Tarok Kolache, a small settlement in Afghanistan was completely erased from the map after an offensive by the U.S. Army in October 2010.
Taliban militants had allegedly taken control of the village and battered the coalition task force with homemade bombs and improvised explosive devices.
And after two attempts at clearing the village led to casualties on both sides, Lieutenant Colonel David Flynn, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force 1-320th gave the order to pulverise the village.
His men were ‘terrified to go back into the pomegranate orchards to continue clearing [the area]; it seemed like certain death’, writes West Point graduate Paula Broadwell on the Foreign Policy blog.
Flynn even commented later after the bombing.
“Did I want to destroy the entire Taliban sanctuary and leave no structures for the people to return to? No. The choice, based upon my previous experience, was to lose or maim more of my soldiers or raze the structures and rebuild later. I had the greater context of the population in mind and felt with the relationships we had already made in the past three months, already solidified by the previous unit, that we could successfully resettle the population to this area.”
The Arghandab district village, which was so heavily mined by the Taliban that American forces resorted to aerial bombardment and leveled the whole village of 36 homes.
The commander approved a mine-clearing line charge, which hammered a route into the centre of Tarok Kolache using rocket-propelled explosives.
The guidelines reissued by the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, General David H. Petraeus, permitted such a step, one NATO official said.
The neighboring village of Khosrow fared better. About 10 compounds and orchards were damaged, but after villagers saw the destruction of Taroko Kalacha, they hired a former mujahedeen fighter to defuse the Taliban mines and so saved their houses from destruction, said one of the village elders, Hajji Abdul Qayum.
There were accounts that the villagers reported that American troops had threatened their villages with destruction if they did not assist in clearing mines.
The risky first stage of mine clearing operations is a painstaking fingertip search of an entire village and all its complex terrain, including overgrown vegetation up to 6ft high.
The destruction was achieved with ’49,200lbs of ordnance’ dropped on the village via air strikes and ground-launched rockets, which saw it swiftly blown off the face of the earth.
However, it was been agreed that ‘extreme’ operations such as the destruction of an entire village are likely to have a negative impact on attempts to improve coalition-Afghan relations.
Reporters who weren’t isolated reported deep resentment and anger that, nearly five months on, remaining villagers were still living in tents and unable to make money off their own land.
Erica Gaston, an Open Society Institute researcher based in Afghanistan, told Wired the erasure of Tarok Kolache was exactly the type of behavior that would deal a body blow to Afghan acceptance of the presence of the International Security Assistance Force.
According to Ms Broadwell’s post on Foreign Policy, General Petraeus has approved $1million worth of reconstruction projects but also told his commanders in the south of Afghanistan to ‘take a similar approach to what 1-320th was doing on a grander scale as it applies to the districts north of Arghandab’.
Broadwell also said there were zero civilian deaths because the Taliban had paid the village Malik around June-July 2010 to move out of the village. The Taliban objective was to establish their own strong point in that key terrain area. Petraeus allegedly knew the town had been deserted by the villagers and inhabited by the Taliban b/c he had established a relationship with the Malik who had taken the Taliban cash and moved to Jelawar (along with the rest of the villagers who had been displaced there and elsewhere.
The problem is that arise is why would the Taliban go to the expense and trouble of lining every vertical and horizontal surface with explosives in a town they had already spent a lot of money to occupy without violence?
Village elders and coalition forces held a ribbon cutting ceremony April 2011 for a mosque, the first completed structure in a massive joint reconstruction effort by Tarok Kolache landowners.
Many think this is like the mosques in the US.
Doesn’t it look like the Blazings Saddle Town?