Troops withdrawn from Iraq, focus on Afghanistan

Ellen Nelson

Ellen Nelson

In a prime-time address from the White House’s Oval Office Tuesday, Aug. 31, President Barack Obama declared that Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and we are now focusing on Afghanistan.

American troops are scheduled to pull out of Afghanistan in July 2011, though speculation and concern arise after recently withdrawing combat units from Iraq.

Kaytlin Pelton, junior biology major from Aberdeen, said the 11-month time frame allows for plenty of time for the removal of troops, though has doubts.

“It’s a sufficient amount of time, but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Pelton said.

After nine years since the terrorist attacks of the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, the U.S. Military has had more than 4,400 deaths and 30,000 injuries during Operation Iraqi Freedom alone.

In an Aug. 23 press conference General David Petraeus, the top U.S. and North Atlantic Trade Organization commander in Afghanistan, said the U.S. Military will be looking “for the exit and a light to turn out” before the 11-month time frame ends.

Although the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan are different, the gradual process and plan implemented to bring combat troops home from Iraq will be utilized in Afghanistan.

SDSU alumnus Isaac Randall, a member of South Dakota’s Air National Guard, said the issues and levels of complexity in Afghanistan are relevant as ever.

“Afghanistan sure is an interesting place … There is a real and obvious dilemma in Afghanistan because of the Taliban and certain minority groups that are in complete opposition to them,” Randall said.

Although he has more training to go through before able to deploy, the Dell Rapids native said the likelihood of increasing amounts of troops deployed to Afghanistan is a possibility. Military personnel generally are not hesitant to be deployed, Randall said.

“I’m not worried that I have to go (to Afghanistan),” Randall said. “I wouldn’t have signed up for the military if I was.”

As of Aug. 6, since the initial 5,000 troops were stationed in Afghanistan in 2003 of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, the amount of troops has grown to more than 120,000, according to NATO’s website.

Pelton said she does not understand the need for the amount of troops in Afghanistan and Kuwait when she continually hears stories of soldiers having large amounts of “down time.”

Other SDSU students approve of actions taken by America’s leaders. Ben Van Moer, junior music education major of Tracy, Minn., said although he is not up-to-date with current situations in Afghanistan, the U.S. is making appropriate decisions.

“I think [the war] is slowing down a little bit … but I think getting out of Iraq was a huge step in the right direction of getting out of there,” Van Moer said.

SDSU political science professor Delmer Lonowski said the time frame of when U.S. troops will return home depends on when American taxpayers will tire of supplying funds. Lonowski also said the Taliban’s possibility of returning to power is an issue with regards of when and how troops leave Afghanistan.

“There’s a lot of potential for the Taliban to come back into power,” Lonowski said. “They might be able to beat the U.S. since they did beat the Soviets.”

Officials of NATO said an end is in sight and that American soldiers will be returning home from Afghanistan on schedule.

“Our aim, agreed to by the entire international community, is that by 2014 Afghans will be in the lead across the country,” said Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen in a Sept. 11 issue of the Washington Post.

Though with more talk of scheduling troops to eventually come home, two South Dakota Army National Guard units have received word they will be deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan next spring.

The 200th Engineer Company and the 451st Engineer Detachment firefighting team both will be deployed. Both units will perform security missions, along with bridging operations.

“I don’t understand a need for putting more troops over there. It’s ridiculous that they can’t come home,” Pelton said.