- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2002

"Texas One Two" rendezvoused with Hamid Karzai in the dead of night, campfires and robed tribesmen ringing the spot as low-flying Black Hawk helicopters put down in a barren Afghan valley.
The 11-member Army Special Forces "A Team" disembarked. Packed with advanced night-vision gear, highly accurate M-4 carbines and satellite communications, the Green Berets were to embed and fight with the lightly armed, sandaled Pashtuns. Capt. Jason Amerine, the team leader, immediately studied the terrain for exit routes in case of trouble.
"I looked up and saw these heavily robed tribesmen just like you see on TV," said the 30-year-old West Point graduate. "It was almost eerie, the sight. A very kind of primitive thing. The whole meeting was coordinated down to the mule train that carried out our rucksacks."
The landing in early November in southern Afghanistan proved to be one of the U.S. military's most important ad hoc alliances in its special-operations ground war against the ruling Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror army. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has credited the Green Berets with turning the tide of battle just when the United States appeared to be bogged down. After the elite commandos infiltrated the north and south, Taliban cities fell to the guerrillas in rapid succession.
When bin Laden's suicide terrorists struck America on September 11, Capt. Amerine's team was stationed in the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan, where they trained and advised some of the same troops who in the 1980s, as part of the Soviet army, fought the mujahideen in Afghanistan to prop up a Moscow-backed leader.
The A Team (Operational Detachment Alpha, or in this case ODA-574) hurried back to the states and began planning for the Green Berets' most concentrated combat action since Vietnam.
Texas One Two's mission was classic unconventional warfare: to insert U.S. forces into the country, train the guerrillas, schedule shipments of weapons, bring in food for hard-pressed villagers, provide intelligence reports and accompany the guerrillas into battle.
In the north, Green Berets were greeted by the Northern Alliance, a hard-bitten fighting force that had experience, cohesion and Soviet weapons. In the south, Special Forces teams encountered a stiffer challenge. There was no organized resistance and little in the way of military equipment.
"All along," Capt. Amerine said, "our understanding was if we brought the weapons, the men would come."
A typical A Team is a self-contained unit of highly trained soldiers. Two each specialize in weapons, engineering, communications, intelligence and emergency medicine. A captain is the leader. Second in command is a warrant officer. All are experienced soldiers. No one under the rank of sergeant can join. They infiltrate harsh terrain with an array of gadgets: survival gear, radios, guns, explosives and night-vision sights.
The mission of Capt. Amerine's team was to help Mr. Karzai forge disparate village fighters into a cohesive force.
Capt. Amerine's team, call sign Texas One Two, quickly bonded with the man who would become Afghanistan's first post-Taliban leader, organized a 300- to 500-man army and surged south toward the critical Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. During the next 30 days, the A Team, backed by U.S. air power, met the enemy in four major engagements, one a bushwhacking in which 300 Taliban died.
The dusty town of Tarin Kot became the Karzai-A Team headquarters after Taliban forces were chased away in early November. There, Capt. Amerine joined Mr. Karzai and other tribal leaders at the first nightly feast of Ramadan. During the meal of stew, bread and rice, a startling intelligence report reached the dinner party: A Taliban convoy of 80 vehicles was moving to retake Tarin Kot. It was the enemy's first major counteroffensive.
"They insisted I eat before I made preparations to defend the town," Capt. Amerine said. "I didn't want to appear as concerned about it as I was actually feeling."
After gulping a few mouthfuls of local cuisine, the officer, who had joined the Green Berets after several foreign postings, left to set the stage for his first combat action.
Capt. Amerine's A Team organized a few truckloads of anti-Taliban fighters and went to a ridge overlooking the main route into town to ambush the oncoming Taliban. "I didn't have much time to do anything else," he recalled. "Anything coming through that mountain pass would take them a long time to get through."
As the sun rose, the team's top-ranked sergeant saw the first vehicle. The soldiers radioed the positions to strike aircraft overhead that began pummeling each vehicle with precision-guided munitions.
Suddenly, the anti-Taliban forces got spooked. They ran for the vehicles to drive away. "Our equipment was on the pickup trucks," the captain said. "I really felt we were stealing defeat from the jaws of victory. There was just no stopping them. I just held on."
Back in Tarin Kot, Capt. Amerine told the story to Mr. Karzai, who commandeered vehicles and sent a new batch of warriors to the front. The air strikes resumed. By 10 a.m., virtually the entire Taliban invasion force was destroyed. The team later received intelligence reports that 300 enemy troops had died.
Capt. Amerine blames the initial retreat on a lack of time to prepare the Afghans for the air strike's destructive power. "There wasn't time to stop and train them," he said.
The battle pointed up the great value of having Americans on the ground equipped with secure radios with which to talk to aircraft pilots, Green Beret headquarters in the region and Central Command's joint special-operations task force in the states.
"A guy describes on the ground what they look like and where they are and then you talk back and forth to confirm it," said Capt. Amerine, explaining the air-to-ground communication link. "I was extremely conservative. If I had any doubt as to what the pilot was seeing, I would not authorize the strike."
More battles ensued as Texas One Two drove to the Arghandab River, 12 miles from Kandahar. When a high-tech A Team lands in a primitive country, sometimes the surreal happens. In one village gunbattle, a taxicab dashed across the lines of fire.
Texas One Two reached the doorstep of its objective, only to see the mission derailed by a horrible accident. Two days before Kandahar fell Dec. 7, a satellite-guided bomb meant for a Taliban position across the Arghandab River dropped smack in the middle of the Green Berets' position. The "friendly fire" explosion killed three soldiers and 10 anti-Taliban tribesmen. Capt. Amerine and eight other team members were wounded and hospitalized in Germany.
Capt. Amerine is now at Fort Campbell, Ky., home base for the 5th Special Forces Group, awaiting ear drum surgery. He hopes one day to redeploy to the Middle East-Central Asia region.

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