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Local military back Obama plan, protesters rally against it

By: TOM ROEDER
December 1, 2009
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photo - Bill Durland, right, joined about 30 people in Acacia Park Tuesday, Dece,mber 1, 2009, to take part in a rally in opposition to any escalation in Afghanistan. The rally was organized by CSaction, Coloradans for Peace and the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission. Mark Reis, The Gazette Photo by MARK REIS, THE GAZETTE
Bill Durland, right, joined about 30 people in Acacia Park Tuesday, Dece,mber 1, 2009, to take part in a rally in opposition to any escalation in Afghanistan. The rally was organized by CSaction, Coloradans for Peace and the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission. Mark Reis, The Gazette Photo by MARK REIS, THE GAZETTE 

President Obama’s Afghanistan plan was met in Colorado Springs Tuesday by a mix of cheers and protests.

And for local GIs, it may bring relief after three months of waiting for the White House to issue its Afghanistan strategy.

Army Brig Gen. Norm Andersson, who retired from Fort Carson Tuesday after 36 years in uniform, said soldiers will go wherever the President sends them, but after eight years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, they wanted to see a plan.

“What we owe them is that certainty, or as much certainty as we can give them,” Andersson said.

Thousands of Fort Carson troops have been fighting in Afghanistan’s highlands, including 17 killed in October during the post’s deadliest month since Vietnam. The strategy will add 30,000 reinforcements in a bid to quell the growing insurgency.

“I think it’s a great move,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Ed Soriano of Colorado Springs. “The question is, will it be enough?”

Part of the Afghanistan surge will come from Colorado Springs.

About 4,500 Fort Carson soldiers are expected to head to Afghanistan in 2010, joining the 4,400 now serving there with the 4th Brigade Combat Team and the 4th Engineer Battalion.

Several thousand Fort Carson soldiers now training for deployment to Iraq could also be redirected if the Pentagon orders a shift.

Andersson said getting soldiers trained and ready for the work is relatively easy.

“I don’t think we’re going to see any major hiccups,” he said.

Retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ron Kriete said troops will greet the Afghanistan surge with the same resolve they’ve shown since the war began.

“The airmen are going to what they need to do to get the job done,” Kriete said.

While the troops will stand behind Obama, some of his one-time staunchest supporters were out in Colorado Springs Tuesday night to decry him.

Mark Lewis, who heads the anti-war group Springs Action Alliance, said he supported Obama, but can’t back the surge in Afghanistan. He was joined by nearly three dozen war protesters in Acacia Park as the sun set.

“It’s a political problem,” he said. “There’s no solution to that.”

And Tuesday’s move means Obama, like his predecessor, will have to answer for the war at election time.

“If he’s going to buy it, it’s going to be his,” Lewis said.

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