Posts Tagged ‘ambush’

Taliban Lack the Will

April 30, 2009

Bottom line: The Taliban lack the will to carry out an effective and sustained close-quarters guerilla campaign against U.S., and even NATO, forces.

They certainly are capable: They have the manpower, the munitions and the TERRAIN to do so.

Sure, they’ll hit Afghan police-manned checkpoints and kill them, or send a suicide bomber into a throng of civilians, or detonate an IED as a NATO convey passes, but these are all peripheral aspects of an asymmetrical war.

In order to be viable, these things must be nitched together within the framework of an overall, comprehensive asymmetrical approach that uses an effective engage and displace policy for their front-line fighters as its crux.

Terrain-features of the Afghan-Pakistan border make up a PARADISE for ambushing operations; and through this terrain U.S. forces patrol daily, and yet, until recently (As outlined below), rarely, if ever, come into any kind of close-quarter ambush combat scenario.

Talibani code of guerilla fighting seems to be to engage American outposts with indirect fire and then flee; just like the tactics favored by their ancestors in ancient times (One reason why the soldiers of the Persian Empire were so disturbed when fighting the Greeks; the Greeks fought face-to-face, whereas the Persians, with their Arab contingents, preferred fighting from a distance via arrows and closing only when a victory seemed certain).

The Taliban as of late, and in very isolated incidents, have been ambushing NATO/U.S. patrols (Not many, but they are starting to walk their talk, or at least trying to give that impression).

One confirmed American patrol was caught in an interesting revenge ambush, which I related in a recent post (Came a week after the same unit devastated a Taliban contingent via setting up their own ambush).

A few others confirmed against NATO forces operating with the Afghan Army.

The Talibani ambushes failed.

The encounters were relatively brief and left the Taliban fleeing amidst the bodies of their fallen comrades, while Coalition/Afghan forces sustained little to no casualties.

But the Taliban are least beginning to actually engage in close-quarters combat again.

When first invaded they tried a somewhat conventional approach, in the form of pitched battles in open areas, in which they were obviously wrecked by overwhelming U.S. military prowess.

After that they withdrew to the mountain areas and would ambush U.S. patrols here and there, but the high level of casualties they would sustain, as compared to the small number on behalf of U.S. and Coalition forces, caused them to back away from the face-to-face ambush scenarios and move more toward the lobbing-mortars-from-a-mile-or-two-away-and-then-fleeing tactic.

More of these real ambushes, and by “real” I mean close-quarters, will come with the influx of U.S. combat troops into the South and Eastern portions of Afghanistan this summer, and especially once said forces begin encroaching upon their opium fields.

<For a related post, see “Cowardice of the Enemy”>

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Revenge Against American Ambush

April 29, 2009
UNDER ATTACK Specialist Robert Soto ran for cover last week as his platoon was ambushed in Afghanistan. Across the river, two comrades crouched behind a rock.

UNDER ATTACK Specialist Robert Soto ran for cover last week as his platoon was ambushed in Afghanistan. Across the river, two comrades crouched behind a rock.

At the bottom of one of my reports, “Cowardice of the Enemy,” I included a New York Times article that covered a devastating ambush against Taliban fighters by U.S. soldiers of the Second Platoon, Company B, of the First Battalion, 26th Infantry.

About a week after their triumph, the same platoon was ambushed in an apparent revenge attack (Given the Taliban’s reluctance to engage American forces, even in ambush).

The article is an excellent read, and gives a thorough blow-by-blow report of the Taliban’s revenge ambush, which, while claiming the life of one American, fell drastically short of what they were hoping for.

Very intense article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/20/world/asia/20ambush.html?pagewanted=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

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Cowardice of The Enemy

April 24, 2009

Taliban-style ambush is, generally speaking, as follows:

A small group, say 12-20 fighters, will pitch up on a ridgeline a mile from an American outpost in Afghanistan, and will commence firing mortars, rifles, etc., and then disappear.

Bullshit.

These fuckers claim to be fighting JIHAD, right? Jihad against the American infidels – and martyrdom is the fruit of death while fighting against the evil Americans, and rewards abound in the afterlife…This is what they say, right?

Then why not fight? Why not BALL UP and ambush our patrols in close quarters, like the Viet Cong of olden times?

Because they are full of shit pussies…And this can be found in virtually all fanatical Islamic armed factions that declare their official purpose as being to “destroy the enemy,” whether it’s America, Israel, etc.

But they don’t fight. They hide.

Sure, they are faced by overwhelming military superiority, so a pitched battle is out of the question. But they won’t even employ the basic tenets of the guerilla warfare they claim to champion. 

