Evolving Tactics in Iraq

"The overall percentage of U.S. military fatalities caused by roadside bombs had dipped from more than 60 percent late last year to 35 percent in February. It then rose again to 70.9 percent in May, according to research by the independent Web site casualties.org. Gains in defeating the bombs have not resulted in fewer deaths because the number of bombs — and the lethality of some types — have increased, military officials said.

Insurgents are also staging carefully planned, complex ambushes and retaliatory attacks as they target U.S. troops, the officials said. While few in number, these include direct assaults on U.S. military outposts, ambushes in which American troops have been captured, and complex attacks that use multiple weapons to strike more than one U.S. target. For example, attackers will bomb a patrol and then target ground forces or aircraft that come to its aid.

"We are starting to see more sophistication and training in their attacks," said a senior military official in Baghdad. While the vast majority of attacks are still relatively simple and involve a single type of weapon, "clearly the trend is going in the wrong direction," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

In an attack Monday in Diyala, for example, an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter carrying two U.S. soldiers took heavy enemy fire during combat and crashed in farmland southwest of the town of Abu Saydah, about 40 miles north of Baghdad in a region where the Sunni extremist group AQ in Iraq is trying to establish a new stronghold.

The U.S. military scrambled Bradley Fighting Vehicles at Forward Operating Base Normandy, 19 miles from the crash, for an urgent rescue. But as the Quick Reaction Force rumbled through the rural terrain just a mile and a half from the crash site, a huge roadside bomb hit a Bradley, killing four soldiers and wounding another four, one mortally. Suddenly, the rescue mission itself was in peril, and helicopters rushed to evacuate the injured. WAPO


As Clausewitz observed, war itself is the best teacher.  This war has gone on so long that even those who were zealous but unskilled have "been to school" on American forces for so long that they have learned to so all the things mentioned in this article.  When this is combined with the cadres provided by the former Iraqi armed forces, there emerges a "heady" brew endlessly capable of learning, adapting and improvising.

The Post story about the action fought by US SF and the Iraqi police recounts the relative incapacity of the police vis a vis the insurgents.  If it had not been for American leadership in this engagement, the insurgents would probably have "bagged" the lot.

An interesting note in this story is the factoid that although the gadgetry developed by Meigs’ IED Defeat Task Force is effective, the number of casualties is still rising because the insurgents are building and installing ever more IEDS, many of which are truly huge.  So far the US has spent something over 3 billion dollars on the IED problem.  pl


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57 Responses to Evolving Tactics in Iraq

  1. jr786 says:

    Boots on the ground leave footprints – in this case tracks even a blind man could read.
    What I’m curious about is the way cellular telephones have influenced street level tactics, beyond being used relays to detonate ieds. These phones have been a great leveler in battlefield communications; I hope the Army is jamming their signals before while they patrol.

  2. VietnamVet says:

    IEDs are simply a means of force conservation for the Iraqis. There are five ways to stop making each trip out of the permanent base a spin at Russian Roulette;
    1) Develop technical means to detect and destroy IEDs in place,
    2) Win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis,
    3) Move all Iraqis away from the convoy routes,
    4) Place American troops in forts with interlocking fields of fire along convoy routes, and
    5) Stop mechanized patrolling.
    Only the first technique has been tried and failed since to actually defeat the Iraq rebellion would require a realistic apprisal of the manpower required and the actual strategic goal of the Iraq war.

  3. Martin K says:

    While I agree with the good colonels assesment, I am slightly worried that this tendency in any way is presented as news. While I have not served in Iraq, I would say that the whole theatre has been marked by high enemy adaptability. It also seems to me that the US response has been both somewhat random (based on wich commanders/units are rotating through) and at the same time unflexible/readable by enemy. This will only get worse and worse.
    Im really curious to see how the neocons will explain this new aspect of “fact-based reality”. For more pondering on that term, see http://salon.com/opinion/feature/2007/06/01/rhetoric/ ..

