War story in the works of one Sergeant Kabir, a soldier in the the Afghan National Army.
This is a work of fiction. I have not in any way participated in war and am not drawing from my own experiences.
“Convoy is ready to move out. Get your men loaded. Check those guns. And smile for once in a while. Jesus!”
“Yes sir.” Kabir snapped off a salute and turned back to Captain Bailey. “We’ll have to continue this conversation later.”
“Hey, no problem. The road is going to be long and dry. A little conversation takes the mind off the monotony.” He said conversation, con-ver-sa-tion, with every syllable mulled over before spat out. It made Kabir, with his Oxford English, wince. However it gave let Kabir know that the man thought through what he said before, or at least during, saying it. Rare for an American. “Captain I’m shocked. I thought your time was better spent with a wary eye to the hills rather than gabbing with a local like me.”
Bailey laughed. “Okay Sergeant Local, I’ve got my own business to attend to. I’ll see you on the field of battle.” The two men saluted casually before turning to separate chores. As Kabir watched his men load the truck his friend’s last comment worried him. He was never sure what sort of business a Captain of military intelligence had to attend too.
The road was long and dry. Grit built up against the bright shield of Kabir’s driving goggles. A gloved finger wiped across and his vision was restored. The goggles were hardly regulation, but Kabir was proud of them. “Made of the finest combat glass in circulation.” The man had said, and Kabir had bought them almost without haggling. Mostly because they looked, “Seriously Bad Ass” as Bailey said. But Kabir also thought they resembled his father’s aviation goggles from the war. He hoped he looked like his father.
The truck hit a bump jarring the driver. Kabir looked at him in alarm; the driver was coughing into a gloved fist. “Hussein, are you okay?”
“Fine, Sir. A bit of dust. Nothing more.”
Kabir watched him carefully until his coughing fit was finished and he put both hands on the wheel. “Be more careful Hussein, the men behind us do not have as comfortable seats as we do.”
“Yes Sir. I understand Sir.” In the humvee ahead of them a Canadian soldier was also looking at the driver. Kabir gave him the ‘A-OK’ sign and he nodded and looked way. In the gray brown of the desert and soldier’s camouflage the Canadian’s red leaf patches shone in the daylight. An odd sense of pride in their alliance welled up in Kabir, but no smile reached his face.
This convoy was important; important to the Canadians, important to the Afghans, important to the outcome of this entire damn war. In front of them and behind them were two massive semi-trucks. Massive to Kabir at least, who, unlike Bailey, had never seen the great mechanical monstrosities that roamed the heartlands of America. The content of these two semis was covered by great dust brown tarps, flapping in the hot arid wind of the road. Four Chinook helicopters, branded with the proud blue leaf of the Canadian Air Force, made their way in secret between the Afghan mountains. It was with these machines the Canadians hoped to deploy the majority of their forces in Operation Mountain Blaze. Kabir and his men were only one link in the long chain that defended them, however if it were to break, it wouldn’t start with him. Kabir was determined.
A honking from behind them. Kabir checked his mirror. “Not on my side.”
“It’s on mine Sir.” With a roar a Canadian humvee blew past. Kabir's men in the back of the truck cheered with their passing. The men in the humvee didn’t respond. Their dirt stained faces were grim. Kabir grabbed his gun and cocked it, double checking it again. His thumb was on the safety. Hussein looked to him, eyes widened in concern, “Sir?”
“Something’s wrong. Be ready.” Kabir slapped the side of the truck and repeated himself into his walkie-talkie. The men grew quite. In front of them the humvee sped ahead. It reached the command vehicle and slowed down. “Idiots.” Kabir said through clenched teeth. He hated nothing more than putting commanders in unnecessary risk. Any insurgent watching this would have their sights locked on the command humvee. However the Canadians weren’t all that dumb so the need must be great for the men to put their leaders in so much risk. This thought made Kabir even more anxious and he gripped his gun tighter. Something was being shouted between the two cars and a hand emerged from the command-vee motioning them away. The soldiers in the humvee persisted and after a moment a hand emerged from their humvee holding something and passed it to the command-vee. It looked like a phone.
