The war in Afghanistan, part 2

21Sep10

As the war dragged on, the relentless American offensive took its toll on the Taliban who began losing key positions. When Mazar-e Shariff fell, the U.S.-allied Northern Alliance swept west and south, capturing Herot, Zaroni, Konduz and a few other towns — including the capital, Kabul —as the Taliban fled south to Kandahar.

Not long after, only Kandahar in the south and Jalalabad in the east remained under Taliban control. And the fierce fighting in Jalalabad indicated it might, any time soon, finally be taken by the Northern Alliance.

INTERACTIVE: NOT A TIME FOR DICTATORS

Soon it became clear there was no more escape for the retreating Taliban but the network of caves that that are everywhere under Afghanistan’s rugged terrain. From the safety of these underground hideouts, the Taliban knew they could launch a guerrilla war against any future government in Afghanistan.

Click here to view interactive graphic Cavehunting in Tora Bora (Note: This interactive graphic was done in 2001 while I was still starting to explore Flash)

As this developed, it became urgently necessary to run an graphic that explains how U.S. ground forces would detect the underground hideouts. I dug into various sites on the Web and other sources and was able to craft a simple diagram detailing seismic, radar, gravity and electrical detection. The graphic laid out horizontally a simple comparison of the detection methods using simple, easy to follow 3-dimensional drawings.

In a tragic turn of events, three journalists were killed in an ambush around the time the Taliban was already on the run. A group of Northern Alliance troops traveling in an armoured personnel carrier (APC), accompanied by six reporters and some interpreters. The APC was negotiating rough terrain around a deep crater when it was suddenly strafed by automatic fire from various directions. Everybody dove for cover. The troops tried to return fire. The vehicle fell into a steep incline. When the shooting stopped and the troops and journalists regrouped, three reporters were sprawled on the ground. They did not make it.

Not incidentally, one of those reporters who survived the ambush — one of those who lived to tell the story — was Levon Sevunts of The Gazette, a colleague of mine. Levon’s account, by long distance phone, formed the basis for my graphic.

Graphics by Alfred Elicierto, published in The Montreal Gazette during the last quarter of 2001.

Also in this blog:
A World Cup quiz
Treating gunshot wounds
Fixing Toyota’s sticky pedal
The world’s richest oil deposit
The G8/G20 Summit in Toronto
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