(Background briefing on the report of the Battle of Takur Ghar. Slides shown during this briefing are located at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/May2002/g020524-D-6570C.html and the Executive Summary is available at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/May2002/d20020524takurghar.pdf .)
Military Official: They don't look like the wolves you described. (Laughter.)
Q: (Off mike.)
Military Official: (Laughs.) Thank you. Well, what I'd like to do is read something first so that everybody can get an understanding of what I can and can't do for you, and then I'll go into a little bit about the investigation.
I'm here to talk about the battle of Takur Ghar, and I want to give you as an official account of the battle that occurred on 3 and 4 March during Operation Anaconda as I can. Obviously, as General Franks said, it's an account of very brave U.S. and coalition forces that were operating under some pretty bad conditions. And that is war, as the general said. There was a lot of fog and friction in this battle, and I'll be right up front and echo that.
The account focuses on several actions of our SOF forces, and that's Special Operating Forces, that are still conducting combat operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. So I'm not going to tell you about some of the details of what transpired. And I'll warn you up front that I doubt I'll answer many of the questions that go beyond the account of just this battle.
The Special Operations community has a motto, as many of you know. It's "quiet professionals." And there's a good reason for that. Secrecy and security are important to military forces, and we've all heard the phrase "Loose lips sink ships." And we understand the rationale of protecting when-and-where aspects of a military operation, and I hope that you understand that before an operation is launched, that we always protect that.
And then, however, much of the conventional military organization structure equipment, doctrine, tactics, techniques, procedures are open source, and they're out for any of you-all to see, and you can research those.
Special Operations forces are a special case, because they are different. They have a different organizational structure. They have different equipment. They have different support mechanisms. They have special training, special tactics, special procedures, and their personnel have special skills that take a long time to develop. Okay. We can't make these Special Operating forces overnight, and they're not something that we can generate at a moment's notice. So they are a very precious resource. They're -- they provide a very powerful capability to our nation, one that is particularly crucial on this global war on terrorism.
At the same time, the very characteristics that differentiate Special Operating forces from conventional forces make them extremely perishable skills, and they're critically vulnerable to things that give away those tactics, techniques and procedures. And we don't want to advantage the enemy in any way by giving those away.
And I think the American people understand that. The president and the secretary of Defense have already stated very clearly to the American public that there will be aspects of this new war that will be very public and others that won't.
But I'll take a moment to reiterate those reasons -- especially in the case of our U.S. and coalition SOF --and they are -- we won't discuss details that serve to advantage a potent, resourceful and ruthless terrorist enemy. We won't discuss details that expose critical tactics and procedures, resulting in force-protection vulnerability to our forces, as well as effective terrorist countermeasures. And we will not reveal the identity of participants beyond those killed in action in order to preserve the ability of these individuals, their units and their families to continue to prosecute the war on terrorism and do that without fear of disclosure and threats from those who support terrorism.
Some of the nation's finest organizations acted in no less than an brave manner in doing all of what was possible to save these guys that were up on top of the hill, while they defeated an evil enemy under horrendous conditions. I want you to keep in mind that although this is an evil enemy, they're not a stupid enemy. I believe we owe it to the families of those who died valiantly on the battlefield to go to the very limits of public disclosure to tell their loved ones' story. And to be frank with you, that's what General Franks asked me to do -- was to get the context of this battle so that we could provide as good an account as we could to the families, so that they could understand that operational context and how their loved ones died.
He also stressed the importance of maintaining our secrecy on the tactics, techniques and procedures, as I discussed earlier. And his other guidance to me was, don't speculate when we don't know the facts. There are some things that when I went up to the mountain at Takur Ghar, I was not able to get all of the answers of things that happened up there. I got as much fidelity as I could, but I don't have all the answers. And as General Franks said to me, some things we just won't know. Okay?
Okay. This report that we're going to give you a handout at the end of this, it's compiled from a significant number of interviews with the participants that I conducted, that others conducted and gave me their statements. It's compiled from classified footage. It's also, as I spoke, stuff that I have uncovered myself when I took a team back up to the mountain to look around. Also, we had other government agencies assist us with forensic analysis of some of the things. And then also, we reviewed the autopsy reports from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Okay?
