Morale is not good at the Forward Operating Base in Wardak province. Soldiers there are starting to lose hope, base chaplains tell the Times. “They feel they are risking their lives for progress that’s hard to discern,” said one, while another described a “sense of futility and anger.” And though the base isn’t obviously downtrodden—soldiers are trained to be a driven, upbeat lot—many men were willing to confirm the chaplains’ prognosis.
“We’re lost—that’s how I feel,” said one specialist, whose best friend was recently killed. “I’m not exactly sure why we’re here.” In the battalion’s nine months in Wardak, 19 soldiers have been killed, another committed suicide, and about a hundred were sent home missing limbs, horrifically burned, or otherwise disabled. “It’s not like other wars where your buddy died but they took the hill,” says one lieutenant. “It’s hard to say Wardak is better than when we got here.”