Yesterday’s attack in Kunar Province

160_ap_afghan_050815 "NATO officials reported that nine soldiers were killed in the Kunar attack but did not specify the nationalities, in accordance with the policy of letting member countries report them first. A senior military official in Washington said that all nine were American.

The Kunar attack also left at least 15 other NATO soldiers — almost certainly Americans — and 4 Afghan soldiers wounded, and it was one of at least three significant attacks on Sunday, including a devastating suicide bombing in a southern city’s bazaar that killed at least 25 people, 20 of them civilians.

This year of the Afghanistan war is already proving to be the deadliest since the American-led invasion. Bush administration officials are now considering a redeployment of troops to Afghanistan from Iraq to help deal with the rising threat."  NY Times


A single tactical event such as this attack in Kunar is of interest in itself, but may be the result of local circumstances of terrain, misjudgment, good judgment, weaponry, sheer numbers, weather or any number of other factors singly or in combination.  The command will undoubtedly examine the event to decide what happened.  Evidently, the hostiles penetrated the position before they were repulsed.  That is not good.  The difference between that and losing the position altogether is often just a matter of luck and passing determination on the part of some of the defenders.  Evidently the action lasted several hours.  I would be curious to know if the position was reinforced by air during the battle and how much fire support the garrison was given.

The fact that there were several other attacks more or less simultaneous to this one, that is worrisome.  It

That may be reflective of a new ability to command and organize on the part of the hostiles.

Information would be welcomed.  pl

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53 Responses to Yesterday’s attack in Kunar Province

  1. SLA Marshall wrote a series of small books on small unit combat and ops in Viet Nam. Operation Bird was an example. I hope some similiar military history is written because from a distance hard to know which of the factors mentioned in the posting predominated. Always a tragedy to lose good men (and women) even to incompetence as Marshall sometimes identified. Still it is interesting few stories of op orders being delievered by field grades and flag ranks from overhead in heliocopters as in RVN.

  2. anonymous query says:

    Juan Cole believes that growing insurgency in Afghanistan is from disgruntled Pushtans, and general nationalist-style oppostion to occupation by groups that we have not favored (though, by that he means, Pushtans and other Pakistan-Afghan border tribes, I think). He thinks this is more likely that it being alQaeda or orginal Taliban that supported al Qaeda. Concludes that, as in Iraq, over reliance on military strategy and tactics.
    What do you think of this?
    PS. As a regular reader of Barnett Rubin, I do think we have over emphasized military solutions in Afghanistan.

  3. jonst says:

    I was struck by the CNN report of the event that quoted “NATO spokesman Mark Laity” noting that the coalition soldiers’ efforts were “heroic”. Indeed, I have little doubt that they were not “heroic”. But that is beside the point, is it not? Unless the point is to encourage one to disregard the battle itself, and what, if any implications, it might hold, and instead focus on the personal attributes of the soldiers involved. This is a rather obivous attempt at manipulation of the American public. Ok, nothing new there. Or even worthy of much condemnation. My concern is the self manipulation/deception going on at the civilian level in DC. Perhaps. A manipulation that tries to say, ‘don’t think about the strategic and tactical variables involved in the overall mission. Look at the heroic sacrifice. ‘how could you turn your back on these boys?”. If this is what is happening, I for one, think we have had a bellyful of that kind of thinking. It basically implies…’thou shall not think…thou shall, instead, emote’ to reach tactical and strategic decisions.’ That is Bush think.

  4. Green Zone Cafe says:

    I remembered this article from the NYT Magazine, it is informative.
    I believe the Korengal Valley described is in Kunar Province.

  5. b says:

    Such frontal assaults on U.S. positions have been seldom in recent times.
    This year the Talibs refrained to IED’s and propaganda effective stuff like the prison break in Kandahar. Frontal assaults are deadly for them and they know it.
    I therefore wonder if this might have been something different like a revenge attack by locals for the recent bombing of a wedding party which killed some 50 civilians in that area a few days ago.
    “Local circumstances” would fit that theory.

  6. mo says:

    The BBC says the position was given both Apache and fighter jet support.
    What is interesting is that it seems the US military has pointedly refrained from naming the Taliban as the attackers and that this attack was not far from where the 47 civilians were recently killed.
    Maybe the locals have had enough of being cannon fodder.

  7. Curious says:

    If we don’t patch it up with the Pakistani diplomatically, we are going to lose afghanistan/pakistan within 2 years.
    The western Iraq mistake will be repeated in afghanistan. Except in afghanistan the entire population know what guerilla war is.
    It will also be Iran training ground to practice post UN Iraq occupation.

  8. Bobo says:

    From what I gather from early news reports was that this partiucular outpost had only been erected in past few weeks and that the majority of the losses were at an observation post detached from the main group. Now I also have heard the enemy numbers grow from 100 to 200 thus who knows what is accurate.
    It sound like new tactics from a disciplined force which may be a harbinger of tougher skirmishes to come.
    God Bless those still there and my deepest respect to those families who have lost a loved one.

  9. Walrus says:

    There appear to be plenty of narcissists in Washington and in the American General Public that believe that nothing can stop the “American Fighting Man”. Anyone using the term “Warrior” as a description of a soldier usually suffers from this disease. The simple answer to what happened is that the Taliban are much better infantry soldiers than we are, and no European is going to beat them.
    Before some of you go apoplectic, I have not and never will fault the courage of American soldiers, but some things are beyond them although your leaders won’t tell you that, because it would shake the public’s confidence in a Neocon “victory” in Afghanistan.
    Fighting has been in their blood and culture for a thousand years. Were it not for our presence, they would cheerfully be out killing each other every fighting season in innumerable tribal feuds.
    My guess as to exactly what happened is as follows.
    1. Our operations have to be assumed to be always under observation, except perhaps at night if my assumption that they lack NVG’s is correct.
    2. Any, and I mean any, weakness in a defensive position or procedure will be spotted immediately. This could be merely a fold of dead ground (ie unviewable from the position) no more than twelve inches high according to British experience, or a carelessly sited latrine.
    3. My guess is that the Taliban spotted a weakness in this position and exploited it in a successful set piece attack
    And no. Forget the face saving notion of some “human wave” desperate frontal attack. The Taliban attack will have been very well planned and organised and very skilfully executed – and that’s why it was a success for them and a loss for us.
    God help us if the Taliban ever source enough modern manpads to counter our air advantage. I don’t think many of our troops would make it out if they did.

