COP Graveyard, Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan:
Greetings, readers of character.
The platoon has just returned from a most successful excursion into enemy territory. It was a 48 hour air assault mission that met the enemy head on and sent them on their way bloodied and bruised. I would compare it to a group of Longhorn fans walking into a bar in Norman, Oklahoma, whipping a passel of Bummer Sooners, then hanging out till last call. The last time we did one of these I mentioned that the air assault is not generally on tap for an armored reconnaissance squadron. No real surprise though. We left our Bradleys back at Fort Riley and have been on foot for most of the deployment. So much for ‘death before dismount’. Anyway, as missions go, this one went pretty smoothly from the perspective of my platoon with a few bumps along the way.
A key element of the mission was that the enemy had little idea exactly what was going on. It seemed as though the body language of our troops that flew in made the Talibs think we were going one way and we went another. What’s funny is that facet of our mission was totally unintentional. In all frankness, our direction and plan seemed pretty obvious. That said, I suppose knowing the plan from lift-off makes for a biased observer. Perhaps had I watched it all from a removed perspective it would have been as confusing as it was to the bad guys. The effect of the mayhem was a delay in counter-attack. By imposing chaos on the Talibs, we allowed ourselves to set in to good fighting positions, and control the fight from there, even if we didn’t mean to.
Once we landed, the clearance began. One of the places we went into had a family still inside, and we had a very positive interaction. This guy didn’t give a damn about the Taliban threat. He said he knew they worked around there but didn’t let the thugs (the terp’s word) bother him. He had a big family and we stayed with them for a little bit. The man was unobtrusive and didn’t beg us for anything. Before we left, we accidently damaged some of his property and he didn’t even ask to get paid. He just kind of shrugged his shoulders and said “bad things sometimes happen.” So pleased and surprised was I at his attitude that cutting him a generous claim actually felt good. This time I knew he wasn’t trying to cheat or extort me.
I spoke to a few other civs while clearing my part of the town. One guy, we will call him Frank, said there were no Taliban in the area. Right. Frank also said that his brother was the Mullah of the mosque across the street. Interesting. The next two guys, Amos and Andy, said there were Talibs here usually, but they left when we started coming in. This made more sense. Amos told me that they usually hang out at the mosque across the street. And how. As we left Amos’ place, we took fire from off to the southeast. Once we were finished getting shot at, I paid Frank another visit. “Frank, you little shit,” I said, “those were your friends huh? Shooting at my friends?” Frank replied, “Oh no, there are no Taliban here.” Seriously? “Ok, Frank. Since there are no Taliban here you won’t mind showing the ANA this mosque where your brother is in charge.” He agreed. I should have known already, but the Talibs had cleared the place out. They escaped this time with their gear. Perhaps next time they would not be so fortunate.
The ANA had a breakthrough on this mission. We used their best soldiers for this operation and trained them on how to use some of our equipment. Without complaint or refusal these top soldiers led the way. They cleared compounds, searched rooms, and interacted with the locals. This is the kind of behavior we need to see more continuously from them. In an ideal world, we could promote these guys and give them awards. Recognize them in public and show their crappier soldiers how a man should act. During one engagement, the ANA actually started the fight. The soldier, known as Little John to us gringos, was on guard with his M249 squad automatic weapon. He kept a keen lookout and identified two Talibs with AK-47s sneaking up on us. Little John cut down one of the Talibs in place, but missed the other. This was a red-letter firefight because normally our engagements start with them shooting at us from cover, and we kill them in response. Little John smoked this guy in place after sitting in the hot sun for hours. He wasn’t high (at the time), thankfully.
The mission butted up with Ramadan on 1 August. Initially there was friction from the ANA command because we were to get back to FOB Pasab only a half hour before Ramadan began. Despite the great inconvenience, they still came and fought well. On that day, I was proud to have these guys with us. Because of their solid performance, I will extend the publish date for last post’s Madlibs until they tick me off again. Some intelligence suggests that during the days we fought on this air assault that Mullah Omar’s brother was wounded in the fighting. I really hope this is the case, though it is a shame we didn’t kill him. It is a fitting start to the Muslim holy month. We, my squadron and the ANA, gave the Taliban a bloody nose to think about while they fast and pray. Props to all involved.
The Talibs are still active, despite the Ramadan fast of food and water and tobacco during the day. They have taken up sport firing RPGs at COP Graveyard with some frequency. Without inviting too much hubris, their percentage from the free throw line is pretty abysmal. At the time this was written, they were 1/18 or 5.5% from the free throw line. Not so hot.
Christmas came early to COP Graveyard. Our stalwart Dakota Troop brought us a RAID camera that would make the paparazzi jealous. I’ll put on my nerd cap for a moment to describe this awesome piece of equipment. This thing is basically the all-seeing eye of Sauron (Reference, Lord of the Rings, 1 each). It sits on top of a massive tower and scans our domain. When a skippy Talib comes out to shoot an RPG, it hones in quickly and delivers distance, direction, and location. The altitude allows us to track the shooter everywhere and talk the Apaches on. It allows us to maintain eyes on the enemy when they try and escape. Once we talk the birds on to the bad guy, the 30mm cannon slung underneath the Apache will make short work of the shooter.
This is a good time to talk about reintegration. Attention Taliban bloggers: you can give yourselves up now and get paid to do so. This is part of the ISAF reintegration program to assimilate poor fighters into society. Those who choose this path and complete certain requirements can get paid, educated, and given a job. It is a wise thing to do for both ISAF and ANSF because in most cases it is cheaper to pay these guys not to fight than it is to kill them, and also reduces risk to our soldiers. It is a wise thing to do for the fighter level Taliban because we eventually will kill them. The turnover rate for the low level fighters is high. We kill a whole lot more of them than we do the leaders, and they constantly have to replace their numbers with green fighters. The green fighters don’t know how to stay alive very well and tend to get tossed into the meat grinder. It’s fine with me, but were I a poor 17 year old recruited by the Taliban only to meet the business end of grenades, bullets, and helicopters, I might give this program some serious consideration.
Staying nine and a half hours ahead, HE heavy, and until next time faithful readers,
1LT Wm Treadway