Location: Village of Ganjgal, Kunan Province, Afghanistan
Cast and crew: U.S. Marine and Army trainers, embedded reporter, insurgents
Screenplay: New restrictions on the use of military force and air raids to prevent civilian deaths
Special Effects: None – Artillery support repeatedly denied, air support severely delayed
Casualties: Four U.S. Marines, eight Afghan soldiers and police, Afghan interpreter
Four Marines and eight Afghan citizens were killed Tuesday following a battle with insurgents that lasted several hours. A 13-man team of Marine and Army trainers assigned to assist the Afghan army in an operation in Ganjgal were ambushed, apparently as a result of a tip off.
Repeated calls for artillery support were denied, citing new restrictions on the use of military force where civilian casualties may occur. Air support responded, but helicopters took over an hour to appear due to the distance from the firefight. Ground support artillery never materialized.
Are we at war from within?
I never served in combat. I didn’t receive training on how or when to call in close air support, or how to fire off coordinates in a request for artillery support. I’d have trouble knowing a howitzer from a hand grenade. The only ambush in my 21+ years of service where I needed to call for backup was at the Staff NCO club on bosses’ night. While I have experience with plans and operations at the command level, I wouldn’t have a clue how to put any of that planning into effect on the ground where it counts.
I was trained that we take care of our own, that someone is always there to cover your six.
What happened Tuesday in Kunan Province?
These Marines and soldiers were trainers assisting the Afghan army. They weren’t unseasoned troops that just got off the plane, but trained and experienced combat veterans. If they called repeatedly for artillery support then I’m thinking they really did need artillery support. What a concept!
So why were they left to fend for themselves?
New restrictions on the use of military force and air raids in a bid to prevent civilian deaths.
We’re at war, folks. Casualties are a fact of war, casualties of both military and civilian personnel. None of it is pretty, but who determines that the lives of civilians are more important than our troops who are there trying to protect them from their own people?
Maybe I’m over simplifying things. Maybe there is justification at a level higher than my pay grade for why four young men were killed after calling for backup. If there is, I hope someone can explain it to me here, and to the four families in the U.S. who will be welcoming their loved ones home – in flag-draped boxes.
This is one scene that should be cut from the movie. Semper fi …
Marie Anne is a retired Marine MSgt. Read more of her works here.