Musa Qala 2006 (I) - (2022)

Musa Qala 2006 (I) - (1)

The battle of Musa Qala, in 2006, despite not having a great significance in the future of the war in Afghanistan, nor a huge death toll, was significant for one reason: it was NATO's first defeat. In spite of everything, the clashes made it clear that on the ground the British soldiers fought hard to the end, failing on this occasion political support, something we have seen on other occasions. In the next lines we will try to narrate, with the greatest detail, both the events and the reasons that led to the fatal outcome.

  • Musa Qala 2006 (I)
  • Musa Qala 2006 (II)

When in late 2002 and early 2003 the plans for the invasion of Iraq were in their last stages, protests raged all over the planet and millions of citizens showed their opposition. I have to confess that I did not want such an intervention either, although my reasons were completely different from those of the vast majority. The Taliban government had been overthrown and the al Qaeda terrorists defeated and expelled from Afghanistan, but the country's war history had already taught many lessons showing that one thing is the short term and quite another is the war in the future. The Taliban had been defeated, but not defeated.

As early as February 2002, the extraction of resources from Afghanistan to deploy against Iraq had interfered with the battles still being waged by USCENTCOM. In cases such as Operation Anaconda –analyzed in this magazine in numbers 3, 4 and 5– it had largely conditioned the options of its planners, having to resort to practically every infantry unit in the theater of operations in order to react to the unexpected and harsh resistance of the Taliban and terrorists in the Shah-i Khot valley.

From 2002 to 2006, in which our story takes place, the situation had only worsened. The conflict in Iraq, far from ending, had worsened exponentially and the military units of the countries involved had their forces committed to the established rotations. Iraq and the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah took the headlines and the political fight, reaching a point where nobody cared much about Afghanistan or what happened there. Just what the Taliban wanted and what some had predicted.

As envisaged at the Bonn Conference in December 2001, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had taken over the fight against insurgents in Afghanistan. Led by NATO, ISAF's mission was to help the Afghan security forces extend and exercise the authority and power of the Kabul government throughout the country. Difficult task, considering that for decades the different provinces, districts, valleys and even towns, had led a totally isolated existence, only controlled according to the power of the local "warlord" or tribal leader.

Once the governors of the different provinces were appointed, they tried to exercise their power over the affairs of their fellow citizens, but in provinces such as Kandahar or Helmand, bordering Pakistan and the birthplace of the Taliban, wishes were one thing and reality another. When Afghan police forces were deployed in police stations in cities and towns, they immediately interfered with the will of the Taliban and drug lords, thus starting trouble.

In the small towns of Helmand, the Taliban and criminals attacked police establishments, killing their occupants or putting them to flight. Governor Mohammad Daoud immediately turned to President Karzai for help in ending the threat and restoring his humiliated authority. At the beginning of 2006, ISAF had only 130 Americans in the province, so Task Force Helmand was formed around the British from the 3th Air Assault Brigade's 16rd Battalion Parachute Regiment (3.300 Para). The total deployment was about XNUMX British, Canadian, Danish and Estonian soldiers, although as a combat troop Brigadier Ed Butler could barely count around a thousand soldiers. Operating from the Camp Bastion logistics base - located in the middle of the desert to remain isolated and avoid attacks - the TF Helmand commanders began to deploy their units in April.

Musa Qala 2006 (I) - (2)

The long way to Musa Qala

In September 2001, Major Adam Jowett was stationed in Madrid, as a NATO General Staff officer, when the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were committed. Soon it would be revealed who was responsible and that Afghanistan was the country where the leader of the terrorists was taking refuge. That could only mean that sooner rather than later there would be war in that region of the planet.

After standing thousands of miles away as spectators during the early phases of the conflict, in 2005, the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment (3Para) received notice of deployment to Afghanistan for the following year. Its sister battalion, 2Para, was able to share its experiences with them as they were there just after the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, although they had hardly left the Kabul region where ISAF had established its headquarters.

The objective entrusted by the ISAF to 3Para was to provide security in the province of Helmand, so that it would be possible to carry out projects aimed at improving the extremely poor quality of life of its inhabitants and convincing them that the elimination of the Taliban had been beneficial to them. , not being desirable for anyone that they could return to power.

In the words of Defense Secretary John Reid, "the mission in Helmand could be accomplished without the need to fire a single shot." For an elite infantry unit such as the British paratroopers, that comment was disappointing, since after years of hard training they could finally put what they learned into practice in countless maneuvers. It would not take them long to understand how false the politician's words were and the extreme test they would go through.

