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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 12:37 GMT
US special forces 'botched mission'
US special forces
The role of US special forces has been "reassessed"
By the BBC's Martin Plaut

An operation by United States special forces inside Afghanistan launched two weeks ago went badly wrong, according to a report in the New Yorker magazine.

The raid left 12 commandos of the elite Delta Force wounded after they ran into stiffer than expected resistance from the Taleban.

As a result, American strategists have been re-assessing the future of special forces operations inside the country.

On 20 October, the Delta Force - one of America's crack commando regiments - led a raid on targets near the Taleban stronghold of Kandahar.

The United States released grainy footage showing troops being dropped by parachute behind enemy lines.

'No stealth'

But what has now emerged - according to the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh - is that when the troops attempted to attack the compound of the Taleban leader, Mullah Omar, the operation went wrong.

US troops parachuting into Afghanistan
The US released grainy footage of troops being dropped by parachute
"About 100 Delta Force people were inserted to go through the complex and into the home where the Mullah hopefully would be or, without that, search for documents," Mr Hersh said.

"As somebody said, it took much too long, no stealth, and by the time they came out the Taleban had regrouped.

"Their combat forces began a furious assault, and they had the equivalent of high ground and there was a real shoot-em-up.

"The Delta Force were enraged, and the reason I heard about it was because Delta Force doesn't like to be used so poorly," Mr Hersh added.

Military denial

The US military has categorically rejected these allegations.

"The force that went in on the ground, there were a couple of parachute injuries that we expected... and there were some other wounds from some... of the activity that they were undergoing, but none of it was inflicted by the enemy," said General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I've not read the article but I've heard that it portrays that we ran into some stiff resistance - that's simply not true. There was no resistance, the Taleban were in complete disarray," General Myers said.

Exactly what did take place is, at this stage, impossible to assess.

But if special forces operations grow in intensity inside Afghanistan, this kind of claim and counter-claim is likely to become an increasingly familiar aspect of this conflict.

See also:

05 Nov 01 | South Asia
US pressure builds on Taleban
02 Nov 01 | South Asia
Weather stymies US special forces
19 Oct 01 | South Asia
Taleban defiant on Bin Laden
08 Oct 01 | Americas
Americans urged to stay vigilant
19 Oct 01 | South Asia
US special forces 'inside Afghanistan'
20 Oct 01 | Americas
Profile: US special forces
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