The Full Spectrum of Combat Power
Nur Mohammad Karmal was awake, dressed, and having a cup of tea when Omar Kakur approached him. “Master, Abdur has sent me to inform you. They are here.”
Karmal sat with his back to Kakur and did not turn to address him. “Thank you Omar. Assemble the commanders. We meet in fifteen minutes.”
When Karmal’s commanders gathered as ordered, he welcomed them with his typical blessing and began to explain the reasons behind recent activities at his compound.
“My brothers,” he began, “this day will bring great glory to Allah. You are all His holy warriors and we will deal a terrible blow to the infidel—such to the degree that they will certainly withdraw from this valley and recognize that their efforts to suppress us are futile. We will not be merciful. When we have vanquished the devils in our land we will be left to expand His will unopposed and take our next steps to returning the rule of God to all Afghanistan.”
He continued. “For the past weeks, a spy has been among us collecting information about our location and operations. He believes he has been discrete and moved among us undetected. He is incorrect. They think they can just drop strangers in amongst us and we will not take notice. The traitor known as the Persian continues to assist the Americans and will soon pay for his sedition. Even now he is with them.
“Their tactics are predictable and arrogant. They rely greatly on their love of technology. We have spotted their advance group and it is now in the process of targeting us. Within the next hours, they will call in their jets to bomb us. When they think they have either incinerated or buried us, they will send troops in to clear what is left. I assure you that their bombs will fall harmlessly. Before their troops arrive, we will eliminate the fools targeting the compound. The arriving troops will come in blind and overconfident, and before they have an opportunity to inflict damage, we will blow them out of the sky and slaughter those that make it to the ground.
“Now, all of you know your positions, so go and prepare your men. Abu, bring the captured animal to me.”
Abu Habib had a curious look on his face as he addressed Karmal. “Master, what do you intend to do with the dog?”
“My dear Abu, I am a generous man. I am going to give him back.”
Todd crouched at his targeting position, his heart in his throat. There was no movement at the compound or any indications that there would be a change in the plan. Although the sun was still ten degrees below the horizon, the sky was beginning to lighten and he began to think of his morning runs with Zip and their time together back at the dairy farm when Caroline was born. He started to break out in a sweat as he looked through the AN/PED-1 Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder (LLDR), holding a steady beam on the designated target. Boomer noticed his friend’s angst.
“Hey, buddy. Do you want me to handle that? You don’t have to do it.”
“No Boomer, it’s my job and I can handle it. You just make sure the battery stays charged and the cable is connected. It will be OK. But keep a lookout up there. This all seems too easy doesn’t it?”
“Yes it does, so far. We’ll be done with our part in a couple minutes. Just hang in there.”
At 0559, Lieutenant John Kelly made radio contact with the F-16s. “Sierra Tango Two to Falcon Leader, you are clear to make your run.”
“Roger that Sierra Tango Two. We have a confirmed target and positive laser signature. Take cover and keep your heads down.”
Just as Kelly was acknowledging the message from the F-16 pilots, Angel, who was keeping eyes on the targets through his rifle scope, noticed something. “Lieutenant, the sentries are gone.”
And then, the silence of the morning air was pierced with the intensifying sound of Pratt and Whitney afterburner turbofan engines dropping from their designated holding positions into their bombing runs. Todd began to shake, but steadfastly held the laser on his target. Just before the weapon impacts, he silently prayed for forgiveness and for the protection of his friend.
The first two jets dropped the ordnance from twenty thousand feet and swept clear. The bombs self-corrected their course as they descended and homed in on the laser signature. They struck the targets within two meters of the laser point and burrowed into the ground with four, nearly simultaneous thuds. A second later the explosive charges detonated and a rumble began as a gigantic dome of earth emerged from the impact point, followed by a massive explosion as the dome burst spewing dirt and rock in all directions.
“Secondary target!” Kelly ordered without flinching. The two teams adjusted their beams to the second entrance Abby had identified. The second two F-16s made identical bombing runs, and a repeat of the first explosions at the second target left two massive craters where a jagged hilltop had existed just seconds before. As soon as the second series of four bombs exploded, Todd dropped the targeting laser, rolled over and vomited.
