The Northern Alliance were the good guys in Afghanistan. They had been fighting the Taliban and gathered some good intelligence but they maybe lacked the skills to defeat them alone.
November 2001 in Northern Afghanistan, the Taliban were under some serious pressure in places. The Northern Alliance commander General Dostom had managed to talk some of the Taliban leaders and their fighters into surrendering.
Many of the fighters were not from Afghanistan. The men were mostly foreign fighters, from Pakistan and other Arab speaking countries in the Middle East. The US wanted to question the captured enemy soldiers and they were moved to Qala-i-Jangi prison.
Qala-i-Jangi prison was a fortress. It’s huge. Sitting over 500m long and 270m wide, it took 12 years to build. 18,000 workers played their part in building the structure, which was put up in 1889 to defend against the British. The Taliban had been using the prison since 1994 with only a short time in 1997 that General Dostum was in charge there.
Between 300 and 500 prisoners were moved the fortress for questioning. Now, what’s the one thing you do when you take prisoners of war? You take away their weapons and search them for anything they could use against you. This wasn’t done. Some of the prisoners had smuggled weapons in, including grenades, which they used in suicide attacks against the Northern Alliance.
One of Dostum’s commanders was killed along with other Northern Alliance soldiers in separate incidents. Despite this fuck up, they didn’t increase security around the prison.
Two CIA officers rock up to the prison with the job of questioning the captive fighters. Johnny ‘Mike’ Spann and Dave ‘Dawson’ Tyson want to interrogate the fighters out in the courtyard.
The CIA singled out one European looking fighter. Turns out he’s an American that’s been out in Afghanistan since before 9/11 helping the Taliban fight the Northern Alliance. A complete cock womble basically.
His name is John Walker Lindh. The interviews were ongoing, but it was going to take a long time to complete the task. Dave ‘Dawson’ Tyson could speak Uzbek, which would help get through some of them faster.
After a couple of hours of interviews, some prisoners with concealed grenades decided to stand up and attack the captors. The prisoners outnumbered the captors four to one. They killed Spann and some of the Afghan guards. The Taliban took over the south side of the prison which also included the armoury and ammo depot. They had access to a large store of small arms, ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. One CIA member was attacked and killed, the second escaped to another part of the fortress.
SBS Reinforcements Turn Up
The Afghan’s called for help. Reinforcements turned up, including a tank. M Squadron SBS jumped at the chance to get some action and headed out with their team that included a Navy SEAL on an exchange program. US Green Berets were also with the SBS and some Northern Alliance soldiers.
From mid-afternoon until dark they fought to hold the prisoners back. They called in air strikes despite it being dangerously close to their position. There was no other way to keep the prisoners both pegged back and prevent the prison from being overrun.
The SBS called in one airstrike that was mistakenly dropped on friendly positions. A 2000lb bomb was dropped on them after the pilot tapped in the wrong coordinates. At least four Northern Alliance soldiers were killed. The US and British soldiers sustained injuries but nobody was killed.
SBS Facing Massive Amounts of Fire
The SBS were now facing a massive amount of fire from a determined enemy that was holed up with a fuck ton of weapons. There’s only one thing to do when you’re in this situation and that’s to grab the GPMG from the Land Rover and start firing from the hip. Don’t doubt my words, watch the video instead. Ignore the reporter who says it’s SAS because he’s wrong.
The fighting died down at night so the SBS took this chance to get back to their HQ to rest up, resupply and prepare to return in the morning. When leaving one evening the Navy SEAL attached to the frogmen didn’t want to leave his fellow American behind. They thought the CIA operative was still hiding somewhere in the prison and he wanted to search for him. The SBS told him he was crazy to go looking for him. It was starting to get dark. They had no night vision and they didn’t even know for sure where he was. They also didn’t know their way around the part of the prison that they suspected he might be.
Back in the Prison to Search
The Navy SEAL jumped back in, followed by some of the SBS and Northern Alliance soldiers as they couldn’t let him go alone. They braved their way through minefields and heavy enemy fire to search for the CIA man. The Northern Alliance knew their way around the fort so their knowledge was vital.
