It was a mud house, remembered Nematullah, who was toting six rocket-propelled grenades and a launcher. It didnt provide enough protection. If they (the insurgents) had hit it with a rocket, it would have gone through the wall.
Gunfire was spitting from nearby compounds as insurgents maneuvered to cut off the group.
I was looking for Ataullah. I didnt know where he went. Then I saw him with the two Americans talking on the radio next to the wall, taking cover, Nematullah continued.
We could not see the enemy, but the enemy could see very clearly that we were lying on the ground, said Ataullah, 29, whos from northern Takhar province. He turned to Kenefick and Layton to consult in broken English and hand gestures. I told them that we should push back. They said to me that helicopters would come and drop smoke and then wed push back.
Ayar, nine of his men and the Johnsons were firing from a terrace below the front of the house. Listening to Michael Johnsons radio calls for support, Ayar wondered how much longer it would take the nearby U.S. Army base to order in the helicopters and artillery fire that were promised earlier.
I told Lt. Johnson, You said wed have air support here. You said wed have artillery support. Wheres the air support and wheres the artillery support? Ayar recalled. He told me, We may not have air support, but we may get artillery support.
I told him that we should receive artillery support so we can get out of this open area, to get out of the battle zone. He told me, Fucking Army. Two Army officers would be reprimanded later for failing to provide the support.
Ayar repeated that they should pull back. No, we wont push back. . . . Were not authorized to push back, Ayar quoted the Marine as saying. But after 10 minutes, he said, Youre right, were moving back.
Ayar was worried about abandoning Kenefick, Layton, Ataullah and Nematullah. But Johnson said theyd stay, providing cover fire until the four could pull back. He gave two magazines to Ayar, whod exhausted his ammo.
Finally, Ataullah, whod cinched a scarf around a thigh to stanch a bleeding wound, Nematullah, Layton and Kenefick were able to dash around the side of the house, and the entire group dropped back into the trench.
Johnson told Ayar to go first. Ayar instructed his men to go and hed follow. But they balked, he said, scared . . . that theyd be shot.
They wouldnt move. So I had to go first, Ayar said.
The Afghans scattered, jumping down the 4-foot stone walls dividing the terraces. Ayar, Ataullah and three others ran straight. Nematullah, his RPGs gone, spun left, taking refuge behind boulders in the shadow of the southern hillside.
Ayar spied an abandoned light machine gun and went to pick it up, as a bullet had damaged his own weapon. But a hammerlike blow just above his left hip drove him to the ground.
When the bullet hit me . . . it made a shocking noise. I thought I had lost my leg, he said. By Allahs grace, it didnt hit a bone. Lt. Johnson saw me get shot. He was watching me.