To all Navy SEALs:
Don’t trust this man! See explanation below.
Thom Shanker reports for the New York Times, August 30, 2011, that, two weeks ago, Admiral William H. McRaven was promoted by Obama to be the new commander of American Special Operations forces.
McRaven is defending the use of commandos in a Navy Seals unit to back up a raid in Afghanistan on August 6 which ended in tragedy when a Chinook helicopter was shot down by the Talibans’ rocket-propelled grenade, killing all 38 people on board, including 17 Navy Seals. This was the greatest loss of American life on a single day in the Afghan war.
McRaven rejects criticism from some retired commandos and military analysts who have questioned how the operation was planned and carried out and whether it was an appropriate use of the vaunted Navy Seals. He insists “There was nothing unusual about this mission” and that planning for the operation was no different from other missions that had been carried out successfully, as many as a dozen on a typical night.
McRaven said he was awaiting the specific findings of Pentagon’s inquiry into the incident, but noted broadly that “this was one of 11 missions that night. We will do whatever it takes to help the nation win this war — and this mission was not unique.”
Some analysts have questioned why an elite Navy Seals strike team was assigned as mere backup for an Army Ranger raid on an insurgent cell, and why so many Special Operations personnel were aboard a single helicopter.
Admiral McRaven dismissed assertions that the most highly trained Navy and Army commando teams should be reserved solely for the most high-profile missions; he said they were regularly assigned to support commanders of units in a local area of combat if that contributed to the overall mission: “We have to be fungible as a force. And if we are not fungible as a force, then we are not of value. It is not unusual at all for Seals or Rangers or Army Special Operations forces to be part of a quick-reaction force, as in this case.”
Admiral McRaven also said that Chinook helicopters were used instead of the smaller, more agile, Black Hawks when a larger team was transported: “They [the Chinooks] are more than capable of doing this particular job. This was an appropriate use of that particular helicopter.”
Before his promotion, Admiral McRaven was in charge of the Joint Special Operations Command, a part of the overall command that oversees the missions of the military’s most highly trained strike units. McRaven held that post during the May 2 raid into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, a success that was discussed publicly by senior administration officials even though it involved a Seals unit that in the past the Pentagon would not even confirm existed.
American Special Operations forces are assigned to more than 70 countries today. And while they account for only 3% of the military as a whole, they make up more than 7% of the forces assigned to Iraq and Afghanistan. The annual budget for the Special Operations Command is $9.8 billion, or 1.4% of Pentagon spending in 2011.
Their experience at hunting high-value insurgent and terrorist leaders, and their role in training the security forces of allied countries, make it likely that they will still be wanted in Iraq and Afghanistan after American conventional forces have withdrawn.
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