June 24, 2008 — -- Despite the presence of U.S. forces, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border remains a refuge for dangerous elements, including the Taliban, al Qaeda, Pakistani militants and Kashmiri separatists.
"We have got to make sure they don't become a coherent larger group that has one goal and one modus operandi. So that is what we are fighting," says Maj. Gen Jeffrey Schloesser.
Terrorist attacks are up 40 percent from last year, a trend that U.S. commanders say can be partly blamed on Pakistan for negotiating peace treaties with militants along the border.
Officers at the U.S. command center in Ghazni, Afghanistan, have reported that the terrorists are attacking infrastructure.
Coalition forces are now spreading into more unknown territory. The base in Ghazni, for instance, was once a safe haven for the Taliban prior to the arrival of coalition troops 18 months ago.
The top priorities at each new base are security and development. The 101st airborne has handed out millions of dollars to Afghans for hospitals, farms and roads.
"Where we pave a road, we get commerce to the people, it gives them more opportunities in terms of employment, and it's also how government gets out to the local people," says Lt. Col Tony DeMartino of the 101st airborne.
No request goes ignored. After hundreds of prisoners were freed following a Taliban attack on Kandahar's prison, officers answered calls for extra security and dispatched a law enforcement adviser to the site.
The push on the eastern front has stretched coalition forces, as 22,000 troops patrol a region about the size of New Mexico and Arizona.
"This is a large country. The population is larger than, say, in Iraq, and we have less soldiers," says Schloesser. "So as a commander, I am going to tell you that I would like to have more troops, for sure, and I think I can put them to good use to speed up our progress here."
While France plans to send 700 special forces troops in July, the vast majority of forces will remain American.