The die had been cast before the Rangers ever hit the ground in the Nangarhar, Afghanistan.  Military aircraft had dropped pamphlets over the target valley, reputed to be infested with Afghanistan’s ISIS affiliate, announcing that coalition operations would be clearing the valley so civilians should vacate the area immediately.  The forewarning gave the enemy plenty of time to dig in and prepare defenses.

American Generals like John Nicholson have appeared to fundamentally misunderstand the ISIS issue in Afghanistan, or perhaps is just exaggerating the threat for the sake of a press conference.  ISIS in Afghanistan, is very different that what you find in Syria and Iraq.  Most ISIS affiliates in Afghanistan are simply Afghan or Pakistani Taliban who have rebranded themselves.  The ISIS boogyman served both the enemy and the coalition well.  The Taliban fly the ISIS flag in order to lure American troops into their valleys where they can be ambushed, and America has a scary new reason to run increased combat operations.

The debacle that happened in Nangarhar a few days ago proves that American forces are misinformed about the threat and that the officers of 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment are unable to plan and execute a movement to contact operation.

Alpha Company, 3/75 was the first element on the ground sweeping through the valley.  A movement to contact mission entails large infantry elements moving through an area of operations known to be occupied by enemy forces, searching them out and engaging them.  This denies the enemy the use of that particular terrain, degrades their capabilities, and keeps the pressure on them, preventing the enemy from having freedom of movement.

After a long movement, Alpha Company was taken out of the valley in a planned exfiltration, replacing exhausted troops with fresh ones, in this case Rangers from Bravo Company.  However, the men from B/co were dropped off at the same point as Alpha Company, meaning that they had to walk six hours through the Afghan summer heat just to the starting point to begin their part of the mission.

Just two kilometers into the movement, they B/co Rangers were hit with their first heat casualty, a 18E (Special Forces Communications Sergeant) attached to the Ranger element.  The Rangers were engaged again and again by the enemy, who had dug into spider holes and other fighting positions, knowing that the American Special Operations soldiers were inbound.  During the course of the mission, it is estimated that there were approximately 75 enemy killed in action (EKIA), but the heat casualties were piling up.

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The Rangers quickly drained their Camelbaks of water and had to continue fighting and moving while their Afghan partner force slept and hid behind trees.  When the coalition airdropped a water re-supply, they dumped it into an open field, the surrounding area infested with ISIS linked Taliban.  Due to the amount of gunfire, the Rangers could not risk running across the open field and taking casualties.