Taliban biker militia: Anatomy of a failed Afghanistan ambush
The Taliban rode Honda motorcycles, but US and Afghanistan troops didn't fall for trap set by hardened, battle-ready insurgents.
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Maki told McClatchy that usually when the Apaches attack, insurgents fire a few shots, throw down their guns and run. This time, they simply moved when he fired at them, took new positions and began firing again.Skip to next paragraph
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"They actually held their ground," he said. "It looked like they came looking for a fight."
"There were so many, it was like you had hit an ant nest," Matz added. "You'd see them scurry and reposition."
Second Lt. Christopher Goeke, the commander of the US trainers at the fort, who are members of the Army's Fort Bragg-based 82nd Airborne Division, said the Afghan soldiers had pushed forward eagerly for the fight, maybe too eagerly.
One of the dead insurgents appeared to be from a former Soviet bloc country, which would mean that the ambush included hard-core, experienced Taliban fighters.
"And they had more fire power than we'd ever seen before," Goeke said.
The Afghan soldiers pounced on the Taliban's bodies, checking pockets for a more immediate kind of cash reward for their work, several soldiers said, prompting the Afghans to laugh and jokingly pretend to check their own pockets.
Taliban fighters on drugs
One of them recovered a video camera, Goeke said, with tape in it that yielded some valuable intelligence. One segment, he said, showed what appeared to be the ambush group working itself into a frenzy for the battle. The men were clearly on drugs, he said.
The Taliban have intimidated villagers who live near the base to the point that they won't do anything to help the Afghan and US soldiers, Goeke said, in one case even turning down a reconstruction project.
The Afghan army unit and an even smaller national police station next door – also mentored by the Americans – are the only real representatives of the US-supported national government for miles in any direction. If they'd been beaten, locals would have grown even more skeptical that they could offer protection from the insurgents.
Instead, though, word of a Taliban defeat spread in the villages and among the insurgents.
"We know from detainees that this loss is already well-known among the Taliban," said Lt. Col. David Oclander, of Chicago, the battalion commander for the US mentors at the base and one of the visiting officers.
"It's premature to say there's any sort of irreversible momentum, but with more victories like this, there's the chance to move toward that point where there is," he said. "This will send a huge message throughout the area. It will give the (Afghan soldiers) more confidence and give the people more confidence in them, and it also will undermine the confidence of the Taliban."
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