U.S. troops send message to Taliban ahead of withdrawal

(CBS News) BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- The Afghan army said Friday that its troops killed 10 Taliban during a firefight in the south. Twelve years after the U.S. invasion, Afghan forces are assuming more responsibility for their country's security.

The U.S. has 60,000 troops in Afghanistan, down from a high of more than 100,000. This year, 108 Americans have died there.

American soldiers provided cover for the Afghan troops.
American soldiers provided cover for the Afghan troops.
CBS News

When U.S. and Afghan soldiers went hunting for Taliban in the east recently, they ran toward a walled compound where the Taliban have hidden fighters and weapons in the past. The first few moments of the raid were the most dangerous.

American soldiers raced along the rooftop into position, providing cover for Afghan troops to go inside.

These are the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division's Easy Company. They're better known as the Band of Brothers, whose battle victories in World War II became legendary.

It's one of their last raids. They'll be pulling out within weeks, and they won't be replaced.

Commander, Captain Lou Cascino, knows the clock is ticking. He says the thought of going home has changed his outlook.

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"It changes your perspective, because now you want to focus even more to make sure there are no oversights that last few months, because as you're smelling the barn, as they say, we're like, you know, 'We're almost there,'" he says.

There's every reason to be concerned. This is where Osama bin Laden set up his training camps 16 years ago. It's still a militant stronghold.

Easy Company's Afghan partners are better trained now, but American soldiers double-check everything.
Easy Company's Afghan partners are better trained now, but American soldiers double-check everything.
CBS News

The company's brigade, from Ft. Campbell, Ky., has lost eight men since their deployment began five months ago.

This is one of the last missions of its kind for Easy Company, and it's not just about hunting for potential militants. It's about sending a message to the Taliban that they are still active on the ground and will be until the moment they leave.

Soldiers combed every inch of the compound looking for weapons. And while Easy Company's Afghan partners are better trained now, American soldiers double-checked everything.

Watch: What goes into the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan?

They didn't find enough weapons to confiscate, or any men of fighting age, either. An Afghan commander questioned a teenage boy about where they were. He told us they were working.

They can only hope he's telling the truth.

The U.S. military really has reached a turning point in Afghanistan. In the crucial eastern provinces along the border with Pakistan, they've cut back from 52 bases to just 12 in the last five months. But that's not to say the fighting has ended. The bases where CBS News stayed came under repeated rocket attacks, and that is just a daily fact of life.

  • Charlie D'Agata

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