It was a war we thought we’d won. But after eight years of escalating violence, the Afghanistan conflict has morphed into something perhaps unwinnable. U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to deny sanctuary to Al Qaeda, a goal we’ve largely achieved. But in years of occupation, Washington has apparently conflated counter-terrorism with nation-building. Now the U.S., NATO and their allies are struggling to destroy a deeply-rooted insurgency in country with a corrupt, ineffective government, poor infrastructure and few prospects for everyday people, but to fight. David Axe visits U.S. forces to see for himself.
by DAVID AXE
Intel indicated that the Taliban might attack Able Troop’s outpost in Baraki Barak district on the night of October 23. That afternoon, soldiers at the outpost loudly burned off some extra rounds at the outpost’s firing range. The gunshots echoed across the town.
As evening fell, two Apache gunship helicopters from a nearby base made a, shall we say, conspicuous pass over Baraki Barak. They slid over to an adjacent mountain slope and fired their 30-millimeter cannons and Hellfire missiles, just as a reminder, before leaving.
The 120-millimeter mortar team at Baraki Barak was next. They lobbed white phosphorous shells into the same slope, then, as it grew dark, popped illumination shells directly overhead. The red flares made a strange whoop-whoop sound and slowly descended under white parachutes. Within minutes of them hitting the ground, local Afghans snatched up the parachutes.
The attack never came. Was the intel bad? Or did the Taliban witness the assembled firepower and change their minds? Who knows.
(Photo: David Axe)
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