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U.S. forces get into 'intense' firefight with Taliban

By LEO SHANE III | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 23, 2006

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LANE, Afghanistan — U.S. forces in the Chalcor Valley on Thursday faced their largest assault since the start of Operation Mountain Thrust, with more than 100 Taliban fighters blasting their defenses for more than two hours.

Still, officials from the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry said American and Afghan forces suffered only one minor casualty — a richocheted bullet passed through a U.S. soldier’s leg — and managed to force back the militants.

First Lt. Ryan Edwards, 1st Platoon leader for the 2-4, said Taliban fighters advanced within yards of defensive positions in this northern section of Zabul province. At one point, U.S. soldiers were taking fire from five directions.

Pvt. Robert Bobbin of the 4th Infantry’s Company A, said the unit has seen firefights in the area before, “but never this intense.”

The area has become dangerous in recent months, according to base officials, with local villagers recently announcing a jihad against coalition forces.

Edwards said patrols routinely search nearby villages and find few people left living there. But at night, Taliban forces often take control of those areas, leading coalition commanders to believe they are receiving help from locals.

Thursday’s Taliban attack force was larger, better armed and better equipped than past fighters, Edwards said. The province shares a border with Pakistan on the south, and U.S. forces have been monitoring that line to prevent reinforcements from that country to Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

The 2-4 is scheduled to pull out of Zabul province later this month, but unit commanders said plans for a continued U.S. presence here are still up in the air.