What happened when the Special Forces landed in Afghanistan?
November 4, 2001 11:02 PM   Subscribe

What happened when the Special Forces landed in Afghanistan?
Are we getting enough intellegince before we plan a attack in Afghanistan ?
posted by adnanbwp (20 comments total)
Just a note that this story has been denied by the pentagon. So who to believe, Taliban of Pentagon?
posted by phatboy at 11:24 PM on November 4, 2001

What counts as resistance?

The New Yorker piece has Myers stating (at a Pentagon briefing) that "the soldiers did meet resistance at both sites, but overcame it. 'I guess you could characterize it as light,' he said. 'For those experiencing it, of course, it was probably not light.'"

On Meet the Press, Myers stated: "[the article] portrays that we ran into some stiff resistance. That's simply not true. There was no resistance. The Taliban were in complete disarray....The Taliban probably did return fire. They had that--all those capabilities. We know from other reporting, that they were trying to muster greater capability. They were unable to do so."

The Drudge piece leaves out this section of the Meet the Press segment (that does appear in an AP story):
"We had a bunch of these young people who had scratches and bumps and knocks from rocks ... so it's probably accurate to say that maybe five or maybe 25 people were 'wounded,'" Franks said. "We had no one wounded by enemy fire and I think that is probably worthwhile noting."
posted by gluechunk at 12:02 AM on November 5, 2001

adnan, bad way to frame the question. Put simply, you can never get enough intelligence. More, and higher quality, is always better; by its nature, one could always say that the intelligence available was insufficient or poor, especially after an operational failure. As readers of Cryptonomicon will be aware, intelligence is something which can never be fully trusted. The person feeding it to you may have been compromised, or the operation utilizing it could flow back to stem the flow of information to you (e.g. by the execution of a source, or the changing of a code). It may seem incompatible with democratic institutions, but military requirements sometimes dictate the use of disinformation about an operation. I don't have the sources or the experience to tell whether the disinformation is the official story and Myers's statements, or the story leaked via Hersh. Similarly, we have no idea whether the Taliban version is accurate or propaganda. Only we, and the Taliban, know what really happened; and the dance between the two sets of information is largely going to be unknowable to the public. In this case, or any case involving insertion of our forces into hostile territory, the more confusion sown, the better.

I will state this, as a non-military guy with only reading about such things under his belt, that the lesson I took away from Black Hawk Down was that our guys could accomplish specific objectives very well, but that they would need heavier armor and air support if they were surrounded or overrun. They didn't have it in Mogadishu, not until the Pakistanis (!) and Malaysians helped us out the next morning. From dusk till near dawn our guys held off severe enemy fire and inflicted incredible numbers of casualties on the enemy without significant deterrence sinking in. If the Hersh version is to be taken at face value, and I don't necessarily, the wrong lesson was learned. This wasn't a failure for special forces; it was a failure for the misapplication of special forces. They shouldn't have treated this like a mini-Gulf War with bombing and gunship activity cluing anyone in the area into the importance of the target, and they shouldn't have used Rangers to do the wrong kind of mission. Even if the counterattack was, in the end, a pinprick affair, the hasty and disorganized retreat may have seemed like a rout when it was always part of the plan. I hope there was a feint somewhere in all of this; I hope this weekend's debate is largely feint.
posted by dhartung at 12:42 AM on November 5, 2001

Our Special Forces (Delta, Force Recon, Seals, etc.) guys are really outstanding soldiers, sometimes things go wrong - which puts the pinch on them - but they're trained to be able to improvise and meet their objective with resistance.
As far as intel goes, that's another matter all-together. Sometimes it's reliable and sometimes they get duped--but they know that going in.
If you can have faith in anybody though--it's these guys; they're the best of the best that our military has to offer.
posted by Tiger_Lily at 12:53 AM on November 5, 2001

apparently the American special forces have a dubious reputation. the reports in the British papers say that the SAS are reluctant to work alongside them and that they distrust their planning and operational methods.
posted by regster at 1:56 AM on November 5, 2001

