August 8th, 2011
07:43 AM ET

Tragedy underscores Afghan war's realities

By CNN's Tim Lister

The shooting down of a Chinook helicopter in central Afghanistan with the loss of 38 lives - most of them U.S. Navy SEALs - highlights two crucial aspects of the conflict in Afghanistan, as U.S. forces begin to draw down and Afghan security forces start taking the lead.

The first is the growing reliance on U.S. Special Operations Forces to combat the Taliban and other insurgent groups - in operations every night across the country.

The second is that many areas far beyond the Taliban's traditional strongholds in the south remain very insecure, areas where the Taliban have exploited an instinctive wariness of a foreign force among locals - and punished those who dare to work with them.

One such place is the Tangi Valley in Wardak province, where the crash occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning. Soldiers who have served there describe it as perfect territory for insurgents, with steep mountainsides of shale and boulders overlooking orchards and thick vegetation.

Improvised bombs are regularly planted along the one road that runs through the valley, next to the Logar River, and detonated from vantage points above. (NATO officials say that the IEDs' control wires are laid across the river, making pursuit of the insurgents more difficult.)

Tangi is only 60 miles from Kabul, close to the main highway south. But the Taliban (though not al Qaeda or other foreign groups) have long been active in the area.

In 2009, soldiers in the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division were deployed to this part of Wardak. They encountered 57 roadside bombs in the valley in just three months, dubbing the road "IED alley" and "Walter Reed Highway," a reference to the Army medical center where many soldiers wounded in Afghanistan have received treatment.

Firefights were an almost daily occurrence.

On his blog this weekend, a former member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade recently deployed to Tangi wrote of the village where the helicopter came down. "Juy Zarin is a village we went to frequently during our deployment and never found anything good while out there. In fact it was a wonderful place to go if we felt like getting into contact."

Back in the 1980s, the Soviet Army was never able to pacify the region, and Soviet convoys were frequently ambushed there.

Earlier this year U.S. forces passed control of the military post in the valley to Afghan troops. Lt. Col. Thomas S. Rickard of the 10th Mountain Division handed over Combat Outpost Tangi to a unit of the Afghan National Army.

"As we lose U.S. personnel, we have to concentrate on the greater populations," Rickard told the U.S. Army website at the time. But the afghan Army did not maintain a permanent presence at the outpost, according to officials of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

As elsewhere, especially in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. forces are now returning to areas previously seen as too remote to focus on or too difficult to defend, where the Taliban and other insurgent groups have filled the vacuum. As they do, the risk of casualties grows - as does the role of U.S. special forces.

The use of U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) in Afghanistan has grown exponentially. In a talk two weeks ago at the Aspen Security Forum, the outgoing commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, Adm. Eric T. Olson, disclosed that SOF carried out "somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 operations" in 2010 alone.

"This is now routine, every night....ground forces getting on a helicopter and flying against a target," Olson said.

The template of such operations includes "a quick reaction force on call to render assistance should things go bad," Olson said. In Friday night's attack, it was the quick reaction force, on its way to assist an ongoing mission by Army Rangers, that perished.

Speaking of the Navy SEALs who took part in the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, Adm. Olson made their role sound almost mundane. "For the people involved it was another mission and another target....This is not a force that sits on the second deck of the fire station waiting for the bell to ring every 10 or 15 years. We trace our lessons back to what we did last night."

But he also recognized the huge burden now falling on Special Operations Forces to subdue the Taliban.

"We are beginning to fray around the edges. We are asking an awful lot of our people," he said at the Aspen conference, adding that SOF units were seeing "a lot of separations short of divorce." But 82% of SOF troops who have the choice of leaving or staying in choose the latter, according to Olson. And more will be asked of them. Of the 33,000 U.S. troops due to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, none will be special forces.

Special Operations Command - drawn from all four branches of the U.S. military - has grown to a strength of 60,000. With a $10 billion budget it is now larger than the U.S. Coast Guard and about the same size as the entire Canadian Defense Force.

