12 Strong by Doug Stanton

12 Strong by Doug Stanton

Author:Doug Stanton
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK

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Back at Atta’s base camp in the neighboring Darya Balkh River Valley, west of Nelson’s position, Dean and his team had been led to a low-roofed mud house inside a walled compound. The walls stood eight feet high and measured fifty yards on each side; in one corner stood a latrine whose door was hung with a filthy curtain. Dean watched as some of the soldiers, dressed in thin cotton pants and knee-length smocks, stood in the courtyard center warming themselves around a pale fire. They looked up at him, rubbing their hands, and smiled. Dean waved back, Hey.

Standing there, looking out at the mountains, which he found beautiful, and back at the fire, smelling the woodsmoke and listening to the horses stamp and whinny in the nearby paddock, Dean felt he had been born so that he might be alive at this moment, in this moment.

“Where is Atta?” he asked his chief warrant officer Stu Mansfield.

“Still asleep.”

“I’m going outside.” He was anxious to get the lay of the land. Dean pushed through the low doorway in the front wall of the compound and walked out onto the rocky ridgetop. The strip of ground was smaller than he imagined walking up to it in the dark, measuring about 200 yards long and 50 yards wide. The compound’s back wall stood against a rockface rising several hundred feet over the entire structure. The remaining three edges dropped steeply away from the tabletop for 1,000 feet or more, it was hard to tell.

To the west lay the village of Ak Kupruk. Dean walked to the edge of the ridge, lifted his binoculars, and tried getting a clear shot of the houses tucked along the blue Darya Balkh River. The river looked cold in the morning light. The village lay quiet. No woodsmoke, no one moving about. He guessed it was about two miles away. He panned the binos up and over to the right about 1,000 yards, and spied a Taliban bunker in the mountainside overlooking the river and the village. That was the kind of target he wanted to hit.

He swung his gaze back to the houses and tried imagining the men and women and children cowered in the cold rooms of their homes while the Taliban lay in wait in hideouts around the village. He hoped that the Taliban had not learned of his arrival.

Atta awoke after an hour’s nap and summoned Dean, Stu Mansfield, and engineer sergeant Brad Highland to a meeting. They walked with the warlord across the courtyard. Atta’s men, some 300 of them garrisoned in the compound, stood up and watched them pass. They turned and started talking excitedly among themselves. They seemed intrigued by the weapons Dean and his men carried, pointing at the long guns, the M-4s; the black, heavy pistols in their nylon holsters; the grenades bulging in their load-bearing vests.

Dean was struck by something akin to deep affection for these men, who were fighting and enduring more than he had ever been asked to endure.


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