Musa Qala, Helmand Province
afghan village

Afghan Tribal Village south of Musa Qala District Center. Photo by Delta 10.1

“The British were chickens, but these men… the American Marines…They fight like animals, like they’re not even human.” -Intercepted radio transmission from a Taliban commander after losing Karamanda to 1st Battalion of the 2nd Marine Regiment. May 2010.

Afghanistan is notoriously nicknamed “the graveyard of empires.” Empire after empire has tried and failed to pacify what is today the modern territory of Afghanistan. I would call it “the battleground of empires.” In 330 BC, Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army suffered staggering casualties in fierce battles against Afghan tribes. At one point, he was struck by an arrow and barely made it out with his life. Genghis Khan’s Mongol army swept through the country in 1220. The British campaigns of the 1800’s and the Soviet War during the 1970s both failed. They failed because they were unable to subdue the population.

Leading up to 2010, President Obama authorized the deployment of 33,000 US troops to surge into Afghanistan. The plan was to try and replicate the success of the “protect-the-population counterinsurgency strategy” that worked so effectively in Iraq.

Our job was to clear the Taliban out of critical parts in the south and hold off any retaliatory advances. Once that was accomplished, we could pacify Kabul and its surrounding areas. In theory, the surge would also give the Afghan Government the time it needed to build up and train its police and army ranks. They really needed to pull their shit together and quickly, because we wouldn’t be there forever. President Obama announced a timeline. The hope was that an Afghan-led security force and a functioning indigenous civil administration would convince the people to stop supporting the insurgency. That was the idea, at least. You’ve got to remember that this place is complex in ways you couldn’t imagine. Afghanistan may not be the end of the world, but you can sure see the end from there. 

2009 was a year dominated by presidential and provincial council elections intertwined with violence. The elections were plagued by widespread fraud and a low voter turnout in areas that were “hot,” which was everywhere. The War in Afghanistan claimed the lives of 303 US servicemen in 2009. The situation was rapidly deteriorating at an alarming rate.

This was evident by the increase in roadside bombs or IEDs (Improvised Explosive Device), the Grunt’s worst nightmare. During this time, insurgent attacks also increased, killing scores of civilians. Suicide bomb attacks doubled, and the Taliban was on a vicious assassination campaign. The target? Anyone and anything not Taliban. 2009 came to be the deadliest year of the decade-long war.

I deployed to Musa Qala in the spring, summer, and part of the fall (the fighting season) of 2010. I was the team leader of SET (Sensor Employment Team) Delta, 1st Intelligence Battalion. Shortly after arriving at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, our team was sent to the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Marine Regiment. Our AO (Area of Operations) was big and intimidating, to put it mildly. On our chopper ride to Musa Qala, I was taken aback by the terrain we flew over. It looked like God had run his fingers through the desert to create the apocalyptic landscape before us. Our mission centered on Musa Qala, primarily the District Center or Government Center.

We operated as far north as Karamanda, scaled Panda Ridge and the volcanic rock of Now Zad, killed time in Shir Gazay, barreled through Salaam Bazaar, and eventually, literally tip-toed down to Sangin. Sangin is renowned for its IEDs. Our unique job allowed us to operate independently without close supervision. It was outside the norm for a Corporal to be running around an area of operations, working his OFP (Own Fucking Program), which I have rebelliously tattoed on my ankle. Being OFP was both a blessing and a curse. We sometimes had to split our team to cover missions across the AO. By the end of 2010, we had lost 529 US soldiers killed in action. It was the deadliest year of the War in Afghanistan.


OldSarg · May 28, 2018 at 16:21

Nice post.

    VogelMike · May 31, 2018 at 01:36

    Thanks OldSarg!

OldSarg · July 10, 2018 at 20:41

Hello? . . .

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