is that pretty soon folks get to paying more attention
to the organization than to what they're organized for
--Little Home on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder
You pop caught you smoking - and he said, "No way!"
That hypocrite - smokes two packs a day
Man, living at home is such a drag
Now your mom threw away your best porno mag (Bust it!)
--Fight for Your Right to Party,
The Beastie Boys
Wherever there is injustice, you will find us.
Wherever there is suffering, we'll be there.
Wherever liberty is threatened, you will find...
The Three Amigos!
--The Three Amigos (1986)
In warfare, defending the indefensible is sometimes required, and these actions serve a military function.
Such were the losing World War II Battles of Corregidor, Wake Island, fought in order to buy time for taxed U.S. forces to evacuate, consolidate and fall back to defensible terrain; concomitantly, they served to attrit the Japanese forces.
However, the fights at Wanat, Waygul and now Kamdesh in the phony war on terror did not gain the military (or the nation) anything. After the fight at Kamdesh, Combat Outpost Keating was so rapidly evacuated that U.S. troops abandoned their ammunition (which the Afghan opposition forces later plundered.)
Intelligence failed at Battalion, Brigade, Division and echelons above corps. None appeared to have done predictive analysis of an impending attack, nor did they identify the threat or threat level. The unit can sometimes overcome this failure by vigorous patrolling, which is what you would expect from Cavalry troops, which are supposed to be offensive types geared to mobile rapid developing operations. The failure at COP Keating may be due in part to the fact that they were being used as static defense -- not their preferred mode of employment.
The day after the fight, NATO and U.S. command could not even identify the attackers of COP Keating, and the strength of enemy forces was variously reported as 300-500 men. The attackers were not a ghost army, yet details on this award-earning scenario are scant. Some reports suggest 100 enemy fighters were killed, but this strains credulity, even at the higher estimates of engaged forces. According to military experience, 100 KIA suggests 300-400 wounded enemy fighters, and there is no proof of this.
Reports suggest the HIG were the most likely attackers; the HIG were U.S. CIA-funded in the Russian War, suggesting the possibility that weapons bought with U.S. tax dollars in 1979 were used 30 some years later to kill U.S. Troopers. The HIG were largley Pashtun and hated the Tajiks and Hazara tribes which make up most of today's Afghan National Army (ANA).
The portions of the outpost perimeter that were quickly probed and penetrated were defended by the ANA. After six years of U.S. training they were unable to share the burden of defending Afghan terrain for an Afghan government and force structure, and for this failure U.S. soldiers died.
It sounds noble when SSG Romesha is quoted as saying, "It was our home, and they couldn't have it," but ultimately, we left and they did have it. FM-24 does not state this, but none of our Counterinsurgency wars (COIN) are "our country" -- that is not what COIN policy is about. We are fighting for their rights to party; that may not be the way we party, though, but that is the gig.
COIN is not about defending liberty, democracy or any other high-falutin' concept. The United States soldier kills and is killed for no apparent logical purpose, other than the right of the host nations to carry on in their accustomed manner, a manner not necessarily U.S.-friendly.
The people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam are the determining agents of change (or not) in their countries -- this is "self-determination". When 300-500 armed hostiles can badly handle 52 American Soldiers, it is evident that the situation in Nuristan Province, October '09, was beyond the control of U.S. forces.
Simply: What were U.S. troops expected to accomplish by sitting in an indefensible COP? Does anyone in Nuristan Province care that U.S. troops died for a faulty concept in a tactically faulty position? Does anyone in the U.S. care?