An American Army Special Forces Team was credited yesterday
with the deaths of 1,300 Taliban and al-Qa'eda fighters and the
destruction of more than 50 tanks and other pieces of heavy weaponry.
The so-called A-team, codenamed Tiger 03, which directed American bombers to enemy positions, helped to unseat the Taliban and made a huge contribution to the war, its commander said.
The first details of the covert operations of the A-teams, each composed of up to 18 lightly armed infantrymen and air controllers, were released after the Pentagon allowed reporters to spend three days with different units operating within Afghanistan.
"We killed a lot of people here," "Kevin", the senior non-commissioned officer in Tiger 03, told USA Today.
Tiger 03 was one of at least a dozen Green Beret teams inserted by helicopter from Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan after Oct 20.
The first task for Kevin and his colleagues, none of whose full names can be used under US army reporting restrictions, was to establish links with local commanders of the Northern Alliance, which at the time was hemmed in by Taliban and al-Qa'eda forces.
Although some of the unit's members were fluent in Arabic, none spoke Dari, the predominant local language, so after making contact with local military chiefs, they communicated largely in sign language until trusted interpreters could be recruited.
The alliance was doubtful about the capabilities of the unexpected visitors and, at first, would not take the A-team up to the front lines.
"We weren't really wanted," said Kevin. "We had to prove ourselves and they weren't really happy to see us until the first bombs hit."
Among the most important pieces of equipment carried by the special forces units were laser-designating devices, used to help bombers to destroy ground targets.
Tiger 03 used its targeting expertise for the first time on Oct 28, on a Taliban defensive position near the deserted town of Zard Kammar in the north-east of Afghanistan.
A B-52 bomber following an infra-red designation beam dropped a full load of 2,000lb bombs in a direct hit on the Taliban bunkers.
"It lifted the whole top of the hill two feet in the air," Kevin said. "Mark", an engineering specialist with the unit, said: "People were lining up and clapping when we got back to the [base].
"They were slapping us on the back. It seemed like the more accurate the bombing, the better they fed us."
Tiger 03 spent weeks touring front-line positions, bringing in a rain of destruction from the air on the Taliban and al-Qa'eda and winning the admiration of their new allies. They developed tactics as they went, Kevin said.
The team's targeters noticed that often when bombs were striking Taliban targets, nearby comrades would come out of their bunkers to watch, so the American special forces coordinated attacks to start a minute or two later on emplacements close to their original targets.
"A good controller can sequence planes and munitions to accomplish what you want," said Kevin.
"You bomb one side of a hill and push them in one direction, then bomb the next hill over and push guys the other way. Then, when they're all bunched up, you bring in more planes and drop right on them. Eventually they learn, but then you start doing something else."
Tiger 03 had had occasional direct contact with its enemies, but tried to stay remote from the ground fighting, according to "JJ", the team's intelligence specialist.
"Our mission is not necessarily to outfight the enemy," he said. "We would rather out-think them."
Col John Mulholland, commanding officer of the A-teams, said they had exerted "a greater impact on the outcome of this war than anyone".
"John", another member of the team, said: "This area was full of Pakistanis and Arabs and Chechens and al-Qa'eda, and we knew they would fight to the death. There are bandits and diseases and brutal weather, so we were prepared to lose our lives."
Kevin added: "None of us expected to survive, but it went just about as perfectly as you could hope."
Editor Note: As a former Special Forces soldier I am proud of our Team's efforts in Afghanistan. The story reminds me of an old barracks joke where a single Special Forces soldier took on, in gradual increments and ever increasing numbers, a regiment of US Marines. After additional elements of greater and greater size were repeatedly sent against the "Green Beret", a wounded Jar Head crawled back to his lines and stated "It's a Trap! There's 2 of them!
I will add that only the uninformed and the press refer to Army Special Forces as "Green Berets". To an SF soldier it is just "SF" or "Special Forces". A Green Beret is just a hat.
For more information on the Army Special Forces - Click Here -
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