Taliban home video of attack on U.S. soldiers

[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.

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4 Responses to Taliban home video of attack on U.S. soldiers

  1. Michael Hastings says:

    Pretty grim video. Re: placing a base at the bottom of a valley. A year ago, I was shown a half constructed Afghan U.S. base in Khost on the Af/Pak border that was essentially at the bottom of the valley. The reason it was only half constructed was because the new American unit was like, hey, it’s a bad to have a base at the bottom of the valley.

    I haven’t read up on Wanat, but I’m surprised there weren’t at least Afghan army outposts on top of the hills to keep an eye out…

    And where was the U.S. air support!

    Though I’m opposed to escalation in Afghanistan, watching this video reminds me of something that a photog friend said to me. “They want to fight, we want to fight, what’s the problem?”

    • Michael Peck says:

      I also wondered why we didn’t have any troops on the surrounding hills. We’ve been in Afghanistan seven years. We know Taliban tactics. And no one expected them to pounce on that outpost? Just because we’re stupid doesn’t mean they’re stupid.

      The outpost did call in air support. Unfortunately, the Taliban had breached the compound and the pilots were not thrilled with strafing targets 10 meters in front of friendly troops.

      Yeah, they want to fight and we want to fight. Problem is, both sides also want to win.

  2. fleetlee says:

    Can anyone explain why Obama would take on this war, and thus be held responsible for the outcome, when most all the people who elected him would praise him for bringing the troops home?

    • Michael Peck says:

      Whether Obama wanted the Afghan war is irrelevant. He is President and Commander-in-Chief. It’s his responsibility, and if he doesn’t want it, he shouldn’t have run for office. If Obama doesn’t end the war tomorrow, it could be that his perspective changed once he sat in the Oval Office.

      Most people who voted for Obama would applaud withdrawal. But 46 percent of the electorate didn’t vote for him, so he doesn’t exactly have a mandate to bring the boys home.

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