Missing Recon Team
The incident involving a four man recon team which has gone missing near Asadabad, Afghanistan, raises some really interesting questions which can only be addressed by speculation until the full details become available. The small size of the team suggests it was designed for concealment and stealth. Its insertion represented an extraordinary risk since they would be operating in an area known to be a stronghold of the Taliban, where any contact with the enemy automatically meant it would be grossly overmatched. The team lost the bet when they had to request an extraction, presumably after being discovered. An MH-47 carrying a quick reaction force was shot down in the effort, resulting in the death of 16 Special Forces soldiers. The Taliban claims that one US soldier has been captured. Hundreds of US troops have been inserted into the area, ostensibly to recover the missing reconnaissance team.
It is reasonable to infer that the recon team was looking for some very high value targets in the enemy's own backyard. A glance at the map of Asadabad, Afghanistan shows it to be in a high valley near four borders: Kyrgistan, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The team had probably hoped to remain undetected until the object of their reconnaissance was attained, a hope that was soon dashed. The fact that one MH-47 was carrying 16 men (there were probably others in company because attempts were made to secure the stricken MH-47 after it was downed) implies that either the recon team was was so closely engaged that it required ground reinforcement for extraction or that it had located its object and was calling in the strike force.
Because several hundred US troops were inserted into the area after the loss of the MH-47 it seems evident that the US could obtain local tactical superiority anytime it wished. The fact that did it not send in the several hundred troops for a sweep instead of the four man recon team strongly suggests that the recon team's mission was to fix a very high value target before it could flee from an airmobile assault.
We are looking at a very high stakes game at which the enemy is presently leading. Can the US recover? When unlucky at roulette but with reserves of capital it sometimes helps to double the bet. The US has raised the stakes by sending in large numbers of men and following through with the action. A recent report says:
"U.S. fighter planes bombed a suspected Taliban compound in mountains in eastern Afghanistan in an area where an elite American military team has been missing for five days, a U.S. military spokesman said Saturday. It was not clear if there were any casualties."
Striking at a solitary compound in the heights of the Hindu Kush means solid intel. So my guess (speculation alert) is that the missing team was not the only reconnaissance unit in the area. The unanswered questions are:
- what is the real objective of the operation to which the missing recon team was in support?
- are current efforts aimed at recovering the missing team or at achieving the original aim of the operation?