  4. nna missed says:

    Along with the more sophisticated tactics, due to the culture”ization” of U.S. military presence being absorbed — there is this quote (and others)in the article:
    [[U.S. deaths have risen sharply in some of Baghdad’s outlying regions, such as Diyala province, where Sunni and Shiite groups have escalated sectarian violence and fought back hard against American forces moving into their safe havens. “Extremists on both sides of this thing are trying to make a statement by attacking U.S. troops,”]] Simmons said.
    There’s been a lot of here say lately about the Sadrist trend coupling up with (nonAQ) Sunni factions in a joint effort to expel the occupation. Although I’ve seen no formal evidence that this has materalized, I wonder whether this alliance has already taken shape within their ranks.

  5. João Carlos says:

    VietnamVet, I guess that #2 is impossible now, it is too late for win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis.
    #3 is war crime: ethnic cleansing, a guy named Millosevic tried it at someplace at Europe some years ago. The supply lines run over shia areas and the shia will not like be displaced from their farms, villages and cities. That is an invite to Iran interfere. Pentagon lies that Iran’s help the sunni insurgents, but when Iran start to really help any faction to fight the US troops everyone will see it: the US causalities will go up fast to 1000 a month and we will see a lot of copters and airplanes being hit by one man maned missiles.
    #4 need more troops. Not enough troops for maintain all the small bases along supply routes. Need “the draw” before try it.
    #5 is sit down and wait the enemy get enough strength for try overrun all the bases. Fort Apache will not work, the “natives” don’t use spears and arrows, they use rpg and AK-47. Welcome to XXI century.
    There is no military solution for the mess.

  6. johnf says:

    A formidable organization that uses mobile phones to totally organize themselves are Brazil’s top street gang:

  7. johnf says:

    For those interested in the subject of what happens when ideologues with enormous parliamentiary majorities and psychotic press secretaries/political gurus decide to overrule all the pragmatists and professional experts in their governments and go gungho for their own improvised foreign policies – something I’m sure NO subscribers to this blog are at all interested in – here’s a heads-up for a radio drama I’ve written about Neville Chamberlain’s foreign policy and those pesky pragmatists and moralists in the Foreign Office and on the backbenches and in the Labour Party who were foolhardy enough to try and oppose him.
    It is a farce – because sometimes farce is the only way one can deal with the most disturbing emotions – but deals with the immense practical and psychological difficulties of successfully opposing Chamberlain in the run-up to the Second World War. It covers the Italian Crisis and the resignation of Anthony Eden, being the first part of a trilogy also covering Munich and the Norway Debate of May 1940 when Chamberlain was finally overthrown, to be broadcast on the 70th anniversary of each of these events.
    “How Not to Run a Foreign Policy” is being broadcast this Monday – the 4th of June – on BBC Radio 4 at 2.15 pm, BST. For those abroad it will be available at the time on the BBC site – press radio, then Radio 4, then the live feed – or a few hours later it will be available on line for a week at:
    Press the Monday strand.
    Sincerely, John Fletcher.

  8. Montag says:

    The bloom is off those new armored trucks, too. It seems that they’re going to have to put add-on armor on them after they leave the factory, because they’re no longer impervious to the really big bombs that are current. They were first requested by the Marines two years ago.
    Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, opined on the Pentagon’s day-late-and-a-dollar-short approach: “By the time we field all the vehicles we could be on our way out of Iraq. Sadly, this vehicle will probably find plenty of uses in other places. We’ve shown the world how to fight our army to a standstill.”

  9. Kevin says:

    In counterinsurgency, tactical success means nothing. This applies to both sides.

  10. Steve says:

    It seems that there is a large supply of munitions for this kind of stuff. I read that during the looting in 2003 there was over 250,000 tons of munitions looted!
    The psychological aspect of this can only go in the favor of the insurgent teams, because this is difficult to defend against. It reminds me of listening to comments from B-17 crews bitterly complaining about flack, because they were unable to shoot back. This can’t be helping moral.

  11. stanley Henning says:

    I wonder, in the midst of all this shuffling about in strategy and tactics on both sides, how the PSYOP factor is being applied. As I mentioned a while back, PSYOP is only as good as our ability to back it up with substance and we seem to have flitted about to the point where there may be little substance we can offer, but it appears to me that the time has come for a concerted, serious effort to bring the Iraqi government in on an intense effort to appeal to all Iraqi’s to unite to blot out AQ, cooperate for the good of all Iraqi’s and, in unison, wave “Goodbye” to the Americans.
    If this appears to be too idealistic then we probably need to bid adieu and leave them to their own devices.

