Missing Recon Team 2
A member of the missing recon team has been found by US forces. According to the Washington Post:
U.S. forces rescued a member of a U.S. special operations reconnaissance team in the rugged mountains of northeastern Afghanistan Sunday, five days after the team went missing amid hostile fire, according to a U.S. defense official. The official said that the search continues for three other members of the team still missing in Konar province near the border with Pakistan. All four men are Navy SEALS, he said. ...
The Navy SEAL rescued in Konar was recovered by forces that have been involved in a massive hunt since officials lost contact with the team Tuesday. Shortly afterward a special operations helicopter sent to assist them crashed near its intended landing site, killing all 16 service members on board. Military officials say they believe the helicopter was shot down with a rocket-propelled grenade. But little more was known about the search effort. Defense officials were reluctant to provide details because due to concerns about compromising the ongoing operation.
The ability of the SEAL to evade for five days in an area more than 7,000 feet high is testimony to his training, willpower, skill and courage. It also suggests that the recon team was not wholly surrounded, that it was able to run, in the hours when it called for extraction. The problem with a four man team, as opposed to a larger unit, is that when a single member is wounded or otherwise incapacitated, there aren't enough men to carry him along. He will have to be left to his fate or defended in situ. But even if all we are that stage unwounded, one or more men might stay behind to delay the pursuit while the others set up another delaying position further up the trail, so that the rearguard could leapfrog backward, one behind the other. There are indications the pursuit took place in the hours shortly after sunset. Bloomberg reported on June 28th.
U.S. planes and helicopters were searching the area in the darkness, Moore said before midnight Kabul time. Gage and Moore had no details on how many troops were on board, the time of the crash or whether it was caused by enemy fire. An emergency beacon went off after the crash, guiding emergency personnel to the vicinity, CNN reported.
A pursuit by night in broken terrain may have separated the team in the uproar of battle. It is also creates the real possibility that the Taliban pursuit didn't find the rest of the recon team especially if they were being pasted by aerial gunfire. Still, it is certainly possible in those conditions that the Taliban actually captured a US soldier. However, the statements from the Taliban actually suggest that they don't have any prisoner at all. The Associated Press reports:
A purported Taliban spokesman, Mullah Latif Hakimi, said Friday that militants had captured one of the men and said he was a "high-ranking American" caught in the same area where the helicopter went down. He reiterated the claim Saturday in a telephone call with the Associated Press. "The soldier is being held in Kunar. Taliban leaders will decide what to do with him," Hakimi said. "He is being kept in a home. His health is all right."
The bodies of all sixteen of the men aboard the MH-47 have been recovered. So he can have no prisoners from the quick reaction force. The recon team itself would be unlikely to have a "high ranking" naval officer (they were SEALs) along. If there were a prisoner, Hakimi is probably in only tenuous contact with the group holding him. And they are unlikely to have told him 'we are holding him in a house in Kunar. His health is good'. Therefore there is practically no useful information in Hakimi's statements to the Associated Press.