By KRISTIN M. HALL, Associated Press
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) _ A tough battle continues in eastern Afghanistan’s most volatile area where six U.S. soldiers died on Tuesday, said Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division.
Campbell spoke to reporters at Fort Campbell on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line during a video conference from his headquarters in Bagram on Thursday and said that 117 members of the 101st have died in Afghanistan since last March. All six soldiers were from the 1st Brigade Combat Team.
The latest deaths came during ongoing combat to clear insurgents from eastern Afghanistan. Campbell said he couldn’t discuss details because the operation was ongoing but called it a joint mission involving NATO forces, the Afghan National Army and border police in Kunar province.
“There were a significant number of insurgents killed in this operation, several large caches found and this operation is still ongoing,” he said.
Campbell said the province that sits along the border with Pakistan is one of the most active places for insurgents in the eastern region of the country and he expects that it will be one of the last areas to be transitioned to Afghan security control.
“We knew that we would get a fight in there,” he said. “We do expect that the enemy, over the course of the spring, will try to surge back. We believe we have done some significant damage to the insurgents in Regional Command East over the last 10 months or so.”
Attacks on coalition forces have remained high even over the winter months during this deployment, Campbell said.
Attacks since October were up 21 percent over last winter, but he said their effectiveness is lower.
“Some of them leave and then come back out of Pakistan,” Campbell said. “Many have stayed and fought throughout the winter.”
He said morale remains high for the troops from the storied division, who have suffered their deadliest year in combat since Vietnam.
“They’ve been able to look over the last 10 months and look at the accomplishments they have had, the difference they have made in the lives of the Afghan people,” he said.
Campbell said the entire Fort Campbell community was grieving the loss of the six soldiers and gave his condolences to their families. The Pentagon released the names of the six soldiers on Thursday.
They were Staff Sgt. Bryan A. Burgess, 29, of Cleburne, Texas; Pfc. Dustin J. Feldhaus, 20, of Glendale, Ariz.; Sgt. 1st Class Ofren Arrechaga, 28, of Hialeah, Fla.; Staff Sgt. Frank E. Adamski III, 26, of Moosup, Conn.; Spc. Jameson L. Lindskog, 23, of Pleasanton, Calif.; and Pvt. Jeremy P. Faulkner, 23, of Griffin, Ga.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)