As Officer-in-Charge of Support Company, Major Jowett took charge of his men's journey in an RAF Tristar to Kabul. They then boarded a C-130 Hercules that took them to Kandahar, where they had the opportunity to relax for the last time in whose immense airport, being able to tour its facilities and buy almost anything a soldier could think of in its stores. the mind.

The flight to Camp Bastion was the first warning that everything was changing. The Russians had lost a large number of planes and soldiers while the aircraft were taking off or landing, so the C-130 in which they were flying applied what is known as a "Khe Sanh" landing, making a dive with the aircraft and losing height abruptly until it leveled again a few meters from the asphalt. In 2006 Camp Bastion was not yet the gigantic airfield that it would become over time, being made up then of rows of military-colored tents and cargo containers, as well as a group of C-130, helicopters CH-47 Chinook and AH-64D Apache.

Once out of the plane, the paratroopers began to unload their material and settle in, while Major Jowett went directly to the 3Para headquarters to report. Given the nature of the mission, the men of the different sections of his company (mortars, machine guns, etc.) had been distributed among the line companies in order to carry out their support mission. Having no personnel to lead on the ground, Jowett was assigned to the command center called the Joint Operations Center (JOC), a place where military vocations like him were quick to seek out to join, by any excuse, the troops in The front. On the JOC's giant screens and on the maps spread out on the tables, Jowett was able to watch the initial British deployment in Helmand province. At first, the operations that were carried out were coups and scores, with no intention of staying in fixed positions. Only C Company maintained the Forward Operating Base Price at Gereshk. What is soon clear is the unwillingness of the Afghan troops (mostly police) to act against the Taliban.

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The first unit to engage the enemy was C Company, returning from a meeting with a group of local elders. Listening to the entire sequence of the fight on the radio - the initial contact, the orders to the soldiers, the shooting, the air support and the final report - further galvanized the desire of the rest of the military to leave the base and participate in the battles.

(Video) Danish Scouts In Musa Qala 2006 [EN SUB]

After several days of acclimatization and work at the JOC, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Tootal called Major Jowett to order his transfer to Sangin -another Afghan town whose name would be marked in letters of fire and blood in British military history- to serve as second commanding A Company. While flying in the Chinook he was able to contemplate the landscape of the area, passing from the desert to a mountainous area, to later fly over the area full of vegetation (Green Zone) located on the banks of the Helmand River, full of rudimentary irrigation systems and with a myriad of isolated houses surrounded by a high, thick wall made of hardened mud and straw, the typical rural Afghan structure called a compound. Seen from the air, one could understand the Herculean task entrusted to A Company.

After landing, Jowett went to the District Center (DC) strategically located next to the Helmand River, next to the road that passes through the area and about 500 meters from the town. He was prepared for defense, with a perimeter barrier of Hesco and guard posts interspersed. Inside there was a three-story building from whose roof, full of antennas and machine gun posts, it was possible to control the entire area around it. Its large interior size allowed Chinook helicopters to have enough space to carry out vital supplies and casualty extraction missions without being too exposed.

The commanding officer of A Company was Major Jamie Loden – he would later become known for criticizing, in published emails, the effectiveness of the air support given by the RAF – who had requested the help of another officer to be able to attend to the workload that was accumulating in Sangin. The first patrols were being organized in the area and inevitably the first tentative battles with the Taliban took place. The intention was to eliminate their threat in order to allow the engineers to enter the area and develop the first reconstruction projects.

As second-in-command, Major Jowett would take care of much of Loden's bureaucratic work, leaving him free to plan, lead, and, where appropriate, accompany patrols. His first task was to advise the fifty Afghan policemen who had their headquarters in DC. To begin with, his boss was not at the base, he had been missing for days and nobody knew where he could be, since his absence was something habitual. Arriving at the police station, he found the policemen drugged, with red eyes and stupid smiles. Quite disheartening knowing that in an hour they would have to accompany him to carry out another of his tasks, a “shura” or meeting with the village elders. One of the few advantages that these men could bring was that being from the area they belonged to the same existing tribal system and could easily identify, much better than any British, individuals outside the village.

That tribal system was important to the stability of the area. In Helmand, the Alizai tribe predominated - made up of six major clans - which in turn are a branch of the Noorzai, which together with other tribes make up the Durrani Pashtuns, dominant in the southern area of ​​Afghanistan bordering Pakistan, being the main components and Taliban supporters. Precisely from the Alizai tribe was the former governor of Helmand province - called Sher Mohhamed Akhundzada (SHA) - who was in office until early 2006 when nine tons of opium were seized from his offices. The several hundred men on SHA's payroll were free to join the ranks of anyone who wanted to hire their weapons, such as the Taliban.

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The patrol to the Sangin market was prepared for a more than probable contact with the enemy, with a platoon (which in Spain would be a section) of soldiers accompanied by snipers, machine gunners, an anti-tank team with Javelin missiles and the Afghan policemen, these last in the center of the formation so as not to risk it.

Arriving at the intended location, the once bustling market had been transformed into a ghost town. The Afghan interpreters could hear on the radio that the Taliban were gathering to attack them, so in view of the situation they were ordered to return to base.

The attack came from the rear with volleys from AK47s and RPGs, quickly being answered by soldiers with their assault rifles and grenade launchers. At times there was enormous chaos as NCOs issued orders and assigned targets to the paratroopers. While the column retreated in order, covering each other, from adjoining streets, houses and irrigation canals they opened fire on the soldiers and countless projectiles hit them as they passed. To finish disengaging from their enemies, air support was requested and a plane dropped a bomb on a Taliban position, silencing them.

After the last few meters and back at the base, still full of adrenaline, the panting soldiers were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and discuss the events among themselves. The officers, although happy not to have casualties and to have participated in a real combat, did not lose sight of the fact that deep down the enemy had achieved their goal of preventing the shura. In this way, without being able to carry out improvement projects, the Taliban had the best advantage.

This type of patrols were the tonic during the following weeks. After a month in Sangin it was time for A Company to be relieved on the spot by B Company. For this TF Helmand devised an operation. A Chinook landed at Sangin with supplies and took off carrying Major Jowett to a desert location where a column of over thirty Canadian Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) awaited him. Being in the desert doesn't mean you're alone, and the ever-present Afghan motorcycles kept a watchful eye on the movements of vehicles from a distance, which were attacked with mortar shells when they stopped in one place for too long. They continued like this until they reached the Green Zone where the vegetation prevented them from being easily located.

The Canadians joined B Company and a logistics convoy to escort both to Sangin. With that protective screen and aviation flying over the group, the Taliban chose not to interfere. They may not be afraid to die, but they are not stupid and already fighting with the Russians they learned that it was better to fight when you don't have all the odds against you.

Returning to Camp Bastion, Colonel Tootal informed Jowett that he had another mission for him. He would take over Easy Company to occupy the DC of a town called Musa Qala (“Fortress of Moses”) and act as A Company had done in Sangin. The thing is that there was no such Easy Company in the 3 Para battalion. The line companies were already engaged in various locations and the newly arrived A Company would be left as TF Helmand's tactical reserve and used to establish a rotation that would allow everyone to have rest periods at Camp Bastion.

In Musa Qala the police headquarters had been raided by the Taliban and a distress call had been received. The TF sent in the Pathfinders, an elite 25-man unit from the 16th Air Assault Brigade. Upon arriving in DC they had to fight hard for each building with the Taliban, until they completely controlled the facilities. What seemed like a one-day mission turned into a prolonged siege, remaining for 52 days, half of them fighting to repel enemy assaults.

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Since that was not the role of the Pathfinders within the TF and their stay had been too long, they were relieved on July 26 by the 1st Light Reconnaissance Squadron "Griffons" of the Danes and the Somme Platoon of the Royal Irish (formed from D Company, 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment). Together they formed a powerful force, with a hundred armored vehicles that the Taliban could hardly overcome. The daily attacks to which the defenders were subjected touched the pacifist chord of Danish politicians and it did not take long for messages to arrive pressuring TF Helmand to get them out of that hell within 48 hours. That is why the different units of the TF were herded, in order to create a company skeleton that was called Easy Company.

The company, placed under the command of Major Jowett, would be made up of the Somme Platton (already at Musa Qala) and the Barrosa Platoon (B Company, 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment). They would be joined by a mortar section also from the Royal Irish, snipers from A Company, artillery forward observers, Joint Terminal Attack Controller to direct airstrikes, a Light Electronic War Troop (LEWT) team to gather intelligence from enemy communications (ICOM), combat medics qualified to treat the wounded, and a surgeon for the most serious cases where extrication by helicopter is not possible. A total of 88 men who would spend almost two months besieged and suffering one of the toughest battles experienced by the British army in its long history.

(Video) Heroes of Helmand - The British Army's Greatest Escape

They would also be joined by fifty policemen from the Afghan National Standby Police ANSP who would replace those from Musa Qala. These were personnel from other regions of Afghanistan who, in their own interest, had no intention of falling into the hands of the Taliban, since their execution was assured.
The rest of the A Company did not last long, since they were part of the relief plan of the Danes. They would be inserted in a place in the Green Zone adjacent to the town. Coming from the desert they would be joined by an Estonian mechanized squadron. Together they would press at dawn towards the town and after clearing any resistance they encountered, they would advance towards the DC. The Easy Company loaded with all its equipment would fly in a Chinook to the same town and land at the Helicopter Landing Site (HLS) adjoining the DC. Once installed, they would participate in the relief operation of the Danes that would begin in the early afternoon.

They left Camp Bastion before dawn and flew the 30 minutes to Musa Qala with night vision instruments. As soon as he set foot in the DC and while his men were introducing the equipment inside, Major Jowett decided to carry out a quick inspection of the perimeter, since in a few hours he would be the man responsible for preventing their loss. Unlike in Sangin, Musa Qala's DC was a nightmare to plan his defense. There were no Hesco barriers here, the DC being bounded by a wall of hardened mud little taller than a man. The defensive posts (sangar) were little more than makeshift with sandbags and camouflage netting and they had been unable to bring material from Camp Bastion to properly fortify them.

Inside the DC there were several houses that served as a command post, medical center, observation post, etc., but the only notable building was located in the center of the DC, a 2-3 storey block that had been nicknamed “The Álamo”, since in the event that the attackers overcame the wall and entered the base, it was where the last defense was planned. Between the houses there were obstacles that allowed them to be used as cover when they had to move around the interior of DC.

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As if that were not enough, instead of being outside the town and having clear fields that prevented their enemies from approaching without being seen, as in Sangin, here they were inside the town surrounded by countless houses, streets, shops, etc. . Barely 25 meters separated them from a whole network of buildings that could facilitate enemy movements and allow them to arrive hidden within the reach of hand grenades. That could become a paradise for the attacker and the worst hell for the men trapped there.

Finally, the worst of all the defense was that the only viable HLS for medical evacuations was located outside the perimeter and in a place easily reached by the Taliban's automatic weapons and RPGs. Bringing in a helicopter while an attack was taking place was suicide, so they didn't expect such help.

When evening came at last the Danish column moved. It was disheartening to see all these armor heading for the gate and abandoning the members of Easy Company, some of whom they had lived with for weeks under enemy fire. But the orders were clear and at least they supplied the British with everything they might need in the days to come. The Irish from the Somme Platoon served as an escort to the outskirts of the town – although as they usually do when there is such a show of force, the Taliban chose not to interfere – and finally the column of Estonians, Danes, Afghans from the PNA and British from A Company disappeared over the horizon into the Green Zone and then into the desert.

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By sunset Easy Company and ANSP were the only forces keeping the Afghan flag flying at Musa Qala. For the 88 British and fifty Afghans, almost two months of defending a lost position in an abandoned town began.

By the time it began to get dark Major Jowett had completed his first tasks, distributing his men and equipment throughout the installations, writing the pertinent report for his commanders and carrying out the first inspections of the defensive positions. When he entered the command post to give the update to Camp Bastion, LEWT members and interpreters were concentrated listening to Taliban radios. The entire deployment of the coalition had not gone unnoticed and they had seen the long column march with British, Estonians, Danes and Afghans, so according to their accounts in the DC of Musa Qala there must have been only a handful of policemen abandoned like lambs in the slaughterhouse.

The expressions of joy continued to be broadcast over the radio and grew bolder until they confirmed that in the morning they would storm the base and in the evening they would have tea in the center of Musa Qala. At the command post the British exchanged silent glances.

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The battle for the District Center

Major Lowett immediately informed his superiors at Camp Bastion, who were shocked at how quickly the Taliban attempted to take over DC. Listening to the radio conversation between their enemies would at least allow them to prepare a proper welcome.

By first thing in the morning they would have a pair of A-10 Warthogs assigned, which was quite a luxury since planes were normally only assigned when troops made contact with the enemy. All a sign that a very tough fight was expected.

Without wasting time, the men of Easy Company began to prepare their defense. The experience of the Royal Irish from the Somme Platton, who had been in Musa Qala for weeks, was providential in determining the possible approach routes and favorite places for the Taliban to attack the base. For this reason, the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) was established on the roof of the command post where they would have a wide field of vision of the enemy positions.

Although the planes could be used to make a show of force and stop the assault, that would only postpone the inevitable although, knowing in advance when the Taliban attack would take place, it would at least serve to make them pay dearly for the attempt. The A-10s would come ten minutes before dawn and would be orbiting far enough high that the Taliban couldn't locate them.

As the DC was normally attacked from the West, using a line of buildings as cover that allowed them to approach a short distance from the base, the A-10s would make passes in a North-South direction, taking advantage of the fact that the perimeter wall had the same orientation and that next to the wall they had about twenty-five meters of open ground that was well visible from the air and that separated the two contenders. It would be very dangerous air support, but they had the skill of the pilots to make it successful.

The 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (7 Para RHA) forward observer – brigade artillery – began referencing presets for the artillery, in order to be able to make quick fire requests to the men of the 1st Battery, 7 For RHA, they would be situated far out in the desert waiting with their cannons. Although the normal thing would be to fire a few shots beforehand to make the appropriate corrections and adjust the aim to the targets, it was decided to take a risk and keep the Taliban completely unaware of the threat that awaited them. It would have to be the advanced observers who, under enemy fire, corrected the artillery fire until they were directed to the positions of their adversaries.

(Video) royal irish easy company musa qal'eh

As the day passed, the rest of the preparations were completed. Staff were allocated positions and duly stocked with ammunition and water, as there was no telling how many hours the fighting would last or they would have to stand on alert in the Afghan summer sun, with temperatures well above 40 degrees Celsius, something that, as those who have suffered it well know, could cause as many casualties as the enemy. The mortar section prepared their tubes and stocked up on 51mm and 81mm grenades, both smoke and high explosive.

Everything was arranged in the medical facilities to assist any wounded in the fighting. In such a case they would notify the clinic by radio and one of the paramedics would come quickly in the quad they had, to take him quickly to the doctor if necessary. Although risky for the medic, in this way they thought to minimize the number of men who left the defense to attend to each wounded. As a precaution, each man would carry in his left pants pocket the medical kit necessary to treat an injured person, with bandages, material to make a tourniquet, and morphine.

At 23:00 Major Adam Jowett gathered his NCOs at the command post to explain the plan and the mission assigned to each one. If the enemy attack was strong enough and they overcame the defenses, a retreat to the command post and the Alamo was established to make a final defense from those positions and call in massive airstrikes on the rest of the installations. Such was the possibility of that happening that the men later took all of his personal belongings and moved them to the Alamo.

After the meeting, the non-commissioned officers left with their men to transmit their orders and check that everything was ready for the ordeal that they would undergo in a few hours. The night brought something cool and the British were able to have dinner, relieve themselves (also important) and try to sleep for a while while their minds and imaginations took them in advance to the events that would happen just a few hours later, when the sun would rise.
With everything humanly possible done, Major Jowett made one last round, visiting the different perimeter posts, to give confidence and security to his men and chat for a while with those who were watching in the dark, knowing that a hundred meters further on they were hiding. hundreds of enemies who wanted to end their lives and those of their companions.

Already at dawn, as they woke up early due to the inability to fall asleep, the men went to their positions. Through the night vision devices, the Afghan policemen could be clearly distinguished from the British soldiers because the former did not wear helmets and their uniforms were a darker color that did not reflect as much starlight. The Afghans would also have their role in defense, occupying a sector of the western wall near the observation post.

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After a few hours, as the day began to lighten, the members of the Easy Company were restless and expectant for what was to come. At one point, without warning or telltale sign, the enemy made his first move. A barrage of six RPGs was simultaneously fired at the main gate and the west wall.

The detonations coalesced into a single explosion, which was followed by a hail of fire from multitudes of Aks and PKM machine guns.

If you want to win a battle of this type, it is very important in these initial moments to gain fire superiority. Whoever makes their opponent lower their head will be the one with the most options to impose their battle rhythm, gain freedom of movement and push the opponent back. For this reason the British non-commissioned officers ordered their men to open fire quickly with all available weapons.

