Tough questions from U.S. troops in Afghanistan
"I would hope that the American people understand the great sacrifice of our men and women," General John Campbell tells Lara Logan in this week's 60 Minutes story about the United States handing over military operations to Afghan security forces.
During Logan's tour of Afghanistan with General Campbell, they stop for lunch with U.S. troops in Kandahar where the general launches an impromptu Q&A with soldiers and Marines. Neither the troops nor the general held back concerns about Afghanistan's future, but they also expressed pride in the country's progress.
"I want to bring my family back over here," says General Campbell, "and I want to go visit some of the places in Afghanistan 'cause this is a beautiful country, it really is."
The following is a script of the video produced for 60 Minutes Overtime by Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson and Sarah Shafer which was originally published on January 4, 2015.
General Campbell: [In] the last two fighting seasons, Afghanistan security forces have taken the fight to the enemy. I know in my mind that you can take this fight on.
General John Campbell, the last American commander in Afghanistan before the United States handed over combat operations to Afghan Security Forces at the end of December, heard some frank questions from his troops when he and the 60 Minutes crew joined them for lunch in Kandahar. Many concerned Afghanistan's future.
U.S. Serviceman: Are we going to have systems in place to mitigate anything like what's happening in Iraq with some kind of version of ISIS rolling into Afghanistan to start taking over here?
General Campbell: Yeah, I think there's a fundamental difference between Iraq and Afghanistan. One is the government here wants us to stay here, wants a coalition, [and] that's why Dr. Abdullah and President Ghani had the BSA and SOFA signed the day after the inauguration -- so there's a willingness and understanding that they want to have the coalition tied in, different than where we were in Iraq.
The BSA, the Bilateral Security Agreement, and the SOFA, the Status of Forces Agreement, signed by the new Afghan government allow the United States and NATO Forces to continue supporting Afghan troops with training and advisors. One PFC asked General Campbell what he saw for Afghanistan's future under the country's coalition government.
General Campbell: 2016 to 2018?
U.S. Serviceman: Yes, sir.
General Campbell: That's a good question. Over the next year or so, with President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah, they've got to figure out a couple of things. They're still worried about security -- he spends about 30 percent to 40 percent on security at this time, and the other 30 percent or 40 percent is on the economy, and then the last 20 percent or so on everything else.
General Campbell: In 2016 I want to bring my family back over here and I want to go visit some of the places in Afghanistan because this is a beautiful country, it really is.
General Campbell revealed his concern to Lara Logan that after 13 years of war, the U.S. military's efforts in Afghanistan are largely forgotten by Americans at home.
General Campbell: So my wife went to the post office a couple of weeks ago to send me a package, [and] she's filling out the paperwork...
Lara Logan: When you were with the soldiers in Kandahar, talking to them, you told them a story about your wife. Do you remember that?
General Campbell: Yeah, I do. I was just telling about what the American people really thought about Afghanistan. And not maybe what they thought but, you know, about the situation we're in, as my wife, Ann, had gone to the Post Office to send me a package. As she's filling out the label, the postmaster says, "Where you sending this to?" She says, "I'm sending it to my husband in Afghanistan." And he said, "Oh, we still have soldiers in Afghanistan?" And so that... you know, I think the American people, many of them, that's what they think -- that we've totally come out of Afghanistan. And we've reduced the size of our forces over the last two years. But again, we'll continue to have at least 9,800 men and women from the United States here in Afghanistan after 1 January .
Lara Logan: How do you feel about that?
General Campbell: I would hope that the American people understand the great sacrifice of our men and women. That will continue. And we should all be very proud of that. And although we have reduced the number of casualties significantly, they've gone down, you know, we will continue to have men and women that will be in harm's way, as we've talked about. You know, my last tour here, I carried around three by five cards that told the story of each of the soldiers that I lost. I do that today. I got 'em in my pocket. And it's a much smaller list than what I had before. But I'll carry them. And this is a three by five card with a picture of the soldier and a little bit about him, his unit, his family, and the circumstances. And I keep that close to my heart so that I'll never forget that sacrifice. And I would hope that the American people understand that we continue to have men and women that volunteer to join all of our services. They represent less than one half of 1% of our country that, you know, will raise their right hand to say, "send me."
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