It is an unfortunate fact that sometimes stories are lost in the maelstrom of information that seems constant and, at times, overwhelming. Events that should be brought to our attention are often buried, relegated to a series of words at the bottom of television screen, numbers without context or meaning. Such is the case of Bariali, an Outpost that was attacked and ultimately overwhelmed by Taliban forces on May 1st of this year.
3 Americans, 2 Latvians, and 5 Afghanis were killed when enemy forces attacked the outpost at daybreak, superior numbers attacking with small arms fire and the element of surprise. While a Quick Reaction Force was able to repel the Taliban from the position, the damage had already been done, and Bariali had been effectively destroyed.
This was, however, but a pyrrhic victory for the Taliban; they had attacked Bariali because of its strategic importance in the area, and had hoped such a blow would lead to a permanent closing of the outpost. There would be no such closing, no backing down on the part of US forces.
Stepping into Bariali today is like taking a leap into the past: the camo netting, broken cots, sandbags and ammo boxes are reminders of Vietnam, an unsettling comparison to be sure. But while the setting may be reminiscent of that conflict, the soldiers and attitude are most definitely not.
US forces man watchposts alongside Latvian and Afghan forces, eyes watching the mountainside for any sign of movement or trouble. The knowledge of the recent attack is strong in their minds, as is the importance of the outpost. This is the pointy end of the spear, the frontline of the war in Afghanistan and it is places like the outpost at Bariali where the war will ultimately be decided. The men who stand their guard at this outpost know this better than anyone, and so they will watch and wait, eyes sharp in the daybreak.