After days of upheaval, the troops of Operation Hammer Down finally got their bearings before the mission ended. But afterward they wondered, did they accomplish anything?
The first, furious hours of Operation Hammer Down took a heavy toll on 1st Platoon. As the Taliban picked off platoon leaders, there was little the Americans could do but wait for nightfall.
Operation Hammer Down was supposed to clear out insurgent camps in Afghanistan's fabled Pech Valley. Instead, for three Army units, it became a five-day struggle for survival.
Even before Osama bin Laden's killing, the Taliban were softening their image while the US, Pakistan, and Afghanistan set the stage for talks. Now the US must decide if it's worth years of further military and diplomatic effort to hammer out an agreement.
US forces in Afghanistan had begun to look like ATM machines as massive, poorly managed development projects bled money. Soldiers now oversee smaller ventures, even if it means personally counting pipes and demanding toilet flushers.