Arwa Damon, CNN's finest IMO, rode into the outskirts of Mosul with a light armored unit of what the Iraqis call the Saladin Regiment. As the streets got narrower and narrower the possibility of a well sited ambush became apparent. IS struck at the point chosen and paralyzed the column. The CNN crew were very lucky to get out the next day still alive. pl
When I saw this yesterday I wondered how she felt because she must know that a faction in the US govt support the ISIS terrorists who were trying to kill her. When many were driven out of Syria they headed to Iraq.
You’re right, this could have turned into a bit of a mess for the CNN crew. Maybe they’re overestimating the ability of the ISF to make sure “embedded” journalists are safe with them. Or maybe the ISF are underestimating IS’ capabilities in an urban environment. Or maybe both.
Whatever the case, the fairytale of the Mosul op being ahead of schedule should be dismissed quickly. Being realistic about a timeline never hurt morale, while being overly optimistic can cause frustrations among the troops (and foster expectations among the general public that cannot be upheld).
I watched that and was amazed to see what was ‘truth’ as opposed to ‘hype’ (viz. Laura Logan on 60 minutes on the same subject that same night). I have always had great respect for Ms. Damon and her colleague Ben Widerman; their concern for the people involved in their stories is evident (perhaps because both speak Arabic).
The video reminds me of the output from the embedded journalists in the Vietnam war era; relatively unedited. Sorry about the poor taxi driver. Getting out of his bright yellow taxi it looked like he didn’t put his hands up far enough, maybe a sole soldier panicked.
Some old soldier friends have told me that a well planned ambush should never fail. Maybe some of the experienced soldier SST’ers could comment on the military aspects of this incident as it would seem that they led themselves into an ambush. Assuming progress through these urban landscapes is required, what can be done to prevent ambushes etc. drones, night-time scouting, patient snipers? It looks like the civilian population are relatively safe if they stay indoors and no big stuff is used.
..signed ‘interested’ Rob Waddell
What was it, 6 or 8 heavily armored Humvee’s with 50cal machine guns and grenade launcher turrets on top, along with at least 2 heavily armored MRAP’s and an armored D-8 bulldozer? And they were pinned down and taken out by what? There were no RPG’s or TOW’s. Even the suicide bombers seem minor. Mostly just light weapons and a couple of grenades. What a complete lack of leadership and tactics.
IMO this column simply blundered into the ambush. I don’t think they had reached the main jihadi position further in when they were ambushed. it doesn’t look anything like VN to me. It looks like Mogadishu in the film, “Black Hawk Down.” there were probably only a handful of ambushers. If there had been more they probably would have overrun the column and killed them all. They would, of course, kill all prisoners including Arwa. If this is the skill level of the ISF, they will never take the city. pl
Arwa Damon’s perhaps the best reporter around. She kept her head and did her job in a really tough situation. This isn’t the first time by any means. I recall you commenting on her performance on another occasion.
@Rob Waddell – the infantry definition of a “road” is something you walk 100 yds. from and parallel to. That way you take the would be ambushers in the flank.
To put that another way, you do not let yourself get “channeled” into an obvious killing ground by travelling as a single column on a road without having flanking units.
To add to Colonel Lang’s comments, the jihadis very astutely established an ambush (or several) forward of their main positions to blunt the approach of the advancing column. This is a long practiced tactic of a successful defense – aggressive patrolling, including ambush patrols, forward of the main defensive line.
The column blundered into what should have been recognized as a potential ambush kill zone. An advancing column should either avoid obvious ambush positions or pause and reconnoiter the area. If at all possible, an advancing column should have flankers out to detect possible ambushes. With front and rear guards and flankers, even a well planned ambush can be detected and defeated. If a column insists on advancing along an obvious danger area (road) without front,rear and flank guards, it’s bound to be ambushed eventually. Robert Rogers wrote of this in his “Rules of Ranging” in 1757.
Walrus, I see we learned the same lessons somewhere along the line.
Arwa is fearless. The unfortunate killing of the innocent taxi driver was edited
footage. I saw it sometime over the weekend in full, it was obvious he was unarmed
& running to the soldiers for help. Tragic.
BBC also has some very brave photo journalists.
Rudaw.net/english & Mosueleye blog are also very informative.
arrogance, ignorance, lead them into this. Perhaps with a dash of courage and twist of nativity/idealism. It should be a familiar recipe to Americans by now.
Far in the rear, I believe that Ash Carter’s pre-election launch of the campaigns to take Raqqa and Mosul do not include any US Army operational ground units. Instead it is a mish-mash of sectarian militias supported by air power. The CNN video raises the question if is there are sufficient troops to surround and lay siege to Mosul and Raqqa. Why would a column drive down an Arab urban road without tanks where they could not turn around or smash their way out?
