Friday, January 12, 2007

NATO Scores a big Kill!

With a not no bad headline:

Taliban invaders ambushed in the mountains
(Smoothingplane snarky comments here and there)
Nato Forces in Afghanistan claimed yesterday to have thwarted a major Taliban border incursion from Pakistan by killing up to 150 insurgents in a night-time operation.
Questions: Claimed to have thwarted...major incursion. Is it a claim or a fact? Which is claimed, the killing, the major or the incurs? Interesting that it was night time. Night time is the right time.

As part of what was thought to be a precursor to a Taliban spring offensive, Nato officials said that two columns totalling some 200 insurgents crossed into the Afghan border province of Paktika on Wednesday night.
Questions: Thought by whom? Does a strung out line of 100 a column make?

Pakistani forces were informed of the movement of Taliban fighters and the Pakistani military claimed that it bombed and destroyed trucks used by the Taliban on its side of the border.
If so, it was the first military action by the Pakistani military since the government signed a peace deal with militants last year. US military commanders say border incursions have increased threefold since the deal.
Questions: Informed...? "The bastards have gotten out of the trucks. Light 'em up."? And "bombed"? Bombs mean aircraft, fixed wing not helicopters. For the Pakistani's to be told of the movements to them be able to usse bombs expeditiously seems to imply they were in the commo loop all along. Or maybe they were not, our helicopters or fixed wings destroyed the truck and the Pakistani's get the credit. I'm making an assumption about the timeline. The article makes it sound as if the Pakistani's were told about the trucks after they were exited. Either this was t he first the Pakistani's heard of it or not. If the first they'd heard, it seems it might take some time to call for fixed wing air assets. I might be inflating a small point, but I'd would like to know more about the level of coordination and cooperation. Someone from NATO is in communication with some sort of counterpart in Pakistan. "Threefold..."? In terms of crossings or numbers crossed? Facts please, facts.

The fighting took place as the British commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, Gen David Richards, visited the Pakistani capital to co-ordinate military strategy between Nato, Afghan and Pakistani forces.

Pakistan has come under criticism from Nato commanders for not doing enough to stem Taliban "infiltration". Pakistan denies the charge.
The group of Taliban fighters had assembled in the mountainous terrain of North Waziristan and were seen by American reconnaissance units as they dismounted from lorries before filing over the border at two points.
Observations: It seems the trucks were destroyed after emptying out. Who are the American re-con units, and how close were they? Predator drones with eyes in Florida, or Snake Eaters with eyes close by and on the ground? Hmm...

As they entered Bermal district on the Afghan side of the border at 7pm they were attacked by American Apache assault helicopters firing air-to-surface missiles and 30mm machinegun rounds.
Questions: Again, the time lines. How soon after crossing the border were they attacked? That is, were the Apaches in the air, just waiting. I hope so. But 30mm rounds are not, I say again, not machine gun rounds. Bradley Fighting vehicles fire a 25mm explosive round, the 25 Mike Mike. Sweet and nasty stuff. If memory is correct, the 30mm round is a gatling round, the thousands of rounds per minute, sweet and nasty. (There are 25.4 mm's to the inch. A .50 caliber M2 machine gun round is one half inch, half as nasty, still sweet. Sort of a hemi-round. Heh.)

Attack aircraft then dropped a mixture of 500 to 1,000lb bombs on the two groups. The co-ordinated air and ground strikes just 1.2 miles inside Afghan territory were reported to have all but annihilated the Taliban force. The Afghan army reported that the Taliban dead, their weapons and ammunition littered the site of the fighting with blood trails apparently showing where wounded men were carried back towards the Pakistan border.
Observations: I do not know the terrain. Mountainous like the road into Butte Montana, and the Homestake pass? Or mountainous like 25,000 foot peaks? Let's suppose that 1.2 miles waas not a twenty minute walk. It seems likely the terrain would have dictated where to attack. As barren and as without cover as possible. But it was night time. As bombs were dropped after dark, I'd hazard those 'American re-con units' might have had an eye in pointing to the targets.
A Nato spokesman said there were no reports of civilian casualties. A purported spokesman for the Taliban, Mohammad Hanif, denied that any Taliban were involved in the fighting and claimed all those killed were civilians.
Questions: "Purported"...Interesting that none of us are "civilians" to the enemy, but the only people we seem able to kill are those pesky "civilians"... sneaking into Afghistan...after dark, smuggling weapons. I assume their adorable little ponies escaped.

