This one is filed under the Read the Whole Thing category. You won’t see another one again any time soon.
Caught in the middle of the Helmand river, the fleeing Taliban were paddling their boat back to shore for dear life.
Smoke from the ambush they had just sprung on American special forces still hung in the air, but their attention was fixed on the two helicopter gunships that had appeared above them as their leader, the tallest man in the group, struggled to pull what appeared to be a burqa over his head.
We have an illustrated book of medieval knight tales at home with just gorgeous paintings. I used to look through it over and over again (come to that, I should steal it next time I’m home). None of the pictures were of a group of men, led by the tallest, who struggles to pull a woman’s dress over his head as he scrambles for his life. Just sayin’.
As the boat reached the shore, Captain Larry Staley tilted the nose of the lead Apache gunship downwards into a dive. One of the men turned to face the helicopter and sank to his knees. Capt Staley’s gunner pressed the trigger and the man disappeared in a cloud of smoke and dust.
By the time the gunships had finished, 21 minutes later, military officials say 14 Taliban were confirmed dead, including one of their key commanders in Helmand.
The mission is typical of a new, aggressive, approach adopted by American forces in southern Afghanistan and particularly in Helmand, where British troops last year bore the brunt of some of the heaviest fighting since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
American commanders believe that the uncompromising use of airpower in recent weeks has been a key factor in preventing the Taliban from launching their expected full-scale spring offensive against coalition forces and forcing them to rethink their tactics.
No kidding. Do they go to school for that finely honed mastery of military strategy?