Friday, 1 October 2010

Afghanistan: Operation Dragon Strike

There is an excellent article in this weekend's Sunday Times. Unfortunately, The Times and The Sunday Times now charge for content and even if you do pay to visit their site, you cannot share links. If you would like to read it, the link is at the end of this entry.

Anyway, this brilliant article is written by Miles Amoore, who is with the 101st Airborne, West of Kandahar and it talks about the dangers the troops face.
In this piece by Mr Amoore, the men of 75th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Air Bourne Division enter the village of Zendadan,with the intention of presenting the villagers with "freedom sheep" but the sheep hadn't arrived so instead they set about delivering food and blankets to celebrate its libration from the Taliaban.  
What they had not realised was that they had walked into a trap laced with IEDs. About 15 men had crossed a narrow footbridge over an irrigation dicth on the outskirts of the village when the bomb exploded beneath a 25 year old Afghan solider named "Ali". 

The injured were saved by the rest of the men and injuries of one ( 25 year old Specialist Robert Trujillo from Denver, Colorado, U.S.A) are described:
"When they rolled him onto his back...blood pulsed from two gaping wounds on the inside of his thighs. His fingers were smashed and limp. Small stone fragments were embedded in the blackened flesh of his arms and legs."
Two of the soldiers took charge and:
"stuffed gauze into the open wounds as pools of blood began to leak into the dirty beneath him"
 They tried to keep Trujillo conscious by encouraging him to talk about his son and how he met his wife. The mine was said to have shattered every bone in his body. Thankfully he was air lifted for medical attention.

The squadron commander, Colonel Thomas McFayden said about this mine field:
"It is strange, you try to bring in food to feed the people and all they want to do is kill you. It is a strange kind of warfare"
Operation Dragon Strike is aimed at flushing insurgents from their heartlands around the strategic city of Kandahar. Winning here is fundamental to Obama's strategy.

They soldiers move in fields of Marijuana crops. At one point, as the sun began to set, Mr Amoore writes, that some Afghan soldiers who had plucked the marijuana leaves from the field during the day rolled them up and began to smoke and one said:
"it gives you courage".
Once during the battle, the Appache helicopter, called for back up,  rounds aimed at Taliban narrowly miss US soldiers. A soldier with the last name of Labonte, who has recently recovered from being shot in the head by a sniper in Iraq said of this near miss:
"Talk about danger close. It's one hell of a day when your own 30mm goes off and all you can hear is ping ping ping as the rounds land around you. they couldn't see us and we couldn't see them. We were lucky."
The American offered villagers guns to keep the Taliban out. They refused. One village elder said:
The war will come to my village if the Americans build their bases here. They (Taliban) will kill me before I kill then. Who will feed my kids if I die?"
Commanding officer, Captain  Bret Matzenbacher replied:
"This is not even my country. If I step on a bomb and get blown into six pieces, who is going to feed my kids? We will take on the Taliban no matter what, but it would be a hell of a lot easier if we had your support".
The following day, Taliban returned to this newly liberated village and stole the "freedom sheep" given to the villagers. They even made the villagers pay for two they had eaten.

Miles Ammore Article in the Sunday Times (26 September 2010): Hang in there, man, talk about your baby.

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