Our digital and social media producer Rachel Rohr is back from a month-long trip cross-country, talking with young Americans.
The war in Afghanistan will reach the 11-year mark this weekend and the American death toll there now tops 2,000 after the most recent insider attack last weekend. We spoke recently to Washington Post reporter Greg Jaffe who just returned from spending 11 days with members of the 173rd Army Airborne and what he saw says a lot about how this war is winding down.
“The goal is the push the Afghans out in the front,” Jaffe told Here & Now‘s Robin Young. “But the Afghans weren’t really doing a lot of patrolling when I was there. That meant that nobody was doing a lot of anything because the Americans weren’t doing unilateral patrolling.”
Jaffe said that led to some frustration from Americans.
“On a few occasions you would hear U.S. platoon sergeants say, ‘We’re supposed to be helping these guys get better… I’ve been here 2-and-a-half months and I haven’t met my Afghan colleague… So what are we doing here?”
Fear Of Insider Attacks
Jaffe was embedded with the U.S. soldiers at Combat Outpost Jaghatu in Wardak Province about 60 miles south of Kabul. He said even though there haven’t been any insider attacks at this base, there was anxiety about them.
For instance, Jaffe remembers when a local Afghan police chief wanted to have a photo taken with the American soldiers and he wanted to hold a U.S. weapon.
“There was a brief pause as everybody calculated how much can we trust this guy,” said Jaffe. “The U.S. platoon leader then gave the Afghan police chief his rifle and said, ‘This is the guy we trust most in Afghanistan, you got to take some chances.'”
Despite the risk of insider attacks, Jaffe said the U.S. soldiers still wanted to interact more with the Afghan soldiers. “I think they go over there and they want to feel like they are achieving a mission and that they are moving toward victory or mission accomplishment. They all kind of sensed that they weren’t and I think they that was frustrating to them.”
Echoes Of Iraq War
This outpost will likely close later this year and Jaffe says that’s contributing to a sense that soldiers are fighting for territory they’re going to give up.
“I heard the same phrase that I heard in Iraq years ago, and it was, ‘We can’t want it more than the Afghans,'” he said. “I heard that same phrase in Iraq during the darker days of that war: “We can’t want it more than the Iraqis.”