49 Taliban fighters, 6 US troops killed during Kunar operation


NE-Afgh-Qari-Ziaur-Rahman-thumb.gif

Al Qaeda leader Qari Zia Rahman and a map of northeastern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. Map from the Asia Times; click to view.

US and Afghan forces have wrapped up a week-long operation in the eastern Pech River Valley in Kunar province. During the operation, which the top US commander in the east claimed dealt "a huge blow to the enemy," 49 Taliban fighters and six US soldiers were killed.

Operation Bulldog Bite was launched on Nov. 12, and targeted Taliban havens in the villages of the watahpur Valley, which lies in the eastern region of the Pech River Valley. The region has served as a transit area for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters infiltrating from Pakistan, and is just five miles from the Korengal Valley, an area where US forces shut down combat outposts last winter. Last year, US commanders claimed that the Korengal was strategically insignificant due to its remote location, but since that time, the Taliban and al Qaeda have used the region to launch attacks into neighboring Afghan provinces.

In the recent operation, a battalion of US soldiers, backed by an unspecified number of Afghan troops, conducted numerous air assaults into the area as part of "their continued pursuit of militant fighters in the Kunar province," the US military stated in a press release on Nov. 13.

The first US soldier was killed during combat on Nov. 12. Two days later, US troops encountered heavy resistance, when five soldiers from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division were killed during a six-hour-long firefight in the watahpur area. The bulk of the 49 Taliban deaths reportedly occurred in that clash.

US Army officials who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the information told The Long War Journal that the platoon from Alpha Company, 1/327 also took significant numbers of wounded, and that the eight soldiers who were not wounded were divided up among other platoons in the company.

"The soldiers involved who were not hurt are still assigned to their units," Mary Constantino, the Public Affairs Officer for the brigade told The Long War Journal. "All of the units involved with Bulldog Bite are back at their bases refitting and resting in preparation for future operations. We grieve each death and mourn with their families. Each loss, whether from our force or the Afghan National Security Forces, is tragic. We mourn each one but our resolve remains firm. We will honor their sacrifice by ensuring the mission we are here to do is done to the best of our ability."

During the operation, US and Afghan troops found a number of weapons caches "containing several mortar systems with rounds, 15 recoilless rifle rounds, more than a dozen rocket-propelled grenades, 20 anti-aircraft rounds, four fragmentary grenades, 400 rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1,200 PKM rounds and improvised explosive components."

Major General John Campbell, the commanding general for the 101st Aiborne Division and the commander of Regional Command East, said that Operation Bulldog Bite had put the Taliban in the area back on its heels.

"There's been significant disruption to that network in that area," Campbell told The Leaf Chronicle. "This is a huge blow to the enemy .... The enemy didn't think we'd go back in there."

Major Pat Seiber, the Public Affairs Director for Regional Command East, said the operations have eased the pressure of Taliban attacks on bases in the region.

"[Taliban] attacks have reduced against Coalition and ANSF bases and around populated areas during the recent "Bulldog Bite" operations, which disrupted an attempt by insurgent forces to re-consolidate near Shuryak," Seiber said.

Bulldog Bite follows several operations in the western Pech River Valley which began in mid-October. On Oct. 15, a joint Afghan and ISAF force launched an operation in the area. On Oct. 16, Afghan commanders and US Special Operation Forces killed 13 Taliban fighters while clearing "known insurgent strongholds in Tsam, Chenar Now and Matanga villages." On Oct. 17, US troops killed Gul Nabi, who was described as "a mid-level Taliban commander" and "an al Qaeda associate." And on Oct. 31, US forces conducted additional air assaults against the Taliban in the region.

Al Qaeda presence in Kunar

The US military claimed that al Qaeda has a small foothold in Kunar and neighboring Nuristan province, while there are an estimated 150 to 200 "foreign fighters" in the region.

"Between Kunar and Nuristan provinces, there are an estimated 150-200 foreign fighters and only a handful of Al Qaeda identified in the area," Seiber told The Long War Journal. Seiber defined foreign fighters as "an individual from outside the border tribal areas who travels into the border area to get into the fight."