Okay, with that, what I'd like to do is show you, as General Franks said I would, a picture that kind of encapsulates why Takur Ghar was so important to this Operation Anaconda. You could see in this valley, from the top of Takur Ghar, you could see the entire valley. Unbeknownst to us, and the general alluded to this, we did do a considerable intelligence preparation of this battlefield and looked on the top of that mountain. But as he said, it snowed and covered that mountaintop. So what we were seeing was three feet of snow on top of well hidden bunker positions that were up there on top of that mountain.
Now, I'll tell you, going back to why we don't like to reveal tactics, techniques and procedures, this enemy has learned how to conceal themselves from the things that we have at our disposal to look for them, okay? And it's because of public disclosures that they have been able to understand how we operate. Would I love to have an after-action report from the al Qaeda on what happened up there on Takur Ghar? Absolutely, so I can understand how their tactics and techniques and procedures led to how they fought this battle.
What we're doing is providing them an account, hopefully only one that won't broach those tactics, techniques and procedures and give them an idea of how we operate.
Okay. So you can see from up here that this position commands that valley. Inside this circle -- I think many of you were here and you understood from some of the briefings from CENTCOM an Objective Ginger from Operation Anaconda. Objective Ginger was just below this mountaintop. This OP position that we were putting in up on top of that hill had a commanding view of not only Ginger but also that entire valley.
Okay. Can we get the next slide?
A thousand words. That is looking north at Takur Ghar. This was taken the day after the fight. You can see the helicopter is still up atop of the hill. But you can see the view of the entire valley and beyond. Visibility was unrestricted for most of the week of Operation Anaconda, and you could see literally for well past 15 miles. And so you can see why that was significant terrain to us, and the enemy thought so too.
Just to give you kind of an overlay of where things happened up there, this, where the helicopters sits, and maybe just about another 50 meters in front of it down on this part of the ground, were really the only places to put a helicopter down to off-load troops on that entire mountain.
This rock that you see sticking up here has two bunker positions at the base of these trees right around it. They were well fortified, and they were under the foliage of the tree, hidden from anything that we would have to discern that ahead of time. There was also an enemy position in this rock out-cropping right here that was literally between a crevice of rocks, and it had a canvas green tent that would appear from above to look like a shadow. So again, our high-tech systems don't always defeat low-tech means.
Okay. That is Takur Ghar Mountain. This is almost a sheer drop- off to the western side of the mountain. There is an equally sheer drop-off on the other side.
Okay. Okay --
Q: Will you be releasing these pictures? Is it going to be released?
Military Official: I don't know. (To staff) Can we do that?
Q: It is? Okay.
Staff: We'll have them on the Internet shortly after, and if you want 'em, you can have 'em.
Q: Okay. Just curious. You said that this was taken the day after the battle.
Military Official: Yes.
Q: And yet the only snow I see is that -- look like traces there.
Military Official: You can't see, because this is actually below the hill -- there's three feet of snow up there beyond that. And there's no snow down on this face -- okay? -- this facing where the sun hits and melts it. The other side had considerable snow. Okay.
Okay, with that, I'll be happy to answer the questions that I can.
Q: Can you take this question that Franks seemed to be having a little trouble with in terms of any fixes to any of the communications problems that cropped up during this operation?
Military Official: The communications problems that I understood to have happened during this event were mainly terrain- driven. If you see the sides of this hill -- and as I described on the other side of the hill -- that radios that the SEALs had, as they were making their exodus off the side, did not have line of sight with some of the other platforms that were out there that they were communicating with. So with that -- that hampered the line-of-sight communications. Any time, in my experience, with over-the-horizon communications, you are always running the risk of them being less than perfect at critical times. And that's exactly what happened here in some instances.
Now I'll also tell you that the systems were working fine in one instance, but the communication to the third helicopter that came in was told to offset from the coordinates that it was given. But that was passed through another platform, and what was passed through the team or the helicopter was -- what they understood, anyhow -- was that was the offset coordinates; "Go there." And that is why that helicopter went to where it did.
Q: Can I ask one thing?
Military Official: It was a miscommunication -- not a glitch in communications gear.
Q: This is the Ranger helicopter?
Military Official: That's correct.
Q: And I'm sorry -- it went where instead of where?
Military Official: It went here instead of down the mountain at an offset location, so that the Rangers could get out and make the climb up.
Q: How did that miscommunication take place again? I'm sorry. We've tried to listen, but I wasn't quite following you.
