Inside Afghanistan 1 of 2 - VICE News


Uploaded by vice on 26.10.2011

Transcript:

[MODEM CONNECTING]
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: We first met Ben Anderson when we
started VBS, actually.
We went to Spike Jonze, our creative director's, house
along with some of the most talented editors and shooters
and talent that Spike had put together.
All we did was watch Ben Anderson footage from Africa,
North Korea-- which I then ripped off when I went to
North Korea--
Iran, Iraq.
It was just fascinating stuff.
He ended up getting in a fight and Johnny Knoxville had to go
save him and sneak him into a club.
And since then, we've been wanting to work with Ben, and
we knew that he had been working in Afghanistan for the
past three years on making a documentary there.
And lately, Afghanistan's been in the news.
And you know, we're spending more and more money there.
We're losing more and more ground.
And generally what we've found with VBS is what you hear the
mainstream media versus what is actually happening are two
completely different things.
So what he showed us blew our minds.
I mean, it's completely insane.
And it's also very complex.
So we wanted him to come over and explain to us what we're
about to see.

BRITISH SOLDIER: You'll want to keep the bottles.
You can fill the bottles up using either stream water, or
when you go into compound from the well.
Yeah, this is normally confusion.
They all gather round.
He wants a lot of water for himself, and he says he's
going to sort it out, but if you give it to him, he'll just
fuck off with the lot.
So nothing would get sorted out.
He'll just fill his vehicle and noone will get none.
So you have to sort it out between them.
Like kids.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: That guy's the British Army and the
other guys are--?
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Afghan National Army.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: Afghan National Army.
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: And that's
basically our exit strategy.
The idea is when these guys can stand up and provide
security on their own, we can all get out.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: But they can't even give them
water without them taking it away.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: No, they can't even get them to
wear their helmets and flak jackets.
BEN ANDERSON: Seems like quite a chaotic start, then.
BRITISH SOLDIER: This is good.
BEN ANDERSON: Is it?
BRITISH SOLDIER: This is fucking squared away.
They've got vehicles and everything.
It's well done.
BEN ANDERSON: How difficult is it to organize these guys?
BRITISH SOLDIER: It just takes a bit of time.
They're all mad.
They all want to go on the mission, but they're not fully
functioning yet.
They need us to mentor them and make sure they've got all
the kit and equipment they need.
They'll go without water and without food and
hope for the best.
They think we can manage--
magic things up, just invent things and produce a fuel
truck for them.
But we can't.
When we come into contact with the enemy, sometimes you need
to put them on a lead and hold them back, 'cause they'll just
go and go and go until they kill more and more Taliban.
That's what they want to do.
That's what their life is.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: So I know there's problems in
Pakistan with Muslim fighting Muslim.
Why would the ANA fight the Taliban?
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: I think to them, it's work.
It's not ideology at all.
And there's an old saying--
I think you can hire an Afghan army, but you
can never buy one.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: Right.
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: So loyalty is
never taken for granted.
BRITISH SOLDIER: They are excited and
they are brave soldiers.
And they're like children.
Their attention span doesn't last very long.
They soon get bored.
At the moment, I think they're all here.
Clint Eastwood is.
BEN ANDERSON: In the cowboy hat?
MALE SPEAKER: Yeah.
BEN ANDERSON: How you doing?
Have you given up on making them wear uniform exactly the
way they're supposed to wear it?
BRITISH SOLDIER: No, I don't care.
As long as they go and do the job and do what they're told
and they toe the line.
You know, they enjoy wearing their shemaghs and t-shirts
and looking like Rambo when they go out.
I'm not bothered.
As long as they've got their weapon, their ammunition, all
the stuff they need to sustain themselves, I'm not bothered.
BRITISH SOLDIER: They're so--
so bright and colorful, all of them.
It's a wonderful sight, really.
They're a very sort of visual army.
It's great.

BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: So in the past, the problem and the
criticism has always been that the Brits, Americans, whoever
it is, just control towns or bases, and they're isolated.
Isolated from the community, and the Taliban can roll
around freely in the rest of the country, apart
from these big bases.
The aim of this mission was to actually clear ground of the
Taliban and then hold on to it for the first time, actually
keep hold of that land and stop the
Taliban from coming back.