When asked if Arabs, Central Asians, Chechens, and others would be included among these foreign fighters, Seiber responded, "I think that's fair, they could certainly be included."

Qari Zia Rahman, the dual-hatted al Qaeda and Taliban commander who operates in Kunar, Nuristan, and across the border in Pakistan's tribal agency in Bajaur, may still be in the Kunar region, according to the US military.

"There are unconfirmed reports of QZR [Qari Zia Rahman] activity in the area -- but nothing confirmed," Seiber said.

Qari Zia is closely allied with Pakistani Taliban leader Faqir Mohammed as well as with Osama bin Laden. Qari Zia's fighters are from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and various Arab nations. Earlier this year, the Pakistani government claimed it killed Qari Zia in an airstrike, but he later spoke to the media and mocked Pakistan's interior minister for wrongly reporting his death.

In late July and early August, ISAF announced that it was hunting Qari Zia Rahman. The US has targeted Qari Zai in three raids over the past summer. On June 29, the US launched a battalion-sized operation in Kunar's Marawara district, which directly borders Pakistan. More than 150 Taliban fighters were reported killed in the operation. On July 20, US and Afghan forces launched another battalion-sized operation in Marawara to flush out Qari Zia. And on Aug. 2, combined forces conducted a raid, again in Marawara, that targeted the al Qaeda leader.

The top al Qaeda commander in Kunar province is Abu Ikhlas al Masri, an Egyptian who has spent years in Afghanistan and has intermarried with the local tribes. Abu Ikhlas is al Qaeda's operations chief for Kunar province, having assumed command after Abu Ubaidah al Masri was promoted to take over al Qaeda's external operations branch (Abu Ubaidah died in early 2008 of a disease).

The US military has killed three senior al Qaeda leaders in Kunar this fall. On Sept. 25, a US airstrike killed a senior al Qaeda leader named Abdallah Umar al Qurayshi and an "explosives expert" named Abu Atta al Kuwaiti, along with "several Arabic foreign fighters." Sa'ad Mohammad al Shahri, a longtime jihadist and the son of a retired Saudi colonel, is also thought to have been killed in the same strike.

Kunar province is a known sanctuary for al Qaeda and allied terror groups. The presence of al Qaeda cells has been detected in the districts of Pech, Shaikal Shate, Sarkani, Dangam, Asmar, Asadabad, Shigal, and Marawana; or eight of Kunar's 15 districts, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal.


Sources:

Security forces begin clearing eastern Pech River Valley, ISAF press release
DOD Identifies Army Casualties, Department of Defense press release
Afghan, coalition forces conclude operations in eastern Pech Valley, CJTF-101 press release
Taliban on run, Maj. Gen. Campbell says, The Leaf Chronicle
Combined force takes fight to enemy in Kunar, ISAF press release
Security forces begin operations in the Pech River Valley, ISAF press release
, CDO, USSF reduce caches, kill 13 insurgents in Konar, ISAF press release
'Al Qaeda associate' killed during Kunar operation, The Long War Journal
ISAF kills senior al Qaeda leader and an IED expert in Kunar strike, The Long War Journal
Wanted Saudi al Qaeda operative killed in Afghanistan airstrike, The Long War Journal
Egyptian al Qaeda leader reported killed in South Waziristan airstrike, The Long War Journal
Taliban commander Qari Zia Rahman denies reports of his death, The Long War Journal
US hunts wanted Taliban and al Qaeda commander in Kunar, The Long War Journal
Afghan, US forces hunt al Qaeda, Taliban in northeast, The Long War Journal
Afghan, US forces launch offensive in Kunar, The Long War Journal



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READER COMMENTS: "49 Taliban fighters, 6 US troops killed during Kunar operation"

Posted by Charu at November 18, 2010 12:20 PM ET:

Thank you, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, for your bravery and ultimate sacrifice.

