06 October 2009

Forward Operating Base Keating

I need to pause for a serious moment. . . . .and to rant just a bit. There is nobody else around right now to rant to. I cannot tell you how haunting the following hot item from CNN was for me. I had so hoped that never again, never again in my life would I have to read this story. I have read this same story so many times before. Exactly the same story even down to the body count of enemy dead. Forty years ago. The only difference was the name of the Fire Base or Forward Operating Base.

I do fear that we lost what slim chance we had to do some good in this place when for insane reasons, it was determined that the security of the United States required that we invade Iraq the second time. Even then the chances were slim here. No outside armed force in recorded history, including those of Persia, Alexander the Great, Genghis Kahn, the British in the empire days, and the Soviet Union in its empire days, has ever gone into Afghanistan to take on the locals and come out in one piece when all was said and done.

But all that aside, I love U.S. soldiers. Obviously, I am not a big flag waver. So I will leave it at that.

My thoughts right now are with the troops at Forward Operating Base Keating as well as those troops in support of them. And goddamnit, I so wish that did not have to be.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The battle Saturday in which eight U.S. troops were killed was so fierce that, at one point, U.S. forces had to fall back as attackers breached the perimeter of their base, a U.S. military official with knowledge of the latest intelligence reports on the incident said.

Forward Operating Base Keating, seen in 2007, is surrounded by tall ridge lines.The new revelations about the battle that engulfed Forward Operating Base Keating in Kamdesh District are a further indication of how pinned down and outmanned the troops were at the remote outpost. The base, in an eastern Afghanistan valley, was surrounded by ridge lines where the insurgents were able to fire down at U.S. and Afghan troops.

The facility had been scheduled to be closed within days, CNN has learned. The closing is part of a wider effort by the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, to cede remote outposts and consolidate troops in more populated areas to better protect Afghan civilians.

The United States now believes that about 200 insurgents -- mostly local fighters, with some Taliban organizers and leaders -- had been planning the attack for days, hiding mortars, rockets and heavy machine guns in the mountains. Sources said the Taliban may have been watching the troops make preparations to depart and launched their attack at a time of vulnerability.

The Taliban were able to use their higher positions to fire into the base, pinning down the troops. As the attack progressed, the troops were forced back when enemy fighters managed to breach the outer perimeter of the outpost, the source said. That led to especially intense fighting that continued until the U.S. troops could again secure the area, several sources said.

The battle erupted about 5 a.m. Saturday and lasted 12 hours, with the most intense fighting going on for about seven hours.

The United States was able to get air support overhead within half an hour of the attacked troops' call for help, but a series of problems hindered mounting any sustained counterattack. The source said smoke from a fire lit by the insurgents obscured vision on the ground and in the air, and the narrowness of the valley hobbled any intense close air support.

Instead, Apache helicopters went in waves of two to four, firing at the Taliban fighters. But return fire frequently forced the helicopters back. One Apache was hit.

It took hours to evacuate the dead and wounded. During much of the fight, medical-evacuation helicopters had a hard time getting in because the landing zone was under attack. Even when the helicopters were able to land, some of the wounded resisting leaving while the battle raged. Eventually, the tide turned for the U.S. and Afghan troops. More than 100 militants were killed, according to NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

Remains of four of the U.S. dead were flown back to Dover Air Force Base on Tuesday morning.

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Video from a while back:


Ruth said...

Amen, Steve.

Señor Steve said...

It is impossible to inure one's self to the deaths of young people, especially young people so vigorous and full of life. One tries on occasion simply for the piece of mind it would afford. But it is impossible, and it ought to be impossible.

Ruth said...

Whenever PBS has presents images of the latest killed I swear I will not watch.

And yet I do. And I cannot help but think of their parents, spouses, children...

Candy Minx said...

No. nono no.