New troops in Afghanistan

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LISA MULLINS: I'm Lisa Mullins and this is The World. Reports from Afghanistan these days sound a lot like those out of Iraq a couple of years ago. Today, there were two attacks on police stations in different Afghan provinces. One of them involved a suicide bomber blowing up a car. The other resulted in a long fire fight that officials say ended with an air strike and 11 militants dead. This is the climate into which President Obama is funneling 21,000 new U.S. troops. Some of those soldiers arrived recently in Wardak Province. That's just east of Afghanistan's capital Kabul. Wardak saw an alarming increase in Taliban fighting last year. The BBC's Ian Pannell went on patrol in Wardak with a newly-deployed unit of the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army.

IAN PANNELL: The 10th Mountain Division have been deployed to drive back the Taliban. This is where President Obama's new policy meets reality. We joined that convoy on route to a combat outpost in Wardak. Well it's going on 11 o'clock at night. We've been traveling probably for the best part of an hour now. We've already have stopped once for a suspected IED. This is an improvised explosive device or a roadside bomb. We've now stopped and backed up because someone in the patrol thinks that perhaps there was an RPG, a rocket propelled grenade, fired at the convoy as we went past. Eventually, the convoy moved into Jagatoo District on an Operation Call of Duty. This actually is as wild as it is dangerous. A rolling green plateau rises and falls for miles giving way to sharp brown peaks topped with snow. It's become a safe haven for the Taliban. Filaco Police Station in Governor's Compound have been under siege for more than two years. The buildings are peppered with holes from bullets, mortars, and shrapnel. The governor asked the U.S. Captain to bomb the entire village where the Taliban are hiding. The soldier steers the conversation elsewhere offering support and hoping his presence here will act a deterrent. It doesn't work.

SOLDIER: [INDISCERNIBLE] we've got copies. I think I see that.

PANNELL: Let's go on now. As you've heard, there's been a series of explosions that's been mortar fire coming in from an area where the Taliban are known to operate. There have also been mortar shells fired out of the base of wherein we believe probably by the police or the Afghan Army.

SOLDIERS: Those two dark spots right there at the north side of the building by the stairs. Those are two individuals.

PANNELL: We're now looking at a screen which is projecting an image from an aircraft up in the sky over the site. It's a black and white negative image and it shows we think where the mortars were fired from and there's an indication that there are people inside. The question now is how they respond.

SOLDIER: Plan is of right now is to maintain eyes on this position right now. If we can actually watch them fire a mortar system then we can confirm PID, and then we'll go from there as far as going kinetic on them. [INDISCERNIBLE], sir. Hey, can we shoot these mortars?


PANNELL: But no one actually saw the mortars being fired from the building and without positive ID, the attack has to be called off. The insurgents escape again. The Americans are shaken but unharmed. Colonel Kimo Gallahue is in charge here. He insists he'll find the mortar team. He's already force the Taliban out from some districts, and he says this area will eventually go the same way. He offers the Taliban a stark choice.

COLONEL KIMO GALLAHUE: We are prepared for combat. This is the U.S. Army. We do this very well, but if I didn't have to fire a shot, and we still made that progress that we want then that would be great. Well, the enemy has a little vote in that, and if he presents himself, you know, he's got a couple of choices, run away or fight and die.

PANNELL: Back at the camp the soldiers unwind and listen to a little music. If this battle were just about strength, then America would have already won, but more than U.S. Counterinsurgency is a complex blend of force and persuasion. The next task in Jagatoo is to convince the locals that they should turn their backs on the Taliban.

MULLINS: That report filed by the BBC's Ian Pannell with the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan's Wardak Province just east of Kabul. Why don't we turn now to Steve Metz of the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.