So Much For The Cakewalk

Apparently, the Taliban are getting their second wind and, as usual, our rules of engagement are forcing us to fight with one hand tied behind our back.

Taliban allow US troops very little advancement in Marjah

Sniper teams attacked US Marines and Afghan troops across the Taliban haven of Marjah, as several gunbattles erupted on Monday, the third day of a major offensive to seize the extremists’ southern heartland.

Multiple firefights broke out in different neighbourhoods as US and Afghan forces worked to clear out pockets of Taliban and push slowly beyond parts of the town that they have gained control of. With gunfire coming from several directions all day long, troops managed to advance only 500 metres deeper as they fought off small squads of Taliban snipers.

“There’s still a good bit of the land still to be cleared,” said Capt Abraham Sipe, a Marine spokesman. “We’re moving at a very deliberative pace,” he added.

Troops: Strict war rules slow Afghan offensive

Some American and Afghan troops say they’re fighting the latest offensive in Afghanistan with a handicap — strict rules that routinely force them to hold their fire.

Although details of the new guidelines are classified to keep insurgents from reading them, U.S. troops say the Taliban are keenly aware of the restrictions.

“I understand the reason behind it, but it’s so hard to fight a war like this,” said Lance Cpl. Travis Anderson, 20, of Altoona, Iowa. “They’re using our rules of engagement against us,” he said, adding that his platoon had repeatedly seen men drop their guns into ditches and walk away to blend in with civilians.

If a man emerges from a Taliban hideout after shooting erupts, U.S. troops say they cannot fire at him if he is not seen carrying a weapon — or if they did not personally watch him drop one.

And, in the better lucky than good department . . .

U.S. Marine Walks Away From Shot to Helmet in Afghanistan

It is hard to know whether Monday was a very bad day or a very good day for Lance Cpl. Andrew Koenig.

On the one hand, he was shot in the head. On the other, the bullet bounced off him.

In one of those rare battlefield miracles, an insurgent sniper hit Lance Cpl. Koenig dead on in the front of his helmet, and he walked away from it with a smile on his face.

“I don’t think I could be any luckier than this,” Lance Cpl. Koenig said two hours after the shooting.

Lance Cpl. Koenig’s brush with death came during a day of intense fighting for the Marines of Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Regiment.

The company had landed by helicopter in the predawn dark on Saturday, launching a major coalition offensive to take Marjah from the Taliban.

The Marines set up an outpost in a former drug lab and roadside-bomb factory and soon found themselves under near-constant attack.

Lance Cpl. Koenig, a lanky 21-year-old with jug-handle ears and a burr of sandy hair, is a designated marksman. His job is to hit the elusive Taliban fighters hiding in the tightly packed neighborhood near the base.

The insurgent sniper hit him first. The Casper, Wyo., native was kneeling on the roof of the one-story outpost, looking for targets.

He was reaching back to his left for his rifle when the sniper’s round slammed into his helmet.

The impact knocked him onto his back.

“I’m hit,” he yelled to his buddy, Lance Cpl. Scott Gabrian, a 21-year-old from St. Louis.

Lance Cpl. Gabrian belly-crawled along the rooftop to his friend’s side. He patted Lance Cpl. Koenig’s body, looking for wounds.

Then he noticed that the plate that usually secures night-vision goggles to the front of Lance Cpl. Koenig’s helmet was missing. In its place was a thumb-deep dent in the hard Kevlar shell.

Lance Cpl. Gabrian slid his hands under his friend’s helmet, looking for an entry wound. “You’re not bleeding,” he assured Lance Cpl. Koenig. “You’re going to be OK.”

Lance Cpl. Koenig climbed down the metal ladder and walked to the company aid station to see the Navy corpsman.

The only injury: A small, numb red welt on his forehead, just above his right eye.

