Friday, April 17, 2009

Rapid US Army unit switch: Iraq to RC South/Taliban ambushed

To deal with IEDs (via GAP):
Battalion sent to Afghanistan after 2 weeks in Iraq

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq — Welcome to Iraq. Now go to Afghanistan.

That was the message delivered to the Army's 4th Engineer Battalion just two weeks after arriving in Baghdad for what was supposed to be a year-long tour.

Despite the stress caused by the unusual change of plans last month, many of the unit's approximately 500 soldiers said they realized their specialty — clearing roads of bombs and other obstacles — is more needed in the area of southern Afghanistan, where they'll likely begin patrols in a few weeks [emphasis added].

"If we were in the frying pan, we're now heading directly into the fire," Capt. Heath Papkov, one of the unit's company commanders, said this week as the soldiers packed their gear to leave.

Moving a unit directly from one theater of war to another on such short notice is very rare, said Lt. Col. Kevin Landers, the battalion's commander. Usually when troops are shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan, the change occurs between regular rotations abroad, after they spend several months at their home base.

The decision underscores how military commanders are scrambling to meet President Obama's orders to draw down the U.S. presence in Iraq while deploying an additional 21,000 troops to combat the growing insurgency in Afghanistan.

Even after a spate of bombings in Baghdad in recent weeks, the overall rate of violence in Iraq remains at levels not seen since 2003, according to the U.S. military. Meanwhile, attacks on U.S. andNATO troops are on the rise in Afghanistan, and roadside bombs are the cause of 75% of coalition casualties there.

The region where the 4th Engineer Battalion is being deployed accounts for about 60% of all roadside bombs in Afghanistan [emphasis added].

The battalion's transfer is "either an indication of the improving situation in Iraq or the quickly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan," said Loren Thompson, a military expert at the Lexington Institute. "It's probably more of the latter."..
Meanwhile, at the front in the east:
Turning Tables, U.S. Troops Ambush Taliban With Swift and Lethal Results

Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Members of the platoon on patrol in Afghanistan’s Korangal Valley.

KORANGAL OUTPOST, Afghanistan — Only the lead insurgents were disciplined as they walked along the ridge. They moved carefully, with weapons ready and at least five yards between each man, the soldiers who surprised them said.

Behind them, a knot of Taliban fighters walked in a denser group, some with rifles slung on their shoulders — “pretty much exactly the way we tell soldiers not to do it,” said Specialist Robert Soto, the radio operator for the American patrol.

If these insurgents came close enough, the soldiers knew, the patrol could kill them in a batch.

Fight by fight, the infantryman’s war in Afghanistan is often waged on the Taliban’s terms. Insurgents ambush convoys and patrols from high ridges or long ranges and slip away as the Americans, weighed down by equipment, return fire and call for air and artillery support. Last week a patrol from the First Infantry Division [3rd Brigade Combat Team--multimedia here, and more at start of this Nov. 2008 post] reversed the routine.

An American platoon surprised an armed Taliban column on a forested ridgeline at night, and killed at least 13 insurgents, and perhaps many more, with rifles, machine guns, Claymore mines, hand grenades and a knife...

Sautalu Sar


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