The Washington Post's Anup Kaphle is currently embedded in Afghanistan with British Gurkha soldiers, a people of Nepal known for their military prowess. On Day Five of his embed, Kaphle’s patrol came under attack by Taliban forces. Here is his account:
Among the various smaller bases around the Forward Operating Base Khar Nikah in northern Helmand province, Patrol Base Bahadur is notorious for contact with the Taliban, almost on a regular basis. To get from the base to the checkpoint, soldiers have to pass two critical places, which they have fittingly named “IED Alley” and “Murder Wall.”
On the fifth day of my embed, we walked past the IED alley and then came to the Murder Wall, a long high stretch of 300 feet of dry mud. It sits about 700 yards away from the checkpoint.
The Taliban use the Wall as a cover to shoot RPGs and AK-47s at the patrol every time soldiers pass. The Taliban built a sophisticated bunker underneath the wall, one of the Gurkha soldiers reported.
As we got closer to the Wall, we picked up radio chatter from the Taliban that we were approaching and that they should prepare to attack. The soldier in front of me told me to run until we arrived at a six foot long mud wall about 80 yards away.
As soon as we dashed toward the checkpoint, we came under fire. For the first 10 seconds, it felt like a video game. Then it hit me: we were in trouble.
We managed to reach the short mud wall, and the British Gurkhas turned and started shooting back toward the Murder Wall. Smoking shells from the bullets fell at my feet. The patrol group called in the base for fire support, while engaging the insurgents with their machine guns. After about 15 minutes, Apache helicopters came in and provided cover as we ran inside the patrol base.
Those were the longest 15 minutes of my life.
Read more of Kaphle’s updates from Afghanistan by subscribing to his Facebook page.