Thursday, December 31, 2009

US Army 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Maywand district//Predate: More on US forces at Kandahar

Further to this post,
Afstan: Typical Canadian reporting--balderflippingdash

Murray Brewster of CP is one of the abler of our journalists covering military matters. But in this round-up and look-ahead piece about the CF in Afstan he manages not to mention the US Army's 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team that has been operating at Kandahar since late summer (that unit by itself is considerably larger than the whole Canadian contingent in the province)...
what almost all our major media can't be bothered to report (via Spotlight on Military News and International Affairs):
Perilous patrol through heart of Taliban territory
Troops try for rapport with locals

Photographs [seven in all] by Mary F. Calvert/ The Washington Times
A Stryker vehicle is a reminder of the potent force available to Americans. It is parked outside the barracks for members of Blackwatch unit with the 5th Stryker Brigade at Combat Outpost Rath in the Maywand District of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

HUTAL, Afghanistan | Villagers stared at the Americans as they made their way into a small bazaar where goat meat hung from hooks amid stands of used clothing, pots, pans and various trinkets.

For the Afghans, the big Americans in full battle gear looked like beings from another planet. At each turn of the road, soldiers on the point knelt on the ground, automatic weapons ready. The men and women on the security walk were staggered in zigzag formation to keep casualties low in case Taliban sharpshooters were in the area and taking aim. Capt. Casey Thoreen, 30, the commander of the unit, monitored his radio for intelligence.

Fifteen minutes later, the unit arrived at a local clinic. It was empty and ominous looking with an open gate. Villagers in the bazaar began to leave. Shopkeepers closed their shops, throwing tarps over their goods. Children who had been cadging the troops for candy and pencils scattered.

"A suicide bomber is in the area," Capt. Thoreen said after receiving a radioed intelligence report. "We've got to move, now!"

Last month, President Obama ordered an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, which will bring the total contingent to about 100,000 by fall. For those already here [part of the first Obama surge], the hope is that the reinforcements will turn the momentum in an eight-year war that insurgents appear to be winning.

A reporter and photographer from The Washington Times who visited southern Afghanistan recently witnessed the hardships the Americans face. It's an especially difficult security situation for the men and woman assigned to the small Combat Outpost Rath in the heart of Kandahar province's Taliban territory...

Members of the Blackwatch unit, Bravo Company 2nd Battalion 1st Infantry Regiment, with the 5th Stryker Brigade [more here], recall what happened to Capt. Ben Sklaver, 32, of Medford, Mass., in October. Capt. Sklaver was attached to the Stryker brigade but assigned to the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve, out of Greensboro, N.C.

A suicide bomber surprised Capt. Sklaver, Pfc. Alan H. Newton Jr. and an interpreter, killing all three, while they were in the town trying to improve relations with the locals...

Their mission had brought them to the unassuming village of Hutal, known for its ties to the Taliban. A village school just outside Combat Outpost Rath stood empty. Taliban informants had made it impossible for children, especially young girls, to attend classes.

Instead, the girls, some as young as 4, could be seen gathering water from a nearby well and sitting alongside the salmon-colored walls of the village giggling and talking quietly.

The village clinic is also empty most days; only one doctor makes rare visits. Villagers say medicine is limited and most of what has been requested winds up being sold on the black market.

Afghans do go, however, to the combat outpost for treatment.

"We're treating everyone from the U.S. soldier to the Afghan villager," said Capt. Jason Paul Adams, the battalion's physician assistant, from Louisville, Ky...
For about a year until this September there was a US Army battalion at Maywand as part of the CF's Task Force Kandahar. That battalion has now moved to Zhari district (still part of our task force) and been replaced by the one from the Stryker BCT--Task Force Stryker is not under CF command. Not that our media have paid much attention to the US forces with our task force either.

More photos of Task Force Stryker at Maywand here.

Predate: Our media have not also mentioned the Stryker BCT's battalion in Arghandab district:
The unit taking the most fatalities at Kandahar is American
And more on the US units under Canadian command:
Afstan: CF like the fish in the sea (with three US battalions for company)


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