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2-508 PIR AFGHANISTAN 2009-2010

U.S. Troops in Afghanistan Don't Get Credit For Ambush

 It’s part of NATO strategy to empower Afghan army
  By Jason Straziuso The Associated Press

   MUSA QALA Afghanistan — Chinook helicopters dropped Capt Don Canterna’s company of soldiers on the dusty outskirts of Musa Qala as evening fell. Loaded down with weapons food and water his men walked through the night. Twelve hours later daybreak found the 82nd Airborne para-troopers facing a line of mud-brick homes — and the first barrage of Taliban bullets fired from hiding places the Americans couldn’t see.
  "As the sun was coming up was when we first started getting contact” said Canterna 28 of Lake Geneva Wis. “A lot of the fighting was at extremely close range”

 For the 600 paratroopers who air assaulted into northern Helmand province — the world’s largest opium poppy growing region — the Dec 8 sunrise ambush was the first volley in what battalion commander Lt Col Brian Mennes said was almost 72 hours of continuous fighting On Dec 11 after US troops had closed in on Musa Qala’s outskirts Afghan soldiers poured into town allowing NATO and Afghan officials to say the country’s fledgling army had retaken the Taliban-held enclave a major symbolic victory But American troops still stationed in Musa Qala more than a month after the battle said they in fact did the majority of the fighting and some chafed a bit that US NATO and

Afghan officials down-played their role.
   Why the American troops never got much credit for their role in the battle has to do with NATO’s strategy to empower the Afghan army It’s in NATO’s interest for Afghans to believe their army is strong dependable and experienced. Right after the fall of Musa Qala British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on a visit to Kabul said the most important lesson of the battle was that “we can work together and prog-ressively Afghan forces are in the lead.” “We didn’t get credit for it but it was a good mission” said Capt Jesse Smith a 26-year-old medic from Lorton Va. “Taking Musa Qala was the Afghans. Securing the perimeter of Musa Qala was the Americans.”

The 82nd Airborne para-troopers under Mennes, the commander of the 1st Battalion 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment based at Fort Bragg NC, have seen almost a full year of constant combat. But Mennes said his men faced their toughest battle at Musa Qala against an insurgent force 350 strong “It was the most intense” Mennes said.
   “I think the (insurgents) resolve here was very high.” Lt Col David Accetta the top US military spokesman in Afghanistan acknowledged that US forces had a role in Musa Qala but he saved his praise for Afghan troops “The Afghans were really the lead and whatever they accomplished was much more significant from my perspective.

  You expect our guys to be good and get it done but you don’t necessarily think that immediately of the (Afghan forces.)  But they did step up to the plate and did a great job” he said.
   When asked if his men were bothered by a lack of recognition Mennes said “yeah” but he did not dwell on it “I think we know what we did. Our partners here appreciate what we did The (Afghan) governors that we work for and with appreciate it I think that’s the important thing” he said.
  Canterna said seeing the bigger picture was more important

[Longview Daily News, Longview, WA, 21 Jan 2008, Mon. Page 6]


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