Michael's Dispatches

Secret Report detailing French deaths in Afghanistan

19 Comments 20 September 2008

I was able to carefully read the secret NATO/ISAF report cited in this news story, which does a good job of reporting the facts in the report.   Photographs published in the report showed very accurate fire on vehicles, which supports the claim that the Taliban are becoming more proficient with their small arms fire.  The document also indicated that the Taliban had used armor piercing bullets in the ambush.  The French soldiers were completely unprepared for this level of combat.  Apparently, the survivors were rescued by American forces, including "Green Berets" who were nearby.


A secret NATO review obtained by The Globe and Mail shows that the French who were killed in August did not have enough bullets, radios and other equipment. By contrast, the insurgents were dangerously well prepared...

Click here to read the entire story by Graeme Smith on Globeandmail.com


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    ZF · 13 years ago
    Unfortunately the mental Maginot Line behind which most Europeans live is constructed of the following blocks, among others:

    - Americans are in general stupid, and their troops aren't that good
    - The American armed forces are walking all over the Islamists on the field of battle
    - Consequently Islamists are ludicrously inept fighters, and not a threat

    Their errors are on display here, for those who have eyes to see.
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    Don51 · 13 years ago
    The Americans are ahead in experience because they've already applied lessons learned. Go here http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/call/index.html and see their official pubs on experiences learned the hard way. Scrolling down to pubs 90-9 series to see the learning needed just after Panama. The object is to learn and incorporate the lessons and not repeat the errors. The French picked up the 'system' for lessons learned, so lets see if they can incorporate the changes needed not to relearn.
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    Gondokoro · 13 years ago
    Michael, what's your point in passing this 'well aimed' news story on to your readers...you usually do a much better job of reporting the facts
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    Casstx · 13 years ago

    The point is that we can't always tell what's accurately reported and what isn't in the world press. Mike saw the report himself, and if he says it was true, then I give it a lot more credence. I imagine being un-embedded and roaming free, he's working on other reports right now, and wanted to comment on something important he saw. I certainly didn't know the battle was this big, and I keep up on the news over there. Of course that's just my guess...
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    Norm · 13 years ago
    Based on one platoon-level fight, the Taliban are now "bold" and "mastering the art of guerrilla warfare". Snipers indicate increasing sophistication.

    Well I guess the war is lost then.

    What rot

    When the Germans were in full retreat across France I am sure that they managed to execute a few ambushes and even had a well trained sniper or two. Hell, they killed thousands of Allied troops. This did not mean they were winning the war, nor does one Taliban ambush (if that is what it even was - sounds more like a meeting engagement to me) mean the Taliban are winning.
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    David Nicholas · 13 years ago
    I get rather frustrated with this sort of thing at times. I've never been in the military, but I've read thousands of books on warfare and conflicts of this sort, and it's always amazing to me how people can read volumes into one episode, and declare it the "turning point" of a conflict, or something significant like that. In truth, the significance of an incident like this is usually not apparent for months, if not years.

    To take the report, and the resulting conclusions, point by point: the Taliban "appears" to have improved its marksmanship, and "appears" to have a few snipers. When you look around a battlefield afterwards, there's a lot of debris, and sometimes it's hard to interpret it correctly. These things may have happened, they may not. If we have five or six more firefights with Taliban guys and similar marksmanship and sniping is reported, then we might get a little worried. If not, this is an anomaly. It appears the French paratroopers got a little sloppy, weren't carrying enough ammo for their vehicular weapons, and didn't have appropriate communications gear. This may have led to more casualties than the action should have cost them. I bet someone in Paris is going to make sure this doesn't happen twice. Notice that we were able to redeploy other troops to the area, and chase off the Taliban fighters, harassing them with air strikes while they fled. My guess is that they suffered more casualties during this phase than the French did during the ambush, but we'll probably never know.

