All the Special Forces, which pass a hard commandos training course, are identified by a special name the Green Beret, which originates from the special headdress. Green Berets have been known for their military works, especially the missions. Over the years, the Berets have conducted so many missions, many of which were successful, while others they were overshadowed by their rivals.
The Cliffhanger, as it came to be known, is a mission that is remembered by the team members 3336 of the 3rd Special Forces Group. The mission is not remembered because of the medals that were awarded to the team members who made it, but because of the fight that left more than 150 Afghanistan insurgent killed, and many of the Berets injured. The cliffhanger, a mission that was aimed at attacking Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin (HIG), turned to be a firefight, which forced the Berets to retreat, which is rare for them. It is claimed that the terrain was the main reason why the Berets did not achieve their mission’s objective. However, as Kyle Walton, the team’s captain reported, the mission was not a failure, despite their retreat, as they made it clear to the Afghanistan insurgents that there is no hideout they could not penetrate.
The Cliffhanger, as it is known up to today is one of the biggest missions that Green-Beret Special Forces have carried out. On the April 6th 2008, the Green Beret under the leadership of Captain Kyle Walton and Team’s intelligence sergeant Luis Morale planned a mission of attacking the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin (HIG). According to Burton (2009), this group was known to be the fiercest of all the insurgent forces of Afghanistan. It lived in a hideout, the Shok Valley, and it was claimed that the group was guarded by highly trained foreign fighters.
Team 3336 belonging to the third group of the Special Forces was in charge of this mission. As Burton reports, because of the fear that the HIG was fully armed, the Berets used the high-technology weaponry to ensure their success in the mission. The team was dispersed to destroy the HIG. The team was accompanied by Afghan commandos, who mainly acted as interpreters. As Morale, the team’s intelligence sergeant reports, the interpreters were remarkably close to them and had received as much training as the other team members.
Apart from being interpreters, the Afghan commandos had other skills that the other Green Berets did not have. The interpreters had knowledge on the Afghanistan local population, customs and the terrain. Therefore, they were of much use, as they directed the Berets on how to access the village under attack, which was on a hill and surrounded by rough, stiff cliffs and icy rivers. As Moore (1965) points out, the main task of the Special Forces in any mission is to provide the high-technology weaponry. Therefore, this mission was not an exception. As the captain reports, the Berets ensured that the Afghanistan commandos had all the weaponry that they needed in the fight and worked hand-in-hand with them, despite the war being theirs.
It was claimed that the village, which the Berets were planning to attack, had never been raided before. According to Marek (2009), not even the Russian or the collation troops had been there. For this reason, the team’s captain, despite having over 80% of trained firefighters on the battle field, was still not at ease. He kept on feeling that his team was going into the unknown. The captain also feared that the terrain would be the greatest difficulty that they could have to deal with, which later came to be true.
As Burton (2009) reports, the terrain was so rough such that the birds could not be dropped by the helicopters safely. They had to jump 10 feet off the helicopters, whereby they landed in an icy river and sank up to the waist. The low temperatures of the waters affected them. The village was built on uphill which had an altitude of about10, 000 feet. Therefore, the team was forced to climb a rigid mountain, so as to access the village. Because the Berets wanted to invade the village without being noticed, they were forced to use the switch-backs, terraced farm plots as the only means of accessing the village.
As Moore (1965) points out, a Beret’s team divides into subgroups before attacking. Therefore, Walton, the captain, divided the team into three maneuver elements. Each element was made up of SF members and six commandos accompanied by their interpreters. According to Burton, the Afghanistan insurgents waited until the first element was a few meters away from the village, then they started their communications. The insurgents were so prepared for the attack such that the Berets realized that they were surrounded by the defensive troops and they attacked immediately.
The fight that followed was the least expected, and it came even as a surprise to the team’s captain, Walton. The war started with Walton’s interpreter’s death and sergeant Dillon being shot in the leg. The fight worsened as the Afghanistan insurgents started closing in on the Berets. According to Neville (2008), rarely do Special Forces call for danger-close air during their operations. However, during this operation, they asked for it more than 70 times.
The fight went on for almost six and half hours. Many of the Afghanistan insurgent were left dead and on the other hand, the Beret’s men were severely injured. Many bombs were realized and landed on the rocks that disintegrated into debris. The bombs exploded upwards instead of downwards because of the terrain. As the Afghanistan insurgents were sending more troops to enclose the Berets on the ground, the team was left with no other option but to retreat. This is because, if they were enclosed, they could be stack there for days, and their arms were insufficient, meaning their means of survival would be extremely minimal.
As Wright (2010) reports, the US army does not leave their arms in the hands of the enemies whenever they have opted to retreat from a fight. In this fight, there were too many arms that were lying on the ground and the few uninjured Berets could not leave them. There were also many injured Special Forces, and one of the rules guiding the Green Beret is that they do not leave their injured ones behind. Therefore, they had to collect all the arms and help their injured members get out of the village.
As Burton points out, the insurgents had already marked the route that the Berets had intruded in the village. Therefore, the Berets could not use the terraced farms as the exit, since it was fully covered by trained snipers. Therefore, the team had no other option, but using the cliff as their only way out. This is the origin of the name of the mission, cliffhanger. Since most of the team members were injured, they were to be helped by others down the cliff.
As the team made their way down the cliff, the snipers released fire on them from all sides. One of the team members, John, had to carry his leg down the cliff, which had been amputated by sniper fire. The team clung on the branches and rocks to climb down the cliff, and they had to jump a height of 20 foot at the bottom of the cliff. As Walton, the team’s captain points out in the Burton’s article, even though they were not successful in combing out the HIG, they sent them a clear message. That they can invade anywhere they hide, and they are prepared to go after all their hideouts any time soon.
Analysis of the Mission
From the detailed summary of the whole mission, it’s clear that it was well planned and carried out. The team was well prepared and equipped with all the necessary weaponry, which was required to successfully execute the mission. As Walton, the team’s captain reports in Burton’s article, he had much faith in the Afghanistan commandos that were being used as interpreters. It was clear that the commandos had received much training as any other member of the team.
The raid was conducted in a superb manner. The Berets had taken all the precautions, as they executed the attacks. The division of the team into three elements shows that the Berets were prepared to attack the village from every corner. Every element was also accompanied by enough interpreters, to ensure that they would guide the others on matters pertaining to local terrain, which was the greatest challenge to the mission.
The captain also ensured that there were troops on the ground and others on air. This enhanced their attacks and helped them protect themselves from unseen attacks. The fact that the team was not ready to leave their arms and their injured members, as they retreated, also shows that the mission was conducted well. Even though they did not achieve their mission objectives, they managed to kill more than 150 of the Afghanistan insurgents, which show that they had put all their best in this operation.
However, from my opinion, the mission also had a weakness in the way it was planned. As it has been highlighted, terrain was the greatest obstacle that the Berets encountered in this mission. The team could have solved this problem by first gathering all the available information concerning the terrain. Through this way, they could have easily identified the easiest means through which they could have accessed the village.
As the paper has highlighted, the Cliffhanger is a mission in which the Berets were not able to achieve their objective. However, from its analysis, it is one of the mission’s in which the Berets have been able to fight back their enemies, when they did not expect a firefight. As many of the team’s members describe it today, “nightmare”, it is in fact a nightmare, because the Berets were not prepared for such a firefight. However, despite their unpreparedness, they were able to show the HIG that they can invade any of their hideouts.