In the Valley of Ana Kalay

The inimitable John Birmingham gave free permission to share this:

The graveyard of empires is not all razor-backed mountains and howling wasteland. There are hidden gardens and lush valleys between the arid Afghan heights, paddy fields and fertile tillage overlooked by ancient castles. Australian soldiers who fought in Khas Uruzgan recall the eerie dissonance of moving through tropical landscapes that needed just a scattering of peasants in black pyjamas and conical straw hats to complete a weird and contrary connection to another war lost and another time passed.

The Australians were there in September 2008, in the valley of Ana Kalay, and on the second day of that month, the first day of Ramadan, they fought a long battle with a much larger larger force of Taliban fighters. They’d been looking for the fight. Both sides were always looking for the fight.

The day started early, at 4AM, when five Humvees carrying US and Australian special operators and half a dozen Afghan soldiers drove out of an isolated, forward operating base called Anaconda. They headed east into the Ana Kalay, a narrow, green strip of arable soil in the lowland between the gnarlier, desolate heights of the surrounding hill country. A dozen or so Australians dismounted inside the valley, quietly filtering up into the southern foothills to lay their ambush.

Another two SAS patrol groups had ghosted their way into the northern hills hours before. They waited on the vehicle convoy and on the insurgents who would be drawn to it. The Americans and their local allies moved around quite openly, offering themselves as bait, and soon enough somebody took it. The SAS patrols to the north engaged a number of Taliban fighters, killing them. The southern patrols spotted more on the move, but the patrol commander Sergeant Troy Simmonds declined to open fire. There were too many children nearby. When it became obvious there was no more fighting to be done, they withdrew. The two SAS patrols to the north left on foot through the mountains, a long haul back to Anaconda. Their comrades to the south rejoined the American convoy.

That’s when everything turned to shit.

There is a whole book to be written about the Battle of Khas Uruzgan, but in essence the details were simple. A small allied force, deep in hostile territory fought for three and a half hours to move three and half kilometres through a narrow, contested battlespace. The enemy, somewhere between a hundred and two hundred Pashtun tribesmen loyal to the Taliban, controlled the high ground and moved with ease along the streams and river channels. Heavily armed with mortars, RPGs and automatic weapons they prosecuted a rolling ambush which killed one American and wounded nine Australians and one Afghan soldier.

They all fought bravely. All of them. The tribesmen had the advantage of numbers and terrain, but to press that advantage meant standing into a firestorm, including aerial support from US F-18s.

One of the Australians, Trooper Mark Donaldson, was awarded a Victoria Cross for his individual bravery when he raced into the open under murderous fire, to rescue an Afghan interpreter who had been blown out the back of a Humvee by a rocket-propelled grenade. The Afghan was lying face down in a spreading pool of blood and was in danger of being left behind.

Donaldson sprinted eighty metres to grab him and drag him back to the relative safety of the slow-rolling convoy.

He later told the Australian War Memorial.

“I’m getting chased by bullets, and I got to him, and there were bullets kicking around us … I started to drag him at first – and I’m not a massive guy – so it wasn’t really working out. I got him to his feet, with my arms sort of underneath him, half carrying, half dragging, and I just thought: what now? Do I leave him here? Do I use him as a shield? Do I just save my own skin? Or do I get him to that car that’s driving away from us? And that’s the only thing I could really focus on – that vehicle.

“His face was really bloodied and messed up and he was trying to talk to me. He was trying to tell me his eyes were hurting – ‘I know your eyes are hurting, mate, you’ve been wounded, it’s all right, let me get you to the vehicle’ – but I finally got him there, managed to wrap a bandage around him, and mucked around trying to get him into the car.

“I was really, really dry, and my lungs were burning, massively. And I distinctly remember this because it took me about five or six goes of just swapping from side to side to side of the vehicle. I was that tired – and I don’t tell anyone this – but I was that tired, I was leaning against the vehicle as it was moving, and just moving my legs, and my 2IC came around and said, ‘Man, just keep running.’ He was worried I was going to fall over and get caught up underneath the car.”

They finally broke out of the valley and returned to Anaconda. Three choppers full of wounded lifted off hours later. Donaldson helped the interpreter onto one of the helicopters. He never saw the man again but he told the War Memorial interviewer, “We don’t leave anyone behind. It doesn’t matter that we only knew him for five days…He was an Afghan guy that was one of us. He was with us, and he was out there fighting with us, and I respect that.”

But of course, there’s one guy who doesn’t…

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537 thoughts on “In the Valley of Ana Kalay

    • Only two centuries is Joshie

      This Flag became the Official United
      States Flag on May 1st,1795. Two stars
      were added for the admission of Vermont
      (the 14th State on March 4th, 1791) and
      Kentucky (the 15th State on June 1st,
      1792, and was to last for 23 years. The
      five Presidents who served under this flag
      were; George Washington (1789-1797),
      John Adams (1797-1801), Thomas
      Jefferson (1801-1809), James Madison
      (1809-1817), and James Monroe
      The 15-star, 15-stripe flag was authorized
      by the Flag Act of January 13, 1794,
      adding 2 stripes and 2 Stars. The
      regulation went into effect on May 1,
      1795. This flag was the only U.S. Flag to
      have more than 13 stripes. It was
      immortalized by Francis Scott Key during
      the bombardment of Fort McHenry, Sept
      13, 1814. The image above is
      representative of the actual flag that flew
      over Fort McHenry on that day and which
      is now preserved in the Smithsonian
      Museum. You can notice the “tilt” in some
      of the stars just as in the original Star
      Spangled Banner.

      Click to access 15_Star_Flag_History_385171_7.pdf

  1. Worth opening the below tweet and reading the rest of the thread for a trip down US memory lane.

  2. For ‘You’ in SW Sydney

    For ‘Us’.

    Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Sydney beaches packed with people

    In a Facebook post, Woollahra Council confirmed Redleaf Beach and Camp Cove had “reached capacity by 11.30am, meaning access would be “restricted” for the rest of the day.
    ……….One beachgoer at Bronte said it was “as busy as Australia Day”.

  3. Good morning Dawn Patrollers

    Vaccination rates may have peaked, and what Scott Morrison does next is critical write Steven Hamilton and Richard Holden.
    John Faine examines Victorian politics in the wake of the change of Liberal Party leadership there. He also makes a suggestion to the federal government about punishing those big businesses that rorted Jobkeeper.
    NSW’s reopening plan is risky, and signals an end to a national approach, explains Stephen Duckett.
    Mark Kenny labels Hunt’s vaccine dawdle as a national security failure.
    And for The Guardian, Tory Shepperd describes how the government bungled the Pfizer deal.
    Jacqui Maley concludes this contribution with, “The upshot of this looming conflict between social-media-charged vaccine “choicers” and social-media-charged vaccine mandators is that people will be forced to nail their colours to the mast. It might help to remind ourselves that while online consequences can be nasty, the real-life ones are usually worse.”
    This week delivered a brutal dose of reality for those one in five Australian adults hesitant to take a Covid-19 vaccine, writes The Australian’s Cameron Stewart.
    The SMH editorial says the NSW government’s road map to reopening the state is welcome after almost three months of lockdown but its ambiguity on many points breeds uncertainty and its conservative timeline does little to reward those who are already fully vaccinated.
    Caitlin Fitzsimmons writes that epidemiologists are warning Victoria’s outbreak is now accelerating quickly and is set to overtake NSW unless vaccination uptake and lockdown compliance improve.
    Whether on Covid or climate, it seems our politicians really aren’t like you and me, writes Greg Jericho.
    Kaye Lee provides us with ten reasons for changing our government.
    Amy Remeikis answers the question, “Who is Lorraine Finlay and why has her appointment as human rights commissioner angered some?”
    In this excoriation of the government’s Jobkeeper program Terry McCran says, “JobKeeper – the greatest waste, so far, of taxpayer money in our 120 years of federal fiscal history – was a consequence of, as I wrote way back in May 2020, “an inept Treasury Secretary intersecting with a trainee Treasurer”.”
    Peter FitzSimons’ Sunday column.
    Cartoon Corner

    Peter Broelman

    Matt Golding

    Glen Le Lievre

    Reg Lynch

    From the US

  4. Gladys might be on thin ice. Not a good sign when The Daily Tellsmecrap cartoonists have a go at you.

  5. Alan Tudge, serial adulterer, divorced parent and strong defender of “Christian” family values (as long as they do not apply to his family) wants Dark Emu removed from schools because in his warped vision of Australia it is not true.

    It has been suggested if Dark Emu a book detailing at least 60,000 years of Indigenous history, is to be removed, then the Bible, which deals with (allegedly) around 4,000 years of mostly fairytales written to explain a religion to illiterate desert nomads and illiterate peasant farmers, should also be removed.

    Tudge is getting way beyond his very limited intellect. He seems to think as federal education minister he can dictate everything taught in schools, from his own version of Anzac Day (“the most sacred of all days in day in Australia”) to Indigenous history to whining about his disapproval of the proposed national curriculum. Actually he is there to oversee funding, nothing more.

  6. Good list from Kaye Lee, but why limit it to only 10 reasons.

    I can think of more, chief of which is the threat hanging over everyone who receives any sort of Centrelink payment, especially the age pension. I refer to the Cashless Debit Card.

    Here is Anne Ruston making the threat clear.

    • Well, I have no problem with that [sarcasm] providing that all payments to politicians (and possibly public servants) are also on that card too.

      And they claim that the Labor Party wants to institute a “nanny state”!!!!!

  7. Getting the awkward past out of the way before an election?

    Good article from Kangaroo Court on Howard’s lies about Scovid’s dismissal from Tourism Australia – and more.

    Scott Morrison calls on John Howard to lie about why he was sacked from Tourism Australia but the lie doesn’t explain why he was also sacked from Tourism NZ


  9. All the real lawyers must have supported Michael O’Brien. The absence of O’Brien supporters from Guy’s front bench is very noticeable.

  10. The above quote is from this.

    • That is why BinChicken suddenly decided to stop daily pressers and why she still refuses to re-open parliament. She did not enjoy questions from the media about ICAC and does not want embarrassing questions in parliament.

  11. Why Scrott will adopt “net zero by 2050′ . Two perfect reasons for him to do so.

    The dangerous flaws in our ‘net zero by 2050’ goal

    …………The world has by and large adopted “net zero by 2050” as its de facto climate goal, but two fatal flaws hide in plain sight within those 16 characters. One is “net zero”. The other is “by 2050”.

    These two flaws provide cover for big oil and politicians who wish to preserve the status quo. Together they comprise a deadly prescription for inaction and catastrophically high levels of irreversible climate and ecological breakdown.

    First, consider “by 2050”. This deadline feels comfortably far away, encouraging further climate procrastination. Who feels urgency over a deadline in 2050? This is convenient for the world’s elected leaders, who typically have term limits of between three and five years, less so for anyone who needs a liveable planet.

    Meanwhile, “net zero” is a phrase that represents magical thinking rooted in our society’s technology fetish. Just presuppose enough hypothetical carbon capture and you can pencil out a plan for meeting any climate goal, even while allowing the fossil fuel industry to keep growing.

  12. Hallelujah!

    Joel Fitzgibbon will retire at the next election.

    Thank goodness! Leaving before he loses his seat to ON or the Nats, most likely.

    No doubt he will move on to a lucrative job on the board of a coal-mining company.

    The Oz says Labor’s right is worried he will be replaced with a left faction candidate. Who cares!

    Discussions are underway over a replacement for Mr Fitzgibbon, with NSW Right figures concerned Hunter could be lost to the faction and go to someone from the left-aligned CFMEU or the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. Mr Fitzgibbon has been at war with the AMWU since the election and is rumoured to have declared someone from the union would represent the seat “over my dead body”. He declined to comment on Sunday (Paywalled)

