- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 29, 2009

MAYWAND, Afghanistan | President Obama’s pending decision to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan weighs heavily on U.S. forces already on the ground.

A Washington Times reporter and photographer spent much of October - the deadliest month for American troops there thus far - with U.S. Army soldiers in southern Afghanistan, who spoke openly of the need for more boots on the ground, the more and sooner the better.

“We need more troops,” said Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Paul Rabidou, 24, stationed at a small combat outpost in the Maywand district. “It’s just as simple as that.”

The Blackwatch unit - Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, with the 5th Stryker Brigade - arrived at the outpost Sept. 13. Since their arrival, they have lost three soldiers and two civil-affairs officers. Bombings have destroyed three of their four Stryker vehicles.

Mr. Obama is expected to announce on Tuesday an increase of between 30,000 and 40,000 troops, as recommended by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, in a plan that first became public in September.

Gen. McChrystal warned at the time of dire consequences without reinforcements.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Afghanistan continues to rise. Last Sunday, three U.S. troops were killed in southern Afghanistan - two in a bombing and a third in a separate firefight. On Monday, another lost his life in eastern Afghanistan.

Fifteen U.S. troops have lost their lives in the first half of November. In October, 59 U.S. troops were killed.

Capt. Jeffery Givens, 25, with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, Mobile Gun System Platoon, said his unit was strained but prepared to fight with the resources they have.

Like others, Capt. Givens said he would welcome more troops.

“What people at home don’t understand is that more guys would help out immensely. More troops would assist with getting the security to where it needs to be out here. There are only so many of us. Send me your poor, your hungry and your bored, I say. We’ll take anyone we can take.”

For U.S. forces providing security in the region, corruption, a lack of Afghan government oversight and a need for more international forces are making efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Pashtun people a difficult, if not sometimes impossible, challenge.

Capt. Casey Thoreen, commander of the Combat Outpost Rath, part of the Blackwatch unit, said more troops are necessary. But the unit also needs long-term “help at the provincial level in the Afghan government, and that we’re just not getting,” he said.

“We have no one to fight corruption or get leaders in the provincial level to assist us,” he said. “We can definitely use more resources and soldiers as we try to develop the needs of the people through a more responsible local government.”

Maywand district leader Abeidullah Bawali, meeting with local tribal leaders in his sparsely decorated office one recent day, appeared to share the concerns of the U.S. military.

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