Asia

On a mission with U.S. forces in Afghanistan

Updated 3:29 PM ET, Tue September 19, 2017
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The U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry regiment recently kicked off a two-part mission in Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan -- ferry a 114-truck resupply convoy from Jalalabad to Forward Operating Base Bostick and build two new outposts (as well as good will with the Afghans there). Mimi Wells, a fellow at the Center for Investigative Reporting, embedded with the troops as they talked to residents and later engaged in a firefight on the resupply route. Mimi Wells/Special to CNN
Forward Operating Base Bostick sits in an untamed region in Kunar Province, which runs along the border with Pakistan in the heart of Taliban country. This lookout post is manned by a soldier from the Afghan National Army, which helps run the base with the U.S. troops. Mimi Wells/Special to CNN
Soldiers gather in the early morning to get instructions for the convoy drive to the Nishigam district center, in the heart of what they call the "Ghaziabad gap," a Taliban-controlled portion of the only road in Kunar. Many believe the road is the key to stability in the region. The two new outposts, they hope, will allow U.S. and Afghan forces to control a valley that the Taliban now uses to ferry weapons and fighters from Pakistan. Mimi Wells/Special to CNN
Ahead of the resupply convoy arriving, mortar men fire a series of mortars into known enemy positions from Checkpoint 2.5, a remote outpost that overlooks the supply road. Mimi Wells/Special to CNN
Conditions at Checkpoint 2.5 are bare, but the platoon makes the most of it. Sgt. Patrick Trout, who is on his second deployment, swings from a hammock he brought from the base. Others watch movies and listen to music. The men sleep in shifts, and when they are not in one of the two covered rooms in the outpost, they are required to wear full body armor. Mimi Wells/Special to CNN
Sgt. Anthony Bluhme rests after a heavy firefight with Taliban forces. The previous day, Taliban fighters had attacked their convoy with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Mimi Wells/Special to CNN
Spc. Samuel Stratton also was involved in the firefight. Soldiers with the Forward Operating Base Bostick have fired more artillery than any other unit in Afghanistan, they say. Mimi Wells/Special to CNN
At the Nishigam district center, another part of the mission begins: to continue to build good will among the villagers. Village elders attend the shura led by Afghan security forces and 2-27's battalion commander, Lt. Col. Dan Wilson. He encourages the tribal leaders to work together to push the Taliban from the area. "Americans won't be here forever," he tells them. Mimi Wells/Special to CNN
Part of the 2-27's mission has been to build schools throughout the Kunar Province. This girl in Nishigam has been out of class for three days. The roof collapsed on her school, held in a villager's home. Mimi Wells/Special to CNN
After the official shura, the elders move outside to the courtyard in the district center to continue the discussion. No Americans participate. Before they begin speaking, they pray together. Mimi Wells/Special to CNN
Meanwhile, the U.S. forces relax on the grass of the district compound after the shura. Lt. Col. Dan Wilson sits in a circle with the local Afghan Army colonel and a security adviser. Mimi Wells/Special to CNN
Also at the Nishigam district center, an Afghan National Police commander trains a squad of new recruits on field discipline. Mimi Wells/Special to CNN