INSIDE AFGHANISTAN PART 2 | VICE NEWS | VICE


Uploaded by vice on Oct 26, 2011

Transcript:

[MODEM BEEPS AND STATIC]

[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
SHANE SMITH: So is the fight over now?
BEN ANDERSON: We think it might be, but that happened
many, many times throughout the day.
You think you can rest and it's over, and then they pop
up and attack again.

Now the ANA are sitting down inside the little sort of
courtyard next to the compound here, and getting stoned.
SHANE SMITH: The first thing they do in the break in the
fighting is the ANA go get stoned.
BEN ANDERSON: Yeah.
SHANE SMITH: Are they getting stoned on opium, or are they
getting stoned on hash, or pot, or?
BEN ANDERSON: They smoke a lot of hash.
We don't know if it was hash or opium, but it
was one or the other.
SHANE SMITH: That guy looks pinned.
That's opium for sure.
MALE SPEAKER: I don't understand how they could
smoke it in the middle of a battle.
They make you worse, but they love it.
As soon as they get two minutes, they fucking have
their-- start smoking it, and passing it around, all
laughing and joking.
And then a minute later, they're
running out towards bullets.
[AUTOMATIC GUNFIRE NEARBY]
[LAUGHTER]
BEN ANDERSON: He was so stoned that he went outside, stood up
in full view of the Taliban, aimed just into the sky.
A bullet fired the magazine off his gun.
And he just picked it up off the ground, laughed, and
walked back inside.

[AUTOMATIC GUNFIRE]
MALE SPEAKER: He's fucking mad.
MALE SPEAKER: Why?
MALE SPEAKER: Tajimad.
We haven't got enough ammunition to
fire bursts like that.
Short bursts.
Short bursts.
MALE SPEAKER: Same question from the captain.
Are they firing at anything?
MALE SPEAKER: No.
BEN ANDERSON: That happened all the time.
You'd hear this massive burst of gunfire, and hear one of
the Brits go, are they shooting at anything?
And you'd hear someone shout back, no.
We saw that time and time again.
MALE SPEAKER: If you can't clearly identify the enemy,
you shouldn't be firing, really.
But trying to tell the ANA that is a different matter.
BEN ANDERSON: Is that all the ammo you've got left?
MALE SPEAKER: Yeah, it's all we've got left.
We've got about 150 rounds left.
But I think we've got to go out there about another K for
our resupply route.
SHANE SMITH: So you're running low on ammunition now.
BEN ANDERSON: Yeah, he's got 150 rounds left.
MALE SPEAKER: We need to start bringing in resupplies of
water, food, and especially ammunition.
Because we're running low, yeah.
MALE SPEAKER: Boys are low on water now.
But we knew it was going to happen.
We only carry 3 liters per man.
It isn't going to last long.
We've been on the go since half through this morning, so
11 o'clock.
So yeah, 3 liters isn't a lot, especially when you're
sweating as much as this.
SHANE SMITH: How hot is it right now here?
BEN ANDERSON: Over 50 degrees.
SHANE SMITH: It's over 50 degrees.
Which is like, I don't know, 120 degrees or 115 degrees
Fahrenheit.
But you're wearing flak jackets and helmets.
So your balls are sweating pretty bad right now.
BEN ANDERSON: Dripping.
SHANE SMITH: Dripping.
And you don't have any water.
BEN ANDERSON: No, the water runs out.
Because you know, how much water can you carry on top of
all that kit?
SHANE SMITH: So you're fucked.
BEN ANDERSON: Yeah, all of us.
[AUTOMATIC GUNFIRE NEARBY]
MALE SPEAKER: Hey Six-Three-Alpha, ICOM chatter
suggests Taliban are pulling back in front of our advance,
trying to conserve their own ammunition, cause us to expend
all of ours, and then plan to
counterattack us as we withdraw.
Over.
SHANE SMITH: So what the Taliban are doing now is
they'll shoot a couple shots, get the ANA guys to go crazy,
stoned, shoot all their guns off.
And then when you have to retreat to get more bullets,
they're going to kill you.
BEN ANDERSON: Yeah.
Yeah, that could be the Taliban's tactic for the
entire country.
You know, they know it doesn't cost much for them to stay
there and stay fighting.
They know it costs Britain and America and everybody else a
lot to be there.
So they think they can outpace us, no problem at all.
They'll say, we'll fight for 10 years, like me and you
would say, let's go for a drink, let's go
for a game of tennis.
It's nothing.

