WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2006 – One U.S. soldier died and another was wounded in Afghanistan during two separate battles on a firebase near Khowst, near the Pakistan border, U.S. officials said yesterday. Afghan National Army soldiers also were injured during enemy attacks that occurred amid Operation Mountain Fury, a coalition offensive launched several weeks ago to defeat Taliban troops operating in east-central Afghanistan.
"The death of our soldier is a tragic loss for Task Force Phoenix," said Brig. Gen. Douglas A. Pritt, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix. The deceased soldier, whose name is being withheld until the family is notified, was an embedded U.S. trainer with the Afghan National Army, he said.
About 7,000 U.S. and Afghan troops are participating in Mountain Fury, which is being conducted in Paktika, Khost, Ghazni, Paktya and Logar provinces.
Meanwhile, the International Security Assistance Force-led Operation Medusa, comprised of more than 10,000 Afghan and NATO forces, has thwarted Taliban attempts to reestablish their presence in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar province, officials said. About 2,500 U.S. troops are also involved in the operation.
Another anti-Taliban offensive, named "Big North Wind," continues to stymie extremists trying to threaten Afghans in the Korangal Valley of Kunar province.
"The combined operations of Big North Wind, Mountain Fury and Operation Medusa will increase security to the Afghan people and prevent the intimidation that is the trademark of the Taliban," said Army Major General Ben Freakley, commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force 76.
The combined U.S., NATO and Afghan operations "will replace Taliban violence and threats with a future for the Afghan people," Freakley said. He noted that the Taliban offers "nothing of value" for the Afghan people.
Mountain Fury also aims to promote economic growth and development across its area of operations, officials said. Almost $44 million in construction funds have been allocated to build 26 new district government buildings, 77 road and bridge projects, 34 health-care programs, 23 electrical power projects, 85 schools, 30 agricultural programs and 120 civic projects.
Freakley expressed scorn over the Taliban's cowardly operations methods. "The Taliban exert their will almost exclusively on defenseless Afghans where adequate security is not present," he said.
Operation Mountain Fury will continue, he said, "until the conditions of bringing security, construction and growth are met" for the Afghan people.
The Afghan people want peace and security, he said, and are tired of war. "They want what their government is capable of providing: security, employment, education and a better way of life," the general said.
In other Afghanistan news, three improvised explosive devices were discovered and turned in in Gayen, Khowst City, and Janek-Kehl Sept. 14, according to U.S. officials. The Afghan Army found one device, the police the second, and a concerned Afghan citizen reported the location of another to Afghan soldiers.
"We can secure and dispose of these harmful devices that are being used by the Taliban to kill innocent civilians," said Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, Combined Joint Task Force 76 spokesperson.
Afghan National Police officers found more bombs Sept. 12 in the Nadir Shah Kot district of Khost province in eastern Afghanistan. The police confiscated two mortar rounds that were later disposed of by coalition forces.
The Afghan police are becoming more adept at identifying Taliban-placed IEDs, U.S. officials said.
In other news, American GIs with the 10th Mountain Division escorted three trucks filled with food, water and other supplies to the Andar District Center in Gazni province.
The Americans who rode shotgun with the supply convoy are part of the 10th's 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment.
Traveling on rough terrain through darkness, the 2-87's soldiers helped the convoy to successfully deliver its cargo without enemy disruption.
The Gazni area experienced Taliban influence due to little Afghan government control, officials said. Afghan National Army and U.S. forces recently moved in to secure the area and stop Taliban intimidation of the local people.
The supplies will be used to assist in standing up a new district center adjacent to existing one.