Intensity of Fighting in Afghanistan

Discussion in 'SitRep' started by Glider, Oct 5, 2006.

  1. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    There is a belief in the UK that the fighting in Afghanistan is a lot worse than in Iraq.
    I think the attached article gives a good idea as to level of fighting. It also shows how well the troops are doing and as an aside, never mess with a Gurkha.

    Telegraph | News | Gurkha spirit triumphs in siege of Nawzad
     
  2. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    Great article Glider!
     
  3. Matt308

    Matt308 Glock Perfection
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    Thanks to the British Gurkhas! God Speed!
     
  4. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    heres a news story out of the Toronto star



    PANJWAII DISTRICT, Afghanistan—One must turn back time several generations to find Canadian soldiers in the state that Charlie Company finds itself today. Not since the Korean War has a single Canadian combat unit been so cut to pieces so quickly.

    Either of the two events that rocked their world in the dust-caked hills of southern Afghanistan one month ago might qualify as the worst day of their lives. That they came back-to-back — one disastrous morning followed by another even worse — is a matter of almost incomprehensibly bad fortune.

    The epic double-whammy — a perfect Taliban ambush of unprecedented intensity, followed one day later by a devastating burst of "friendly fire" from a U.S. Air Force A-10 Warthog — reduced Charlie to a status of "combat ineffective." They were the ones to fire the opening shots of Operation Medusa. But even as the massive Canada-led assault was gathering steam they were finished.

    The soldiers left standing are not the same today as the ones who deployed to Afghanistan with nothing but good intentions barely seven weeks ago, as part of 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, based in Petawawa, Ont.

    A few are emotional wrecks, too fragile still to speak of what transpired during that fateful Labour Day long weekend. Others bleed anger from their every pore.

    Some cling to wounded pride, anxious for it to be known that if not for enormous self-sacrifice, the volume of Canadian blood shed these two mornings would have been vastly greater.

    Others are disillusioned, having come to regard their work in Afghanistan as a mission impossible. And others still are more driven than ever to succeed, if only to lend greater meaning to the loss of their fallen Canadian brothers.

    The survivors of Charlie Company are closer now than they were before. And the other thing they have in common is a need to tell their story, which they do today for the first time.


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    The White School was the objective, and not for the first time. A full month earlier the 1st Battalion of the Edmonton-based Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, on the tail end of their six-month deployment, encountered serious Taliban resistance from the single-storey building. It was a hub of Taliban activity, but on the morning of Sept. 3, as Charlie Company's 7 Platoon bore down on the building, only the Taliban knew what a hub it was.

    In hindsight, some of the soldiers acknowledge their "spidey sense" was tingling. It was quiet that day. Possibly too quiet, as the platoon motored through fields of ripening marijuana plants, each taller than a man.

    The engineers went first, using an armoured bulldozer to open two breaches through barriers between the pot fields. A clear path to the school was opened, and into it went four LAVs and a G-Wagon, the lightly armoured Mercedes-Benz jeep that many of the Canadians in Kandahar have come to despise as a "bullet magnet."

    Approaching left to right, the Canadians lined up 50 metres from the school, like ducks in a row. Sitting ducks, it would soon become clear.

    "All hell broke loose," says Master Cpl. Allan Johnson of Owen Sound, in command of the LAV known as 3.1 Alpha.

    "It was dead quiet. And then I saw a guy jump up on a roof. Maybe he was giving a signal to the other Taliban.

    "All I know is the entire area just lit up. We were taking fire from at least two sides, maybe three, with everything they had. Rocket-propelled grenades, small-arms fire, the works.

    "It was the cherry-popper of all cherry-poppers. And once we started taking casualties, we moved up to provide cover fire. Our cannon didn't stop from that point on."

    The LAV from 2 Combat Engineer Regiment was the first hit, sustaining a bull's-eye RPG strike beneath the gunner's turret. The radio call announced injuries. It was the day's first fatality — Sgt. Shane Stachnik, 30, of Waskatenau, Alberta.

    Seconds later the G-Wagon exploded, with an RPG blasting through its passenger-side windshield, instantly killing Warrant Officer Rick Nolan, 39, of Mount Pearl, Nfld. Suddenly, 7 Platoon had lost its leader.

