A Soldier in Afghanistan

So, I am off in Afghanistan 5 years ago doing things that would be challenging for an 18 year old, much less an old dude like me. I am sleeping on the concrete back of those piled-up sandbags and doing things that I can’t tell you about.

Two of my faithful guards who stayed up all night guarding me while I slept on the concrete just inside that building back of those sandbags.

In late 2001 in the aftermath of 9/11 we wanted revenge for the attack on the World Trade Center. The obvious initial choice for President Bush and our military leaders was the terrorists who had planned the attacks and their training camps for such attacks that were located in Afghanistan. 

The Special Forces and advisors that we sent in there put together what was called the Northern Alliance. It was really a collection of Afghan war lords let by Afghan General Dostum. They were being supported by US air power, but with a disadvantage. All military flights had to be launched from Uzbekistan or aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea. We needed an airbase at Mazar-I-Sharif, for our aircraft had to carry so much fuel to come from those far off locations that they could not carry much munitions. Taking that town was our first priority in that war. Winning the battle to take it was our first significant victory in Afghanistan over the Taliban.  

Meanwhile, General Noor led 2,000 men of the ethnic-Tajik-dominated Jamiat-e Islami forces against the village of Ag Kupruk directly south of the city, along with six Special Forces soldiers and seven U.S. Air Force Combat Controllers who directed bombing from behind Taliban lines.  

The Taliban had taken the city in August of 1998 and had held it ever since. The Taliban were condemned by the United Nations (for whatever good that did) for massive massacres of the civilian Shia population at the time. On November 2, 2001, Green Berets from Operational Detachment Alpha 543 and small elements of the CIA Special Activities Division were inserted into the Dari-a-Balkh Valley. Their role was to support General Mohammed Atta Nur and his militia. Together they fought through the Dari-e-Souf Valley and had linked up with General Abdul Rashid Dostum and his forces and ODA 595 and the CIA team supporting Dostum. They had also battled through an intersecting valley south of Mazar-I-Sharif.  

On November 7 and 8, the Taliban were moving 4,000 fighters across the countryside towards Mazar-I-Sharif in preparation for battle to make sure they held the town. American big B-52 bombers bombed those Taliban fighters who were hiding, all concentrated in the Cheshmeh-ye Shafa gorge. That was the southern entrance to the city. This was one of the heaviest campaigns up to that point. The B-52’s wiped-out most of them. Nevertheless, the Taliban claimed they had infiltrated 500 fighters into the city to prepare for the coming battle. 

What was really interesting to me was the US Special Forces guys saying how amazed they were to see those brave, intrepid Afghan fighters charging the Taliban tanks on horseback.

U.S. Army Special Forces and U.S. Air Force Combat Controllers in “The first American cavalry charge of the 21st century” with General Dostum and his forces of the Afghan Northern Alliance

It has been a long time since US military men charged in actual, real battle on horseback. After these outlying parts of the city were taken, as many as 12,000 Taliban combatants as well as members of alQaeda and other foreign fighters began to withdraw towards Kunduz. However, the fighting for the town was still fierce. At least 600 Taliban died in the battle. 

And here is what was so fascinating to me about that battle. Just as the fighting for the town was beginning, A Mullah from Pakistan led approximately 900 Pakistani Muslim volunteers into the town to defend it. They were mostly only teenagers. They holed-up in the several buildings of the abandoned Sultan Razia Girls’ School and built up their fighting positions. Some officials from the town tried to get them to surrender but they vehemently refused. When they started shooting at Northern Alliance and US Special Forced, those guys shot back. And listen to this, all the while the battle was raging the Mullah was driving around in the school using a loudspeaker riveted onto a pickup truck and blaring out to his volunteers: “Those who die fighting for God don’t die! Those who go on jihad live forever, in paradise!”  

It is for sure most of them are there, for our guys killed most all of them. And following the battle, United States Air Force Sgt. Stephen E. Tomat was awarded the Silver Star for crawling right up under the heavy firing and calling in an air strike on six vehicles and the school.  

