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Embedded in America's Afghan war

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 17 August 2009

Nick Paton Walsh encounters the terrifying reality of the conflict in Afghanistan as he travels with US troops from their Nuristan base to the mountainous border with Pakistan.

US marines in Afghanistan (Getty)

It is one of America's most besieged bases, stuck in a ruthless valley near the Pakistani border. It is hit every two to three days. They want to leave, but they cannot without handing a propaganda victory to the Taliban.

Channel 4 News has gained rare access to the front line of America's war in Afghanistan, spending several days at COP Keating, a remote outpost in Nuristan.

Sunk in the bowl of a valley, it is vulnerable to constant attack. This means the soldiers serving there have little interaction with the local population, which in turn makes it hard for them to win the hearts and minds they need for the victory the Obama administration hopes to be heading towards within a year.

The exclusive report shows the challenges the Americans face. The base is hard to resupply, with some helicopter pilots refusing to land and each flight requiring gunship escort.

The Afghan national police complain they do not have bullets to fight with, and have yet to be supplied them by the Americans.

The Latvian soldiers charged with training the Afghan army there complain their recruits are of a low quality, and that the demand from Washington to double the size of the army within a year could lead to quality problems.

Read Nick Paton Walsh's blog from COP Keating.

In the United States President Obama has defended his Afghan war strategy and trying to shore up American support for the conflict.

Speaking at a military veterans group in Phoenix, Arizona, Mr Obama promised to give American troops all the resources they need to defeat the Taliban, but he warned there would be more difficult days ahead.

"The insurgency in Afghanistan didn't just happen overnight, and we won't defeat it overnight," he said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the largest US military veterans group. "This will not be quick nor easy.

"But we must never forget that this is not a war of choice.  This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaida would plot to kill more Americans.

"So this is not only a war worth fighting, this is fundamental to the defense of our people."

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