Skip to comments.Newsweek: U.S. Special Forces, Witnesses Say Operation Mountain Sweep was a Disaster
Posted on 09/29/2002 8:19:22 AM PDT by Brian Mosely
Newsweek: U.S. Special Forces, Witnesses in Eastern Afghanistan Say Operation Mountain Sweep was a Disaster
Internal Review of Mission Launched, Some Officers Have Been Subjected to Internal Military Investigations
Sunday September 29, 11:09 am ET
But officers in the 82nd insist their men did nothing wrong. In response to queries from Newsweek, public-affairs officers even characterized the Special Forces involved in Mountain Sweep as "prima donnas" who were damaging the war effort by complaining to the press, reports Soloway in the October 7 issue (on newsstands Monday, September 30).
Since March, some 50 soldiers from several Special Forces A-teams have been operating in eastern Afghanistan, working to win the villagers' trust and cooperation. Then on August 19, American commanders sent some 600 action-hungry members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, Third Battalion, charging into the area. "We just couldn't believe they were acting that way. Every time we turned around they were doing something stupid. We'd be like, 'Holy s--t, look at that! Can you believe this!'" Another said: "They were acting like [Osama] bin Laden was hiding behind every door. That just wasn't the way to be acting with civilians." Special Forces working in the region say that since Mountain Sweep, the stream of friendly intelligence on weapons caches, mines and terrorist activity has dried up.
After the mission, the two SF teams submitted an "after-action review." Newsweek has not seen the document, but sources say it describes in detail the problems the teams witnessed and suggests ways to avoid such problems in the future. The report set off a storm of recriminations. Col. James Huggins, commander of Task Force Panther, of which the Third Battalion is a part, says every platoon and squad leader in the battalion was questioned under oath, and their statements did not support the teams' charges. Accounts from villagers and local officials in the area back up the Special Forces' version of what happened on Operation Mountain Sweep. Officers involved have been accused of leaking classified reports to Newsweek and have been subjected to internal military investigations.
But seriously, I wasn't with the grunts of the Division, but I can say that I have my doubts about this story.
Of course they haven't seen the "document," it's classified.
No problem for Newsweak, just make up a story and the sheeple will believe it.
"Sources" could be the guy sitting next to the writer in a bar.
There are HUGE differences in the approach taken to this sort of mission by Special Forces as opposed to the regular Army way. That is exactly why S.F. EXISTS! To be able to go into an area in small teams composed of very competent and mature individuals, EARN the trust of the people there, and develop good intelligence and possibly train and arm some paramilitary forces.
The "overwhelming force", kick-in-the-door, "grab-em-by-the-nuts and their hearts and minds will follow" approach is appropriate in some situations- probably not in this one.
This mistrust of unconventional forces has a long history in the U.S. Army, and it is not going away anytime soon. What we will need is better senior leadership, so that each element is used when and where it is needed, and people are not put on the ground just to get their "combat patch" tickets punched.
The 82nd (or other conventional forces) would be like sending in a large SWAT Team to project overwhelming force into a critical situation, and end it. Making friends and listening to local people is not a high priority.
Both approaches are needed, but not for every situation.
Who knows what the absolute truth is. The article is clearly biased for the Special Forces and against the 82nd. Afghanistan has become a classic guerrilla conflict: a largely invisible enemy vs. a very visible army overlayed on an indifferent population. How do you win a guerrilla war like this?
There is a tremendous incentive for large units to be put in, when the situation on the ground actually calls for a more low-key approach. Careers are made by even brief combat experience, and the awards and decorations that go with it. Everyone wants to get in on the action, and it takes a very wise senior Commander to keep these turf battles from happening.
That said, I don't think NEWSWEEK is the right place to hash all of this out.
This is going to be an "intelligence war", and we have already found to our sorrow that the gee-whiz NSA eavesdropping on every form of electronic communication in the world is NOT enough. We need people who can go into some very rough neighborhoods, live with the people there, and be trusted by them. That is our biggest need right now, and probably for years to come. The 82nd is very good at what they do, but their efforts need to be guided by the best intelligence information that can be gotten. (And don't tell me that they have their own Military Intelligence capability- it is not suited to this type of war. It is OK if they are facing large enemy regular military forces, with identifiable headquarters, supply depots, etc).
Hey! It ain't "cigars."
It's SINgle Channel Ground-to-Airborne Radio System. (SIN-C-GAR-S)
Ya can't either smoke or fornicate with this, my friend. So Klintoon would have had no use for it. ;-)
I think there is some truth in this article, but I don't believe most of what is being floated by the media at this stage.
In support of your point, it is perhaps time to re-circulate one of the most valuable threads on Free Republic, concerning how wars such as this must be fought. And not fought...
Lots of lessons here: for the politicos, the generals, the warriors...and the kibitzers, like us.
If you want to lose a war like this real quick, have it directed by a six month in the zone ring knocker.