  12. Ian says:

    The occupation has produced hundreds of thousands of young men who
    1) Hate America, with good reason.
    2) Have gotten pretty good at urban guerrilla warfare.
    3) Have learned the hard way how to avoid American surveillance.
    4) Have experience using explosives even against targets with heavy police protection.
    Expect blowback.

  13. DH says:

    An interesting thought by the poster ‘lally’ over at TPMCafe:
    “It’s not Hezbollah or Hamas who are most seriously threatened by the strengthening of Bin Laden’s acolytes in the region. It’s Israel.”
    The unintended consequences of sowing the wind is reaping the whirlwind, no?

  14. Sgt.York says:

    5) Stop mechanized patrolling.
    I believe that is the goal of the Iraqi Resistance. It’s a good strategy to target the vehicles; considering the fact that the US only patrols with mechanized forces and even the Infantry is actually deployed as lite-Cav. Tanks are designed to be used against tanks – but now they are being used as protective transport (ala the PopeMobile) and lite-vehicles are also being up-armored to serve as protective troop-transport. In Lebanon, the Israelis tried using Merkavas against irregulars hiding behind bushes without much success (proved a bit harder than stone-throwing Palestinian boys). Granted, HezbAllah had real land mines and modern RPGs rather than the machineshop-produced IEDs being used by the Iraqi Sunnis. However, the crude MacGyver-ish pipebombs with concave brass caps are proving to be rather effective. Consider for a moment how devastating it would be for US forces if Iraq were flooded with REAL man-portable anti-tank guided missiles and REAL anti-tank land mines rather than this homemade garbage.

  15. jr786 says:

    To VV’s points:
    1) Was certainly done early on, when means were employed to counter the cell phone relay trigger system;
    2) Hopeless. If one reads the right wing blogs, the real champions of the invasion and occupation, there is nothing but contempt for Arabo-Islamic culture. Why should anyone think that there is less contempt in the field? I would love to hear Col. Lang’s opinion about this?
    3)I can’t think of a better way to set those routes into patterns more predictable than the ones existing now., plus, see #2. Forcible eviction of Iraqis is a non-starter.
    4)Khe Sanh?
    5)Better – end the occupation.

  16. JoeC says:

    I just came across the following insurgent video http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=d8a_1180675064 of Humvee attacks using hand-thrown “thermal bombs”. I have not read any accounts of this type of attack or weapon, but at least from the video they appear effective. Is this more evidence that Iraq is becoming a global test bed for effective asymmetric tactics?

  17. anna missed says:

    JoeC’s link,
    Whats up with those!! The equivalent of U.S. supplied SAM’s in the Soviet/Afgan war? If a lot of these things get distributed around the troops are in some deep shit.

  18. jamzo says:

    sgt york raisnes a question
    “Granted, HezbAllah had real land mines and modern RPGs rather than the machineshop-produced IEDs being used by the Iraqi Sunnis. However, the crude MacGyver-ish pipebombs with concave brass caps are proving to be rather effective. Consider for a moment how devastating it would be for US forces if Iraq were flooded with REAL man-portable anti-tank guided missiles and REAL anti-tank land mines rather than this homemade garbage.”
    are the weapons sgt york lists uavailable to the sunnis? (am i wrong in thinking IEDs mean sunni’s for the most part?)
    if they are available to how come they are not being used?

  19. James Pratt says:

    This isn’t rocket science. The ABC News/USA Today/BBC/ARD poll, University of Michigan survey and University of Maryland survey of Iraqis have shown that the occupation is alienating Iraqi Arabs of all sorts more and more in both numbers and intensity.
    The armored patrols are necessary to suppress the anti-occupation majority’s efforts to establish independent media and alternative government structure.
    The efforts to win over the people with elections of pro-occupation candidates debating everything but the occupation and a pervasive American propaganda and censorship program have failed.
    The loss of the political war means few IED’s revealed by Iraqis, more recruitment by the insurgencies despite heavy casualties and a local auxilliary force so heavily infiltrated that they are distrusted by their own American allies, except at the press briefings. Lots of luck dampening a fire with yet more kerosene.

