During this eventful first tour in Afghanistan as commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Lt. Col. Haas received a crash course in the complexities of Afghan politics, and the difficulties and limitations of warfare with guerrilla allies.
He received a stark and lethal lesson in the fog of war as he led the main attack against the Al Qaeda remnants in Operation Anaconda in March 2002, when his special forces teams trained and accompanied Zia Lodinand#8217;s Pashtun force into the bloody battle. After a three-week course of instruction to instill some basic discipline and infantry tactics into the ragtag Afghan force, the battle itself was complicated by overturned trucks, a collapsed bridge, lack of promised U.S. air support, and precisely ranged mortar, artillery, and machine gun fire from the Al Qaeda fighters holed up in the mountains of Paktia province. Ziaand#8217;s forces suffered a 14 percent casualty rate, including a friendly-fire attack from an AC-130 Spectre gunship that also killed Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer Stanley Harriman. Losses like this prompted a new standard procedure in Iraq, where Haas would next deploy with his battalion: soldiers stretched orange neon panels over the vehicle hood or roof where aircraft could readily see them.
One loss particularly stung Haas and reinforced the treacherous nature of guerrilla politics. Just east of the Anaconda battleground lay the Khost-Gardez pass, guarded by a local Pashtun strongman named Pacha Khan Zadran. A young Special Forces soldier named Nate Chapman was killed by his militia, and Haas never forgot what one of Pacha Khan Zadranand#8217;s sons, who served as an interpreter for U.S forces, later told him: and#147;You are going to have to kill a lot of men like my father before Afghanistan will change.and#8221;