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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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January 10th, 2014
06:52 PM ET

Essay: Real story behind 'Lone Survivor'

By CNN chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper

(CNN) - I found the film "Lone Survivor" compelling, as I found the book. The film of course, being a movie, took liberties with the true story that led to that horrible day, with 19 Americans killed, the largest single loss of life since World War II for the men of Naval Special Warfare.

There are some important facts about the actual Operation Red Wings to keep in mind when and if you see the movie, ones that don't necessarily fit into the narrative arc. I'm not faulting the movie makers for that - their job is different than mine. But keep in mind that these four Navy SEALs were inserted into these mountains to try to get eyes on an insurgent leader named Ahmad Shah, and they did not have enough backup, and they were put into a treacherous area that they and the U.S. military knew precious little about.

There are reasons to seriously question the decision-making at the command level that led to the operation - the planning, the supplies, whether Ahmad Shah was at that point worth the effort, a military source deeply familiar with the operation tells CNN.

Operation Red Wings "was an incredible tragedy for the families, friends, and associates of those lost. From a tactical / operational standpoint, and from an analysis of its influence on furthering security in the region (the operation's purpose), the opening phase of RED WINGS was an unmitigated monumental disaster – one of the greatest, if not the greatest, in recent military history," author Ed Darack wrote in the Marine Corps Gazette in 2010. Darack also authored a book, "Victory Point," detailing the operation.

"Because so many resources were pushed to aid the recovery effort ... other planned operations ... throughout Afghanistan ... had to be delayed and many cancelled altogether. Ahmad Shah, a once unknown local Taliban aspirant, gained instant global fame and saw his ranks, finances, and armaments ... burgeon, enabling him to renew his attacks with greater intensity and frequency," Darack wrote.

My military sources agree with that assessment.

Shah was killed by Pakistani security forces in 2010. To this date no one in the command structure of the U.S. military has been officially held accountable for the very questionable planning that cost 19 good men their lives.

May they rest in peace and may their families and Marcus Luttrell find peace here on earth.

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