  10. JfM says:

    While I have yet to read a credible after action report, I can surmise afew assumptions as to what happened. First, an attack of this scale and success is only the fruit of extensive planning. This was not a hasty attack of opportunity. I suspect the outpost was effectively penetrated by the enemy and certainly well rehearsed. The routine of the defenders was known and the fire support plan understood. Further although there are distinct differences with this incident and the 1966 attack on LZ Bird in Binh Dinh or later Firebase Mary Ann in Quang Tin (I was just south in Quang Ngai for that one and listened throughout that night to the 196 LIB nets buzzing), there are some undeniable parallels. This attack apparently went at 0430 and had seen the enemy move close to the camp using the immediate surrounding village. Apparently there were few if any civilian casualties as the village inhabitants had all high-tailed it before shots were fired. This attack, like those decades before in Vietnam, may have been disrupted or prevented if there had been active patrolling in hours of daylight and listening posts (LP) put out overnight. Spending the night on an LP is a hairy, but does much to secure the larger force behind the wire. Further, the need for local intelligence is absolutely vital. In the case of the 1971 attack at remote FB Mary Ann, the occupying unit had no connection with the few folks out of the wire. The NVA were able to successfully infiltrate and completely surround the target without detection and launch at a predetermined time most disadvantageous to the defenders. The need for an integrated defense plan rather than just pulling the wire across the front gate is paramount to security. Again, without specifics I cannot and don’t criticize the position’s organization. This is a devastating and very sobering result. These sorts of set -backs are almost inevitable in this sort of fight. I hope a honest timely accounting of what happened is forthcoming and needed corrective actions taken.

  11. I expect that you will see pushback, denials, or outright lying when it comes to this, but the situation was not an attack that was repulsed–the position was overrun.
    Now, having said that, I’m also certain that we won’t be told the full scope of the fallout from this–whether outposts manned by fewer than 50 Americans will be consolidated or whether we will have to bring more firepower to bear more quickly when these positions are attacked.
    But make no mistake about it–this position was overrun. And that means they will be making drastic changes and soon. If not, relieve every commander in Afghanistan, because the fight against the Taliban has entered a new phase. We are beyond IEDs and hit and runs. We are now in a stage where they can operate at company if not battalion strength and then melt away after inflicting serious damage. It Iraq, the Mahdi Army and the militias have never been able to mount sustained attacks and fully rout a platoon or more of US troops. In Afghanistan, they just proved they can do just that.

  12. Mad Dogs says:

    From CNN (caveat emptor):

    A U.S. official told CNN that as many as 200 insurgents were involved in the strike, which NATO said occurred at an outpost in Dara-I-Pech. However, other officials could not put a figure on the number of insurgent casualties at this time.
    The official said militants didn’t get into the outpost but they did overrun a small U.S.-led observation point outside the base, where it is believed most of the American and Afghan fatalities and injuries occurred.

  13. Mad Dogs says:

    More info from AP (again caveat emptor):

    …The coordinated assault at Wanat sent a strong signal to other insurgent groups that “America cannot resist them anymore,” said Tamim Nuristani, who was fired as provincial governor last week by President Hamid Karzai’s administration for criticizing a U.S. airstrike that Afghan officials say killed civilians July 4 in the same area as Sunday’s attack.
    Nuristani said the attackers at Wanat were a mix of Afghan- and Pakistan-based militants, some with al-Qaida links — a sign, he said, that cooperation is growing between what had been often fractious factions fighting the Western military presence in Afghanistan.
    “The (attackers) were not only from Nuristan but from other districts,” Nuristani said. “They are not only Taliban. They were (Pakistan-based) Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Hezb-i-Islami, Taliban and those people who are dissatisfied with the (Karzai) government after these recent incidents. They all came together for this one.”
    The attack — which U.S. and NATO officials said happened in Kunar province but which Afghan officials said was in neighboring Nuristan — reinforced recent assessments by U.S. officials that militant attacks are becoming more complex and better coordinated.
    A NATO official said the attackers used houses, shops and a mosque in Wanat for cover during the hours-long battle.
    The militants showered the small base — which had been established just three days earlier — with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar shells, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.
    Some of the militants breached the wall and got inside, killing nine American soldiers and wounding 15 others, he said.
    Other American soldiers managed to drive out the attackers and called in air support. Attack helicopters swooped over the battlefield, and in hours of fighting dozens of insurgents were killed and about 40 were wounded, the NATO official said…

    And of course, this silly nonsense from a REMF:

    …In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack expressed regret that American lives were lost, but argued the attack was a sign of the pressure being put on the insurgency.
    “Instead of looking at it necessarily from the perspective of the Taliban or terrorists being more aggressive in coming after NATO or U.S. forces or Afghan forces, in this particular case it was an example of NATO, U.S. and Afghan forces being aggressive in combatting cross-border infiltration,” McCormack said.

  14. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    William R. Cumming:
    You wrote: “SLA Marshall wrote a series of small books on small unit combat and ops in Viet Nam.”
    Are you referring to Slam Marshall? If so, then I think Col. Hackworth played a very significant role in the “after-action” interviews and analysis that lead to what is now titled, “Vietnam Primer”. Hackworth, aka “Hack”, wrote extensively and colorfully about this experience in the book he co-authored with Julie Sherman, “About Face.” Make of it what you will. Others would have to comment. But, if nothing else, odds seem fair to middlin’ that Michael Ledeen — a principle architect of our foreign policy and leading guru of the spirit of “creative destruction” — did not read Vietnam Primer, much less Bernard Fall. Much less Martin Van Creveld. Much less Bard O’Neil. He did spend an enormous amount of time in the 1960’s reading about some dumb ass fascist. Can’t recall his name right now. Ah yes, I just looked it up. Renzo De Felice.
    Here’s a link to Vietnam Primer:

  15. Mad Dogs says:

    And from the NYT (again caveat emptor):

    …The base and a nearby observation post were held by just 45 American troops and 25 Afghan soldiers, two senior allied officials said, asking for anonymity while an investigation is under way.
    With nine Americans dead and at least 15 injured, that means that one in five of the American defenders was killed and nearly half the remainder were wounded.
    That is a 53% casualty rate for the US.

  16. Jose says:

    Why do we tie the number of dead as an acceptable count so long as we got more of them?
    To me it seems foolish that we could explain nine dead Americans because we got two-hundred dead “Terrorist”.
    We should look into why the G2/S2 failed to understand the OFOR in the area.
    We should also look into how the “Terrorist” knew enough to make such a bold attack, perhaps their G2/S2 is better informed?
    Also, we need to make a better plan than simple reacting to their tactics or kicking down doors of the past.
    Just remember, so long as the Taliban/AQ/etc all have safe haven in Pakistan we can not defeat them, where are Condi and Dumbya in all this mess?
    My two cents but, more attacks like this and our NATO allies will start bailing out on us like in Iraq.

