Axeghanistan Day Eight: Dutch Battle Taliban


Categorie: Afghanistan, Axe in Afghanistan '07 |

Today The Washington Times ran the story I filed from the Battle for Tarin Kowt:

A car packed with explosives exploded beside a Dutch armored personnel carrier outside a girl’s school in this shambling town of 100,000 on Friday afternoon, killing the driver, one Dutch soldier and around ten Afghans, including several children. The attack was the opening salvo in a major Taliban counter-attack against Dutch, Australian and Afghan forces that have been steadily extending their territory in rugged Uruzgan province north of Kandahar.

In the hours after the bombing, Australian forces patrolled Tarin Kowt under the watchful eye of an aerial drone. But the next wave hit the nearby village of Chura, a few miles to the north, when hundreds of Taliban fighters descended from the mountains to fire rockets, mortars and small arms at checkpoints manned by Dutch and Afghan forces.

Afghan forces held the line as the Dutch moved forward, calling in 155-millimeter artillery fire and Apache attack helicopters firing rockets and cannons. Dutch F-16 fighter jets based at Kandahar swooped in to drop bombs. The fighting continued into the morning, with no additional coalition casualties reported. Dutch army spokesman Major Erik Jonkers said that at least 30 Taliban had been killed.

Fighting flared up again late on Saturday. Apache crews raced to their choppers while Dutch army Sergeant First Class Richard and his crew – who like many coalition troops asked to be identified by only their first names for security reasons – waited for radio calls from artillery spotters in Chura. They slammed three-foot-tall shells into the breech of their German-made gun and fired. The red arcs of rocket-assisted shells were visible against the starry night.

Uruzgan province sits astride a major smuggling route connecting Pakistan to Helmand province’s expansive poppy fields, which produce a majority of the world’s opium and finance Taliban operations. Since August the Dutch and Australians have carefully pushed into the valley, taking one town at a time and shoring up their defenses with increasing numbers of Afghan police that they train themselves at Camp Holland.

The Dutch soldier killed on Friday represented only the second combat fatality for that nation’s approximately 2,000-strong contingent in Afghanistan. Prior to Friday, the Dutch had taken a much-criticized “softer” approach to warfare than their allies, focusing on reconstruction, training and humanitarian operations as a means of winning over Afghanistan’s xenophobic rural tribes as they expanded their sphere of influence. A joint Dutch and Australian “Provincial Reconstruction Team” represents the major military formation in Uruzgan.

“We’re not hunting the Taliban,” Jonkers said on Thursday. “We’re here to make them not important any more. But it’s not about cowardice. When we fight, we fight.”

Reconstruction in Tarin Kowt – including an Australian project to rebuild a soccer field at a boys’ school – continued despite the Taliban attacks. On Friday, engineers spread tons of fresh dirt for the field while the wreckage of the suicide bomber’s car continued to burn two blocks away.


8 Responses to “Axeghanistan Day Eight: Dutch Battle Taliban”

  1. greg d says:

    I appreciate your posts. People who can’t read the Dutch press would never hear of these events otherwise.

  2. Todd Swalwell says:

    hey thats me in that photo, nice mate.

  3. [...] Dutch and Afghan forces reportedly did most of the fighting in last week’s battle for Tarin Kowt in southern Afghanistan. So where were the Aussies? That’s a question I’ve been asked a dozen times by desperate Australian reporters, soldiers and members of the public. [...]

  4. [...] Poorly paid, poorly trained Afghan tribal militia bore the brunt of the fighting in recent battles with Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan. [...]

  5. [...] The June 15 Taliban-orchestrated suicide bombing at a U.N. International Women’s Day event in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, that killed 11 Afghan children and one Dutch soldier was entirely preventable with well-established procedures. And even if the bombing itself weren’t preventable, Private Timo Smeehuyzen’s death perhaps was. The 20-year-old Amsterdam native — the first of two Dutch fatalities in the five-day battle that began with the attack – might have survived if the bombed patrol had asked for assistance, had followed U.S. and Australian ambush-reaction tactics or had been fully equipped with blast-proof trucks.   [...]

  6. Ben says:

    “Dutch and Afghan forces reportedly did most of the fighting in last week’s battle for Tarin Kowt in southern Afghanistan. So where were the Aussies? That’s a question I’ve been asked a dozen times by desperate Australian reporters, soldiers and members of the public. ” What a load of shit – we lost a great soldier that day because the Dutch don’t know what OPSEC means. Pull your head in.

  7. [...] Beginning Friday the approximately 2,000 soldiers of 42 Battlegroup and Afghan police fought a pitched battle against hundreds of Taliban fighters in Chura, around 10 miles from the main Dutch base near the provincial capital of Tarin Kowt. By Wednesday the major fighting had ended. [...]

  8. M B says:

    I was at what is now called Camp Holland. It was the Tarin Kowt PRT site. I was there when it was dust and participated in the construction of the site. I designed the dining facility from the ground up, operated the foodservice, and enjoyed my tour there. I was also able to assist in agricultural reconstruction missions and participated in the 5 year reconstruction plan for the Uruzgan province. Best of luck to all who have and will follow after me.

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