    This may be significant, but even if the Taliban learns to shoot an AK-47 well (it's hard to imagine someone of them carrying and using a real sniper rifle effectively: they're too delicate) it won't counter the array of more fearsome weapons the Americans and their allies deploy routinely. In World War II rifles accounted for a small percentage of combat casualties, with artillery and air power doing the bulk of the killing. A guerrilla war does include more infantry, and so rifles are more important, but planes, artillery, machine guns, and other weapons still will have a larger effect on the battlefield.
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    Huntress · 13 years ago
    Nothing like taking words out of context and the inferring your own meaning the rest of the paragraph said:

    "Unlike the crude tactics witnessed by Canadian troops in 2006, when the insurgents dug trenches and bunkers, camping out in groups of several hundred and making themselves easy targets for aerial bombing, insurgents in the recent high-profile attacks have gathered ad-hoc units by pulling together many small bands of fighters for specific missions."

    The writer was making a valid point that the Taliban have seriously upped their game. And this statement was NOT based on ONE platoon level fight - if you had read the piece correctly you'd see that there was discussion of several other similar fights.

    "Some observers connect the French ambush with attacks that killed nine American soldiers in July and another that killed three Canadians earlier this month, all of them examples of bold strikes against international forces ...."

    And by NO MEANS does the writer say the war is lost NOR does he infer that. That is YOUR misguided interpretation.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Huntress · 13 years ago
    Who declared this a turning point?? Not the writer of the piece, not Michael in his intro paragraph.

    It should come as no surprise that the Taliban have upped their game. That's not a conclusion being drawn out of the air.

    "The appearance of well-trained marksmen among the insurgents may point toward the involvement of extremists trained in Pakistani territory, said Brigadier-General Richard Blanchette, a Canadian who serves as chief spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

    ƒ??We do have hints that al-Qaeda provides training to some insurgents on the other side of the border,ƒ? Brig.-Gen. Blanchette said. ƒ??Because it's close, it would be very reasonable to believe that this could have been an influence of outside training.ƒ? He added: ƒ??The fact that they have more sophisticated arms is perhaps also a sign there's a connection to outsiders.ƒ?

    And it should come as no surprise that the Taliban are being trained in border areas of Pakistan. That is WHY US forces have targed those areas within Pakistan.

    What the NATO report also states is that the enemy is most likely comprised of more than just the Taliban fighting forces and we had best be prepared to step up in those places which have become safe havens for the insurgency to move about uninterrupted.

    I'm confused by all the lack of understanding displayed by those who have commented so ar.

    I fail to see where the report is dishonest, misleading, implying the war is lost, or implying that this was a turning point. It's clearly stating that the Taliban are starting to change their game and we best be prepared. It doesn't matter if only a few attacks follow this pattern initially - because as the piece states, this is a very different tactic from 2006, and while it may not happen frequently now - it will no doubt be used more often.l

    Forwarned is for armed!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    David the Elder · 13 years ago
    I wonder if Al Qaeda really is good at sniper/marksmanship training, or in organizing such well executed ambushes. Yes, they learned a lot in Iraq, but there is another player in the neighborhood who would dearly love to get their revenge on us for their experience in Afghanistan some years ago.

    The Russians.

    I wonder...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Hard Right · 13 years ago
    Well, Iran providing them arms doesn't help either. I also wouldn't be surprised if Russia had sent advisors to help the Talban.
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    Sean in NY · 13 years ago
    Forgive me for not having a link, but I read somewhere else that the Taliban commander for this attack had asked all the nearby Taliban units for a handful of their best fighters, for an attack that they were planning.

    Most complied, and they had what was basically a terrorist all-star team ready for this attack. That would explain their surprising ability to execute something like this.

    Unless they can begin doing this everywhere and regularly, lets take them at their word: this was what they could do with their best, with lots of advance planning, in a location that could not be more perfectly suited for an ambush of this type.

    Not for nothing, considering how poorly prepared the French were logistically, they did quite well given the scenario.

    Given the video I've seen purporting to be the ambush (at least the first few minutes... http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=42 _12208162 5 ), there was little the French could do.

    Let's hope they learn something and adapt. If they have to carry an extra 10lbs of ammo, so be it.
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    question mark · 13 years ago
    what kind of trademark did the "taliban" arms have?
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    Micky · 13 years ago
    I'm starting to think too much is being read into this ƒ?? it sounds like bad luck and inexperience.

