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Close Combat in Afghanistan

The Christian Science Monitor has a very interesting analysis of U.S. Army tactics in the most violent sectors of Afghanistan, with accounts of two recent battles:

This has been the most violent year here since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The US Army is moving in smaller numbers to lure the Taliban out of hiding for fights they cannot win. The result: More than 1,200 enemy deaths this year, including high-level commanders.

Much is made about the high-tech gear that US soldiers carry: body armor, rapid-firing machine guns, night vision goggles. But the chief advantage of the US military – especially in a low-intensity conflict, pitted against a crudely trained force like the Taliban – is training and air power.

Taliban fighters, meanwhile, appear to gain courage from numbers, the ability to swarm a smaller enemy unit. A sense of safety in numbers, however, is often the Taliban’s undoing if a US platoon can fix an enemy’s position long enough for aircraft or other infantry units to arrive.

“The whole purpose of an infantry is to close in on the enemy and finish them off,” says Capt. Eric Gardiner, commander of Chosen Company in Qalat. “Here in Afghanistan, we’ve had over 75 percent of our contacts within hand grenade range.”

In the battles described in the article, the range is often closer than that–as little as two feet. Thankfully, the Taliban don’t seem to be very good shots.

American sources say that Afghan National Army forces are enthusiastic and eventually will take over the defense of their country, but that is described as “a long way off.” Part of the problem seems to be that the ANA troops aren’t very good shots either:

[T]he ANA still have a disconcerting habit of shooting themselves with their own weapons. “The problem is muzzle discipline,” says 2nd Lieut. [name removed by request], a commander of an ANA unit based in Qalat.

Until the ANA is ready to take over full security responsibilities, NATO troops may replace, at least in part, the American forces due to be rotated out of Afghanistan.

So it appears that low-level conflict will continue in Afghanistan for some time to come.

Via Power Line News.

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