May 1st, Observation Post Bariali was overrun during a surprise attack by Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. Three American soldiers, along with two Latvians and five Afghans died in the fight. Little notice was made back home of the horrible battle here. Swine flu was the topic number one in the American media. Death on an Afghan mountain top was lost somewhere in that day’s events.
Situated along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, Bariali overlooks three river valleys that serve as major insurgent smuggling routes – the Hlelgal, Daring and Konar. OP Bariali was an irritant to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They attacked in force and succeeded in their goal of pushing the Afghan Army and it’s NATO allies off the mountain – temporarily.
U.S., Latvian and Afghan troops have returned to rebuild Bariali. Helicopters fly here only at night and land on a narrow ridge line. When Carlos and I hopped off the back of the Chinook, it was total darkness. We followed the troopers ahead of us to the reoccupied compound. I tripped over sleeping soldiers who had just endured a violent mountain thunderstorm that blew away much of the little cover they had and soaked them to the bone. We found two open cots on a slope behind a row of Hesco barriers.
It was obvious Bariali had gone through hell three weeks earlier. A few pieces of burned wood were scattered around the tiny OP. Fabric covers around the rock filled Hescos had been burned off. The rock was black in several places where fires, triggered by the attack, had burned.
But the troops were rebuilding. They filled sandbags to reinforce their positions and set up a shipment of heavy weapons meant to defend the compound from a future assault – one that is sure to come.
So far, though, it has been quiet. Soldiers here tell us that snipers usually like to take pot shots at sunset from perches in the ridge line above us. There are no bullets flying this day, only loud booms from U.S. Artillery firing at another mountain ridge.
I feel strange here. Where we stand, ten men died 21-days earlier and the world barely noticed.