Afghani maj. offers war insights
Zack Wagner | Collegio Reporter
Last Saturday in the Balkans room at the Overman Student Center, the ROTC cadets and other military officials listened to the speeches of two high-ranking military service men, Col. Peter Gallagher and Maj. Kosh Sadat. In their speech, they addressed America’s situation concerning the war on terror in order to provide ROTC cadets with some insight on the war. The two come from different backgrounds, and Gallagher is actually a PSU alumnus, having joined ROTC during college. Sadat, however, was born and raised in Afghanistan. Sadat grew up in the troubled country, and it influenced him to join the Afghan military. Despite their different backgrounds, they have worked together to serve and protect in the war on terror for the past year.
Gallagher began his speech by introducing Sadat. The colonel stressed that Sadat had grown up in Afghanistan, and witnessed the struggles firsthand that Americans only see on the news. His experiences were the main influence behind his decision to join the Afghan National Army, something that has led to him working side by side with U.S. soldiers.
Sadat followed the colonel and described Afghanistan’s violent history.
“My country has been at war for the last 2000 years, from the ancient Greeks to the struggle today [against Al Qaeda],” Sadat said. ”Our country is now, at long last, seeing change.”
Sadat spoke about how, before 9/11, the political, economic and social stability situation in Afghanistan continued to crumble.
Sadat continued and spoke of his personal experience growing up in Afghanistan.
“In 1996, when my country was already suffering from poor government structure, the Taliban came in and took over. Briefly they were seen as good, having finally been given a higher power for the country,” Sadat said. ”However they began to institute radical reforms in society, such as women forced to wear burqas in public, music being illegal, and men required to grow beards.”
Through his personal experiences with such an unstable and violent culture, he gave background and insight to how controversial the U.S invasion of Afghanistan has been.
“I was arrested right off the streets by the Taliban for carrying an MP3 player in my pocket, and my own mother even was shot in the hand from outside violence while working in our kitchen,” Major Sadat said.
Sadat spoke about how, following 9/11, there was a mass insurgence of U.S troops invading and overthrowing the Taliban and Al Qaeda. He talked about the overwhelming number of troops at the time, yet the number began to shrink as the U.S military began to focus on Iraq.
“2005 held one of the most difficult years for us, the United States military were occupied with Iraq, lowering attention to Afghanistan,” Sadat said. “It wasn’t until 2009 when President Obama announced at West Point that there was a transition campaign going to be put through.”
Sadat said this campaign entailed a surplus of approximately 33,000 troops being sent to Afghanistan, equipped to train and assist the Afghan military so Afghanistan could come back with stronger capabilities, and the U.S would start to pull out.
Sadat said the new campaign was mainly to help Afghan’s stand on their feet by providing intense training, capacity building, capability building.
“It’s given us more responsibility and the mindset to just defend our country and take the lead in combat situation,” Major Sadat said.
Since America’s involvement with Afghanistan, Major Sadat has seen immense change in his home country.
“It’s been a huge change, the way the war is fought has greatly evolved, and consequently life of the Afghan people has shifted in many different areas,” Sadat said. “If you look at the people’s lives, the security situation, and civilian campaigns you can see the dramatic difference in how Afghans can now peacefully go through everyday life.”
Colonel Peter Gallagher followed Major Sadat by speaking on behalf of his experience as a high-ranking military official. Colonel Gallagher was Chief of Communications in Kabul, Afghanistan, through which he contributed a variety of crucial elements to help steer the transition campaign in Afghanistan.
Colonel Gallagher faced many different challenges through his position.
“ISAF (International Security Assistance Forces) is a 49 nation coalition. For this, I help insure that every nation is operating on a common operating environment,” Gallagher said. “As a communicator, we must make sure that we have a network where everybody is able to connect and share data on a common operating picture.”
Colonel Gallagher has been part of various changes with the transition campaign in Afghanistan.
“We’ve made significant headway in a coalition communications conductivity with what we call the Afghan Mission Network, that is the coalition mission network that everyone is operating on,” Gallagher said. “We’ve never had a common operating picture where all the common battle command systems are being integrated and shared with our NATO partners and our non NATO contributing nation.”
Colonel Gallagher says that the network itself has been a challenge he has had to deal with in the war.
Colonel Gallagher says, for the time being, a promising future lies ahead.
“From our perspective, the U.S National Infantry, we never want Afghanistan to again become a safe haven or sanctuary for terrorism,” Gallagher said. “It’s all about our nations working together in order to maintain structure for our strategic framework. Continue to function and keep the security in place.”
The number of troops in Afghanistan is supposed to decrease by 10,000 by the end of December, and 23,000 by next September. Colonel Gallagher says we are on glide path to meet those levels.
“The day when Afghanistan will be able to govern themselves seems to be in sight,” Gallagher said. “With the surplus of troops beginning to withdraw, stability is showing among the nation, and it seems hope will soon be restored to a torn nation.”