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 (875 Responses)
  1. Anooreext

    viagra e cannabis tiagra vs viagra

    May 23, 2021 at 10:32 pm | Reply
  2. RV Parts Riverside

    The next time I read a blog, I hope that it won't fail me just as much as this one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read, nonetheless I truly thought you would have something interesting to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something you could fix if you weren't too busy looking for attention.

    May 23, 2021 at 9:41 pm | Reply
  3. Anooreext

    viagra a los 80 [url= ]is viagra legal to import to australia[/url] aspirin vs viagra

    May 23, 2021 at 8:23 pm | Reply
  4. Jebgreext

    Zanaflex rx price comparison

    May 23, 2021 at 11:27 am | Reply
  5. Rebffiple

    cialis walmart [url= ]cialis black[/url] price comparison viagra cialis levitra

    May 23, 2021 at 5:39 am | Reply
  6. RV Flooring Riverside

    This page definitely has all the info I wanted about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

    May 22, 2021 at 11:18 pm | Reply
  7. Lebnreext

    best drugstore setting spray rate online pharmacies

    May 22, 2021 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  8. rv repair places near me

    bookmarked!!, I like your web site!

    May 22, 2021 at 4:05 pm | Reply
  9. RV Roof Orange County

    Aw, this was an incredibly good post. Spending some time and actual effort to generate a great article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.

    May 22, 2021 at 10:57 am | Reply
  10. rv tire installation near me

    May 22, 2021 at 6:27 am | Reply
  11. RV Washing California

    Hi there! This article couldn’t be written any better! Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept talking about this. I am going to send this article to him. Fairly certain he's going to have a very good read. Thank you for sharing!

    May 22, 2021 at 6:24 am | Reply
  12. Fmrfreext

    cialis black [url= ]cialis for sale nz[/url] gnereic cialis

    May 22, 2021 at 2:38 am | Reply
  13. Digital Marketing Specialists

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon every day. It's always useful to read articles from other authors and use something from their websites.

    May 21, 2021 at 9:18 pm | Reply
  14. Rebffiple

    cialis brand cialis & dapoxitine

    May 21, 2021 at 8:47 pm | Reply
  15. RV Interior Designer Near Me

    Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Many thanks, However I am going through issues with your RSS. I don’t understand the reason why I am unable to join it. Is there anyone else having the same RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    May 21, 2021 at 5:45 pm | Reply
  16. orang shops

    This website was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Many thanks!

    May 21, 2021 at 5:29 pm | Reply
  17. body work shop near me

    Hi, I do think this is a great site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I'm going to return 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 others.

    May 21, 2021 at 5:05 pm | Reply
  18. RV Dashboard Riverside

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes that produce the biggest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    May 21, 2021 at 2:35 pm | Reply
  19. Lbsofiple

    shop for cialis cialisВ® online

    May 21, 2021 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  20. Gtnbclups

    how long does viagra stay in your system [url= ]is viagra over the counter usa[/url] how long does viagra take to work

    May 21, 2021 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  21. rv parks orange county ca

    May 21, 2021 at 10:59 am | Reply
  22. situs slot online

    Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?

    you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your
    website is fantastic, let alone the content!

    May 21, 2021 at 10:45 am | Reply
  23. ocrv paint and service

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post! It's the little changes which will make the largest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

    May 21, 2021 at 10:26 am | Reply
  24. Content Marketing Experts

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this write-up plus the rest of the site is really good.

    May 21, 2021 at 10:12 am | Reply
  25. Sprinter Van Service

    May 21, 2021 at 8:47 am | Reply
  26. Fmrfreext

    10 mg cialis [url= ]originalcialis[/url] cialis without a perscription

    May 21, 2021 at 5:41 am | Reply
  27. RV Bedroom Riverside

    May 21, 2021 at 4:13 am | Reply
  28. Sprinter Mercedes Service

    May 21, 2021 at 2:59 am | Reply
  29. RV Driver Seats Los Angeles

    May 21, 2021 at 2:29 am | Reply
  30. RV Slide Out Near Me

    May 21, 2021 at 12:32 am | Reply
  31. BbshVelm

    can you buy viagra over the counter viagra stories pictures

    May 20, 2021 at 11:28 pm | Reply
  32. Diesel Sprinter Engine Repair Service

    May 20, 2021 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  33. RV Technician California

    May 20, 2021 at 5:19 pm | Reply
  34. rv repair riverside ca

    When I initially commented I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the same comment. There has to be a means you are able to remove me from that service? Thanks!

