[A-List] Afghanistan: the blowback continues
Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Tue Mar 19 23:34:55 MST 2002
Enemy tactics have changed
IAN BRUCE Analysis
The Herald, 20 March 2002
THE commitment of a 1700-strong Royal Marines
battalion combat group to operations in Afghanistan
is an almost classic case of knee-jerk military
response to the last threat rather than the next.
The immediate need for troops, trained to live and
fight at altitudes usually experienced only by pilots,
passed with the ending of operation Anaconda,
among the peaks and crags around Shah-e-Kot.
Resistance by al Qaeda and what is now believed
to have been a sizeable force of local Taliban
fighters was tougher than expected. Eight
Americans died and scores were wounded.
Scores more succumbed to altitude sickness, the
debilitating effect of physical exertion at heights
where the oxygen is thin and the terrain
demanding. Dehydration floored many more as
they struggled across ridges carrying up to 100lb of
equipment and ammunition.
On paper, no soldiers are more qualified for that
kind of mission than the mountain and
Arctic-warfare experts of 45 Commando, the
Arbroath-based group preparing to step into harm's
way in the foothills of the Himalayas.
But events have shown that al Qaeda and its
Taliban allies remain capable of springing
unpleasant surprises. More importantly, they have
learned from their initial mistakes.
The early days of occupying vulnerable positions
on the Shomali Plain covering Kabul and being
slaughtered by precision-guided weaponry from
aircraft prowling invulnerably three miles above
them have gone.
Sha-e-Kot was an ambush carried out by
determined fighters who inflicted casualties and
damaged 20 helicopters, including several of the
much-vaunted Apache gunships flying top cover for
the struggling US infantry.
There is little evidence, despite military claims to
the contrary, that "hundreds" of enemy troops died
in the two-week offensive. There is powerful
evidence that hundreds fought a hit-and-run battle
and then slipped away over smuggling tracks and
There may well be pockets of hardcore fighters in
the mountains along the Pakistani border, but the
bulk of the 50,000 enemy militia in the field at the
start of the campaign last November has melted
back into the general population, biding their time
and literally keeping their powder dry.
An urban guerrilla war could drag on for years and
produce the kind of bodybag factor on which even
the most stalwart public opinion can eventually
Full article at:
Mercuria Business School
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
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