The Army Special Forces unit that fought its way into the Afghan city of Kunduz after it was seized by the Taliban in October initially did so without proper maps, according to recently declassified documents.
The documents, released last month, were part of a heavily redacted report on the Oct. 3, 2015 bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital that killed between 30 and 42 civilians. The investigation, aside from piecing together why an American AC-130U gunship targeted and destroyed a medical facility, revealed a host of issues that beset a small team of Army Special Forces soldiers and their Afghan counterparts as they pushed into a city held by a large Taliban force.
On Sept. 28, the Taliban, after a series of concerted attacks, seized Kunduz from Afghan security forces. Roughly a day later, and with just 12 hours of planning, a dozen-man Army Special Forces team, known as an Operational Detachment-Alpha or ODA, began pushing into the city alongside its Afghan allies. According to the investigation documents, the team was using a “single” 1:50,000 scale map to “plan and conduct operations in the city.”
According to the report, “technological issues” prevented the production of further “graphics” prior to the start of the operation. U.S. military doctrine holds that large scale military maps, such as the type used by the ODA team at the start of the Kunduz operation, do not have enough detail for a ground unit to accurately analyze urban areas. To remedy this, units often produce their own maps at much smaller scales — often just labeling satellite imagery with roads and building numbers — to help ground forces navigate. These smaller maps are likely the reference to “graphics.”
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