Military Official: As I understand it, the task force commander passed that information through another platform -- and I wont get into what that was -- but the relay was misunderstood at the helicopter going in.
Q: So they were given the wrong coordinates?
Military Official: Not sure they were given the wrong -- what they understood was a miscommunication. They thought that what they were being told was to go to those coordinates. What they had been told was offset from those coordinates.
Q: Okay. And if they had --
Military Official: Again, this is fog and friction, and that's how that happens.
Q: But now had they gone to the coordinates in which they were supposed to go to, they would have not met as heavy resistance, because they would have had the -- they would have fought their way up the hill or worked their way up the hill --
Military Official: Potentially. That doesn't --
Q: They wouldn't have landed right on -- because it looks, from the way you're showing this, that they landed right on top of this bunker.
Military Official: They landed, I would say, about 50 meters from that bunker up at the top.
Q: Was it even that far? I mean, that helicopter's 52 feet long --
Military Official: Well, this is an oblique angle here. And from where that helicopter is sitting -- and I wish I could share with you the other overhead imagery, and you can see that it is definitely about 50 meters --
Q: Can you tell us how far they were told to offset from the coordinates?
Military Official: The commander never tells them where to go. The people that we have in the Special Operations community understand the mission type orders, and these guys, if that was what they understood, would have chosen their own place to land, because you've got to remember, back at the headquarters, they're only looking at maps, and what's translating on the ground -- this crew would have been able to select a suitable landing zone, which -- there weren't very many, I'll tell you, up there in this area.
Q: Right. Are they given a compass direction for the offset from --
Military Official: They were not given any --
Q: This --
Military Official: No, they were just told to offset.
Q: "Just don't go there," in other words. "Don't go where that" --
Military Official: Offset from there.
Q: So again, have any changes been instituted to prevent a miscommunication like that, or any changes to improve the ability of SEALs with their radios to be able to avoid the kind of interference that they ran into in this mission and the complicated communications with headquarters?
Military Official: I'm not sure that the question is correct. I think the --
Q: You told me you had two problems. You told me the miscommunication of the rangers --
Military Official: That's correct.
Q: In the case of the SEALs, you said that their radios had terrain interference. So you had line-of-sight --
Military Official: The type of radio that they were using was a line-of-sight radio, in this instance.
Q: So, any changes that have been made to avoid these kinds of problems?
Military Official: They always are adapting their tactics and techniques and procedures and their equipment for future battles. But that was not a problem in this case, other -- because that was -- you got to remember, these guys had initially gone in. They were the team that was supposed to off-load on this mountaintop. When they received fire, and Petty Officer Roberts fell out the back of the aircraft, they went to a place where the aircraft set down, transloaded to another aircraft, recognized the need to go get their teammate quickly, and then dropped much of their equipment to lighten them up because they knew they were going right back on top, and remember, these guys were going in for a long period to sustain themselves up on top of this outpost. So they dropped a lot of that equipment and just took their combat gear there, or weapons in there and additional ammunition to go up to the top there to rescue their mate.
Q: This may be a dumb question, but when this helicopter was sent up there, why weren't attack helicopters sent with them?
Military Official: Well, again, I'd have to default back to the tactics, techniques and procedures. But you got to understand, this was a stealthy infill to an outpost. And you don't want to put a whole lot of stuff in there to tell the enemy you're coming.
Q: But I'm talking about -- I'm talking about when the Rangers went.
Military Official: When the Rangers went back?
Q: They knew al Qaeda guys were up there, right?
Military Official: There were assets available to them.
Q: Why couldn't they have use the AC-130?
Q: Okay, I mean, with the ferocity of this firefight -- and they already know that they got one guy on the ground who's possibly dead, even though you got the rules, that the AC-130 isn't supposed to fly during the day, I mean, why not -- why not relax those rules? I mean, the thing is there, why not use it?
Military Official: There was ample close air support in the area. As a matter of fact, there were F-15s overhead at the same time that the AC-130 departed station.
Q: I don't know if you heard my original -- my question I asked General Franks about -- I asked him about why each helicopter went in. I think you've answered pretty much why the first one went where it went, and why this last one or the one with the Rangers went where it went. But now why did the helicopter that was carrying the SEALS that came back, why did it land right there? And should it have known -- or why didn't they know that Petty Officer Roberts was likely dead, and would that have changed the tactics at all if they'd known that?
