Four Marines died yesterday in Afghanistan when the Taliban laid a trap:
Four U.S. Marines died Tuesday when they walked into a well-laid ambush by insurgents in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province. Seven Afghan troops and an interpreter for the Marine commander also died in the ambush and the subsequent battle, which lasted seven hours.
Three American service members and 14 Afghan security force members were wounded.
It was the largest number of American military trainers to die in a single incident since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
The battle took place around the remote hamlet of Gangigal, in a valley about six miles from the Pakistani border, after local elders invited the U.S. and Afghan forces for a meeting.
American officers said there was no doubt that they’d walked into a trap, as the insurgents were dug in at the village, and had preset their weapons and their fields of fire.
It was a trap alright….but one they could of extradited themselves out of if not for the rules of engagement laid out by Obama’s General, General Stanley McChrystal:
Airstrikes by coalition forces in Afghanistan have dropped dramatically in the three months Gen. Stanley McChrystal has led the war effort there, reflecting his new emphasis on avoiding civilian casualties and protecting the population.
NATO fixed-wing aircraft dropped 1,211 bombs and other munitions during the past three months — the peak of the fighting season — compared with 2,366 during the same period last year, according to military statistics. The nearly 50% decline in airstrikes comes with an influx of more than 20,000 U.S. troops this year and an increase in insurgent attacks.
The shift is the result of McChrystal’s new directives, said Air Force Col. Mark Waite, an official at the air operations center in southwest Asia. Ground troops are less inclined to call for bombing or strafing runs, though they often have an aircraft conduct a “show of force,” a flyby to scare off insurgents, or use planes for surveillance, Waite said.
The Marines who were killed were not the ones less inclined to call for a bombing run, in fact they were depending on it to get them out of the trap….and none came:
We walked into a trap, a killing zone of relentless gunfire and rocket barrages from Afghan insurgents hidden in the mountainsides and in a fortress-like village where women and children were replenishing their ammunition.
“We will do to you what we did to the Russians,” the insurgent’s leader boasted over the radio, referring to the failure of Soviet troops to capture Ganjgal during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation.
Dashing from boulder to boulder, diving into trenches and ducking behind stone walls as the insurgents maneuvered to outflank us, we waited more than an hour for U.S. helicopters to arrive, despite earlier assurances that air cover would be five minutes away.
U.S. commanders, citing new rules to avoid civilian casualties, rejected repeated calls to unleash artillery rounds at attackers dug into the slopes and tree lines — despite being told repeatedly that they weren’t near the village.
“We are pinned down. We are running low on ammo. We have no air. We’ve lost today,” Marine Maj. Kevin Williams, 37, said through his translator to his Afghan counterpart, responding to the latter’s repeated demands for helicopters.
While the enemy was directly responsible for their deaths, those rules of engagement, and those leaders who refused to send help also have blood on their hands.
The Marines were cut down as they sought cover in a trench at the base of the village’s first layer cake-style stone house. Much of their ammunition was gone. One Marine was bending over a second, tending his wounds, when both were killed, said Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer, 21, of Greensburg, Ky., who retrieved their bodies.
The new ROE should have been dealt with as a classified memorandum of encouragement and understanding to consider holistic consequences of actions rather than a change to formal rules by which our Marines and Soldiers are prosecuted by courts. Yet the damage has been and continues to be done by poor decisions at the highest levels of leadership.
Damn the ROE.
Herschal also takes issue with the leaders using the Anbar tactics in a completely different theater. Take for example the mission these Marines were on. To go talk to village leaders in an attempt to gain an alliance. But without the necessary force to back them up if it goes bad….and it did:
This was my fear – that counterinsurgency tactics advocated in FM 3-24 would become so religiously ingrained into the thinking of the armed forces that they would believe that it applies in any situation and without the necessary force projection to back up the nice intent.
Carrots and stick, folks. All carrots and no sticks makes for brave warriors who perish on the field of battle because the local fighters have little to fear – not because of our own warriors, but because of the lack of resourcing and tactics being implemented.
Things are going to turn real bad in Afghanistan because of the poor decisions being made by Obama, his Generals, and NATO. And my fear is that once enough of our bravest have died he will cut and run and leave that country to our enemy instead of doing what is necessary to win as Bush did in Iraq.
The calls for help was witnessed by a reporter:
A McClatchy newspapers’ journalist who witnessed the battle reported that a team of Marine trainers made repeated appeals for air and artillery support after being pinned down by insurgents in the village of Ganjgal in eastern Kunar province.
Press Secretary Geoff Morrell says it was the distance the helicopters had to fly that was responsible for the late help but the reporter who was with the troops disputes this as well as the soldiers on the ground.
According to the McClatchy report by Jonathan Landay, the US advisors assisting Afghan forces had been assured before the operation that “air cover would be five minutes away.”
Lt. Fabayo and several other soldiers later said they’d seen women and children in the village shuttling ammunition to fighters positioned in windows and roofs. Across the valley and from their ridgeline outposts, the Afghans and Americans fired back.
Read the whole account in the link I just gave, written by the reporter who witnessed the whole thing. In the reporters own words:
I wasn’t as terrified as I was angry: angry at the absence of air support, angry that there was no artillery fire
It’s a must read.