Green Berets Recount Deadly Taliban Ambush

Special Forces Troops Tell 60 Minutes Taliban Fighters Better Organized Than They Expected

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With all the focus on the war in Iraq, we don't hear much about the war in Afghanistan any more, even though the U.S. is fighting the Taliban nearly seven years after they seemed to be defeated.

And we hardly ever hear from the elite, secretive U.S. Special Forces who are leading that fight. But a Green Beret team wanted to talk to 60 Minutes to honor the men they lost when they were ambushed by hundreds of Taliban fighters two years ago.

Not since "Black Hawk Down" in Somalia have we heard a story of a small band of elite American soldiers who were so badly outnumbered and fighting for their lives.

This is a story about valor. But it's also a wake-up call about the growing strength of the enemy in Afghanistan.

From behind enemy lines, a Taliban camera captured pictures of the fighting, which started at sundown on June 23, 2006.

"And it's like all hell breaks loose. Literally, all hell breaks loose," remembers Major Shef Ford. "The enemy is firing at all directions at us. And soldiers are trying to identify the positions and return fire. They had completely surrounded us and were firing at us with multiple systems."

The battle, over two days and two nights, took place in a small village about 12 miles southwest of the city of Kandahar. The Green Berets, just nine of them, went into the village with eight other American and 48 Afghan soldiers. They were on a mission to capture or kill a Taliban commander known to operate in the area.

Maj. Ford says he didn't know hundreds of well-armed, well-supplied hardcore Taliban were waiting to ambush his men. American forces were accustomed to quick hit and run attacks by the Taliban, but Ford and Sergeant Brendan O'Connor say they were shocked by the sustained, organized assault in the village.

"We had not seen this disciplined execution of infantry tactics," Sgt. O'Connor explains.

"And you had never experienced anything like this?" correspondent Lara Logan asks.

"Not to this extent," Ford says. "We also started taking mortar fire into the patrol base, which also demonstrated that there was somebody who knew about the weapons system and how to operate it."

"So that was a sign that this was going to be different?" Logan asks.

"Yes, that was a sign," Ford says.

At one point, the Taliban even broke through the Green Berets' perimeter, but were pushed back. Maj. Ford called in air support. But the bombs couldn't stop the Taliban - they were everywhere.

Using an unmanned aerial vehicle as their eyes in the sky, the Green Berets located a compound near the town graveyard that they suspected the Taliban were using as a command center.

Team Sergeant Thom Maholic led a small group of men from the Green Beret patrol base to the compound, a third of a mile away. The Taliban pulled back, but a short distance away they were dug in with machine guns.

"There was enemy located in three different positions in this irrigation ditch," Ford remembers.