When Pakistani troops rescued US soldiers

Today, understanding US & Pakistan relations is a complex matter. One side accuses them of harboring terrorists while the other side accuses them of not being present when they needed them the most. One asks the simplest question, were the Two allies always had a strained relationship or not? And the answer is somewhat more complicated.

Operation cycle — widely acknowledged as one of the world’s largest Spy agency to spy agency relation. True, without Pakistan US had no luck to contain the Soviets in Afghanistan and without US the Pakistanis had no success on containing the expansion of their ‘empire’ towards warm-waters which the Southern part of Pakistan provides. What usually is often forgotten is the Pakistan Army’s help during the critical time when US Troops came under fire while conducting an Operation which was never supposed to go the way, unfortunately, it did.

It all began when US Army Rangers were mobilized to Somalia under the name of Operation Restore Hope. During this time, the Pakistan Army was also present under the banner of UNITAF (Unified Task Force), and later also joined a coalition led by United States for the Operation ‘RESTORE HOPE’.

US & Pakistani soldiers during a Parade in Somalia.

3October 1993, US Forces led a surprise attack on the basis of intelligence reports provided to them. The aim was to capture General Farah Aidid, the notorious warlord of the troubled Somalia, and his aide Colonel Omer Jess.

To ensure that the mission is accomplished successfully, an elaborate heliborne and ground force was constituted comprising Army Rangers, Delta Force, gunship helicopters, Little Birds, Black Hawks and infantry.

The operation commenced by a Heliborne force, firing a salvo of anti-tank missiles into the compound, while Delta Force and Rangers roped down from hovering Black Hawks towards the building.

Unfortunately, everything did not go according to the plan. In the heart of Mogadishu, US forces suffered RPG attacks which led to the fall of two Black Hawk helicopters. The ground convoy, was to reach the site to provide intimate infantry support by cordoning off the target area. This convoy too came under fire but Eventually, after suffering casualties, the convoy managed to reach the building where the civilian-prisoners were held.

The soldiers on foot reached the helicopter site instantly. The vehicle convoy did not oblige and moved back to its headquarters under orders of the convoy commander who opined that the convoy had already suffered enough casualties. This effectively left the downed crewmen and soldiers to defend for themselves.

As nightfall approached, Roughly 90 American soldiers had made their defensive positions near the site of the first crash. Little Bird gunships provided air support as best as they could with mini-guns as thousands of Somali militiamen closed in all around the ground forces.

The survivors were also attempting to keep the militia at bay while retrieving available medical supplies and ammunition from airdrops. With wounded men, limited ammunition and a growing militiamen presence, the situation for the survivors was getting bleak.

Pakistan Army was present not so far from the crash site. A glimpse of it can be seen in the Hollywood film ‘Black Hawk Down’ where the Commanding US General contacts his Pakistani counterparts to immediately form a QRF (Quick Reaction Force), and mobilize their troops to support the extraction of stranded US Army Rangers. Pakistan Army’s 15 Frontier Force Regiment and the Squadron of 19 Lancers played the leading role in rescue operation.

US Officer providing Pakistanis with Operational briefing.

The Armored Personal Carrier’s APCs of 15 FF were placed to provide local protection to the tanks. The task given to squadron of 19 Lancers was to lead to the crash site, cordon off the area, provide fire support at the crash site and cover the withdrawal of the force to the nearest Pakistani base. What’s interesting about the APC’s is that they were right at the Mogadishu port, and had arrived to Somalia a few hours ago before all this happened.

By 2230 hours,

Pakistan Army leading the US Rangers QRF and, with the help of effective speculative fire, reached the crash site without any loss. Two of the tanks took position on the shoulders of the narrow street, where entrapped Rangers were fighting for their lives inside a building, whilst the other team took position on road crossings on either side of this street.

Mobilization and movement of Pakistani Troops.

US Rangers dismounted and went into the street while the Pakistani tanks kept on exchanging fire with the Somalis, preventing their efforts to get into the same street.

By 0350 hours,

Rangers started coming out of the narrow street and started mounting the APCs, but owing to some wrong calculation of APCs, it became difficult to accommodate everyone.Meanwhile, Somalis were reorganizing to quell efforts of rescue force; and started bringing heavy fire at the place where APCs were parked. Therefore, remainder US personnel were accommodated in tanks and APCs of Pak Army.

Even still some were left and had to run with the cover for Pakistani APC’s, this is what’s called Mogadishu Mile. Troops mainly from 75th Ranger Regiment was a part of Mogadishu Mile.

By 0500 Hours,

Pakistan Army base was turned in to a mini-hospital as the injured and rescued soldiers started to arrive.

By 0640 hours,

All American troops stranded were rescued and now under the camp of Pakistan Army.

Pakistani troops who participated in the operation, with American Ranger. US rescued Ranger with a soldier from Pakistan Army.

When the rescue operation came to an end, 73 were wounded, 18 dead (including 3 Pakistani soldiers). The whole mission lasted for 8 hours luckily however, on the way, a few of the terrorists were captured.

Pakistani trooper displaying the captured weaponry.

Recognizing the bravery and timely reaction of Pakistani troops, US Army’s Major General Thomas M. Montgomery Deputy Commander of the United Nations Forces in Somalia in a television interview stated:

“Many of the soldiers are alive today because of the willingness and skill of the Pakistani soldiers, who worked jointly in a rescue operation with Malaysian and American soldiers in most difficult and dangerous combat circumstances.”

Major General Thomas M. Montgomery presenting shield of recognition to the Pakistan Army’s Brigade commander.



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