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“Obama’s War” Commemorates Eight Years in Afghanistan

On the anniversary of the U.S. war against the Taliban, Frontline looks into one U.S. officer's mission into a valley outside Kabul.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    The U.S. war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, it began eight years ago this very day. We mark it with a special "Frontline" report on one U.S. Army officer's mission in a valley 30 miles south of Kabul. "Frontline" correspondent Martin Smith is the reporter. The faces of the translators have been blurred to protect their identity.

    MARTIN SMITH, "Frontline" correspondent: Most areas of Afghanistan don't have enough troops to operate a successful counterinsurgency campaign. Commanders have been trying to juggle resources and manpower to make due.

    ARTURO MUNOZ, former CIA: There's no question we're thinly resourced. I mean, given the vastness of Afghanistan, given the difficulty of the terrain, you've got lots of isolated villages, you know, on hillsides and mountaintops and dispersed. Do we have enough troops to provide security to all these dispersed people? Absolutely not.

  • MARTIN SMITH:

    Jalrez Valley is an exception to the rule. In March, under President Obama's then-new strategy, Jalrez became one of the first areas to receive a troop increase. Today, Captain Matthew Crowe and his men are visiting the village of Tagan.

  • CAPT. MATTHEW CROWE, U.S. Army:

    Well, let's see how long we actually need for Tagan. If we have time, maybe we'll go back there.

  • MARTIN SMITH:

    In the past, troops most often patrolled inside armored Humvees. Under the new counterinsurgency plan, they're spending more time on foot.

    MAJ. GEN. MICHAEL T. FLYNN, director of intelligence, ISAF: We're in the process of spending more time on the ground, getting out of our large vehicles, and out from behind our sunglasses, and all this gear that we wear, and literally just getting out among the population, so they see us as human beings, and we treat them as such, rather than looking like something out of "Star Wars" to them.

  • MARTIN SMITH:

    The goal, in the jargon of counterinsurgency doctrine, is to connect with the people. But when the soldiers arrive, the village is empty.

  • CAPT. MATTHEW CROWE:

    There are not a lot of people out today. Right now, there's nobody out. It could be bad timing or anything. Worst-case scenario is they've been warned to stay away because of the enemy who are here. Best-case scenario, it was just bad luck. It's one of the two.

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