See also:
U.S., Afghan Troops Battle Snipers in Marjah Offensive
Snipers harass US, Afghan troops moving in Marjah
Taliban step up attacks in besieged Afghan town
Marines, Afghan troops dodge sniper fire as battle to control Marjah rages
Hidden enemy delays advance in Marjah
Marines Into Marjah
Storming the Taliban stronghold
In Marjah offensive, Afghan forces take the lead
Nato General Praises Afghan ‘Partnership’
Operation Moshtarak Clearing Phase Continues
U.S. and Afghan Troops Expand Control in Marjah
U.S. Afghan Forces Push Deeper Into Marjah
‘Operation Moshtarak’ Reportedly Successful But With Setbacks
Troops complain rules of engagement give Taliban advantage
Afghanistan war: Marjah battle as tough as Fallujah, say US troops
IEDs a threat now and long into the future for fight against Taleban
Out of Marjah, safe in Pak?
‘Always a risk’ of Taliban return

At the time of this post, three days into the operation, the Coalition has still only taken two fatal casualties while killing dozens of Taliban.

/so it’s not like the battle for Marjah is turning into a disaster or the Taliban is even remotely close to winning

Minimal Interference From Confused And Disoriented Taliban

Coalition troops find ‘minimal interference’ in assault on Taliban

The major coalition assault against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan claimed the lives of two coalition troops, but military officials regard the hours-old push in war-ravaged Helmand province as very promising.

“So far, so good,” said British military spokesman Maj. Gen. Gordon Messenger, who told reporters in London that commanders are “very pleased” with the siege in the Marjah region, a Taliban-dominated agricultural area dotted with villages.

He said key objectives such as securing key bridges and roads were being reached with “minimal interference” by Taliban militants unable to put up a “coherent response.”

“The Taliban appear confused and disoriented,” Messenger said, but tempered his optimism with the reminder that the operation is not yet done.

A U.S. military official confirmed one U.S. Marine was killed in small arms fire, and a British soldier was killed in an explosion.

Taliban leaders flee as marines hit stronghold

American marines landed by helicopter in a pre-dawn assault on the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, seizing two central shopping bazaars and firing rockets at Taliban fighters who attacked from mud-walled compounds.

As the marines secured their first objective, a jumble of buildings at the centre of the farming town, thousands of soldiers moved in on foot.

Harrier jets called in by the marines fired heavy-calibre machineguns at the Taliban. Fighting continued for hours, according to an embedded correspondent. Cobra gunships unleashed Hellfire missiles into bunkers and tunnels.

By nightfall, marines appeared to be in control of the centre of Marjah, home to about 75,000 people. “The Americans are walking by on the street outside my house,” a bazaar resident said. “They’re carrying large bags and guns but they’re not fighting any more.” Asked what he thought of their presence, he said: “I have hope for the future.”

The offensive was aimed at overwhelming the insurgency’s last haven in Helmand province and restoring government control.

Aircraft bombed compounds in southern districts of the town. US marines and Afghan troops swarmed in, searching for foreign fighters after intelligence reports said they had holed up there.

In the north of the city, helicopters landed several hundred marines in narrow alleys amid farm compounds.

At least 20 insurgents were reported killed and 11 were captured. The invading troops confiscated caches of Kalashnikov automatic rifles, heavy machineguns and grenades.

The greatest threat came from the extensive network of mines and booby traps. Assault troops ran into a huge number of improvised explosive devices — homemade bombs — as they tried to cross a canal into the town’s northern entrance. Explosions ripped through the air as marines safely detonated bombs.

Marines used portable aluminium bridges to span the irrigation channels. The bridge over the main canal into Marjah from the north was elaborately rigged with explosives so they unfolded larger bridges from heavy-tracked vehicles to allow armoured troop carriers to cross.

Marine engineers, driving special mine-clearing vehicles called breachers, ploughed a path through fields on the town’s outskirts. To clear a minefield, they launched rockets and deployed cables of plastic explosives designed to ignite roadside bombs.

Civilians said the Afghan troops were searching homes, a concession to conservative tribal sensitivities. Searches by foreign troops, particularly of homes with women, have infuriated traditional Pashtun residents.

