Lions of Kandahar: The Story of a Fight Against All Odds
by Rusty Bradley
List Price: $26.00 Hardback: 304 Pages
Publish Date: June 28, 2011
Review by Bob Seals.
Since the horrific events of September 11, 2001, the United States Army has been
engaged continuously in combat operations across the globe. Army Special Forces,
employed in the Foreign Internal Defense mode, have often been the nation’s weapon
of choice against terror, working “by, with and through,” a partner nation’s security
Perhaps due to the nature of Special Forces operations, and the “quiet professionals”
themselves, realistic and first person accounts of Army SF operations during the
past ten years have not been plentiful, or particularly well written. The recently
published Lions of Kandahar, by U.S. Army Special Forces officer Rusty Bradley and
journalist Kevin Maurer, has now broken this paradigm. The two authors have crafted
a superb work which gives the reader a thorough understanding of SF operations masterfully
executed in Afghanistan by the basic building block of the branch, the Special Forces
Operational Detachment-Alpha (SFODA). Commonly known as the “A Team,” these small,
highly trained 12-man units are often little understood, or appreciated. This book
should help to correct any misunderstanding.
Lions of Kandahar begins with a dramatic rendition of a “Troops in Contact,” engagement
and the subsequent sickening realization that the team was surrounded by hundreds
of insurgents, and low on ammunition. After this, the authors flash back and provide
a contextual background and understanding of the soldiers and detachment pre-mission
training for the readers, explaining how all came to find themselves in such desperate
straits one hot, dusty day in the south of Afghanistan.
By the time Captain Rusty Bradley and the men of SFODA 331 of 3rd Special Forces
Group (Airborne) arrived at Kandahar Airfield in August of 2006, the security situation
in Southern Afghanistan had reached a critical period for US and NATO forces. A
growing sense of unease permeated Kandahar as indications abounded of a major enemy
resurgence and impending offensive in their traditional southern stronghold. No
stranger to OEF, Bradley was beginning his third consecutive tour of combat duty
in the nation.
Bradley’s ODA, along with two other detachments, were chosen to support the ambitious
Canadian-led NATO offensive Operation Medusa, intended to clear insurgent dominated
provinces in the south. Conducting an epic “Lawrence of Arabia” like 300 kilometer
vehicular movement across the forbidding Red Desert, the small SF force was to establish
blocking positions in support of friendly columns driving from the north. As the
offensive stalled, all three detachments became decisively engaged in one of the
most intense and sustained OEF combat operations to date. It was a literal fight
for life against a well armed and determined enemy.
Lions of Kandahar is ultimately an insider’s account of the epic fight in and around
the Panjwayi Sperwan Ghar hill mass over a six day period from 05 to 10 September
2006. Nicknamed by Army SF participants “the greatest battle no one ever heard of,”
the fighting was not against hit and run guerrillas but intense ground combat against
an opponent who vigorously defended ground and attacked. Over a period of six days
Bradley and the SF “long beards” assaulted and seized a fortified position, and
repelled two counterattacks and two direct assaults, while killing or wounding an
estimated 800 plus insurgents to include 8 confirmed Taliban commanders. Their actions
most likely prevented the collapse of the NATO offensive that fall.
This book is a tightly written, fast paced first person account of the war in Afghanistan
as fought by one remarkable Army Special Forces A-Team. Both authors, with extensive
combat and embed experience, have crafted a ripping good read that is entertaining
and authentic. The 280 page work is well laid out and user friendly for readers
unfamiliar with Special Forces, and includes a glossary, 3 maps and 23 black and
white photos which are extremely helpful in helping one understand the deadly close
in combat of Spewan Ghar. One minor fault is that the book does not have either
notes or an appendix, which military historians of the future will lament. In the
end, Bradley and Maurer accomplish what they have set out to do; that is, ensure
the men who fought, bled and won at the Battle of Sperwan Ghar are never forgotten.
Copyright © 2012 Bob Seals.
Written by Bob Seals. If you have questions or comments on this
article, please contact Bob Seals at:
About the author:
Bob Seals is a retired Special Forces officer employed by General Dynamics Information Technology in the Mission Command Exercise Division of the U.S. Army Special Operations Mission Command Training Center on Fort Bragg, the center of the special operations universe. He lives in North Carolina on a small horse farm with his wife, a retired Army Veterinary Corps officer, and son, who both ride polocrosse and hunt. His duties on the farm include Stable Sergeant, groom and horse holder. He is a graduate of the Norwich U Masters of Military History program.
Published online: 03/10/2012.
* Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent
those of MHO.