MICHELE NORRIS, host:
In Afghanistan, there continues to be fierce fighting in the south of the country. Over the past two days, coalition forces say they've killed some 70 militants there. NPR's JJ Sutherland recently met one soldier who's taken part in the fighting. He's with a National Guard unit that's training and fighting with Afghan forces. They spoke at Kandahar Air Field.
JJ SUTHERLAND reporting:
Captain Michael Waldrop isn't a big man, but he has an intensity to him. He speaks sitting on a folding chair in a boardwalk on the base. He stretches out his right leg stiffly. It still has a piece of shrapnel in it. He was injured after days of fighting in the town of Pashmul. He just arrived in Kandahar about a week ago. He was quickly sent into battle. He led his Afghan troops alongside Canadian forces. They searched a vineyard and were repulsed under heavy fire. They eventually found some Taliban in a compound. Only two, but in a deadly position and armed with sniper rifles, RPGs, and AK-47s. Even though the two Taliban were surrounded, they engaged the Canadians and Afghans. The Canadian commander ordered an assault.
Captain MICHAEL WALDROP (41st Infantry Brigade, U.S. Army National Guard): And that's when we took our first casualty. It ended up being a Canadian. They were moving towards the building, and I believe how he got killed is that the enemy was on the rooftop and they were spraying AK-47 rounds through the roof joist, and just keeping our guys at bay. And he took a round through the neck.
SUTHERLAND: A second assault, this time by Afghan troops, was beaten back as well. A decision was made to level the compound. An armed Predator drone was called in. It fired a Hellfire missile at the building. Waldrop says it destroyed half the building and set part of it on fire. But the two militants were still moving, and still fighting.
Captain WALDROP: What's next? We needed to try to provide more fire support and try to level this building. They called in some Apaches. Some Apaches came through, strafed the building, but the Predator drone once again came back and said these guys are still alive.
SUTHERLAND: And still shooting. So the Canadians and Afghan forces called in the artillery, which fired dozens of shells.
Captain WALDROP: The earth was rattling. It was close. It was scary. And the surveillance after the artillery was these guys were still alive. Still alive, after all this.
SUTHERLAND: More Apache helicopters were called in, firing cannon and rockets. The missiles set off a hidden stockpile of ordinance.
Captain WALDROP: I got shrapnel from the ordinance. It was like a hot sledgehammer hit me.
SUTHERLAND: His wound was minor. When he asked how the battle ended, he was in for one more surprise. One of the militants survived. He was captured with only minor wounds. The Canadians didn't hold the village of Pashmul. They've moved on to other fights. But, Waldrop says, the battle was worth it. He speaks of fighting the Taliban with a deep belief in the rightness of what he's doing. He believes he's helping the Afghan people. But he's unsure what to say to his family about what he went through.
Captain WALDROP: I don't know. I don't know. Was it scary? Sure. But you overcome that very quickly because you realize someone's shooting at you and wants to kill you. You know, I'd rather live to see my kids than the guy shooting at me, for him to live and see his kids and go home to this because if I had a choice, he's going to die. You know, I'm going to be the one going home to see my kids, not him.
SUTHERLAND: JJ Sutherland, NPR News, Kandahar.
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