Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
The walk to besieged U.S. Combat Outpost Nolen is only 700 metres in a straight line, but for the soldiers who walk it every day it is an extraordinary feat of fitness and defeating their own fear in one of Afghanistan’s riskiest front lines.
The only road, a dusty farm track known as “Route Phillies”, is blanketed in roadside bombs designed to kill or maim soldiers, and occasional larger bombs make them dangerous too for even heavily armoured trucks.
To skirt that, troops opt instead for a zig-zagging obstacle course across grape fields separated by four metre-high mud walls, walked in full combat gear and in savage 45C heat.
I was with Western forces the other day as they tried to persuade a group of Afghan farmers to come to them for help if they saw Taliban militants plant an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) or intimidated them.
Reuters Kabul correspondent Jonathon Burch is currently on an embed with the U.S. Army’s Stryker brigade in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province. On October 27, seven soldiers from a platoon of the Strykers, named after an eight-wheel armoured combat vehicle, and an interpreter were killed in a bomb attack on the outskirts of Kandahar city.
Jonathon was accompanying them at the time and here’s his story :
The mission was simple. Some 20 U.S. soldiers were to patrol a riverbed in the dead of night, camp until morning, and provide backup to Afghan troops and their Canadian mentors in a clearing operation in Chahar Bagh village, an insurgent hotbed on the outskirts of Kandahar City.