Steep U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan brings substantial risks
Consider one simple fact: Kandahar, the city where the Taliban movement started, is 310 miles southwest of Kabul. Imagine that intelligence analysts have identified a “high-value target” — say, a terrorist facilitator with links to both al-Qaeda and the Taliban — in Kandahar. How would the U.S. military capture or kill him without a secure base in Kandahar?
A SEAL or Delta Force team typically reaches its target by helicopter. But Kandahar is a two-hour helicopter flight from Kabul and a fully loaded Blackhawk would need to refuel to make the round trip. Assuming there is no U.S. base in Kandahar, this would require aerial refueling, which is difficult and costly and would not necessarily be available 24-7. Given the long flight time, there is a good chance that by the time the commandos arrived, the target would have moved on.
It is doubtful that such a force would be dispatched in the first place, however, because commanders would be reluctant to send special operators into high-risk situations without having quick-reaction forces standing by to rescue them in the event of trouble. U.S. generals would not feel comfortable entrusting the lives of these elite operators to local Afghan army forces, especially in light of the well-advertised problem of Taliban infiltrators, so they would probably not order the mission in the first place.
Read the full story here.