    Cpl. Richard "Doc" Furoy, 32, of Elliot Lake, Ont., one of the company medics, was sitting directly behind Nolan inside the stricken G-Wagon, where he suffered light shrapnel injuries. He barely remembers the chaos that followed.

    "Everything in the world came down on us and then, whoomp, the G-Wagon went black. I sort of lost consciousness. I could still feel the spray of gunfire, I could feel the concussion of the rounds inside my chest. But I couldn't hear anything," Furoy told The Star.

    "At some point, somebody butt-stroked me with their rifle to snap me out of it. I came back into the present, got my wits about me. I knew I was needed. I checked on the Warrant Officer (Nolan). He was dead."

    Thus began a firefight that lasted a full 3½ hours. As crews dismounted to retrieve the dead and wounded, the Canadian LAV gunners let fly into the marijuana fields with turret-mounted 25mm cannon and C6 fire. Each vehicle burned through at least two "uploads," representing more than a thousand rounds of firepower. 3.1 Charlie went through three uploads of suppression fire before pulling back from its original position, the last to leave the battlefield.

    But there were more complications when the guns of one of the LAVs, 3.1 Bravo, either jammed or ran dry. Its crew compartment now loaded with casualties, Bravo reversed through the marijuana at 35 km/h, only to crash into a four-metre-deep irrigation ditch. Immobilized, its hydraulic rear ramp jammed shut against the ditch, Bravo took two direct RPG hits before its occupants were able to break open an emergency escape hatch.

    With the tops of the pot plants snapping off around them as the Taliban barrage continued, many of Bravo's crew managed to make their way to 3.1 Charlie. Into a crew compartment designed for a maximum of eight, they stacked themselves like cordwood, the injured laid out on the laps of the untouched, and raced for cover.

    Every battle plan includes a CCP, or casualty collection point. But in the frenzy of that Sunday morning the Canadians adapted their plan, moving their casualties to the nearest point of cover they could find — an armoured Zettelmeyer front-end loader belonging to the combat engineers.

    And it was there that arguably the most tragic death of the day occurred. Warrant Officer Frank Robert Mellish, 38, of 8 Platoon was not meant to be in the teeth of battle that day. But when Mellish, a native of Truro, N.S., learned that fellow Warrant Officer Rick Nolan was dead, he stepped up to help retrieve the body. They were best friends.

    Moving from the rear guard, more than 1.8 kilometres from the White School, Mellish made it as far as the Zettelmeyer when he was caught in a storm of shrapnel and died. Now 8 Platoon, too, had lost its leader. And in the same barrage, Sgt. Major John Barnes suffered a concussion, taking another key player out of the fight.

    The day's fourth and final fatality fell next — Pte. William James Cushley, 21, of Port Lambton, Ont., taking shrapnel to the head. And if it seemed the worst was behind Charlie Company, it wasn't. As work continued on sorting out the wounded, the cab door of the Zettelmeyer popped open and its bleeding driver stuck his head out, shouting, "I'm ****ing hurt, too" before slamming shut the door to await rescue.

    The Canadians had left three stricken vehicles on the battlefield, but were far enough back now to call in air support to renew a bomb assault on the sources of the ambush. And what they saw next gave chills to the entire company.

    "In the middle of all this chaos, we see this big, black ****-off bomb coming toward us," said Cpl. Rodney Grubb, 25, of Kitchener.

    "It was like a big, black steel football. It hit the ground and bounced and bounced and bounced. I hit the ground thinking, `Okay, we're done.' And then I got back up. The bomb just came to a stop. It didn't go off."

    The 500-pound, laser-guided bomb had come from the belly of a U.S. warplane. What saved the Canadians from its explosive force was a safety mechanism designed to disarm the device when it strays from its intended co-ordinates.


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  5. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    part2




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    There was little sleep that night for Charlie Company, which withdrew to safety and watched with grim satisfaction from the top of the Arghandab escarpment as the air and artillery bombardment of the White School and the lines of Taliban ambush were renewed. Some of the men remember hearing the burp of American A-10 Warthog Gatling guns as they bore down on the White School.

