Third in a series.
Helmand Province, Afghanistan – For reasons not altogether clear to me, only brief snippets of FOX News Channel’s broadcasts are carried on the satellite signals available on U.S. military installations here in Afghanistan. That means if I want to watch the news over here, it has to be one of the “major network” shows carried on American Forces Network – or the 24/7 broadcasts of CNN International and Al Jazeera.
That’s how thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Guardsmen and Marines assigned to these bases learned that their Commander-in-Chief was holding “backyard conversations” in lieu of campaign rallies this election season. And that’s where they heard him talk about how “difficult” the war in Afghanistan has become; how “challenging” and “uncertain” it is; and how the outcome cannot be “a sure thing.”
Here’s some news, Mr. Obama: all wars are “difficult” and “challenging.” Most armed engagements are “uncertain” while they are happening. And few are ever “a sure thing” between start and finish. No one I have met here on this visit to these battlefields is prepared to hoist a “Mission Accomplished” banner. But the U.S., allied and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) personnel we have talked to on this “embed” overwhelmingly believe we are winning. Perhaps more important, it doesn’t help the morale or motivation of our troops, our allies or the Afghan populace – but it does encourage our adversaries – when the President of the United States is consistently ambivalent about the prospects for victory in this war.
It should be expected in this day and age that the so-called “mainstream media” will prognosticate disaster at every turn. That’s what happened during the campaign in Mesopotamia. The potentates of the press told us Iraq was on the brink of civil war and forecast an irreparable sectarian upheaval. They were blind to the Sunni “Awakening” in Anbar Province during 2006. Then, they ignored the spreading nationalist movement when it was embraced by the Shiite tribes along the Tigris river basin. And now they are wrong about prospects in Afghanistan. All the more reason for our nation’s leader to sing a different tune and use his bully pulpit to extol what is being accomplished here in the shadow of the Hindu Kush.
Our FOX News War Stories team has once again travelled the length and breadth of this country – accompanying U.S., Coalition and ANSF troops and police on operations in some of the most inhospitable, difficult and dangerous terrain on the planet. We have met, interviewed, and gone on lengthy missions with them. We have seen them bloodied, bandaged and evacuated to hospitals – and we have seen and documented the successes being won daily by Americans, Afghans and the troops and trainers from nearly four dozen allied nations. They are all volunteers to this fight. None of them would be in it – not even the much maligned Afghans soldiers and police – if they didn’t think they could win.
In the week since our last report, we have been in the field with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines and 1st Battalion, 8th Marines in Helmand Province. In places like Now Zad and Marjah, where Marines once encountered only Taliban insurgents and hostility, they patrol the streets alongside Afghan National Police and Army – and scores of children. We spent the better part of a day at the Afghan army and police non-commissioned officer (NCO) academy, documenting how U.S. and ISAF “mentoring” and “partnering” programs with Afghan units is paying off.
Little to none of this ever gets reported in the U.S. media. But the video of fuel trucks burning in Pakistan and allegations of U.S. military misfeasance or even malfeasance in an engagement gets re-played countless times on U.S. television broadcasts. Not even Al Jazeera beats this drum harder or more often.
This morning we observed the 9th anniversary of the start of this war by accompanying a combined American, Afghan and ISAF special operations task force on a raid to take down a major opium transshipment point within sight of the AfPak border. The operation netted more than 125 kilos of processed heroin, 70 kilos of morphine base, 130 liters of opium processing chemicals, 20 kilos of hashish, weapons, ammunition and hand grenades. Taliban thugs relying on cash from this contraband were surely disappointed by the deafening explosion that destroyed the haul.
And here’s the kicker: two members of the raid force were women – a U.S. DEA Special Agent partnered with an Afghan National Interdiction Unit female officer. That’s a sign of progress in this war that couldn’t be found just six months ago.
We shouldn’t expect our media elites to mention such “trivial details.” But it would be nice if our Commander-in-Chief would occasionally take note of these positive changes instead of constantly bemoaning how “difficult” this fight is for him.