Also, approximately 1,500 Taliban were captured or defected. 

We now had an airfield so that our aircraft did not have to fly so far to do battle and could carry many more munitions since their sorties were much shorter.  

Following rumors that Taliban Mullah Dadullah might be headed to recapture the city with as many as 8,000 Taliban fighters, a thousand U.S. Army Rangers were airlifted into the city, which provided the first solid foothold from which Kabul and Kandahar could be reached. 

Also, after the battle was finished, US Army Civil Affairs Teams from the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion and Tactical Psychological Operations Teams from the 4th Psychological Operations Group assigned to both the Green Berets and Task Force Dagger were immediately deployed to Mazar-I-Sharif to assist in winning the hearts and minds of the inhabitants. 

I was on the first commercial air flight from Kabul to Mazar-I-Sharif and spent considerable time there. That girls school was quickly rebuilt.

Students at the 2002 reopening of the Sultan Razia girl’s school after its destruction

I had several local friends in Mazar-I-Sarif who took me through the several private schools that they had started now that the Taliban were gone. I was able to visit with the young male students, but the girls were afraid to talk with me or even have their picture taken. They were still traumatized by how girls were treated by the Taliban. They were also afraid of what the Taliban would do to them if they ever come back. And I can understand, for in such a case, someone may tell on them and no telling the punishment they would face for having talked to an American male. 

One of my prison boys (that I will tell you about later) was always wanting me to send him pictures of people that will inspire him. Recently I sent him a picture of some guys his very age of when I was in Mazar-I-Sharif. These guys and I really bonded. 

I wrote the prison boy the following: “I am sending this picture to you, so you can see how bright and hopeful these young men are. The reality is that they are stuck in a city in the north of Afghanistan, and have not a chance in hell of ever getting out of there or having any kind of opportunity for any kind of a good life. Because of their crazy customs, most of them will never even get the wife they want, because it would cost them $4,000 to $5,000 for the payment to her family, and they will never have that much. I had one of the older ones email me recently. He and this girl were deeply, desperately in love. But her family was giving her to an ugly old man who had the money to pay them for her. Can you imagine how desperate my young friend there felt. He loves her so very, very much, and she is going to that ugly old man for as long as he lives. 

“You can also imagine how intensely and desperately they desire to be in the U.S. and have all of the opportunities that you guys have. I want you to look at their faces and into their eyes and solemnly promise me and yourself that you will live a successful and special life when you get out from back of that prison fence, since they will never have the chances and opportunities that you have.”

 And as you read this I sincerely, no desperately, solicit your prayers for these particular boys. I can’t tell you all that we went through together that will keep us bonded for life. 

So, I went through all of this about Afghanistan as just background to tell you about a U.S., black soldier that I met there. He looked so whipped and beaten-down that I just asked him: “What in the world has happened to you, fella?” 

He said: “Man, you won’t believe what happened to me yesterday!!!”  

So I said: “Tell me about it.” 

And here is what he related……………….He said that he was out on patrol in his hum-vee and had gotten ahead of his unit. He decided to stop and wait for them. He was right on the edge of this little village. He said that this darling little girl came running across the street and just smiled up at him. He said he didn’t have any candy to give her, so he just gave her one of his water bottles. 

Then at that moment, her father came running across the street. He grabbed her by the hair, reached for that curved knife that the men carry in their belts and just cut her throat right there in the street.  

The soldier said: “Wow”, that he grabbed his weapon and wanted to “blow the bastard’s ass off right there!!” 

But the soldier knew what would happen to him if he did. So, he dared not do it.  

Now that black soldier has no visible wounds, but I assure you that he is wounded for life. Do please pray for him. God knows who he is. He really needs your prayers. God’s Spirit Power can comfort him.

P.S. This is to all my many friends in China who read these stories ………………这是向所有读过这些故事的中国朋友问好。 请,请,如果您不介意,请给我发电子邮件并告诉我有关您的信息。 我的E-mail地址是 …………….ronald82@verizon.net

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