Authors: Rusty Bradley
Copyright © 2011 by Rusty Bradley
Maps copyright © 2011 by Travis Rightmeyer
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
and the rooster colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Lions of Kandahar : the story of a fight against all odds / Rusty Bradley and Kevin Maurer.
1. Afghan War, 2001– —Campaigns—Afghanistan—Panjwa’i
(District). 2. Afghan War, 2001– —Commando operations. 3. Afghan
War, 2001– —Personal narratives, American. 4. Taliban. 5. Bradley,
Rusty. I. Maurer, Kevin. II. Title.
Jacket design by Marietta Anastassatos
Photograph: © Andrew Craft
Dedicated to those few who live every day
like September 12, 2001
September 2—September 17, 2006
|AAF|| || ||Anti-Afghanistan Forces; also used to designate the Afghan Air Force|
|AC-130|| || ||gunship|
|ANA|| || ||Afghan National Army|
|ANP|| || ||Afghan National Police|
|API|| || ||armor-piercing incendiary rounds|
|AT4|| || ||disposable light anti-tank round|
|CAS|| || ||close air support|
|CCP|| || ||casualty collection point|
|CSM|| || ||command sergeant major|
|EOD|| || ||explosive ordnance detachment|
|ETT|| || ||embedded trainer with the Afghan Army|
|FBCB2|| || ||Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade and Below—navigation system and force tracker|
|FOB|| || ||forward operating base|
|GFC|| || ||ground force commander|
|GMV|| || ||truck|
|Goose|| || ||90-mm recoilless rifle|
|GSR|| || ||gunshot residue and explosives test|
|IED|| || ||improvised explosive device|
|IR|| || ||infrared|
|ISAF|| || ||International Security Assistance Force|
|JTAC|| || ||joint tactical aircraft controller|
|KAF|| || ||Kandahar Airfield|
|LAWS|| || ||Light Anti-Armor Weapons System|
|LZ|| || ||landing zone|
|MREs|| || ||Meals, Ready to Eat|
|NODS|| || ||night-vision device|
|PKM|| || ||Pulemyot Kalashnikova|
, or Kalashnikov’s Machine Gun
|PUC|| || ||personnel under confinement (prisoners)|
|QRF|| || ||quick reaction force|
|RPG|| || ||rocket-propelled grenade|
|TOC|| || ||tactical operations center|
|WIA|| || ||wounded in action|
Key Afghan words
Amerkaianu Mushakas Kawatuna
American Special Forces
blood feud, revenge
a senior, elderly person
The most important challenge I faced in writing this book was trying to capture the significance of this event on paper and to articulate its magnitude for the reader. This book is not just about a series of intense firefights that stretched over days. It was the most strategically significant battle in Afghanistan that you never heard of, and its effects would have a direct impact in the War on Terror (WOT). What originated as a preplanned military operation designed by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to clear a known enemy sanctuary soon developed into a ferocious, pivotal engagement that would push untested NATO troops to the limit and cause the Taliban and its foreign fighters to completely change the way they confronted coalition forces. It was an all-out fight to hold the line against a resurgent enemy and a catalyst to a new understanding of what would be required as the United States and its allies continued to prosecute the war.
The initial phase of Operation Medusa raged for nearly two weeks in the late summer of 2006. This operation and its subsequent phases would eventually extend combat operations over the course of several months. My team was one of five that directly participated in all phases of the entire operation and was the primary element chosen to stay in the volatile Panjwayi district following the conclusion of
Operation Medusa. Designated as Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 331, my team was tasked to “clean out” the Taliban and foreign fighters, mitigate their influence, reinstate local, legitimate governance, and assist in the reconstruction and security of an underdeveloped urban area the size of Rhode Island. This Herculean task was given to ten men. Such are the fortunes of war, and that truth comes with a price.
This story is my recollection, to the best of my ability, of what my Special Forces team endured from August to September 2006. It is intended to be an honest portrayal of the trials Special Forces soldiers face in Afghanistan. The language and humor are genuine, if not necessarily for the weak, fainthearted, or politically correct. This project has no ulterior motives or hidden agenda and is in no way intended to cause controversy or to point fingers. It is simply a story of ordinary men who did extraordinary things in the face of overwhelming adversity.