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Weekly News Roundup: A New Generation of Fighters in Afghanistan, Rising Tensions in Kabul and Kandahar

written by Matt Elliott
on November 05, 2010

The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for so long that some of the soldiers currently fighting the war were in the fifth grade on September 11, 2001. An AP story this week talked to a few of these soldiers who inherited a war that began when they were learning their state capitals. "It's kind of weird having watched it all on the news those first days," said 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Jacob Adams. "And then 10 years later, here I am, and here we are still fighting it."

Even more troops are on the way. A Houston-based Marine reservist battalion of 800 soldiers is gearing up to deploy to southeastern Afghanistan early next year. The focus of their mission will be to establish security in the country to allow the Afghan government to gain legitimacy. "We're basically training for what's referred to as counter-insurgency operations," the commander said. "You have to be flexible to really go from training local security forces to offensive operations, the whole gamut."

A year ago today, 13 people were killed at Ft. Hood by a crazed gunman, Maj. Nidal Hasan. On CNN's Afghanistan Crossroads blog, members of the 467th Combat Stress Control Detachment discuss the three members it lost that day, its time in Afghanistan, and its recent homecoming. "I was lucky, I had another member of my team who had been with the unit throughout the entire process who I knew well, and we leaned on each other and I guess I really depended on others in my unit, when I needed them," said Sgt. Kara Kortenkamp, a member of the 467th. "I knew what the resources were if I needed them."

NPR had a moving report this week, remembering a fallen soldier from Afghanistan. Specialist Gerald Jenkins of the 101st airborne was just 19 years old when an IED ended his life. Our blogger, Kanani Fong, heard the report and was moved to write about the effect it had on her.

From The Wall Street Journal comes this report of the intensified fighting in the southern providence of Kandahar and how the Taliban has retreated to Kandahar City and upped its intimidation tactics against residents of the city, particularly local government officials. "'Nobody wants to work with me — they're all afraid,' said Kandahar Mayor Hamid Haidari, sitting in his office in the unlit, nearly deserted municipal building amid a recent power blackout."

Helping control Kandahar City are 32 Canadian police officers, who in addition to the violence, face challenges such as illiteracy and corruption in their attempt to train the Afghan police force. This report from the Toronto Star clearly shows the conditions under which this officers work and the multitude of obstacles they face.

Similar to what is happening in Kandahar City, the situation in Kabul feels increasingly tense, according to this report from GlobalPost. "Despite the blast walls, barbed wire and super-security of American installations, Kabul today has more the feel of Phnom Penh when the Khmer Rouge was slowly surrounding the city, before the rockets arrived in earnest." Said one senior Obama administration official, "The Taliban have matched us surge for surge."

Writing from Kabul for The Guardian, a former elected member of the Afghan Parliament, Malalai Joya, writes about the fraudulent elections and the ongoing violence in her country. She has no faith in the Karzai government or NATO forces. "Our history proves that this resistance to occupation will continue until we have won our freedom. Until both the U.S. and the fundamentalists — of both the Northern Alliance and Taliban brands — are driven out of power in Afghanistan, we cannot see a bright future."

Here in the United States, the recent Republican gains in Congress could lend President Obama support and funding to continue his strategy in Afghanistan, argues Sanjeev Miglani, a Reuters editor.

Lastly, a note from Iraq, where a recent wave of bombings have raised fears of a return of sectarian violence. A blog post from The Economist explains how the current Iraqi security forces and intelligence services have been getting better but are still unable to prevent large-scale attacks.

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