  20. zanzibar says:

    “Consider for a moment how devastating it would be for US forces if Iraq were flooded with REAL man-portable anti-tank guided missiles and REAL anti-tank land mines” – Sgt. York
    This is something that has puzzled me – why haven’t more sophisticated Iranian arms been delivered to the militias in Iraq? Are they holding it in reserve in case they really need to escalate? Clearly Iran has the anti-tank weapons that HA used so successfully against the IDF last summer. Also, why haven’t more sophisticated Russian, Chinese or East European weapons made it into theater? There has always been a large black market for these kind of things.
    In the last superpower proxy war in Afghanistan, we supplied the mujahideen with sophisticated arms including Stinger missiles that they used with devastating effect on Soviet helicopter gunships. That’s why I am puzzled with the restraint in “pay backs a bitch” specially from Putin.

  21. Babak Makkinejad says:

    It does not puzzl me; no one wants to provoke the wounded American giant. People might be crazy but they are not necessarily stupid.

  22. Frank Durkee says:

    Col. I share zanzibar’s curiosity as to why more sophisticated weapons have not made their way into onsurgents hands and/or usage. Since some anti vehicle and helicopter weapons seem to be avialable on the arms market. I would like to see your thoughts on this issue.

  23. Grimgrin says:

    zanzibar: I can think of two reasons, one is that once Putin sends arms into a lawless area like Iraq, there’s no guarantee they won’t get shipped to Chechnya or elsewhere. In other words, never give someone a gun unless you know it won’t be turned on you. Two is that giving the insurgency access to that kind of weaponry could force a fast withdrawal by the US, and that’s not really in Putin’s best interest. The longer the US is in Iraq the more damage it does to the US Army, the deeper the US goes into debt, the bigger the political wounds it inflicts back home. If the US looked like it was in danger of winning in Iraq, you might see more and more sophisticated weapons showing up.
    I think Putin is cold blooded enough to see that even if payback might be emotionally satisfying, it’s not in Russia’s long term interest. Even though the US was apparently unable to make the same calculation in Afghanistan. I’ve read accounts that said a major motivator for the US arming the Mujahadeen was ‘payback for Vietnam’.
    I honestly think that the same calculation could be made by all the people who might have the desire and ability to supply weapons to the insurgents. That and the Iraq’s immediate neighbors probably don’t want to have to deal with what happens after the Americans withdraw, and want to keep that can kicked as far down the road as possible.
    Steve: Seems about right, if this can be believed. This wasn’t just old artillery shells either. They looted HMX and RDX explosives from IAEA monitored sites.

  24. Duncan Kinder says:

    This isn’t rocket science.
    You’re ever so right, and the irony of it all is that we nevertheless are sending our younger generation to Harvard and MIT to learn rocket science in order to be “competititive.”
    Many years ago – more than I care to admit – while I freshmen, I reached the thesis of “the overriding significance of guerrilla warfare.” Which basically meant that the scientific and technological machine of the West was going to be rendered moot by guerrilla armies.
    In response to João Carlos, There is no military solution for the mess, I respectfully submit that “this mess” shall emerge as a norm with which we will have to learn to live somehow.
    This sounds grim and probably is. One benefit, however: If your kid got rejected by Harvard and MIT, it might not have been such a setback after all.