I think that has more to do with the fact that the SAS are the undisputed masters of covert ops--not necessarily the reputation of other special forces. The SAS enjoy an inordinate amount of protection from disclosure about their operational methods and whereabouts. Their intel gathering and training is unparalleled; more likely they don't want their operations tainted with outside forces because they don't want to lose their foothold in the secrecy department.
posted by Tiger_Lily at 2:52 AM on November 5, 2001

The basis behind a successful recon mission is to evade the enemy and achieve the result by stealth. You can assume with good odds that there are special forces operating in Afghanistan, helping coordinate precision attacks, while allowing enemy forces to pass by unmolested. However, the attack described above sounds like a publicity stunt gone wrong. Maybe Delta force was fed inaccurate information.

US Special Forces are well-regarded but not classified as being on the same level of the Australian or British SAS. Just remember, during the Gulf War the Amercian military was taken aback by the British armys deep incursion into Iraq. It was the SAS that went deep behind enemy lines on a Scud hunt, while the USAF chose to do its search from high altitude.
posted by skinsuit at 3:13 AM on November 5, 2001

from the article:

"It was a television show," one informed source told me. "The Rangers were not the first in."

that i can agree with.
posted by asok at 3:17 AM on November 5, 2001

So who to believe, Taliban of Pentagon?

Seymour M. Hersh is not the Voice of the Taliban. "The man who broke the story of Vietnam's My Lai massacre is still the hardest-working muckraker in the journalism business."
posted by Carol Anne at 5:43 AM on November 5, 2001

Carol Anne- Thanks for this link. I have been meaning to read up on Seymour as he now shows up anywhere I turn.
posted by Voyageman at 5:51 AM on November 5, 2001

It was the SAS that went deep behind enemy lines on a Scud hunt, while the USAF chose to do its search from high altitude.

if i remember right though, Schwarzkopf wasn't too crazy about deploying special forces and didn't use them to their full potential.
posted by lotsofno at 6:33 AM on November 5, 2001

You remember right lostofno, they were deployed at the insistence of the highest ranking Briton in the operation General de la Billiere, a former commander of the SAS.
posted by vbfg at 8:32 AM on November 5, 2001

Ground Fire Foils Elite U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

This was a second incident, was confirmed by Donald "The Waffle" Rumsfeld and is from Reuters, hardly what I'd call a biased source. Anyone who thinks fighting the Taliban is going to be a cakewalk and that a handful of special forces troops will have any effect on them is a complete fool. It's going to take a massive, bloody ground assault to succeed. Bush and Co. and the public don't have the stomach for it.

I predict we'll have the usual "Declare victory, go home, have lots of parades" syndrome within the next three months (See Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War etc.)
posted by zeb vance at 5:19 PM on November 5, 2001

I'm shocked, shocked, that some special forces missions have taken ground fire! Surely with this new development the end of the world is nigh!

zeb, there is more than one way to succeed; I'm not sure from your wording that you and I have anywhere near the same conception of what success in this war will be. Special forces will not win this war alone, no more than would bombing. That doesn't mean that they won't have roles to play, from intel to targeting to snatching. We may even get lucky and have them find the bastard. If we take out bin Laden, there's going to be a whole new dynamic in the war and I can't predict what the Taliban will do. Right now, they have no more sponsors (e.g. Pakistan, SA), a fraction of their former supply and logistics chain, almost no mobility, and very little but their own dogged determination. That counts for a lot, but it isn't everything. A cold winter without resupply may reduce the enthusiasm of their troops considerably. In previous conflicts, they've pretty much called it quits for the season and gone home. That won't be an option for them, and that's a card in our hand that's worth playing.

