Sangin was a dangerous place for U.S. and British soldiers to patrol. The entire area was filled with bombs earning it the title of a “low-density minefield.”
Mine Laden Area
Bombs weren’t just in the ground. They were on bridges, in streams, and along trails. Avoiding them was a difficult but necessary task since stepping on them would lead to death or dismemberment.
Troops tracked a single file line cleared by a mine detector out in front. However, they had nowhere to go if the enemy attacked since they could not ensure that the nearest ditch was safe.
Sangin was in a losing battle with the Taliban, with their police under attack in NATO’s old Forward Operating Base Jackson. The area had under 100,000 residents, desert on one side, and a lush river valley.
The Taliban were interested in the area because it was a part of Helmand’s opium trade. The U.S. and British soldiers found themselves fighting in Sangin largely because the Taliban and Afghan security forces were facing off in the area.
In 2010, NATO was heavily involved in Sangin and faced daily bomb explosions, followed by injury details and severity. The area saw heavy American and British losses from bombs, heatstroke, and dehydration.
While there isn’t an exact figure of how many soldiers lost their lives in Sangin, the estimate is around 176. U.S. Army Green Beret, National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Robinson was the first to lose his life in March 2016. In the summer, more soldiers died, including Pvt. Damien Jackson, who the outpost was eventually named after. A British airborne “para” also died and was posthumously given the Victoria Cross.
In 2009, U.S. Marines and British flooded the southern Helmand areas, and the Taliban attacked Sangin with high British casualties. One battalion lost 25 and the other 28.
Sangin was responsible for many”life-changing wounds” for British and American soldiers. Some British patrol platoons kept tallies of those killed and wounded in action. Staff Sgt. Olaf Schmid defused 70 IEDs and was killed trying to disarm another.
In 2013, Afghan army forces left their outposts when the Taliban was encroaching but were brought back by British advisors. U.S Marines left in 2014, and the Afghan army took huge losses. While the area did not have any strategic significance, it was heavily contested and brought heavy losses.