Hiatus Corpus

May 22, 2006

Hiatus Corpus

Sunset in Tarin Kot, Afghanistan, (12 April 2006)

Tooling around Urozgan in an unarmored Land Cruiser without guards makes thoughts of going home and becoming a farmer appealing. Earlier that day, when we’d visited a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Tarin Kot, a US Army lieutenant colonel mentioned there was intelligence that the enemy was trying to kidnap some foreign contractors. We didn’t need the CIA to tell us we were fair game, but the Army suspecting we might actually be the targets raised the concern meter. The military part of my mind suspected even that base could be overrun.

A report by Murray Brewster [link] on the CBC a week earlier detailed Taliban efforts to do just that to a Canadian base:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - A Canadian soldier was killed and three others wounded early Wednesday in a long and vicious firefight as Taliban insurgents attempted to overrun a remote base in southern Afghanistan.

A U.S. soldier and at least eight Afghan National Army soldiers also died in the battle. The dead Canadian soldier was identified as Pte. Robert Costall, born in Thunder Bay, Ont. He was stationed with the 1st Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton.

Our people in Tarin Kot (along with the Dutch and Aussies) are outnumbered. Several of the bases I saw seemed vulnerable to catastrophic attack as the enemy continues to strengthen. This didn’t say much for the unguarded places at which I was staying at night. Kabul might be relatively safe, but southern Afghanistan is dead man country.

American soldiers at Lashkar Gah airstrip.

This would appear in a British newspaper:

The Sunday Times, 23 April 06:

Army pleads for more troops after Afghanistan firefight

MILITARY commanders have demanded an extra 600 British troops for Afghanistan after a series of suicide bombings and a firefight against hundreds of Taliban.

Officers have also warned that unless restrictions are relaxed on when soldiers can open fire the Taliban may inflict major losses.

Despite these reports, the obvious dangers our troops face isn’t making a big footprint in the news back in the US. When I say “our troops,” I mean that Canadian, Australian, British, French, Italian and Dutch and other blood of our allies is our blood. Their blood is as important as ours. And where are our friends the Indians?

Despite that there are firefights—big ones—occurring frequently, the soldiers are calling Afghanistan “the Forgotten War.” I am calling it “The About to Bite Us War” because like a shark this beast has many rows of teeth.

The money from the massive opium harvest in 2006 will buy weapons and influence that will be used against us in the spring of 2007. The heroin will create thousands of new addicts twitching with crime to feed their habits. Among the fast-growing groups of heroin users on American streets, eighth graders are making their presence known.

Moonrise and man on the horizon in the badlands.

And so there we were. By day, visiting road and construction projects and talking with farmers, but at night retiring to an unguarded place in the desert. As the sun fell and the moon rose, I knew this would be a good night to attack us. The enemy had the advantage of the rolling terrain and varied avenues of approach, and since we couldn’t call for airpower, there was no backup for our small party. The moonlight and moonshadows were just right for the enemy to make their way quietly and shoot effectively. So I turned out all the lights, stayed awake and used my camera as a sort of improvised night vision device. Occasionally some dogs that stayed at the camp alerted and barked madly.

Moon shadows at about 8:00 PM.

Stars moving across the sky.

Vigilance.

Just after 3 AM sounds of helicopters had me scanning, but no gunfire since earlier in the night. There had been machine-gun fire in controlled bursts, indicating it was coming from trained soldiers, but I heard no return fire.

Nothing happening. The way it usually starts.

The moon is still bright but has moved behind me.

Our dust trail from the runway in Tarin Kot as we fly back to Lashkar Gah.

We were on our way to meet with farmers and other people to learn more about several alternative crops projects.

For more news and views from Afghanistan please follow these links:

» Phil Zabriskie and Yuri Kozyrev of TIME Magazine produced an outstanding photo essay about Afghanistan and photos speak the truth. View photo essay.

» BLACKFIVE recognized Zabriskie’s excellence long before I did. Please read Zabriskie as he goes out with our Marines in Iraq - LINK

» Brazen Taliban Attacks Raise Afghan Fears - AP via BELLSOUTH

» War: Canadian Style - Toronto Star

» Canadian soldier killed and three wounded… - Canadian Press

 

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