  25. João Carlos says:

    zanzibar wrote:
    “This is something that has puzzled me – why haven’t more sophisticated Iranian arms been delivered to the militias in Iraq? Are they holding it in reserve in case they really need to escalate? Clearly Iran has the anti-tank weapons that HA used so successfully against the IDF last summer.”
    Because Iran is allied the Iraq’s SHIA government. Iraq’s government is Iran’s puppet. Look, the guys that rule Iraq now are guys that were hidden in Iran while Saddam was on power.
    Iran have no reason for help the SUNNI insurgents. What you heard at the media it is propaganda. White House try to sell to the american public that Iran is the big bad guy sustaining the guys that kill shia… and the american public is buying that bs like they bought the Saddam’s wmd bs. The objective is start war with Iran.
    And how Iran really have that weapons and they are allied to the SHIA there (the current Iraq’s government)we all can imagine what will happen if a war with Iran start.
    Currently US army is attacking Mahdi army hideouts. Well, their leader, Sadr, is shia but not exactly friendly to Iran. They don’t had trained personnel and weaponry at 2004 (when US army fought them last time), but maybe now they have better trained personnel and better weapons. If the US army force them enough maybe Sadr decide to ally to Iran for get better weapons and some training for the Mahdi army. Talk about to make your enemies ally one another, I will say it is not wise.
    The other shia guys (the Badr corps and other guys) certainly get weapons and training at Iran (well, they hide at Iran while Saddam was on power), but they are waiting their time for attack the US army, they are having fun seeing US army fight their enemies sunni and their not so good – not pro-iranian shias – allies as Sadr.
    So, what we can guess is why the SUNNI rebels don’t get that weapons until now. Probably their benefactors at Saudi Arab don’t are giving them tons of money for buy that weapons because they don’t want to see they hurt the US army.
    So, to answer your questions:
    1- the sunni don’t have money for buy them (the Saudi aren’t giving them enough money?)
    2- some shia like the Mahdi army and Sadr don’t are pro-iranians so they don’t get help from Iran.
    3- other shia, the pro-iranian guys that are the Iraq’s puppet government, probably get help from Iran, but they are waiting for attack US army (these guys are the Iraq government and the guys that US is training as Iraq’s army)other shia like the Mahdi army and Sadr don’t are pro-iranians so they don’t get help from Iran.
    For me, #3 are the most dangerous to US army. #2 will be really dangerous if Sadr decide to ally to Iran. And #1 are killing the US soldiers now. There is a name for that: FUBAR.
    There is no military solution. Call the diplomats.

  26. TR Stone says:

    I am constantly reminded that the US Department of Defense spends more money than the rest of the world combined spends on their defense.
    How can an army of box cutters and garage door openers defeat us.
    They can be successful because our leaders are committed to supporting “stealth” fighters, quite submarines, etc. No, I should have said major political donors.

  27. Kevin says:

    Do not be derailed by an increase in American KIAs; coalition casualties do not mean squat. This is won outside the conventional realm of fighting; you are reading the thermometer when a barometer should be read. Insurgents will act accordingly when they are truely threatened; it will only get worse before any improvement. They are targeting our resolve.

  28. David Habakkuk says:

    As to the question of restraint in “pay backs a bitch” from Putin:
    What seems inadequately to be appreciated both in Washington and London is that — in terms of the actual Russian political spectrum, as distinct from the fantasy visions of that spectrum held by the champions of the ‘global democratic revolution’ — Putin started out as strongly pro-Western.
    The ‘Westernising’ orientation of Russian policy is, to put it rather mildly, under threat — as has been noted by numerous sober Russia watchers. Recent comments by Nicolai Petro, who served as the US State Department’s special assistant for policy on the Soviet Union under George H W Bush, are not untypical:
    ‘Now that two-thirds of gross domestic product (GDP) in the world is generated in the Asia-Pacific arena, and European and US elites trumpet their increasing hostility toward Russia’s economic and political resurgence, [Petro writes] it becomes hard for even such an ardent Europhile as President Vladimir Putin to argue that his country’s destiny perforce lies with Europe. Translated into simple geopolitical terms, if the West cannot convince Russia that it deserves a “special relationship”, then over the next two decades China and India, rather than Europe, will become the primary beneficiaries of Russia’s resource abundance, and the axis of global political and economic development will shift accordingly.’
    (Full article is at http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/IB17Ag02.html).
    Actually I do not think that Putin — a calculating politician, if ever there was one — is fool enough to let considerations of revenge shape his actions. Simply however discounting the importance of considering Western sensitivities could have considerable implications. The missile which the Russians are talking of using to target American missile defence facilities in Poland is the modernised Iskander (the Iskander M) — the successor to the OKA OTR-23, or SS-23 as we called it. An earlier version, the Iskander E, was going to be sold to Syria back in 2005, but the sale was vetoed by Putin. Simple economics may give the Russians a strong incentive to proliferate technologies such as the Iskander, which could have interesting effects on power balances in the Middle East.
    Sergei Ivanov, one of the two front-runners to succeed Putin, recently attended tests of the Iskander-M. He also recently described the signing of the INF Treaty by the USSR as a ‘big mistake’, and hinted at the possibility of secession from the Treaty — which raises the question of the extension of the range of the missile beyond the 500km. limit. Let us hope that this disillusion with arms control does not extend to the treaty on the non-proliferation of missile technologies, which sets a limit of 300km. on export versions of the Iskander.
    In another recent article, in The American Conservative, Anatol Lieven pointed to possible linkages between U.S. policy towards Russia and events in the Middle East.
    ‘In the first half of last year, the administration, with the full support of the Democrats, was pushing hard towards an offer of a NATO membership action plan for Ukraine at NATO’s summit in Riga last November, [Lieven recalled] in the face of private Russian threats of drastic retaliation, including a massive program of arming Iran against the US.’
    (Full article is at http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2007/to_russia_with_realism_5042):
    Of course, it may very well be that the dangers conjured up by Petro and Lieven are imaginary, or grossly overstated. It could be that economics trumps politics, and that the attitudes of Russia’s rulers (and people) are irrelevant to the availability of raw materials. It could be that Western power is so great that we can bend the Russians to our will. Warnings of arming Iran may certainly be simple bluff. But I for one would be much happier if the possibility of Russian counterreactions harmful to Western interested was discounted on the basis of reasoned argument — rather than simply ignored.

