Soldiers Pursued Taliban on Horseback in 2001
During the debate on foreign policy on Monday, President Barack Obama talked down to Gov. Mitt Romney about "these things called aircraft carriers" and "ships that go underwater." The political consequences of that condescending, unpresidential comment will become apparent soon, but Obama's snarky observation that our military doesn't have as many "horses and bayonets" should not be allowed to stand.
Somehow President Obama forgot that on November 11, 2011, Vice President Joe Biden was present at the unveiling of a magnificent statue in New York City, dedicated to the Special Operations Green Beret Horse Soldiers who road with Northern Alliance allies to vanquish the Taliban in the early weeks of the post 9/11 war in Afghanistan. At that time, horses were the best means of transportation in unforgiving mountainous terrain that was the home of cave-living terrorists who plotted murderous attacks against America.
Even the liberal Huffington Post was aware that the striking Horse Soldier monument was moved to its permanent home near the new World Trade Center One last Friday, October 19. One can only imagine what would have happened if Mitt Romney had made a similar gaffe, forgetting a storied military campaign that depended on horses and occurred only eleven years ago.
During the November 2011 Veterans Day parade, members of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) marched down New York's Fifth Avenue with the statue toward its dedication, made possible with the help of donors who raised $750,000. Sculptor Douwe Blumberg, inspired when he read about the Special Operations Forces exploits on horseback, created the 16-foot bronze statue bearing the Latin name De Oppresso Liber, meaning “to liberate the oppressed.”
During a Fox News interview on Veterans Day 2011, former Horse Soldiers described the difficulties of the mission and its importance to the war effort. Despite language barriers and a lack of modern transportation equipment, the courageous warriors fought for critically important intelligence and led the way for the air war attacks and ground military operation to come.
HorseTalk.co.nz, in an article titled Horse Soldier Statue Stands Proud Near Ground Zero, reported that the trusty horse proved pivotal in the daring and unique campaign, which one soldier described as "The Flintstones meeting the Jetsons:"
"The Special Forces teams faced enormous operational challenges and were required to rapidly adapt 21st century combat technologies and tactics into age-old Central Asian models of guerilla and tribal warfare as they partnered with the Afghan tribes of the Northern Alliance.
"Needing suitable transportation to navigate the difficult mountainous terrain of Northern Afghanistan, the Special Forces Operational Detachments – Alpha (SFOD-A), or A-teams, were provided horses by the Afghan tribes they were supporting. The Green Berets readily accepted this superior form of mobility and proceeded to assist and advise the Northern Alliance fighters from horseback, similar to the cavalry days of old."
When the Horse Soldiers landed by helicopter in 2001, the shock of 9/11 was still fresh. Each Green Beret A-Team carried with them small fragments of World Trade Center steel, which they reverently buried in the soil of Afghanistan along with a carefully folded flag in the memory of those who died on that day.
Years later, American soldiers and Marines are still fighting against ruthless enemies who bury deadly explosive devices in the paths of our troops, and who attack with tactics learned from our own infantry troops, often with scimitar beheading swords dangling from their waists.
For insight into what modern war is like, President Obama should read the book Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan, by retired Army Captain Sean Parnell. In May 2006, the infantry platoon that Parnell led had to fight repeated battles in the Hindu Kush, Afghanistan, carrying out dangerous missions and defending themselves with high-tech weapons but also bayonets when enemy ambushes in mountain passes left them exhausted and wounded, low on ammunition, and desperate for reinforcements.
President Obama deserves credit for approving the successful attack on Osama bin Laden, but he would be a better Commander-in-Chief if he took the time to look beyond his own role to gain insight into the sacrifices of all Special Operations Forces soldiers who have fought so bravely in defense of America.