You almost sound like you admire the Taliban. Surely that's not so.
posted by dhartung at 11:25 PM on November 5, 2001

so far this attack on afganistan has been successful in causing terror for the average afgani. spreading into neighboring countries with the refugees. it has also been successful in killing many hundreds of civilians. you could argue that the relative stability of the few years of taliban rule will seem like a happy memory to those living through he hell that american and the uk are raining on the country now.
the attack has shown that the 'civilised' west has no respect for the sanctity of others' land, laws or people. the west has no respect for the nation of islam, in continuing to bomb during ramadan, it is encouraging the muslim volunteers to join the jihad in afganistan.
this attack has been successful in further polarising the views of either side and creating more extreminsts. this attack has been successful in creating more hatred and suffering, the fertilisers of terrorism. this attack has been successful in making the world a less safe place, and yes, this attack has promoted the use of terror against civilians as a means to a political end.
posted by asok at 3:31 AM on November 6, 2001

it has also been successful in killing many hundreds of civilians. the only souce that has been claiming 'hundreds of civilians' dead is the Taliban.

relative stability of the few years of taliban rule
"relative stability"? are you serious?

the attack has shown that the 'civilised' west has no respect for the sanctity of others' land, laws or people.
oh really? if we wanted to take out afghans civilians, it would be a lot easier than what we're doing now, and at significantly less cost and effort to ourselves.

the west has no respect for the nation of islam, in continuing to bomb during ramadan
if history is any indication, neither does most of the arab world. there have been several wars fought by Islamic states during Ramadan. How is this any different? Because they're Muslim and we're not (most of us anyway)?

this attack has promoted the use of terror against civilians as a means to a political end.
show me one iota of evidence that indicates that the intent of bombing afghanistan is to terrorize civilians. are you so naive that you really think a military operation of this scope can be carried out without the risk of a single civilian death?
posted by lizs at 8:21 AM on November 6, 2001

•i have not got the time to get all the links together, but i can assure you that it is not just the taliban who claim hundreds of civilian victims. check the international press.
relative is the key word there.
•the west could nuke afganistan, what a revelation.
•there was a call by aid agencies to halt the killing, as well as muslims throughout the world.
•please read my post again: this attack has promoted the use of terror against civilians as a means to a political end. can you show me one iota of evidence that contradicts that statement?

basically, what i am trying to express is my disappointment with the political leaders (their lack of imagination, compassion and comprehension), who respond to one grotesque attack on civilians with another one. lead by example, whydoncha?

NB. this story was on the front page of the guardian today (06/11/01), another MEFI scoop!
posted by asok at 9:55 AM on November 6, 2001

Asok, our leaders will protect our people. When will the Taliban protect their people, by handing over a mass murderer, instead of defending him? Because bin Laden has vowed to strike again, we cannot end this operation until he is neutralized. The Taliban could end this at any day.

If you cannot distinguish between deliberate murder of civilians, and civilians who die during strikes on military targets, when those military targets have been placed in residential areas, you're lost to logic and ethics.
posted by dhartung at 3:49 PM on November 6, 2001

dhartung, just because you are a lapsed pacifist, doesn't mean i have to follow. the taleban have offered to hand over osama, to be tried in a sharia court.
if i am 'lost to logic and ethics' so be it. however, that does not follow from your statement. a civilian death, caused by accident or design, is still a death. some people may say that you can be judged on your actions, rather than your motives.

here is a quote from a man who lost his son in the wto disaster:
"Look at my son, who died only because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I believe that, if there's a war, thousands of other sons in other lands are going to die, for being in a wrong place at a wrong time,"

from l'agence france presse (wsws.org):

'the remarkable series of “mistakes” by the US military, which has hit a UN de-mining office, a Red Cross warehouse, a World Food Program building and other clearly marked health care and relief facilities, culminating in the destruction of the second largest hospital in Herat, a large city near the border with Iran.'

you may miss this kind of thing if you restrict your news gathering too much. for example, cnn are focusing on pro-american propaganda only.
posted by asok at 4:05 AM on November 7, 2001

sorry, dhartung, probably got you confused with denbeste.

the rest stands, though.
posted by asok at 8:38 AM on November 7, 2001

« Older This is for cool cats and their people.   |   Design for a Web Filtering Service. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments