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US marks 10 years of fighting in Afghanistan
At least 1,700 American soldiers have died over past decade, AP tally reports
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Coming Sunday

Learn about the personal toll the 10-year war in Afghanistan has taken on local military members and their families.

It's an anniversary many Americans wish we didn't have to mark: 10 years of military action in Afghanistan.

The United States, responding to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, launched an invasion on Oct. 7, 2001, led by special operations forces and then followed up by airstrikes in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

At least 1,700 American soldiers have died over the past decade, according to a tally by Associated Press. NATO has lost 954 soldiers, with Germany supplying the biggest contingent after the U.S. and Britain.

The Afghan National Army has suffered more than 1,500 deaths. And while there are no reliable figures for how many insurgents have been killed, the estimate is more than 10,000.

Three people from the Northeast Georgia area have died in the war: Maj. Kevin Jenrette of Lula, Cpl. Michael Phillips of Cumming and Petty Officer 3rd Class Emory J. Turpin of Dahlonega.

Col. Michael Pyott, a military science professor at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, was in Afghanistan for three or four months during the early part of the war.

"We were rooting out the last of the Taliban and the al-Qaida that were still operating (in the region)," he said. "It was very different from the Afghan we see today. Most of the attacks were small arms, rocket and mortar attacks."

The U.S. still faces random attacks from the Taliban — these days in the form of roadside bombs, which the enemy saw as effective in the Iraq War.

"The enemies that we face are constantly adapting," Pyott said. "They are very smart and innovative."

Two area military units have played a role in the war, which began when Taliban leader Mullah Omar refused to hand over terrorist enemy No. 1 Osama bin Laden.

The 802nd Ordnance Company, which is based at the U.S. Army Reserve Center on Shallowford Road in Gainesville, returned in November 2010.

And Charlie Company, a Georgia Army National Guard unit based off Alta Vista Road in Gainesville, returned from Afghanistan in late March 2010.

Both were honored with homecoming celebrations.

Still, many troops from Northeast Georgia have served or are serving in harm's way, as part of military units and companies based across the U.S.

Forsyth County resident Bonnie Marshall's son, Taylor, was deployed in March, serving as part of the Army's Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division and serves as a corporal in a mortar division.

The days pass, but the anxiety doesn't.

"It doesn't get easier," she said. "I know there is still action going on over there and they're still engaged in it, in one-on-one combat."

Taylor will return home later this month on leave, his mom is relieved to say.

"He sounds really good. He celebrated his 25th birthday over there; I sent him a birthday box and I was able to (video chat) with him," she said.

The U.S.-led coalition has more than 130,000 troops in Afghanistan, with about 98,000 from the United States.

International forces have begun handing over security duties to Afghan forces, and all foreign combat troops are to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

President Barack Obama in July announced that he would pull 10,000 troops out of Afghanistan this year and 23,000 more by next September.

It can't be soon enough for some families.

"I think we've done our job in Afghanistan and it's time for us to clear out of there," said Larry Emmett, former commander of Paul E. Bolding American Legion Post 7 in Gainesville, in a June interview.

His son-in-law has served two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

And tension remains in the country. On Thursday, hundreds of people marched through the streets of Kabul, demanding the immediate withdrawal of international military forces.

"Afghanistan is just a difficult country — it always has been," Pyott said. "As I've looked at history and writings and stories ... I'm led to believe that it will always be that way.

"I think it would be difficult for any country to go in and do what we have done and then try to find a way to extricate themselves."

Associated Press contributed to this report.