    "I'm convinced someone was watching over us. The amount of bullets that were flying, I just don't know why some of us are still here," said Pte. Daniel Rosati, 27, of Woodbridge.

    "It was the way people stepped up and covered each other. Everyone stepped up."

    And now, their blood was up. Charlie didn't want ramp ceremonies for the fallen. They wanted payback.

    "Your adrenalin wears off, but all you want is to be in that turret and hit those guys as hard as you could," said one of the company's gunners.

    New orders came down. In the morning Charlie Company was to return to the battlefield to perform "a feint" — to create the appearance of another punch into the ambush, but this time with the intention of drawing out the insurgents.

    At daybreak, the company had only begun to stir when the fireworks erupted. In the nanosecond between the speed of light and the speed of sound, they saw, but did not hear.

    "There were sparks in the dust, like the sparklers you wave on Canada Day," said Sgt. Brent Crellin, of Yorkton, Sask. "And then we heard the burp of the gun. And then we felt sick."

    The A-10 Warthog did not deliver a full burst that morning. But so lethal is its seven-barrel Gatling gun that even the aborted strafing reduced 8 Platoon, Charlie Company, to almost nothing. Of the nearly 40 men in 8 Platoon, only eight were left standing.

    Dead was Pte. Mark Anthony Graham, 33, of Hamilton, a former Olympian and described by many as "the biggest, strongest guy in the company." And among the wounded was Maj. Matthew Sprague, the company commander.

    Pte. Greg Bird, 34, also a Hamiltonian, was saved by nature's call. He stepped away just moments before the strafing.

    "I was caught with my pants down. And when I came running, it was a complete gut-kick. Five minutes before, my head was on my pillow. When I found my pillow, there were pieces of shrapnel in it.

    "We were fired up and ready to go and suddenly my platoon was in ruins."

    Everyone in Charlie Company describes the scene as a kind of slow-motion horror film — bleeding men everywhere, some crawling, some moaning.

    Within minutes, every available shred of medical aid was converging on the site. And within minutes again, the company medics had run dry on QuickClot, a coagulation-speeding agent that burns even as it saves lives.

    U.S. soldiers and Afghan National Army regulars joined in the rescue effort. In some cases, the lesser injured were seen to be treating the worse-off, even as they themselves bled.

    "It was a total effort from everyone on the ground, Canadian, American, Afghan, it didn't matter," said Bird. "The response saved lives. Whatever you felt about the attack, you pushed it away and just started helping any way you could."

    Most of the survivors of Charlie Company are forbidden from speaking about the U.S. Warthog attack, having already testified at a board of inquiry that has yet to pass judgment. Canadian and American military officials were in attendance during the testimony, taken at Kandahar Airfield.

    But privately, the soldiers say they are gratified to know that the A-10 pilot "owned up to the error" immediately upon landing the aircraft. In stark contrast to the 2002 friendly fire episode that cost Canada its first four casualties in Afghanistan, they say, this pilot is taking responsibility.

    "It shows you how incredibly deadly the Warthog is," said one soldier. "There aren't very many situations in life where a one-second mistake can do this much damage. That's what this aircraft can do. I know nothing can make this right. But I also know the pilot will have to live with this for the rest of his life."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    A punch so hard, followed by a punch even harder, makes one wonder how Charlie Company can stand today. But stand they do.

    Following the A-10 strike the company returned to Kandahar Airfield, saying goodbye to the fallen five in a ramp ceremony, along with the worst among the injured, who were flown out of Afghanistan for further treatment. But barely 36 hours later they were back in the field, returning to Panjwaii.

    And there, according to the company's regulars, some payback was had. All told, Charlie Company believes itself responsible for as many as 200 of the more than 1,000 Taliban insurgents that NATO officials say died during Operation Medusa.

    As the operation wound down, Charlie Company managed to get a closer look at the battlefield. There in the marijuana fields they found the telltale signs of an insurgency that, for whatever reason, chose to field itself conventionally this one time. Among the accoutrements were reinforced trenches flanking the lines of ambush.

    The Canadian soldiers also retrieved the flak jacket of fallen Pte. Cushing and buried it in situ. A cross was staked there in his memory, and a second cross for Warrant Officer Mellish.