  29. b says:

    @anna missed @JoeC’s link
    Those seem to be simple Molotov cocktails in use since the Finish winter war.
    Cheap and effective to make.

  30. searp says:

    I wonder why we don’t relieve more often using air assault techniques, as opposed to mounting an armored rescue.
    Predictability kills.

  31. Richard Whitman says:

    I notice that throughout this discussion that there is no apparent blame attached to the politicians in Washington. When this is all over, let us remember that the US Military was defeated in the field by the enemy using assymetric tactics. The military needs to be blamed for poor leadership in not recognizing the nature of the enemy.Vietnam Redux.

  32. J Thomas says:

    What Grimgrin said about why our attackers in iraq aren’t getting more support.
    Napoleon said, “Never interrupt your opponent while he is making a mistake.”. The more clearly our iraq adventure looks like a mistake that hurts us more than it hurts them….
    And we’ve probably made some horrendous private threats. Bush got very upset when he thought russians were supplying Saddam with night vision glasses and GPS jammers. We’ve threatened syria and iran.
    Meanwhile, the iraqis have found they can get by without supply lines. Rather than smuggle moderate amounts of stuff fron syria, or iran, or turkey, or kuwait, they can make what they need wherever they can find a machine shop. And they don’t even have to depend on the looted explosives, with access to nitric acid they can make their own.
    So — no supply lines. We set up checkpoints etc to stop them from getting into places, but wherever they have sufficient supporters, they don’t have to move supplies into.
    Presumably every attack they make on us now is a training attack. They measure how long it takes for the quick-reaction forces to get there when they make an attack. Then when they’re ready they’ll have 30 attacks at once and we have how many quick reaction forces ready to be ambushed? Get enough of those guys committed and then they attack a couple of small bases….
    Meanwhile foreign supporters can send them money. With money they can buy nitric acid and copper and whatever they need from the civilian market.
    And of course their intention is to persuade us that we are not making progress. By various measures, we’re making fine progress. Like, we killed or captured 20,000 more insurgents in the last 3 months. If we do that well over the next year that will be 100,000 insurgents killed or captured in 15 months! Great progress! And yet, the first 20,000 don’t seem to have made any dent at all in their attacks.

  33. J Thomas says:

    B, did those look like molotov cocktails to you?
    Whatever they were, I didn’t see much evidence how effective they were. They made a boom and a lot of smoke. One time I thought I saw flying auto parts or something, but usually all I saw was a blast and a big cloud of smoke. I couldn’t at all tell how much damage they were doing.
    It looked like a PR effort to me. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if they had some fake trucks set up to look like targets, and the trucks were loaded with something to make a flash and a lot of smoke at the right time. I wouldn’t even put it past them to do it all with special effects, but I didn’t watch it a second time looking for signs of that.

  34. Cold War Zoomie says:

    “…in use since the Finish winter war.”
    Wow. A reference to Finland’s Winter War.
    This blog is such a great resource for info and perspectives.

  35. Montag says:

    J Thomas, yeah the French encountered this problem in their Algerian War. They built a sophisticated barrier, the famed Morice Line, along the Algerian-Tunisian border to keep the FLN insurgents cut off from supplies and reinforcements. It worked great–like the Maginot Line–except the FLN were able to supply themselves in other ways.

