietnam. Didn't work there either. All the stories about coorperation and love for the US is just military PR. We supported them agains the Russians and they still hate us. Religion is a powerful weapon.

    October 14, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      If We would have fought in Vietnam the way We fought in Iraq and Afghanistan!!! Maybe things would have been different... We took Our Troops out before it was finished... Just like Iraq we got out to early when Bush Sr was there!!! Why do You think Bush Jr went back in??? We never learn by Our Mistakes as long as the Republicans are in charge!!! Because They are out for the money not what is best for the Country!!!

      October 16, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  19. Andrew Lubin

    Since the Karzai government is imcompetent and corrupt, then you engage the local leaders and elders – who are the heart and soul of Afghan society. It;'s their hearts and minds you need to win, and then the locals follow. And you win them by getting off the bases and working with the people, as the Marines are doing successfully in Helmand-Nimroz-Farah Provinces.

    October 14, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      You mean They see how the Republicans are and think that is the way it's suppose to be??? Most Governments look towards the US how to be themselves!!! What more can you expect after what We had with Cheney and Bush???

      October 16, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
      • LarryKegel(US Army)

        The Prophet Mohammed: You make Him look like the Idiot You are!!! He was for PEACE not war...

        October 16, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      What do You think Obama is going villages after villages!!! Why do You think He wants another year???

      October 18, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
      • LarryKegel(US Army)

        The Prophet Mohammed: Being a Military Person I can see what is right and what is wrong!!! That is one thing They train You to understand... Why do You think Our Forces does kill more Innocent Civilians that We kill???

        October 18, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
      • Emmett


        October 19, 2010 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
      • The Prophet Mohammed

        @ Larry "Being a Military Person I can see what is right and what is wrong!!! That is one thing They train You to understand... Why do You think Our Forces does kill more Innocent Civilians that We kill???"

        First of all Bledsoe, (becuase this doesn't look like Larry's writing)- being a human being is how you know right from wrong, you don't need to join the Army to learn that if you were raised correctly. For the record, I'm all for peace too, that's why we ned such a strong Army as a deterrent to voilence- too keep the peace through threat of force if need be. You know damn well NATO doesn't kill more innocents than they Kill insurgents so get off your high horse you hippy coward. How many civilians will be killed? As many as it takes to get them involved in fixing thier country I hope. That's okay with me, I know the value of a human life, here the valus is $2,500 if NATO accidentally kills a civilian, and let me tell you, they are quick to come claim thier money. If you ask me we are over paying them and that's probably part of the reason why the Taliban like to use human shields, so they can go shake down the familes afterwards to fund thier war. I stand by my philosphy, "If you are not part of the Solution, then you are part of the problem", it's thier country, they need to get more involved. The Prophet has spoken.

        October 24, 2010 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |