13 Aug 2008 @ 6:57 PM 

French TV From Tag Ab


Our very own LTC Stone Cold, BSMV, emailed me a link today to a story that was produced by France 24 about Tag Ab and the neighboring district of Ala Say.

For me, it was both exciting and eerie. I’ve been in all of those places. In the video, they visit the local ANP. I’ve sat in the stuffed chair that is in their new office. I was in that building before it was completed. I worked with those ANP, and I’ve met and talked with the Provincial council member who smuggled the reporters back into Tag Ab for their second trip.

Firebase Kutschbach, which started out as a VPB* and then grew into Firebase Tag Ab and is now named for a Special Forces operator who was killed working out of the firebase shortly after the base was begun, has grown quite a bit in the past months since I’ve left Afghanistan.

The French are sending additional troops to Afghanistan and apparently are going to relieve the soldiers from the 101st who are there currently.

During the first of two visits to Tag Ab, the French crew rides out to Ala Say in an MRAP with soldiers from Co A, 506th INF, 101st ABN during a combat patrol. That was the road that we went up and down numerous times in the valley. I once took a two humvee patrol out there, spent several hours doing a district assessment of the district ANP and returned without incident. Why they didn’t hit me is anyone’s guess. Box of chocolates, I guess.

Days later, six humvees went out and one of our SECFOR gunners had his M-240 blown clean in half by an RPG which struck the top of his humvee. He was unscathed; not so much as a singed eyebrow. Days later the same soldier, now driving, on the same road, was struck in the door by an RPG. It blew the door open and peppered him with metal and glass fragments in his left arm and face.

No one blamed him when he announced that he would like to be rotated to tower guard duty back at Blackhorse. He’s a great kid with a great sense of humor, and he still carries fragments in his left arm. He was one of our awesome SECFOR crew from South Carolina. Can’t say enough good things about our valiant South Carolinians; they were the best.

He was, obviously, an RPG magnet as well; so it was in everyone’s best interest that he did just that. Great guy; not safe to be around.

It must have been his magnetic personality.

It’s a trip to see Afghanistan in the news more often. Americans seem to have a renewed consciousness of this theater of the war. Before I went to Afghanistan, one of my co-workers, Mrs. Howesfrow, asked me with all earnestness, “Is there still a war in Afghanistan?”

My response was one of those that required a conscious effort to leave the “dumbass” off of the end of the sentence.

A commenter on this blog once queried to the effect that he thought that we had already won in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was called “The Forgotten War,” likening American lack of awareness to the blithe ignorance of the Korean War. Now there is a resurgent interest in Afghanistan. Part of that interest was generated by the battles that were fought in 2007 and the continued activity in 2008.

This activity draws pundits out of the woodwork claiming with all earnestness that we are losing. Just days over a year ago, Tag Ab was a place that coalition forces rarely went and the nearest permanent presence was at the north end of the valley at Nijrab. That presence was a Special Forces ODA** and about a company of ANA who rotated in and out. The ANP in Tag Ab were completely non-functional. The now-fired Chief of Police in Tag Ab rarely actually ventured into the valley.

It was Talibanland.

Now there is a struggle going on in Tag Ab, which adds to the violence level reported in Afghanistan, and to the casualty count; but before there was not so much activity, because it was left to the Taliban.

The government of Afghanistan is pushing into these areas that were previously ungoverned, and the ACM, the best known of which are the Taliban, are finding themselves pushed back.

It doesn’t help that the Taliban have their safe havens in Pakistan. It doesn’t help that there is Arab money pouring into those areas, either. It doesn’t help that Al Qaeda still functions there and brings resources to bear in defense of their hiding place and training ground.

But that doesn’t mean that we are losing. Can we lose? Yes. Are we losing? No. We have gained ground in areas like Tag Ab. But we are clearly reaching a decision point in our efforts.

When we arrived in Tag Ab, the paved road in the video was unpaved and rough. The District Center was 40% complete and not in progress. The ANP had been pinned down in their makeshift district center for days at a time by the Taliban and they were afraid to go more than a few hundred meters from the District Center. Now they are part of the fight for their own country. They hopped in their trucks and went tearing off to assist their commander when he was ambushed.

That’s progress.

The ANP commander who was injured in that ambush was in for his second flight on a MEDEVAC bird to Bagram. He is one of the bravest Afghans I met in Afghanistan. A quiet, unassuming man, he always went towards the fire.

Tag Ab is obviously still contested. It is a struggle, and partly because it is their closest major activity to Kabul. Suicide attacks that emanate from Pakistan have staged through Tag Ab to reach Kabul. It is a critical area.

Two years ago, convoys were ambushed much further north, but now much of the drive from Bagram to Tag Ab is fairly peaceful. The government is obviously in control in those areas. Police are in evidence and the people go about their daily lives in relative peace. Tag Ab still has a way to go to get to that level, but it will happen.

It takes time, patience, and unfailing commitment.

Our media is still missing the boat. While the French report is not entirely accurate, they did the best that they could. Most of it is either accurate or close to the truth, but it is by far the best piece I’ve seen on Tag Ab. There are a thousand stories that are ongoing in Afghanistan where Americans are doing things that would make people here proud, but they are not being reported. The stories are not being told. America is being ripped off.

We’re being scooped by the French.

*VPB = Vehicle Patrol Base; a group of vehicles arranged in a defensive perimeter, a temporary arrangement

**ODA = Operational Detachment Alpha; an “A Team”

Tags Tags: , , , , , ,
Categories: Afghanistan, ANA
Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 13 Aug 2008 @ 06 57 PM


Responses to this post » (8 Total)

  1. David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 08/14/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  2. membrain says:

    Thanks for the link and the background anaysis. Imagine; being scooped by the French!

    I imagine we have Sarkozy to thank for the French finally getting into the fight. And in such a volotile region too. It’s hard to imagine them replacing the 101st Airborne.

    It’s good to see other countries paying more attention to the war in afghanistan in their media.

    Up here it’s part of our daily news. Only this morning on of our premier national broadcasts, Canada AM, originated their show from CFB Pettawawa, as a salute to the troops, 2500 of whom in the audience will begin deploying to Kandahar next month. Many of these men and women will be on their second and third tours.

    Fight wIth the Canadian Forces!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for posting this link and for all you share on your blog. My son is in the French news video and it is actually a huge relief to see him (at all) and his brothers in arms calm, cool and collected, even despite the firefight. Thank you a zillion times over for your blog. I follow it religiously.

  4. Rosemary says:

    Oh, I know how you long to be back there, and you’re torn because you want to stay with your family. Ouch. It is good, though, that you get to hear this great news! Here is a site for you: DVIDS News. They cover plenty of news coming from all over the world. Have a great day. ;)

  5. C.A. Mac says:

    Hey there…keep up the blogging, and the writing. Such rich words here, and you really tell it like it is. C

  6. 180 says:

    Finally, I find time to review the blog….and I can’t stop reading it. Thanks for the tour and the memories. Some good, some bad.


  7. fnord says:

    Erm, concerning the question of “winning” vs. “loosing”. Would you care to define those terms? Because to me, one of the really confusing issues of the Afghan conflict is that I have seen no percieved endstate described, no model for integrating the pashtuns and the other mujahedin. How do you see a victory in Afghanistan being shaped? How does the west deal with the various layers of qawms and loyalties in the south?

  8. secretsquirrel says:

    Watched Restrepo recently and I also recently found your blog through a friend. I guess some memories get one ‘google’ happy. For what it is worth your writing is outstanding, you pull no punches and your analysis is the way analysis should be; full of facts. I was one of a few AF guys trying to help make an impact in the Tagab in 2007 on the ground. We were unofficially attached to ODA at MF and tried to share some help down at Pathfinder for a bit as well. It took our Army counterparts a bit to figure us out, whether we were legit or not, but in the end I think we made some good music together. I was out and about on Nauroz Jhala, Commando Fury, and many others. Me and my partner also helped out in Kabul on one occasion. Tagab was a frustrating place to be though I feel blessed to have served there in the capacity I did. Professionally it was rewarding and personally I learned a ton about myself. Oh, and I remember meeting the guy who had his 240 shot in half; at MF pretty soon after it happened. I swear he smoked a pack while telling his tale. Thanks again for your detailed analysis and the updates on all the bad guys who met their end in the Tagab. I know I spent plenty of time losing sleep on how to contribute to the capture or killing of Nejat and the others. ~SS

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