Posted by Proud Supporter at November 18, 2010 12:35 PM ET:

Thank you to all those valiant troops involved, US and Afghan!!

Don't let up!

Posted by JT at November 18, 2010 12:50 PM ET:

To all those involved from the US, Afghan, and International troops: Thank you.

Bill: Good map; thanks. The geography of the area always adds to understanding of what is going on.

Posted by Nolan A. at November 18, 2010 1:07 PM ET:

"This is a huge blow to the enemy .... The enemy didn't think we'd go back in there." I'm sick of hearing that after every OP.
I'm no mathematician but 6 boys from the 101 and the disintegration of an entire PLT doesn't even come close to equaling a few mortar tubes and some RPG's. When our military counts the AK rounds it finds, it's a lame attempt to save face. I hope the KIA Talibs weren't just low level kids and the loss will be significant..
How can their return to that area come as a surprise? We retreat they advance, we advance, they retreat, we camp, they attack....
Thanks to the 101st BDE's and others along the Af/Pak border fighting the good fight.

Posted by mick at November 18, 2010 2:41 PM ET:

How many Afghan soldier casualties?

What about the number of injured?

Posted by Gerry at November 18, 2010 10:53 PM ET:

Obviously this was a major battle and the US came out less than victorious if you consider a Platoon of 30-40 soldiers incapacitated ( very high number of dead and wounded) and reformed into other platoons. On the other hand 49 ragheads is a large amount of KIAs not including WIAs. Somebody, somewhere is wondering why the high toll with so much high technology available. Me too.

Posted by Thomas at November 18, 2010 11:18 PM ET:

Six U.S soldiers killed fighting the Taliban yet this does not make National news? But you can see dozens of headlines about that foolish drunk girl jaw found in Aruba!

My sorrow goes out to the wives and family of these soldier. I feel disgust for citizens of this country return.

Posted by Johnny at November 18, 2010 11:58 PM ET:

The reason you see such high casualties despite the technology is because of a new shift in warfare: lightweight efficiency.

Small guerilla groups with light weaponry and can hide in remote areas compared to heavily armed, jacked up soldiers with outposts and massive bases in open sight to the naked eye. The guerillas have the element of surprise, as well as the fact that they have lighter guns, no body armor, and can use more dangerous, banned weaponry that a conventional standing army cannot use under UN rules. They can also fire the first shot, which is a fatal decisive blow in a firefight.

The U.S. attempts to win over locals by building outposts and bases on flat land near villages. Remember the Art Of War? Whoever controls the high lands controls the direction of the battle... all it takes is a couple hundred talibs, a surprise first shot and tactical vantage points and a US base/outpost could be overrun in 10 minutes.

Posted by Jamie at November 19, 2010 6:08 AM ET:

The bravery and valor of these men cannot go unmentioned. I am honored and humbled to know that these men did pay the ultimate sacrifice. Those that remain are incredibly brave and must now walk forward with even more courage. I share the same question as others, though,"How come this was not reported on nationals news?"

Posted by Kerri and Daniel Jenkins at November 19, 2010 9:30 AM ET:

Thank you, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, for your bravery and ultimate sacrifice. Your sacrifice and service will not be forgotton! We are praying for you all. God bless.

Posted by 2cents at November 19, 2010 9:58 AM ET:

Sounds like it was an "equal fight". Thought the idea was to have overwhelming force..... Only 8 left standing? Farmed out to other units? That platoon may have started out with overwhelming force yet if ordered to pursue the enemy there was clearly a point where the fight became "equal". At which point I have nothing to add.

Posted by TLA at November 19, 2010 10:37 AM ET:

Since when does a death count of 8:1 count as 'less than victorious,' Gerry?

That would seem like the typical gerrymandering of grammar that our politics and reporting have become.

To put it more simply: they can't afford these sort off odds. They lost.

Posted by Rhyno327 at November 19, 2010 10:52 AM ET:

My first thoughts were for those troopers and their fams. Were any of the enemy important? Iam very proud, but wat happens when we leave the area? I agree with Nolan. I hope its not in vain. Godspeed Alpha, 327, 1 BCT i wish the country would realize we are at war. The populace 4 the most part are oblivious. shame, wat a shame.

