Posts Tagged ‘Taliban’

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6 Americans Killed by Bomb at a New U.S.-Afghan Outpost

Six American soldiers were killed and more than a dozen American and Afghan troops were wounded on Sunday morning when a van packed with explosives was detonated at a new jointly operated outpost in southern Afghanistan.

The soldiers were inside a small mud-walled building near the village of Sangsar, north of the Arghandab River, when the bomber drove up to one of the walls and exploded his charge around 9 a.m.

The blast could be heard eight miles away, and it sent a dusty cloud towering over the surrounding farmland.

The explosion blasted a hole in the thick wall, causing the roof to collapse on the soldiers inside. Others quickly arrived and clawed and pulled at the waist-deep rubble to free the buried troops.

The building had been occupied by the Americans and Afghans for only a few days, an American official said, and was beside a narrow road. It was not immediately clear how the van managed to get so close without being challenged or stopped.

Gen. Abdul Hameed, a commander in the Afghan National Army, said in a telephone interview that his soldiers had tried to stop the van, but that its driver ignored them and rammed the vehicle into the building.

After the van exploded, the field beside the ruined building became a busy landing zone, with four medical evacuation helicopters arriving to shuttle the victims to two military hospitals in nearby Kandahar.

The Taliban swiftly claimed responsibility for the bombing. “We have killed numbers of Americans and Afghan soldiers and wrecked and ruined their security checkpost,” a Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, said by telephone. “We will carry out similar attacks in the future.”

In addition to the six Americans who were killed, four American soldiers were wounded, but their injuries were not considered life-threatening, according to officials familiar with their conditions. The names of the victims were being withheld pending the notification of their families.

American fatalities in Afghanistan have risen steadily for five years, with 479 American soldiers killed so far in 2010, according to icasualties.org, an independent Web site that compiles battlefield data. That is more than three times the 155 American casualties in 2008.

Despite the Taliban’s claim, it appeared that no Afghan soldiers had been killed in the attack. There were conflicting official reports of the number of Afghans wounded. Some reports said 11 Afghan soldiers had been wounded; others put the number as high as 14. At least one Afghan soldier, who was seen by two journalists aboard a medical evacuation helicopter, had a head injury and appeared to be gravely wounded.

Most of the other Afghans who were injured were walking on their own and appeared to have suffered cuts and shrapnel wounds. A medical official said they were all expected to survive.

The attack occurred in an area where the Americans and Afghans have maintained a heavy military presence this fall, when NATO and Afghan forces flowed into Taliban-controlled territory of Kandahar Province in an effort to clear it of insurgents and bring the area under the control of the government in Kabul.

The Arghandab River Valley, a belt of irrigated fields and small villages, is now dotted with a network of American and Afghan outposts. Patrols crisscross the region each day, and new positions — like the outpost that was attacked on Sunday — are being built.

Fighting has subsided in recent weeks as the weather has cooled and the leaves have fallen, making it more difficult for insurgents to hide.

But the Taliban has continued to plant bombs and send suicide bombers, and American and Afghan soldiers are wounded or killed in the province almost every day.

Taliban small-arms attacks nearly double

 Commentators opine that Taliban small-arms attacks in 2010 have doubled from 2009 as a result of increased US/NATO/ANA operations in “contested” areas.  And that may be true.  But, more importantly, and left out of this USA report is the logistics and support required to field a well-armed insurgency and whether the personal protective equipment issued to troops is effective.  18,000 attacks in one year equals almost 50 daily violent “troops in contact” engagements.  While IED’s remain the number one killer on the battlefield (57%), death by bullet(s) accounts for almost 37% this past year.  

Two facts to consider.  The first, in terms of resiliency, the Taliban appears to have a sophisticated logistics and supply/re-supply system in place for ammunition, parts, and maintenance.  This requires a careful assessment as to how effective COIN operations have been in the “clearing” stage, because there will not be any “holding” or “building” if the local populace remains armed to the teeth (which, by the way is an Afghan’s nature).  And second, it appears that improving body armor is required to increase battlefield survivability.  While there are numerous reported instances when body armor works as advertised, a 37% small-arms fatality rate begs the question as to whether we are doing enough to outfit our troops with the best available gear.  Probably not if you simply read the data for what it is.

Report: Growing mental health problems in military

Never knew that the Department of Defense publishes a Medical Surveillance report , but even without the findings everyone knows that mental health problems are the number one health issue facing our troops.  That’s a no-brainer. The November report highlighted in this story by CNN points out the fact that mental health issues send male troops to the hospital than any other cause, and are the second highest for hospitalization amongst women troopers. “The Army was relatively most affected (based on lost duty time) by mental disorder-related hospitalizations overall; and in 2009, the loss of manpower to the Army was more than twice that to the Marine Corps and more than three times that to the other Services,” the report says. “The Army has had many more deployers to Afghanistan and Iraq and many more combat-specific casualties; it is not surprising, therefore, that the Army has endured more mental disorder-related casualties and larger manpower losses than the other services.”

 With some patience you can navigate to the MS Report site and review a decades worth of reports – rather startling data.  Consider that there is data that tracks the numbers of deaths (and by cause) within two years after

 Insecurity and Violence Spreads to Northern Afghanistan

Whack-a-mole.  Surge in the south, leave open the north.  Whack-a-mole. Reposition in the north, enemy withdraws south.  Whack-a-mole. NATO has called this “an extreme escalation” of militant activity.  Actually, it’s a simple supply and demand problem and an economy of force issue.  What was once a gunfight that only involved the Afghan provinces in the east to the south in Afghanistan is now a 360 degree fight, where all areas  require more US/NATO forces are evident to the threat and being exploited.  Coupled with criminality and a lackluster Afghan government, the northern (and western) provinces in Afghanistan have become a vacuum for the enemy to operate in with impunity.  Limiting their operations outside of major urban centers the Taliban and their confederates have been able to provide an alternative to the local populace for services, justice, and security, which “allows the instability to spread.”

