VIDEO NOTES: This battle occurred just after sunset in the spring of 2012 at COP Charkh, Afghanistan and marked the beginning of the Taliban’s Spring Offensive. Thanks to the guys at RTBA, some captions were added so that it’s a little easier to understand what is happening in the video. This video has been truncated down to about 6 minutes from 30 minutes to spare you from sitting through long volleys of gun fire in the dark.
Engaging a target in the dark is not easy; engaging an unknown number of targets with unknown types and quantities of weapons that are moving and shooting back at you in the dark is even more difficult.
Despite how movies and video games may depict it, technology doesn’t always help you in a real battle. Only one person in our group had thermal optics; and night vision goggles are not particularly helpful in situations like this, where the enemy is hunkered down behind solid cover. What little you can see in this video is about all we could see as well – you can occasionally see red/orange flashes which are the muzzle flashes from some of the enemy weapons firing at us.
Every spring, the Taliban launches a massive campaign of attacks which we call the Taliban Spring Offensive. The combat outposts always receive the brunt of the attacks since they are the most forward and vulnerable outposts in Afghanistan. The first battle of the Taliban’s Spring Offensive is always a big one. This video is the first battle of the 2012 Spring Offensive at COP Charkh.
Friendly forces at the COP consisted of a US Army infantry unit and an Afghan National Army contingent. I was a contractor serving in a role to train and advise the indigenous forces and help defend this critical outpost.
Prior to this attack, we had a period of relatively little enemy activity in the form of attacks against COP Charkh. For the most part, the Taliban slows down and re-groups in the winter. This is largely due to the fact that their “man-dresses” are so thin and offer little protection from the cold.
The weather was warming up by late March and we knew that the Spring Offensive was coming. The week prior to the attack in this video, there was a big explosion right outside of the COP — a dog had triggered an IED meant for one of us and exploded its body all over one of the COP’s exterior walls.
The battle began just after sunset; I was in my hut when I heard the sound of machine gun fire, which is where the video begins. I grabbed my RPK and helmet and headed towards the sound of gun fire. The Taliban had taken cover behind some qalat ruins that were roughly a half a kilometer south of the COP. We were receiving direct impacts from RPGs and various small arms fire. The battle continued for some time and came to a lull when one of the enemy’s RPGs blew up on its operator and ends with an infantryman laying waste on the enemy with an M3 Carl Gustav. While you can’t visually make out too much in the video, this is not there are some valuable lessons that can be applied to any defensive scenario.
- Be equipped to reach and defeat the enemy. Is your weapon platform suitable for the situation and environment? While the standard M4 of the US infantry is a good platform in certain situations, 5.56 x 45mm NATO is almost completely ineffective in this environment – especially in a defensive situation like this where the enemy was positioned just beyond the effective range of the M4. The weapons I used were old Russian platforms (an RPK and a PKM) but had far greater range with heavier rounds, and proved their high level of effectiveness day-in and day-out. That said, there is always an exchange of value when it comes to weighing the effectiveness of one platform versus another. A heavier platform may have more effective knock-down power and range; however, you lose some loss in mobility and speed and in a defensive situation like this, effective firepower is more critical than mobility. When in an offensive scenario, agility and mobility proves its higher value. Similarly, when you think about home defense, your considerations and options are very different than the factors you needs to consider for concealed carry in open environments. Flexibility, speed, and versatility will prove to be bigger factors in a everyday carry versus a home defense scenario.
- Think about logistics. In the video, you can hear a lot of gun fire. While laying down suppressive fire is necessary, there were some young and relatively inexperienced privates in the US infantry unit at the COP who were quick to expend a lot of ammo. This tends to happen more with people less experienced in combat because of a variety of factors – adrenaline being one of them. It is imperative to be mindful of your critical supplies when you’re in a defensive situation. For us, it was even more important since it was so difficult for re-supplies to get to our COP. Your home defense plan may consist of a gun(s) and some ammo, but needs to consider other practical factors. For instance, do you have enough ammo to neutralize the intruder(s) and/or keep them at bay until police arrive? Is your ammo loose or loaded into magazines? Whatever you think you need, add a multiple on top of that. It’s better to have and not need, than to need and not have.
- The enemy is human. No matter how tough they may try to appear, they also get cold, tired, and hungry. Anything you might feel, they can feel too. You have to be stronger than your enemy. If you aren’t, you need to make yourself stronger in every aspect possible. Conditioning goes a long way – being physically fit as well as being mentally and emotionally prepared will sustain your will to fight beyond your enemy’s.
- Be aware of friendly forces around you. At about 4:05 into the video, you can hear mention of “ANA” which is short for Afghan National Army. Even when we knew there were friendly forces adjacent to ours, it required constant vigilance and communication to prevent a friendly fire incident. In home defense, you need to be aware of the range and capability of your weapon(s) and what family members (or law enforcement coming to your aid) may be in your line of fire, including adjacent rooms.
- The enemy doesn’t knock — battles don’t happen when convenient. Expect to be attacked when you are (or perceived to be) off guard. Some of the most common places and situations criminals target are not surprising:
- Your driveway or garage. This is one of the most common places for criminals to ambush a victim because they take advantage of the victim’s perception that the driveway or garage is a secure extension of their home and the fact that it’s a predictable entry/exit point.
- When entering or exiting a vehicle.
- When your personal mobility is hampered. This could mean you are wearing flip flops or restrictive clothing, or you’re in a crowded room. Slower targets are easier targets.
- When it’s dark. It is easier to attack someone when their senses are degraded, especially if the victim is not trained or conditioned to those situations. Actual combat is very different from training, but the more you train and condition your senses in realistic and dynamic settings, the better-conditioned your senses will be (and will adjust faster) in real-life scenarios.
- When you’re distracted or complacent. It is far easier to successfully close in on and overwhelm a someone when an attack is unanticipated. Whether you’re looking down at your phone or generally unaware of your surroundings, being armed provides no value if you don’t have situational awareness. I often hear people argue over carry methods based upon how fast they can get to their weapon. Quick draw competitions almost never happen in real life. While accessibility is important, it is far more critical that you are alert and situationally aware – that will give you more than enough time to access and ready your weapon, no matter how you choose to holster or carry it.
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