MALE SPEAKER: But be aware of that.
Don't come down below 5,000.
[DISTANT GUNFIRE]
[LAUGHTER]
MALE SPEAKER: Fucking spread out!
MALE SPEAKER: Right, gentlemen.
MALE SPEAKER: Just keep coming forward!
[BULLETS SNAPPING]
BEN ANDERSON: Hear that popping sound?
That's not guns being fired.
That's bullets breaking the sound barrier.
And if you hear that sound, you're too close.
You're like 3, 4 meters away from the bullet.
And there's hundreds of those popping noises.
MALE SPEAKER: You coming in?
[LOUD SNAP]
MALE SPEAKER: Jesus.
BEN ANDERSON: So that's a bullet that just came through
the door, and hit the wall somewhere inside and then
covered us with dust.
MALE SPEAKER: Get behind the wall.

MALE SPEAKER: Now, once that target's destroyed, I'm hoping
that this fire will stop.
The air's coming in now.
Wait out.
BEN ANDERSON: They've called in some planes
with 500-pound bombs.
[JET ENGINE OVERHEAD]

BEN ANDERSON: Exactly what I was just thinking.

SHANE SMITH: So you just said, please don't land
on me, to the bomb.
BEN ANDERSON: Yeah.
Yeah.
[HUGE EXPLOSION]

MALE SPEAKER: Yeah, I think he needs to go south.
Yeah, he doesn't want to come any closer to us.

BEN ANDERSON: So they called in a
500-pound bomb, which missed.
And it wasn't that far in front of this compound.
And they'll try again--
[BULLETS SNAPPING]
BEN ANDERSON: --try again in about a minute.
[HEAVY GUNFIRE NEARBY]
SHANE SMITH: So the bomb didn't seem to hit them.
They're still shooting at you.
BEN ANDERSON: What happened there happened again and again
and again throughout my two months there.
Bombs get dropped, missiles, everything.
It goes quiet for a minute, you think, that's it, that's
got to be it.
And then you hear them pop up and fire back again.
I think they're just firing for--
the British or ANA are trying to keep the Taliban in place.
That way when the bomb lands, if they're still there, that
should be the end in there.
MALE SPEAKER: Six-One-Alpha, heads down.
20 seconds.
Out.
[JET ENGINE OVERHEAD]
[HUGE EXPLOSION]
MALE SPEAKER: Probably has hit further east.
BEN ANDERSON: That fell even closer than the last one.
SHANE SMITH: So that's another bomb that they
nearly hit you with.
And then they nearly hit you again.
BEN ANDERSON: Yeah, a bit closer than the last one.
SHANE SMITH: That was closer than the last one.
BEN ANDERSON: Yeah, yeah.
MALE SPEAKER: We'll just stay firm here, away from all the
casualties to be dealt with and got out.
Tell them to bring the water forward, and give everyone a
chance to have some water.
And then we'll re-cock and go in for those final compounds,
Whiskey and X-ray.
[HEAVY GUNFIRE NEARBY]
MALE SPEAKER: That's getting the water out there.
BEN ANDERSON: So some guys went out to get some water.
Came under heavy fire again.
I think this time we've come under fire from that side and
that side at the same time.
We haven't come under fire from that side.
So far it's total there.
Normally when you hear fire like that, it's just because
someone's stuck their head out, someone's
shot, whatever it was.
In this instance, guys had gone out to pick up water that
had been dropped via helicopter.
So it was all quiet as they went out to pick up the water.
And then suddenly all hell breaks loose from 360 degrees.
And we know there are guys out there, picking up this water.
MALE SPEAKER: So we're short of water.
Short of batteries.
Plenty of ammunition.
And plenty of Taliban.
So yeah.
All in all, good going, apart from the water.
BEN ANDERSON: Seven guys collapsed by the end of this
day, and some of them were in life-threatening conditions.
I saw one guy actually collapse, and I thought it was
trauma or shell shock or something, because I've never
seen a guy--
I mean, he took his top off.
He tried to fight his friends, who were going to
pour water on him.
He collapsed like a boxer who has been knocked out.
I didn't realize that heat exhaustion can be that bad.
And plus, these guys are soldiers, so they're going to
deny it to the last minute.
They're going to pretend they're OK, and struggle on
through until the very last minute, when
it's almost too late.
Despite what's happened, the day is far from over.
MALE SPEAKER: Oh, far from over.
This is just the beginning.
This is just the beginning of a very busy day.
Probably a couple of days, if not a week.
BEN ANDERSON: Eventually the Taliban withdrew, and we just
walked away.
I don't know if they ran out of ammunition or something.
They packed up and left, and it stayed quiet.
And within a very short time of leaving that compound, we
heard over the radios that the Taliban had retaken all of
those buildings that had been fought for.