Military Official: They did not know that he was likely dead. They did not have that information. And what that team knew they had to do, time being of the essence -- they had to go back quickly, as quickly as they could, to rescue their mate. And they did that. And if they would've gone down to a offset LZ. And later in the fight, the second Ranger helicopter that went in with the first one but broke off when the first one was shot down -- the second aircraft offset about a kilometer away, about 3,000 feet down.
And as these guys were kitted-up with their breastplates and all the things that they had, it took them about 2 1/2 hours to get to the top. Had Petty Officer Roberts' teammates done that, when they went back the second time, they would've had an equally long climb to get up there to rescue him. And they understood that time was of the essence.
Q: Your unclassified report said 2,000 feet at two hours. So is it --
Military Official: Okay, I was just --
Q: Throwing out numbers. (Soft laughter.)
Military Official: Yes, I was. You got that. Apologize.
Q: Could you give us a few of the details about how your report was put together, when you were tasked to do it, when you went to Afghanistan, how many people worked for you? Did you do it on your own? Did you have a team of three or five and, you know, when it was completed?
Military Official: Yes. I left the United States soon after this event and went over there with three other people that had varying degrees -- I'm an Army aviator, and I took a ground Special Operations soldier with me. And I also took the United States Special Operations Command historians with me, because they were doing a larger effort to capture the history of Afghanistan and the global war on terrorism over there. So they kind of fit nicely into what I was doing because I'm not a historian, and I thought that they would be helpful to me in gathering the information from the people and understanding how to conduct interviews, and whatnot, which I'd had no expertise in doing. This is something that I never thought that I would be doing in my 20 years -- 20-plus-years career.
Q: You know, we sit here and we listen to talk about transformational warfare and network-centric warfare, always in the abstract. You've got a flesh-and-blood example of a firefight. To what extent did any of this benefit by transformational -- (word inaudible) --capabilities? I'm talking about UAVs, the Predator assisting in the flight, mission planning that the chopper pilots go through to rehearse their mission with all the intelligence they get, 3-D maps that they get, all the technical whiz-bang stuff we hear about. To what extent did any of that contribute to the mission, the success of or lack of?
Military Official: This transformational piece, I'm not an expert in that.
Q: I'm just trying to translate that. Did Predator help, the UAVs help in the attack at all --
Military Official: Again, I think we're getting into TTP, our tactics, techniques and procedures that I said I wouldn't discuss.
Q: Well let me give you a more general question then.
Military Official: Okay.
Q: Was this a botched raid? You read about the 1993 raid. Back then it was a success, if you read the New York Times and a lot of the papers. The coverage has changed over the last decade to the "botched" raid. Is this in danger of falling into that category of a botched raid?
Military Official: I don't think that's an ample description.
Q: I want to go back to some of these -- you know, in the very beginning, when this thing -- when this started and the SEALs came back to risk their lives, going right into the hot area to try to rescue Petty Officer Roberts, they're risking their lives of the six people for one man. And we understand the brotherhood and what that's all about.
But then if we flash forward in this 17 hours, there's a wounded airman, I think, who is bleeding and needs to be evacuated. It's daytime, though, and there's no evacuations then. Why was there not a willingness to risk lives to go in and try to save that guy just like there was with the Petty Officer Roberts?
Military Official: You'll have remember, at this point in the fight, it was daylight -- (inaudible). The other aircraft that were going in was under the cover of darkness. Okay? So the risk versus gain far outweighed, you know, the decision to wait until night fell.
Q: When the rangers first arrived, wasn't it light then? It wasn't becoming light then?
Military Official: When the Rangers left to go down and execute that mission, it was darkness. And the intention was to get them in under the cover of darkness. As it turned out, it was still before official sunrise, but there was emerging daylight at that point. And that didn't help them, I agree.
Q: So the risk was just too great to try to evacuate them out of there during daylight?
Military Official: That's -- and I got to tell you, I interviewed the task force commander, and he anguished over that decision. I mean, this is a human side that, you know, I think all of you should take back with you on this Memorial Day weekend, that we make decisions as leaders, and this leader in particular, that have life-and-death ramifications in this war on terrorism. And these guys are doing the best they can to protect the resources that they've been given. All of these soldiers, sailors, airmen out there in this fight are somebody's brothers, sons, and they are a precious resources, and these guys don't take it lightly. And they were not going to throw more into the fray where the risk obviously outweighed the potential gain at this point.
