3 years ago
In Taliban Tactics: Massing of Troops, I detailed no less than six instances of Taliban fighters massing forces up to half a Battalion strong. In More on Taliban Massing of Forces I detailed the seventh and eighth instances of such massing of fighters, and then finally we’ve discussed the ninth instance of this tactic. The Washington Post has given us another instance, mainly focused in RC East.
Scores of Taliban fighters were killed Tuesday evening as they attempted to storm a small U.S. outpost along the Pakistani border and were driven back by American soldiers, according to U.S. military officials in the province.
The insurgents launched the attack by firing rocket-propelled grenades and rifles from the grounds of two Islamic schools near Combat Outpost Margah, in eastern Afghanistan’s volatile Paktika province. The company of American soldiers stationed there fired back as large groups of fighters moved toward the base from a wadi, or valley, to the west, U.S. military officials said.
The fighting lasted less than two hours, ending by about 8:30 p.m. No U.S. troops were killed. A spokesman for the Paktika governor said that 50 to 60 insurgents were killed.
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“If they’re planning a massive attack, they may be able to muster a group of 100 around there,” Maj. Eric Butler, the brigade’s intelligence officer, said in an interview last week. For the Taliban, he said, “usually it ends very, very badly.”
Very badly indeed. The battles at Wanat and Kamdesh in the Kunar and Nuristan Provinces, respectively, involved tragic and heavy losses compared to most instances of Taliban massing of forces, but even at Wanat the U.S. had a kill ratio of approximately 6:1.
Tim Lynch notes that “Rarely now will somebody shoot at the Marines in southern Helmand, and when they do, it is from so far away that it is hard to notice anybody is even shooting at you.” The threat now is IEDs, and the Marines are suffering so many casualties that many of them, tragically, have issued standing orders to their Corpsman to let them die if they lose their gonads and are unable to reproduce.
The Taliban don’t fight conventionally – they fight asymmetrically. In Helmand now after Garmsir in 2008 when the Marines killed more than 400 Taliban fighters, and the hard work of Marines in Now Zad and Sangin, the threat is IEDs. In RC East it’s interesting that the Taliban see their position as so strong that outnumbering their opponent is still seen as asymmetric warfare, regardless of what the kill ratio actually shows.