MALE SPEAKER: I believe we're going to go north, go firm,
put a defensive position in.
And then we'll have a nice quiet night in the valley
tonight, by the look of it.
Not.
BEN ANDERSON: If this small area of the valley takes this
much of a fight to clear, how much is the whole province
going to take?
MALE SPEAKER: Well, the country being like it is-- and
it's classic hit-and-run country.
It's like Normandy, hedgerows, ditches,
plowed fields, compounds.
And these guys, they've got all the time in the world to
set up what they want to set up, and where they want to be.
Whereas we've got to advance into them to flush them out.
So the whole province?
Oh, I don't get paid enough to tell you that one.
I don't know.
I'm not going to guess.
BEN ANDERSON: How old are you?
MALE SPEAKER: 41 years old.
And I was supposed to leave the army this year.
And I was graciously offered two more years, and I took it.
BEN ANDERSON: Is this your last tour?
MALE SPEAKER: Probably yes, he says.
But I did say that last year in Iraq, that that was going
to be my last tour.
And obviously it's not, so we'll see.
We'll see what happens.
MALE SPEAKER: Probably the biggest I've had in my career
since I've been in, mate, in terms of contacts.
I've been going since 0300 this morning.
It's now 10 past 4:00 in the afternoon, 1610 hours.
So it's been quite a long day.
It's not over yet.
We've still got to move off to our next location, and
meet up with WFR.
And then we'll see how we get from there.
But the boys have worked their nuts off, as usual.
So have the ANA.
Everyone's worked really hard.
BEN ANDERSON: So when he says, that's the most intense day
I've ever had as a soldier, he's done tours of Iraq,
Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan.
That's not said lightly when he says that.
SHANE SMITH: Right.
So Afghanistan has the fiercest fighting in
the world right now.
BEN ANDERSON: Yeah.
I mean, the historians and these guys, they're all
saying, the most ferocious fighting since the Korean War.
MALE SPEAKER: Lucky today.
We seemed to be near cover every time it come, didn't we?
We're lucky.
I'm surprised no one's a casualty today.
BEN ANDERSON: Is it manpower?
The reason you can't--
MALE SPEAKER: Yeah, it's manpower.
We haven't got the manpower.
There's not enough people out here.
Now, they're out to fight.
And it's very rare that you see them.
But most people here ain't even seen a Taliban yet.
SHANE SMITH: So they can fight the Taliban all day for 12
hours, and they'll have never have seen them.
BEN ANDERSON: You might see a bit of movement.
You might see a flash of light from where
they're firing from.
That's it.
And they probably have seen lots of Taliban when they're
not fighting.
SHANE SMITH: They just don't know it.
BEN ANDERSON: They're in the villages and the towns.
But how do you know?
MALE SPEAKER: As soon as it starts getting a bit rough,
and it looks they're going to get it, they'll fucking pick a
pitchfork up, and they're Farmer Joe for the day.
If someone's coming towards me on the same path,
I'll cross the path.
I don't want them to get nowhere near me.
I want to go home.
They're the kind of people that believe when they die,
they're going to wake up with 27 virgins.
So how can you fight against someone like that, who doesn't
give a shit?
It's like as soon as I die, I'll be
going back to Tottenham.
I'll fucking run at the bullets.
BEN ANDERSON: And you regularly see guys that are
just dumbfounded.
Like, how can you fight against someone
who wants to die?
Who thinks that dying is an end, dying is a route to some
kind of paradise?
SHANE SMITH: So who is going to win that fight?
BEN ANDERSON: People regularly talk about how the Americans
and British always beat the Taliban when they
meet them in a fight.
That doesn't mean the Taliban are ever going to give up.
That's the follow-up point that most people seem to miss.
MALE SPEAKER: Yeah, we'll come straight
back today or tomorrow.
But the thing is, because we've left it, we'll have to
fucking start again.
So that is just pointless, isn't it?
I mean, we don't know what we're doing now.
That's the hardest bit, not knowing.
SHANE SMITH: You went in there.
You fought all day.
You got surrounded.
People are dropping like flies from heat exhaustion.
You nearly got bombed by your own guys three times.
And then you had to leave, so the Taliban just went in.
BEN ANDERSON: Yeah.
He said we haven't got the manpower to hold on to land.
And it's the same thing with the border with Pakistan.
They just haven't got the manpower to either hold on to
land or patrol borders properly.
SHANE SMITH: So it's all for nothing.
BEN ANDERSON: With existing levels of troops, yeah.