BRITISH SOLDIER: With this amount of manpower, we should
have enough, tomorrow, to commit to a good scrap with
the enemy if they choose to take on with us.
We aim to destroy the enemy and take the ground this time,
and not cede it again.
BRITISH SOLDIER: If they can get forward, destroy the
Taliban, and hold that ground, it's a massive morale booster
for the ANA and for our boys.
So, you know, that's what we're
looking forward to doing.

BEN ANDERSON: Did they know exactly where they were going?
BRITISH SOLDIER: They know the general region, yeah, because
they have to know.
But we try and keep security to a minimum so we can--
otherwise they'll get on the mobile phone, start phoning
everyone around the [INAUDIBLE] they know, and
then they'll pass it on to the Taliban.
BEN ANDERSON: So there's a worry that some of the solders
might intentionally be giving information to the Taliban?
BRITISH SOLDIER: Yeah, people have been caught out
before in the ANA.
And they've been disciplined in their own chain.
BEN ANDERSON: And remained within the ANA?
BRITISH SOLDIER: No, they've been kicked out of the ANA.
They probably went and joined the Taliban, but.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: The ANA, the Afghan National Army,
they can't tell them where they're going because they'll
call the Taliban and let them know?
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: And tell them where they're going,
what the plan is.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: Why in god's name would they do that?
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Because the Taliban pay much
better salary than any government job-- police, army,
whatever it is.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: So they pay them, and then they say,
oh, we're coming here now.
Kill us.
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Yeah.
So this is what all of Helmand is like, just desert.
But then the area where the fighting is, is called the
green zone.
And completely opposite to the Iraq green zone, it's the most
dangerous place, because it's the one fertile strip of land
there, and there are so many hiding places for the Taliban
that that's where they love to fight.
And that's where the British and the ANA have to go looking
for the Taliban.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: Green zone, bad zone.
BEN ANDERSON: Yeah.
BRITISH SOLDIER: They've watched us so far, last hour
and a half, two hours.
BEN ANDERSON: Everyone knows we're here?
BRITISH SOLDIER: Yeah.
They knew there was an upcoming, because they're used
to it, and they'd have gone, right, OK.
Seeing us go that way, Taliban go that way to
their fall-back positions.
And it's a waiting game.
We'll outnumber them, we'll out-firepower them.
And they know that.
And they will stand and fight sooner or later, because
they'll have to.
Because that's what they do.
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: The Taliban have got a really
sophisticated network of dickers.
It's a phrase that comes from Northern Island.
Local people with mobile phones, as soon as they see
us, as soon as they see the soldiers coming, they'll tell
them exactly our movement.
So the Brits take it for granted the Taliban know their
every movement.
You see us walking through this town, and
it's completely deserted.
That's-- every single time we got ambushed,
this happened first.
You'd walk around, completely deserted.
Because the civilians are very streetwise.
They know where the Taliban are.
They see the British soldiers coming.
They know there's going to be a fight.
So they get out of there.
So as soon as you find an area that's deserted, you know
there's going to be fighting.
BRITISH SOLDIER: All these compounds make up
the village of Kakara.
We're just clearing through them.
It's a painstaking process.
Did you expect it to be this quiet?
BRITISH SOLDIER: It swings around about.
Sometimes it is this quiet.

Other times you might meet one or two people.
By and large, because this area has seen quite a bit of
fighting over the last couple of months, a lot of the
families have moved out.
But hopefully after the next couple of days, we will have
taken this area properly, secured it, and sent a message
that people can move back into their compounds.

SHANE SMITH NARRATING: Is that poppy, right there?
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Yeah.
Everywhere you go.
I mean, without exaggeration, just about every single house
we went into had a pile of harvested opium poppies as
tall as you.
Over 90% of our heroin, Britain's heroin, comes from
Afghanistan.
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE ON RADIO]

BEN ANDERSON: The Afghan National Army can use their
radios to get on the same channel as the Taliban and
listen to what they're saying.
What are they saying?
MALE SPEAKER: They're saying they are about to attack.
They are getting ready for attack, to attack us.
BEN ANDERSON: Attack us here?
MALE SPEAKER: Yes.
BEN ANDERSON: Do you know where they are?
MALE SPEAKER: No.
Their location is not known.
Just they are asking where [INAUDIBLE] located, where
that relocating in the morning.

