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US, Taliban fight for highway

world Updated: Apr 15, 2012 23:46 IST
Greg Jaffe
Greg Jaffe
Hindustan Times
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The Taliban fighter crouched in a muddy field about 100 yards from Highway 1. The mid-afternoon sun melted the last patches of winter’s snow as he waited for an American convoy to pass.

Three miles away, Lt. Col. Robert Horney and his soldiers pulled on body armor and climbed into their vehicles. The trucks were rolling when one of Horney’s junior commanders suggested that he delay the convoy until dark, when insurgents rarely attack vehicles with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

“We are the U.S. Army,” Horney thought to himself with some irritation. “We go where we want to go.”

The vehicles rumbled down a rutted dirt road, through a small village and toward a highway culvert where the Taliban had set about 40 pounds of explosives in a yellow plastic jug.

The Taliban fighter pressed a button, and a charge of electricity raced through copper wire. The highway exploded, shooting chunks of rock and dirt. “IED, IED, IED,” Horney’s soldiers yelled.

A vital highway

For most of the war the United States maintained a relatively light presence on Highway 1. Then, on a single day in August 2008, insurgents burned 60 trucks that were hauling supplies on the highway for NATO. They cut the road with massive IED explosions.

Highway 1 is just a narrow, two-lane ribbon of blacktop. But in a country with a weak, corruption-plagued government, the road linking the capital to Kandahar was seen as essential to holding Afghanistan together. Washington post