Friday, July 01, 2005

Meanwhile, Back at the Other Insurgency...

It's another convoluted tale from the Pentagon spin machine, one that they're hiding under the cover of Iraq, Sandra Day O'connor, Tom and Katie and Brooke, and the rest of the white noise.

You can read the mainstream media versions of the latest bad news from Afghanistan here, here, and here.

Here's the bottom line. An "elite group" of US forces got trapped in a firefight with Afghan insurgents, probably elements of the Taliban. (Remember the Taliban? They're the bunch we "ousted" from Afghanistan four years ago.) The US forces on the ground called for back up support. A special operations helicopter loaded with Navy Seals flew in to rescue them and got shot down by a rocket propelled grenade--a tactical engagement that Lieutenant General James Conway, director of operations (J3) at the pentagon called "a pretty lucky shot against a helicopter."

A "pretty lucky shot" my ass, General. The Taliban characters who blew that helicopter away knew exactly where it was going to land, and they placed their RPG team there. They knew where it would land because they've observed our tactics and know our capabilities. They knew what sites in the area constituted suitable landing zones. They also knew that the "stranded" team under attack would call for airborne support.

What Pentagoons like General Conway don't want to admit to the American public is that a handful uneducated guerillas fighting with low tech weapons can defeat the most elite elements of our "best trained, best equipped" military.

Oh, did I mention? They found the bodies of the guys who went in on the helicopter, but they haven't found the guys the helicopter went in to rescue in the first place.


  1. Jeff:

    When you make a statement like this:

    What Pentagoons like General Conway don't want to admit to the American public is that a handful of towel heads with third grade educations and low tech weapons can defeat the most elite elements of our "best trained, best equipped" military.

    it would be constructive if you produced the overall casualties rates for both sides since the conflict in Afghanistan began.

    I can't imagine any war were either side, no matter what the technological differences, doesn't take casualties from the other. Yet you point to this incident and make the statement you made above. Seems like a case of extreme hyperbole to me. Given the nature of what is going on in Afghanistan, of course we're going to take casualties. Where's the perspective in all this?

  2. Re: hiding under the cover of white noise.

    I'm having my wife guest-blog a piece for me tonight on this, since she's the one who knows how to read ;o)

    Karen found an interesting cached article a few days ago -- something written soon after the fall of Baghdad. Some military wonk was gloating over how "all the old rules no longer apply -- the US can fight and WIN a two-front, maybe even a three-front war."

    Yeah, right.

  3. Doug:

    I agree with you on that, I think. But it seems as though some people have the idea that if we suffer any casualties or if a helicopter is shot down that constitutes 'defeat' in the war. That position doesn't make any sense to me. Does anyone really believe this sort of thing isn't going to happen in war?

    It isn't anything close to 'defeat,' so Jeff's comments struck me as a bit odd. I think that sometimes people let the desire to be anti-administration in every last detail trumps every other consideration. if you read left-oriented blogs you'll see a lot of that. Of course, if you read right-oriented ones you'll see the desires to be pro-admin trump every other consideration. What I'd like to know is where the reasonable people all went (or were they ever among us?).

  4. Scott--

    I'll thank you for one thing--use of the term "towel head" was not called for.

    And this isn't just about casualties--IMO, body count is not a useful measure of effectiveness in war.

    The point is that a primitive force with simple weapons and comminucations capablities executed a coordinated tactic that that tricked, trapped, and destroyed a well equipped and trained elite unit.

    That to me is one of the most important points to be made about this war and about war in general. Not only doesn't the "best trained, best equipped, and best financed" military in the world not defend the homeland from attack, not achieve our aims overseas, it can beaten at the tactical level by a vastly, vastly inferior force.

    In other words, the force is a paper tiger, and Generals like Conway don't want the public to see that.


  5. Doug,

    I'll swing by and read the post.


  6. One other thing, Scott. "Defeat" is the exact correct word to describe this Afghanistan incident. Eight guys missing and sixteen guys dead in an engagement this size is a "defeat," a "loss," a "failure," what have you, even if only at the tactical level.

    That's what the Pentagoons are talking around. One of our most elite units got in a firefight with tribesmen and lost.


  7. Karen posting, not Doug.

    Dear Jeff,
    Thanks for the kind words on my post on Doug's blog. About today's post, most people don't realize that the terrain/environment is very rough in that part of Afghanistan. Torrential downpours and high winds are grounding U.S. helicopters and this is comparatively good weather for the area; winter is supposedly much worse. On Thursday, the BBC reporter in Afghanistan said that U.S. troops were attempting to reach the crash site using ground troops and MULES to carry equipment. Honest to god, they were using pack animals. I don't have anywhere near your level of expertise in military knowledge, Jeff. However, it appears to me that, although the U.S. high-tech military machine can use fighter jets with guided missiles to bomb enemy fighters using satellite and drone aircraft surveillance, ground combat is another matter altogether.


  8. Karen,

    I've said this elswhere--when the enemy manuevers you into fighting on its terms, you already halfway to losing.


  9. Jeff:

    I can see what you're saying, and I can better see it after reading your responses to my comments. My initial reading was that you somehow feel there is no excuse for us to be taking any casualties at the hands of our opponents in Afghanistan.

  10. Bingo, Scott. Casualties happen, no matter how well you plan and execute.

    The point here is that, at a small unit level, our most elite forces got beaten by a technically inferior force using superior, assymetrical tactics.

    And that's what Conway was trying to cover up with his "lucky shot" comment.


  11. 19 men with box cutters brought the USA, the most powerful country in the world, to its knees.

    Those 19 men weren't "lucky." They were creative. Imagine what those who think like them can do with a rocket launcher, strategically placed or otherwise.