U.S., Afghan troops clash with new enemy
Fighters in uniform use infantry tactics on FOB Baylough
By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 21, 2007
ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Foreign fighters with military uniforms are attacking U.S. and Afghan government forces in Zabul province using conventional infantry tactics, soldiers report.
Capt. Pongpat Piluek, 33, of Plant City, Fla., who commands Team Apache — a company level task force based around Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment — said foreign fighters are known to be operating near Forward Operating Base Baylough, an isolated outpost 8,000 feet above sea level in the mountainous Dey Chopan district.
Intelligence suggests the foreign fighters are from Uzbekistan and the rebellious Russian territory of Chechnya, in central Asia, he said.
“The foreign fighters tend to be better trained and financed than the average Taliban. They have LBVs (load bearing vests) and canteens and sometimes black or green uniforms,” he said.
During firefights the foreigners use conventional infantry tactics like flanking, bounding and fixing targets, whereas attacks by local Pashtun Taliban are usually poorly executed, Piluek said.
Maj. Sean Fisher, 37, the Task Force Zabul deputy commander and native of Deerfield Beach, Fla., said foreign fighters use Zabul as a transit route to move between Helmand and Ghazni provinces.
Maj. Harry Bird, 44, of Charleston, S.C., who leads a team of Embedded Tactical Trainers out of FOB Lane in Arghandab District, said several Chechen and Uzbek fighters have been killed in firefights with Afghan National Army troops he works with — from 1st Candat, 2nd Battalion, 205th Corps.
Cpl. Jeffrey Treaster, 33, of Harrisburg, Pa., who fights out of Baylough with Team Apache’s 2nd Platoon, said Pashtun tribesmen in the area have reported Uzbek Taliban who ride out of the mountains on horseback.
Second Platoon leader 1st Lt. Alex Sanchez, 24, of La Mirada, Calif., said the Pashtun also report foreign Taliban coming to their villages.
“The locals will say: ‘The guys who came to the village, I didn’t know who they were and when they spoke, I didn’t understand them.’ Locals will say: ‘The Uzbeks stay in the mountains. One or two will come down with a local Taliban who translates and talks to us,’” he said.
There have been numerous attacks on FOB Baylough but some are much better planned than others, Sanchez said.
“You can tell if the enemy are well-trained,” he said. “If their attack is expertly executed, soldiers assume it is foreign fighters. When it is poorly executed, soldiers assume it is locals.”