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Afghanistan from the Ground

The Washington Post has a great report from the frontlines in Afghanistan, its reporter having spent some time with U.S. soldiers in the Arghandab Valley outside Kandahar. Their view — that they are making steady progress — stands in stark contrast to the defeatist rhetoric so pervasive in Washington: “They arrived two months ago in what was clearly Taliban land. Today it is contested land. To them, violence is a sign of progress: Now the Taliban has someone to fight.” As signs of progress, the local company commander, Capt. Mikel Resnick, points to:

… Soldiers have killed at least a dozen insurgents and suffered zero casualties. Open stores in Sarkari Bagh have quadrupled, and in towns that emptied at the sight of a U.S. soldier two months ago, children swarm and troops sit for tea, they said.

On the day of parliamentary elections in mid-September, a daisy-chain bomb planted in an alley regularly patrolled by soldiers seriously injured a child. But overall there was less violence than Resnick expected.

“We thought our area . . . was going to explode on election day,” Resnick said. “And it didn’t.”

Granted, this is a soda-straw view of the war; these troops have little awareness of what is going on in other parts of the country. And U.S. soldiers are programmed to be optimistic; sometimes over-optimistic. Yet the view from the ground is important as a counter-balance to the conventional wisdom being formed thousands of miles away by those who have never even visited Arghandab, much less spent months fighting there.



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