Monday, March 1, 2010
Operation Moshtarak is different to other operations in the Afghan war because of the role taken by Afghan troops, writes former Paratrooper and video journalist Josh Fortune.
Josh Fortune is a former paratrooper who is now working for NATOchannel.tv as a video journalist. He has been in Afghanistan since April 2008.
"They look awfully like UFOs," I thought, looking up at the six glowing lights in the sky, which were hanging ominously above us several kilometers away like some sort of silent sentinels.
They were the next wave of Canadian and British Chinook helicopters, preparing to swoop down and deliver their load of Afghan and British soldiers into Northern Nad Ali to mark the start of Operation Moshtarak – which means "together" in Dari, one of the primary languages spoken in Afghanistan.
Moshtarak was supposed to herald the first truly joint operation where Afghan and ISAF forces would live, work, and fight alongside each other in clearing out the Taliban and bringing security to parts of central Helmand.
I must admit that prior to the mission I was sceptical. I had been involved in the heli-borne air assault on Operation Khanjar last summer, where 4,000 Marines were dropped into parts of Southern Helmand. That operation was supposed to be joint as well.
However, it rapidly became clear to me that in the area I was in the only Afghan presence was a couple of token border police. They had very little role in the proceedings and only ever seemed to hinder the Marines as opposed to helping them.
After two years over here – and many operations in Helmand - my cynical edge seemed intent on telling me that Moshtarak would be more of the same, that the Afghan forces would have little effect, and that ISAF would be doing all the work with the Afghan soldiers unwillingly riding the coat tails of their coalition counterparts.
The eerie lights in the sky wheeled into the Camp Bastion helipad, and the Estonian and Afghan soldiers I was embedded with began to make their way to their assigned Chinook.
As we ran towards the overwhelming heat and noise of the Chinook, I struggled to think of any time in the past that I had heard of Afghan and ISAF forces involved in an air assault together – I had certainly never seen anything like it, and I doubted that it had ever happened on such a large scale before.
The ride to our LZ (or Landing Zone) was a brief one, and after six or seven minutes of staring into the dimly lit face of the Afghan soldier sitting opposite me, an Estonian soldier pounded my shoulder and bellowed "ONE MINUTE" in my ear.
I put my thumb up and duly passed the message on down the line. The Chinook touched down, and we all bundled out – into thick, wet mud.
For the full article click here for Channel 4