MALE SPEAKER: I'd say yesterday was probably the
hardest day I've had in 17 years' service.
And I think all of the others who fought in it yesterday
would probably agree.
It was eight hours of unrelenting combat against a
canny, wily, determined enemy, who was prepared to
fight to the death.
It's extremely difficult in the Green Zone to maneuver
your forces.
BEN ANDERSON: Is there a danger that by flattening
compounds--
and obviously civilians are going to get caught up in the
compounds from time to time--
that you could lose the support of the
population here entirely?
That they could either become indifferent to you being here,
or worse, supporters and helpers of the Taliban?
MALE SPEAKER: It's a fine line.
I think if we were completely indiscriminate in our fires,
then yes, we could lose support quite quickly.
As it happens, yesterday there was an attack aviation strike
on a compound which had civilians and my men in it.
I was fortunate that none of them were injured.
It was me.
I directed that attack.
I gave clearance for it to fire.
And the responsibility for it lies on my shoulders.
In this instance, I'm extremely lucky that there
were no casualties, either friendly or civilian.
SHANE SMITH: What do you think is happening in Afghanistan?
BEN ANDERSON: I think that is happening on
a much wider scale.
There's no evidence that the Taliban are even thinking
about giving up.
There's no evidence that a military solution is possible.
And there's no evidence that the Brits or the Americans or
anyone can control anything apart from these isolated
bases and towns.
So the Taliban have complete free rein, especially over the
south of Afghanistan.
SHANE SMITH: So we went in to kick the Taliban out.
The Taliban are getting stronger and stronger.
There's more drugs coming out than ever before.
Why are we there?
BEN ANDERSON: The most discouraging thing I've seen
or heard from Afghanistan recently is when I was there,
one town was left that was under control of the Taliban.
That was taken just after I left.
They put in charge a guy who's Taliban.
He soon described himself as good Taliban.
Yeah, that makes you think, why have we been fighting and
losing people for six years, when we could have done
exactly the same deal that we've done
today, six years ago?
[BIRDS TWITTERING]