May 1, 2011
Osama bin Laden's death will undoubtedly be celebrated by the 40,000 active-duty troops stationed in Colorado Springs, but in the short term it is unlikely to impact their lives.
The bin Laden-ordered 9/11 attacks sent thousands of troops from the Pikes Peak region to war in Afghanistan. And al-Qaida in Iraq was responsible for the deaths of scores of Fort Carson soldiers in attacks from Mosul to Basra. The Iraq branch of bin Laden’s group has had its top leaders killed, but remains a top threat to that nation’s security.
Fort Carson soldiers fighting now in Afghanistan and Iraq face a shadowy group of insurgent leaders whose ties to bin Laden are thin. Groups including the Taliban predate Al Qaida and are likely to survive bin Laden’s fall. In Iraq, while Al Qaida was a threat, the biggest concern stems from factional wars between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
That means the fighting will continue, though bin Laden’s death may sap the enemy’s strength.
Former Fort Carson Sgt. Andrew Gordon, who served three tours in Iraq with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, summed up the mood. “I don’t think it will calm things down over there, but it sure makes us all feel better. I’m just glad he’s dead.”
Fort Carson now has about 7,000 soldiers assigned overseas, including nearly 3,800 in Afghanistan with the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, which is responsible for security in Kandahar.
In June, the 1st Brigade will head home and the post’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which also has 3,800 soldiers, will leave for a year in Afghanistan.
In Iraq, the post's biggest unit is the headquarters of the 4th Infantry Division, led by Maj. Gen. David Perkins. Perkins and his staff are responsible for U.S. forces in northern Iraq, including Mosul, a city considered Al Qaida's final foothold in Iraq.
The wars spawned since the 9/11 terrorist attacks have hit the Mountain Post hard.
Sixty-three Fort Carson soldiers have died since the war in Afghanistan began. Another 257 Fort Carson soldiers have been killed in the Iraq war.
In addition, 23 Armed Services members with local ties have died overseas, including most recently Maj. Philip Ambard, an Air Force professor who was killed when an Afghan pilot killed eight airmen and a civilian.
The threat of terror attacks on U.S. soil is unlikely to disappear with bin Laden’s death. Troops at Colorado Springs’ U.S. Northern Command, established in the wake of 9/11, will have to remain on top of their game, because bin Laden’s well-established terrorist network has trained hundreds of would-be attackers who can hit targets with or without the leader.
In the past year, unsuccessful attacks aimed at the U.S. have stemmed from a Yemeni faction of the terror organization.
The biggest impact of bin Laden’s fall could be on American morale.
Wishing for bin Laden’s demise has been a theme of Fort Carson conversation for a decade.