Turkey Shoot

I was enjoying a morning cup of coffee and checking email up on the Baba Deck with a group of friends who are in from the States when we saw the signature of a tanker attack just up the road.   That has never happened this close to Jalalabad before so we conducted a brief staff meeting which consisted of saying “let’s go” and headed up the road to see what was what.

Moments after the tankers were hit - photo taken from the Taj Jalalabad Baba Deck
Moments after the tankers were hit – photo taken from the Taj Jalalabad Baba Deck

The ANP had closed the Duranta Dam tunnel but recognizing us they waved us through and we continued through the tunnel at speed only to have the ANP on the other side of the tunnel wave us right on down the road and into the kill zone.

Approaching the ambush site - note the armed civilian - who knows who he is - running towards the firing. What is also important to note is the lack of any vegitation or cover in the hills where the bad guys are and the Amry OH 58 Kiowa circiling overhead.
Approaching the ambush site – note the armed civilian – who knows who he is – running towards the firing. What is also important to note is the lack of vegetation or cover in the hills where the bad guys are and the U.S. Army OH58D Kiowa circling overhead. The men on the ridge line are Blue Compass convoy escort who are on the flank of the Taliban ambush squad

We saw a string of tracers stitch the road to our front and immediately pulled a hard left into dead space well short of the burning trucks and continued forward on foot.   The firing was sporadic, just a few incoming rounds cracking well over our heads and we were not sure if it was aimed at us or spill over from the firefight we could hear to our right.   The villains had a belt fed machinegun (probably a PKM) which fired a few bursts in our direction during the 5 or so minutes it took us to reach the kill zone.   There was a section (two) of Army OH58D   helicopters circling overhead very low as they worked out who was who on the ground.

There are no villages up in the hills above the Duranta Dam, no vegetation and no cover.   Once the Kiowa’s obtained good situational awareness they obtain permission to engage the ambush team the bad guys were toast.   They couldn’t go to ground, they couldn’t hide, they were in the open and forced to be on the move by pressure from a convoy escort team from  Blue Compass and a few ANP who had followed them into the hills.

The first two tankers have been hit with multiple rounds and are leakng JP 8 all over the road
The first two tankers have been hit with multiple rounds and are leaking JP 8 all over the road

This was a more effective ambush then we normally see further west on the Jbad /Kabul highway.   The terrain here forced the shooters to be much closer to the road than they are when they ambush from the heights of the Tangi Valley.   There were three tankers hit and dumping JP 8 all over the road but not burning.   Three more were hit and on fire in the northern portion of the kill zone.

These trucks took a beating - there were no driver casualties reported just two escort guards who were reported injured
These trucks took a beating – there were no driver casualties   just two escort guards who were reported injured

Shortly after the photograph above was taken the OH58’s got a firing solution and let rip with rockets and gun pods. Kiowa pilots seem to like getting close and personal and these guys were not staying above some hard artificial “ceiling” dictated to them from on high but were on the deck, spitting venom like a good gunship should.   I doubt the villains had much of a chance – reportedly four were killed.

When you see this much fuel pouring out of a tanker you know it is just a matter of time before something bad happens
When you see this much fuel pouring out of a tanker you know it is just a matter of time before something bad happens
Tghe truck drivers start some damage control efforts by sticking small tree branches into the bullet holes. There are coverd in fuel but doing a good job at protecting the shipment they are responsible for.
The truck drivers start some damage control efforts by sticking small tree branches into the bullet holes. They are covered in fuel but doing a good job at protecting the shipment they are responsible for.

The Kiowa’s ended this fight and the efforts on the ground turned to separating the leaking fuel tankers from the burning ones.   This is an effort best watched from at least two ridge lines away and we had work to do so we headed back to Taj noting there were at least 50 fuel tankers lining the road just outside the kill zone. In the big scheme of things these attacks are meaningless on the physical level; the loss of fuel is sucked up by the contractor who only gets paid for what he delivers.  The numbers of trucks being lost are like-wise a problem for Pakistani truck companies and not Uncle Sam. The American taxpayer can’t buy a break like that in most places.

