A TOP U.S. GENERAL IN AFGHANISTAN SAYS THE ENEMY HAS INCREASED UP TO 30 PERCENT IN A YEAR WHILE "60 MINUTES" CAMERAS CAPTURE THE CLOSEST COMBAT YET -- CBS SUNDAY
A top general in charge of U.S. ground troops in Afghanistan tells Lara Logan the enemy has increased by up to 30 percent in the last year and he is seeking re-enforcements. Logan's report from a forward operating base in eastern Afghanistan includes 60 MINUTES footage of up-close combat with a unit of foreign fighters in addition to the interview with Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schlosser. It will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, Oct. 19 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
"I'm telling you that the enemy did increase from 20 to 30 percent this last year....I'll tell you that they are doing more complex activities which concerns me greatly," says Gen. Schlosser. Evidence of that increase was apparent on the base, where 60 MINUTES spent a month with soldiers of the Army's 101st Airborne Division in a canyon surrounded by mountains containing an enemy with close ties to al-Qaeda.
The base is near the Pakistan border and has been hit with rockets and mortars at least 30 times since March, when the current detachment of soldiers arrived. The enemy came much closer during 60 MINUTES' visit, engaging the troops in a firefight near the base that was captured on video. Click here to watch an excerpt. These soldiers had not come this close to their enemy in Afghanistan before - close enough to lob hand grenades. Staff Sgt. Jake Schlereth had to crawl into a cornfield in pursuit. "You couldn't see [the enemy]...and...I had to get down on the ground and look and see...you knew they were in there," he tells Logan.
At least twelve enemy fighters were killed in the skirmish and one U.S. soldier was wounded. The soldiers found a camera left behind by the enemy that contained images of at least 50 heavily armed fighters, showing details of their training and actual attacks. But it also showed enemy surveillance of U.S. soldiers on patrol. Says Capt. Thomas Kilbride, who leads such patrols, "This is showing a [U.S.] unit driving. I don't know if this is us or not." Does he think he and his men are being watched every time they go on patrol? "Oh, yeah," he says.
The images on the camera prove the enemy is better armed and organized. One of the men killed was carrying an identification card issued across the border in Pakistan. The U.S. military plans more fighting ahead in the winter months, when violence is usually less. "I'm here to predict this winter will be the most violent winter so far," says Gen. Schlosser. "We are doing a winter campaign, Lara, that just plain gets after the enemy." But he'll need help. "I've been very clear that I need more resources, more soldiers and more assets," he tells Logan.
The action in Afghanistan was a surprise to Sgt. Schlereth, who had been in Iraq. "You didn't hear too much about Afghanistan on the news. It was all about Iraq," he says. "And now it's all about here."