10/09/2005

Daily Kos: U.S. may be facing SAMs in Afghanistan

U.S. may be facing SAMs in Afghanistan
by Synergy [Subscribe]
Sun Oct 9th, 2005 at 19:36:44 CDT

Here is the question. Has the Taliban or Al Qaeda gotten their hands on Chinese or Russian made surface-to-air-missiles and are now using them in Afghanistan? Look at these two stories below and especially the paragraph in bold letters in the 2nd article. The article speculated that the helicopter that went down in Afghanistan on September 25th killing all 5 U.S. soldiers aboard was indeed caused by hostile fire despite the initial news reports released quoting the Pentagon that there was no initial indication of hostile fire. Now that speculation is confirmed as fact by the U.S. military. The helicopter was shot down. At least two U.S. helicopters have been downed by "lucky shots". Were Chinese or Russian made SAMs involved? If the Afghan insurgents do have SAMs, this recalls the Stinger missiles that were such a potent weapon in the hands of the mujahadeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan 20 years ago! Wonder what it means for the prognosis of this conflict? Two articles below for you analysis:

* Synergy's diary :: ::
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Guard: Hostile Fire Caused Copter Crash

Guard: Hostile Fire Caused Copter Crash
By Associated Press

October 8, 2005, 9:18 PM EDT

RENO, Nev. -- Military investigators have determined that a helicopter crash that killed five Army National Guardsmen in Afghanistan last month was the result of hostile fire, not an accident.

Militants claimed they shot down the aircraft, but Army investigators initially believed the crash was the result of a mechanical failure or other problem.

"After talking to other people in the area and looking at the wreckage, the conclusion was that it was hostile fire," Nevada Army National Guard spokeswoman Capt. April Conway said Saturday.

A final report is not expected for more than a month. Investigators will examine the bullet hole that brought the helicopter down, spray patterns of fuel on the ground and how far pieces were strewn, Conway said.

"It might have been a guy with a rifle who happened to take a lucky shot or an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade). We just don't know," Conway said.

All the dead were members of the Army Guard's Company D, 113th Aviation Regiment.

Western-trained, Western-armed, enemies

Asia Times Online

Oct 6, 2005

Western-trained, Western-armed, enemies
By Ramtanu Maitra

From Iraq to Afghanistan to the Central Asian republics, Western militaries are finding it is one thing to train a local army, quite another to obtain its loyalty.

The US and British militaries have suspended their training programs for Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan after more than 800 troops from these countries deserted, and many reportedly joined militant groups, such as al-Qaeda and Chechen rebel forces.

According to intelligence sources quoted in the media, the deserters escaped with weapons, including M-16s, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), communications equipment, night

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vision goggles and other ordnance items.

In Afghanistan, meanwhile, IRIN News of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs earlier this year quoted an Afghan Ministry of Defense report saying that more than a quarter of the Afghan National Army (ANA) had deserted since its formation in mid-2002. "Around two to three thousand soldiers have fled the ANA so far," General Zahir Azimi, a spokesperson for the ministry, told IRIN.

The ANA is under the supervision of the US Army, with assistance from Britain, New Zealand, France and Germany. Technical assistance to the new army - envisaged to provide security to Afghanistan's emerging post-Taliban government - has also been provided by Bulgaria, Romania, Canada, South Korea and Mongolia.

In Iraq, the Americans and British are trying to build up an Iraqi army, but it is an uphill struggle. An estimated 500,000 Iraqis have signed up for the new army and security forces, but more than half have been dismissed as untrainable or deserted. Among those who remain, their loyalty is frequently questioned. Many reports indicate that the army and police have been penetrated by insurgents.

Shifting allegiances
Desertions in Iraq and Afghanistan are particularly worrying for US-led forces for two reasons. The first is that the lives of allied soldiers are placed directly on the line by disloyal forces. The second reason is that some of these deserters are not simply leaving the army, they are changing sides and joining the resistance with their new-found skills.

Last fall, news appeared for the first time that Afghan rebels were buying sophisticated Russian and Chinese-made SAMs (See The Taliban's battle over the ballot, Asia Times Online, September 10). The report quoted an unnamed rebel saying: "A general conduit of the weapons smuggling for Afghanistan is from Iraqi Kurdistan, from where the weapons are transported through Iran to Afghanistan. The SAM missiles of Russian and Chinese origin are available at a cost of US$2,500 each. The main market of these missiles is Afghanistan."

In a September 27 article, "The Taliban's new face", noted-Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, who met with Afghan officials, was told that the Taliban were buying weapons from local warlords and also across the border from Pakistani tribes. This official also confirmed the Asia Times Online story that the Taliban were in possession of SAM missiles of Russian and Chinese origin, which they were getting from Iraqi Kurdistan.

While the US military remained silent about the existence of these missiles in resistance hands, on September 25 another US military helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan, killing all five American crew members. The Pentagon summarily said, "There is no indication of hostile fire."

It is not difficult to understand why the Pentagon is cautious over what may turn out to be a bitter truth. Helicopters are the most effective vehicles in the moon-like terrain of much of Afghanistan. When choppers get shot down, it is really bad news.

It is widely acknowledged that the Soviet military was demoralized in the 1980s by the Stinger missiles supplied by Washington to the Afghan mujahideen fighters, who routinely shot down Russian Hind helicopter-gunships.

It is quite possible that the people now using the SAMs were trained by the US in the ANA, or in Iraq. In Afghanistan it is accepted that the resistance penetrated the recruitment process at the very outset, as in Iraq.

A part of the problem is that the Pentagon employs private contractors to train many of the foreign troops. This made it easier for the resistance to penetrate the recruitment process and get training. Since the private contractors are paid by the number of people they train, vetting of the trainees becomes somewhat less rigorous.

Most of these US-UK trainers are private outfits, often run by retired military officers, including three- and four-star generals. A few are familiar names, like Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton. Other private trainers have more cryptic names, like DynCorp; Vinnell, a subsidiary of TRW; SAIC; ICI of Oregon; and Logicon, a unit of Northrop Grumman. One of the best known, Military Professional Resources Inc (MPRI), boasts of "more generals per square foot than in the Pentagon".

A new challenge
The growing number of helicopter crashes in almost picture-perfect Afghan weather in recent months cannot be explained away too easily. The September 25 downing of a Chinook is one of many. A US helicopter crashed on July 29 during a routine training mission in Bagram, north of Kabul, injuring the two crewmen on board. That crash came a day after a Chinook CH-47 helicopter was destroyed in what the military called "a hard landing" during an operation to hunt down insurgents in the south. In April, a CH-47 crashed in Ghazni province, killing 15 American servicemen and three US civilian contractors.

In all these cases, the Pentagon cited the weather, "technical problems", or a "hard landing". On the other hand, the resistance has routinely claimed credit for shooting down these choppers.

Prior to the Afghan legislative elections on September 18, Washington was expressing concern about the resistance-induced violence.

However, now that the elections are over, the US military is not showing any sign of lessening its hardline approach. A senior US Army commander in Afghanistan, General Jason Kamiya, said recently that using airpower to eliminate militants continued to be an essential component of US military operations.

This despite a statement by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that he saw no more need for air strikes to be used in the "war on terror". Karzai also called for a halt to searches of Afghan houses by coalition troops and urged the US military not to enter homes without authorization from the Afghan government.

SAM missiles or not, the US is having to do some serious rethinking in Afghanistan.

Daily Kos: U.S. may be facing SAMs in Afghanistan

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