WASHINGTON, Nov 15, 2001 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan are taking part in combat operations against the Taliban and have had close scrapes with enemy fire, according to two unclassified dispatches from troops Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz released Nov. 14.
The messages, dated Oct. 25 and Nov. 10, describe scenes of great bravery and danger, and indicate some of the apparently easy battles were more harrowing than they appeared.
A U.S. element was nearly overrun by Taliban troops on Nov. 6 but remained in position to call in air support from U.S. Navy and Air Force planes, ensuring that the Northern Alliance forces were not defeated, according to a Nov. 10 message.
"I have personally witnessed heroism under fire by (two U.S. non-commissioned officers from the Army and Air Force) when we came under fire last night, which was less than 50 meters from me. When I ordered them to call close air support, they did so immediately without flinching even though they were under ... fire," states the Nov. 10 dispatch. "These two examples are typical of the performance of your soldiers and airmen. Truly uncommon valor has been a common virtue amongst these men."
U.S. troops are moving about on horseback with the Afghan fighters, and they describe how the poorly equipped fighters have been squaring off against Taliban tanks, mortars, artillery, personnel carriers and machine guns.
"A tactic which I think became outdated with the introduction of the Gatling gun," quipped the Special Forces soldier in an Oct. 25 message.
The message talks about a Northern Alliance sniper who walked more than 10 miles to get to the fight and "who was proud to show me his artificial right leg from the knee down."
Armed with few bullets and light arms, the opposition has pressed swiftly forward in battles, killing many Taliban and suffering only light casualties themselves.
"We have witnessed the horse cavalry bounding overwatch from spur to spur to attack Taliban strong points -- the last several kilometers under mortar, artillery ... and (sniper) fire. There is little medical care if injured, only a donkey ride to the aid station, which is a dirt hut. I think (the opposition) are doing very well with what they have. They have killed over 125 Taliban ... while losing only eight," said the Oct. 25 message.
U.S. air strikes have made all the difference in the war, the messages suggest, and the Afghan opposition is grateful.
"We couldn't do what we are (doing) without the close air support. ... Everywhere I go the civilians and (opposition) soldiers are always telling me they are glad the USA has
come. ... They all speak of their hopes for a better Afghanistan once the Taliban are gone. Better go. (The local commander) is finishing his phone call with (someone back in the States)."
Wolfowitz said in a speech in Washington Wednesday that the U.S. soldier then joined a cavalry attack.
The Nov. 10 message describes the triumphant, but rag-tag parade into Mazar-i-Sharif in "begged, borrowed and confiscated transportation." Mazar fell to the opposition on Nov. 9.
"While it looked like a rag-tag procession, the morale into Mazar-i-Sharif was a triumphal procession. All locals loudly greeted us and thanked all Americans. Much waving, cheering and clapping even from the women. ... (U.S. Navy/U.S. Air Force did a great job," states the message.
Fewer than 200 U.S. special operations forces are operating inside Afghanistan. Many of them are linked up with "Northern Alliance" groups and have been helping to resupply troops and call in air strikes. Others are set up along the road linking Kabul to Kandahar, attacking Taliban troops as they retreat to their southern stronghold.
Still more Special Forces are poised in Pakistan for raids into Afghanistan.
By PAMELA HESS, Pentagon correspondent
Copyright 2001 by United Press International.