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Thursday, February 16, 2006

It's about time


Don't do the thumbs up

Tough G.I.'s Go to War Armed With Afghan ABC's

By JOHN KIFNER
Published: February 16, 2006

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — As the 10th Mountain Division prepared to go to Afghanistan this month, its Third Brigade ordered boxes of the Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid's seminal book "Taliban" to be issued to officers along with body armor, high-tech seven-layer cold weather uniforms and ballistic-grade Oakley Blade wraparound sunglasses.

Soldiers at Fort Drum, N.Y., learn about life in Afghanistan and why the thumbs-up sign must be avoided.

When the 10th Mountain went to Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, their task was purely military: to hunt down Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. That mission remains, but now the goal is as much a political one: to bolster the American-supported government of President Hamid Karzai.

The 10th Mountain, one of the Army's best units, is developing a military ethos that goes beyond the tactics of past conventional warfare to a new age of ideological war.

In a series of interviews as the soldiers — about half of them combat veterans — prepared for their deployment this month, the division's commander, Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, and other officers spoke of the heightened language and cultural training they had instituted to meet the new challenges in a conflict against militant Islam that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recently referred to as "the long war."

The officers were relentlessly upbeat; war is not a profession for doubters.

But at the same time, they were keenly aware they faced, as General Freakley put it, "a very savvy, capable adversary" in what another officer called "a very ambiguous battle-space."

Officers in many Marine and Army units have instituted study programs in basic Islam and local mores for the duty of nation-building. But division commanders like General Freakley have wide latitude, and the program here is particularly sweeping.

Lt. Col. David W. Morrison, the division intelligence officer, for example, has detailed 10 soldiers to an intensive course in Pashto, the major language in Afghanistan, as their sole duty for 47 weeks.


Yes, learning Pashto might be useful in fighting in Afghanistan, four years later.

posted by Steve @ 12:29:00 AM

12:29:00 AM

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