Monday, October 02, 2006



One of the most remarkable and intense battles British soldiers have faced so far in Afghanistan saw engineers and military policemen fighting alongside outnumbered troops in a fight to save their Sangin base from being over-run by militants. RAF airstrikes were "utterly, utterly useless" claimed the major in charge, at stopping the ceaseless flow of enemy fighters.

The incredible details of months of hardcore fighting came in a series of leaked e-mails from Major Loden, providing one of the most frank, and informative, word pictures of the 'War On Afghanistan' we've seen so far.

From the Times of London :

On Loden’s first day at Sangin, the British attacked a group of Taliban, only to discover that two other groups were waiting for them. The hero of that engagement was Corporal Bryan Budd (29 years old)...

“We initiated a contact with enemy pre-seen,” Loden said. “Unfortunately the pre-seen were only one of the three firing points and two of Budd’s section were quickly wounded. He pushed forward to drive the enemy back, and personally dispatched some enemy taking cover with a couple of grenades and some rifle fire.”


With intercepts of Taliban communications showing that they were trying to surround the troops, Loden began putting together two more sections using engineers and two military policemen who had been investigating the accidental death of another soldier.

“The company sergeant-major made another trip out and back on the quad bike to collect the third casualty, this time coming under fire himself but continuing nonetheless,” he said. “I began assembling more forces to push out to bolster the position on the ground. I sent forward a section of engineers with the second platoon commander to effectively control the rear.

“The second platoon commander tried to push round the flank towards Budd but was engaged by enemy across the river and pinned down. I now created two more sections, one led by a corporal from the sniper section with an engineer staff sergeant as the second-in-command and including the Royal Military Police sergeant and corporal.”

At this point there were 80 troops on the ground while Loden himself co-ordinated artillery, mortars and air support.

...with Taliban mortars beginning to home in on the British troops, the first platoon found Budd.

“It was around an hour since he had been hit, and initially (he) had no pulse,” said Loden. The troops tried to resuscitate him. “The company sergeant-major raced out on the quad bike and retrieved him, but the doctor was unable to save him.”

Budd, 29, who lived with his wife Lorena and their daughter Isabelle in Ripon, North Yorkshire, was the seventh British soldier to die in Sangin in the past few months.

In an extremely controversial move, British troops fighting Taliban in Musa Qala, in south Afghanistan, cut a secret deal with their enemy for all fighters to pull back from the town, for the safety of the residents.

The Taliban may well claim they beat the Brits down and forced them to leave the area, but the Brits saw the need to "win the hearts and minds" of the locals as being of more strategic value than killing a few more Taliban.

From the Times of London :

Over the past two months British soldiers have come under sustained attack defending a remote mud-walled government outpost in the town of Musa Qala in southern Afghanistan. Eight have been killed there.

It has now been agreed the troops will quietly pull out of Musa Qala in return for the Taliban doing the same. The compound is one of four district government offices in the Helmand province that are being guarded by British troops.

Last month Sir Richard Dannatt, the new head of the British Army, warned that soldiers in Afghanistan were fighting at the limit of their capacity and could only “just” cope with the demands.

The soldiers risk sniper fire and full-scale assaults from experienced Taliban fighters who can then blend into the local population after each attack.

The peace deal in Musa Qala was first mooted by representatives of the town’s 2,000-strong population. About 400 people living in the immediate area of the district centre compound have been forced to evacuate their homes, most of which have been destroyed in the fighting.

Brigadier Ed Butler, the commander of the British taskforce, flew into Musa Qala 18 days ago, guarded only by his military police close-protection team, to attend a shura, or council of town elders, to negotiate a withdrawal.

Butler was taken in a convoy to the shura in the desert southeast of Musa Qala where the carefully formulated proposals were made.

The deal — and the avoidance of the word ceasefire — allows both sides to disengage without losing face, an important aspect in the Afghan psyche.

An e-mail from one soldier in the region explains the issues further :

“We are not having an effect on the average Afghan.

“At the moment we are no better than the Taliban in their eyes, as all they can see is us moving into an area, blowing things up and leaving, which is very sad.”

A total of 29 British servicemen have lost their lives in southern Afghanistan in the past two months...

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