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CONTACT IN MARJAH

In the early hours of 5 January 2016, America’s Special Operations Forces went to work with Afghan Special Forces in southern Afghanistan.  As many as eighty reported Special Operations Forces were inserted by two Ch47 Chinooks in the town of Marjeh, just north of Helmand. The Chinooks reportedly took “immediate RPG and Small Arms fire.” 

The Quick Reaction Force was called in and, as I type this, they are still in contact with the Taliban insurgents.

This isn’t the first time Special Forces have gone into Marjeh. Back in May of 2009, a joint force of Afghan Commando’s, US Special Forces, DEA Fast and other SOF elements executed “Operation Siege Engine” an attack on a large Taliban command center in central Helmand province that doubled as a heroin-producing complex.

Five MH-47’s loaded with troops, supplies and landed right in the middle of the Loy Choreh Bazaar. They knew there was going to be a fight so the assault force went in heavy.  Four-wheelers and John Deere Gators were loaded down with weapons that included mortars, extra light machine guns and plenty of ammo. The plan was to fly in around 0100 local time and conduct a counter narcotics raid.

     

Loy Choreh Bazaar, opium and the Taliban.

The Loy Choreh Bazaar, the target of "Operation Siege Engine,” is an aggregation of shops and farm warehouses at a rural crossroads several kilometers south of Marjeh village in Nad-e Ali district, Helmand province.  Nad-e Ali is the richest opium-growing district in Helmand, a province that grew 66 percent of Afghanistan's opium poppy in 2008. Like most of Helmand, Nad-e Ali district was controlled by narco-militias for years and has been, since July 2008, under insurgent control. The Bazaar served as an opium collection and processing center, with well-supplied labs that refined raw opium into finished heroin. It doubled as an insurgency command and munitions storage center. According to military sources, Taliban insurgents ran a shadow government and weekly shuras for the Marjeh area from the Loy Choreh, which was one of three narcotics bazaars in the Marjeh vicinity.

For weeks prior to the assault, ISR had been watching the city and had taken out three Russian-made ZPU anti-aircraft systems. One of the ZPU’s, mounted in the bed of a white pick-up, was destroyed by coalition Aircraft during the night.

The next morning the Taliban, trying to conduct positive IO, drove around town with another gun mounted in the back of a white truck, making sure the villagers “knew” that the air strikes had missed. ISR overhead later spotted the other gun and subsequent airstrikes made quick work of it.

While the assault force did not meet any resistance on infiltration, the insurgents soon responded. Over the next four days, they made dozens of counterattacks, fighting furiously in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to protect their narcotics, supplies, labs, weapons and ammunition.

By the end of the operations, the assault force had killed 64 enemy combatants.  As our forces pulled out, air strikes were called in to destroy everything they had found.

Operation Siege Engine accomplished the largest single narcotics seizure in Afghanistan's history:

•18,164 kilograms opium;

•200 kilograms finished heroin;

•90 kilograms morphine;

•1000 kilograms hashish;

•72,727 kilograms opium poppy seed; and

 

The precursor chemicals used in heroin prpduction:

•395 gallons acetic anhydride (stored in 55-gallon drums);

•20,175 kilograms ammonium chloride;

•17,600 kilograms sodium carbonate;

•17,600 kilograms soda ash;

•1050 kilograms activated charcoal.

The DEA had estimated the value of finished heroin, along with the opium and morphine yet to be processed, would be over $5 Million USD in Afghanistan. The wholesale value in the U.S. could have exceeded $80 Million USD.

My thoughts and prayers are with those warriors still on the ground fighting.

De Oppresso Liber 

 About the author: Loren Schofield is retired Special Forces with over 16 years serving in the various positions within the Special Forces Regiment. He started out as an infantryman, in both a line company and a scout platoon and during his Special Forces career he was both an 18E (SF Commo) and an 18F (SF Intel). He served on a Mountain Team, Mobility Team, and in a Special Forces Direct Action Company. He deployed twice to Kosovo and from April of 2002 to May of 2009 he deployed five times to Afghanistan and twice to Iraq.

You can find Loren on Instagram @Loren_NotASeal

 

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