Napoleon reportedly said; “moral power is to the physical as three parts out of four”  “even in war pointed out in warfare the moral is to the physical as three is to one”.  Attacks like the one we witnessed this morning are always victories on the moral level for the Taliban.  That is the problem for our efforts in Afghanistan in a nut shell.  The Taliban do not have to be tactically good or win on the physical level, they don’t have to be smart or survive half ass ambush attempts.  They just need to attack and if they lose every battle in the end it won’t matter; they’ll still win.

Convoy escort from Blue Compass telling us the "Taliban are nishta" after the Kiowa's fired them up
Convoy escort from Blue Compass telling us the “Taliban are nishta” after the Kiowa’s fired them up

The ambush squad who sortied out this morning to burn fuel trucks were clueless. They shoot up 6 trucks out of a convoy of around 80 and then found themselves flanked by armed guards, forced to move in open terrain where they were hunted down like rabid dogs by Kiowa helicopters.  This also was a good demonstration of using PSC’s to perform tasks which are not cost effective for the military.  It was our good luck and the villains bad luck that two helicopters were hanging around the area with full ammo stores when this went down. The pressure applied by aggressive maneuver from the convoy escort security element helped the Kiowa’s PID (positive ID) the bad guys and obtain permission to smoke them and it is rare to see that work out so smoothly. Too bad its not always this easy with the Taliban.

15 Replies to “Turkey Shoot”

  1. Dear Babatim, and others of FRI blog,
    I want you to know how much I enjoy reading your posts. They are very clear and informative.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to let us know: the different personnel involved, sticks in the bullet holes in the tanker . . . the five-second board meeting . . . and great photos.

    Sincerely,
    Ann T.

  2. Well, if the caffeine didn’t hit you enough, I’m sure the blast did.
    What’s the general reaction of the public when something like this happens. Is it “business as usual?” And if the contractor has to cover the cost of a lost shipment, is there some kind of payoff so the Taliban doesn’t hit their trucks –or is it totally random?
    Back to the coffee …

  3. I wonder what the stats are on how many fuel convoys are hit every month. Or how much money that costs every time they are hit? Doe’s fuel come out to like 400 dollars a gallon, after all is said and done getting it into the country?

    Another thing with this, is that these convoys should be looked at like really good bait. If these dorks keep attacking like this, then lets develop a plan that not only tries to protect these convoys, but takes advantage of the enemy attacking them. Thanks Tim, and Happy Marine B-day to you. S/F -matt

  4. This does not appear to be an attempted fuel theft, and there is no obvious tactical or military objective, so what’s the point?? It makes me wonder why these guys insist on pissing in there own cheerios. It sounds like the ambush team had no viable exit strategy, and were destined to be screwed, but I sure as Hell bet they got a rude wake up call when the Kiowa’s showed up on station…. loved the “brief staff meeting”.

    Keep up the great work you and your team do, and as always, keep safe ‘Gus’. Let me also say on Veteran’s Day, thank you for your service to our country, both past and present… S/F.

  5. somebody didn’t pass the pay off money down the line. All of these convoys, especially fuel, have to pay the bad guys to be allowed through

  6. And yeah you are right that this is just another way to jack the American taxpayer the Afghanis are quite able to turn a huge profit on our fight with their Taliban

  7. The whole notion of trying to fight the Taliban inside of Pakistan is frustrating, like trying to shoot a snake that has already gone down a hole. Where the Taliban are out and about in Afghanistan, and the coalition has freedom of operation, it’s much easier snake hunting. I hope the hunters are clever.

  8. A friend just turned me on your blog which I have found very informative. You would think the News, LOL would report some these things.
    Any thought to providing the fuel truck drivers with some slap on patch substance. Bubble gum would be better than nothing. Keep up the real reporting.

    1. The sticks were a good idea and there were still rounds coming in when they started to plug the leaks- reminded me of a Navy damage control exercise at sea. What those drivers needed were some experienced Navy Hull Technicians but they made do which is typical for that part of the world. One of the reasons I like Afghans so much is their ability to rapidly come up with solutions and drive on. Mission focus is a good thing.

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