The fighting, although not continuous, lasted for nine hours as Apache aircraft tracked the disintegrating columns as fighters fled into the mountainous terrain.
Observations: Nine hours, 1900 to 0400 hours. "Fled into ...mountainous terrain" sounds quite immediate, as does disintegrating. Tracking them sounds slow and deliberate. Which is it...? I'd guess eyes were kept on the area until some daylight began. Did ground forces or patrols go in?
"We think that we killed at least 130 fighters from what we have been able to ascertain through visual recognition," said Lt Col Paul Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for US forces in Kabul. "We are very confident we did heavy damage on these two columns," he added.
Col Fitzpatrick said there were several US bases and outposts within walking distance of the Taliban fighters.
Questions: What is ascertaining through visual recognition? How close did someone get to "ascertain"? Several bases and large? What sort of walkng distance? Days? Hours?

"It was a bold attack which they did not have the opportunity to pull off," he said.
Pressure has been mounting on Pakistan to do more to tackle the cross-border movement of insurgents. As Pakistan claimed to have destroyed the lorries used by the Taliban on its side of the border, the US assistant secretary of state, Richard Boucher, continued his policy of gentle pressure on Islamabad's military regime.
Observations: I hate the 'as this was happening, this other thing also was continuing to happen' writing. Events are jammed together in time like a bad edit on television. My most hated bad edit is the person-chasing-person edit. In one scene the chaser-chasee are six feet apart. The chasee exits around a corner. In the next scene, the chaser is 100 feet back. "This comes as...."
"Pakistan is a very important ally in the fight against terrorism," he said. "There are successes on both sides of the border, there are strong commitments on both sides of the border to deal with extremism... there are also challenges on both sides of the border.
"It is clear to me none of us will be safe unless we deal with both sides of the border... we are all in this together."
Observation: One hundred yards back.

American and Nato officials maintain that Pakistan's president, Gen Pervez Musharraf, cannot be pushed too hard to crack down on Islamic radicals for fear of provoking a violent backlash. Gen Richards said: "Today in Afghanistan the number of incidents have declined dramatically from the highs of the last summer. The reduction is to a degree the result of Pakistan army activity and we are the beneficiaries of that."
But he added that the 1,553 miles of rugged frontier still posed a big challenge.
The bloodshed was the result of violence of unprecedented severity for Afghanistan's traditionally quiet winter months.
Questions: When isn't something reported by the press "unprecedented" in the most superlative since they "Brought in the green divan against the darkey's in 9 A.D."? (Astute readers will catch this obscure Flying Circus reference.)

It is thought to be the most intense fighting since the end of Operation Medusa, a major Nato offensive in the first half of September against Taliban forces in the southern province of Kandahar in which Nato claimed to have killed as many as 500 insurgents.
Question: Thought by whom? (I become weary 'aksing' this question. Passive voice cowardice!) Can't the word asserted be used instead of claimed? Mr "purported Tailiban above " ought to be a "claimed", or even "a pretended".

Yesterday's fighting contrasts with previous years when Taliban activity greatly reduced during the winter months as militants reorganised and rearmed ahead of the launch of their traditional spring offensive.
Observation: How much greatly is reduced by half when previous traditions were increased threefold? Or, two Apache helicopters approach Waziristan; they leave the FOB at 1640 hours, cruising at 140 MPH. Six F-15's leave their airbase at Kandahar, cruising at 550 MPH. Which weapons platform will do the greatest damage? (Careful, trick question.)

Nato commanders are braced for a major escalation in Taliban activity across the south of the country this spring with reports that the Taliban has new stockpiles of weapons and ammunition prepared along the border and is fired with renewed confidence after a year that saw the heaviest fighting in Afghanistan since 2001, and as many as 4,000 people killed, many of them Taliban fighters.
Questions: "Braced"? White knuckled, gripping the seat in from? "Fired with renewed confidence"...? Gag me!! Bring 'em on. The heaviest fighting in Afghanistan in 2001 was the six week slaughter of the Taliban accomplished by small teams of Special forces, their forward air observer and lots of JDAM's. If they want this sort of confidence building, I'm sure our guys will gladly fire on them with renewed confidence, and lots of 30mm.
Note: For an excellent look at the Afghan ground campaign read Robin More's book Task Force Dagger. You will cheer along with the Northern Alliance Afghans as they cheered seeing Taliban blown into the air by 1000 bombs.

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