The Command Post - A Newsblog Collective


The Command Post has a great deal on the Russia hostage crisis, and is keeping on top of updates.

It's clear that this was not what we originally feared: the attack turned into a classic Islamic-terrorist hostage situation, rather than a Qaeda style "wait for the television cameras, then kill the kids for everyone to see." Even so, they apparently killed at least a hundred women and children.

On reflection, I think we can thank Operation Anaconda. Anaconda seems to have gone into the record books as a complete disaster, which has always surprised me. It was clear at the time that the US had managed to draw out Qaeda fighters by the hundreds -- the dangerous ones trained in Bin Laden's Afghan camps -- into a place where US firepower could be brought to bear without fear of collateral damage. Reports from US forces at the time stated that they brought such firepower down that the bodies of men they were tracking by starlight scopes were frequently vaporized in th explosions.

Yet the news coverage focused on the relatively few American deaths, and the row between US and UK forces. This last was to be expected, the first time two allied armies tried to work together; such things take a while to smooth out. (The article to which I linked includes only the American side of the complaint, which I noticed Kerry recognize the other day at the American Legion, when he said that he would have used only US troops in Afghanistan. The UK side of the complaint was made by the SAS, which was the US fear of civilian casualities kept them from capturing Bin Laden. You can read the UK's side of the story here.)

In spite of the personality conflicts, which perhaps prevented even greater success, Anaconda was a great blow against terrorism's most terrible shock troops. If they had not been killed where they were, we might well have seen some of the brutality they imagined acted out. Thanks to the US Army, and every bit as much also to the brave forces of the United Kingdom, we did not have to.

Today, of course, we must think of the Russian forces. They can have only little joy in knowing that it could have been worse.

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