The Road to Tarin Kot
Troops from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry prep for the field. Click image to view.
Shah Wali Kot, Afghanistan: I've embedded with 7 Platoon, Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Regiment. This is a proud group of soldiers who bristle at the common perception in Canada that their primary mission is peacekeeping. "We're not peace keepers, we're soldiers," the soldiers freely told me during numerous casual conversations. Afghanistan is far from a peacekeeping operation. The Canadian soldiers are actively fighting the Taliban insurgency in Kandahar province.
Charlie Company is the battalion's maneuver company, which means they are the unit designated to engage Taliban formations as they appear, as well as provide manpower for other security tasks when needed. Their latest round of combat occurred during the last two weeks of May, when Charlie Company fought several hundred Taliban in Panjwai District. Well over two hundred Taliban are estimated to have been killed. Captain Nicola Goddard was killed during this engagement, and five soldiers were wounded during the four skirmishes in the Panjwai district. The soldiers expect to return to Panjwai, as this is a hub for Taliban activity in the region.
The company packs a lethal punch, with the LAV III as the main fighting vehicle, and augmented with the Nyala (RG-31) and G-Wagon. The troops rave about the LAV IIIs for the firepower, maneuverability and survivability. The LAV IIIs are ideally suited for the low intensity combat here in Afghanistan. Armed with a 25mm cannon which is stabilized and can be fired on the move, a 7.62 coax gun, an M240MG mounted on the turret, and a section (or squad) of infantry, the Canadians can bring superior firepower down on the Taliban.
The LAV III can also can take a hit. The vehicles have been struck with RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) and roadside bombs, and have survived the engagements. The headquarters section's LAV was struck by an RPG during an ambush in the fighting in Panjwai. The RPG penetrated the soft diesel gerry cans mounted on the side, yet failed to make a dent in the armor. When the troops move forward, the LAVs become their homes, with speaker systems for the MP3 and DVD players, coffee makers, and even microwaves to soften the rough edge of the field. Christmas lights are hung during the holiday season, and several of the LAVs are adorned with the troop's pinups of choice.
Charlie Company rolled out of Kandahar Airfield at noon on Friday to conduct Operation Tabar. For the operation, Charlie Company is being deployed to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Martello, which will be a joint Afghan National Army and Dutch Army controlled base. The base sits along the Kandahar-Tarin Kot road, a winding, well paved two lane asphalt road and a vital supply link between Kandahar and Uruzgan provinces. The road cuts through the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar, a rocky, mountainous desert region dotted with small oasis of sparsely populated farming villages nestled in the valleys. The trip was uneventful, as only the most foolish of Taliban would attack Charlie company as it rolls out in full strength. While the roadside bomb threat exists here in Afghanistan, the threat is no where near the intensity as it is in Iraq.
As part of Operation Tabar, Charlie Company provided additional security at Forward Operating Base Martello, where a ceremony to officially open the base was held today. FOB Martello will expand Afghan government's presence in the Shah Wali Kot district, and will be manned by Dutch and Afghan National Army forces. The ceremony was attended by local, provincial and national government and military officials, as well as Coalition military commanders. Intelligence indicated the Taliban planned on disrupting the event, but the Taliban was silent this day.
By evening, the mission had changed and Charlie Company packed up and headed south towards the Zari-Panjwai regio. The company deployed to a Afghan National Police (ANP) compound and prepped for yet another operation in the Taliban infested region west of Kandahar City. Prior to moving to the ANP compound, the LAVs of Charlie company stopped for a "show of force," and unleashed it guns on Forward Operating Base Tiger, an abandoned American base just south of FOB Martello.