The earlier drive-by video of the armored forward air controller’s convoy with Leopard Tanks and Technicals in Syria during Turkey’s incursion, no one was wearing a NATO uniform but looked like Mad Max’s road warriors.
The American Empire is in dire straits unable to win any war and has lost its hegemony to Russia/China. The basic reason is the elite leadership has utter contempt for conscripts and the little people who breed them. The only way the West can get the manpower to fight these wars on the cheap and destabilize Russia at the same time is to use proxy forces and hire military contractors. This didn’t work out too well for the Romans.
Couldn’t you send in tanks to flatten those positions and move forward?
She is brave, has been at it for years. I remember a very intense report she made under fire while accompanying American soldiers on Haifa Street in Baghdad, during the “surge” around 2008. A couple of years later I saw her on the Amman – Baghdad flight, thanked her for that report.
This was ten times worse, though. The Colonel and TTG confirmed my non-infantry opinion that the Iraqis were not doing it right. Bodes ill for the future of the Mosul battle.
CNN seems to treat its war reporters as well as the Army treats its soldiers. They left Michael Ware in Iraq for years, looking crazier and crazier until he disappeared. Ms. Damon reportedly got drunk and disorderly at the bar of the US Embassy in Baghdad not very long ago. A PTSD symptom?
I’d like to see her out of non-Borg media to tell us what she really thinks. She has a charity to help children wounded in these wars. http://www.inara.org/
War reporters do not get the credit they deserve for the risks they take. John Burns, Patrick Cockburn, Jane Arraf, Bourzou Daraghi, Anne Barnard, Michael Ware traveled around Iraq back in the day with minimal low profile security, riding in ordinary Iraqi jalopies, maybe with a guy with a gun.
Yes. She looks like many I have known who become impaired by the drug that is too much close combat. After a while you live for it. She held it together in this near disaster, but the look on her face when the crew was being evacuated tells the story. IMO she ought to be given a break. TTG and Walrus have it exactly right that the advance of this column should have been paralleled with recon parties and there should have been air support to clear the roofs. It seems to me that the reason she and the photojournalist were not shot by snipers was that the jihadis want them to report on the battle. That does not mean that they won’t kill them if they are captured. they would then become a liability and easily disposed of. pl
You could do that but that means you would flatten much of the city and there would be worse civilian casualties than in Aleppo. pl
just going to leave this here
One of the too few reports where the reporter was not more important than what happened on the ground. A rarity these days. Well done.
I agree that she has been in the thick too often and should be relieved. She should be asked to ride with a fire brigade in the U.S. or something like that. Gives enough thrill to soften the detox while regaining some perspective of life.
Which raises the question- while pilgrims and others are waiting for the election results to come in – would anyone care to venture an opinion as to which of Raqqa, Mosul or Aleppo will be wrapped up first?
Arwa Damon does indeed deserve high commendation for her Mosul report. It rings true, unlike the safe, staged reports from certain other reporters. Beltway experts and the like should be forced to watch it.
A perfect example of the folly of being too sensitive about civilian casualties. It may have been an example of the news hyping the situation to make it more dramatic than it really was, but it looked like the Iraqi unit could easily have been over run and wiped out completely.
Having said that, there was no enemy threat to that Iraqi unit that an air strikes or artillery support could not have eliminated in short order. The absence of supporting fires seems to be caused by American political sensitivity to collateral damage and resulting claims of war crimes. This unnecessary self imposed restriction will get soldiers killed and cause us to lose battles and potentially the war.
Before the battle of Mosul is over, I suspect that our political sensitivities will be over come by the military necessity of using vast amount of fire power to overcome insurgents dug into a built up urban area holding the civilian population as human shields (as is the case in ALEPPO). I’d like to think that our politically correct Generals are already advising POTUS to take off the kid gloves (but I doubt it).
In the same vein, look for our American media to then focus upon the poor civilians; with out adding the context of why we had to use fire support to keep our soldiers from being killed in huge numbers.
Cee, what are you trying to communicate via your aka?
There are a couple of highly opposing narratives around. And there is the more complicated real story of the rise of ISIS.
I guess you are a lucky man/woman, but what makes you so sure?
More straightforward question. Even if the narratives are partly or as you suggest completely true:
1) should she have known?
2) would her “collective identity” have justified her death?
another question, what’s your basic source of information apart from Pat’s blog?
last question, concerning this:
When many were driven out of Syria they headed to Iraq.
Driven out at what point in time, by what events, and what percentage? What direction were migration flows earlier post 2003?
“…would anyone care to venture an opinion as to which of Raqqa, Mosul or Aleppo will be wrapped up first?”
Aleppo by Thanksgiving.