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They Are Begging For Our Help....

How many dead tangos in Pakistan?

Nobody knows for certain, but it sounds like a whole bunch. Let's do the smart thing and check in with Mr. Roggio at Long War Journal.

Yesterday's follow-on Predator attack at a funeral for a Taliban commander targeted senior Pakistani and Afghan leaders of the group. The death toll in the attack has jumped to 83, and two Taliban commanders were rumored to have been killed, although one commander targeted confirmed he was alive and an aide to another said he leader was not killed.

Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, Qari Hussain Mehsud, a senior commander in Baitullah's network, and Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a field commander in the Haqqani Network in Afghanistan, were targeted in the Predator attack in Pakistan's lawless tribal agency of South Waziristan.

The attack took place in the Ladha region as scores of Taliban leaders and fighters were attending the funeral of Khwaz Ali Mehsud, a mid-level commander in Baitullah's network. The initial attack on the funeral procession was followed up with strikes on Taliban vehicles as they attempted to flee the attack site.

83 is an excellent number and since this was at a funeral it would be unlikely there were women and children around to give them civilian casualties to use against us. There have been questions recently when Gen. McChrystal's new ROE for Afghanistan announced that we would no longer engage in firefights of targeted bombings of houses to avoid collateral damage and the resulting loss of good will of the populace. The questions centered around whether this showed a lack of will to actively prosecute the fight against the Taliban and AQ.

It is good to remember that McChrystal commanded JSOC, which could rightfully be called the dirty tricks department of DoD. He was responsible for raids and targeted killings in both Iraq and Afghanistan and that was undoubtedly a significant factor in the decision to give him command in Afghanistan. But he also is fully cognizant that it was not simply making dead tangos that turned the tide in Iraq. The people there had to make two determinations, one that they were sick of the slaughter and two that they believed our team could best help them live safely.

Those two factors require an exceptional amount of balancing between kinetic and population security operations and at some point it tips toward foregoing chances to kill a few bad guys. When LW and I were at a journlism seminar a few months back we had the chance to speak at length with LTC Brian Mennes, the new CDR of 1st Ranger Batt. He had done a previous tour in Afghanistan and was prepping to take 1/75 Rangers over there. He said categorically that he no longer believed it was effective strategy for us to use overwhelming force against civilian areas to take out non-locals who attacked us from them. He has seen too many instances of locals held hostage while the extremists baited us into killing all of them. The jihadis get their 72 goat ticket punched, and the locals blame us for killing their fellow tribesmen.

When you have a senior Ranger commander telling you to lighten up a bit, that carries a lot of weight. McChrystal has no qualms about ventilating bad guys, but he and his team seem to be able to put the long term goal of safeguarding the people above the short term of ventilating some bad guys. That is a path to progress, I hope.