by DAVID AXE
Fifty miles south of Kabul, in the Kherwar district of Logar province, lies a low valley ringed by sharp peaks. U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gukeisen, commander of coalition forces in the province, calls it “basically a bowl.” To the roughly 1,500 American, Czech and Afghan soldiers in Logar, the Kherwar bowl is legendary in its deadliness. It’s a Taliban stronghold.
The bowl, home to tens of thousands of Pashtun farmers, has only a handful of practical entrances through the mountains — on unimproved roads — making it perfect terrain for ambushes. “An entire Soviet divison was defeated here by the mujahideen” in the 1980s, Gukeisen recalls. In the current war, an American helicopter was shot down there. That taught the U.S.-led coalition that “you don’t go in unarmored.”
Until January, there were just 100 coalition troops in all of Logar. Today, with more American soldiers surging into Afghanistan, there are now around 1,000 U.S. and Czech troops, plus a battalion of Afghans. But the coalition is concentrated north of the bowl, in areas that are more urban, more easily accessible and friendlier towards the foreigners.
Gukeisen knew he had to fill the Kherwar bowl, eventually. Additional reinforcements might ease his task, but he wasn’t waiting around for extra troops. Gukeisen devised a plan to slowly spread his influence from his northern redoubts, southward into the bowl. He calls it his “extreme makeover,” after a popular U.S. television show, where celebrities help lucky couples repair and improve their homes.
(Photo: David Axe)
How to Bomb Nice
Afghan Pirate Radio Defies Morale Crackdown
Rescuers Re-Rescue the Rescued
Tale of Three Districts
Chicken & Egg
With Friends Like These
Op Donkey Haul