  36. Fred says:

    Iraq’s cell phones came about when the neo-cons, at our expense, re-vitalized Iraq’s phone system shortly after taking Baghdad – they ended the state monopoly (privatization) by contracting out the service to businesses that were both politically connected and hugely subsided to modernize the service. This was one of the ‘great successes’ in Iraq that the administration liked to advertise in 2003-4. Jamming all the cell phones also jams the economy, what there is of it. Of course they could be monitoring all those call, if they were not so busy spying on American’s domestically!

  37. zanzibar says:

    Thanks everyone for addressing my curiosity. I am glad that our troops do not have to face more effective weapons considering how devastating the home grown versions are.

  38. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Helicopters at low altitudes are wonderful targets. pl

  39. jr786 says:

    Thanks. I was referring more to the tactical implications of guerrillas having real-time communications in an urban theater. I go back to the KY8/38 and the PRC series and can only imagine the tactical implications of direct, real time land to air communication at squad levels. Cell phones level that particular playing field, in terms of communications, of course, not firepower. Still, insurgent tactics are determined not just by weapons, but by their internal communications – detonation of those ied’s is not dependent on line of sight.
    If it were up to me, I’d cripple the antennas that serve the worst areas of insurgent activity within the city and to hell with the local economy. If they have not done that, I’d really like to know why. Seems to me that economics is a poor reason.

  40. anna missed says:

    On the question of the Russian thermal grenades, this description seems to fit best:
    While the description of the video below claims the terrorists are using ‘Russian-made thermal bombs’ what we are really seeing are attacks using RKG-3EM grenades. These have been seen in Iraq for over a year. Each grenade weighs about 2.4 pounds and depending on the angle of contact can penetrate 5-6 1/2 inches of armor.
    CAV GUY (source)

  41. anna missed says:

    Clearly, a weapon like the the Russian RKG-3EM could have a decisive impact on the use of armor in urban areas — if it were to become ubiquitous.
    Watch the video, the grenade matches the description most obviously with the mechanical “parachute” that expands out after the grenade is thrown. The last video in slow motion explodes the humvee on impact. Something a molotov would not do.

  42. Cloned Poster says:

    Upping the ante pre-G8 summit.

    Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) Director Sergei Kiriyenko has confirmed that Russia is ready to deliver nuclear fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant six months before the physical launch of the station.
    “I have just visited the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant; fuel for Iran and India is ready. It will be delivered six months before the physical launch,” Kiriyenko said at a briefing in Kyiv.

  43. walrus says:

    I’ve just watched the video on liveleak. It’s quite depressing and it demonstrates why we cannot win by doing what we are doing now.

  44. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I think I have been clear as to what I think might happen. pl

  45. Charles says:

    W/r/t the cellular phone network, James Risen reports in his “State Of War – The Secret History Of The CIA And The Bush Administration” that the NSA was supposed to front a company that would get a monopoly on the cellular service in Iraq. He claims that when the usual bureaucratic sloth and inter-governmental machinations held up implementation of the plan, Bremmer grew impatient and opened things up to the market. Thus the golden opportunity to listen to and control every cell call in Iraq, which would have been an anti-insurgency intelligence bonanza was frittered away, like all the rest. Now they just have computers full of Echelon, and the pathetic number of arab linguists capable of dealing with the take.
    Murphy was a lawyer.

  46. bg says:

    “The overall percentage of U.S. military fatalities caused by roadside bombs had dipped from more than 60 percent late last year to 35 percent in February. It then rose again to 70.9 percent in May… Gains in defeating the bombs have not resulted in fewer deaths because the number of bombs — and the lethality of some types — have increased, military officials said.”
    Why does no one seem to understand that attacks in Iraq are cyclical? There is a pause (or decrease) in attacks every Jan and Feb, followed by a return to normal levels in April and May. It has happened for 4 years now.
    “This isn’t rocket science.”
    Couldn’t agree more, this is not science. There are no fixed laws that explain how free particles react in space, no equations to determine expected outcomes of expenditures of fuel and the force it will produce. We try to use the military to fix things because we think the military is a science, apply enough troops and enough technology, and victory is sure to follow. It is just not that simple, war, as Clausewitz states, is a “clash of wills.” It is impossible to measure will, so instead we talk about what we can see. Casualties and tactics. Both are important, but politics, diplomacy and political will of all parties involved will ultimately decide the outcome.

