“1,500 cavalrymen galloped across a mile of rising and falling hollows.” And then …. “The second wave of horsemen passed through, reins in their teeth to free their hands for combat, taking the battle line forward.” What is this? The Charge of the Light Brigade? Napoleon’s assault on Moscow? No! This is Afghanistan October 2001.
Here is the full excerpt from Susanna Forrest’s book ‘The Age of the Horse”.
“In the Darya Suf and Balkh Valleys in Afghanistan in October 2001, 1,500 cavalrymen of the Afghan Northern Alliance galloped across a mile of rising and falling hollows towards the village of Bishqab, into Taliban bullets, and towards old Soviet tanks, armored personnel carriers and anti-aircraft cannon that could fire 4,000 rounds a minute. They came in two waves, carrying walkie-talkies, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, and backed by an equal infantry force. A hillock away from the Taliban lines , they dismounted , stood on their reins and opened fire with machine guns and grenades. The second wave of horsemen passed through, reins in their teeth to free their hands for combat, taking the battle line forward. As the Taliban began to run before them in fear, the Northern Alliance men beat them with gun butts, slashed with knives and shot them in the back , while American planes dropped bombs on the tanks. In the hills behind the plain, twelve Americans from the 5th Special Forces Group directed the dropping of the bombs,travelling between locations on tough, crabby Lokai pony stallions, their equipment loaded on mule trains.
“What about the horses?” one of the Americans asked as the men prepared for the Battle of Bishqab. “How will they react when the bombs start dropping?”
“They will not be nervous,” the Northern Alliance warlord replied.
” Because they will know that these are American bombs.”
When the Americans honored the commandos of this first plunge into Afghanistan, they erected a bronze statue of a split-hoofed Afghan pony, jaw fighting at its bit, caught with its weight back on its hocks, and it s mane and tail blown forward , like the emperor’s mount in Jacques-Louis-David’s famous ‘Napoleon Crossing the Alps’. On its small wooden saddle is a lanky American Green Beret in a sun hat, M4 assault rifle hanging from his shoulder and binoculars in his right hand. It stands at the foot of the One World Trade Center skyscraper, not far from the somber, sunken fountains that mark the footprints of the old Twin Towers. The Afghan war is represented at Ground Zero not by the Hellfire missile or the M1 Abrams tank, but by the energy of a pony, and an appeal to old, horseback warriors.”