July 27, 2009

An Artery of Opium a Vein of Taliban - Michael Yon

Via email from Mike Yon in the Helmand River Valley, Sangin Afghanistan.
"Big fight over here, David. This is a no-kidding brawl in Sangin!"

The Helmand River through Sangin: British Soldiers on nearby FOB Jackson, such as Sergeant Major Keith Evans, were watching the Mi-26 on final approach. They believe an RPG struck the tail. Evans told me that he saw flame burst from the tail, and the tail rotor fell away to the earth. The large helicopter was carrying a sling load which oscillated to the level of the helicopter, seemed to pause, and the sling load oscillated back to the same level on the other side. The load and helicopter impacted the earth simultaneously perhaps four hundred meters from the perimeter of FOB Jackson. An explosion roiled into a fireball. Everyone aboard was killed instantly, along with some Afghans on the ground.

Our helicopter roars in at low level. The cargo is not strapped down so that we can exit quickly. So loaded is the helicopter that the tail gunner sits on a box of cargo. The lack of helicopters have left soldiers on FOB Jackson without mail for three weeks, while other soldiers have been stuck here for at least two weeks while trying to get back to Bastion. The lack of helicopters is making this and other places into 'FOB Hotel Californias.' Even General Officers are having difficulty getting helicopters out of the main base at FOB Bastion. A British officer told me that the British military refused to haul Prime Minister Gordon Brown, citing lack of helicopter lift. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gordon Brown insists that we have enough helicopters. He is wrong.


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