    Today Charlie is still out there, having pushed farther west to a location that has not yet been given a name — and cannot be identified for publication, even if we knew what to call it.

    The ranks have changed dramatically. A captain is now a major, and so on down the chain of command, as the company reconstitutes in real-time to face whatever comes next. It is four months still before they rotate home to Canada, but most cannot see that far down the line. Many are focusing on their three-week mid-tour leave.

    And what, after such a battering, do they make of the mission today? It is a touchy question. Very touchy. So touchy, in fact, that although The Star has a notepad filled with the names and ranks of the soldiers who spoke to the question, we have chosen to withhold their identities. After all it has endured, Charlie Company hardly deserves the added grief of answering for the sin of outspokenness.

    What do they make of the mission?

    One soldier answered plainly, "I plead the fifth" — borrowing an Americanism to absolve himself from comment, lest he incriminate himself.

    Another answered, "Hearts and minds? **** that. This is not peacemaking, this is a war for us." One soldier went so far as to answer "You don't," when asked how this war will be won. "It's like squashing an idea. How do you do that?"

    But many, perhaps even a majority, hold to a different view. In the words of one turret gunner: "Now that your friends have died, you don't want to walk away for nothing."

    They all loathe New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton. Each, to a man, interprets Layton's stand on Afghanistan as an expression of indifference for their lives. But in almost the same breath, they say they need help. Canada's ratio of boots on the ground versus behind-the-wire support personnel at Kandahar Airfield frustrates this front-line. "The numbers are backwards. More combat, less support is what we need," said one section leader.

    Capt. Ryan Carey, 35, a native of Oakville, is not surprised to hear the complaints. Like all of Canada's commissioned officers in Afghanistan, he is acutely aware that the real battle ahead will be political, not military.

    "We lost amazing people. The experience and the personalities of the men who died, they just can't be replaced," he said.

    "And if the result is a harder attitude on the part of some of these guys, I don't agree with it. But I understand it. You're not going to win this thing with a group of grunts who just went through this and then turn around to ask them to do hearts and minds.

    "We still think everyone approaching us wants to kill us. We have no choice but to plan for a fight right till we leave."

    But Carey, like the rest of Charlie Company's newly ascended leadership, doesn't see more troops as the answer. Not more foreign troops, in any event.

    "More Canadians? Is that not just like giving candy to the Taliban? I think what we need is more ANA soldiers. At the end of the day it is the Afghans, with lots of backing for reconstruction, who are going to turn this thing. Not the people who point the weapons."
     
  6. ndicki

    ndicki Member

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    This really pi**es me off. Every bl**dy time, some clown in a jet gets it muddled up, our lot on the ground get it. In the first Gulf War, the British Army took more casualties off the USAF than off the Iraqis. In the second, they did it again ( Telegraph | Comment | Life will be no easier for Trooper Finney now)

    Now this. One wonders how it is that this degree of carelessness takes place, in these days of hi-tech gadgetry. I am not convinced that these idiots are representative of the USAF, but I hope they are hung out to dry publicly, just to make the point. War, especially the kind of war we are talking about here, is not fun at the best of times; and getting attacked by your own side makes it not just unpleasant, but downright revoltingly pointless.

    When are they going to get it right?
     
  7. plan_D

    plan_D Active Member

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    I'm more concerned with the clue-less attacking the pilots, to be honest. There's place for criticism, but make it constructive. The USAF is on our side, any mistake is a honest mistake and the RAF make them too. Human error will never erased. If you racked up the numbers that the USAF saved to the people of it's own side it's killed, and I think you'll have a MASSIVE ratio in it's favour.

    In any case, this isn't a "bash the USAF" thread. Glider's started this to point out the complications in Afghanistan. Personally, the British would have the job done if the government supplied them with enough ammo. Since they have been running out of ammo in firefights for gods sake!
     
  8. ndicki

    ndicki Member

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    Plan D, it's just that it pi**es me off. Really. Whether or not the balance is positive - as it clearly is - or not, it pi**es me off. I don't want to think what the parents and families of these soldiers are going through. It is one thing, I expect, to have to come to terms with losing a child or a husband in war, but it is quite another to know that he was killed by mistake. As a soldier, or rather an ex-soldier, I know this can happen, but I'm afraid I see things from the point of view of their platoon commander, for example. It makes me angry and sad, that's all.