    Bad luck because they run into better trained group of Tailban and because they had very poor ANA unit backing them up.

    Inexperience because they didn't have anywhere near enough ammo and only 1 radio, maybe they got a new Lt. or the snco's missed it ƒ?? or maybe it was just an honest mistake and they underestimate the risk.
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    question mark · 13 years ago
    to Hard Right:
    maybe the cubans
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    Johnny1 · 13 years ago
    Anyone who has served in a conflict can tell you that mistakes happen, often. Most of the time you get away with it ........ sometimes you dont. Any commander or SNCO who says that they have never made a mistake is a liar. In this instance the mistake cost lives, the French were unprepared for the level of combat the ran into, also the Taliban who they ran up against new his job well and laid out a well prepared ambush. Could have happened to anyone at any time. You just need to look at the battle the US forces had on the Pakistan border to see that, they were a hairs breath from getting over run. But they had enough training and experience and a will to fight and survive and got away with relativly few casualties.
    Dont underestimate the Taliban, they are superb fighters and are willing to take casualties to get the job done. The French will not make the same mistakes again ....... thats if they say of course.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    BSJ · 13 years ago
    This may explain the recent increase in attacks and raids in Pakistan. They may have identified the skilled trainers and are taking them out.
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    darin · 13 years ago
    What's amazing 2 me is that the taleban had EVERY advantage on this attack & still lost the number's battle with kia.Imagine if we pulled our best fighter's 2gether & ambushed an enemy unit in the Rockie's what would happen?They are still not that good at fighting as I think they found an easy target also they have no fear of dying because they have nothing 2 live 4 anyway.They will lose this war once Pakistan get's it's sh** 2-geteher(which might take some time).
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    SamIam · 13 years ago
    Allied casualties have been so low in a historical context that when you get a battle where the enemy acted semi-competenly or at least managed to inflict more than a handful of casualties it's big news.

    How could they not improve at least a little after years of taking lopsided casualties in 99% of engagments? Even a roach can learn by reacting to stimuli.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jack E. Hammond · 13 years ago
    Dear Michael,

    What is the #1 secret that is being kept from the American people about the 9/11 War? It was reported in this issue of ARMY TIMES from a report by a US Marine that got leaked (probably by some mad generals about the situation).

    The big secret: In Afghanistan the US is not only at war with the Taliban and al Qaeda but the armed forces of Pakistan. The report states that on numerous occasions Pakistan helicopters have crossed into Afghanistan on recon and resupply missions for Taliban and al Qaeda forces who were attacking or retreating from US and Afghan National Army forces. The report also states that Marines in the past have been on the receiving end of "D- 0s". The D- 0 is a famous 122mm howitzer that the Russians shortly introduced after WW2 and is the most widely used howitzer in the world outside of NATO. The report also states that reliable Intel has indicated that Pakistan special forces have crossed the border in mufti and attacked Afghan National Army units and with some certainty Marines and US Army units. In fact there are claims by Pakistan tribal leaders who are anti-Taliban that the border patrol manned by Pakistan Frontier Rangers that was "accidentally" bombed by the US, had in fact fired on US Special Forces and Afghan National Army units.

    The Pakistan governments official answer to all these charges is that 1> Most of the charges are not true or 2> It is rogue units that are doing the attacking without orders from the Pakistan Army or the famous Inter Service Agency (their version of the CIA).

    What to do? Understand one item in any consideration or response: If Pakistan closes down the Karachi to Khyber Pass to Kabul land route the US/NATO can not maintain the forces it has in Afghanistan. Also since we have really p*ssed off the Russians establishing an air bridge would not be feasible. And the Iranians. They were glad to help us in 2001-2002 and even 200 . But no more.

    Finally, I bet the Russians are secretly laughing themselves sick. The US is in the almost exact same situation they were, with the Pakistan government giving the same answer even when the Pakistan Army's super commandos "The Black Storks" were crossing into Afghanistan and assaulting Russian forward bases with artillery support from Pakistan.

    Jack E. Hammond

    NOTE> What ever we do, we have to stop modernizing the Pakistan Air Force (ie they have a huge order of AMRRAMs and smart bombs including the GPS models). Any excuse will do.

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