When the Taliban have a compound where many of their leaders are hiding it’s always going to be hard to reach. Well, this one was no different, with the Navy SEALs DEVGRU unit climbing for more than half the night just to reach the altitude where the Taliban were hiding in a compound ready to be attacked. It reminds me of the Lone Survivor mission, Operation Redwings.
Mark Owen explains their mission in No Easy Day,
The plan was for my eight-man team to climb up the ridgeline and parallel the valley until we made our way past the target compound. We would set up a blocking position on the uphill side and contain the fighters in the valley if they tried to escape. They wouldn’t expect us on the high ground since the compounds sat almost at the very top of the valley.
The other two teams would patrol up the main road into the valley and try to flush the Taliban fighters out to where my team would ambush them. If the two teams made it all the way to the objective undetected, we would simply make our way down to the compound ourselves and help clear the target from all sides.
Arriving at the Base
When DEVGRU arrived at the US combat base in the Kunar Province, Afghanistan, they were looking forward to getting their shit sorted before climbing to get eyes on the enemy. Instead, almost immediately after stepping foot off the Chinook they came under attack from the ridgeline next to the camp.
RPG’s and gunfire pounded the ground around them, showering the men with shrapnel and catching them off guard. The two Chinooks took off instantly, they had to get the fuck out of there or they would be ruined. As one of them took off it set off a trip wire around the perimeter of the camp. A flare rose high in the sky, lighting the battlefield to leave them exposed and under fire.
The men scarpered in to cover as the .50 caliber machine gun and mortars from the US troops in the base gave the Taliban as good as they were getting, with a shit load on top. The enemy fire faded out and they gathered their kit and got into the camp where they had cover.
The soldiers already at the camp knew a fair bit about the enemy here. They had been patrolling towards the compound DEVGRU wanted to attack. They had climbed for six hours and got around halfway before coming under fire. The men had their work cut out if they were going to get to the high ground above the compound for the advantage in the attack.
The base soldiers headed out on a patrol a while later, DEVGRU following behind but turning off after falling back not long after they headed out of the gate. The main patrol was attempting to be a distraction from the attacking unit climbing up the mountain. It was going to be a long tough climb even without their plates that they removed to keep their kit as light as possible.
After following a road for two hours, Mark Owen explains how tough the climb was.
It was the end of the road. The trail narrowed and got steeper as we patrolled deeper into the valley. With every step I could feel the altitude and the weight of my equipment trying to slow me down. I was getting tired, and we were only halfway. I hoped all this effort would be worth it.
Let’s remember that these guys are super fit as well. It must have been a honking climb. They headed directly up to the ridge line, trying to find a goat trail that would give them the high ground advantage over the compound.
I could almost hear my legs scream, but we all knew it was the right call. From the road, we literally climbed up the mountain searching for the goat trail. Several times I had to tighten the sling on my weapon so I could grab boulders in front as I climbed. If I wasn’t pulling myself up the side of the mountain, I was making my own switchbacks as we climbed. No one spoke, but I could hear my teammates grunting as they climbed.
Reaching the Top
After getting through their world of pain on the climb they found themselves in an excellent position above the enemy compound. The teams got into place and upon the order, started to creep forward. It was quiet as the scumbags were sleeping, unaware that death was quietly arriving into their bedroom to send them to get their non-existence 72 virgins.
They scanned every door and window as they made their way to the first building. The laser finding nothing that needed taking out so far. Slow and quiet was the order of the day, stopping every few steps to evaluate the situation.
They moved inside the courtyard of the compound after cutting away a sheet that blocked the entrance. As the frogmen approached the door of the first building hearts were beating and the sound echoed around their heads. Were the enemy already watching them? Waiting to get a better shot of more of the Team so that they could kill more at once? Or were they all asleep, unaware the SEALs were just metres away from them as they rested?
The lead man tried the door of their building. It was open. As he slowly opened the door he saw a man with a torch faffing about with it, trying to get it on amongst his panic. Another man sat up from under some blankets. He had an AK-47 next to him though and a chest rack on so this was game on.
They opened fire, killing both men. They opened another door and discovered women and children. With one SEAL keeping watch on them, they headed to another door farther along.
Some perfect timing occurred at this point. A RECCE sniper behind the building had spotted around six Taliban fighters grabbing weapons. They were out to get involved in this action so the sniper opened up on them, making them scramble for cover just as the SEALs burst in through the door.
The door was opened just far enough to lob a frag grenade in. The explosion, along with the shrapnel, put a damper on the Taliban’s evening.
Heading to another building, the SEALs entered and discovered a dirt floor with food, clothes, oil and general shit littering the area. There was a Taliban fighter that was trying to climb out of the back window, gun in hand. He dropped out of it as bullets tore him apart.
The Taliban were starting to get some support now. Their compound was under attack, they had probably lost some of their dear leaders to a delicious lead baguette and it would only get worse for them.
Reports say there were three firefights occurring, with more enemy soldiers on the way down the valley. The SEAL team had a SAW gunner that was chewing them up as they came down to die, dropping their RPG’s as rounds filled their bodies.
There’s no better feeling when you have enemy combatants coming to help their fallen scumbag brothers than an AC-130 tearing them a new arsehole.
The author and his oppo Charlie headed off to clear an alleyway. With their weapons facing the opposite wall of the alley, they slowly walked down, scanning for the enemy to take down. About halfway down Charlie suddenly opened fire. It was dark so they couldn’t see that far in front of themselves.
After Charlie stopped firing and moved forward the author saw an enemy fighter crumble just a few steps in front of him. That was a close call. The intense training they continue to put themselves through day after day was paying dividends here.
The All Clear
It wasn’t long after this that they heard the all clear over the radio. The buildings had been cleared, the enemy support had been chewed up by a gunship and the area quietened down once again.
The Team gathered intel from the site, computers, hard drives etc and took photos of the dead to confirm to the bosses which Taliban leaders had been wiped out.
They received some intel that more fighters were coming from further away, drones were still up in the sky keeping a watchful eye and sending updates down to keep them abreast of the situation.
The frogmen piled up the captured ammo and weapons and set explosive charges to destroy it on a five-minute delay.
After the long climb earlier that night, adrenaline took them down in just three hours. Everyone was shattered, smashing some gels and water and trying to get some energy back into their bodies.
The enemy lost seventeen fighters that evening with a further seven or eight possibly killed by the AC-130.
This attack proved that going in heavy handed isn’t always the best way. Sometimes creeping in and having surprise on your side until the last second can reap bigger benefits.