SHANE SMITH NARRATING: He's saying that he knows that the
Taliban are going to attack you right then.
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Yeah.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: Were you scared?
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Yeah, you're scared, but you get
used to it very quickly.
This is everyday life for these guys out there.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: How does he know the Taliban know?
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: He's just got a normal CB and he
finds the same channel the Taliban are speaking on.
He hears them saying, OK, I can see them, as soon as they
come out of that street, as soon as they come from behind
that wall, we'll attack.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: Jesus Christ.

BEN ANDERSON: Are they close?
MALE SPEAKER: Yes.

BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: So we'd walked through the entire
town, cleared the whole town.
Really surprised not to see any civilians, any Taliban.
And almost the last building we could see, there's a team
of Taliban waiting there to fire up on us.
So as happens every single time, the fight happens where
they want it to happen.
BRITISH SOLDIER: Possible positive identification of two
times Taliban.
We're going to engage with RPGs, see if it provokes a
response, and if so, assault that enemy possession.
Over.
That side.
OK, get the RPG up there, yeah?
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: This guy lived for
firing these RPGs.
BEN ANDERSON: So we think it's a sighting of two Taliban.
And apparently what they'll often do is send foot patrol
down to harass, then run away and lure British forces into a
trap where they can be attacked by 360 degrees.
Just wait and see if there's a response to the RPG that's
just been fire.
They're loading another one now.
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Yeah you get a lot of stuff about
how our poor soldiers are getting bogged
down in this quagmire.
And the Brits know exactly what's going on,
and go ahead anyway.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: Right.
Why?
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Well, they're quite happy to go
there and have a fight with them.
They know they're walking into a trap, but
they're looking for it.
[RPG FIRE]
MALE SPEAKER: [SHOUTING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
[MISSILE FIRE]
BRITISH SOLDIER: Sixer alpha, sixer alpha, that's us now
being engaged by RPG and small arms from kilo.
If you could put air on that, that'd be lovely.
Over.

[GUNFIRE]
BRITISH SOLDIER: Whoa.
Where the fuck are they coming from?
BRITISH SOLDIER: I'm stuck.

[GUNFIRE]
BRITISH SOLDIER: Six three alph--
six three alpha, that's enemy trying to move, as I said, to
the north of our current position.
[GUNFIRE]
BRITISH SOLDIER: They're trying to [INAUDIBLE].
push forward [INAUDIBLE].
Over.

BRITISH SOLDIER: Message on the icon chatter said they
were going to send their friends.
So what I'm thinking is probably happening is that the
original four Taliban are trying to push forward to the
compound that's 50 meters just to our right, and that the
friends are the ones who are now off in
that hedge line there.
[GUNFIRE]
BEN ANDERSON: So is it [INAUDIBLE]?
BRITISH SOLDIER: No, that's stuff coming into us.
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: Now they're shooting at you there,
so you're encircled now, then?
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Yeah.
They were paying attention to a small team round the corner
to our right.
Suddenly other teams have arrived, firing straight at
us, making the wall that we're hiding behind useless.
[GUNFIRE]
BEN ANDERSON: I think the Taliban are a lot closer than
they thought.

BRITISH SOLDIER (SHOUTING): You're going to compound half
right here.
Alpha and Bravo are going to go and assault that compound.
You have 60 meters of open ground, possible enemy in the
compound, and we'll just clear through with squads of ANA.
[RPG FIRE]
[GUNFIRE AND RPG FIRE]
BRITISH SOLDIER: Right.
Stay right in.
Stay right in there.
[GUNFIRE AND RPG FIRE]
BRITISH SOLDIER: Just coming straight in--
BEN ANDERSON: That was the Apache, wasn't it?

BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: We're all looking ahead to the area
of the hedgerow where the Taliban were
shooting at us from.
Helicopter comes over.
We hear the explosions, but there's no smoke.
Look to our left, and the field next
to us has been strafed.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: So they're strafing you and not
the Taliban?
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Not us, but very close to us.
Too, too close to us.
They're nowhere near the Taliban.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: Situation
Normal All Fucked Up.
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Yeah.
[GUNFIRE]
[EXPLOSION]
BEN ANDERSON: The helicopter was calling for a strike.
We thought it was the compound over here somewhere where the
Taliban were fighting from.
Instead it looks like they hit this compound here, where
Patty and some ANA soldiers were.
[RPG FIRE]
BEN ANDERSON: I'm waiting.
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: We're already nervous about the
helicopter, because they've watched this happen.
And again, no smoke rises from the Taliban positions.
I look around the corner and see that the compound that
some of the Brits and Afghans have stormed has been hit by
the Hellfire missile.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: So they bombed your own guys.
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Yeah.
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: We then decided to go to the
building, and we thought we were going to see
six corpses in there.
[GUNFIRE]
BRITISH SOLDIER: [INAUDIBLE]
BRITISH SOLDIER: Ready?
BRITISH SOLDIER: Wait, wait.