And the caliber of its members reflects its special status. Thirty percent are college graduates. They are more experienced than regular soldiers, with an average age of 30, and they volunteer multiple times. Olson says 60% of SOF have joined since September 11, 2001 - and the aim is to keep them in the military for an average of 20 years.

SOF operations in Afghanistan have at times been controversial, the subject of criticism from President Hamid Karzai because of civilian casualties.

In 2010, then-ISAF Commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal tightened rules of engagement after a series of raids involved civilian deaths, although some units remained exempt from the directive. When he took over, Gen. David Petraeus expanded the use of SOF in an effort to drive the Taliban out of Helmand and Kandahar provinces and blunt the Haqqani network further east.

In testimony to Congress in March, Petraeus said: "We have stepped up the tempo of precise, intelligence-driven operations to capture or kill insurgent leaders....In a typical 90-day period, precision operations by U.S. special-mission units and their Afghan partners alone kill or capture some 360 targeted insurgent leaders."

It appears the Army Rangers were involved in just such a mission in Tangi Valley - closing in on Taliban commanders meeting in a village - when they called for reinforcement.

Special Operations Forces remain the sharp end of a multi-pronged approach in Afghanistan. Olson said the strategy marries "the counter-terrorism line of operation and the engagement line of operation - what's been called village stability operations and the development of Afghan local police trying to return neighborhoods back to the neighbors."

It's become known as "clear, hold, build, transition" to win over what are euphemistically called "under-governed spaces."

Such was the aim of commanders in Tangi two years ago.

Lt. Col. Kimo Gallahue, battalion commander for the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, told the Armed Forces Press Service in March 2009: "We'll take the physical terrain from the enemy ... and we'll take the people away, because the people are the prize in this fight."

But even with the surge last year, many areas of Afghanistan rarely see an ISAF soldier. And officers acknowledge that while a platoon can show a presence, it might take a company or more to persuade villagers they are secure. "Successful counter-insurgency is labor intensive," said one officer.

One soldier deployed to Tangi Valley wrote of his experiences on the website AssgnmentAfghanistan in January.

"Few of the villagers are openly hostile towards us, but they are always mindful of the Taliban, who move through the valley at night," he said. "They are in a delicate situation - we Americans have much to offer them, but they know that we will not be in their valley forever, and they know that the (Afghan National Army) and (Afghan National Police) cannot fight the insurgency alone."

Last year, the newspaper Stars and Stripes reported on a planned meeting for farmers in the district.

Two officials from the ministry of agriculture in Kabul backed out at the last minute, fearing for their safety, and not a single farmer showed up, "leaving a handful of American soldiers and a lone U.S. Department of Agriculture representative, sitting on otherwise empty benches in a stiff breeze, with folding tables full of unopened water bottles and unmade tea," the paper reported.

The phrase commonly used in Afghanistan is: "The Americans have the watches, but the Taliban have the time."

Post by:
Filed under: Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Military • NATO • Navy SEALs • Special Operations Forces • Taliban
soundoff (325 Responses)
  1. Sprinter Van Seat Fabric Repair

    https://doterra.myvoffice.com/Application/index.cfm?&EnrollerID=1&Theme=Default&ReturnUrl=fleettruckrepairshop.com/sprinter-van-upgrades-shop-near-me

    May 12, 2021 at 8:12 am | Reply
  2. 2006 Sprinter Fuel Pump Repair

    It’s hard to find experienced people for this topic, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

    https://coyoacan.cdmx.gob.mx/link?ruta=https://fleettruckrepairshop.com/sprinter-van-repair-shop-near-me-3

    May 12, 2021 at 7:59 am | Reply
  3. mattress repair service

    https://scripts.affiliatefuture.com/AFClick.asp?affiliateID=29219&merchantID=2543&programmeID=6678&mediaID=0&tracking=&url=https://youtube.com/watch?v=qD_9i3BeG2Y

    May 12, 2021 at 6:24 am | Reply
  4. RV Fabrication Los Angeles

    https://www.cuentas.lamula.pe/logout/?next=https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGb9aC76nAmfzNsCru2KBHA/videos

