Archive for October 2010
Two Taliban fighters crept into the middle of a dirt road near Kandahar city. Unaware that an American spy plane had spotted them, they began to dig a hole as the sun beat down on their heads.
American soldiers at Forward Operating Base Wilson little more than a mile away watched the drone’s grainy video feed on a large flatscreen monitor as the insurgents planted an improvised explosive device (IED) in the hole.
Soon an A-10 tankbuster growled overhead. The aircraft dropped a laser-guided bomb that thudded into the ground and exploded with a loud crump as earth, smoke and rocks mushroomed into the air.
As the cloud settled and the video feed flickered back into life, soldiers positioned 300 yards down the road pushed out a patrol to look for the bodies.
American ground commanders in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar province are hellbent on eradicating the IED teams, which have killed and wounded dozens of troops since the end of August.
Ridding the districts surrounding Kandahar city of insurgents is the key objective for the commanding officer of 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment (1-75) whose men have the task of seizing land in Zhari, a district to the west of the city.
Colonel Thomas McFayden is determined to kill as many fighters as possible before they withdraw for the winter to their sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan. Governance, the Americans believe, can wait for now.
McFayden’s men say they have wiped out scores of Taliban in the past month since launching operations to flush the militants from Zhari.
They rarely find the bodies. The Taliban are quick to remove their dead from the battlefield, making it difficult to verify how successful the targeted killing campaign has been.
A reminder of how brutally effective the Taliban’s tactics can be came last Monday.
American soldiers from Chaos Company, stationed at a patrol base close to Highway One, the main road that bisects Kandahar province, were busy loading a trailer with rubbish to take back to the forward operating base.
As the soldiers milled around in the courtyard of the compound, an ear-piercing explosion shook the ground. I turned to face the noise and saw an Afghan soldier cartwheeling through the air in a ball of smoke and dust before disappearing behind a wall. Read the rest of this entry »