These are the stories that are often left untold – of a man’s life in Afghanistan, fighting for an entire country’s freedom. A small convoy of an Army and a Marines Special Forces team is ambushed in an attempted to take over a dangerous Taliban territory, Charkh. They were tasked with checking on the local villagers and hopefully gain intelligence on Taliban whereabouts but the mission is never that simple. Entering into one of the most violent territories of the country, the men know that there is danger of an often invisible enemy everywhere.
The first group travels on a small road, checking on the Afghan National Army checkpoints, when the convoy falls under a heavy attack. With their guns jammed and one of their vehicles destroyed by an RPG, their only way of getting through the day is to continue pushing onward, planning for the worst and hoping for the best. Also on tonight’s Eyewitness War: Out of Ammo an Army team gets pinned down behind a wall, taking fire from all directions and running desperately low on ammo as they await reinforcements from air support. The Marines Special Forces team must enter into the village of Daneh Pasab, where they are heading into the territory of the Taliban headquarters. The compounds, however, turn into a labyrinth of dangerous mazes, leading them further into the heart of enemy territory.
When we first found the stories and footage from this location, we could hardly believe it was Afghanistan. Most of the videos show enormous peaks covered in snow more than 7,000 feet above sea level. Tiny, isolated villages appeared scattered across these mountains. Yet, the towns look urban, complete with markets, roads, bridges, and bazaars. Maybe we were so used to seeing sand and sprawling compounds, but this looked like an entirely different country… like we were seeing helmet cam footage from rural New Mexico.
The Charkh District resides within the Logar Province of Afghanistan, which sits very close to the Pakistani border and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Kabul is only 50 miles north, and yet, Charkh was one of the most violent areas in the country – if not the world.
1LT. Paul Lankford sums up his first impression as well: “So I was deployed at COP Charkh. We had a combat outpost; it was a bowl, pretty much surrounded by mountains. And we were at the district center, and we had our little COP right next to it, which is the combat outpost. My first day, my first experience at COP Charkh, there was a mortar attack, and there were eight wounded soldiers. So that’s my first impression of where I just landed was, you know, hey, eight guys just got wounded.
And then my second day, I went out with a patrol of the unit we were replacing…” 1LT. Lankford continued. “And on that first day, on patrol, we got into a pretty significant firefight. And so, in those two days I was like wow what did I get myself into?”
What he had gotten himself into was a distant, dangerous, austere place called Charkh. Now you all get to see what it was like there as well.
By Eric Wiener, Segment Producer, Eyewitness War
Catch the full story on Eyewitness War: Out of Ammo tonight MON JUL 29 10PM ET on National Geographic Channel