From the New York Times:

The paratroopers of Chosen Company had plenty to worry about as they began digging in at their new outpost on the fringe of a hostile frontier village in eastern Afghanistan.

Intelligence reports were warning of militants massing in the area. As the paratroopers looked around, the only villagers they could see were men of fighting age idling in the bazaar. There were no women and children, and some houses looked abandoned. Through their night scopes they could see furtive figures on the surrounding mountainsides.

A few days later, they were almost overrun by 200 insurgents.

That firefight, a debacle that cost nine American lives in July 2008, has become the new template for how not to win in Afghanistan. The calamity and its roots have been described in bitter, painstaking detail in an unreleased Army history, a devastating narrative that has begun to circulate in an initial form even as the military opened a formal review this week of decisions made up and down the chain of command.

That’s the start of a recent story from the New York Times on the the War in Afghanistan. The war isn’t that different than Viet Nam, Korea, or the battle for Bunker Hill. Small groups of men, more or less surrounded, stationed on hill top bases, fighting a mobile enemy. Mobility allows the concentration of force against selected defensive positions.

Viet Nam, the concentration of force seldom was in large numbers. The French would send armored columns down paved highways. The native forces would attack the convoy, disable a vehicle or tow, and then withdraw. The relief column was always the target of the bigger attack.

Korea, the Chinese walked into battle while Americans raced up highways. When the supply lines were cut, small groups and individuals were cut off and lost.

Afghanistan, we barter for bases with local tribes. We move in. We’re attacked by the tribe and nearly wiped out. And, we call it a surprise attack.

“Before the soldiers arrived, commanders negotiated for months with Afghan officials of dubious loyalty over where they could dig in, giving militants plenty of time to prepare for an assault.”

Our troops fight well. Even without the air cover always promised. But, how can air cover help when the enemy lives next door

Soldiers who survived the battle described how their automatic weapons turned white hot and jammed from nonstop firing. Mortally wounded troops continued to hand bullet belts to those still able to fire.

The ammunition stockpile was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, igniting a stack of 120-millimeter mortar rounds — and the resulting fireball flung the unit’s antitank missiles into the command post. One insurgent got inside the concertina wire and is believed to have killed three soldiers at close range, including the platoon commander, Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom.

The description of the battle at Wanat — the heroism, the violence and the missteps that may have contributed to the deaths — ends with a judgment that the fight was “as remarkable as any small-unit action in American military history.”

Republicans blame Obama for not following the generals. From the perspective of the Army investigation of Wanat, only the grunts are worth following. Obama didn’t choose the killing fields of Afghanistan for Chosen Company. He didn’t make a battle on land called Dying Ground by Sun Tze, the ancient author of The Art of War. We do need to rethink the Bush strategy of putting 48 American soldiers on distant hill top amid our enemies.

Bush et al claimed we had to invade Iraq with ‘the army that we had,’ not the army that we wanted. In July 2008, five years later, we’re still fighting in another country, Afghanistan, with the army and tactics that we had on 9/11 2001.

Before the GOP goes blaming Obama for Bush’s policies, they should go tell the dead that Bush made no mistakes between 2002 and 2009. In Iraq. In Afghanistan. In Washington.


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