The helicopters landed in Taliban country after midnight. This was not a community outreach moment. Commanders expected serious resistance and casualties were likely. In broad strokes, the two-day mission amounted to a “shaping operation.” Task Force Spartan is successfully using such missions to build outposts in the various hearts of Taliban-controlled areas. Most of these areas have never been tamed, largely due to insufficient troop commitments early in this war.
We landed in the darkness and the helicopters roared away into the night. We stayed low in the marijuana field for a few minutes, until silence settled in our heads, and then we began to move out to the objective. Using night vision gear, we scraped and stumbled and climbed through farmers’ fields. Sometimes we needed ladders to scale walls and there were some falls in the night, but nobody was hurt this time.
By daybreak, 4-4Cav occupied mutually supporting positions in several Afghan family compounds. Spreading out to “strong points” made it more difficult for the Taliban to operate until they could pinpoint our positions. Knowledge comes at a cost during these operations, and both sides often pay for the lessons in blood. For instance, the Taliban might realize only after someone dies that a distant sniper can see them. BAM. And the same for us. We have the advantage of air, while the Taliban have the supreme advantage of ground familiarity. The air advantage is there so long as we maintain cover. Home turf is advantageous 24/7, 365.