|From CNN U.S. cnn.com
Bodies of soldiers killed in Afghanistan back in U.S.
October 06, 2009
The flag-draped coffins of five U.S. soldiers killed during a weekend onslaught against a U.S. military outpost in Afghanistan arrived Tuesday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, the military said.
The bodies include Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk of South Portland, Maine; Spc. Michael P. Scusa of Villas, New Jersey; Spc. Stephen L. Mace of Lovettsville, Virginia; Spc. Christopher T. Griffin of Kincheloe, Michigan; and Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson of Reno, Nevada, according to the Air Force mortuary affairs office.
Coverage of the troops' return is allowed with the permission of their families under a policy the Obama administration instituted this year.
On Saturday, Taliban militants attacked American and Afghan troops in Nuristan province, opening fire on the outpost from multiple locations with rockets, mortars and heavy-caliber machine guns. At least eight American troops and two members of the Afghan national security forces were killed, the military said.It was the largest number of Americans killed by hostile action in a single day since July 2008 when nine troops died, according to CNN records.
At least 13 Afghan police officers also were captured in Saturday's attack, according to Haji Abdul Halim, the provincial deputy governor.
Meanwhile, security forces hunting down the attackers have killed a few dozen insurgents in raids, an Afghan official said Tuesday.
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi said the operations were in the Kamdesh District of Nuristan province. He cited around 100 insurgent casualties, including 35 to 45 deaths. Azimi said there were no Afghanistan army casualties.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force on Tuesday said more than 100 "enemy forces" were killed during the fighting Saturday, which were "significantly higher losses than originally thought."
The NATO-led force believes the attack on U.S. and Afghan troops was conducted by "local anti-Afghan forces, while local Taliban and elements of Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin may have helped facilitate the attack." The group responsible for conducting the attack was initially reported as "Nuristani tribal militia," the ISAF said.
In the past 24 hours, 10 Afghan soldiers were killed in incidents across the country, Azimi said. Britain's Defense Ministry said a British soldier was killed Monday while on foot patrol in Helmand province.
The first week of October has been a deadly one for coalition troops in Afghanistan, with 16 U.S. deaths and now two from Britain.
|From ABC 7 News TheDenverChannel.com
Bodies Of Fort Carson Soldiers Killed In Afghanistan Arrive In U.S.
Soldiers Were Members Of 4th Brigade Combat Team
POSTED: 4:56 am MDT October 5, 2009
UPDATED: 9:29 pm MDT October 6, 2009
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The bodies of six of the eight soldiers from Fort Carson's 4th Brigade Combat Team arrived in flag draped caskets at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Tuesday. The soldiers died Saturday in Afghanistan when insurgents attacked a pair of remote outposts in Nuristan province.
The Army has identified six of the eight dead. The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that military sources confirmed that all eight were from the 3,500-soldier 4th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade, based at Fort Carson.
The six Army personnel were identified by the military as Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk of South Portland, Maine; Spec. Michael P. Scusa of Villas, N.J.; Spec. Christopher T. Griffin of Kincheloe, Mich.; Pfc. Kevin C. Thompson of Reno, Nev.; Sgt. Vernon W. Martin of Savannah, Ga.; and Spec. Stephen L. Mace of Lovettsville, Va.
7NEWS talked to a friend of Griffin's Tuesday.
"Christopher Griffin was the younger brother of a friend of mine back home," said John Moor. "He did everything you would expect a normal kid to do. He stayed out of trouble. He didn't get into the gangs or the drugs like a lot of other people back in the Detroit area did back then."
Griffin, 24, had already served in Korea and Iraq. Moor said Griffin was a great guy.
"One day he got up and put both his legs in his pants and walked down to the recruiting officer and said, 'OK, I'm ready to fight for our country.'"
News of the casualties in Afghanistan are all the talk around Fort Carson Tuesday.
"My heart goes out to their families. You know, I don't know them. To me, they're strangers. But, it's devastating to hear of the loss," said Navy veteran Michael Eberhart. "It's horrible hearing our soldiers are dying out there. But, at the same time, they have a mission to do and they're going to accomplish it as best they can."
"It's just a shame to see that he's gone," Moor said about Griffin.
Deadliest Day For Fort Carson
The Gazette called Saturday's battle "the deadliest day for Fort Carson since Vietnam."
