Jewish World Review April 1, 2002 / 20 Nisan, 5762

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Consumer Reports

Why is the commander of U.S. Central Command not coming clean to the American people? | General Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command, is sounding like General William Westmoreland, commander of Military Assistance Command-Vietnam during the days when there was always light at the end of the tunnel.

General Franks has proclaimed Operation Anaconda an "unqualified and absolute" success. But evidence to support this claim is scant. Our military leaders claimed that "hundreds" of Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists had been killed. But only a few dozen bodies have been found.

It is possible, even likely, that some - perhaps many - terrorists were vaporized by our bombs, leaving no bodies to find. But it is more likely that there either there were far fewer terrorists in the Shah i Kot mountains near Khost than we had thought, or that - again - most of them got away.

Given the vastness and ruggedness of the area in which the battle was fought (70 square miles, not counting up and down), the relatively small number of Western troops involved, their unfamiliarity with the ground, and the unreliability of our Afghan allies, this is not a defeat...although it could be said to be a lost opportunity. But one thing it isn't is an "unqualified and absolute success."

By all indications our troops - mostly "grunts" from the 101st Airborne Divison (Air Assault) and the 10th Mountain Division - fought well. This is especially so in view of how poorly they were prepared for conflict in the mountains, and how unimaginatively they were led.

The lack of preparation began years ago. Despite its name, the 10th Mountain Division is composed of flatlanders, as is the 101st. (When activated in 1985, the 10th Mountain Division was given that name to curry favor with then Senate Republican leader Bob Dole, who had served in the 10th Mountain Division in WWII.) The fact is, the United States has no significant body of troops trained to fight in the arduous conditions mountains in winter present.

Fighting in the mountains is hard enough for the physically fit. But a decade of "dumbed down" PT standards so the women could keep up also took their toll.

Army planners added to the miseries that a lack of fitness and a lack of proper training inflicted upon the troops by burdening them with excessive loads. The news reports indicate that many of the 10th Mountain Division troops were going into battle with 100-lb rucksacks on their backs.

"The primary consideration is not how much a soldier can carry, but how much he can carry without impaired combat effectiveness," says Field Manual 7-8, Light Infantry Operations. "When possible, a soldier's combat load should not exceed 60 pounds."

General Franks, an artilleryman, an aviator, and - above all - a bureaucrat, ought to read FM 7-8 sometime.

We're a wealthy nation. We ought to be able to afford light armored vehicles, or all terrain vehicles or sleds to carry gear, extra ammo and heavy weapons. That Army leaders didn't think of this says something bad about Army leaders.

There were other things Army leaders didn't think about.

We have a body armor - the Interceptor - that can stop a rifle bullet. It consists of a vest (which itself can stop a pistol bullet) and two ceramic plates which are inserted front and back. The 101st has plenty of vests, but only 800 sets of plates, or less than half what's required to protect the 1,700 members of the 101st's Third Brigade currently in Afghanistan.

Eight Americans were killed and 40 wounded in Operation Anaconda. All 8 fatalities occurred when two Chinook helicopters were ambushed. The Chinook is a fine transport bird, but it is big and slow, and ought not ever to be sent anywhere near a hot LZ. That it was means either that our intelligence was poor (we didn't know where the bad guys were), or some moron was using the Chinook for combat assault.

"Analyzing the recent fight in Afghanistan has scared me to my core," said former Col. David Hackworth, America's most decorated soldier in Vietnam. "It was one giant FUBAR. Green troops not trained for mountain combat, big time micromanagement before, during and after the fight - and bad generals."

Historically, the American soldier has performed better than his leaders have. History is repeating itself.

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03/31/02: Dubya under attack by conservatives
03/26/02: Saddam watch coming to an end?
03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred"
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections

© 2002, Jack Kelly