Rusty Bucket Packed With Explosives and Wired to a Black Battery Box .
SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan — Canadian military engineers fought fire with fire Tuesday as they safely detonated a crude roadside bomb in a cloud of flame and smoke near this border town in southern Afghanistan.
The soldiers of Engineer Squadron, attached to the Royal Canadian Dragoons, tried in vain to use a remote-control robot to split apart the device — a rusty bucket packed with explosives and wired to a black battery box.
After severing the wires from a distance, the engineers and a team of explosive experts dispatched from Kandahar Airfield used their own high-powered explosive to reduce the device to little more than bits of rubble.
When it was over, all that was left was a hot, blackened crater in the middle of a parched, barren tract of land just a few kilometres from the Pakistan border.
As soldiers examined the charred hole, section commander Sgt. Dave Camp beamed with the satisfaction of a job well done.
“It was a good day,” Camp said. “It’s gone, and done, and nobody got killed.”
Bomb a work in progress
The device, which was reported Monday by a commander with Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, was found above ground and well away from the road — unusual for an improvised explosive device, or IED, in Afghanistan.
That suggests whomever built the device was still in the process of preparing it when they were spotted, said Camp.
It’s also possible it was placed there in an effort to learn about Canadian tactics, he added.
“I’d have to say it was something that was in progress,” he said. “It’s an awful waste of valuable resources on their part to just let it go for the sake of watching us ... it was the start of something.”
Also Tuesday, a Canadian patrol that included soldiers from 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment and members of the Afghan National Army was attacked near the village of Howz-e-Madad, about 30 kilometres west of Kandahar city, a Canadian Forces spokesman said.
”The patrol was engaged by multiple insurgents using small arms and rocket-propelled grenades,” Lieut. (Navy) John Nethercott said in a statement.
The engagement lasted about three hours, the statement said. There were no Canadian or local Afghan casualties, and no word on how many Taliban insurgents were killed.
A similar attack lasting about six hours happened in the area on Monday, with no Canadian casualties reported.
Taliban Resources Depleting
In the last month, Canadian troops have reported a marked decline in the level of sophistication of many of the explosive devices they encounter, a sign that Taliban know-how and resources have been severely depleted in their ongoing battles with coalition forces.
“The stuff is there, but the talent and the knowledge base is fast disappearing,” Camp said. “The people that are coming in to replace them don’t have as much experience, and it’s taking them a bit longer to figure out.”
Canadian soldiers are back in the Spin Boldak district in a major way, in part to discover the routes insurgents may be using to move back and forth with relative ease across the Pakistan border.
It’s all part of an effort to disrupt the flow of Taliban resources into the country and up into those areas where they prefer to engage coalition forces: Helmand province and the Maywand, Panjwaii and Zhari districts of Kandahar province, west of Kandahar city.
“Not even a year ago, the only people in Panjwaii were the Taliban and it was outright war,” Camp said.
“Now you go, and there’s little girls going to school. That says a lot right there — not just little boys, but little girls going to school. To drive up and down those roads, there’s a lot of kids, and a lot of them are waving.”