Sunday, February 17, 2013

Battle for Qalah-eh-Bagh - Day 1

Located at the entrance to the Lagaskhar Valley and along a historical (but now defunct) trade route, the city of Qalah-eh Bagh had been a strategic position for centuries. As far as two thousand years ago invaders tried to control this vital spot to dominate the flow of trade and control the entrance to the isolated, but densely populated and once prosperous valley.

After years of continuous fighting, the city lies shattered, only a shadow of its former glory and wealth. During the civil war, Qalah-eh-Bagh took severe damage, and though the people rebuilt parts of the city, it has never recovered from the blows that modern weaponry dealt  to it. After the foreign intervention in Afghanistan, the regional town had first been ignored - located in the remote parts of southern Afghanistan, without access to major roads or infrastructure, it was neither a good spot to set up a base, nor a strategic obective to control. But with the US taking over responsibilities from ISAF-forces as part of the troop surge, the town has attracted some attention due to its role in the notorious and flourishing drug trade. Local Taliban and Warlords have made the city a major trading hub, resurrecting its former status as a great centre of commerce...

In order to disrupt the economic foundations of the Insurgent forces, US commanders did not only launch Operation Firefly - a campaign into the Lagashkar valley, which is both an insurgent stronghold and a major production centre for heroin, but also decided to take control of Qalah-eh-Bagh, where the drugs have been distributed to foreign dealers, mostly located in Pakistan.


The first stage in the Operation to secure Qalah-eh-Bagh is to root the Taliban out of the surrounding villages and the outskirts of the city to establish a strongpoint, from where further Operations can be organised.
One of this strongpoints is a compound dubbed "A7", controlling the western approach to the city.
Two rifle-squads are tasked to free the area from insurgents and to destroy all machinegun- and AT-placements in the area to make sure that supplies and reinforcements can arrive along the road unhindered.

Mission Objectives: 
-Take the compound with the green marker
-No Taliban in LOS of this position, Destroy all
-Destroy both DshK-Positions and the SPG9.

The area was crowded with civilians when the operation began. The local basar was in full swing when the US forces arrived.

US Forces arriving
 The US fireteams repositioned themselves along the wall, trading fire with the group in the house and engaging the first DshK-Position after positively identifying it as hostile. They watched with horror as one of the civilians was caught in the line of fire and went down under the hail of 12,7mm-bullets.

Meanwhile, the APC repositioned to prepare a pincer movement on the Taliban blocking position conducted by the troops in their cargo. Meanwhile, an enemy popular leader recruited local men and distributed weapons among them.

Preparing a two-pronged assault on the building

Trying to approach the building, one soldier of 1st Squad, B-Team was hit by incoming fire from the armed mob in the market square. One of his buddies ran back to him to drag him along, only finding out later that the bullet had killed the soldier instantly.

Despite definite and clear orders from their commander, the fireteams refused to outright assault the building.
Instead, more volume of fire was brought to bear on the enemies inside.

2nd Squad, A-Team refusing to assault,  1st Squad, B-Team (almost) clearing the building with firepower

After the firing from the MG had died down and not resumed, 1st Squad, A-Team hurried to aid the fallen civilian, who was miraculously unhurt, except for some bruises. Obviously, none of the bullets had actually hit him, whistling past him while he huddled himself into a fold in the ground, praying for his life. 

1st Squad, A-Team checking on the former MG-position and aiding the civilian.

Just as the soldiers though they´d secured the building, more enemies appeared at the windows... 


Undeterred, the Americans poured in more fire, finally silencing the enemies before cautiously moving into the position to find 10 dead enemy fighters inside. 

Blocking Position overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, their leader tried to close in after releasing the civilian from their protection. Again, the mob in the market square tried to drop off shots, but failed to bring enough precise fire onto the Americans. However, after the exhausting spring across the open field, one of the soldiers collapsed after a heatstroke.

Fog of War- induced Heat Casualty.

On the other side of the former blocking position, 2nd Squad, B-Team was trying to clear another compound to enable safe passage for the Stryker, but took a casualty while doing so.
Hit by RPG-fire, the unit was pinned down near the entrance to the compound, but managed to seriously shatter the Insurgent morale.

Finally, the Stryker pulled up to assist in clearing the building.

After getting stuck in the open while tending to their heat casualty, the troopers of 1st Squad, A-Team where hit by fire from the second DShK HMG, causing more casualties.

More Insurgents!

Fortunately, both casualties where only lightly wounded and combat-ready after getting patched up. The casualty on the other side of the battlefield wasn´t as lucky - the RPG had littered him with shrapnels, causing severe injuries to his extremities. Fortunately, the Insurgents where shaken and timidly cowering in their cover, which gave the soldiers a vital break to tend to their casualty, only forced to drop a round off once in a while to remind the enemy of their presence and keep their heads down.

Meanwhile, the Stryker continued down the road, busting a poorly prepared ambush by the SPG-9-crew.  The fire from his M2-HMG sent two of the crew fleeing and killed the last.

SPG-9 crew fleeing after failing their ambush.

In the market, the fierce fighting continued. With the civilians fleeing from the field, the line of fire was finally open to deal the real blows to the Insurgents.

With the two last Crew served weapons down, this mission objective is suddenly in reach - originally, I didn´t think that I could achieve all three goals with only four teams and one IFV...

The other threats were as easily dispatched.

Snipers on the tomb!
 And the advance towards the target building continues:

Stryker engaging enemy presence in target compound.

And finally, the US forces overwhelm the opposition:

Compound cleared!
After getting up TWICE !  the DShK-HMG was finally killed for good, but only in the last turn and by the combined action of two teams:

Game over!

Decisive Victory for the US!  The Taliban are shattered and retreat into the center of the city, leaving the outskirts to the Americans. After a hard won victory, the soldiers are getting to rest in their new strongpoint, preparing for the Action of the following day...

1 comment:

  1. Wow! That's some pretty intense action! I could feel my anxiety level increasing as I read the report - well done! Looking forward to the next one!