[GUNFIRE]
BRITISH SOLDIER: We're going to get back to that compound
over there as soon as we can.
BRITISH SOLDIER: Go, go!
BRITISH SOLDIER: Go, go!
Come on!
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: We decided to run for the
compound to see if there are six Afghan
soldiers dead there.
Some soldiers arrived to give covering fire.
We come under heavy fire as we run to the compound.
[MEN SHOUTING]
[GUNFIRE]
MALE SPEAKER: Come on!
One more, one more.
Good.
BRITISH SOLDIER: One more Bravo [INAUDIBLE].
BRITISH SOLDIER: Let's go, let's go, let's go.
[GUNFIRE]
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: There's one small front door,
and that's it.
And we're now surrounded by the Taliban.
[GUNFIRE]
BEN ANDERSON: And your soldiers are all OK.

BEN ANDERSON: Nobody, nobody killed.
MALE SPEAKER: No.
BEN ANDERSON: Nobody killed here.
MALE SPEAKER: No.
BEN ANDERSON: Pretty good luck.
BEN ANDERSON: You found six RPGs?
MALE SPEAKER: Seven.
MALE SPEAKER: Seven.
Shoot fire.
Taliban finished.

BEN ANDERSON: Now the Taliban fire RPGs at us.
[MEN SHOUTING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
BEN ANDERSON: This compound wasn't abandoned.
There's a family behind me, with one old man and five
children, three of whom--
[EXPLOSION]
BEN ANDERSON: Two, three years old.
Absolutely terrified.

SHANE SMITH NARRATING: So there's a family there.
The Hellfire missile came in, blew up their house, and
they're still in the house during the firefight?
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Yeah, yeah.
They're stuck in the house.
That was probably the most shocking thing I saw in my
entire time in Afghanistan.
These, literally, babies covered in dust, crying,
absolutely petrified.
And you can see where the missile struck.
They must have been right next to the explosion when the
missile landed.
BRITISH SOLDIER: Because there are a number of compounds
which aren't very clearly identifiable on the air
[INAUDIBLE], we called in the compound we thought we were
in, according to the GPS fixed, and obviously they
corresponded, they thought that was the
compound we were in.
So when they called the Hellfire in, it came in on
this position.
It's difficult enough when you're firing on your own
troops, let alone if you then come into the compound and
there's people who've been hiding.
But fortunately, I think everyone was all right.
There's a few slightly shaky eardrums, more
than anything else.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: So there's only one compound with
British troops in it, and they've got that one.
BEN ANDERSON: Yeah.
Yeah.
I mean, there aren't detailed maps of this place.
And what maps they have got are a rough guide, but their
abilities aren't on map.
Their ability to look at the buildings, it's very, very
difficult, especially when you haven't got time to really
work things out.
BRITISH SOLDIER: All [INAUDIBLE]
confirmed, they're calling in strafe on
target Whiskey forward.
Sixer alpha, roger, we'll stay firm in this target location
with the grid we've given you.
I don't know what letter it is, but let's just hope it
doesn't come in us.
Over.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: There's been two times where it comes
in on you, and now the third time he's calling it in,
saying, I hope it doesn't come in on us.
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Yeah.
SHANE SMITH NARRATING: I don't know what the number is.
Shoot away.
BEN ANDERSON NARRATING: Yeah.
Yeah.
Which they go on to say more and more.
They just abandon themselves to fate by the end of the day.
[GUNFIRE AND RPG FIRE]
BRITISH SOLDIER: Sixer alpha, that was spot on.
We're now observing friendly enemy movement.
Over.
BRITISH SOLDIER: They're actually terrified of the air.
The closer, the more risk you can play with, it allows us to
get even closer to the enemy.
It just means that you've got to slightly steel your nerves
for those few moments when the first rounds come in and they
might be little bit close.
But it's all fun and games, so.