All nine Afghan survivors said there werent any Taliban fighting close to the track who could have charged Meyers vehicle during the casualty recovery operation. To begin with, they recounted, there were U.S. helicopters overhead, firing at any insurgents they spotted.
There were no Taliban down in the valley, said Arab Khan, a 29-year-old private from eastern Panjshir province who was on the southern slope in an overwatch position, exchanging fire with insurgents on hilltops. I didnt see any Taliban down on the track. At that point, the helicopters were above the valley. The Taliban wouldnt have dared move.
Many Afghan and American troops escaped down the rocky wash on which Meyer and Rodriguez-Chavez drove in, and they would have been shot by any Taliban fighting there, the survivors said.
There was no enemy to our rear, Ataullah said. There were only friendly forces behind us.
McClatchy special correspondent Ali Safi in Kabul contributed to this report.
The ambush at Ganjgal, Sept. 8, 2009
McClatchy's Jonathan S. Landay talks about the ambush of U.S. and Afghan troops he was embedded with on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009. For reporter, no doubt: 'I'd use the rifle if I had to'