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Archive for Monday, January 22, 2007

Afghan soldiers train at Fort Riley for ‘forgotten war’

January 22, 2007

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— In the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States rushed troops to Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime and chase Osama bin Laden. More than five years later, Americans are still hunting bin Laden and the Taliban is reasserting itself in what some have called the "forgotten war."

But for one month, 70 Afghanistan soldiers are training in America's heartland at Fort Riley, learning from U.S. soldiers who soon will be dispatched to Afghanistan to train soldiers and police. Much like their counterparts in Iraq, also trained at Fort Riley, the training teams are viewed as central to bringing U.S. soldiers home.

"There's a big difference between the guerrilla tactics and the organizational tactics that they are using here," said Maj. Adam Khan, an Afghan National Army officer overseeing some recent training.

Khan watched his soldiers, clad in dark green camouflage, move alongside U.S. soldiers searching for insurgents in a mock village constructed on the rolling prairie, where training foreign soldiers is hardly new.

For example, 64 officers are attending the Command and General Staff College at nearby Fort Leavenworth. A smaller class of 26 officers graduated in December. Fort Leavenworth has trained foreign officers for many years.

Khan, 39, also took soldiers to Fort Polk, La., last fall to train with the 82nd Airborne Division before it deploys to Afghanistan this spring.

"Growing an Afghanistan National Army is going better than expected," Khan said, speaking through an interpreter.

Afghan National Security soldiers confront an American soldier playing the part of an Afghan citizen during a training drill simulating a raid on an Afghan village. The Afghan soldiers trained earlier this month at Fort Riley.

Afghan National Security soldiers confront an American soldier playing the part of an Afghan citizen during a training drill simulating a raid on an Afghan village. The Afghan soldiers trained earlier this month at Fort Riley.

A training mission earlier this month began with Americans and Afghans planning an operation. Though the advisers had received some training in the Dari language, interpreters proved handy. So did orders delivered shortly and directly.

Moving out in convoys, the soldiers headed to the village built from empty cargo containers. Milling around were Afghan-Americans playing the roles of villagers, political figures and the Taliban.

Christopher Preble, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, said the situation in Afghanistan had deteriorated with the Taliban's resurgence and less-than-cooperative warlords undermining President Hamid Karzai's government.

"It is true that Afghanistan is becoming the forgotten war in the United States. The war is slipping away in Afghanistan," Preble said.

President Bush recently outlined his plan for Iraq to include sending additional soldiers and a new set of commanders.

Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested he would ask President Bush to send more troops to Afghanistan.

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