  17. pat says:

    Maybe the Colonel or someone else could answer this regarding a drawdown in Iraq.
    Say within 16 or 24 months, there are only 50k-70k US troops in Iraq. We have small groups of Special Forces trainers spread around the country. Would these trainers be overun on their bases in a similiar fashion as the raid in Kunar?
    God knows that our troops have been betrayed while on IA turf before and the gates may be left wide open for their insurgent friends to kill our men.
    Also, was there any collusion between our Afghan allies and the Talibs during this raid?

  18. Curious says:

    approximate location on wikimap. (It’s a real crazy spot. high mountains with valleys. tons of hidden ridges and farms)

  19. 505th PIR says:

    Hey Gang,
    Read today that some of the indirect fire originated in PK. Let’s see, guerilla ops/company and batallion sized units operating from across a “no-go” international border….raids, patrols, setting up buzz saw defensive positions, bleeding US troops and melting back across the border to strike again after a good re-fit. Hmm, who has the initiative here?
    Anyone see a 40 year-old yet very familiar scenario re-emerging?

  20. Curious says:

    okay found the spot.
    this blog entry has more info about the location. (it’s really exact damned area since the beginning of war)
    youtube clip (That outpost is practically a sitting duck surrounded by mountain)

  21. Mad Dogs says:

    And lastly before I call it a night, from the TimesOnline (again caveat emptor):

    Western and Afghan officials have admitted that Taleban militants breached the outer defences of a remote US base during a battle in Kunar province on Sunday that claimed the lives of nine US soldiers and wounded 19 coalition troops.
    In the first detailed account of the assault on the US “combat outpost”, Nato confirmed yesterday that the insurgents had come close to wiping out the base, which was only three days old. It was “a pretty close run thing,” a military source said…
    …The combat outpost was rudimentary, a ring of barricades and sandbags designed to shield the occupants from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. Its defensive towers and fortifications were still under construction. On three sides it was overlooked by the village of Wanat, high in the restive Weygel Valley…

  22. not a taliban says:

    see this article explains in good details between this incident and the massacare of the wedding party recently
    Reading Maps of Incidents in Afghanistan

  23. Shrike58 says:

    That’s always been the issue with troop levels in Iraq, in that it’s not clear that we can do force protection with much less than 100,000 troops. If you go below that level you might as well do a complete pull-out.

  24. jonst says:

    Just out of curiosity, are there any commentators out there that think that sending 10K more soldiers to Afghanistan is going to help? Help at all? Other, that is, than helping Obama look ‘strong’ on national security?

  25. Mad Dogs says:

    A couple of additional points that surfaced during my overnite dreaming hours:
    While I’ve not yet seen what organization these US combatants were from (10th Mountain Division, 1st Marine Division, etc.), it is unlikely that they were Special Operations Command folks.
    SOC like the Army’s Special Forces tend to deploy in smaller groups (12 man A Teams for example) than the 45 US combatants described in this engagement.
    At rare times, SOC do deploy in larger numbers, but those tend to be specific attack missions that are highly focused and of relatively short duration.
    From all reports, the 45 US combatants were not on such a specific attack mission profile.
    When I mentioned the 53% US casualty rate, I should have also related what the means in the military’s terms.
    A unit that is below 85% of its strength is said to be “combat ineffective”.
    In this case, the unit had 53% casualties, so in essence, it would have been considered “destroyed”.
    The experiences of this particular unit lends credence to the point that Pat made a couple of days ago:

    …You should get some perspective about casualties. You like to talk about WAR. In my experience of war men die by the thousands with great frequency.
    Afghanistan and Iraq are wars but there are few sizable combats. Fallujah and the recent fighting around Kandahar sound like the real thing, but most of our casualties in Iraq have been caused by roadside bombs that killed while people were sitting in vehicles.
    You haven’t lived until you have seen a friendly rifle company destroyed in a day’s fighting. Destroyed attacking…

    This unit was “destroyed” defending.
    As Pat has stated, the cause of this unit’s “destruction” will (or at least, should) be subject to much investigation and analysis.
    Some investigations are whitewashed, and some are bluntly and painfully accurate. Only time will tell which kind is delivered in this instance.
    In any event, IMHO there are folks back up the line who’s heads ought to roll.
    Given the number of 45 US combatants, that sounds like a “platoon-sized” unit.
    Platoons are headed by junior officers (lieutenants typically) who don’t have any say in where they go or what their mission is.
    Platoon leaders are “Yes Sir! No Sir! 3 bags full Sir!” kind of folks.
    The people that made the decisions on what the mission was, are the folks back at the company, battalion, or even regiment or brigade level.
    These are obviously more senior officers (Captains, Majors, Light and Full Colonels, etc.).
    These are the folks who own this mission!
    The deployment of this unit, the support or more likely the lack of support they got (timeliness in artillery, Close Air Support from both the fast movers and vertical aviation as this reportedly dragged on for hour) is hauntingly familiar to battles described occuring almost 7 years ago in Afghanistan like Operation Anaconda as described in Sean Naylor’s book “Not a good day to die : the untold story of Operation Anaconda”.
    The way it sounds to me at this very early stage of information, is that some fools back higher up (Majors and/or Colonels), basically sent the platoon out butt-naked to “camp” out by themselves in Indian country.
    Without a completed base camp, without sufficient timely fire support (one should really read Sean Naylor’s book about the lack of artillery (a command decision by General Franks almost 7 years ago), the lack of sufficient and/or timely aviation assets, particularly vertical attack helicopters, etc.), insufficient surveillance assets (where are all these vaunted UAVs like with their Infrared capabilities that could help with perimeter security at night – in Iraq of course, stupid! That is the central front on the GWOT, not Afghanistan doncha know?), and apparently just the loosey-goosey mission profile of a picnic in the country, seems to say in screamingly bold letters, “A Command Screw-up!
    But what the heck do I know? I’m just a wee civilian these days back in the world.