Q: Have you talked to General -- (inaudible) -- task force?
Military Official: I -- remember, I said up front that I wasn't going to talk about personalities.
Q: Now why is it that General Hagenbeck, who was in charge of conventional operations, is not only -- (inaudible) -- on camera, why is -- (inaudible) --
Military Official: I think you'll have to talk to General Hagenbeck.
Q: Yeah, could you give us your best understanding who what happened to Petty Officer Roberts and how he died?
Military Official: My best understanding, because we have no exact knowledge of what transpired in the ensuing hours after he fell off, we have been able through our analysis to determine that yes, he did engage the enemy, okay?, based on what we found with his weapon. And we were able to tell that he did engage the enemy, but his wounds were such that he possibly lost consciousness due to blood loss, or was engaging the enemy and the enemy killed him at close range.
Q: How many men were killed up there?
Military Official: I don't think we get into body count.
Q: Well, can you -- if you don't have an exact number, I mean, five, 15, 30? What --
Military Official: I'd only be speculating, and I --
Q: (Inaudible) -- what is the time estimate? How long do you think that he was on the ground alive that you -- what was -- when he hit the ground --
Military Official: I would say sometime between -- you mean before the enemy --
Q: Yeah. Before you lost track of him, and that's where it starts to get fuzzy.
Military Official: Well, we lost track of him as soon as he fell out of the aircraft into the snow, okay? So I would say somewhere between the time he fell off and possibly an hour and a half to two hours.
Q: Is what -- I'm sorry -- is what, the amount of time that he was on the ground before he engaged the enemy or the total --
Military Official: The total time that we think we can account for where he was, based on when the team went back in to look for him. The team, as you recall, they went to the site where the aircraft had the setdown, they transloaded to another aircraft, went back and dropped off the crew from the first helicopter. The second helicopter took them back up. That took about two hours for them to get back.
Q: But he may or not been alive during that 60 minutes to two hours.
Military Official: And we don't know. That's one of those things I said out front that we just don't know.
Q: But you said he had a beacon of some kind that he activated shortly after final touchdown?
Military Official: Again, I think that's dancing very close to tactics, techniques and procedures.
Q: Would you agree you had some reason to believe --
Military Official: That he was still alive within the first half an hour.
Q: In the first day or two after this happened, General Hagenbeck was quoted as saying that he watched a Predator feed that appeared to show Roberts being dragged away. Then it got very murky after that. Can you give us -- shed any light on whether that did happen?
Military Official: Yes, there's a lot of confusion about what people see and don't see on the Predators. And I got to tell you, I looked at a lot of that stuff, and what I found to be the case is that what you see on video isn't always what corroborates to what's on the ground. So I think that there may have been a little bit of that in this case.
Q: So you're saying that you now do not believe that he was actually dragged away by al Qaeda?
Military Official: I'd rather not speculate. The CINC asked me not to speculate, and I don't have anything to corroborate that.
Q: You (hesitate to ?) to corroborate it, but you're also not --
Q: You just don't know.
Military Official: Exactly. I just don't know.
Q: Had his body been moved, and was it found with his weapon?
Military Official: His body was found by the Rangers subsequent to the ending of the hostilities up there, after they took the top of the hill.
Q: But I mean, did it appear to have been moved? And was it found was --
Military Official: Was what moved?
Q: His body.
Military Official: His body was not where he fell off the helicopter.
Q: Was it found with a weapon?
Q: Was it moved after he died or was --
Military Official: That I don't think we know.
Q: Walk us through why the AC-130 didn't fire where the friendlies were believed to be, as opposed to the enemy forces?
Military Official: Again, I think we're getting close to TTP and --
Q: But you said that there was CAS on station when the AC-130 left, there was an F-15 there.
Military Official: Right.
Q: But an F-15 is obviously not an AC-130. So --
Military Official: Right. They're a little bit different.
