Gen. Petraeus spends holiday in Afghanistan to visit, thank troops
The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan crisscrossed the country on Saturday, visiting coalition troops on Christmas at some of the main battle fronts in a show of appreciation and support in the tenth year of the war against the Taliban.
Gen. David Petraeus started his Christmas visit by traveling in a C-130 cargo plane from Kabul to the northern province of Kunduz, telling troops with the U.S. Army’s 1-87, 10th Mountain Division that on this day, there was “no place that (he) would rather be than here” where the “focus of our effort” was.
The northern part of the country has seen increased fighting, with the Taliban stepping up their attacks as NATO focuses its sights on the militant movement’s southern strongholds. Petraeus was briefed on the situation in the region by German Maj. Gen. Hans-Werner Fritz, the commander of NATO’s northern regional command.
Petraeus handed out commemorative coins to troops who had served for three or more years since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and awarded several medals, including three purple hearts. He then went by helicopter over desert mountain peaks to the western province of Farah, where the Italian army’s 7th Alpini is stationed.
The U.S. general’s visit coincided with one by Gen. Vincenzo Camporini, the Italian chief of defense general staff. Petraeus congratulated the Italian soldiers on the “progress that has been achieved in the first few months that this unit has been here.”
Petraeus’s next stop was the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in Helmand province, scene of some of the heaviest fighting recently between the Taliban and NATO-Afghan forces.
He spoke to the Marines on the base, praising them for the improvements in the area, which was once a Taliban stronghold and still sees Taliban attacks.
“You are part of America’s new greatest generation. It is not just the courage that you have shown, it is not just the skills that you have shown in arms, although you have had to do that on a near daily basis in tough areas like this,” he told the men and women of the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Unit. “It is the versatility that you demonstrate going outside the wire every day, being ready for a hand grenade or a handshake and knowing what to do if either of those comes your way.”