  26. Curious says:

    are there any commentators out there that think that sending 10K more soldiers to Afghanistan is going to help? Help at all? Other, that is, than helping Obama look ‘strong’ on national security?
    Posted by: jonst | 15 July 2008 at 08:57 AM,
    really depends what those 10K troop will do.
    If it is setting up posts and shooting afghanis and “hunt al qaeda”… no. It won’t change a thing.
    The Soviet has 80-100K troops stationed in afghanistan in the 80’s-90’s and they were far more brutal with far more complex anti guerilla tactic. Teey didn’t mind flattening village after village.
    If I have to device a strategy against al qaeda in general.
    neutralize, stop the young generation from joining them, economic growth, new court system, new education system …
    and let the previous afghan soviet guerillas die from old age!… (most of them are in the late 40’s to mid 50’s) another decade they’ll be senile. (The war in afghanistan is already 8yrs long, btw. another 10 yrs of quiet control won’t harm a thing)
    Give the afghan something to do instead of reason to shoot at us.
    It’s not that hard. far cheaper to.
    Dropping $50,000 worth of bomb into a village doesn’t do a thing except killing few people and turning the entire village against us.
    Build a large building in a village (let them get busy building something) If they want to blow up that building later. fine… so what. (reduction of bomb pile) the new building cost almost nothing compared to areal bombing operation.
    Just keep ’em busy doing something for next 10 yrs. Break the guerilla war tradition. The afghanis has very deep guerilla war experience. 30-40yrs of it.

  27. Patrick Lang says:

    This was a small unit from the 4th BCT of the 101st. How small I don’t know as yet. Platoon sounds about right.
    This position was sited on low ground with people living above them on three sides and within mortar range of the Pakistan border?
    It sounds like an overly ambitious attempt to do too much with too little.
    COIN is good, but COIN has too be done while remembering that the troops doing COIN have to be kept alive.
    The population that is the target of COIN operations should not be “trusted” in a naive way. That is an old, old lesson.
    See Balangiga, Samar Island in the Phillipine Insurrection. There a company of the 9th US Infantry Regiment was very nearly finished off by excessive trust. The ensuing retaliation was frightful. pl

  28. John Howley says:

    “It sounds like an overly ambitious attempt to do too much with too little.”
    If I were Obama, then before recommending any troop increase for Afghanistan I would want to be fully briefed on the logistical challenges of supplying US forces there (beans, barrels and bullets).
    By what routes do US and NATO supplies get there… ports, roads, rails and air?

  29. Dan Bradburd says:

    Re jonst’s query. Time to re-read Kipling’s ‘Arithmetic on the Frontier.’
    Regardung the region: Again, I recommend Schuler Jones’ “Men of Influence in Nuristan” for a good description of the region and its people, pre-Taliban.

  30. Fred says:

    Col, seems if you are building a post you wouldn’t want one surrounded on 3 sides by higher ground, unless you are expecting to draw the enemy to you.
    Strategically who has allegiance to whom? How much is the Karzai government actually reflective of Afghan society/loyalties in these regions?
    Mad Dog, I certainly agree with your disclaimer on the news reports.

  31. Mad Dogs says:

    And in addition to Dan Bradburd’s recommendation wrt to Nuristan, one might want to read a bit here at the Ghosts of Alexander blog:

    Why Nuristan Matters
    …Religion is, to grossly understate it, a very important factor in the recent history of Nuristan. Originally home to a host of deities, the Muslim invasion marked the end of the polytheistic beliefs. The Muslim army destroyed the temples, shrines, effigies and numerous ancestor figures while mullahs were imported to “re-educate” the population. They did face difficulties in destroying the traditional belief system but eventually triumphed over the local beliefs. The region, previously referred to by outsiders as Kafiristan (Land of the Infidels) was renamed Nuristan (Land of Light/Enlightenment). But this was not the final conversion, there came another wave of “conversion.” Antonio Giustozzi notes that Nuristan was “colonized” by Salafis by the 1990s. Klimburg refers to this influence as Wahhabi (loosely, a Saudi brand of Salafism):

    “Islam is on the rise also in Nuristan, where one finds nowadays an ever increasing number of haji, for the most part unemployed, and mullahs educated in different madrassas in Pakistan. The northern valleys even have gone through a period of ‘re-Islamisation’, as they were converted to Wahhabism. Wahhabi and other religious village schools provide some education, and several of the local mullahs now pride themselves on having completed higher religious studies in Saudi Arabia. In most parts of present-day Nuristan, music and dance, once greatly cherished and widely performed, have virtually disappeared, the victims of Sunni or Wahhabi fundamentalism.”

    There is much, much more at the Ghosts of Alexander blog for those inclined to gain some real knowledge about Afghanistan.

  32. Mad Dogs says:

    John Howley asked: “By what routes do US and NATO supplies get there… ports, roads, rails and air?”
    A lot of stuff comes into Afghanistan via the Pakistan road network.
    If I remember correctly, it was only a couple of months ago that a large fuel convoy destined for US/NATO forces was attacked and destroyed in Pakistan’s FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas).
    Ah yes, a bit of Googling and look what you can find. *g*
    For all the gory details and an analysis of just what that portends for US/NATO forces in Afghanistan, you might read this online Newsweek article – An Assault On Supplies:

    The Taliban may have discovered a worrisome new target: the main supply conduit for food, fuel and military equipment to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. While Pakistan rethinks its support for the war against Al Qaeda’s allies in the region, the militants are focusing their raids on the highway that winds through the strategic Khyber Pass—and Taliban sources say they’re getting ready to squeeze even harder. The most spectacular strike so far was on the night of March 23, when saboteurs blew up a convoy of some 40 loaded fuel tankers at a Pakistani border post…

  33. Post script for SOS! Yes Slam Marshall and yes hope many of today’s soldiers have read Hackworth’s “About Face.” Col. Hackworth as I understand it developed the best in-country (RVN) training program to help CONUS trained troops survive a tour in RVN. But remember, this is a “Professional” force against what I deem a “Professional” force, namely a society where each 10 year old male already possesses both knife and gun and can use them with great efficiency. And by the way Afghanistan is huge, much larger than Iraq. No census ever conducted so population in reality unknown. Body counts won’t work as a metric for success. So what is our metric(s) for success in Afghanistan? Regime change did not work here evidently.

