Forty thousand American
troops and hundreds of tons of equipment will leave Afghanistan over the next year, but they face one final threat: roads filled with explosives. A platoon from Fort Hood, Texas is working to
get some of them home safe this Thanksgiving weekend.
Correspondent Charlie D'Agata
went along with them, one day after a roadside bomb killed 18 Afghan civilians
on a bus.
Roadside bombs are the biggest killer in Afghanistan. The threat
of improvised explosive devices is the reason why U.S. soldiers alone -- like
those from Fort Hood -- make the final sweep of any road used by American
It's the one military
operation that's not done alongside the Afghan Army.
U.S. soldiers search for hidden wires
that Taliban fighters use to trigger the bombs.
"Mostly they use lamp cord
wire," Sgt. Keenan Roberts told D'Agata. "Really fine copper wire; we call it angel
The last time Roberts and
his platoon from the 8th Engineer Battalion were here, they walked straight into
an ambush. His soldiers escaped without injury. He says he wants to keep it
"You want everybody to
walk off that plane back in Texas with all their fingers and toes," he
said. "We want to go back as a group. We don't want anybody getting hurt
going back by themselves."
As U.S. troops hand over security responsibility to Afghan forces, they travel on far fewer roads. Taliban fighters
know this, and they're concentrating their efforts on those routes.
Commanding officer Capt.
Andrew Elliott said he worries every time he sends his men outside the base.
"No matter the training,
there's still that threat. No matter how much body armor you're wearing, that
bullet, that fragmentation can find its way to those hotspots that's not
covered. So you just worry, period, about your guys and gals that are on the
front line, fighting everyday."
He told D'Agata that there's
never a down day, and it never becomes commonplace.
"Especially for route
clearance -- for us, it's every day, go at it, find the IED, keep the roads
open, keep the roads safe."
Now with the U.S. draw-down
gathering speed, keeping the roads safe for those forces is getting tougher