Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Were Our Special Ops Forces "Wasted" for Political Expediency?

Wasted. It's one hell of a word.

In Vietnam it was used as a verb, a synonym for kill, as in "We wasted a whole company of NVA on that operation."

Back in the USA, especially on college campuses, wasted meant being high, stoned, due to the use of various mind altering substances.

Webster's defines waste as: to damage or destroy; emaciate; enfeeble; or "to squander."

It's the last definition that applies here, in regards to the destruction of a US Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter on August 6 in Afghanistan that took the lives of 30 Americans, 8 Afghan troops and one dog. Aside from three helicopter crew members – the pilot, co-pilot and gunner – all the rest of the Americans were Special Operations forces, many from the US Navy's SEAL Team 6, but also including Army and Air Force special operations troops.

After a week of speculation on why so many high ranking, specially trained troops were on one helicopter, especially so many from the same team, how their helicopter was downed and what they were doing there, one theory is taking precedence.

The Special Operations forces were on that helicopter doing that job because the regular infantry troops who normally would have been used on an operation of that nature were pulled out of their combat roles to satisfy the politically motivated timetable for troop withdrawals promised by President Barack Obama.

In fact, until late this spring a US Army infantry unit was based within a mile of where the Chinook was hit and would have been responsible for security operations in that area. But they were withdrawn, apparently in anticipation of Obama's order to begin troop reductions in direct opposition to the advice of his senior commanders.

From the instant that the public learned of the Chinook crash, people with knowledge of the normal tactics and operating procedures of Special Operations forces began questioning why so many were on one aircraft, and the nature of their mission.

The Pentagon first said the troops were a Quick Reaction Force on the way to help out a US Ranger team that was on a nighttime raid to kill or capture a local Taliban leader. According to CNN the Rangers were under heavy fire from Taliban insurgents and in dire need of support.

But that raised the question of why there were no gunships – helicopters or C-130s – on station. Then it was revealed that the Rangers secured the crash site with no casualties, instantly calling into question the claim that the Chinook was on a rescue mission.

That claim also led to the question of why a Special Operations force – at that time the Pentagon had not yet released the identities of all those killed on the aircraft and most reports indicated that all the passengers were members of SEAL Team 6 – would be used as a reaction force for another special operations unit, a job that again would normally would be handled by regular infantry troops.

The fact that so many members of SEAL Team 6, the unit that killed Osama Bin Laden, were aboard instantly prompted questions of whether they were ambushed and killed in retaliation for his death. That theory required that someone with inside knowledge of the team's activities and whereabouts would have alerted the Taliban to its presence – a possibility, but also one that requires a high level traitor somewhere along the line.

It seems unlikely but that theory persists in some circles.

Later in the week the Pentagon revised its explanation and said the Ranger unit was on a mission to kill or capture a local Taliban leader – a valid mission for the Rangers who themselves are special operations troops. But military officials said some Taliban were escaping and the troops on the Chinook were called in to provide a blocking force.

But again, that merely reiterated the question of why conventional infantry were not used, and again, why so many Special Operations Forces were on one aircraft. Standard Operating Procedures called for such teams to be split up on several aircraft so the loss of one would not mean the loss of all team members.

It wasn't until after the remains of the dead were returned to Dover Air Force Base on Wednesday August 10, and President Obama made a highly publicized and ultimately controversial visit to the base, that information was released on the true makeup of the occupants of the Chinook.

Shadow President Barack Hussein Obama

Obama banned all media from Dover when the remains were returned and said he was banning all photos of the coffins at the request of families. But personnel on the base during the president's visit said he also wanted to be sure there were no pictures that showed him and the coffins together.

Obama did bring the White House photographer to the base, without the knowledge of Pentagon officials. Obama and a few of his entourage had an "artsy" picture taken, with him in silhouette saluting – something off in the distance.

On Friday FOX News finally was able to report the names, services and military occupations of all the deceased, and also showed video footage of the crash scene, with graphics indicating that the Chinook came down in the midst of a Taliban ambush and was hit in midair by numerous forms of weaponry. Sources in military intelligence say the Chinook was hit by at least three RPGs in addition to automatic weapons fire.

The FOX report revealed the true extent of the forces on the Chinook, a combat air controller, pararescue specialists, high altitude - low opening (HALO) parachutists, divers, a cryptologist, explosive ordnance disposal technicians assigned to the SEAL team, and one dog. The force consisted of SEALs and other Navy special operations personnel, in addition to both Air Force and Army special operations troops.

By Special Operations standards a 30-man, multi-service force is huge, and normally would be on a mission that could have included capture or killing of extremely high level targets, hardly the task assigned them on Aug. 6.

The regular army unit that had been stationed near the crash site could have assisted the Rangers without the need for outside forces. In fact, had the regular Army troops still been in the area it is questionable whether the operation would even have been necessary.

The use of Special Operations troops to do the job normally tasked to regular infantry unfortunately is not unusual for the Afghanistan Theater in the War on Terror. Until recently, with the exception of the initial invasion in 2001, Afghanistan has been treated like an unimportant backwater in the war – even though the September 11, 2001 terror attacks were unleashed from there.

