For three days in August, Col. David Zinn saw something that few Americans have seen during 17 years of combat in Afghanistan.
Zinn, commander of Fort Carson’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team which was welcomed home at a Thursday ceremony, was in Kandahar where the Taliban and Afghan troops celebrated a Muslim holiday together, without a shot fired.
The three-day truce, Zinn said, is one factor that makes him optimistic that Afghanistan could be on the verge of ending decades of internecine warfare.
“I see momentum building to negotiations that could bring an end to the conflict,” Zinn said.
The Pentagon and NATO allies have spent much of the past year trying to pressure the Taliban to talk truce. The August cease-fire, centered on the Eid holiday, was seen by many observers as a bridge to peace, even though it was followed by battles.
Zinn’s troops were in the middle of many of those fights. Three infantry battalions from the brigade were spread across Afghanistan to support and train local troops while providing security to some of the nation’s deadliest provinces.
Zinn was in Kandahar when one of the leading opponents of the Taliban, police chief Abdul Raziq Achazai, was gunned down in an insider attack. It was a pivotal moment, that some feared would plunge the region into chaos.
“That was a critical event, a very tragic event,” Zinn said.
But instead of chaos, in October Kandahar voters carried out the most peaceful elections since the war began.
Zinn said it is a sign that the rank and file of the Afghanistan populace has tired of war.
“I see a yearning in the Afghan people,” he said.
While two soldiers attached to Zinn’s troops from other bases were killed during the nine-month deployment, the colonel brought his Fort Carson troops home safely.
“It isn’t until the moment when the last plane lands that you can take those rocks out of your rucksack,” he said of his worries over the safety of his soldiers.
Zinn’s brigade left town nine months ago under a cloud of uncertainty. The unit was split between Afghanistan and Kosovo for the deployments as the Pentagon mulled the unit’s future. The brigade was on the chopping block as the Army sought to beef up its armored forces by cutting back on ground-pounding infantry formations.
It was announced this fall, though, that the unit will stay in Colorado Springs and add hundreds of additional soldiers along with a fleet of eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles.
“I’m excited the brigade is staying in Colorado Springs,” Zinn said.
The colonel plans to soon begin drilling his soldiers in the basics of infantry tactics to prepare for the switch.
First, though, the brigade’s 4,200 soldiers get a break for the holidays. No one is looking forward to it more than the boss.
“It’s about going skiing with my family,” he said.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx