Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker soldiers played a key role in assisting Afghan Army forces in retaking meaningful ground from the Taliban in Kandahar province, Stars and Stripes reported Sunday.
Lewis-McChord’s 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment helped seize the “Road of Martyrs,” which Stripes’ Laura Rauch describes as a “10-mile stretch of red earth” that leads to the site of the 1880 Battle of Maiwand.
In that 19th century fight, Afghans killed close to 1,000 British soldiers from a force of about 2,500. Today, the battlefield is a graveyard to some 3,000 Afghan fighters, as well as a shrine to an Afghan woman who helped rally her countrymen against the British.
“You’re talking about a battle that defines the people here. Their soccer team in Kandahar is called the Heroes of Maiwand,” Lt. Col. Gregory Harkins of the Lewis-McChord Stryker battalion told Rauch.
NATO had left the ground to Taliban control because it was not considered significant for military purposes. Harkins thinks Afghan forces will protect it from insurgents.
“I think they would give up other parts of Maiwand before they would give up the ground that they’ve just taken,” Harkins told Rauch.
“Based on the way they’re executing their operations, it’s very clear that they’re never going to give it back,” he said.
The 4-23 is part of Lewis-McChord’s 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The battalion has about 700 or soldiers, and it has seen some of the toughest fighting for the 4,000-soldier brigade. Four of the brigade’s nine fatal casualties from this deployment belong to the 4-23.
The 4-23 last served in Afghanistan in 2009-10, when it earned a Navy Presidential Unit Citation for its service fighting with Marines in Helmand province.