  34. Andy says:

    I’ve been traveling the last few days, but based on what I’ve read and my own Afghanistan experience, I offer the following commentary/analysis:
    1. While b’s (from the moon over alabama blog) theory of revenge for the wedding bombing cannot be discounted, I think it’s highly unlikely. Although the spin ghar mountains where the wedding attack took place appears to be relatively close to Wanat and the Waigal valley when looking at a map, they are actually quite distant by the standards of this region. Additionally, this area of Afghanistan is a tribal mishmash and I know of no strong tribal or cultural links between the two areas.
    2. The Taliban and other opposition groups in Afghanistan have publicly aspired to overrun a coalition outpost for a few years now and this is the closest they’ve come. The Taliban tried in the south last summer and even claimed they would retake Kandahar, but were destroyed by coalition airpower whenever they tried to mass and died in the thousands. In Kunar, particularly the Korengal Valley, they tried as well in operations that sound similar to this, but ultimately did not succeed. You can read about how the 101st set up a similar COP in Korengal and the difficulties of defending it while the defenses are constructed here:

    One day in July, Captain Daniel Kearney, the 27-year-old commanding officer of Battle Company, counted 13 firefights in a 24-hour period. A lot of the contact was coming from Table Rock, so Kearney decided to end that problem by putting a position on top of it. Elements of the Second and Third Platoons and several dozen local workers moved up the ridge after dark and hacked furiously at the shelf rock all night long so that they would have some minimal cover when dawn broke.
    Sure enough, daylight brought bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire that sent the men diving into the shallow trenches they had just dug. They fought until the shooting stopped and then they got back up and continued to work. There was no loose dirt up there to fill the sandbags, so they broke up the rock with pickaxes and then shoveled pieces into the bags, which they piled up to form crude bunkers. Someone pointed out that they were actually “rock bags,” not sandbags, and so “rock bags” became a platoon joke that helped them get through the next several weeks. They worked in 100-degree heat in full body armor and took their breaks during firefights, when they got to lie down and return fire. Sometimes they were so badly pinned down that they just lay there and threw rocks over their heads into the hescos.
    But rock bag by rock bag, hesco by hesco, the outpost got built. By the end of August the men had moved roughly 10 tons of dirt and rock by hand. They named the outpost Restrepo, after the medic who was killed, and succeeded in taking the pressure off Phoenix mainly by redirecting it onto themselves.

    Given that the outpost in this latest attack was only 3 days old, defensive structures were likely minimal which made the soldiers there more vulnerable.
    4. The report that indirect fire came from Pakistan is almost certainly untrue since the border is, at its closest point, about 24 miles away from where this battle took place. I’m sure the enemy force had some kind of indirect fire support, but it did not come from Pakistan.
    5. I looked up the weather for the nearest weather reporting station (Jalalabad) when the attack took place (about 0300 local time) and it seems likely that it was cloudy and possibly rainy at the time. This is important because such weather with low visibility adversely affects both fixed and rotary wing operations. This is particularly true for this area of Afghanistan with high mountains and deep narrow valleys and the variations in weather such geography produces. I will speculate here that weather probably played a major role by hindering the supporting coalition aircraft. To me, weather is the most likely explanation for how a force of 100-200 could mass and conduct this attack. Air-delivered fires have become the primary method of fire support in both Iraq and Afghanistan for a variety of reasons I won’t belabor here. Airborne ISR has also become a very important component of US/coalition operations (primarily through electro-optical and IR senors), which are highly dependent on weather.
    6. It’s quite unlikely this group of attackers were “Taliban” in the sense that most people think – a primarily Gilzhai Pashtun movement lead by Mullah Omar and his jirga. For more on the complexities of this particular area of Afghanistan, see this excellent post over at Ghosts of Alexander. (The bibliography for that post is excellent). Most of the fighters in this area are a combination of locals (Nuristanis mainly), foreign fighters, HiG and Taliban, which is a contrast with the anti-coalition forces in the south. The media and prominent pundits like Juan Cole often miss-portray the opposing forces in Afghanistan as more united, more homogeneous and nationalistic than they actually are. The situation in Konar and Nuristan cannot be simplistically extrapolated to the entire country, as the media and Juan Cole’s of the internet are wont to do, anymore than one can do so in Iraq.
    7. Finally, Col. Lang makes an excellent point regarding the siting of this outpost. Since I have not seen the terrain personally, I can only speculate. For example, here is a picture from 1976 of an unnamed village in the Waigal Valley. It may be that Watan village occupied the only nearby high, flat terrain leaving little choice for outpost placement. What’s clear, though, is that Watan carries importance since it’s located at the confluence of two major major drainages, one of which runs east toward Pakistan, and therefore probably lies along a major infiltration and supply route. This outpost, which lies along along the eastern tributary of the Pech river, is further north than any I’ve seen and may indicate that infiltration routes from Pakistan have moved north of the main Pech river valley after several years of coalition interdiction efforts in the mountains and valleys south of the Pech.
    8. Finally (really this time), John Howley asks about logistics. Currently, most stuff comes through Pakistan, primarily from the south through Baluchistan, though the US has recently been trying to make the old Soviet supply route from the North available as well. In Konar and Nuristan, logistics are a huge problem because the road network is so poor and the terrain is so formidable. The main road in the Pech river valley is only partially paved (and only at the lower end) and is frequently washed out from flooding. Several Americans over the years have actually died in this river – either from being washed away or the “road” giving way and dumping their armored (and very heavy Humvee) into it. Roads up the tributaries are even worse, especially with enemy ambushes. There’s no flat terrain for an airfield, so pretty much everything comes in on those roads or is flown in by helicopter (which we don’t have enough of). Supplying a large force dispersed among various firebases and outposts is therefore a significant challenge. I’m not a logistician myself, so I don’t know how many more troops we could sustain in Afghanistan in general and in Konar in particular.

  35. Eliot says:

    More trigger pullers will help to an extent but the security problems are far more complex than just manpower shortages.
    The Afghan goverment is unable to effectively control its territory.
    The Afghan goverment is corrupt.
    Aid pledges have come up short and too often go to multinationals who don’t spend the money in country. Effectively its wasted or at least highly inefficient aid.
    Pakistan is unwilling and perhaps unable to assert its sovereignty over the border region. It also continues to work through proxies to destablize the Afghan goverment.