“The troops are going house to house in my street,” said Haji Abdul Mukadasa, a 48-year-old father of 13. He said the Afghan troops asked that all the women be put in one room, then searched the house while the “foreigners” waited outside.

He said he knew a young man who had been fighting with the Taliban but went home and took off his black turban when the offensive began. “They searched his house, and he said, ‘No, I am not Taliban, this is my wife, this is my father’.” Residents said most senior Taliban had fled the city.

See also:
Vertical envelopment – leapfrogging into Marjah
Surprise tactic in Afghanistan offensive befuddles Taliban
First stage of operation Moshtarak declared a success
Marines Drive Into Afghan Stronghold
British spearhead allied offensive in Afghanistan
British soldier dies as Operation Moshtarak blitzes enemy insurgents
Two Nato troops and British soldier killed in Operation Moshtarak
Operation Moshtarak Update
Marja offensive a test for NATO’s ability in uprooting Taliban
A Test for the Meaning of Victory in Afghanistan
IEDs: The Big Marjah Challenge
Bombs, booby-traps slow US advance in Afghan town
Operation Moshtarak: U.S. leads 15,000 troops against 1,000 Taliban
Operation Moshtarak

Marjah, now open under new management.

/looks like a rout

Classic Hammer And Anvil With Taliban In Between


‘Cobra’s Anger’ strikes Taliban

More than 1,000 U.S., British, and Afghan troops launched a major offensive in a key battleground of southern Afghanistan yesterday, only days after President Barack Obama unveiled a new strategy to end the war.

NATO said the offensive was designed to crush terrorists around a major town in Helmand in order to allow development to begin and civilians to return, key elements of Mr. Obama’s decision to deploy 30,000 new U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

About 900 U.S. Marines and sailors, British troops and more than 150 Afghan soldiers and police were taking part in Operation Khareh Cobra, or “Cobra’s Anger” in the valley of Now Zad.

Hundreds of Marines were dropped by aircraft into the north of the valley, while a large force of soldiers pushed northward from the town of Now Zad to sandwich the Taliban between the two forces.

“More than 1,000 ISAF personnel partnered with Afghan national security forces began a long-planned operation in northern Helmand province to clear insurgent forces from a key area,” the military said.

For the first time in Afghanistan, U.S. troops used Osprey aircraft — which have features of both a helicopter and a fixed-wing plane– to fly waves of Marines into the valley.

Also for the first time, combat engineers deployed the “Assault Breacher,” a tracked armoured vehicle built on a tank chassis. It was being used to clear a path through improvised minefields.

Major William Pelletier, from Camp Leatherneck in Helmand, told CNN the valley is “a major through-route” for transporting fighters and munitions from east to west and north to south. Terrorists have mined the region, and troops intend to provide enough security for the Afghan government and nongovernmental organizations to begin clearing the mines and roadside bombs so they can repopulate the town.

“So far, four Taliban dead bodies were left behind on the battlefield. But enemy casualties could be higher,” said Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Helmand governor, adding scores of mines and a cache of explosives were seized.

See also:
U.S. Marines advance in southern Afghanistan
US, British, Afghan Troops Push into Taliban Area
Marines Start Operation in Helmand Province
Marines, Afghans Launch Major Offensive
‘Cobra’s Anger’ unleashed in Taliban heartland
New Afghan push takes aim at militants
U.S., Afghan troops launch first major offensive after Obama’s announcement of troop surge
Militants killed, detained in new Afghan-US military operation
‘Cobra’s Anger’ making progress, say US Marines
‘Cobra’s Anger’ Offensive Sends Thousand U.S., NATO Troops To Afghan Valley
NATO takes on Taliban in south of Afghanistan
Marines Start Operation in Helmand Province
Monster mine-clearing tank goes to work in Afghanistan
ABV to protect combat engineers
Grizzly [Breacher]
Controversial ‘Osprey’ chopper makes debut in Afghanistan
V-22 Osprey
V-22 Osprey

/dusting off the old playbook, shades of Junction City