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U.S. Forces Set to Battle 'Myth' of Cave Fighters


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Excerpt: October 26, 2001 By ESTHER SCHRADER , Times Staff Writer WASHINGTON -- When the Soviet Union took on Afghanistan, its troops found themselves crawling, terrified, through a vast network of mountain caves studded with knives and booby traps, pursuing moujahedeen fighters who seemed to melt into mountainsides like the night itself. Although Taliban leaders claim that they will use the same tactic to thwart the United States, their ability to do so when confronted with sophisticated

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  1. #1
    DcupSheepNipples
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    U.S. Forces Set to Battle 'Myth' of Cave Fighters

    October 26, 2001
    By ESTHER SCHRADER , Times Staff Writer

    WASHINGTON -- When the Soviet Union took on Afghanistan, its troops found themselves crawling, terrified, through a vast network of mountain caves studded with knives and booby traps, pursuing moujahedeen fighters who seemed to melt into mountainsides like the night itself.

    Although Taliban leaders claim that they will use the same tactic to thwart the United States, their ability to do so when confronted with sophisticated weaponry and highly trained forces may be more myth than reality, former and current defense officials and military analysts say.

    Defense officials acknowledge that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of caves, tunnels, aqueducts and bunkers in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan, the legacy of centuries of warfare and of an ancient farming technique that relies on underground water supplies.

    But if fighters loyal to the ruling Taliban and Osama bin Laden hole up inside mountains to escape U.S. forces and the bitter Afghan winter, reconnaissance planes equipped with thermal-guided cameras will be able to spot those who are sitting around fires. Laser-guided missiles on Talon gunships can be trained on them.

    And paratroops can swoop down from Black Hawk helicopters and toss hand grenades into tunnels.

    The meticulous preparations by U.S. military planners to weaken the defenses of the Taliban and Bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network suggest that they have learned from Soviet mistakes. And with the vastly more sophisticated technology at their disposal, finding the enemy in the highlands of Afghanistan will be difficult but far from impossible, analysts believe.

    The experts also caution that despite the advances, special operations forces are unlikely to nab all the militants they are looking for.

    "On a purely technological level, the U.S. military is prepared to find and destroy these caves," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a defense policy research firm in Alexandria, Va. "But the notion that we can find Bin Laden's 'fortress of solitude' and that all 5,000 of his henchmen are going to be down there among the stalactites, you know, it's just ridiculous. The caves are going to be just one of many, many places these people could be."

    U.S. Convinced That Caves Are a Valid Target

    Pentagon planners are aware of such limitations. Senior defense officials have cautioned publicly in recent days that the Taliban and Al Qaeda may be hiding fighters and weaponry not in caves, but in homes, markets and mosques in the middle of villages and cities.

    But they remain convinced of the need to eventually strike at mountain and desert hideaways.

    "Caves are clearly in target sets, because that's where Al Qaeda has traditionally hidden," said Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem, a senior official with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    Found primarily in eastern and southern Afghanistan, notably in Paktia province near the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, the hide-outs include natural limestone caverns and tunnels and man-made passageways, said geologist Jack Shroder of the University of Nebraska. Shroder has extensive experience working as a scientist in Afghanistan.

    Some of the narrow passageways stretch for miles and lie deep under the rock, Shroder said. Others are little more than bunkers just under the surface, 10 to 30 feet deep. Afghan fighters also are believed to use ancient underground aqueducts to hide from foes and store ammunition and supplies.

    Still, for all the complexity of this system, most experts on Afghanistan and military weapons don't believe that it is formidable enough to deter the U.S. Special Forces preparing to launch a series of ground raids this winter.

    Much of the image of the caves as impenetrable was forged during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. But the ill-equipped and ill-trained Soviet conscript army made mistakes that U.S. military planners are unlikely to repeat, said Mark Kramer, a professor of Russian studies at Harvard University.

    "The Soviet military and the U.S. Special Forces are just simply not analogous forces. The elite American teams are a modern, professional fighting force," Kramer said. "That's not to say that this is not going to be tough, but let's be careful where we draw our analogies from, or we can draw the wrong lessons from history.

    "I want to warn against the notion that somehow Afghan fighters are invincible and magically capable of repelling any foreign invader. That's a myth."

    Soviet leaders moved armored units into the Afghan capital, Kabul, without infantry cover. They left their logistics and communications lines vulnerable. And when they did begin to refine their counterinsurgency tactics, they used soldiers who were poorly outfitted for winter weather and nighttime battle and untrained for special operations, Kramer said.

    Still, the Soviets made impressive gains in locating the mountain hideaways, said Sarah Mendelson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and the author of a book on the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

    Mendelson and Kramer said they believe that outside developments--most obviously the strains within the Soviet Union that led to its collapse--were key to stymieing the Soviets in Afghanistan.

    "It is conventional wisdom that the Afghans beat the Soviets, and the reality is just much more complex," Mendelson said.

    The U.S. is in a far better position than the Soviets were to neutralize the cave threat, military analysts say. For more than 10 days, for instance, U.S. warplanes have been dropping 5,000-pound precision-guided "bunker buster" bombs developed for the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

    High-Accuracy Radar Can Detect Hot Spots

    To detect the caves, the CIA's Gnat and the Air Force's Predator 2 unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, as well as manned U-2 spy planes, have been equipped with high-accuracy ASARS-2 radar for use in Afghanistan, a defense industry official said.

    With cold weather descending on the mountains, the Pentagon plans to outfit low-flying helicopters with thermal-guided cameras designed to detect and photograph underground hot spots, the defense official said. Then, AGM-130 missiles designed for horizontal flight can be directed into tunnel mouths.

    "You can basically imagine the gunships just going out at night looking for warm spots on mountainsides," Pike said. "They can detect a group sitting around a fire, just by the body heat and the heat of the fire. Anybody who's betting that they can't do that might be surprised."

    As for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters caught in the open, helicopter gunships outfitted with computer-guided weapons would allow U.S. forces to train their guns easily on targets.

    "The idea is to get [them] on the move, to terrorize them out of their caves and get them on the move, where they are susceptible to a wide array of American radar and intelligence assets," Pike said.

  2. #2
    MoneyBags
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    we are so fucking awesome. we could have so much more fun if we started a real dynasty.

  3. #3
    Muscle Pimp chesty's Avatar
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    Gotta love the US. We are an equal opportunity killing machine. We got more toys than we know what to do with. We got more than 10,000 ways to kill you and each is just fucking awseome. The Taliban may put up a fight, but in the end not even dna or dental records will be able to identify the remains of the Taliban.

    The mullah called us out, now we is a comin' Stand the fuck by.

  4. #4
    Pro Bodybuilder
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    bin laden and his boys U.S.

  5. #5
    Da Pope the nature boy's Avatar
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    we'd kick their asses. fuck this cave fighting nonsense. what the fuck. kill all taliban fuckers and be done with it.


    however an empire is a bad idea but I'm too wasted to argue that. plus nobody is awake.

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