Q: Yeah. So why did the AC-130 leave? I mean, that --
Military Official: There was ample CAS there. I got to tell you, someone alluded to it here earlier, daylight AC-130s. AC-130s -- I don't know if anybody's gone outside and watched one in the air about 6,000 feet, but it's a Goodyear blimp. And, you know, the enemy was reported to have had systems that could knock one down. And because there was CAS available, the decision was a prudent one for them to let the CAS do the CAS, and let the AC-130s complete their flight.
Q: You mentioned the task force commander anguishing over the decision as to whether or not to send a rescue attempt in during daylight. I understand you don't want to discuss names, but there are a lot of task forces out there. Which task force are you talking about?
Military Official: Again, I don't want to get into personalities or commands, et cetera, so that we don't advantage the enemy.
Q: Can you give us an idea how much chatter is going on when you're flying one of these helicopters around? Who are you talking to? Are you talking to other pilots, are you talking to commanders?
Military Official: You're talking to a lot of people. And I got to tell you, having spent a lot of hours commanding and controlling in one of these 47-Echo helicopters, and there are literally five radios all trying to talk and competing at the same time, and it is very difficult to discern, one, which radio is talking to you, at some times; but the more experience you get, you can tell by the tone which radio it is. But at any given time, these helicopters have about four different radios. Some of them, you know, are line-of-sight. Some of them are over-the- horizon. And they're intermittent at times. They break up at times. It's very difficult to amass all of the information that's coming through your headset on this. So it's difficult to sometimes catch everything that's said and to keep the situational awareness. And I think the CINC alluded to that, that the commanders in this case, you know, grasp situational awareness at different times of this fight. And all didn't have exact information at the times that that information was being made on the ground. And so they eventually got that information, but at different times.
So the decisions they made at the times they made them -- I think the CINC said this very well -- that they made the best decisions they could make, given the information they had at the time. Again, I take you back to the fog and friction of battle, and I think Clausewitz summed it up when he said that, you know, the fog and friction of battle is -- rules the day in a lot of cases. And that was certainly the case within the first hour of Petty Officer Roberts falling off that helicopter.
Q: Could I just follow up on that real quickly? Was there something that the commanders may have known that might have changed the outcome of this, if they were able to communicate it more directly to the pilots, people right out there on the field? Was there something they were seeing on the Predators, something they were -- something --
Military Official: I don't think so.
Military Official: And again, I take you back -- the Predator -- you're not always seeing what you think you're seeing. And to -- I think I'll leave it at that.
Q: Sir, you mentioned -- General Franks actually mentioned one of the purposes of this after-action review was to identify what didn't go as well as it should have, and why. What specific recommendations have you made in your inquiry to try and cut through some of this fog and friction, to reduce the chances of something like this happening again in a comparable-type mission?
Military Official: It wasn't the scope of my inquiry to make recommendations of what to change. I more or less presented the facts of what transpired up there. I collected all of the information, and I've provided it to the task forces so that they can use that information in their after-action reviews so that they can correct the things that they perceive to have been faulty and sustain the things that they did well.
Q: Well, what did you identify are the areas that most needed attention by these various commands?
Military Official: I'll tell you, most of the things I identified were in the realm of tactics, techniques and procedures, and therefore I'm not prepared to discuss those.
Q: Can you just -- just to refresh my memory, can you just point out again the bunker in the picture?
Military Official: Okay.
Q: And then the --
Military Official: This rock that you see here, there are two bunkers. One of them is directly to the northeast of that rock, and the other one is directly to the southeast of that rock, okay?
Q: And then the other -- you said there's another fortified location.
Military Official: Over here -- well, I won't say it's a fortified location. Over here, there is a command-and-control tent that was inside a crevice of the rocks that, to be honest with you, the Rangers never saw that in the many hours they spent up there.
Q: So, and it's in that spot right where it almost runs off the picture?
Military Official: Yes. It's right over here. And you can't even see it on this photo.
Q: Where was Petty Officer Roberts' body found.
Military Official: His body was found right at the base of this big rock.
Q: Sir, just to follow up on your answer to my question, are you then saying -- acknowledging that there were shortcomings in these tactics, techniques and procedures that you've identified?
Military Official: I don't think I said that. I just said that I made some observations and gave them some recommendations.
Q: To do what?
Military Official: Again, tactics, techniques and procedures.
Q: No, but to improve them? I mean, to improve --
Military Official: We're always trying to improve.
Q: Now that we own this ridge, what's up there now? Do we have any assets there or is it just an empty hilltop?