    May 20, 2021 at 1:07 pm | Reply
  35. Google Marketing Consultant

    May 20, 2021 at 12:43 pm | Reply
  36. Digital Marketing Near Me

    This is a topic which is near to my heart... Best wishes! Exactly where are your contact details though?

    May 20, 2021 at 5:43 am | Reply
  37. Social Media Marketing Specialists

    Very good article! We are linking to this great content on our website. Keep up the great writing.

    May 20, 2021 at 1:22 am | Reply
  38. Content Marketing Agency

    May 20, 2021 at 12:58 am | Reply
  39. Lebnreext

    pharmaceutical online Zithromax

    May 20, 2021 at 12:33 am | Reply
  40. RV Paint Shop Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 11:44 pm | Reply
  41. BbshVelm

    viagra replacement [url= ]can i buy viagra over the counter[/url] viagra versus cialis

    May 19, 2021 at 8:53 pm | Reply
  42. rv remodeling companies near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I truly think this web site needs a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the advice!


    May 19, 2021 at 5:39 pm | Reply
  43. accident repair shop near me


    May 19, 2021 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  44. Handicap Van Repair

    I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s both equally educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I came across this during my hunt for something regarding this.

    May 19, 2021 at 2:25 pm | Reply
  45. Pool Contractors Orange County California

    May 19, 2021 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  46. Lbsofiple

    lilly cialis 20mg [url= ]new york cialis[/url] price comparison cialis

    May 19, 2021 at 12:47 pm | Reply
  47. gift for mom ideas

    May 19, 2021 at 11:05 am | Reply
  48. best energy pills 2016

    Excellent site you have here.. It’s hard to find high-quality writing like yours these days. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

    May 19, 2021 at 2:39 am | Reply
  49. thyroid energy pills

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

    May 19, 2021 at 2:26 am | Reply
  50. New Forklift Maintenance Shop California

    After looking over a handful of the blog posts on your web page, I honestly like your technique of writing a blog. I added it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Take a look at my website as well and tell me what you think.

    May 18, 2021 at 10:57 pm | Reply
  51. Used Forklift Service Shop California

    Good day! I just want to offer you a huge thumbs up for the excellent information you've got here on this post. I am coming back to your website for more soon.

    May 18, 2021 at 9:48 pm | Reply
  52. Maserati Pov

    I wanted to thank you for this good read!! I certainly enjoyed every little bit of it. I've got you saved as a favorite to check out new things you post…

    May 18, 2021 at 9:14 pm | Reply
  53. Social Media Marketing Events

    I blog quite often and I really thank you for your content. This article has truly peaked my interest. I am going to bookmark your blog and keep checking for new information about once a week. I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.

    May 18, 2021 at 8:47 pm | Reply
  54. Home Health Care Palm Desert

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

    May 18, 2021 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  55. Craft Breweries Near Me

    May 18, 2021 at 4:22 pm | Reply
  56. Dentist Nearby

    May 18, 2021 at 3:58 pm | Reply
  57. Maserati Mistral

    Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon every day. It will always be useful to read through articles from other authors and use something from other websites.

    May 18, 2021 at 2:56 pm | Reply
  58. camper body repair

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who was doing a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me dinner due to the fact that I found it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this issue here on your web page.

    May 18, 2021 at 7:31 am | Reply
  59. orange cz

    Spot on with this write-up, I truly believe this site needs much more attention. I’ll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the information!

    May 18, 2021 at 5:33 am | Reply
  60. Jebgreext

    best canadian online pharmacies Tizanidine

    May 18, 2021 at 5:22 am | Reply
  61. geico painting commercial

    A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. I believe that you should write more on this issue, it may not be a taboo matter but generally folks don't talk about such issues. To the next! Many thanks!!

    May 18, 2021 at 2:55 am | Reply
  62. Fmrfreext

    generic cialis [url= ]best way to take cialis[/url] name brand cialis

    May 18, 2021 at 2:28 am | Reply
  63. Maserati Coupe Prices

    May 17, 2021 at 10:24 pm | Reply
  64. RV Alignment Near Me

    Everything is very open with a very clear clarification of the issues. It was truly informative. Your website is very helpful. Thanks for sharing!


    May 17, 2021 at 4:42 pm | Reply
  65. Maserati Atlanta

    May 17, 2021 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  66. orange county collision

    May 17, 2021 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  67. 2015 Maserati For Sale

    After I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is an easy method you are able to remove me from that service? Cheers!

