Afghanistan: April 17, 2002

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: "Fort Apache" is an old adobe village on the front line in Afghanistan and the first line of defense for the vital Kandahar air base, six miles southeast of the city Kandahar.

The airbase is now home to 3,500 U.S. and international troops, but was the scene of fierce fighting until the Taliban abandoned the city in early December 2001. Hundreds of U.S. Marines occupied the Kandahar airport on 14 December.

Security both inside and outside the camp is paramount. Since the Marines occupied it, there have been random but unsuccessful Taliban attempts to penetrate the perimeter. For each of the 100-plus Afghans working inside the base for $9 a day cleaning latrines and filling sandbags, military intelligence has performed background checks. These workers are searched every day before entering the base and must be accompanied at all times by armed U.S. escorts.

Some veterans who have seen photos of Fort Apache commented that, apart from more modern equipment, the camp in Afghanistan doesn't look much different than thousands of American bases set up in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Somalia. See for yourself at http://www.ashkins.com/backinthestan/index.html - Adam Geibel

During a night time training exercise, an American F-16 mistook Canadian troops below for al Qaeda firing at him. Even though the pilot was denied permission to bomb the area the firing was coming from, he dropped a bomb anyway under the "self defense" rules. Four Canadian troops were killed and six wounded. The pilot was a reservist, and reserve pilots usually have a lot more experience and flying time than regular air force pilots. Such experienced pilots would be able to take their aircraft low and "troll" for enemy troops below. Using the laser designator on board, the F-16 can deliver accurate bombing attacks on anyone below who can be spotted (firing rifles at the aircraft will do that.) The major screw up here appears to be not getting the information about the Canadian training exercise to all concerned. It's not yet known who dropped the ball, but someone did. 

British Royal Marine commandos searching cave complexes previously searched by U.S. troops have found evidence that al Qaeda troops returned to the area. Not all the caves were checked when the Americans came through, so the Brits were sent in to finish the job and see what was happening out there. British and American troops are now regularly going into areas known to be used by al Qaeda and Taliban for camps or training. There have been some clashes, but the enemy is apparently staying in their caves or villages during the day and only coming out at night.

 

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