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10 years in Afghanistan: With US troops on a mountaintop outpost

By Matt Ford, Associated Press

It was the first thing I saw when I landed at Forward Operating Base Tillman in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province: a craggy mountain with several huts perched right at the peak, a place called Outpost One. I wanted to meet the men who lived on the mountain.

Matt Ford / AP

U.S. Army soldier Pfc. Kyle McClintock, 23, as he stands guard at Outpost One on a mountain top overlooking Forward Operating Base Tillman near the Pakistan border. Growing up, McClintock hated that his mom and dad were in the Army. As Army reservists, they would be gone for long periods. His father fought in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm, and his mother served in Afghanistan along the Uzbekistan border.

In the remote mountainous regions along the Pakistan border, these outposts are the first line of defense against the Taliban, members of the Haqqani network and other insurgents that move into Afghanistan from Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The outpost used to be located much lower on the mountain, but it was overrun in 2007.   In Afghanistan, the oldest tenet of warfare still applies: The advantage goes to he who holds the high ground. So they moved the outpost as high as they could – to the summit.


There is no running water, so they wash themselves with bottles of water and spit toothpaste over a cliff.  The soldiers take turns standing guard on the roof of one of the makeshift structures built out of plywood and sandbags surrounded by multiple gun positions and surveillance equipment.

The rest of the soldiers entertain themselves any way they can.  They watch movies on their computers, play cards and lift weights with a bench press and two dumbbells.  They don’t know what unit before them brought the weights up the side of the mountain, but they're glad they did.

I was taken by how young most of the men are.  Now in their early 20s, they were just children in grade school when the war began and they have little recollection of the initial invasion.

Now they sit on top of a mountain in Afghanistan, at war.

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