Afghans make deadly foes: British trainer
Afghans make deadly foes: British trainer
LONDON: Special forces veteran Tom Carew fears that Afghan guerrillas will
make redoubtable foes for the Americans. He should know - he trained them
back in the 1980s.
"They are really ferocious. As an enemy, they are your worst nightmare,"
said the ex-soldier from Britain's Special Air Service (SAS) who taught
the Afghans how to fight the Russians.
Now that guerrilla expertise could be turned against US and British
special forces hunting for Osama Bin Laden, the Islamic militant suspected
of masterminding the suicide attacks on New York and Washington. Bin Laden
is believed sheltering in Afghanistan.
The military message from Carew is a simple one - sending in ground forces
would be suicide. This is a "dark and dirty" war for special forces and
time is running out as the Afghan winter draws ever closer.
"The last time the Afghans were conquered was by Alexander the Great back
in the fourth century BC," he told Reuters.
Carew, sent in to train anti-communist mujahideen forces from May 1980 to
December 1981, said: "I was teaching them how to evade helicopter
reconnaissance and taught them to shoot and scoot - ambush and not let the
enemy dictate to you."
So how can Taliban forces be defeated? "You have to contain them down on
the plains with their guns and tanks. If you let them get into the
mountains, it will take years to clear them out.
"They know the mountains. There are thousands of them and they are all
full of caves. I went within two metres of a cave and I couldn't even see
it. It's like a rabbit warren up there."
The weather is another giant hurdle to surmount as snow sweeps in
neck-high to the mountains.
"The weather is a problem if this (campaign) doesn't go in the next week.
This should have happened in June. In the middle of October, the weather
comes in really bad."
NOTHING LIKE AFGHANISTAN
Carew, a 25-year veteran of Britain's most famous regiment, has served
with the SAS from the Gulf War to the Kosovo conflict. But he has never
experienced anything like Afghanistan.
"That terrain is a natural fortress. They know it like the back of their
hands. These guys know where all the caves are and all the ammunition is
buried," he said.
The Afghans travel light, they can recognise a Western footprint in the
most arid terrain. They melt away after attacking. There will be no "High
Noon" shoot-out on the plains.
They are fiercely disciplined martyrs ready to die for their cause. "I
called it the lemming factor. They really believe they are going to sit on
the right hand of Allah," Carew said.
Poet Rudyard Kipling had some blunt words of advice to British Imperial
troops risking capture by Afghans: "Just roll on your rifle and blow out
For, as Carew said, the Afghans do not fight wars by the rules of the
Geneva Convention. "They couldn't even find Geneva on a map," he said.
Thirty percent of Carew's best-selling book "Jihad! The Secret War in
Afghanistan" was cut by publishers as unpalatable.
And he concluded with a stark word of warning: "What the Afghans did would
make your hair stand on end. Many Russians had a really painful time. I
have seen some things in my time but I had to turn and walk away from
And he speculated that bin Laden may have already crossed into Pakistan.
"I think he will be well entrenched in the Northwest frontier and no one
is going to turn him in. I would say he is down by Quetta. That is a real
(Wild West) Clint Eastwood town."
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