What grabbed me was today’s account of the Taliban attack on a small American outpost near the Pakistan border. The attack on Combat Post Keating occurred last summer, as the United States was shifting from a strategy of defending outposts like Keating to one of concentrating forces in key areas. Using the urgent messages that were sent by the forces under attack at Keating, the New York Times article shows what happens when front-line GIs get dangerously exposed because of a shift in strategy. The piece offers the record of a small unit, caught at the juncture between old and new ways to fight the enemy. “IN HEAVY CONTACT,” came the first word that the outpost was under attack from the Taliban. Then, the urgent call went out from Keating that close-air support should be brought directly to the troops under fire. This showed how close the enemy had gotten. “We need it now. We have mortars pinned down and fire coming from everywhere.” “We are taking casiltys … GET SOMETHING UP!” The outnumbered and poorly situated outpost was under attack from higher ground. Helicopters were 40 minutes away, they were told. Only jets could get there in time. “We are taking fire from inside [the] village. Our mortars are still pinned down, unable to fire.” “Multiple enemies running through … and fire coming from the mosque.” “The police station is shooting at us.” The enemy was now breaching the outpost’s defensive ring. The post was at risk of falling. “Enemy in the wire at keating,” now went the message to headquarters. “ENEMUY IN THE WIRE ENEMY IN THE WIRE!!!” “We need support.” As the enemy entered the outpost, the American aircraft arrived just in time: Helicopters and F-15s. The outpost was saved – but eight American fighters and several Afghans were dead, with almost two dozen Americans wounded. Thanks to the New York Times, we have a harrowing look at war amid a changing US strategy, a look at Americans fighting for their country and for their lives, against a mobile enemy fighting on home turf in the desolate mountains of Afghanistan. To read the full text of “Strategic Plans Spawned Bitter End for a Lonely Outpost” by C.J. Chivers in the July 25 New York Times, click here.
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That New York Times story on the Afghanistan war