    May 12, 2021 at 3:49 am | Reply
  5. RV Batteries California

    http://www.capoeiracamara.ru/go.php?url=http://www.g.page/ocrvcenter

    May 12, 2021 at 2:25 am | Reply
  6. RV Restoration California

    This website truly has all of the info I wanted concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

    http://fwooden.com/Home/ChangeCulture?langCode=ar&returnUrl=http3A2F2Fyoutube.com/channel/UCCWA5o3d2u11KvEjA3wLVUA/videos

    May 11, 2021 at 10:25 pm | Reply
  7. rv window replacement near me

    Saved as a favorite, I love your site!

    http://jp.local.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvshop.com/shuttle-bus-collision-repair-shop-near-me

    May 11, 2021 at 10:16 pm | Reply
  8. Social Media Marketing Firms California

    http://news.grupoassist.com.br/registra_clique.php?id=TH|teste|344214|13882&url=http://postfallsvideographer.com

    May 11, 2021 at 6:51 pm | Reply
  9. Social Media Marketing Pros

    There is certainly a great deal to learn about this issue. I like all of the points you've made.

    http://uploadspace.lakemaintenanceassociation.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=juicycalls.com

    May 11, 2021 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  10. Fmrfreext

    back pain from cialis https://cialisee.com/ buy cialis information

    May 11, 2021 at 12:10 pm | Reply
  11. Social Media Marketing Pro

    Hi, I do believe this is a great blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to revisit yet again since i have book-marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.

    http://www.werow.com/mod.php?mod=calendar&op=visit_link&url=http://www.affordableranking.com

    May 11, 2021 at 11:32 am | Reply
  12. Internet Marketing Management

    Excellent article! We are linking to this particularly great article on our site. Keep up the good writing.

    http://www.opeconsultores.es/modulos/dmlocalizacion/compartir/compartir.asp?url=http://www.affordableranking.com

    May 11, 2021 at 6:39 am | Reply
  13. Social Media Marketing Help

    https://www.instrideauto.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.affordableranking.com

    May 11, 2021 at 5:32 am | Reply
  14. Content Marketing Agency

    Good information. Lucky me I came across your site by accident (stumbleupon). I've book marked it for later!

    http://cord-blood-info.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 11, 2021 at 4:55 am | Reply
  15. Local Marketing Association

    bookmarked!!, I love your site!

    https://carrierservicesinc.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 11, 2021 at 2:00 am | Reply
  16. Digital Marketing Company Near Me

    May I just say what a comfort to uncover somebody who genuinely knows what they're talking about online. You certainly realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people have to read this and understand this side of the story. It's surprising you are not more popular given that you most certainly have the gift.

    https://phillypa.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.affordableranking.com

    May 11, 2021 at 1:56 am | Reply
  17. Rebffiple

    cialis and dapoxetine canada https://rcialisgl.com/ cialis..com

    May 11, 2021 at 1:52 am | Reply
  18. Jebgreext

    viagra generic online pharmacy [url=http://pharmacylo.com/ ]Methocarbamol[/url] safeway pharmacy

    May 11, 2021 at 12:48 am | Reply
  19. Internet Marketing Company Near Me

    Hi, I do believe this is an excellent website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to revisit once again since i have book-marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.

    https://mesteel.com/cgi-bin/w3-msql/goto.htm?url=https://affordableranking.com

    May 10, 2021 at 11:22 pm | Reply
  20. BbshVelm

    viagra commercial actress 2015 http://loxviagra.com/ viagra u.s.a

    May 10, 2021 at 9:29 pm | Reply
  21. Local Marketing Business

    http://www.atomcraft.ru/forum/away.php?s=http://affordableranking.com

    May 10, 2021 at 5:03 pm | Reply
  22. Content Marketing Associations

    This is a good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate information… Thank you for sharing this one. A must read article!

    https://www.fannzz.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 10, 2021 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  23. Lebnreext

    Bactrim [url=https://xlnpharmacy.com/ ]Olanzapine[/url] Isoptin SR

    May 10, 2021 at 10:09 am | Reply
  24. Fmrfreext

    cialis online http://cialisee.com/ can i buy cialis local

    May 10, 2021 at 8:50 am | Reply
  25. RV Seats Los Angeles

    http://stylista.biz/wordPress/?wptouch_switch=desktop&redirect=http3A2F2Focrvcenter.com