  47. Montag says:

    On the vulnerability of helicopters–during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan they painted the Red Star on the Hind helicopter gunship (if memory serves) slightly higher than a very vulnerable spot that could incapacitate the motor if hit. So any Afghan insurgent with a heavy machine gun knew just where to aim. It was also perhaps the only war where anti-aircraft gunners got to shoot downwards as their targets flew past. Of course it was still pretty haphazard until they got the stinger missiles.

  48. mike says:

    Regarding HIP and HIND helos in Afghanistan: I had heard (but cannot confirm) that a single lead slug from an Enfield .303 would shatter the tail rotor, thereby throwing the helo into an uncontrolled crash. I never understood why the US military never seemed interested in the NOTAR (no-tail-rotor) technology developed by Hughes Helicopters back in the 80s. Not only do you reduce vulnerability with no tail rotor but I understand they were silent compared to the current crop of military helos. That reduced acoustic signature also gets you better survivability.

  49. Martin K says:

    On the issues of Mobile phones/improvised gadgets: I wonder how many of those suicidebombers are really remotely controlled cars without physical drivers? As presented on a car show I attended, to build a real car into a remo-controlled car only takes some skill with a computer and hydraulics, as well as a working understanding of autos, all of wich are well within the reach of the oppos. SOme of the footage I saw from the trailer attack against a hotel showed the cars moving jerkily, like a remote. Anyone know wether this has been discovered, or am I giving the oppos too much skill?
    Also, a web-cam costs about 5 dollars in Kuwait, as does a surveillance cam. Nuff said.

  50. Martin K says:

    Concerning the Hind: If the story is true, it did not have bulletproof windows, so the pilots were basically sitting ducks for sharpshooters.

  51. jr786 says:

    Montag writes:
    So any Afghan insurgent with a heavy machine gun knew just where to aim.
    Just a minor point perhaps but they weren’t insurgents, they were patriots defending their country from an invader.

  52. Leila A. says:

    My brother’s stepson is shipping out to Baghdad this month. Army National Guard. He’s in light cavalry.
    We are sick to our stomachs and my sister-in-law is devastated. Why does this young man, the stepson, want to walk point in Baghdad? He chose it even though the recruiter told him “run away!”
    Well he thinks that his mother is wrong about Bush and the war, and he has always been obsessed with the military, and he believes he is helping America somehow. We salute him for living out his convictions. But we are sick with fear for this twenty-year-old, who ought to be working a summer job before his junior year at university.

  53. Jon Stopa says:

    When I was stationed on the DMZ in Korea with the 1st Cav Div in the late ’50s, the personnel were added and subtracted by the boat load. This meant that most people knew what they were doing most of the time. Completely changing units at one time decreases battlefield institutional memory big time.

  54. J Thomas says:

    Just a minor point perhaps but they weren’t insurgents, they were patriots defending their country from an invader.
    That’s a semantics game that isn’t worth playing. The russians were invited to stay by the official governmenty of afghanistan. They had as much right to be there as we have in afghanistan today, or in iraq.
    I’d hate to have the duty to argue that Bin Ladin was a patriot defending his country from an invader when he was fighting the USSR in afghanistan but an insurgent when he was fighting the USA in afghanistan.

  55. jr786 says:

    J Thomas writes:
    That’s a semantics game that isn’t worth playing. The russians were invited to stay by the official governmenty of afghanistan. They had as much right to be there as we have in afghanistan today, or in iraq
    Since the official government of Af was the Soviet operated, non-elected PDPA puppet regime of Taraki/Amin it’s not surprising that they invited the Soviets to help out. 95% of the people of Afghanistan hated them – and they put their money where their mouth was.
    A man has the right and the obligation to defend his country against invasion and foreign occupation. I have no doubt some of the people I knew in Af are fighting against Americans now; they would fight against anybody. Americans are not the only people who honor patriotism. Unfortunately, however, we have a hard time recognizing it in anybody else.
    I don’t begrudge the right of any man to fight for his country as he sees fit. What I don’t like is people from my country being put on the other side for the wrong reasons.

  56. Chuckles says:

    armzk0 That’s way more clever than I was expecting. Thanks!

  57. DOD recently revealed it had spent $10-12B on countering IED’s through R&D!

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