  36. Walrus says:

    Col. Lang, Dan Bradburd mentioned “Arithmetic on the Frontier” by Kipling.
    I haven’t read it for a long time, but I think it sums up the situation perfectly and is worth it’s own post.
    Arithmetic on the Frontier
    A great and glorious thing it is
    To learn, for seven years or so,
    The Lord knows what of that and this,
    Ere reckoned fit to face the foe —
    The flying bullet down the Pass,
    That whistles clear: “All flesh is grass.”
    Three hundred pounds per annum spent
    On making brain and body meeter
    For all the murderous intent
    Comprised in “villanous saltpetre!”
    And after — ask the Yusufzaies
    What comes of all our ‘ologies.
    A scrimmage in a Border Station —
    A canter down some dark defile —
    Two thousand pounds of education
    Drops to a ten-rupee jezail —
    The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
    Shot like a rabbit in a ride!
    No proposition Euclid wrote,
    No formulae the text-books know,
    Will turn the bullet from your coat,
    Or ward the tulwar’s downward blow
    Strike hard who cares — shoot straight who can —
    The odds are on the cheaper man.
    One sword-knot stolen from the camp
    Will pay for all the school expenses
    Of any Kurrum Valley scamp
    Who knows no word of moods and tenses,
    But, being blessed with perfect sight,
    Picks off our messmates left and right.
    With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem,
    The troopships bring us one by one,
    At vast expense of time and steam,
    To slay Afridis where they run.
    The “captives of our bow and spear”
    Are cheap, alas! as we are dear.

  37. Kelvin says:

    Why even drag Obama into all this? Too put the necessary number of troops into Afghanistan, the troops have to come from Iraq. Only in McCains fantasy world can we increase troop levels in Afghanistan while maintaining the current force posture in Iraq. How does that work? Whether you want to admit it or not, Iraq has distracted from the already dangerous mission in Afghanistan. I think this recent event has forced the Afghan mission back to the front burner.

  38. Spider Rider says:

    There appear to be plenty of narcissists in Washington and in the American General Public that believe that nothing can stop the “American Fighting Man”.
    Walrus, I think the American general public sees the incompetent narcissists, and quite well.
    How do we get rid of them, replace the obtuse, clearly incompetent relics, and replace them, with true talent, that which can do the job?
    As an aside, as much as we rightfully disparage the brass and the politicians, I have faith, our military producing some of the bravest and most brilliant ever seen, the very definition of American, and that includes much liberal, intellectual and diplomatic foresight.
    And from a military, any military, ever, that is simply astounding.
    It may take awhile, but I have faith.
    Let’s get rid of the corrupt business people setting policy, Pentagon and American, first.

  39. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Col, seems if you are building a post you wouldn’t want one surrounded on 3 sides by higher ground, unless you are expecting to draw the enemy to you.
    Interesting you should bring this up:
    One very interesting idea that emerged from several commanders is the idea to identify key terrain—both in terms of geography and enemy/human geography—and establish a presence there. Several company commanders have mentioned that when you begin separating the enemy from the population through sustained presence and engagement with the people, then the enemy “comes to you.” i.e., they are pressured to attack you. For 3-71 CAV, this scenario occurred at Kamdesh, where they established a company outpost in the enemy’s back yard. When it was clear that they were there to stay and they began to develop positive momentum with the local people, the enemy attacked their outpost, “impaling themselves on our established defensive positions.”
    From Afghanistan Commander AAR Book (March 07) published by USMA and 3rd Brigade, 10th Mtn Division.
    No public link.

  40. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes. If you are doing COIN and are close to the people either physically or socially, the enemy will come to you. They must.
    You should know that and be prepared to reinforce your outlying and vulnerable positions. pl

  41. CSI says:

    These guys were only lightly armed, with no heavy artillery or air support. Yet they attacked an entrenched enemy with access to lots of air support. Whatever their motives, these are really brave men.

  42. FDChief says:

    My guess is that one or more of the commanders in this firebase/FOB/whatever-the-hell-we’re-calling-them-now made some bad calls. An alert, well-led, dug-in infantry company should be able to integrate organic and supporting fires to at least suppress a 3:1/4:1 attacking force without indirect fores of its own provided that the defenders ARE, in fact, alert and well-led. The fact that the muj managed to get into at least part of the defensive perimeter suggests to me that there were some problems with interlocking the fields or fire, covering dead ground and/or preplotting FPFs.
    My old company commander would have had apoplexy to hear that this Fort Zinderneuf was being a) dominated by key terrain and b) built first before the defenders had established a fully-dug-in 360 defensive position.
    This isn’t freaking rocket science.
    OTOH – this says nothing about the bigger geopolitical picture in the ‘Stan. An outpost gets hammered – does this mean we should reinforce the nation building effort? Withdraw the occupying troops? Build a big fire and dance around it singing Christmas carols?
    It means an outpost got hammered. Probably, as noted, because the local commander made some mistakes. That’s all.

  43. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Build a big fire and dance around it singing Christmas carols?
    I love Christmas in July!

  44. fnord says:

    Re sending 10k: It will of course help, especially in o-tempo possibility and morale. It will give much greater operational capacity for the fieldfolks, and secure a lot of positions. I am more concerned about the impact on the soldiers w. the transition.
    Re battleanalysis, two points:
    1)It may well be that the bombing of the local wedding and the killing of many young women caused an increased severity in the attack. This indicates a tier of old mujahedin, survivors, who remain neutral often. Passive members of the quwam (spelled right?), the patronage network of the area. This indicates that maybe there is still stiffer resistance to come, with better organization and competent folks fighting back.
    2) The unit hit was the stars of two news-stories, and were due to rotate out in two weeks. This indicates that opsec is important. But I wonder why they were stretched so thin *as construction was going on*. I would have thought it would have been high-tech doublemanned during the transitionstage and immediately afterwards. Why the rotty perimeterguards? Surely, we have sensors and robotics for the outer outposts?

  45. hotrod says:

    “The simple answer to what happened is that the Taliban are much better infantry soldiers than we are, and no European is going to beat them.” – Walrus
    “But make no mistake about it–this position was overrun. And that means they will be making drastic changes and soon. If not, relieve every commander in Afghanistan” – Warren Street
    “The way it sounds to me at this very early stage of information, is that some fools back higher up (Majors and/or Colonels), basically sent the platoon out butt-naked to “camp” out by themselves in Indian country.” – Mad Dogs
    I’m not going to make light of what happened – in addition to the US and ANA loss of life, there is some tactical evolution being displayed on the part of the enemy (there always is, but this is more interesting\troubling than some). One of the interesting points includes their (apparent) evacuation of the locals – historically they’ve often left them in place and treated the resulting casualties as a psyops win, though I don’t know how this has broken down by region. But large scale attacks are not new there (disclaimer – I haven’t been there). This is just the first one to, despite its ultimate failure, to inflict significant US casualties.
    Walrus, I’m not going to go apoplectic off of your comment, but simply inserting the disclaimer doesn’t mean your statement should be exempt from criticism. OVERALL, your statement re “much better infantry soldiers” is, at best, overwrought. That doesn’t mean that guys in robes and sandals with dirty AKs can’t be superb infantry, despite looking nothing like the Coldstream Guards or Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, a point I suspect the COL could confirm. But generally speaking, what we typically call the Taliban (a term we often use too loosely – they’re a couple of different movements amongst a crazy quilt of tribes\sub-tribes and nationalities), has performed in a mediocre fashion against Brits\Dutch\Americans\Canadians and others in direct fire combat, which is the essence of the infantry. There have been some very notable exceptions to this, this attack being one of them, and they have certainly displayed an ability to learn and adapt – so, unfortunately, they’re getting better. But they’re not the Supermen of the Hindu Kush. “(N)o European is going to beat them” – you said that not in regards to the overall challenge of Afghanistan (which is very, very tough), but in regards to Taliban against NATO infantry. Seriously, man – did you really think before you typed?
    We don’t know exactly what happened here. There won’t be a detailed After Action Review (AAR) for a little bit, and even then it’ll probably leak out in dribs and drabs. But there may well have been errors – they do happen in war, you know, and people often get killed. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that your field grade officers are incompetent murderers, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that your basic concept of operation\commanders intent\plan\tactics are wrong. You examine, with brutal self-honesty, what went wrong, then figure out what, if anything to change. A failure to at least consider the possibility that you did everything right and just got burned would suggest a lack of tactical patience.
    Mistakes may well have been made. I can’t speak to the terrain. The post was new, which suggests the unit was early in its “priorities of work”. Ideally, another unit would have performed a “screen” or a “defense” while the inserting unit got settled. That may not have been possible, or it maybe the commander just decided not to do that – we don’t know. Maybe what was apparently an Observation Post (OP) of some sort (though a squad is very large for an OP) was positioned poorly – we don’t know. It also may be that this unit, like some that have struggled with COIN, took to thinking of “hearts and minds” as “warm and fuzzy” and didn’t adequately prepare for the combat piece. That seems profoundly unlikely given the situation, and given the fact that the US\ANA ultimately successfully held, but it’s possible – we don’t know. What I do know is that a bunch of people are going to want to impose a risk averse attitude on the Army, an already risk averse institution. Which leads me to Street and Mad Dogs.
    Mr. Street, “overrun” isn’t, as far as I know, a doctrinal term, which suggests you meant that the Taliban “seized” or “cleared” the American combat outpost (COP). That isn’t true, as was widely known and published at the time of your comment, and writing it multiple times won’t make it any more true. The simplest evidence we have of this is this – not everyone died. We would have been finding executed Soldiers or, probably worse – no bodies. Perhaps you were too busy figuring out how Senator McCain blew up the Forrestal from the grassy knoll to be bothered to check on the facts – I don’t know (comment from another blog). But the risk averse attitude you seem to be calling for is appalling, and, I firmly believe, ultimately likely to get more people killed.
    Mad Dogs – we pay our commanders to assess tactical risk and make decisions. OEF presents some awful dilemmas. Maybe they got this one wrong, or maybe we were unlucky – we don’t know. I do know sharpshooting (not assessing, but sharpshooting) commanders from what I assume is CONUS is unlikely to be productive. I know as a Soldier and junior officer in train up for my first deployment it’s not what I want.

  46. Mad Dogs says:

    Hotrod, as a junior officer in training, you have my sincerest best wishes!
    As for “sharpshooting” from CONUS or anywhere else, take some free advice from a veteran who’s “been there, done that”:
    It is your duty to obey the lawful orders of your superiors, however that in no way frees you of your duty of making full use of your intellect and common sense. That is not optional, but instead, a mandatory requirement.
    As I stated in my commentary, junior officers are typically in charge of platoon-sized units, and they have almost no input on the design of any particular mission. That is for higher-ups.
    Early reporting can be, and often is, inaccurate.
    It is my opinion based on that “early reporting”, that the mission itself had some serious flaws. We’ll see if the AARs agree or not.
    In addition, again based on that “early reporting”, it doesn’t seem that higher headquarters had sufficient support resources ready and waiting. In particular, artillery, but also CAS aviation assets, and surveillance assets.
    In regard to the surveillance assets, how is it that an opposition force of several hundred folks could advance under cover of darkness to the point that they did? Where were the night-vision capabilities of the of the individual US soldiers, much less the vaunted Infrared reconnaisance of Predators and other UAVs?
    With regard to the artillery, how is it that the folks in IEF have been left screaming and pulling their hair out (hard to do with a military haircut, I know *g*) for heavy artillery since the very day we first went into Afghanistan almost 7 years ago?
    And in support of that question, do read, if you haven’t already, Sean Naylor’s book “Not a good day to die : the untold story of Operation Anaconda”.
    The book makes abundantly clear from direct quotes of command-level participants that heavy artillery was not going to be allowed into Afghanistan under the specific and direct orders of General Tommy Franks. And it was asked for over and over and over again.
    I’m willing to bet you, based on what I’ve been able to gather, that policy is still in place.
    My point with respect to artillery, is that the fire support/suppression mission that should have been available and already zeroed in, does not seem to have taken place.
    Yes, the reports mention some usage of artillery (mortars?), but one could have expected the use of heavy artillery to be of such an overwhelming intensity and duration that the opposition forces would themselves have been destroyed instead of being in a position to “over-run” or nearly so, the OP and/or the FOB. Instead, based on that “early reporting”, the engagement went on for multiple hours.
    As to CAS aviation assets, make no doubt about it. You can hear and read it from the very lips of the current and former commanders in IEF, there ain’t never been enough. And that too has been the case from day one almost 7 years ago.
    Again, Sean Naylor’s book “Not a good day to die : the untold story of Operation Anaconda” goes into much detail directly quoted from on-scene command participants.
    Helo assets in particular, have been in short supply in Afghanistan for the entire 7 years.
    In the end, I’m not trying so much to convince you that my reading of the situation is “right”, but that based on that “early reporting”, we didn’t have a very good day.
    In any event, all opinion here is mine. You, of course, are certainly entitled to hold and provide a different opinion. I take no umbrage from such, and I hope you take none from mine.