"My heart goes out to the families of those we have lost and to their fellow soldiers who remained to finish this fight," said Brigade Commander Col. Randy George.
The post had lost 270 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan before the latest deaths were reported.
On Saturday, hundreds of insurgents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades stormed a pair of remote outposts near the Pakistan border, killing the eight U.S. soldiers and capturing more than 20 Afghan security troops in the deadliest assault against U.S. forces in more than a year.
The fierce gunbattle, which erupted at dawn Saturday in the Kamdesh district of mountainous Nuristan province and raged throughout the day, is likely to fuel the debate in Washington over the direction of the troubled eight-year war.
It was the heaviest U.S. loss of life in a single battle since July 2008, when nine American soldiers were killed in a raid on an outpost in Wanat in the same province.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, plans to shift U.S. troops away from remote outposts that are difficult to defend and move them into more heavily populated areas as part of his new strategy to focus on protecting Afghan civilians.
U.S. troops used artillery, helicopter gunships and airstrikes Saturday to repel the attackers, inflicting "heavy enemy casualties," according to a NATO statement. Fighting persisted in the area Sunday, U.S. and Afghan officials said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay said the assailants included a mix of "tribal militias," Taliban and fighters loyal to Sirajudin Haqqani, an al-Qaida-linked militant based in sanctuaries in the tribal areas of Pakistan near the Afghan border.
Afghan authorities said the hostile force included fighters who had been driven out of the Swat Valley of neighboring Pakistan after a Pakistani military offensive there last spring.
"This was a complex attack in a difficult area," U.S. Col. Randy George, the area commander, said in a statement. "Both the U.S. and Afghan soldiers fought bravely together."
Details of the attack remained unclear Sunday and there were conflicting reports of Afghan losses due to poor communications in the area, located just 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the Pakistani border and about 150 miles (230 kilometers) from Kabul.
A NATO statement said the attacks were launched from a mosque and a nearby village on opposite sides of a hill, which included the two outposts -- one mostly American position on the summit and another mostly Afghan police garrison on a lower slope.
NATO said eight Americans and two Afghan security troopers were killed.
An Afghan military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security issues, said three Afghan soldiers and one policeman had been killed in two days of fighting. He also said at least seven Afghan army soldiers were missing and feared captured.
In addition, provincial police chief Mohammad Qasim Jangulbagh said 15 Afghan policemen had been captured, including the local police chief and his deputy. Jangulbagh estimated that about 300 militants took part in the attack.
"Kamdesh is one of the most dangerous areas of Nuristan province," he said, noting that the area is across the border from parts of Pakistan where al-Qaida-linked militants operate.
Jangulbagh said that after Pakistani forces drove militants from most of the Swat Valley five months ago, militants "received orders to come to Nuristan and destabilize the situation."
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said militants overran both outposts, but U.S. spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias said U.S. troops were holding the outposts Sunday. She also said a roadside bomb killed a U.S. service member southwest of Kabul on Saturday, bringing the U.S. death toll for the month to 15.
The fighting occurred in a region where towering mountains and dense pine forests have long served as a staging area for Taliban and al-Qaida fighters who move freely across the Pakistani frontier.
The region was a key staging area for Arab militants who fought alongside Afghan warriors during the U.S.-backed war against the Soviets in the 1980s and is one of the few parts of South Asia where Muslims follow the hardline Wahhabi sect of Islam.
The weekend fighting was reminiscent of the July 2008 battle of Wanat when an estimated 200 militants stormed an outpost defended by about 70 U.S. and Afghan soldiers, nearly overrunning the position.
Last week, Army Gen. David Petraeus ordered a new investigation into the Wanat fighting due to allegations of mismanagement by senior commanders.
The Wanat fighting convinced U.S. commanders that they should move Western forces away from remote areas where foreigners are unwelcome to more populated parts of the country, closing outposts such as the ones attacked Saturday.
However, the governor of Nuristan, Jamaludin Badar, complained that more — not fewer — Western troops should be sent to the area to stop infiltration from Pakistan.
"We had concerns about security in Kamdesh and we have already asked for extra forces," he told The Associated Press. "If there are fewer security forces, this sort of thing will happen again."
He also complained about a lack of coordination between international forces and Afghans.