Talking to the Troops on 9/11

ABC's Beth Loyd reports:

At Camp Eggers in Kabul, troops gathered for a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of 9/11. They stood and saluted during the Afghan National Anthem and the Star Spangled Banner. Two of their comrades spoke about their decision to join the military immediately after September 11.

Specialist Singh, an American of Indian decent, said he experienced discrimination and harassment after 9/11. “Coming home to broken windows and arriving at the temple for prayer to find the front entrance vandalized became a common occurrence,” he said. “People at school treated me like a total stranger, people I knew for many years. But my grandfather taught me that retaliation is not the answer.”

His career goals changed after that. “In order to change people’s mindset, I had to do something significant, not only for myself but for my country.”

Captain Michael Wikstrom, the chaplain at Camp Eggers, says this day is incredibly important. “It’s a reminder of the reasons that they swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution,” he told ABC News. “It’s the reason we are all here.”

This year has been the deadliest for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the war started eight years ago. And last month the deadliest, with 51 American troops killed here. General McChrystal has submitted his strategic recommendation to President Obama on how many additional troops and trainers he needs in Afghanistan, but public and Congressional support is starting to falter. Senator Carl Levin spoke on the floor of the Senate calling for no more American troops to be sent to Afghanistan and said, “We need a surge of Afghan security forces.”

At Camp Eggers, Major General Richard P. Formica, who was in the Pentagon on 9/11, spoke to the troops urging their continued commitment. We asked the General how the mission has changed in Afghanistan over the last eight years. “Certainly the mission has changed several times,” he told ABC News, “For us, our mission is to enable the Afghan national security forces to provide the capability to win this insurgency themselves.”

But the political situation in Afghanistan is unstable. The recent election has yet to be decided. This week the U.N.-backed fraud commission has thrown out votes from more than 80 districts and ordered recounts in hundreds more, all in areas which are overwhelmingly supportive of incumbent President Hamid Karzai. It is unclear how long it will take for the IEC to initiate a recount, if they decide to take up the process at all, which is causing friction between the Afghan government and the West.

The Taliban are not visible in the capital and violence has been relatively limited here. But according to a report released by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS), the Taliban now have a permanent presence in 80 percent of the country up from 72 percent in November 2008.

Analysts argue that the political instability will only fuel the insurgency. Alexander Jackson, policy analyst at ICOS, says, “Afghanistan’s future is far from decided after this disputed August vote.”

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