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Let’s see… Raise your hand if you’ve seen this sickening story reported prominently in the drive-by media here. Someone? Anyone?
NATO-led forces are investigating the death of four Marines in eastern Afghanistan after their commanders reportedly rejected requests for artillery fire in a battle with insurgents, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
Tuesday’s incident was “under investigation” and details remained unclear, press secretary Geoff Morrell told a news conference.
A McClatchy newspapers’ journalist who witnessed the battle reported that a team of Marine trainers made repeated appeals for air and artillery support after being pinned down by insurgents in the village of Ganjgal in eastern Kunar province.
The U.S. troops had to wait more than an hour for attack helicopters to come to their aid and their appeal for artillery fire was rejected, with commanders citing new rules designed to avoid civilian casualties, the report said.
Morrell said the helicopters were not hampered by any restrictions on air power but had to travel a long distance to reach the Marines at the remote location near the Pakistan border.
“I think that it did take some time for close air support to arrive in this case, but this is not a result of more restrictive conditions in which it can be used,” he said.
“It was the result, as is often the case in Afghanistan, of the fact that there are great distances often between bases where such assets are located and where our troops are out operating.”
Morrell could not confirm whether appeals for artillery fire were denied by commanders.
So a PR guy says details are unclear and it’s under investigation, then he turns around and in effect says there is a different explanation. Well gee pal, if you’ve already cleared everything up, what is there to investigate? But wait, there is more to the story and it’s all bad.
Tuesday’s firefight in eastern Afghanistan involved a 13-member team of U.S. Marine and Army trainers assigned to the Afghan national army, the report said.
Eight Afghan soldiers and police and an Afghan interpreter also died in the battle, which lasted for hours with insurgents unleashing a barrage of gunfire and rockets from mountain positions, the report said.
When an Afghan soldier demanded helicopter gunships, U.S. Major Kevin Williams replied through an interpreter: “We are pinned down. We are running low on ammo. We have no air. We’ve lost today.”
The Americans were assisting Afghan forces in an operation that called for Afghans searching the hamlet for weapons and then meeting village elders to plan police patrols.
But U.S. officers suspected insurgents were tipped off about the operation beforehand, as the coalition and Afghan forces were ambushed as they approached the outskirts of the hamlet at dawn, the report said.
So 13 good guys were killed in all, thanks to some combination of us getting ratted out and our commanders more afraid of killing bad guys than they are of saving good guys.