Inside the Ring

By Gertz, Bill; Scarborough, Rowan | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 28, 2001 | Go to article overview

Inside the Ring


Gertz, Bill, Scarborough, Rowan, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough

GREEN BERET LESSONS

Some Army Special Forces soldiers (the Green Berets) are saying that while their mission in Afghanistan has gone extremely well, some "lessons learned" must be addressed for future unconventional warfare.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has credited the Green Berets with helping to turn the tide of battle in November. The commandos joined with anti-Taliban forces and found military targets for bombers and fighters to strike.

But soldiers say the operations revealed flaws. There is not enough training in direct fire. They also lack vehicles to move around in harsh terrain, such as Afghanistan's mountains and deserts.

They tell of infighting at U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., among those advocating resources for Army Rangers, Delta Force anti-terrorism teams, the Green Berets, Navy Seals and other units.

We obtained one Green Beret's lessons-learned list:

cNot sufficient training in firing weapons. "They are . . . in situations where they might have to hold off a hundred guys for a day or two with their personal weapons. Can't do that if you spend your time cutting grass and teaching ROTC cadets how to use a compass . . . [Special Operations Command] stopped developing SOF-unique [unmanned aerial vehicles] a couple of years ago as a policy decision, a shortsighted and bad decision." Such a spy system, the soldier said, would help Green Beret "A teams" of 12 troops see the enemy first and direct fire.

cGreen Berets need a special inventory of vehicles from which to draw depending on the terrain.

"Our guys need to be able to move," the Green Beret said. "Need pre-stocked `tool kit' of ground transportation in every theater, and at home station for training, for the Kosovos, the Afghanistans, the whatever. Mix of Humvee platforms, Toyota 4-by-4s, whatever, with configurable armor, weapons, sensors, must be available fast. Cannot tell you how much mobility has become critical factor . . . Also need air transport independent of multimillion-dollar helos and fixed wing."

TV cameras this week captured U.S. special operations forces riding on all-terrain vehicles as they continued their hunt for al Qaeda terrorists.

cRadios are critical lifelines for Green Berets working clandestinely in what is called "denied territory."

"We are using every bit of comms gear we have. Whoever thought that two, or four [radios] per Special Forces team was good enough, well, in my opinion, well forget it. Just anger here. Need one [radio] per man. Need as many good, multi-waveband long-range radios per team as we can get. Need simpler and lighter. Need less power usage."

cLanguage proficiency.

"Must get better at this . . . Send the guys with high aptitude to [Defense Language Institute] or create a like capability at Fort Bragg, with year long courses designed to maintain Special Forces skills . . . I submit that means four or five guys on each team who are near fluent in a variety of languages of value in their [area of responsibility], not 12 guys who can order coffee in one language."

Commandos tell us their units have killed more than 600 Taliban militia members and al Qaeda fighters in firefights, mostly in the areas of Kandahar in the south and Tora Bora in northeastern Afghanistan.

China ties questioned

Two members of Congress are urging Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to maintain a ban on military exchanges with communist China.

Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, questioned in a letter recent statements by Adm. Dennis Blair, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, about the utility of renewing military contacts.

"As currently constructed, we respectfully disagree that these contacts are mutually beneficial," the congressmen stated in a Dec. …

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