A flash from the mountainside and the soldier’s humvee disappeared in a ball of fire and smoke. “Break off!” Hussein pulled hard to one side and the truck leapt off the road nearly careening into a rock. “Pull up here!” They jerked to a stop and the men poured off. Already automatic fire tore through the valley. If all else failed Kabir and the other Afghan officers were to open a hole in the lines so the Canadians and the convoy could continue and then stay to clean up. However if the attack was only a minor one the Canadians would take the brunt of the fighting, bringing their superior weapons and training to bare. Within an instant Kabir could tell this would be no small attack. On both sides of the valley flashes of automatic fire rang out, even with such a massive convoy it still looked like they were horribly out numbered.
From cover Kabir’s men opened up and from different points around the convoy he could hear the allies returning the insurgent’s fire. Kabir had scrabbled from the truck and was hiding behind the rock Hussein had so nearly crashed into. He flipped the safety off and peered over. A turbaned man leapt form behind cover, an RPG fit to his shoulder. “Bring him down!” Kabir shouted before firing off his own volley at the man. Under a hail of bullets the man collapsed. His rocket fired, a trial of black smoke followed the bead of light as it streaked harmlessly across the sky. The convoy needed to get moving before one of those found its target.
Looking back at the convoy Kabir’s heart fell. Webs had spread across the windows of many of the cars. Several men were not getting up. The humvee’s and Light Armoured Vehicles’ (LAVs) mounted turrets so pivotal to the defence of the convoy were predominantly silent or wreathed in flame. The Canadian who had looked so concerned with Hussein’s coughing fit had fallen, a red stain spreading on his pant leg, he lay in the dirt still firing. His humvee was the most lively, the gunner, teeth bared, was doing his best. “Hussein, on me!” The driver turned, nodded to his sergeant and smartly replaced his clip. He too looked grim. Kabir motioned towards the wounded Canuck, and with the count of gloved fingers prepared to move. Three. Two. One. They sprinted from cover just as the Canadian was hit again, this time in the chest, a puff of dust rising from the impact. He collapsed. In a second they were on him. Kabir grabbed his right arm and Hussein his left. They dragged him, bullets sending sprays of dust all around them, back to the cover of the humvee. “Return fire! I’ll lift him up.” Hussein nodded and dropped to one knee to fire burst after burst back at the mountain side. With an effort, Kabir was able to get the Canadian into the truck.
The soldier’s eyes flickered open. “Wha …?”
“You’ll be okay. The last one hit you in the jacket. You passed out from the impact or possibly blood loss.” Upon hearing he’d be okay the soldier promptly tried to get up and get back to the fight. Kabir pushed him down. “Listen. Listen to me. Are you listening?” A nod, the Canuck’s eyes were now fully open. “Good. First, you have a bullet in your leg, do not try to move or put unessesary strain on it. Second, tell you’re commander to get the convoy moving. The insurgents haven’t blocked the road yet, but they will if you don’t move fast. Do you understand?”
“Yes … too many off them.”
“Leave that to me. I’ll provide a distraction. But the convoy needs to get rolling again. The helicopters are sitting ducks here.” At this the soldier registered shock.
“They’re meant to be secret.”
“But they’re not; in fact I think the Taliban are trying to capture them. However if they find out they can’t win this fight they’ll start blowing them up instead. Understand?” The man nodded. Above them the bellow of the guns stopped and the gunner peered over.
“Jesus sir, are you alright?”
“I’m fine, get on the horn and get this convoy moving.”
“Sir, McNally’s LAV is burned out and blocking the road.”
“Then what are you waiting for? Lets get up there and move it. See if Commander Mehr is alive. If he is tell him to get this convoy rolling. If not then use my authority to get us outta here.” He turned back to Kabir who was in mild shock. He had been treating the man like a private, and here he was giving orders! “I’ll get us moving, but you had better provide a hell of a distraction.”
The Canuck grinned ruefully and lazily returned the salute. “Get going.” Kabir turned, and gave Hussein a double tap on the shoulder and the two of them sprinted back to the squad.
“Yes sir!” came the chorus of replies. Some more joyful than others.
“How’s the ammo?”
