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Oct 19th, 2009

Dead Soldier’s Dad: Troops Were ‘Sitting Ducks’

U.S. commanders in Afghanistan should have known situation, father says

Image: Army funeral of Stephen Mace
An Army honor guard with the casket of Army Spc. Stephen Mace during his funeral at Arlington Cemetery on Monday, Oct. 19, 2009. (Photo credit: Susan Walsh / AP)

October 19, 2009

WASHINGTON — Stationed at a remote, undermanned Army outpost in a dangerous patch of northeastern Afghanistan, Stephan Mace knew trouble was brewing. His father says U.S. military commanders should have known that the troops there “were sitting ducks.”

Larry Mace’s soldier son was buried Monday at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors, one of eight U.S. troops killed earlier this month in Kamdesh in northeast Afghanistan when several hundred militant fighters armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades stormed Combat Outpost Keating.

The attack at Kamdesh, along with a similarly costly battle a year earlier in Wanat, have emerged as powerful symbols of the challenges the Obama administration faces as the war in Afghanistan enters its ninth year.

Without more troops and firepower, the Taliban-led insurgency will grow stronger. But devoting more people and equipment risks an open-ended commitment to a war increasingly unpopular with the American public.

Commanders criticized

American commanders didn’t reinforce Keating or pull the troops that were there out in time, Larry Mace said. …

More than a year before the battle at Kamdesh, nine U.S. soldiers were killed and 27 more were wounded when their base at Wanat, a village about 30 miles from Kamdesh, was nearly overrun by insurgents.

“The only differences between the two (battles) are the dates and the names of the soldiers killed,” Larry Mace said. “They haven’t changed their game plan. They’re fighting a war with too few people.”

Following the Oct. 3 battle that killed Stephan Mace, U.S. forces left Keating and another outpost at Kamdesh. The withdrawal had been planned before the attack had occurred, according to the NATO-led coalition.

Forces redirected after attack

A spokesman said the shift was part of a new strategy outlined months ago by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, to shut down difficult-to-defend outposts and redirect forces toward larger population areas to protect more civilians.

Even as his son was being remembered as a hero, Larry Mace remains angered by the circumstances surrounding his son’s death. Stephan was home in August on two weeks leave. Sitting in the living room of their home in Winchester, Va., Mace said Stephan told him the Taliban were massing in Kamdesh.

Yet strict rules of engagement kept the soldiers from taking aggressive action to prevent an attack, Larry Mace said. Mace recalled that Stephan gave his dog tags to his brother Brad before returning.

“I think he knew he wasn’t coming back,” Larry Mace said.

Full story


2/5/10 Update


U.S. officers faulted in deadly Afghan attack (MSNBC, Feb. 5, 2010) — MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan and NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski discuss a Pentagon report on a recent Taliban assault in Afghanistan which faults outpost commanders for not doing enough to improve the bases defenses or to analyze intelligence that the enemy was planning a major assault. (05:41)

Delay in Afghan Base Closure Led to U.S. Deaths

February 5, 2010

KABUL — A delay of months in closing a remote combat outpost with “no tactical or strategic value” led to the deaths of eight U.S. soldiers last year in one of the worst battles of the Afghanistan war, a report found on Friday.

The U.S. military’s report into a Taliban assault on Combat Outpost (COP) Keating in Nuristan province last October found the dozens of soldiers defending it fought with “conspicuous gallantry, courage and bravery under heavy enemy fire.”

But it said commanders had already concluded months before that there was no purpose to holding the outpost. The base had already been scheduled to close in July or August, but the withdrawal was delayed for months because vehicles needed to remove gear from it were being used elsewhere. …

An unclassified executive summary of the mainly secret report into the Oct. 9 battle said that by the time Combat Outpost Keating was attacked by 300 insurgents, it had long since become clear that there was no reason to hold it. Soldiers there could do little but protect themselves from constant attack. …

Full story


Related reports on this site

Iraq-Afghanistan Casualties (Oct. 13, 2009)

Afghanistan: The 8-Year War (Oct. 7, 2009)

Deadly Day for U.S. in Afghanistan (Oct. 4, 2009)

Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard (Sept. 4, 2009)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — October 19, 2008

Write-in Campaign: Day 1

One year ago today, on the first day after announcing a write-in campaign against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, I reported former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s stinging rebuke of Bachmann for alleging Barack Obama “may hold anti-American views” and suggesting that the media investigate which members of Congress are “pro-America or anti-America.” I also reported on halting progress in the U.S.-Iraq status-of-forces agreement, ongoing violence in Iraq, and escalating violence in Afghanistan.

4 Responses to “U.S. Troops ‘Sitting Ducks’”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Deadly Day for U.S. in Afghanistan Says:

    […] U.S. Troops ‘Sitting Ducks’ (Oct. 19, 2009) […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Major Afghan Offensive Imminent Says:

    […] U.S. Troops ‘Sitting Ducks’ (Oct. 19th, 2009) […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Porkulus Bachmann Says:

    […] U.S. Troops ‘Sitting Ducks’ […]

  4. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » October 19, 2011 Says:

    […] U.S. Troops ‘Sitting Ducks’ […]

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