    I expect the RAF has done it, too, and that would pi** me off equally.

    And I know what you mean about the British Army suffering from ammo shortages. After all this time, especially, it is scandalous.

    So let's be positive, as you suggest. What can be done to prevent this sort of thing from re-occurring quite so regularly?
     
  9. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    While I agree with you that it needs to stop, it will not stop. The USAF does not go around gunning for British Troops on the ground!

    There are so many factors involved that you dont know about, that I dont know about, that no one knows about because the governments keep them bottled up. Did you know that the majority of airstrikes are called in by ground troops and that if they themselves are attacked by the aircraft 90 percent of the time it was buy giving the wrong coordinates in the heat of tha battle.
     
  10. ndicki

    ndicki Member

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    That's obvious. But it still REALLY pi**es me off. Nuff sed.
     
  11. Dazed

    Dazed Banned

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    Lets just say a prayer for the fallen and their families and move on.
     
  12. ndicki

    ndicki Member

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    Fair enough.
     
  13. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    Friendly fire has always been a part of the battlefield. Two factors have raised this issue to the significance it hasn't had before. One, total losses of troops has reduced significantly such that now each injury or death makes the news. Over 6000 personnel were lost on Iwo Jima, but I doubt if anybody knows were friendly fire, lots I bet. Second, our firepower is so accurate and deadly, each error causes significant damage. A misidentified armored personnel carrier, a hellfire or maverick, much friendly fire death. In the battle, the enemy never gets to fire on the personnel carrier.

    I think that if research it, you will find that friendly fire accidents are considerably less than the past. Nobody takes friendly fire lightly and much effort is put forward to continue to reduce its impact. But as Adler said, as long as you have deadly weapons, exhaustion, confusion, excitement and lots of people, friendly fire will continue.
     
  14. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Couldn't put it better myself. All I would add is that if it happens that peolpe sould own up so without fear of being taken to court. That is the only way that it can be investigated, the lessons learnt and the chances reduced further.
     
  15. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    I think when mistakes are made, people do own up to them. In the case where the wrong coordinates are given, sometimes the person responsible is a victim of their own error.

    Having worked with FACs and strike teams in the USAF myself, I get really miffed when the blame immediately goes to the guy flying the airplane. I have seen what happens when someone gets it wrong. Is it soemtimes the pilot or WSO? Yes. But it is more often NOT their fault.

    Investigations follow these kinds of incidences. The truth is not always fully released for various reasons. Lessons are learned and ways to prevent future incidences are looked at. Believe me, if the pilot is at fault, it is something he has to live with for the rest of his life.

    Going off half-cocked without all the facts is a dangerous exercise, and does nothing to change what happened.
     
  16. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Yes friendly fire has been reduced. In WW2 I believe it was estimated at 12 to 20 percent of the casualties were friendly fire. In Iraq and Afganistan I believe I saw a report that puts friendly fire casualties at 4 percent.
     
  17. plan_D

    plan_D Active Member

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    But back to Afghanistan, the British have encountered some real opposition for once. Whatever has happened, has made the Taliban and insurgency come out in force. I am getting the idea that the British troops are doing their job out there, but they're missing the vital equipment (i.e ammo!) to have the done job properly.

    Because the spotlight is on Iraq, this unexpected surge has caught the Coalition unawares. And something really needs to be done about it.
     
  18. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    I think for the most part the whole coalition in Afganistan is doing the right thing and getting the job done.

    Here is the latest talley on coalition soldiers killed in Afganistan and by what country:

    Military Fatalities By Country:

    Australia 1
    Canada 42
    Denmark 3
    France 9
    Germany 18
    Italy 9
    Netherlands 4
    Norway 1
    Portugal 1
    Romania 4
    Spain 19
    Sweden 2
    UK 40
    US 343

    Total 496

    :salute:
     
  19. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    Our guys certainly have their hands full but I am curious as to why the casualties are high is it because of the area we are in Khandahar or bad tactics
     
  20. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    The area that the Brits are in is very high with Taliban activity.
     
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