There’s a new Afghanistan war plan. Last fall, NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal rolled out more restrictive rules of engagement, heralding a “population-centric” approach to the war. U.S. President Barack Obama announced more U.S. troops. While U.S.-led forces in eastern Afghanistan doubled their efforts to prop up faltering local governance, troops in the south identified Taliban strongholds in Marjah and Kandahar and went on the offensive. “Has the U.S. broken the Taliban’s momentum?” reporter Nathan Hodge asked. Maybe. But there are new risks, too: the Dutch might pull out of a key southern province, and Afghan national leadership remains weak. The war might be going our way, for once, but it’s far from over. David Axe and Greg Scott head to “The ‘Stan” to see for themselves.
by DAVID AXE
The downside to the ongoing “surge” of U.S. troops and equipment into Afghanistan is that it can be hard to find space on Air Force jets bound for the country. Landing in Ramstein, Germany, on a Charleston-based C-17 that would be flying on to Iraq, we immediately set about finding a jet bound for Bagram.
For three days, no luck. One KC-135 mission got canceled. A couple of C-17s were too full of urgent equipment. Reporters are understandably a low priority on Air Mobility Command flights, so we had to wait until a flight became available that wasn’t already fully committed to the surge.
It’s Sunday at chilly Ramstein. C-17s, C-5s, C-130s and other mobility aircraft pack the ramp outside the terminal window. We’re booked on a medical-evacuation-equipped KC-135 that should be leaving in a few hours. But if it doesn’t, I won’t be shocked. The Air Force is running at full capacity boosting U.S. forces in Afghanistan. That leaves little room for the press.
It could be worse. Like our colleague Mike Hoffman, we could be trying to get to Kandahar, requiring an additional leg beyond Bagram. Mike’s looking at even longer delays than we are.