“Good, with the truck here we won’t run out.”
“Ok, double check everyone has at least three clips apiece on hand.” One of the men nodded and scurried off to hand out ammo. They needed to provide a distraction. Kabir had fourteen healthy, well equipped, die hard and almost entirely untested recruits. What sort of distraction could he provide?
With a roar the engines of the big semis started again. The Canadians in cover scrambled back to their vehicles as their Afghan allies sent new volley’s echoing around the wide valley. The convoy was about to get moving.
“Everybody prepare to move!” His men looked at him in poorly suppressed shock. “The convoy can’t draw too much fire, so we’re providing a distraction. See that ridge?” he gestured to where most of the RPG fire had come from. “We’re going to take it. Private Durrani and you three there. Hole up in the shadow of the ridge behind those boulder’s there and provide covering fire. The rest follow me. You four go first, we’ll cover.”
In flash Private Durrani led his little squad from cover yelling incoherently as they sprinted across the open. Kabir’s ten lay down fearsome fire until the men reached their destination. “Our turn. You ready?” Though others answered he was mainly talking to Hussein who was panting heavily. He took a deep breath then reloaded and nodded to Kabir.
They rushed from cover. Yelling and firing their guns in the air. Though not the greatest ammo saver Kabir wanted as much attention as possible. And they received it. A rocket from across the valley flew over, obliterating itself on a stone near them. Two men fell from the blast but were helped to their feet by their comrades as they ran by. Kabir steered them left up the easiest approach to the ridge. He hoped the sacrifice of cover for mobility was worth it.
Their distraction hadn’t paid of. Back on the other side of the valley fire was once again being concentrated on the convoy and trials of smoke cut through the air to blossom in spouts of fire and dirt around the Canadians. Private Durrani was having more success however, his new more elevated and more defendable position was wreaking havoc among the Taliban on this side of the valley. We need to do the same, thought Kabir.
Just before the push past the ridge and before actually taking it, a half dozen Taliban burst from behind their cover on the ridge and, with yells of Allah Akbar, they opened up on Kabir’s squad. Kabir dove for cover and the sounds of men in pain filled his ears. He raised himself and calmly let off burst after burst. A bullet caught an insurgent in the throat his hand flew to his neck. He slipped and fell off the ridge to the desert stones below. Another burst raked a man from waist to shoulders and he collapsed in a heap. Kabir kept up the firing until his gun clicked dry. He crouched back behind his cover and dropped the empty magazine, fitting another one in. His men had opened up as well and by the time he looked again the insurgents had been killed.
“How are we doing?” The minuet he asked he regretted it. One of his soldiers rolled over a body to reveal the corpse’s face was missing. Kabir tried not to gag. Two others were plainly dead. One man was groaning and holding a limp blood soaked arm. “You! Take him down to Private Durrani, apply some bandages then get back to us. The rest come on, keep moving up, as soon as you can get onto the ridge do it. Lets go! Lets go!” Of the four left Kabir was glad to see Hussein was one of them.
When the five Afghan National Army men rushed the ridge they found its defenders taken completely by surprise. For whatever reason almost fifteen insurgents abandoned their posts and tried to flee up the hill following a rough cut path into the rock. Kabir’s squad showed no mercy and cut most of them down. When the firing stopped Kabir looked around, most of his men were in a state of elation. They had never seen a victory before. They looked to their sergeant with something close to worship. He had demanded the unthinkable and delivered victory into their hands. One laughed and tilted back his helmet. Angry Kabir reached forward and pulled it back down. “Its not over yet, find some firing positions. Cover the convoy as it makes its way out. You, tell Durrani to get up here. And bring the wounded man. This is a far better position and he’d best make use of it. Hussein you and I are going after the ones that escaped.” Hussein looked taken aback. “Come on you’ve done well so far, lets keep going while we have them on the run.”
“Sir, I only have one clip left.”
“Here Hussein I picked some up off Tabir when he went down.” One of the privates volunteered handing Hussein two clips.
Hussein grumbled a response and took the offered clips.
“Come on before they get too far.” And Kabir and Hussein took off up the trail, picking their way hastily over dead bodies.