Broadcast: Monday 08 January 2007 08:00 PM
Sean Langan witnesses the bloody battle to retake the strategically critical town of Garmser in Helmand province. Overstretched and outnumbered, are the British troops fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan?
Fighting The Taliban
Fighting The Taliban is the exclusive first-hand account of one of the longest battles fought by British soldiers in Afghanistan.
When John Reid dispatched British forces to Helmand province on a "peace keeping" mission he expected them to achieve their goals "without firing a shot". Dispatches reveals how the war on terror is really being fought on the ground, and assesses the formidable scale of the task facing British troops in Afghanistan.
Ignoring Ministry of Defence orders, filmmaker Sean Langan hitches a ride with the Afghan army who, along with British soldiers, are on a mission to retake the strategically critical town of Garmser in Helmand province.
The assault is expected to take 24 hours but it soon runs into difficulty, leading to six days of relentless attacks and counter attacks, captured from start to finish by Langan. The front line was often less than 100 yards from the compound where the 17 British troopers established their forward base and the ferocity of fighting saw the British officers call in a record number of NATO air strikes.
Langan documents the bravery and increasing exhaustion of the soldiers as their supplies of food and ammunition run low, and morale even lower. He records their thoughts: each day they believe they will complete their task and be able to pull out; each evening they are told they must remain until the operation is accomplished.
The battle costs casualties on both sides. Langan follows the British medics as they strive to save the lives of seriously injured NATO, Afghan and Taliban soldiers. He witnesses the efforts made by British soldiers to prevent the killing of wounded Taliban by enraged Afghan soldiers. After the battle is over, Langan is forced to burn his own clothes, which are drenched with the blood of wounded Afghan soldiers.
Dispatches shows a battle that is symptomatic of the wider war the British troops are fighting. Overstretched and outnumbered, are the British troops fighting an unwinnable war?
Read Sean Langan's report from Afghanistan - Welcome to Hell.
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