Karla News

Indians In Afghanistan: Soldiers Learn From Native Americans

Little Big Horn, Tajikistan

It sounds like something out of a Hollywood movie: an elite group of Native American trackers — leaving the confines of their reservations in the United States and joining the hunt for terrorists crossing Afghanistan’s borders.

Sound fantastic? Hey — nothing else seems to be working. But first a brief history lesson:

American Indian Scouts helped regular US Army units pursue and attack rival Indian tribes in the 1800s. Their expertise of local terrain, languages, and tribal habits proved essential for success. Most Army officers even followed their tactical advice. A notable exception was the dashing Army officer, George Armstrong Custer, who disregarded the pleas of his Arikaras and Crow scouts to turn back, leading to the “Slaughter” at Little Big Horn. Local scouts were also used the Philippine campaign and during the Vietnam war.

According to an article in the FreeRepublic press (www.freerepublic.com), Native American trackers are joining in the fight against terrorism.

The unit, called the Shadow Wolves, was recruited from several tribes, including the Navajo, Sioux, Lakota and Apache. The unit is being sent to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to pass on ancestral sign-reading skills to local border units.

In recent years, members of the Shadow Wolves — who have earned international respect for its tracking skills in the harsh Arizona desert — have mainly tracked drug and people smugglers along the US border with Mexico. The unit — made up of 19 field officers and two supervisors from a variety of Indian tribes have accounted for more than 70 percent of the marijuana seizures in the southern Arizona desert region where they work.

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But the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan and the American military’s failure to hunt down Osama Bin Laden — despite a $25m bounty on his head and the use of billions of dollars worth of sophisticated equipment that includes including pilotless drones, electronic sensors, infrared cameras and satellite surveillance – has prompted the Pentagon to requisition the Shadow Wolves unit.

In fact, the Pentagon — alarmed at the ease with which Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters have been slipping in and out of Afghanistan — are convinced their movements can be curtailed by the Shadow Wolves. According to a Pentagon press release, Robert M Gates — the US defense secretary was quoted as saying, “…If I were Osama Bin Laden, I’d keep looking over my shoulder.”

Just the right touch of comic book melodrama.

I do not know a lot about tracking. But I was always under the impression that it wasn’t something that was easily taught. Isn’t tracking one of those Native American skills that’s passed on from father to son over a number of years? How is the skill supposed to be taught in a matter of weeks or months?

According to www.timesonline.co.uk, the Shadow Wolves were founded in the early 1970s to curb the flow of marijuana into the United States from Mexico and has since tracked smugglers across hundreds of square miles of the Tohono O’odham tribal reservation, southwest of Tucson.

RobertKaplan — in an article written in Atlantic magazine (www.theatlantic.com) – candidly wrote that “…the challenge of the early 21st century military is not to bring tanks and massed troops and firepower to the “dirty little struggles” throughout the Third World but to adopt the guerrilla tactics employed by the tough, elusive 19th century Apaches…

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Kaplan went on to say that the U.S. Army back on the frontier never learned the lesson that small units of foot soldiers were more effective against the Indians than large, heavily encumbered movements — whose equivalent today are “convoys of humvees bristling with weaponry that are easily immobilized by an improvised bicycle bomb planted by a lone insurgent. ”

Who knows. Maybe now someone is listening.

Meanwhile, a senior US official was recently quoted saying that bin Laden’s trail had “not gone stone cold“. Vice-Admiral Mike McConnell, the new US director of national intelligence, told a Senate committee that bin Laden and his lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, were setting up new training camps in northwestern Pakistan.

Indians in Afghanistan. What will they think of next.