[youtubevid id=”_2e6w8makEg”]ABC News has shown video that the Taliban shot when they attacked an outpost at Wanat and killed nine American soldiers in July 2008.
I’m less than a tactical genius; you wouldn’t want to trust me with a platoon of toy soldiers, let alone real ones. But my first thought on seeing the video was, did the Taliban pour LSD into the coffee that American commanders drink? Who puts a small platoon-sized outpost – maybe 40 or so guys – at the bottom of a valley? You can see the Taliban on the hillsides blasting away at the Americans below like fish in a barrel.
There was no way out for the Americans, except by helicopter. Landing in that narrow valley with the Taliban shooting from above? Not fun.
You can also see the Taliban chatting on handheld radios, even though the Americans have to be listening in (at least I hope we are). These are not ragged insurgents but troops well-equipped with machine guns, rocket launchers, mortars and communications gear. They seem very confident and relaxed. And why shouldn’t they? This is every insurgent’s dream, from Spanish guerrillas fighting Napoleon in Spain to the Vietcong. A small, isolated enemy outpost just waiting for the insurgents to gang up on them.
An Army investigation discovered numerous failures, including a lack of contact between the U.S. soldiers and the local villagers at Wanat. But the real failure is putting troops in such a vulnerable position, and the Pentagon is considering a withdrawal from these outposts.
Obama will probably send more troops to Afghanistan. Whether it’s 30,000 or 40,000 d0esn’t matter if we stick them into a modern-day Little Big Horn. The forces at Wanat and other dispersed Afghan outposts are too weak to really bother the Taliban and can just about defend themselves.
After the Vietnam War, the U.S. military perpetuated the myth that the Vietnamese had never defeated the Americans on the battlefield, and that the politicians had stabbed them in the back. In reality, American commanders and soldiers made lots of mistakes that cost lives, and I can’t wait to see how the military spins the Afghan war. In the meantime, we shouldn’t send a single additional soldier to Afghanistan without a clear and realistic strategy for using them. Not just sending them for the sake of sending warm bodies, but giving our soldiers a mission that they can accomplish and not get killed in the process.