This is something that really irritates me. Man up and fight, or shut the fuck up and tend your flocks.

I mean, good grief man.

I recall reading an article from a New York Times affiliated newspaper some months back that reported on an American outpost coming under direct frontal assault by a Taliban contingent numbering around 300 fighters.

The outpost, newly created, had a force of 30-50 American soldiers who, with the help of air support, fought off the attacking force.

Taliban got wrecked, but at least they walked their talk.

Nowadays, I read no reports of American patrols coming under concerted ambush by the Taliban.

Sure, they’ll put an IED on the side of the road and detonate it as a convoy of NATO troops, or Afghan securty personnel, pass.

And of course they love suicide bombing CIVILIANS, oh what BALLS!

 You want to fight us, Mr. Taliban, as you so vehemently claim (that is, afterall, the official reason for your existence, right?) then fucking fight us.

We have patrols roaming the countryside along the border with Afghanistan daily; why don’t you hit them? You’re afraid of air-power? That makes sense, that’s why you ENGAGE AND DISPLACE.

By no means am I encouraging the Taliban to carry out attacks against U.S. forces, or any forces for that matter, I’m simply pointing out the pussiness of these pieces of shit who claim their whole life’s purpose is to FIGHT AND KILL US.

I enjoyed reading the April 17, 2009 edition of The New York Times, in which a report was given of a U.S. platoon of 30 soldiers carrying out a devastating ambush against Taliban forces as they climbed a ridge to fire some pop-shots at a nearby American outpost in the valley below.

Oh yes, the Taliban were ambushed, an ambush that was actually an ambush, and they got their asses beaten down. Ya, only 13 confirmed kills (no American dead or wounded), but it’s still quite refreshing to read of such a thorough turning of the tables – but more than that, we actually ambushed them, as opposed to standing a mile away and lobbing some mortars and then high-tailing it into the mountains.

The article is as follows:

April 17, 2009

Turning Tables, U.S. Troops Ambush Taliban With Swift and Lethal Results

 By C. J. CHIVERS

 KORANGAL OUTPOST, Afghanistan — Only the lead insurgents were disciplined as they walked along the ridge. They moved carefully, with weapons ready and at least five yards between each man, the soldiers who surprised them said.

Behind them, a knot of Taliban fighters walked in a denser group, some with rifles slung on their shoulders — “pretty much exactly the way we tell soldiers not to do it,” said Specialist Robert Soto, the radio operator for the American patrol.

If these insurgents came close enough, the soldiers knew, the patrol could kill them in a batch.

Fight by fight, the infantryman’s war in Afghanistan is often waged on the Taliban’s terms. Insurgents ambush convoys and patrols from high ridges or long ranges and slip away as the Americans, weighed down by equipment, return fire and call for air and artillery support. Last week a patrol from the First Infantry Division reversed the routine.

An American platoon surprised an armed Taliban column on a forested ridgeline at night, and killed at least 13 insurgents, and perhaps many more, with rifles, machine guns, Claymore mines, hand grenades and a knife.

The one-sided fight, fought on the slopes of the same mountain where a Navy Seal patrol was surrounded in 2005 and a helicopter with reinforcements was shot down, does not change the war. It was one of hundreds of firefights that have occurred in the Korangal Valley, an isolated region where local insurgents and the Americans have been locked in a bitter stalemate for more than three years.

But as accounts of the fight have spread, the ambush, on Good Friday, has become an emotional rallying point for soldiers in Kunar Province, who have seen it as a both a validation of their equipment and training and a welcome bit of score-settling in an area that in recent years has claimed more American lives than any other.

The patrol, 30 soldiers from the First Battalion, 26th Infantry, had left this outpost before noon on April 10, and spent much of the day climbing a ridge on the opposite side of the Korangal River, according to interviews with more than half the participants.

Once the soldiers reached the ridge’s crest, almost 6,000 feet above sea level on the side of a peak called Sautalu Sar, they found fresh footprints on the trails, and parapets of rock from where Taliban fighters often fire rifles and rocket-propelled grenades down onto this outpost.

The platoon leader, Second Lt. Justin Smith, selected a spot where trails intersected, and the platoon dug shallow fighting holes before dark. Claymore antipersonnel mines were set among the trees nearby.

At sunset, Lieutenant Smith called for a period of absolute silence, which lasted into darkness. Then he ordered three scouts to sit in a listening post about 100 yards away, 10 feet off the trail.

The scouts set in. Less than a half-minute later, a column of Taliban fighters appeared, walking briskly their way.