    May 17, 2021 at 3:04 pm | Reply
  68. Lebnreext

    india pharmacy usa pharmacy

    May 17, 2021 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  69. Rebffiple

    cialis with dapoxetine buy cialis brand

    May 17, 2021 at 4:43 am | Reply
  70. Diesel Sprinter Repair Near Me

    Next time I read a blog, I hope that it won't fail me as much as this one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read, however I actually thought you'd have something helpful to say. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something you could possibly fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.

    May 17, 2021 at 4:28 am | Reply
  71. Fmrfreext

    purchase cialis online cheap cialis on line

    May 17, 2021 at 4:17 am | Reply
  72. Handicap Van Repair

    May 17, 2021 at 4:15 am | Reply
  73. 2009 Maserati Gran Turismo S

    May 17, 2021 at 3:17 am | Reply
  74. 2002 Maserati Coupe Gt

    May 17, 2021 at 2:20 am | Reply
  75. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me

    May 17, 2021 at 1:39 am | Reply
  76. Jebgreext

    sure save pharmacy reliable rx pharmacy

    May 17, 2021 at 12:08 am | Reply
  77. 2012 Maserati

    Great web site you've got here.. It’s hard to find excellent writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

    May 16, 2021 at 10:33 pm | Reply
  78. Pump Windshield Washer Sprinter Repair

    May 16, 2021 at 9:50 pm | Reply
  79. Wheelchair Van Repair

    May 16, 2021 at 4:33 pm | Reply
  80. Gtnbclups

    indian viagra [url= ]viagra connect cvs[/url] generic name for viagra

    May 16, 2021 at 12:05 pm | Reply
  81. Digital Marketing Studio

    This web site certainly has all of the information and facts I wanted about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

    May 16, 2021 at 6:45 am | Reply
  82. Aika Pran

    May 16, 2021 at 4:52 am | Reply
  83. Content Marketing Agency Orange County

    Spot on with this write-up, I actually feel this web site needs far more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the advice!

    May 16, 2021 at 4:26 am | Reply
  84. Aikaonline

    May 16, 2021 at 1:12 am | Reply
  85. Content Marketing Quote

    May 16, 2021 at 1:10 am | Reply
  86. Digital Marketing California

    May 15, 2021 at 10:47 pm | Reply
  87. Rebffiple

    cialis super active plus reviews brand cialis

    May 15, 2021 at 9:35 pm | Reply
  88. Maserati Quattroporte 2004

    May 15, 2021 at 7:50 pm | Reply
  89. Maserati Limo

    Good web site you have here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate people like you! Take care!!

    May 15, 2021 at 6:21 pm | Reply
  90. Social Media Marketing Ideas

    May 15, 2021 at 5:45 pm | Reply
  91. Maserati Creamed Cookie

    I was able to find good information from your content.,l1486771201959,1486882192,v,1,568743473,568730659,568732269,31648,1,583125423,583125416,5,0_1&t_s=568743473-583125423-568732269:1&t_z=&t_tp=&t_itr=&t_imk=&t_rm=&c_tp=31647:1&c_itr=-1:-1&c_imk=-1:-1&c_rm=&redirect=

    May 15, 2021 at 5:32 pm | Reply
  92. Lbsofiple

    generic cialis free cialis sample canada

    May 15, 2021 at 12:59 pm | Reply
  93. 2018 Maserati Granturismo Sport

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this post and the rest of the site is very good.

    May 15, 2021 at 9:43 am | Reply
  94. stornobrzinol

    Only wanna comment on few general things, The website design is perfect, the subject matter is really excellent : D.

    May 15, 2021 at 8:21 am | Reply
  95. Color Blind Glasses,632&url=

    May 15, 2021 at 8:15 am | Reply
  96. 2015 Maserati Quattroporte

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this post plus the rest of the website is very good.

    May 15, 2021 at 6:55 am | Reply
  97. Eye Care Center Near Me

    May 15, 2021 at 6:22 am | Reply
  98. real estate for sale rathdrum id

    May 15, 2021 at 3:45 am | Reply
  99. rv dealers in orange county ca

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this post plus the rest of the website is really good.

    May 15, 2021 at 12:53 am | Reply
  100. 2019 Maserati Levante Gransport

    May 15, 2021 at 12:39 am | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Leave a Reply to online personal training near me


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.