Barge Matal was a very pro-coalition village. In November of 2008, we went up there as a provincial reconstruction team, and did a huge mission. We treated over 200 people in the village, along with the village doctor. We brought three big boxes of medicine, and we just funneled people through and saw anything from a common cold to cuts and wounds, and those people generally cared for having us there. We were helping them build a better school, a bigger clinic and helping with the local government of the village. They had a very intricate wood shop. Those guys were very good carpenters. There’s a lot of history in Barge Matal with their carpentry skills.
Barge Matal had limited power source, so we were just trying to build them up and give them a better life. A village of roughly about five hundred families plus, in that rural area of the Hindu Kush, was actually one of the larger villages. And it’s the furthest north, northeast that we went. The Landi Sin River splits the village into two sides.
It’s an optimal spot for the Taliban and whoever else to come in through Pakistan and come down through the Landi Sin River into the rest of Afghanistan. That’s why it became such a hot spot for the Taliban. They wanted it. They didn’t like that we had an Afghan border police presence and an Afghan National Police presence there, so those were the first things they tried to attack and run off.
In late June of 2009, I was still at Combat Outpost Keating. Villagers from Barge Matal, who fled and got away from the Taliban, came and told me Barge Matal was on fire. They said the Taliban took everything, brought in weapons, took over the village and told everyone to leave. They said it was no longer their village. So I had dislocated civilians coming to me at Combat Outpost Keating asking for help. They said they needed help and that they couldn’t fight off the Taliban. They said there were too many, anywhere from four to five hundred Taliban were up and around there, and that they destroyed the Afghan Border Police’s only vehicle. It would have been a massacre if those village people would’ve stood up to them. They did the smart thing and they fled, and they came and asked for help.
So it went up to the highest power in Afghanistan. President Karzai wanted us to help him with this. He wanted us to go in there and take the village back. And being that our team had been in there three times before, it made us a critical asset to the mission. We knew the lay of the land. We knew the village.
Big Picture – It’s an important mission because you have Afghan National Army soldiers air assaulting with the coalition forces to take back a village for the Afghani people. It was a large-scale assault. We flew in at zero dark thirty with Apaches, and they cleared the hillsides for us, and engaged the enemy, and we landed down in the surrounding cornfields in Barge Matal. We cleared the village. We took it back.
“Further on Barge Matal” from SGT Mathew Jenkins
By Trey Borzillieri, Segment Producer, Eyewitness War
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