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14 November 2009


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William R. Cumming

Was not Dien Bien Phu surrounded by mountains held by General Giap's troops and artillery?

Don't know about Kei San (sic)!

Cold War Zoomie



"As I have said before, the positioning of the outpost is a marvel of incompetent planning for the defense."

Either at the bottom of the steep and narrow valley or on top of the mountains.

But how would a base on top - which would include lots of logistic difficulties - help to "connect" with the people in the valley?


the guy with the haircut on minute 1 looks British?
I suppose the MSM does not really tell the story of US allies

Charles I

Whoever put that base down there should have been shot. While defending it.

". . . .consider changing the policy of guarding unpopulated areas. . " I
heard in the commentary.

I felt a Michael Scheuer moment at that.

Should be consider changing the policy of fighting un-necessary wars, and manning the Wanat's with voting legislators and their adult children in the interim.

My plethora of pagan gods don't have much truck with condolences, but my heart, and my respect, goes out to your soldiers,their families and their fellows.


It is not surprising that the Taliban has lots of toys, it has lots of money to buy gadgets.

Patrick Lang


Well, then. you don't have a position at Wanat. pl


Who ever put the base in that position, probably felt contempt for the enemy.

Thirty teams of five men each, shows we need to show more admiration for their tactics and read chapter 10 of Sun Tzu's "Art of War".

Did anybody ever explain why the troops were stationed there?

John Minnerath

Those guys were between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
Even with constant close in support from gun ships and probably fighter bombers bringing in heavy stuff and saturating the area around them, it's doubtful they could have held such a position.I don't care how well trained and dedicated.
Surrounded by what, probably ten times their number of well trained and supplied enemy with full freedom of maneuver.
What bunch of REMFs is running that show?

frank durkee

Thomas ricks at the Foreign Policy Blog has had a series of "Lessons learned" concerning this particular fight. He is attempting to follow the Army's evaluation of this event.

Patrick Lang

John M.

I don't claim to be some kind of tactical virtuoso, but I have done this.

I am less impressed with the hostiles than I might have been. They should have over run this place.

The level of incompetence displayed at battalion and brigade in the planning and support of this tiny position is awful, just awful.

I understand the officer commanding, a lieutenant, was killed in the engagement. His father is a retired colonel of infantry? I share his anger. pl

ps REMF means "Rear Echelon Mother Fucker"


Do they still teach stuff like enfilade fire, defilade fire, beaten zones (the latter being most OP's in the Stan' obviously), and their attendant fire cones.

Wanat probably had overlaping fire cones that looked like purty little flowers...daisies, or poppies.

If they still teach this stuff, is it caveated to be discarded, thus OBE when "protect the people" at all costs COIN ops are in effect?

Is it possible to have a hilltob firebase and Shura/Chai sipping HQ rolled into one? I vote no, because even if the base is manned by a company, an Arty battery, some direct fire tubes, etc. The Sunday go to meetin' patrols would be hit, comin' and goin' from the villages. I guess this COIN stuff as practiced now is harder than Chinese Arithmetic. I guess the enlisted folks must have a lot of faith in this system. I must be stupid because I don't understand or appreciate the strategy nor the operational art.


I understand the officer commanding, a lieutenant, was killed in the engagement. His father is a retired colonel of infantry? I share his anger. pl

Similar to the Battle of Ia Drang?

R Whitman


Any idea of the source of the Taliban weapons and uniforms. Everthing seems to be either new or in very good shape.Of course, it could be clever editing of video on their part but I do not think so.

Somebody is laying out big money to supply the Taliban and it is probably more than Al-Quaida in caves.

Jim Jordan

Most of the money comes from our "moderate muslim allies" in the Gulf, so says Holbrooke himself ....


Ken Roberts

Is 5-man assault teams a "norm" for Taliban offensives?

Jim Jordan

Oh I almost forgot to mention the "danegeld" from the US/UK taxpayer to stop the Taliban attacking our supply convoys in the first place ...


Clifford Kiracofe

Interesting how the sound track starts out with the ritualistic "Allahu Akbar." Major Hasan would appreciate that.

