Operation Rhino

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Operation Rhino
Part of the War in Afghanistan (2001–2014)
Drop on Rhino.jpg
Ranger parachute drop on objective "Rhino."
Date 19–20 October 2001
(1 day)
Location Kandahar, Afghanistan
Result U.S. victory
United States United States Afghanistan Taliban
Commanders and leaders
Colonel Joseph Votel
200 Army Rangers Unknown
Casualties and losses
Few casualties, 2 killed in a helicopter crash while on standby for CSAR. N/A

Operation Rhino was a raid led by the United States Army's 75th Ranger Regiment (3rd Ranger Battalion), who were led by Colonel Joseph Votel,[1] and the 101st Airborne Division on several Taliban targets in and around Kandahar, Afghanistan during the invasion of Afghanistan at the start of the War in Afghanistan (2001–2014).[2]


The Ranger's objectives were to:

  • Seize the landing strip (to become Camp Rhino)
  • Destroy any Taliban forces
  • Gather intelligence
  • Assess the suitability of the landing strip for future operations
  • Establish a forward aerial refuel/rearm point (FARP) for helicopters involved in the nearby operation at Objective Gecko
  • Destroy major weapons and utilities


On the night of October 19, 2001, before the Rangers dropped, several targets on and around the objective were targeted by U.S. air power, first by bombs dropped from B-2 stealth bombers, then by fire from orbiting AC-130 aircraft. These air strikes resulted in a number of enemy KIAs and several enemy fleeing the area. Following the air strikes, the 4 MC-130 Combat Talon aircraft flew over the drop zone at 800 feet. In zero illumination, 199 Rangers proceeded to exit the MC-130s.

Led by a small pathfinder team to mark the DZ (Drop Zone), a company-sized element of approximately 200 Rangers from 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, parachuted from four Lockheed MC-130 aircraft towards a desert landing strip south of the city on an "objective Rhino".[3] AC-130 gunships remained orbiting over the DZ in case the Rangers ran into trouble; the Rangers met almost no resistance (a solitary Taliban fighter attempted to engage the Rangers but was quickly shot and killed).[4]

Once on the ground, A Company, 3/75 Rangers, cleared several objectives, code-named TIN and IRON, without resistance. C Company moved out towards a walled compound, code-named objective COBALT. PSYOP specialists from the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion, broadcast messages on loud speakers in an attempt to coax any defenders to surrender but it was soon established that the compound was empty. With the landing strip secured, a MC-130 landed with medical personnel from JSOCs JMAU proceeded to treat 2 Rangers who had been injured during the jump.

USAF Combat Controllers surveyed the landing strip, assessing it for possible future use (see: Camp Rhino). They also communicated with the AC-130s which were circling high overhead. When a small number of enemy troops and vehicles were spotted approaching the area, the AC-130s engaged and destroyed them. MH-60 and MH-47 helicopters, flown by the 160th SOAR and taking part in the operation at Objective Gecko, soon arrived and were refueled and rearmed at the FARP which had been established using MC-130 tankers. Once rearmed and refueled, the SOAR helicopters took off and left the area.

With all objectives completed, the Rangers and Combat Control Teams boarded the MC-130s which soon departed. PSYOP leaflets were left behind for any Taliban who might have ventured onto the scene over the coming days.

No casualties were suffered in the operation itself but 2 Rangers assigned to CSAR element supporting the mission were killed when their MH-60L helicopter crashed at Objective Honda in Pakistan - a temporary staging site used by a company of Rangers from 3/75. The Helicopter crashed due to a brownout.[5]


As a result of the raid, a base was set up over the airstrip and named Camp Rhino. It was then handed off to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who began leading forward operations throughout Kandahar along with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division.


  1. ^ LARRY KING LIVE Interviews With John Kerry, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, George Joulwan. CNN, December 14, 2001.
  2. ^ "The United States Army in Afghanistan – Raid on Kandahar". Archived from the original on 16 February 2008. 
  3. ^ Gal Perl Finkel, Win the close fight, The Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2017.
  4. ^ Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1472807908, p.34
  5. ^ Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1472807908, p.36

Coordinates: 30°29′12″N 64°31′32″E / 30.48667°N 64.52556°E / 30.48667; 64.52556