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Area soldier: ‘We need to be there’

An Army carry team moved a transfer case containing the remains of Sgt. James W.

With President Obama’s announcement to pull 30,00 troops out of Afghanistan by then end of next summer, Brainerd resident Justin Doerfler said he is not convinced it’s the best thing to do. 

“It’s such a volatile situation over there,” Doerfler said in a phone interview, “There’s a lot of unknowns.”

Specialist Doerfler, a member of the National Guard who returned last July from a year in active duty in Afghanistan, said in an interview Wednesday he believes the president’s decision to remove the majority of troops in Afghanistan could actually do more harm than good. 

“If they were to strip a lot down, it in some ways puts the guys there at risk,” Doerfler said. “At the same time the president is under lot of pressure.”

The cuts reflect political and economic pressure at home from an  American public that is showing less and less support of the war in Afghanistan.

“This is a war not designed to be won,” Doerfler said, citing the military strategy to “suffocate the Taliban” so they cannot move. 

“I personally believe we’re in the right spot to put pressure on the Taliban.”

Doerfler compared the force of the Taliban to water, saying that areas where troop reduction occurs are quickly infiltrated with Taliban forces. “If you give them room, they’ll take it,” he said.

Doerfler said much of the danger lies in the amount of deception produced by the Taliban.  He recalled how the oppression, homelessness and lack of infrastructure and resources makes it easy for al-Qaida forces to prey on trusting villagers. 

“There’s so much dishonesty. People think the Taliban are their protectors,” he said. “The way I look at it, you don’t know who can be trusted.”

Doerfler said the Taliban often hide in plain sight, and their effort to stop American forces often results in collateral damage in the form of innocent Afghans. “How do you fight an invisible enemy?” Doerfler said. 

Doerfler said he understands the frustration of Americans who are weary of continued cost of the war. “I’ve seen first hand the cost, not just monetarily, but the loss of life,” said Doerfler who lost fellow soldier in his unit.  

“But seeing it first hand — we need to be there.”

Doerfler joined the National Guard in 1997 when he was 17. He served until 2005 and then re-enlisted in 2008 just before being deployed to Afghanistan. He has served 14 years in the Guard. “It makes an impression on you — you miss it,” he said. “It becomes a part of you.”

Doerfler said he is not certain at this point if he will be deployed again, but he said without a doubt he hopes he will be.

SARAH NELSON may be reached at or 855-5879.