They wanted to search a room where they thought he might be holed up. A shallow ramp led up to a raised doorway which was their new target. The problem was the run to the doorway was exposed and the door was peppered with bullet holes and leftover marks from RPG hits. The enemy could get to them there.
Trying to Reach Their Companion
Two Afghan soldiers darted for the door and fell in a hail of bullets, the SBS realised they would be killed if they continued to run.
Damien Lewis writes in Bloody Heroes:
Just as they were about to duck back into cover, the two SBS soldiers heard frenzied chants of ‘Allahu Akhbar! Allahu Akhbar! Allahu Akhbar!’ coming across from the fort compound. They turned in that direction and spotted a group of some thirty enemy fighters rushing towards them across open ground, screaming at the tops of their voices as they did so.
Dropping to one knee Tom and Sam started firing off on automatic, spraying the charging fighters with rounds. As they surged forward the enemy soldiers opened fire in return with their AK47s levelled at the hip. The bullets went zipping and whining past Tom and Sam, ricocheting off the walls.
They were starting to get a bit overrun. Maybe they had gone too deep into the fortress…
Tom and Sam were taking aimed shots and dropping the fighters as fast as they could, but still they kept charging forwards. Suddenly there was the throaty roar of Ruff’s Gimpy opening up from the eastern tower. Tom and Sam saw the heavy GPMG rounds tearing into the enemy figures, but still they kept on coming. As they got closer and closer, the two SBS soldiers realised that the surviving fighters were clutching grenades. Repeatedly, Tom and Sam fired and re-aimed, fired and re-aimed with their Diamacos, as the enemy bore down on them.
Tom got the lead fighter nailed in his sights, and for a split second, he saw a crazed figure rushing towards him brandishing a grenade in either hand, his mouth set in an animal snarl, an undying scream of hatred on his lips.
These uneducated fools really have taken the wrong fork in the road in life. To be stupid enough to think if they blow themselves up, they get to go to paradise and have 72 virgins is pretty deluded. This doesn’t stop them though, their brains don’t work on the same level as normal humans.
At the same time that Tom squeezed his trigger, the enemy fighter must have pulled the pin in his grenade. He was barely thirty yards from Tom’s position as he did so, and suddenly there was a blinding flash and the roar of the explosion. As Tom and Sam dived back behind cover, four other blasts rang out, as the first grenade set off the others that the fighter had been carrying. As the smoke cleared, Tom saw the bottom half of the man’s body toppling slowly to the ground. The top half of his torso had been completely obliterated in the blast.
Good fucking riddance scumbag. You achieved precisely nothing.
He and Sam searched with their weapons for any remaining enemy among the drifting smoke. But all they could see was the sandy earth littered with shattered human remains and soaked in blood and gore. Severed arms, legs and heads were lying scattered across the ground in front of them.
Further Air Strikes
The SBS called in further air strikes to keep the enemy that was alive in the basement of the fortress. Those that did dare to venture out into the compound were duly wiped off the face of the earth.
The fighting lasted a total of eight days, the number of enemies killed rising each day. When the SBS believed all the prisoners were dead, the Northern Alliance went to collect bodies. They discovered almost 100 prisoners were still alive, refusing to surrender.
What few were left were holding on deep in the basement to avoid the air strikes and the decision was made to flush them out. Firstly, fuel was poured down and lit to put a flame up their ass and get them out in the open.
When that didn’t work, water was the next option. This worked and the remaining 86 prisoners came out as the water level started rising. Some were injured and died later of their wounds.
Locking Up the Survivors
One of the survivors was the American John Walker Lindh. He was taken back to America and faced charges of treason. In 2002 he was sentenced to 20 years without parole.
The CIA operative they had been searching for had escaped from the prison previously, and was alive and well. Johnny ‘Mike’ Spann’s body was recovered from where he fell, after putting up a tremendous fight until the very end. Spann was the first American killed in Afghanistan during the war on terror. No other western soldiers were killed during the battle for Qala-i-Jangi.