Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Poor Bastard's Club...exerp from the upcoming book


Leave me here in my…stark raving sick, sad, little world. [Incubus]

Security Issues:
§ On 22 April, four Canadian soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Shah Wali Kot district about 75 km north of Kandahar. A US contractor was also attacked in the same district on the Kandahar-Tirin Kot highway. On the Herat-Kandahar highway (Kandahar province) one checkpost was attacked twice in two days. The Coalition forces and the ANA arrested insurgents in Zabul and Uruzgan provinces.
§ The Coalition forces and the ANA established a joint base in Kunar province, and requested the deployment of 20 more ANA as Operation Mountain Lion continues.
§ On 20 April, insurgents attacked an ANP checkpoint in Duab, Nuristan. One insurgent was killed and three were arrested, one of whom reportedly of Pakistani nationality.
§ On 22 and 23 April mines were discovered on the main roads in two districts of Nangarhar province.

Political Issues and Verification of Political Rights:
§ Illegal occupation and construction of houses on publicly-owned land and the case of a child allegedly killed by ANA in a traffic accident were discussed in the Provincial Council meeting in Kandahar.

Sangin is little more than another small town along another dry riverbed in a mixed group of mud huts and compounds collectively gathered around thousands of acres of poppies growing out of a vast, empty desert.
It lies in the southern part of the country about 30 kilometers northwest of Gereshk off the ring road in a fertile valley where the Musa Qala and Helmand rivers converge. None of us had ever heard of it until Doc had been killed.
We knew we had an ETT/SECFOR group down there near Laskar-gah at FOB Tombstone but like most of our Kandaks in the outer regions we didn’t know what they were doing on a day to day basis.

The only time we heard from them is when they got hit or someone was injured and that was normally hours, even days after the incident happened.
Most of these small FOBs, like ours at Shindand, were basically independent little training areas for the ANA. How most of these places were chosen is still a mystery to me. I guess since the Afghans had no real ability to travel or transport soldiers around the country in mass they created small bases in the places most likely to be populated by soldiers living near that province.
Shindand airbase however, was an obvious choice given all the time effort and money the Soviets poured into it during “their” war. Not only that but the Afghan government didn’t want it falling back into the hands of any of the rival warlords who continuously fought for the land and prestige of owning such a prized area of surplus aircraft and parts to be sold abroad.
The others however, like Chagcaran, Farah and Qal’eh-ye Now, were so remote and rudimentary they were little more than mud huts and small compounds wired up with small generators surrounded by uninhabited oceans of desert.
The initial mission, made by the team from FOB Tombstone in Lashkar Gah, was to venture into the Sangin valley in early February and recon the area to see how much influence the Taliban had and to re-supply or relieve a group of ANA soldiers that had set up a temporary base there. The mission was supposed to last less than seven days so the team of American and ANA drove right up route 611 into the heart of enemy territory. They met up with the Kandak that had set up on a plateau over looking the Helmand River and began small excursions into the valley to judge the locals reaction to their presence.
No one, at least at our level, knew the real reason we were there. Perhaps it was a precursor for the “Riverdance” missions or to extend our strike capabilities into another lawless region. What we didn’t know was how many lives would be lost in the fight to pacify this small enemy stronghold.

From the very beginning of the incursion it was readily apparent that the Taliban and the OMF were not going to make their arrival a welcome one.
Within hours there were signs that the enemy was tracking the movement of anything up on the plateau and began a systematic probe of their defenses.
After the first week the team called back to Tombstone asking for re-supply and direction instead, they were told the follow-on mission was hold the plateau and stay with the ANA until further notice. The men were living out of their UAHs and eating MREs and bottled water until the ANA was able to hire a man to come live inside the base and cook bread and goat for them. The Afghans had tried earlier to buy food in the bazaar down in the valley but most of them ended up sick from some sort of poison or foul meat.
Later, when the ODA team arrived with all their Jingle trucks and conex containers full of gear they told them to take over the small compound in the center of the plateau and run a temporary wire perimeter out front of the position.
What began as a small ANA outpost began looking like an American FOB. Hesco barriers were flown in and the slow process of filling them around the entire perimeter began.