From the roof of the command post, Major Lowett could see that from every window and door of the buildings that bordered DC to the west, multitudes of Taliban appeared, opening fire automatically against the British positions. The flashes were perfectly distinguishable and Lowett took aim at a nearby enemy, fired and saw him go down. Crouched behind the wall of the roof, he moved sideways a few meters and came out again, overcoming the fear caused by the knowledge that numerous projectiles crashed against each wall and wall of the British positions, ripping up earth as they ricocheted. Accompanying the sound of his own shots was the peculiar buzz of bullets passing over heads.

It seemed like an eternity had passed and only a few seconds had passed. The cries of the soldiers informed their companions when they changed the magazine of their weapons and the non-commissioned officers made the first indications about possible targets. Absolutely all the positions of the defenders were under enemy fire. Sandbags were holed and tracer ammunition, red and green, converged on the strong points of resistance of the soldiers, ricocheting and losing themselves in the still dark sky. The entire perimeter was under attack, although it seemed that the heaviest punishment was receiving the western sector.

As the first minutes passed, there was no record of any movement that would allow us to guess that an assault was being prepared. It was feared that as a starting signal they would try to launch a suicide attack with a truck loaded with explosives against the main entrance gate.

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Perhaps the Taliban misread the strategic move of the previous day and thought that with the Danish and British withdrawal, along with the arrival of fifty Afghan policemen sent to the slaughterhouse, they would have little opposition. Instead they were greeted by a barrage of gunfire that stopped them in their tracks.

Major Jowett came down from the roof of the command post and asked the men monitoring enemy communications if they could guess any attack orders. At the moment they were just managing the fight tactically, so Jowett, accompanied by a soldier, ran low to get a first look at the defensive perimeter and check how the fight was progressing. As he approached the Afghan positions he could see that their fighting morale was excellent. They laughed and unblinkingly returned fire at the Taliban, lobbing their RPGs at their enemies with great effectiveness. They may not have been exactly martial in appearance, but these men knew how to fight hard, they had experience and they would not be a problem in the defense of the DC.

Arriving at the observation post, he was surprised not to hear the unmistakable sound of the 12,7 mm machine guns, whose mere presence is a guarantee when it comes to stopping an enemy attack in its tracks. On the roof he was informed that there was a problem with the ammunition and that it jammed the gun with each shot. For the moment they would have to rely on the ever-reliable 7,62mm machine guns. Feed tape after tape, they were in charge of sustaining a volume of fire sufficient to keep the Taliban pinned to their positions.

Thanks to the discipline of fire so often practiced in the maneuvers, the English soldiers gradually gained dominance in the shooting, helped by mortars that did not stop beating the enemy positions as they were located, firing with almost vertical tubes. , since in some places they barely separated a couple of dozen meters from the two contenders.

(Video) Pathfinder Platoon Afghanistan 2006.

When the battle had been raging for an hour and with no sign of ending anytime soon, Jowett decided it was time to call on the air force, which had been on standby until then. His fear was that if the situation dragged on, sooner or later an accidental shot could hit one of his men, since he knew that calling for a casualty evacuation helicopter (CASEVAC) under the current circumstances was a craziness. The first three mortar shells launched by the Taliban exploded around the DC and that finally decided him. The airstrike would surely end the combat.

Back on the roof of the command post, the JTAC contacted the two pilots, who were from the Texan Air National Guard. His first target would be the series of buildings located a few meters from the west wall. Through the radio, the mortar platoon was ordered to stop firing in order not to hit the A-10s when they made their low-altitude pass. In the same way, the rest of the Easy Company personnel were warned to lower their heads and remain crouched.

They began their dive following a north-south direction and parallel to the western wall. The first record of the attack was a succession of explosions in the buildings occupied by the Taliban, which raised a huge cloud of smoke and dust. Seconds later, a low, unmistakable roar overcame the entire cacophony of machine guns and rifles.

The Taliban fire coming from the western sector was completely silenced and on the other sides hardly any shots were heard. What could be heard was the defenders shouting in delight at the extraordinary display of air support. Again and again the planes began their attack maneuver until they ran out of ammunition.

When they left, an eerie and tense silence reigned over the battlefield, broken only by occasional gunfire as Taliban were spotted retreating. It was eight in the morning and the first match had ended.
For many of the soldiers this had been the first time in their existence that they had had to fight for their lives in battle. With adrenaline still coursing through their blood they discussed all the incidents with their equally excited companions. Bathed in sweat, covered in dust and surrounded by the smell of gunpowder, they drank water to quench their thirst, moisten their dry throats and recover during these moments of calm.