    May 9, 2021 at 8:50 pm | Reply
  26. Local Marketing Jobs

    You've made some really good points there. I looked on the internet for additional information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.

    http://www.casaldesaosimao.com/?wptouch_switch=desktop&redirect=http://affordableranking.com

    May 9, 2021 at 4:09 pm | Reply
  27. Seo Marketing Ideas

    http://www.eprussia.ru/bitrix/redir.php?id=124&site_id=s1&event1=banner&event2=click&event3=1+2F+5B1245D+5B3_35D+D09AD180D0B8D0BFD182D0B5D0BD+3_3&goto=https3A2F2Faffordableranking.com

    May 9, 2021 at 12:44 pm | Reply
  28. Jebgreext

    Augmentin [url=http://pharmacylo.com/ ]pharmacy online uae[/url] treatment for erectile dysfunction

    May 9, 2021 at 11:35 am | Reply
  29. Local Marketing Center

    I have to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this site. I'm hoping to check out the same high-grade blog posts from you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own, personal website now 😉

    http://www.femalebusinessseminars.ch/newsletter/countlinks.php?uri=http3A2F2Faffordableranking.com&nid=251&did=

    May 9, 2021 at 8:15 am | Reply
  30. Social Media Marketing Companies Near Me

    https://www.tlc.org.tw/global_outurl.php?now_url=http3A2F2Faffordableranking.com

    May 9, 2021 at 5:12 am | Reply
  31. Seo Marketing Deal

    Everyone loves it whenever people get together and share thoughts. Great site, stick with it!

    http://www.scottyhughes.org/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 9, 2021 at 1:32 am | Reply
  32. Internet Marketing Store

    Hi! I could have sworn I’ve visited your blog before but after browsing through a few of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m certainly delighted I discovered it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back regularly!

    http://www.colecooper.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 11:43 pm | Reply
  33. RV Sound System Near Me

    Your style is so unique in comparison to other folks I've read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this blog.

    https://wi.cr/YR21Gk

    May 8, 2021 at 8:22 pm | Reply
  34. Rebffiple

    .cialis https://rcialisgl.com/ original cialis uk

    May 8, 2021 at 7:18 pm | Reply
  35. Local Marketing Videos

    https://victoriansilverchest.org/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  36. Seo Marketing Companies Near Me

    Hi, I do believe this is a great blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may come back yet again since I saved as a favorite it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.

    https://www.atterrogroup.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  37. Internet Marketing Agencies Near Me

    https://www.mokkei-entertainment.com/?wptouch_switch=mobile&redirect=https://affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 2:49 pm | Reply
  38. bucket truck repair near me

    http://wedgetoo.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvcenter.com

    May 8, 2021 at 2:25 pm | Reply
  39. Lbsofiple

    canada toronto cheap fase cialis [url=https://ucialisdas.com/ ]cialis w/o perscription[/url] coupons for cialis

    May 8, 2021 at 10:29 am | Reply
  40. Social Media Marketing Specialists

    bookmarked!!, I love your blog!

    http://www.mfarltd.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 8:32 am | Reply
  41. Digital Marketing Agency Near Me

    Aw, this was a really good post. Finding the time and actual effort to make a top notch article… but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and never seem to get anything done.

    http://miamivalleybsa.org/eu.aspx?url=http://affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 7:11 am | Reply
  42. Content Marketing Consultant

    After I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the exact same comment. Is there an easy method you are able to remove me from that service? Appreciate it!

    https://www.wesell4youtoo.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 2:26 am | Reply
  43. rv shower repair

    http://metees.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvcenter.com

    May 7, 2021 at 11:47 pm | Reply
  44. Google Marketing Specialists

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this write-up and also the rest of the website is really good.

    http://www.pioneerconnect.biz/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 7, 2021 at 11:25 pm | Reply
  45. upholstery shop orange county

    http://www.you2repeat.com/watch/?v=GeOFkeWabMo

    May 7, 2021 at 8:01 pm | Reply
  46. escape room near me

    http://www.gmwebsite.com/web/redirect.asp?url=http://www.fleettruckrepairshop.com

    May 7, 2021 at 3:15 pm | Reply
  47. Kegs Of Angry Orchard

    I used to be able to find good info from your articles.

    https://clients1.google.mg/url?sa=j&source=web&rct=j&url=https://craftbrewersofboise.com

    May 7, 2021 at 8:56 am | Reply
  48. New Forklift Maintenance Shop California

    https://www.lend-money.ru/video/kS-DB09uj-0

    May 7, 2021 at 8:56 am | Reply
  49. rv renovations near me

    http://kazhit.net/watch/mMiY21H7k60

    May 7, 2021 at 6:47 am | Reply
  50. camping near me

    After I initially commented I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a comment is added I get 4 emails with the exact same comment. Perhaps there is a means you can remove me from that service? Kudos!

    https://www.ownedcore.com/forums/redirect-to/?redirect=http://prnroofing.com

    May 7, 2021 at 4:22 am | Reply
  51. Used Forklift Cylinders California

    http://map.google.co.kr/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://forkliftdealernearme.com

    May 6, 2021 at 9:39 pm | Reply
  52. Anooreext

    can buy viagra boots http://llviagra.com/ samenerguss mit viagra

    May 6, 2021 at 8:55 pm | Reply
  53. Craft Beers Near Me

    https://local.google.com.ng/url?sa=t&rct=j&url=https://howtobrews.com

    May 6, 2021 at 6:10 pm | Reply
  54. Forklift Extensions Near Me

    https://eachnow.com/watch?v=h8HNNFmhuMc

    May 6, 2021 at 6:09 pm | Reply
  55. oc windshield

    I could not refrain from commenting. Exceptionally well written!

    http://wwqw.you2repeat.com/watch/?v=KdIB3YQJF-Q

    May 6, 2021 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  56. tj maxx near me

    https://www.lystpaa.no/release/jump.asp?url=http://www.juicycalls.com

    May 6, 2021 at 5:28 pm | Reply
  57. Anooreext

    viagra symptoms for women http://llviagra.com/ precio viagra sin receta

    May 6, 2021 at 4:51 pm | Reply
  58. electricians near me

    http://sakazaki.e-arc.jp/?wptouch_switch=desktop&redirect=https://www.goodworkscustomclothing.com

    May 6, 2021 at 1:39 pm | Reply
  59. Lebnreext

    Glucophage https://xlnpharmacy.com/ canada drug

    May 6, 2021 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  60. confidence training

    This is a great tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate info… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!

    https://map.google.com.qa/url?sa=i&url=https://masteringthemanwithin.com

    May 6, 2021 at 10:25 am | Reply
  61. adhd group near me

    Hi! I just would like to offer you a huge thumbs up for the great information you have right here on this post. I am coming back to your blog for more soon.

    https://europe.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https3A2F2Fmastermindformen.com&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGaY_nlK9ozc51fqwjiVdMaYZL7rg

    May 6, 2021 at 9:56 am | Reply
  62. RV Center Riverside

    http://rybackij-prival.ru/go?https://ocrvcenter.org

    May 6, 2021 at 6:50 am | Reply
  63. truck radiator repair

    https://www.local.google.com.gt/url?rct=j&sa=t&url=https://fleetservicesorangecounty.com

    May 6, 2021 at 5:10 am | Reply
  64. powder coating near me

    http://www.mkiwi.com/cgi-bin/search.cgi?NextLink=https://boxtruckrepairshop.com

    May 5, 2021 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  65. Lbsofiple

    generic medications cialis https://ucialisdas.com/ cialis sales

    May 5, 2021 at 7:43 pm | Reply
  66. RV Generator Riverside

    https://maps.google.mk/url?sa=i&source=web&rct=j&url=https3A2F2Focrv.online&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGaY_nlK9ozc51fqwjiVdMaYZL7rg

    May 5, 2021 at 1:15 pm | Reply
1 2 3

Leave a Reply to rajeev


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.