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Fort Carson set to celebrate troops' return from Afghanistan

Sgt. Michael Byrd, assigned to 4th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, embraces his wife, Skylar, and son, Aiden, following a homecoming ceremony at Fort Carson, Colo., March 11, 2019. The base will celebrate the return of more troops Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019.

SIDNIE SMITH/U.S. ARMY

By ELLIE MULDER | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Published: August 17, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — As the United States races to end the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan, Fort Carson officials announced Friday that its top leaders are home after nine months atop the Afghan War effort.

The post will celebrate the troops' return Saturday night with a ceremony to welcome back the last 155 troops from the post's 4th Infantry Division and affiliated units.

"I'm extremely proud of the hard work of our soldiers over the last nine months," Maj. Gen. Randy George, boss of the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, said in a statement. "Their contributions to ensuring that Afghanistan can never again become a safe haven for terrorists was vital to protecting our national security."

George led a headquarters that has overseen much of America's war effort in Afghanistan since last fall.

The Fort Carson troops oversaw "military operations country-wide, training, advising and assisting at the ministerial-level and working side-by-side with Afghan partners," Fort Carson said.

The 4th Infantry Division troops represented the bulk of local soldiers in Afghanistan. With the big unit home, local forces there include elements of the 10th Special Forces Group, which is assisting the Afghan army in its battles with the Taliban.

The post also has soldiers overseas in Kuwait and Qatar.

A surge in Afghanistan combat has taken a toll in Colorado Springs, with five Fort Carson soldiers dead this year. The bloodshed comes as America seeks a peace deal to end fighting there, with a self-imposed deadline of Sept. 1 to get a deal done.

The latest round of peace talks between the Taliban and the United States ended early Monday without final resolution on a peace deal for Afghanistan, as both sides said they would consult with their leaderships on the next steps, The Associated Press reported.

A Taliban spokesman had said last week that this eighth round of talks would conclude with a deal to end the war, America's longest, The AP reported. The two sides have been discussing an agreement under which U.S. forces would withdraw from Afghanistan and the Taliban would guarantee the country would not revert to being a launchpad for global terrorist attacks.

The war, though, is on hold for Fort Carson troops, including the 155 4th Infantry Division soldiers and their comrades from the 71st Ordnance Group, a bomb-disposal unit, due home Saturday.

George said his "soldiers have once again proven that the division is ready when the nation calls.

"To the families and communities of the greater Colorado Springs area and Utah, thank you simply isn't enough. The incredible support you have provided during this deployment enabled our important mission to protect our homeland as we worked to help set conditions for a political solution that will end the conflict in Afghanistan."

The Fort Carson headquarters was replaced by the 1st Armored Division Headquarters from Fort Bliss, Texas.

The Taliban have continued to stage daily attacks across Afghanistan despite the months of negotiations with the U.S. The fighting is focused on control of regional centers of power, with the Taliban holding nearly a third of Afghanistan, according to a Pentagon report released last month.

The U.S. has pressed for a cease-fire and a framework for inter-Afghan talks, but so far the insurgents have refused to recognize the Afghan government, dismissing it as a U.S. puppet.

"A peace deal will only be enduring and sustainable if it is owned by the Afghans," said Roya Rahmani, the Afghan ambassador to the U.S., at the Aspen Security Forum in July. She admitted a wariness toward the negotiations that have taken place in Qatar between American negotiators and Taliban leaders.

(c)2019 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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