Posted by YEAH ROG at November 19, 2010 11:09 AM ET:

and Delta company 3rd platoon 1st battalion 327th infantry regiment 1st Brigade 101st airborne division for being the first ones in and last ones out from the origanial people out there. and they failed to mention that the first soldier down was with us

Posted by ArneFufkin at November 19, 2010 11:27 AM ET:

@Thomas. This encounter made news here in the upper Midwest because one of the American KIA was a man from Wisconsin.

That's usually how it goes: It's news if a local is involved.

Posted by Mike at November 19, 2010 12:06 PM ET:

I would assume the high number of casualties speaks to the fact that the unit came under heavy close fire and were pinned down, probably an ambush. Hopefully the Talibs in question paid just as dearly.

Posted by My2Cents at November 19, 2010 2:14 PM ET:

“The bulk of the 49 Taliban deaths reportedly occurred in that clash." Presumably this only counts actual bodies found after the fight, which means that the Taliban were not able to recover them. That is a pretty good indication that the Taliban fighters got mauled, probably taking with them an equal number of dead and 3x to 5x as many wounded as the total dead.

Posted by blert at November 19, 2010 6:42 PM ET:

The Afghanis hate to abandon bodies -- so ANY left on the battlefield represents a real beat down.

However, medical care for opfor unlawful combatants is drastically limited.

Meaning that anything more than a flesh wound is likely to be fatal. So their ratio of WIA to KIA is way low compared to Western norms.

( Figure many, many wounded dying on the trail back.)

They do have plenty of opiates, though.

-------

Such heavy America loses point to opfor luring them into a beaten zone/ mine field. Such is their craft.

Aggressive ISAF commanders at the small unit level have to keep this foremost in their minds. It's been pulled before.

-------

What we cannot know is who the opfor commander on the scene was/is. Based upon the results, the paratroops were going after a heavy player surrounded by elite opfor elements.

Thusly, MG Campbell's claims may prove to be fully justified.
Crushing 313 or 055 cadres -- if that's what this was -- is not going to be an easy task.

Posted by crusader at November 19, 2010 9:59 PM ET:

a sad day thinking about the casualties..
there are no words to describe the commitment of the troops fighting this fanatical foe...

they are all heroes

Posted by Bill Baar at November 20, 2010 8:25 AM ET:

One of those wounded wrote a column for my local paper http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20101118/discuss/711199714/

There's not a lot of coverage of the war and this young man wrote some good columns for us here in Chicago.

Posted by Max at November 20, 2010 2:27 PM ET:

God bless our troops.

Posted by Julie Busch at November 20, 2010 11:03 PM ET:

My son was there for this battle. You have some facts wrong. D company went in there first. A Company was their reinforcements. The first soldier mentioned who died on the 12th was SPC Shannon Chihuahua, the medic for D company. The other soldiers who died were with A company and died the 14th. D company fought and held the hill until reinforcements arrived, suffering many injured. Of the 23 men from D Company who went up on that mountain, 9 came down after, fighting the entire 5 days up there. A company indeed fought bravely, but D company needs to be recognized.
I am honored to know these men of D Company. They fought ferociously to protect their fallen brothers. Not to recognize them would be a travesty.
Respectfully,
Julie Busch

Posted by eric at November 23, 2010 11:41 AM ET:

this battle started as an ambush. range was less than 50 meters. gernades were used to keep enemy from over taking position. all but eight of our men were wonded or kia. the 101st is a force. i am sure the enemy thought they had a sure thing. they now know what the 101st is all about. my heart goes out to the famillys of the fallen. Interesting the big media did not pick up on this bravery.

Posted by Biggie jr at January 6, 2011 10:29 AM ET:

One of the 6 was my brother that got killed, his name is scott n

Posted by Tony at March 3, 2011 8:45 PM ET:

Thanks for your bravery my fellow ABUs!