Sgt. Zachary R. Reese, a sniper, whispered into his radio. “We have eight enemy personnel coming down on our position really fast,” he said. He could say no more; the Taliban fighters were a few feet away.

More appeared. Then more still. The sergeant counted 26 gunmen pass by.

The patrol, Second Platoon of Company B, was in a place where no Americans had spent a night for years, and it seemed that the Afghans did not expect danger.

The soldiers waited. The rules of the ambush were long ago drilled into them: no one can move, and no one can fire until the patrol leader gives the order. Then everyone must fire at once.

The third Taliban fighter in the column switched on a flashlight, the soldiers said, and quickly switched it off. About 50 yards separated the two sides, but Lieutenant Smith did not want to start shooting too soon, he said, “because if too many lived then we’d be up there fighting them all night.”

He let the Taliban column continue on. The soldiers trained their weapons’ infrared lasers, which are visible only with night-vision equipment, on the fighters as they drew closer. The lasers mark the path a bullet will fly.

The lead fighter had almost reached the platoon when Pvt. First Class Troy Pacini-Harvey, 19, his laser trained on the lead man’s forehead, moved his rifle’s selector lever from safe to semi-automatic. It made a barely audible click. The Taliban fighter froze. He was six feet away.

Lieutenant Smith was new to the platoon. This was his fourth patrol. He was in a situation that every infantry lieutenant trains for, but almost no infantry lieutenant ever sees. “Fire,” he said, softly into the radio. “Fire. Fire. Fire.”

The platoon’s frontage exploded with noise and flashes of light as soldiers fired. Bullets struck all of the lead Taliban fighters, the soldiers said. The first Afghans fell where they were hit, not managing to fire a single shot.

Five Taliban fighters bolted to the soldiers’ left, unwittingly running squarely into the path of machine-gun bullets and the Claymore mines. For a moment, the soldiers heard rustling in the brush. They detonated their Claymores and threw hand grenades. The rustling stopped.

Two other Taliban fighters had dashed to the right, toward an almost sheer drop. One ran so wildly in the blackness that his momentum carried him off the cliff, several soldiers said.

Another stopped at the edge. Pvt. First Class Brad Larson, 19, had followed the man with his laser. “I took him out,” he said.

The scout at the listening post shot three of the fleeing fighters, and dropped two more with hand grenades. “We stopped what we could see,” Sergeant Reese said.

The shooting had lasted a few minutes. The hillside briefly fell quiet. The surviving Taliban fighters, some of whom had run back up the trail, began shouting in the darkness. “We could hear them calling out to one another,” Specialist Soto said.

Lieutenant Smith called the listening post back in. After two Apache attack helicopters showed up, an F-15 dropped a bomb on the Taliban’s escape route, about 600 yards up the trail. Then the lieutenant ordered teams to search the bodies they could find on the crest.

Sergeant Reese gave his rifle to another sniper to cover him while he tried to cut away a Taliban fighter’s ammunition pouches with a four-inch blade. The fighter had only been pretending to be dead, the soldiers said. He lunged for Sergeant Reese, who stabbed him in the left eye.

In all, the soldiers found eight bodies on the crest. They photographed them to try to identify them later, and collected their weapons, ammunition, radios and papers. Then the patrol swept down a gully where a pilot said he saw more insurgents hiding.

Four scouts, using night-vision gear, spotted five fighters crouching behind rocks, and killed them with rifle and machine-gun fire, the scouts said. The bodies were searched and photographed, too. The platoon began to hike back to the outpost, carrying the captured equipment.

Second Platoon, Company B has endured one of the most arduous assignments in Afghanistan. Eight of the platoon’s soldiers have been wounded in nine months of fighting in the valley, part of a bitter contest for control of a small and sparsely populated area.

Three others have been killed.

In a matter of minutes, the ambush changed the experience of the surviving soldiers’ tours. The degree of turnabout surprised even some the soldiers who participated.

“It’s the first time most of us have even seen the guys who were shooting at us,” said Sgt. Thomas Horvath, 21.

The next day, elders from the valley would ask permission to collect the villages’ dead. Company B’s commander, Capt. James C. Howell, would grant it.

But already, as the soldiers slid and climbed down the mountain, word of the insurgents’ defeat was traveling through Taliban networks.

Specialist Robert C. Oxman, 21, had put a dead fighter’s phone in his pocket. As the platoon descended, the phone rang and rang, apparently as other fighters called to find out what had happened on Sautalu Sar. By sunrise, it had been ringing for hours.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

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