The specter of a future funding cutoff hasn't affected the performance of the troops -- American or Afghan -- we're seeing here. On previous trips, our Fox News team has been embedded with U.S. units across the length and breadth of Afghanistan. We've accompanied highly trained, well-equipped Afghan commandos and special police units partnered with American special operations forces and Drug Enforcement Administration agents from the mountains north and east of Jalalabad to the western border with Iran and here in the southern desert in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. We expected them to be good, and they are.
Surprising to us are the effectiveness and capabilities of the "conventional" military and police forces we're seeing on this trip. Apparently, I'm not the only one. Lt. Col. Harrill put it succinctly: "We're ahead of where I thought we would be. Working and fighting beside us, they have come a long, long way in the last five months."
Unfortunately, that perspective doesn't get covered by the so-called mainstream media very often. Instead, the American people are fed a steady diet of bad news from this decade-long war. This week, the InterContinental hotel in Kabul was assaulted by nine suicide terrorists, who killed 10 hotel guests and staff members and two Afghan policemen before the attackers were killed by Afghan police and soldiers. For days afterward, the potentates of the press described the event as "proof the Taliban can attack at will" and evidence "the Karzai government cannot even protect the capital." Here's some good news that you didn't see or hear.
The Kabul hotel attack -- a smaller, less sanguinary version of the one in Mumbai, India, in November 2008 -- was against a "soft target" that was "protected" by a private security force, not a government facility. Afghan police and military units responded immediately, cordoned off the site and cleared the building without the aid of any coalition forces. A night vision-equipped NATO helicopter was provided to deal with three terrorists who made it to the roof of the building. Not impressed? For those who think Afghan troops aren't doing enough of the fighting, try this:
Last week, two Afghan police officers were alerted by locals that a Taliban suicide bomber was en route to kill the district governor during a meeting with U.S. officials. When the two policemen confronted the terrorist, he opened fire, killing one of the officers and seriously wounding the other.
Though shot in the chest, the wounded officer, Mohamad Dhalan, was able to return fire, killing the terrorist before he could detonate his bomb. The wounded Afghan policeman was treated at the scene by a U.S. Navy medical corpsman and then airlifted by a U.S. Army "Dustoff" helicopter to the 115th Combat Support Hospital at Camp Dwyer, headquarters of U.S. Marine Regimental Combat Team 1. The officer's left lung was punctured, and he had lost nearly half of his body's blood through a severed artery. When the U.S. doctors put out a message throughout the Marine camp that there was an urgent need for AB-negative blood to save the life of a wounded Afghan cop who had saved the lives of several Americans, scores of Marines, soldiers, sailors and civilian contractors lined up to donate blood. (Look for the video on my Facebook page.)
U.S. Army Col. Trish Darnauer, commanding officer of the hospital, says "the blood drive saved the life of a lifesaver." Marine Lt. Col. Don Wright, the RCT-1 executive officer, summed it up: "It's the right thing to do, and brave men like him are our tickets home."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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