  47. Walrus says:

    Hotrod, I stand by what I said. The Taliban are better soldiers than we are. Please read your history books. What is keeping us “afloat” in Afghanistan is our technological advantage, nothing else.
    I’ve been to Pakistan, albeit for only a few days and I can tell you that these people are lean, mean fighting machines. They have been bred that way over a hundred generations as numerous invaders sought to control the area.
    They instinctively understand infantry tactics in their region and the art of deception, just watch they way they move in any video you can.
    In our case, it is a major effort to instill the required physical toughness to survive in this environment and in any case we require infinitely more logistical support than the Taliban.
    We are simply not tough enough, and I don’t mean the fake, plastic, “Rambo” type BS toughness with bulging muscles that is occasionally worshipped by idiots, I mean the mental and physical toughness necessary to endure great and real discomfort (not just being deprived of McDonald’s or a clean pair of socks), great danger and almost certain death, and still be able to concentrate totally on waiting for your enemy to leave you an opening.
    I suggest that the appalling number of PTSD casualties is indicative of this lack of mental toughness, or perhaps the lack of any moral imperative for what we are doing.
    We may succeed in Afghanistan through our technological edge. If we lose that, we are in real trouble.
    In the end, the British basically bought off the tribal leaders along the North West frontier and gave many of their able bodied followers well paid jobs in local militia – type units commanded by the British.
    I suggest that there is a lot to commend this strategy.

  48. hotrod says:

    Hey Mad Dogs,
    I take no umbrage at your postings. You certainly sound like a professional. I was a bit worked over some other things Mr. Street had written (on another blog), combined with his posting here, and it became one mass of annoyance – so perhaps I sounded a bit defensive.
    I fully agree that leaders have the professional and moral obligation to utilize every legal\ethical\moral tool in their kit, to push back against stupidity, and to generally act like professionals. I think I’ve done that – as best I’m able (and though quite junior, I’m well past the platoon leader stage).
    We still need to have our commanders’ backs. If they consistently make really poor decisions, well, we can always relieve them later. I do understand what you’re saying though.
    Regarding integration of fires – I’m in the middle of the Naylor book, though it’ll be a while before I finish (I typically read several simultaneously which, though enlightening, is time consuming). I understand the point of arty back during the first days of OEF, and share your concern about the excessive optimism of various communities of air power’s ability to replace it.
    I’m unwilling to go into too much detail on a public site, but suffice to say – I think you’re understanding of fires in OEF may be a bit dated. Reference the 3BDE/10th Mountain AAR and IIR from late 07 if you can get a copy (two different documents). I’m tapdancing a little bit, but though the overall changes are open source, a lot of the details aren’t.
    As to why we struggled in this situation, I can think of a bunch of potential problems. Perhaps we took unwise risks – be a while before we know. I would note that we were apparently setup within direct fire range of the village (reported in, I believe, the NY Times). That’s not as crazy as it sounds, for various reasons – but certain constraints do flow from that, which I won’t elaborate in public, but you can probably think through. Perhaps, given the AO, we should have done more to mitigate the risks. Or maybe we picked the best option. We’ll figure it out as time goes by.
    v/r hotrod

  49. Mad Dogs says:

    Pat wrote: “This was a small unit from the 4th BCT of the 101st.”
    Another example of “early reporting”? Various news outlets such as here, here and here are now reporting:

    “The nine soldiers killed Sunday were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy.

    And also per CNN, we are “officially” abandoning the “outpost” for now:

    NATO forces abandon Afghan outpost
    NATO-led forces have abandoned an outpost in eastern Afghanistan where nine U.S. soldiers were killed and 15 more injured repelling a fierce assault by Taliban militants last week…
    …”The citizens in Wanat and northern Kunar province can be assured that ISAF and ANSF are going to continue with a strong presence in the area,'” said spokesman Capt. Mike Finney said.
    “We are committed, now more than ever, to establishing a secure environment that will allow even greater opportunities for development and a stronger Afghan governmental influence.”
    A source with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed that the outpost is abandoned and no troops are there. However, patrols are being deployed in the area, the source said.

    As always with the MSM, caveat emptor!

  50. Mad Dogs says:

    Based on a news report I just watched on CBS, one of the soldiers who died in this attack, was a 1st Lieutenant.
    Given the relatively small size of the US force (45 soldiers),the likelihood this was a platoon, and that platoons are typically commanded by junior officers like 1st Lieutenants, I wonder if this individual was in fact the platoon CO, and if his death made a tough situation into a dire one by loss of command leadership?
    From the DoD News Release, the list of US dead are:
    1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24, of Hawaii.
    Sgt. Israel Garcia, 24, of Long Beach, Calif.
    Cpl. Jonathan R. Ayers, 24, of Snellville, Ga.
    Cpl. Jason M. Bogar, 25, of Seattle, Wash.
    Cpl. Jason D. Hovater, 24, of Clinton, Tenn.
    Cpl. Matthew B. Phillips, 27, of Jasper, Ga.
    Cpl. Pruitt A. Rainey, 22, of Haw River, N.C.
    Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20, of Florissant, Mo.
    Pfc. Sergio S. Abad, 21, of Morganfield, Ky
    My sincerest condolences to their families, friends and loved ones!

  51. Buff52 says:

    I do not like this situation of having an enemy attack our people from across an international border like in Vietnam. I have always felt that the Ho-Chi-Minh Trail in Laos and Ban-Carai Pass should be been occupied by the U.S., Mong, and Royal Lao troops to shut them down. I suppose McNamara was worried about a Chinese or Russian nuclear attack or something.
    Today, we have Taliban etc. operating in North-West Pakistan unhindere by the central Pakistan government.
    We need to officially or unoffially go into North-West Pakistan and “clean out” these hostile elements who are attacking our people. This includes the “Maddrassah” schools that teaching “Jihadist Terrorism.”
    Let’s not repeat the Vietnam style “safe havens.”

  52. condfusedponderer says:

    what gives you the impression that the US actually can do what you think it should do?

  53. PitchPole says:

    Apologies for posting late to the thread, but what I’ve often wondered about are the lack of manpads in the hands of our adversaries. Imagine this attack – or any number of others in the occupied countries – if the use of close air support was compromised. Attacks aside, if any helicopter ride could wind up facing viable threats from anti-aircraft fire, our operations would become extremely difficult in a hurry. From all I’ve read, the Stingers we supplied were one of the decisive factors against the Soviets. I assume manpads are difficult to get but no where on the order of difficulty of more exotic weapons of mass destruction. So why don’t we see more of them out there? What is preventing them from flooding into Iraq or Afghanistan and driving casualties through the roof? I could see regional players around Iraq holding them back from their surrogates to make sure we aren’t bloodied so badly we leave or lash out, but what about Afghanistan? I’m assuming this would change if we tried anything foolish with Iran.

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