By John Rutherford, Producer, NBC News, Washington
Iraq and Afghanistan don't look very far apart on a map, but they appear worlds apart when it comes to the success of the U.S. war effort in those two countries.
Each month, I interview soldiers receiving Purple Hearts at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and invariably they tell me the war is going well in Iraq and badly in Afghanistan. Last Friday was no exception.
"There was a lot of progress made in my area of East Baghdad east of Sadr City," Army Sgt. Brian Scott, 28, of Boston, Mass., told me. "It was going very well."
Scott, who was wounded Aug. 28 by a roadside bomb, worked with the Iraqi police forces.
"Progress has been made with the Iraqi police over time," he said. "I noticed it personally working with them and going on patrols with them and talking to the people that were feeling more comfortable coming and talking to the Iraqi police about regular crimes that happened in the streets and neighborhoods of their area."
Afghanistan is a different story, according to two soldiers who were wounded there.
"I think it's just gradually getting worse over time," said Army Staff Sgt. Tara Harrilson, 27, of Gaithersburg, Md., who was wounded three times in Afghanistan.
"We need more troops there," she said. "I mean, my common sense tells me that if every month for years you're losing more and more people or more and more are getting hurt, then something's not right and I would imagine that would be the number of soldiers you have there."
Army Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Michael Campbell, 41, of Keno, Ore., agreed with Harrilson about the need for more troops in Afghanistan. Campbell, who was wounded Aug. 18 by a roadside bomb, said the U.S. needs to take those additional troops and do in Afghanistan what it's been doing in Iraq.
"In Iraq, we took American forces and we actually cleared everything out and sustained some security, and then we trained the Iraqi forces to take over the security, and that's why we're successful in Iraq," he said. "In Afghanistan, we haven't taken the American forces and completely cleared it, built the security, built the national forces, and that's what we need to do."
Even if more troops are deployed to Afghanistan, Campbell said it's going to take awhile to turn the war around.
"It's probably going to take another five to 10 years to get it up to where it needs to be," he said. "That would be my guess."
Currently there are 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 32,000 in Afghanistan. President Bush has announced plans to bring 8,000 troops home from Iraq and add 5,000 in Afghanistan.
(Photos by Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)
1. Army Sgt. Matthew Taylor, 25, of Charleston, S.C.
2. Army 1st Lt. Thomas Brown, 26, of Burke, Va.
3. Army Capt. Michael Medders, 25, of Avon Lake, Ohio.
4. Army Staff Sgt. Ronald Phillips Jr., 33, of Conway, S.C.
5. Army Pfc. Jamel Bryant, 22, of Belleville, Ill.
Washington Producer John Rutherford is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He also posts stories on the military at www.fieldnotes.msnbc.com (click on "John Rutherford" under "categories") and at http://john-rutherford.newsvine.com. The tribute gallery can be found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22802019/.