By: Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Fort Lauderdale Attorney
Voters should consider Operation Red Wings and the overall U.S. presence in the Middle East in the upcoming elections, to hopefully prevent the undeserved loss of life to U.S. troops. Congress and the President should ensure that adequate intelligence, strategy, and resources are provided. The Caribbean should also take note of the foreign presence in the Middle East as the Caribbean emerges as a key player in the oil industry.
Operation Red Wings was a joint military operation that attempted to stabilize unrest in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan. The operation was named after a hockey team and formulated by the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines of the U.S. Marine Corps (“2/3”) in 2005. The target was Ahmad Shah and his Taliban anti-coalition militia (“ACM”).
The continued resistance of the ACM in the Kunar Province threatened the legitimacy of the upcoming September elections on an international scale. The United States and Afghanistan coalition sought a democratically elected government in Afghanistan. The Marines therefore planned to suppress the ACM to foster a successful election. Planning such operations was onerous. At first, the Marines did not share special counterinsurgency intelligence among the battalions.
Once the 3rd Battalion of the 3rd Marine Regiment began sharing intelligence, the U.S. troops were able to disrupt more ACM activity. In April 2005, they successfully defeated an ACM commander known as Najmudeen. ACM activity decreased but left a power vacuum in the region. Ahmad Shah was seemingly attempting to seize this power and was found to be responsible for 11 attacks against coalition forces.
Operation Red Wings was planned by the 2/3 and carried out by Navy SEALS. On June 27, 2005, the four-man Navy SEAL reconnaissance and surveillance team arrived at a peak just south of Sawtalo Sar. The SEALS encountered local goat herders. They knew that the locals would reveal their positions to the Taliban if released but the SEALS honored the Rules of Engagement and released the small group.
The SEALS’ positions were indeed compromised and the ACM launched a swift and heavy attack on the four men. A U.S. aviation force was ready to assist but the chain of command delayed their assistance for several hours. A MH-47 helicopter with 8 SEALS and 8 Army Night Stalkers arrived ahead of the attack helicopter, and the MH-47 was shot down by an RPG. All 16 of these men and 3 SEALS on the ground unfortunately passed away. The lone survivor, Marcus Lutrell, was rescued by a local Pashtun.
Operation Red Wings highlights the major flaws with the war in Afghanistan. First, the relatively small number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan was not enough to quell ACM and build promised infrastructure. Second, the U.S. centralized power in Kabul contrary to the autonomous regions that were previously in place. This undermined the imposed government. The U.S. also selected Hamid Karzi as leader but did not stop his blatant corruption. Third, and as shown by the delay in approving the aviation force, the U.S. did not have a succinct and clear chain of command. Finally, the war in Iraq diverted the little resources (troops, intelligence, money, etc.) from Afghanistan. After the November elections, Congress and the President should address the U.S. presence in Afghanistan immediately.
For more on the interplay between Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran:
Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. is a foreclosure, civil litigation, and bankruptcy attorney. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, a minor degree in History that focused on the slavery and indentured servitude eras, a minor degree in Criminology, and a Juris Doctor degree.
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