An unheralded U.S. success in Afghanistan.
by Ann Marlowe
05/19/2008, Volume 013, Issue 34
While news reports like to speak of a “resurgent Taliban” in Afghanistan, in the 14 provinces that make up Regional Command East in Afghanistan they are a defeated military force. Not only do the Taliban refuse to engage American forces directly, they have not won an engagement with the Afghan National Army in a year. Even the unimpressive Afghan National Police have lately been winning battles with the insurgents.
RC-East is one of five regional commands in the NATO-led military and development mission in Afghanistan, and the only one under U.S. command. Colonel Marty Schweitzer of the 82nd Airborne Division has just finished a 15-month deployment commanding coalition forces in six provinces in eastern Afghanistan. Here on the eastern border and in the north of the country, the insurgency is largely a matter of IEDs and VBIEDs (Vehicle Born Improvised Explosion Devices), with the occasional suicide bomber. The counterinsurgency is what’s resurgent. The rugged terrain Schweitzer was responsible for shares a long border with Pakistan and is inhabited by 4.9 million Afghans, mostly poor and illiterate Pashtuns. But U.S. forces have made great progress in these six provinces. While only 22 of the 86 districts supported the government in early 2007 when Schweitzer took command and 58 at the end of 2007, 72 support it today. In the six eastern provinces, there were 3,400 Afghan National Security Forces in the beginning of 2007; there are now 12,450. And all of this has been at the cost of only 11 civilian casualties in Schweitzer’s six provinces.