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AFGHANISTAN: Daily stuff here please....

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« on: August 13, 2010, 07:10:15 am »

Afghan offensive turns into a debacle

By ROD NORDLAND, New York Times

The operation was not coordinated with NATO, which came to the rescue.

August 12, 2010

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - An operation that Afghan officials had expected to be a sign of their growing military capacity instead turned into an embarrassment, with Taliban fighters battering an Afghan battalion in a remote eastern area until NATO sent in French and U.S. rescue teams.

The operation, east of Kabul, was extraordinary in that it was not coordinated in advance with NATO forces and did not at first include coalition forces or air support. The Afghans called for help after 10 of their soldiers were killed and perhaps twice as many captured at the opening of the operation nine days ago.

"There are a lot of lessons to be learned here," said a senior U.S. military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "How they started that and why they started that."

The Afghan National Army now has 134,000 soldiers, and on Wednesday, the new U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus, complimented the Afghans on reaching that target three months ahead of schedule. Still, the Afghan National Army runs relatively few operations on its own, particularly large-scale ones. They take a little more than half as many casualties as coalition military forces, who now have roughly the same number of troops in the country. (In 2009, according to NATO figures, 282 Afghan soldiers were killed, compared with 521 coalition soldiers.) U.S. advisers are included in most Afghan operations. It is not clear whether any were present in this one.

Plan was betrayed

The operation began when the Afghan Army sent a battalion of about 300 men into a village called Bad Pakh, in Laghman Province, which is adjacent to the troubled border province of Kunar. Their operation, which began on the night of Aug. 3, was to flush out the Taliban in a rugged area where they had long held sway. First, using the Afghan Army's own helicopters, a detachment was inserted behind Taliban lines, while the main part of the battalion attacked from the front.

But, according to an official of the Afghan Defense Ministry, the plan was betrayed. Taliban forces were waiting with an ambush against the main body of troops. Then the airborne detachment was cut off when bad weather grounded its helicopters, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

In the confusion, corps commanders lost contact with the battalion. The battalion's Third Company -- 100 men -- took particularly heavy casualties, the official said, although he did not have a number. He said many of the company were killed, captured or missing, and as of Wednesday at least, the status of the rest of the battalion remained unclear.

However, the senior U.S. military official said the battalion had not been lost. "We know exactly where that battalion is," he said, "although there are several soldiers unaccounted for and several killed." He estimated that "about 10" soldiers had been killed and that no more than a platoon were missing, meaning up to 20 soldiers.

An official of the Red Crescent in the area said that casualties were heavy on the government side and that the Taliban had destroyed 35 Ford Ranger trucks, the standard Afghan Army transport vehicle, which typically carry six or more soldiers each.

Both Afghan and U.S. officials said that many Taliban fighters were killed and that the insurgents continued to take casualties through Thursday.

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