Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Look at a Taliban Victory 
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Read this from Michael Yon, who says the French military and NATO are lying about the contents of this after action report.

The Globe and Mail looks at an ambush in which a platoon of French soldiers got chewed up and spit out by Taliban fighters last month.

A NATO report on the incident obtained by The Globe and Mail provides the most in-depth account so far of an attack on Aug. 18 that shook the countries involved in the increasingly bloody campaign. The NATO report, marked “secret,” reveals woefully unprepared French troops surprised by well-armed insurgents in a valley east of Kabul. Ten soldiers were killed, the report concludes, but the other soldiers were lucky to escape without more deaths.

The French did not have enough bullets, radios and other equipment, the report said. The troops were forced to abandon a counterattack when the weapons on their vehicles ran out of ammunition only 90 minutes into a battle that stretched over two days. One French platoon had only a single radio and it was quickly disabled, leaving them unable to call for help. Chillingly, in an indication that the French troopers may have been at the mercy of their attackers, the dead soldiers from that platoon “showed signs of being killed at close range,” the report said.

By contrast, the insurgents were dangerously well prepared. The investigation found evidence of well-trained snipers among the guerrillas – highly unusual, because the Taliban are frequently mocked for their poor marksmanship – and indications they were supplied with incendiary bullets designed to punch holes in armour

See the play-by-play of the maneuver scheme here.

The presence of skilled snipers in Afghanistan is perhaps a significant development. (I can't gauge what the distances are, but their aimed fire was accurate enough to prevent immediate reinforcement of the cut-off element, which goes to show you how effective trained snipers can be. The sniper may not have been the killing force. But he made the killing force more effective by making it impossible for the French to maneuver.

I think you have to consider the probability that there are sniper schools in neighboring Pakistan, but I also wouldn't discount the possibility that some of the snipers from Iraq in 2005-2006 have gone underground and are resurfacing in Afghanistan.
I'm sure that Al Qaeda has done its best, when its defeat in Iraq became imminent and obvious, to pull resources out and redeploy them elsewhere.

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