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There was no time to trust. There were still scattered attackers who fired from time to time, so with due caution he began a feverish activity to prepare for another attack. Guns needed to be cleaned, magazines refilled, ammunition restored, damaged posts had to be largely repaired, food prepared and water bottles replaced. For the moment there would be no rest.
While the non-commissioned officers saw to it that all these tasks were carried out, Major Jowett moved to the command post to report what had happened to his superiors at TF Helmand.

He was joined in the room by Captain Mark Johnson and Lieutenat Paul Martin, commanders of the two Irish platoons. Fascinated by the experience they had undergone and proud of their men's performance, they reported to Major Jowett on the progress of the fight. The Afghans had behaved, as had the reserve platoon, which had gone to those places where the fighting had been most bitter.

Satisfied as they were, none of them could escape the fact that they had been very lucky not to have had any wounded in their ranks, but they knew that sooner or later it could happen and they would not have any helicopter that could help them. They would have to reinforce the stockings to be able to attend to the wounded in the medical building.

Through the intelligence obtained through listening to the Taliban radios, they were able to complete a picture of the enemy chain of command, analyzing who gave orders to whom. If they could guess the identity of the commander in charge of the assault on DC and mount an airstrike against him, things could improve dramatically.

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What most upset the officers is that the tangle of streets, houses and rural buildings typical of the Afghan landscape allowed their enemies to go unnoticed until they were a few meters away. IF they could locate the places where they were concentrated before heading to the town, perhaps they could finish them off before they attacked.

Listening to the Taliban leaders give the references to group, they could try to bomb them.

Again, without warning, a shootout similar to the first began. As bullets slammed into the DC facility from all directions, the Easy Company men burst from their resting places and ran to their positions ready to return fire. Some were in flip-flops and others in T-shirts, but for their superiors the important thing was that they always wore the regulation helmet and vest.

The pace of the battle was identical to the previous one. In the long run, British shooting discipline won out over the chaotic volleys of their enemies. The mortars pounded the houses where the PKM machine guns were placed and their fire was answered by a concealed Chinese 107mm rocket launcher. The first projectile fell on an esplanade and the second hit directly against the command post, although fortunately it did not explode. Obviously the servants of that weapon knew how to use it, using the small tower located directly in front of the gate of the DC as a reference point.

This time flying over the scene of the fighting were a pair of F-18s armed with 1.000-pound precision bombs. Their target would be a three-story building where the assailants had placed PKM machine guns and RPGs. It was less than a hundred meters away and within the 150-meter area determined as "danger close."

Musa Qala 2006 (I) - (13)

They would have to take risks. Over the company radio network they were told to stop shooting and lie down with their mouths open and their ears covered. That gesture might have warned their opponents of the immediacy of the bombardment, but they were so focused on shooting at the British that they didn't notice. A piercing hiss preceded an apocalyptic explosion followed by a shock wave that passed over their heads. A second bomb fell alongside the first and the ground shook as two plumes of smoke and dust rose into the sky. The battlefield fell silent.


During the rest of the day four more attacks followed one another, each one as virulent as the preceding ones. Thousands of bullets hit the British positions and RPG grenades crashed against the walls. The paratroopers responded with their submachine guns, medium machine guns and mortars. It was always air support that ended the assault with bombs. In the last of the attempts, a B1 Lancer ended the day by dropping a 2.000-pound bomb against a building, turning it to rubble and dust. Taliban radios filled the airwaves with commentary on the tremendous casualties suffered.

By nightfall the men were exhausted not only by physical exertion, but also by the tension accumulated during the day. First of all they would have to go back to prepare to respond to another attack, check the ammunition consumed, have dinner and try to sleep a few hours until it was their turn to carry out the night watch. This had been only the first day of 60… (Second).


1. Panda Ridge, Musa Qala, Afghanistan
(John Doe)
2. Danish Soldiers battle for Musa Qala in Afghanistan, 2006
(Thomsen DK)
3. Fighting Irish face suicide threat in Taliban badlands
(Jerome Starkey)
4. 1st Battalion 8th Marines Bravo 2nd Platoon Afghanistan Musa Qala & Kajaki
(Kevin Daly)
5. Clearing Musa Qaleh, Afghanistan
6. 1st Battalion 8th Marines Musa Qala, Afghanistan 2010-2011
(Alex Figueroa)

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