"After 9/11, the FBI released a handwritten hijackers' letter found in three separate copies at Dulles, the Pennsylvania crash site, and in Mohamed Atta's suitcase. It included a practical checklist of final reminders for the 9/11 hijackers. One notable excerpt: "When the confrontation begins, strike like champions who do not want to go back to this world. Shout, 'Allahu Akbar,' because this strikes fear in the hearts of the non-believers."[4][5]"

William P. Fitzgerald III

Pat Lang,

There seems to be general agreement that the fight at Wanat and the result thereof were caused by faulty planning and troop disposition. I think the question, "Why at Wanat?" is apt because there wasn't a good solution to the tactical problem. The objective had to be the valley and village of Wanat, but the key terrain was certainly higher and troops available couldn't do both or, even, either one.

Wanat, in concept was a tiny Dien Bien Phu, per W.R. Cumming, without the size and importance of the latter. It was nothing at all like the Ia Drang. It appears to me That the Talib weapons were AK 47s RPGs, one heavy machinegun and a mortar. That doesn't seem to be extraordinary and is probably what the Mujahedeen were carrying during the Russian War. The radios looked like handheld VHF types, strictly line of sight and light. (also cheap)

The conclusion to be drawn from this single episode is that there are lots of mountains, ridges, valleys, and villages in Afghanistan and they can't be secured by single platoons in or around each village. Writ large, it means that the infantry of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps will be back and forth to Afghanistan for a long time to come.

Addressing a previous remark, I do, in fact live above 44deg. N. Lat. ,but I'm not from here (think palm trees). Which reminds me, I have to go tune up the snow shovel.


Patrick Lang


In long wars that involve a very stylised kind of warfare, in this case counterinsurgency," basic skills for both officers and men tend to atrophy. pl


Should not the Taliban be treated as a law-and-order problem, with Afghan police as the first line of defence?

Today's newspaper says that a single US soldier deployed in Afghanistan costs the US government $1 million per year. Current Afghan police salaries run at $1200 per year, as per the Christian Science Monitor.

At $10,000 per year per Afghan policeman, paid by the US treasury, I think we can definitely get 50 "incorruptible" - i.e., will stay bought - Afghan policemen, for that million dollars (I'm counting overheads as equal to the salary costs).

I think we have an ideological resistance to spending money in an intelligent way. Hey, I'm even in favor of giving each soldier a million dollars and not deploying them. Let's make 40,000 new millionaires instead of a lot of new widows and orphans.


The police and the army are competing for a limited number of qualified recruits. We're prioritizing the military and even the rare, competent, units in the police can be problematic. The New Yorker had a good piece in the past year discussing a unit of Hazara who were deployed in a Pashtun district. The unit never should have been there as they viewed all the locals as the enemy and the Pashtun correctly saw them as outsiders.

The police in short though? Corruption is not just accepting and taking bribes its the willful abuse of power. The police are often the worst of that. Theft, rape, the works. It's really an awful problem and I haven't read any good suggestions.

How do you adapt western training to a population that is generally illiterate? How do they do paperwork? How can we enforce accountability without paperwork and system of justice to enforce conduct?

Simply paying someone a good salary won't do the trick because while it may keep them in uniform it hasn't been enough to get them to stand up when they come under attack. The police are the most exposed elements of the Afghan goverment and the easiest targets for the Taliban. When they stand their ground their often killed. They don't have the equipment the ANA gets. They don't have the training. They're generally not as qualified and they are always exposed do to the implicit nature of police work.

A common complaint is that units simply bunker up and don't go out of their compounds.

Patrick Lang


I agree. Sheer scale would not allow such a comparison. pl

Norman Rogers

How do you adapt western training to a population that is generally illiterate? How do they do paperwork? How can we enforce accountability without paperwork and system of justice to enforce conduct?

Funny, I asked this question myself when there was a controversy over a misguided Army chaplain handing out Bibles in Afghanistan. As well intentioned as he might have been, he would have had more luck pounding sand than finding converts simply by tossing Gideon Bibles to people who can't read. How much do you want to bet they were in English, to boot?


That Ricks' piece over at Foreign Policy Blog was actually pretty good.

I'm not surprised that my beloved Army seems determined to learn as little as possible from this and instead do what it usually does: blanket everyone with Bronze Stars with Valor and hope it all goes away.

Hey Colonel, did you know that when I left the Army they were giving Bronze Stars to PSGs/PLs and above as service awards just for deploying overseas?

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