The Corner

Terrible Afghanistan Story: US Forces Withdraw From Post After Fierce Fighting

From the AP in yesterday’s Times of London:

US forces have abandoned a small base in eastern Afghanistan that was the scene of an intense assault by Taleban fighters in which 9 US soldiers died. The base was quickly occupied by Taleban fighters after the departure of the US forces, according to local government officials. Nato spokesmen confirmed that US forces pulled out of the base in Wanat village of Nuristan yesterday afternoon. “We are confirming we have vacated our combat outpost at Wanat,” Nato spokesman Mark Laity told The Times. “All these kinds of outposts are temporary. We will continue to maintain a strong presence in the area. We will continue to perform regular patrols in the area.” The base was occupied by 45 US soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division and 25 Afghan soldiers. It was only two days old when it came under fierce bombardment on Sunday morning. Taleban fighters successfully breached the outer defences and were prevented from overrunning the base only after fierce hand-to-hand fighting. Just over half of the US garrison was killed or injured in the battle, with 9 US dead and 15 injured; a further 4 Afghan troops were also injured. Afghan officials reported that the area was occupied by Taleban fighters after the US withdrawal. Privately, Western military sources told The Times that the Wanat Combat Outpost was poorly sited and overlooked on three sides by buildings in the village, which Taleban fighters from a force estimated to be around 200 strong were able to use as firing points. “When ISAF withdrew yesterday, we couldn’t stand against the Taleban,” said Omar Sami Taza, secretary for the Nuristan governor. “We pulled back and the district fell into the Taleban’s hand. We will send more troops from the centre to recapture it.”

ME: Some military friends tell me that this seems like very poorly thought out site selection by the theater command. Their sense is this is the sort of catastophe that won’t be repeated once General Petraeus has time to assert himself in Central Command, but caution that we could see similar incidents until that happens. Given that these adept Qaeda/Taliban fighters are obviously feeling their oats, there’s another concern: the possibility that they will target some of these NATO units, especially from Europe, that are present in Afghanistan but insist on functioning only in non-combat capacities.

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