“Target destroyed. Thank you gentlemen,” Kelly reported to the F-16 squadron. The jets promptly turned and headed back to Bagram. Without missing a beat, Kelly was again on the radio. “Sierra Tango Two to Mike Delta One. Phase One complete. You are a go for Phase Two.”
“Roger that Sierra Tango Two. Insertion team is in route.”
“Alpha and Beta Teams, report status,” Kelly commanded.
“Alpha all good.”
“Beta all good.”
Then Abby made an observation that dampened the mood. “Lieutenant Kelly, there’s something wrong here. There should have been more movement in this area, even at this hour. When I did my surveillance, there was almost always something going on. Since we landed, we have seen nothing.”
“I agree Lieutenant,” Angel said. Those sentries were gone before the bombs hit. I think they knew we were coming.”
“Everyone remain in position!” Kelly ordered to both targeting teams. “Get eyes on the entire area and let me know if you see anything at all.”
There was a long silence and then R.J.’s team reported in. “Nothing here Lieutenant. No sign of wounded or an outside response. You’d think someone might still be alive and looking to see what just happened.”
Todd’s team echoed the reply, “Agree L.T. It’s quiet out there.”
As all three groups tried to get a better look at the landscape through the lingering dust and smoke of the airstrike, Doc Burk noticed something moving towards them through the debris and in the lightening morning sky. “There’s something out there at our ten.”
All three positions shifted their binoculars to the spot Doc indicated. It was Angel that recognized the shape first. “Holy shit! It’s Zip!”
Just minutes before the airstrike, Zip found himself being dragged from his cage and taken to two men. They had been in the circle, taking pictures with him, and in the cave, too. Now they were in another cave, a half kilometer west of where they had been before. His captors left the tape around his muzzle as they fitted him with a new jacket. Zip noticed it was heavier than the ones he was used to wearing. Still, he was glad to be out of that cage.
The one with the sunglasses was speaking. “As soon as the airstrike is over, remove the tape and let him go. He will head straight back to the Americans. Once he gets there, give them your surprise and order the men to attack. Then wait for the other troops and destroy them. If it is possible, bring the Persian back to me alive. If not, try to make his death especially painful.” Then, he left.
Zip stood with the one they called Rahman at the cave entrance, looking out into the faint light of the morning sky. The sound of the jets drew his attention and he looked up to see if he could spot them. As quickly as the sound came, it faded. And then Zip heard the thuds, felt the rumble, and was startled at the sound of massive explosions. Then it all happened again and his captor reached down and cut the tape off of his mouth. It felt good to be able to open his mouth. Then the man smacked him on his rump and Zip jumped out of the cave into the open. He turned to look back, but the one they called Rahman was already gone—vanished into the cave.
Zip stood in the open air for the first time in weeks, trying to acclimate himself to the surrounding environment. It was exhilarating. There was a lot of dust and smoke in the air, but there was something else. He put his nose up, but the smoke made it difficult to smell anything else at all. Then the first scent hit him. Pickles! It was definitely pickles! He tried harder to gather other smells but it was still difficult. Wait, Todd! It was Todd! He was here too! Then, one by one he began to detect the old familiar scents of the rest of the team—his team! Zip was so excited, he stuck his tail up and moved out at a quick trot towards the smell of his friends.
Angel had picked up Zip coming out of the settling dust through his scope and was watching him head directly towards Todd’s position when he noticed something. “Lieutenant Kelly, Zip is wearing something. It’s a vest … and it’s not his normal one.” Then he swallowed hard as he recognized what he was looking at. “Lieutenant, he’s wired.”
Kelly peered at Zip through his binoculars, hoping that Angel was wrong. But there was no mistaking it. Around the entire jacket were pockets packed with what appeared to be small bricks, but were in fact C4 plastic explosive. Coming out of the pockets were wires attached to blasting caps imbedded in the charges. The wires were connected to a radio pack on the top of Zip’s jacket that could be triggered by remote control. Kelly nearly choked on the words of his next sentence. “Angel, we can’t allow him to get back here.”
Kelly said the words before he realized that his communications headset was voice activated and the rest of the team could hear. Seconds later the sound of Boomer’s voice broke through. “Lieutenant Kelly, Mitchell is gone.”