Military Official: Right now I believe it's an empty hilltop.
Q: On Chapman, where was Chapman's body found?
Military Official: Chapman's body was found about 15 feet from where Petty Officer Robert's body was found.
Q: In the -- in one of the --
Military Official: In the bunker.
Q: Can you explain how he got in the bunker?
Military Official: What do you mean?
Q: I mean, why would his body have ended up in one of the enemy bunkers?
Military Official: I can't explain it.
Q: Why were the bunkers not identified? Again, just to summarize. Again, from the podium we hear about persistent surveillance and the drones and all the JSTARS over Afghanistan. And here they were missed, despite all these billions of dollars of assets. Again, why weren't they discovered?
Military Official: Okay, one more time. A lot of snow; about three feet of snow up there. You know, and this is a mountaintop that's continuously getting snow, so it covered a lot of the footprints, it covered a lot of the positions that were up there. And also, the foliage -- see, this tree is a little misleading here because there was some considerable bombing of these bunkers during the fight and it blew a lot of the foliage off the trees. So underneath that tree -- or those trees, is where these bunkers were. You can't pick that up in many cases.
Q: A cautionary tale, then, about -- with all this technology, this is an example where you can't pick up everything?
Military Official: I would say that, yes.
Q: I'd like to ask you about, when this mission began, you were doing a stealthy infiltration into a place where you don't want people to know you're there, and the people, when you get them there, will be observing and not seeking to engage the enemy, right? That's right so far? I mean, that's the --
Q: Obviously, the first insertion -- that plan's not going to work. The people are there. You can't do a stealthy thing. You don't want to be there. You want to leave. But once you know what you know now -- that this is heavily fortified, that the enemy is there -- with the exception of rescuing Petty Officer Roberts and then later rescuing other people, was it, as General Franks said, an objective that you had to take that objective, you had to remove those people from there? Or had you not lost Petty Officer Roberts, might you have just, you know, "Let's do another plan. Let's call in a strike on this place. Let's start with a fresh sheet of paper"?
Military Official: Yes. (Laughter.)
Q: In the afternoon, there was a counterattack from the enemy, from a knoll to the south. Is that the knoll there on the right side of the picture?
Military Official: You had a very good article today, by the way. Very good article.
Now what was the specific question about?
Q: (Inaudible) -- there's a counterattack, they secure the top of the hill. Fifteen minutes later, they're surprised by an enemy you describe in your report as 300 to 400 yards away, to the 6:00 or so of the helicopter.
Military Official: You saw my report?
Q: I'm familiar with your -- with the unclassified version of your report.
Military Official: (To staff.) Have we released the unclassified version of the report?
Staff: We have not.
Q: Okay, anyway --
Military Official: But you're familiar with it.
Q: -- also, the Rangers and everybody else talked about this attack -- this counterattack -- ground position, 3(00) to 400 yards from that. Is that -- can you point that out on that picture? Is that in the picture?
Military Official: Well, I'll tell you, the Rangers originally were around the helicopter on the first Chalk. When the second Chalk landed and offset -- and they came up and they eventually made their way and joined their mates and then assaulted the hill. So what are you saying? They --
Q: Then the enemy -- they fire from the rear.
Military Official: Yes. Not from here. There is another knoll that you can't see from back here.
Q: That's all right. I can't see --
Military Official: Okay. And it's about 300 meters away. Now I understand what you're talking --
Military Official: They were engaged after they had secured the hilltop. The enemy -- because there were multiple enemy all around this mountaintop, coming and going, as General Franks described -- the enemy was back behind them. And then they began putting strafing fire from their rear, which -- as you probably know from your interviews with the Rangers, they had a casualty collection point in this swill of ground behind the Chinook. And it's there where the medics were tending to the patients, the wounded, when they were struck from behind by these two enemy that came up behind them. And now they were somewhat in a pickle, and they had to get the wounded out of that casualty collection point, out of harm's way and up to the top, while at the same time try to eliminate the enemy that was firing on them down here. And they did that.
Q: From those positions there, did the Rangers --
Military Official: The Rangers had some people up here on top of this, and they began to engage from there, and also they were able to bring (casts ?) in.
Are we out of time?
Q: You hope! (Laughter.)
Military Official: (Laughs.) Thank you all very much.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Thank you.
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