Even after the major successes of American and allied troops aligned with the anti-Taliban forces in 2001, the terrorist Taliban and Al Qaeda forces have persisted, never really disappearing. When American commanders turned their attention to Iraq and pursued fleeing Al Qaeda fighters there, Afghanistan operations became the responsibility of NATO forces, and success seemed to become a dirty word, with the terrorist forces rebuilding their ranks and taking over huge swaths of the country virtually unimpeded.

After the American victory in Iraq, American commanders and politicians again focused on Afghanistan where the situation had deteriorated terribly. An increase in American fighters there was approved by Obama but he also announced that there would be a withdrawal date, determined by Obama's promises to his political base, not conditions on the ground.

Obama also said when he announced his troop withdrawal policy that he was going to turn much of the work being done by conventional infantry in Afghanistan over to Special Operations Forces, a comment that led many analysts to envision small teams doing covert work that would result in strikes on the Taliban by drones, conventional aircraft or artillery.

Now it is obvious that Obama's comments meant he would replace the line infantry units with the highly trained special operations troops, who not only have many more years invested in specialized training, but often are much higher in rank than the typical fighter in an infantry company. Thus a review of the ranks and specialties among the Special Operations fighters lost on August 6 shows that they had accumulated more than a century of experience – and will be very difficult to replace.

Yet the Obama Administration continues to bumble along ignoring the criticism of his Dover "photo op" as he focuses on a three-day campaign bus tour paid for by taxpayers. Next, he's taking his family to Martha's Vineyard for a week's vacation.

FOX News reported that at least three investigations have been launched to determine what happened on that dark Afghan night. In my circles, the Obama Administration is so universally distrusted that the word "whitewash" is heard frequently. In fact, this week the Washington Times published a story in which an unnamed "Commando" placed the blame for the August 6 incident squarely on the shoulders of the local commanders.

Maybe so, but they were taking orders from much higher up the chain of command and the guys on the bottom should not have to take the blame for the guys on the top.

We may have to wait a long time to determine how these investigations turn out, but one thing is certain right now. Barack Hussein Obama is the commander in chief, and it was his order to reconfigure the troops in Afghanistan, regardless of whether or not he had direct knowledge of circumstances that led to the death of so many troops.

As such, to quote one of his predecessors, the buck stops with him. These deaths, and all others in the War on Terror from Inauguration Day 2009 onward, are directly tied to him, and we can only hope the American voting public remembers the events of August, 2011 in November, 2012.

Meanwhile, across America, families, friends and colleagues are mourning the deaths of the Special Forces personnel and all others who have died defending this country, while their commander in chief shows once again that he is not fit to lead.


Anonymous said...

Blaming the President for packing 30 plus soldiers on a Chinook is idiotic. That decision was made much, much further down the chain of command. As for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, that's not a one-man decision. Republicans (Ron and Rand Paul, for example), Democrats, and a good portion of the American people have come to the conclusion that we have done what we could and it's time for extraction.

Ron Winter said...

Idiotic? OK Genius let's take a closer look at the situation.

Fact: Barack Obama ordered troop withdrawals from Afghanistan in his capacity as Commander in Chief directly in opposition to the recommendations of the generals on the ground who firmly believe that with the right resources we can end this in two years.
He has the final word, not his advisers, and not his fawning political sycophants. Obama was elected to do this job and he has the final say.
Finger pointing and blame shifting are childish and unbecoming of a real leader.

Fact: Until late spring Army infantry were stationed within a mile of the site where the Chinook was destroyed. Had they still been there doing their job this mission probably would not have been necessary.

Fact: The commander on the scene for reasons that have not been explained did not have one of the up-armored Chinooks that are standard equipment for these operations on hand, and was forced to use a conventional Chinook in a quick response to what was reported as an emergency situation.

Fact: Due to the troop withdrawals the commander on the scene did not have the conventional infantry that should have been used in this operation and was forced to rely on highly trained special operations troops. It was Obama himself who said he would supplant the operations of line infantry with the use of special ops.

Fact: This is a replay of the situation George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld faced in Iraq when it was revealed that the HUMVEEs, which had proved to be ill-suited for urban combat in Mogadishu in 1993, had not been improved in the eight years of the Clinton Administration. When their flaws for urban combat again became glaringly obvious in Baghdad, who was blamed for using them? The on-scene commanders who had no other options? No.
The Democrats and the media blamed George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld even as they were hustling to produce the much better designed and equipped MWRAPs. What exactly is different about this situation?

Fact: If you political hacks are going to jump on my site to protect your messiah, you better come with some knowledge of real world situations.

Your pathetic bleatings are just a rehash of the same crap that ran in the Washington Times earlier this week in which an anonymous "commando" blamed the on-scene commanders and tried to distance Obama from his own decisions.

You chant "protect Obama." Your strategy is to sacrifice low-level field commanders who were handed a Catch-22; Go to battle with insufficient resources and pay the price when decisions made far, far above their pay grade go awry and cost the lives of our troops.

Methinks you protest too much. Oh, and I'm not afraid to sign my name to what I write.

Anonymous said...

"In any organization, the man at the top must bear the responsibility. That responsibility, therefore, belongs here, in this office. I accept it."

Richard Nixon.

What say you, Mr. Obama?

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