"Corsi is hampered in what he can do – with only 18 soldiers, he cannot allow his men to patrol the vicinity. There are several reconstruction projects ongoing, but the Americans are largely unable to protect them. All Corsi can do is radio headquarters and ask for air support if he hears of an attack. But in such mountainous terrain reports of incidents can take hours to filter through, by which time the Taliban are long gone.
And with military helicopters and jets stretched to the limit on other operations, support is not guaranteed. Margha is resupplied by private contractors using civilian aircraft. Supplies are parachuted into the base by light aircraft or dropped off by a Ukrainian crew using an old Russian helicopter, flying at high altitude to avoid enemy fire." Telegraph
Half a platoon on a hilltop resupplied by civilian contractors in light planes and Ukrainians using an old Russian helicopter? This is a "shoestring" operation. Clearly there are not enough coalition troops in Afghanistan. What is the mission for Outpost "Margha?" Border surveillance? The officer in charge does not have enough men or fire support to patrol or ambush toward the nearby border. One "heavy" mortar? The miniaturization of this effort is disturbing.
In Vietnam, an equivalent position, similarly sited, was Bu Dop Special Forces Camp in Phuoc Long Province. It was two miles from Cambodia and the rear base area of North Vietnamese Army units that, depending on circumstance, numbered several thousand at any given time.
Bu Dop Camp had about 30 US and Vietnamese Special Forces soldiers and several hundred Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) militia IN THE CAMP. These CIDG "strikers" were full timers who had been recruited from all over the country. The camp covered a couple of acres, was star or triangle shaped ( I forget which), had two concentric lines of defenses, both heavily dug in, underground tunnels running everywhere, underground living facilities and massive fire support available within the camp. This consisted of half a dozen 4.2 inch and 81mm mortars in dug in positions and a 105mm howitzer. There were M2 .50 caliber machine guns in positions all over the inner perimeter and .30 caliber Brownings in similar positions in the outer perimeter. Everything was deeply entrenched with double apron barbed wire fences all around the outside and between the two lines of defense. Anchored concertina wire was piled up between the fences. The wire was booby trapped. Fougasse and claymore mines abounded in the wire obstacle as well as aircraft flares situated to use their cylindrical metal shipping container halves as reflectors to shine 25 million candlepower in the faces of an assault force when needed. In addition to this, the place sometimes had available the fires of American artillery temporarily in the area. Then there was available air support, especially the ubiquitous AC-47 "Spooky" gunships with their gatling guns. A formidable place, but not all that unusual. In spite of this the North Vietnamese tried several times to capture the post. They tried with regimental size attacks backed by a lot of artillery and rockets. They failed although it was a close thing at times.
What was Bu Dop’s mission? It was surveillance of the border and North Vietnamese infiltration and supply of their forces in South Vietnam. To that end the garrison of Bu Dop patrolled and ambushed right up to the border across a wide swath of border country. It was dangerous work. A secondary mission was the protection of the nearby district town of Bo Duc and the Vietnamese government apparatus there. These were reasonable missions given the resources available.
Outpost "Margha" is ridiculously under-resourced. Not enough men, very little readily available fire support for the protection of either the outpost or any civilians who could be persuaded to become friendly. The junior officer in command has a thankless task. All he can do is hold on, try not to be over run and pray for his relief to show up.
Air power is lovely as a source of logistical and fire support, but "Margha" is resupplied by civilian contractors and has one mortar as its available indirect fire support? There is obviously not enough US air power available for either job.
Men living on combat rations for months at a time? Constipation must be a problem.
Both the foreground ridge in the picture and the one behind it should be covered with pre-registered artillery and mortar fires so that every attack by fire will be answered so rapidly that it will be extremely dangerous to fire from those positions. Dare I think of an aggressive program of ambush patrols on the part of these paratroops? There would have to be a lot more of them. They are now now more or less pent up in their little fort. The Taliban must think they have already died and gone to paradise. This is eerily reminiscent of old British experience in this same area.
A counter-battery mortar radar would be a good idea at "Margha" if they do not already have one. There should be US artillery positioned to support places like this, but in today’s army that kind of thinking seems to have gone away.
Too little, too much risk, disaster waiting to happen. pl