Lions of Kandahar: A book review
Review By :- Monica Arora
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“Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men,” according to a very profound observation made by General George Smith Patton, Jr, pertaining to the business of war. Operation Medusa, launched by the NATO coalition to contain the Taliban militants from laying siege to Kandahar, was actually all about the “men”, and Major Rusty Bradley and his co-author Kevin Maurer, vividly capture the men in all their colourful glory, in their latest book Lions of Kandahar – the story of a fight against all odds. They presents forth a mesmerising bouquet of eccentric and quirky characters, both Afghani and American, such as “the ‘shaky’ medic with nerves of steel and a surgeon’s hands in battle; the tireless sergeant who seems to be everywhere at once; the soft-spoken intelligence officer with laser-sharp insight; the diminutive Afghan commander with a Goliath-sized heart; the cool maverick who risks all to rescue a grievously wounded comrade.”
To fully gauge the driving force behind this offensive, let us visit the battle-ravaged wilderness of Afghanistan, circa 2006. As then-Captain Rusty Bradley commenced his third tour of duty there, it was quite evident that Southern Afghanistan was slipping away. To make matters worse, the Taliban had set their eyes upon the strategically situated, erstwhile capital city of Kandahar and were mercilessly plundering and looting and killing to make their presence felt. As a counter-attack measure, the NATO coalition launched Operation Medusa, the largest offensive in its history. The battlefield was the Panjwayi Valley, a densely packed warren of walled compounds that doubled neatly as enemy bunkers, lush orchards and towering marijuana stands, dotted with treacherous irrigation ditches. A mass exodus of civilians heralded the carnage to come.
Dispatched as a diversionary force in support of the main coalition attack, Bradley’s Special Forces A-team and two others, along with their longtime Afghan Army allies, watched from across the valley as the NATO force was quickly engulfed in a vicious counter attack. Key to relieving it and calling in effective air strikes was possession of a modest patch of high ground called Sperwan Ghar, which was the focal point for Operation Medusa, comprising a large hill that overlooks the Panjwayi Valley near Kandahar. Bradley’s small detachment assaulted the hill and in the midst of a savage and unforgettable firefight, soon discovered, much to their horror, that they were facing nearly a thousand seasoned fighters. Incredibly enough, this valiant group battled their foe with all their might and managed to seize an impossible victory, leaving their team leader, Major Rusty Bradley wounded in the process.
In the book, Bradley revists the unbelievable victory of a very committed group of men, despite being accosted by many physical challenges, particularly the unforgiving terrain and the scorching trek across Afghanistan’s infamous Red Desert. Interesting also is the vivid deblockedion of the close relationship between the Afghans, both civilians and army, and the American troops and the close trail of the extremely canny and intuitive Taliban militants, who always managed to get away in the nick of time, before they were finally caught and dealt with by Rusty’s men.
Lions of Kandahar is an inside account from the unique perspective of an active-duty US Army Special Forces commander, who is an exemplary warrior with multiple postings to the war ravaged region and has only recently returned from combat there. Major Rusty Bradley teamed up to write the book with former Fayetteville Observer reporter Kevin Maurer , who has been embedded as a reporter with the US Special Forces and 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan and Iraq, more than a dozen times. The duo, vividly paints the grim and bloody aura of a war ravaged region and “illuminates a lot of what goes on over there. It's bigger than the battle!"