Theirs is not to make reply
Theirs is not to reason why,
Theirs is but to do or die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred
--Charge of the Light Brigade,
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Once more into the breach dear friends,
--King Henry V, Shakespeare
That chilly morning, Walton's mind was on his team's mission: to capture or kill several members of the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) militant group in their stronghold, a village perched in Nuristan's Shok Valley that was accessible only by pack mule and so remote that Walton said he believed that no U.S. troops, or Soviet ones before them, had ever been there.
The first thought is, “Why assault?” Why not just buy them off like we have the Sunnis of Iraq? It is cheaper in the long-run.
Another thought: why not ambush the limited ingress and egress and kill the baddies as they come and go? This would be cost effective and within the capabilities of an augmented Operational Detachment A (ODA). Here is an Air Force wet dream: why not Arclite the objective at H -15 minutes? Then the SF mission could be changed to a Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) and Big Souvenier Hunt.
But as the soldiers, each carrying 60 to 80 pounds of gear, scaled the mountain, they could already spot insurgents running to and fro, they said. As the soldiers drew closer, they saw that many of the mud buildings had holes in the foot-thick walls for snipers. The U.S. troops had maintained an element of surprise until their helicopters turned into the valley, but by now the insurgent leaders entrenched above knew they were the targets, and had alerted their fighters to rally.
This is an all-too obvious point. The element of surprise is lost when the sound of approaching assault aircraft is beating the air into submission. It is an Infantry maxim that troops drop all heavy equipment before crossing the line of departure. One does not assault anything with 80 pounds on one's back; one struggles instead of shooting and scooting.
This action did not have a defended line of departure. Further, the assaulting troops lacked a clearly defined objective rally point should they have to run for their lives, which is exactly what they had to do. Did any of these considerations enter into the planning? If so, it wasn't evident in the execution.
"All elements were pinned down from extremely heavy fire from the get-go," Walton said. "It was a coordinated attack." The insurgent Afghan fighters knew there was only one route up the valley and "were able to wait until we were in the most vulnerable position to initiate the ambush," said Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, the team weapons sergeant.
Walton is an 03, SOF-type and he is saying the insurgents coordinated an attack. In fact, the insurgents were defending a prepared position and the SF types were attacking, obviously not in a coordinated manner. Why do so many of these SOF actions follow the same inadequate scenario?
Is it arrogance on the part of the planners? Why do teams launch into such hopeless situations? Is there not photo intel and recon available for planning purposes? Obviously, HUMINT is lacking. It is hard to imagine that the team assaulting a position would be unaware of firing ports in the defensive belt until fired upon.
Air Force jets had begun dropping dozens of munitions on enemy positions precariously close to the Green Berets, including 2,000-pound bombs that fell within 350 yards.
Imagine, if you will, 2,000-pounders landing within 300 yards of friendlies. This is a formula for traumatic brain injury. This type of explosion would rattle one’s brain housing group with ease. This is definitely not the minimum safe distance for using these bombs. This was an act of desperation.
If we went that way, we would have all died," said Howard, who was hiding behind 12-inch-high rocks with bullets bouncing off about every 10 seconds. Insurgents again nearly overran the U.S. position, firing down from 25 yards away -- so near that the Americans said they could hear their voices. Another 2,000-pound bomb dropped "danger close," Howard said, allowing the soldiers to get away.
The team is employing 2,000 pound bombs and they lack grenades to deal with enemy within 25 yards. Too much tech and not enough simple grunt intelligence being employed here. Since they were in such close quarters, where was the most basic Infantry weapon -- the grenade?
By the time the battle ended, the Green Berets and the commandos had suffered 15 wounded and two killed, both Afghans, while an estimated 150 to 200 insurgents were dead, according to an official Army account of the battle. The Special Forces soldiers had nearly run out of ammunition, with each having one to two magazines left, Ford said.
How did this team possibly estimate the insurgent losses? At best, this is guesswork and based in guesstimation. With that figure dead, the bad guys should have had at least 600 wounded. It is Ranger's rule that estimated dead don't fill up a coffin.
Ranger doubts these figures, but it sure sounds good in a press release. Every time these actions hit the papers and the service organization magazines they are played up as great examples of heroism, and of course the soldiers on the ground gallantly faced the fire. But for what benefit?
These battles are meaningless slug fests that will not insure Afghanistan a democratic future, nor will they contribute one iota of additional security to the American Homeland. The solution? What else -- another surge, violating the basic rule learned in OBC: Never Reinforce Failure. Which, of course, is the basic play in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©.)
All the king's horses and all the Silver Stars in the world will not translate into strategic success in the current quagmires.
The change we voted for will never play out on the battlefield.
Labels: part two of silver star action, phony war on terror, PWOT