  13. Good morning Dawn Patrollers

    The AAP has just reported that Joel Fitzgibbon will retire from politics at the next election.
    Sean Kelly harshly criticises Morrison’s and Berejiklian’s vanishing acts.
    Kristina Keneally’s house switch stops one row, but starts another writes Michelle Grattan.
    The AFR’s editorial urges Gladys Berejiklian to publicly submit herself to public questioning at least several times a week as NSW enters a testing time, with the COVID-19 health toll about to peak.
    But lawyer Joseph Friedman defends Berejiklian’s cessation of the daily pressers.
    Phil Coorey writes about Morrison’s “Get jabbed or get left behind” mantra. He also reports that SA’s Steven Marshall, whose state is COVID-free and has a 40.4 per cent double-dose rate, agreed to open his borders to NSW and Victoria once his state reached the 80 per cent double-dose rate – although he reserved the right to bar people from hotspots if need be.
    Struggling businesses relying on income support to survive lockdown fear jobs will be lost in a sea of red tape created by the NSW government after it unexpectedly tightened eligibility tests around its JobSaver program, report Shane Wright and Jennifer Duke.
    Berejiklian’s snap decision to walk-away from her daily COVID briefings took everyone by surprise, even her most trusted ministers in crisis cabinet, writes Alexandra Smith.
    In the meantime, two NSW cabinet ministers have been summoned to appear before the state’s corruption watchdog and give evidence over the activities of Daryl Maguire and a significant grant he obtained with the help of Gladys Berejiklian.
    Reconstructive surgeon Neela Janakiramanan believes that Covid has exposed Australia’s fault lines. She certainly gives us something to think about.
    Tom McIlroy reports that the latest NSW Health data shows there have been 317 cases in people with two doses of a vaccine, a ‘breakthrough’ rate of just 2.6 per cent.
    The Sydney lockdown has exacerbated inequity in the areas hardest hit by Covid and this is being made worse by a lack of access to green space, according to Guardian analysis of data from the Australian Urban Observatory.
    A Fitzroy North primary school whose principal has repeatedly flouted public health orders and invited families to send in their children during lockdowns has been hit by a significant coronavirus outbreak.
    The balance between individual freedoms and the interests of the wider community has repeatedly been tested during the COVID-19 pandemic and the front line is shifting to the small business community. The editorial in the SMH says that the NSW government has announced that as a condition for reopening, it will require businesses to refuse entry to unvaccinated customers. Victoria could soon follow.
    Meanwhile, an infectious disease expert who advises the Victorian government has sounded the alarm on groups forming on social media to encourage unvaccinated people to visit their venues. Bloody knuckleheads!
    Liam Mannix writes that the professor behind a model provided to the WA government that predicted scores of coronavirus deaths in that state if restrictions are relaxed too soon says the Doherty Institute modelling on which the national reopening plan is based is “perhaps too optimistic”.
    Vaccine passports are coming to Australia. Kate Atwell tells us how they will work and what will we need them for.
    Lucy Cormack tells us that NSW risks setting a national reopening precedent that leaves vulnerable people behind, with social services groups warning the vaccination target of 70 per cent could mask inequity in low-income communities.
    Michael Pascoe says that young Australians will pay for our debt via higher house prices.
    According to Shane Wright and Katina Curtis, a spreadsheet of marginal electorates that was used to promise railway station car parks to voters as part of a $660 million program could only have come out of the offices of former infrastructure minister Alan Tudge or Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
    If the PM is serious about reducing gas prices, he needs to address price fixing, writes Peter Dawson.
    Nationals MPs will decide on major reforms that could strip Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce of the power to pick cabinet and outer ministry positions. The Australian tells us that a group led by ­Nationals whips Damian Drum and Perin Davey has been tasked with preparing new models of selecting the party’s executive positions.
    New analysis shows Morrison government funding won’t cover any extra uni student places for years, explains Shane Warburton.
    The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has opened an investigation into the rapid rise in shipping and container costs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, with inflation emerging as a major bugbear for the nation’s retail sector.
    Bruce Haigh opines that we have been used again by America, this time in Indonesia.
    Zoe Samios says multiple US television networks have approached national broadcaster the ABC about buying the rights to broadcast two Four Corners episodes that looked at Fox News and its role in the 2020 general election. This will fore up the culture warriors at The Australian!
    Geoff Chambers reports that Home Affairs Minister Karen ­Andrews will seek to increase powers for security agencies and courts to keep high-risk terrorists in prison or monitor them on ­release and ramp up deradicalisation programs to stop violent ­extremism “before it manifests in an attack”.
    Peter Hannam writes that NSW residents could pay as much as $60 extra per year to cover a $2 billion blowout in the cost of new transmission links from Snowy 2.0.
    The situation in Lebanon is so grave it may rank as one of the top three economic calamities to strike any nation for the past 170 years, explains Bevan Shields.

    Cartoon Corner

    David Rowe

    Peter Broelman

    Michael Leunig

    Glen Le Lievre

    Mark Knight

    Jim Pavlidis


    From the US

  14. “A Fitzroy North primary school whose principal has repeatedly flouted public health orders and invited families to send in their children during lockdowns has been hit by a significant coronavirus outbreak”

    Fitzroy Community School. which calls itself an “independent. alternative school” .. Ugh! You can imagine the parents who would choose such a school. No wonder they have an outbreak of The Plague.

    Timothy Berryman, the principal, believes effective teachers do not need formal qualifications, although he himself is dripping with degrees – BA DipEd GradDipEdStud BLitt MLitt MA. A classic case of “Do as I say, not as I do”.

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