 Sad to say that the only real option without any operational or strategic effect is to “whack-a-mole”.  In other words hit the enemy wherever and whenever they emerge – problem is, it’s apparent that there are insufficient US/NATO troops to cover and respond to the threat, and Afghan National Security Forces lack the capability to respond in kind as well.

 Following Up: When A Crew Chief Fights With His Rifle

 Warms your heart when you get to read about courage amidst the carnage, especially when these humble acts are by combat medic crew chiefs.

The award recommendation is below:

SGT Grayson Colby, United States Army, distinguished himself by extraordinary courage and dedication to the MEDEVAC mission on 01 June 2010, in support of Regional Combat Team 7 in Regional Command Southwest during Operation Enduring Freedom 10.

While performing MEDEVAC duty at Camp Dwyer, the crew of DUSTOFF 56 (Pilot in Command CW2 Deric Sempsrott, Pilot CPT Matthew Stewart, Crew Chief SGT Colby, and Flight Medic SGT Ian Bugh) conducted MEDEVAC mission 06-01R in central Marjeh. A dismounted patrol of Marines had come under fire, and one Marine was shot in the upper thigh. Within minutes DO56 launched from Camp Dwyer, knowing they were headed for a high threat area. No escort was available due to the multiple troops-in-contact ongoing across Helmand. The Marine would surely die if not evacuated quickly, so the crews acknowledged the risk and were authorized to launch.

As DO56 approached the point of injury, a firefight erupted on three sides of the aircraft. With no aircraft providing cover, the crew continued to the ground without hesitation, determined not to abandon the wounded. Seeing the location from which the friendly forces were engaging the enemy, SGT Bugh and SGT Colby exited the aircraft from the right door where the largest contingent of the Marine patrol was engaging the enemy.

As the two crewmembers egressed from the aircraft, a Marine came out of the tree line in front of them and signaled for them to stay low. SGT Bugh and SGT Colby sprinted 50 meters across the open field toward the Marine’s position where the patrol was locked in an engagement with the enemy. Reaching the raised road where the Marines were taking cover, SGT Bugh found that the unit had no means to transport the injured Marine and returned to the aircraft for a litter. SGT Colby immediately took a defensive position alongside the Marines and began to engage the enemy. With rounds cracking above his head and hitting the dirt around him, SGT Colby returned fire to the muzzle flashes that were approximately 200 to 300 feet in front of him.

When SGT Bugh returned to where SGT Colby was providing covering fire, they bounded as a team down the raised road with the firefight continuing around them. Reaching the wounded Marine, SGT Colby took his place in the line of Marines, replacing one who had left his position to aid his buddy. Again, SGT Colby returned fire with enemy rounds hitting around him. SGT Bugh and three other Marines carried the litter while SGT Colby remained in his position until they were clear of the road. He than followed them down the road providing rear security until reaching the aircraft. With the patient loaded and SGT Bugh and SGT Colby secure, DO56 departed towards Camp Dwyer. Once airborne, SGT Colby assisted SGT Bugh by starting oxygen on the wounded Marine as the aircraft raced back to the Dwyer Role II Hospital. The Marine went through intensive surgery at the hospital prior to being transferred to a higher level of care.

SGT Colby’s disregard for his own safety as he left the security of the aircraft to provide cover for SGT Bugh embodies the Warrior Ethos. His bravery resulted in a Marine’s life being saved. SGT Colby’s actions reflect great credit on himself, TF Shadow, TF Destiny, and the United States Army.

Gates declares Afghan war strategy is working

 Now it’s all good in Afghanistan.  The strategy is working.  The  goal to hand over the keys to the Afghans in 2014 can be met.  The security climate is improving while Regional Command-East, South, and South-west remain in a constant kinetic posture.  And you can eat chicken in Marja!

Taliban Bombs Hit New High; 1500 in November Alone

Good data provided by the Danger Room on IED’s.  Sadly, a new record was set this past month of November in Afghanistan when more than 1,500 new IED’s were constructed and emplaced.  However, somehow there is good news in all of this because the majority of IED strikes were less lethal and produced lower casualties.  I thought the idea behind COIN was to win the support of the populace by securing them.  If the numbers of IED strikes are a metric to gauge the intensity of an insurgency, and this number continues to increase over time (and set new monthly total records), then where is the good news in the fact that November’s IED totals set a new record?  Obviously we will always take comfort in the efforts to improve survivability and detection, as well as having less casualties, but really, this fact is not good news nor does it shed a good light on how effective or successful US/NATO COIN operations are.

Final note, why do General Officers who fail in their missions (i.e. defeat IED’s) get promoted and assume additional responsibilities?  Where is the accountability?

Handover to Afghan troops will start in few months

A lot happens when the Secretary of Defense visits the battlefield.  Miraculous progress is suddenly noted.  Karzai is suddenly a good guy because he stood stoic during the recent Wiki-imbroglio.  IED strike totals are up, but it doesn’t matter because no one is getting hurt.  And so on and so on…  Now we hear that Nawa district in Helmand Province is “our most advanced district” and will be the first point of security transition from U.S. to Afghan troops “in a few months.”  Well like the First Sergeant used to say “the checks in the mail; there will be trucks on the drop zone; we will be serving Hot-A’s after this mission” and so on and so on…anything to motivate the troops and keep the press happy. 

U.S. soldier dies of wounds in Wassit

Lest we forget that there are 50,000 troops deployed to Iraq still under fire.  This week a soldier assigned to a Provincial Reconstruction Team, north of Kut was gunned down by a sniper and died of his wounds.  The grind continues.

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