The Sniper of Tarmiyah

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 10 months ago

In a Multinational Force update on Friday, September 21, 2007, Rear Admiral Mark Fox conveyed positive developments in Tarmiyah.

Earlier this month Iraqi Security and Coalition Forces conducted operations in the area discovering two (2) large weapons caches and detaining two (2) Al-Qaida terrorists.  Among the material found in the caches were ten (10) tons of ammonium nitrate mixed with fuel oil, eleven (11) fifty-five (55) gallon drums of fuel oil and various other explosives such as artillery rounds, rocket propelled grenades, as well as fully assembled improvised explosive devices.  One of the individuals detained was Mu’ayyad ‘Ali Husayn Sulayman al-Bayyati, who helped establish terrorist cells in the village.  Allegedly, murdered citizens in the main intersection of Tarmiyah and tortured young men in the area.  Al-Bayyati also known, as Abu Wathiq and the “executioner? will face now…will now face justice.  In an impressive local response to the improved security conditions in Tarmiyah, more than twelve hundred (1,200) men have volunteered to join the Iraqi Security Force.

But however positive these developments are, they are not the whole story, and these developments have come at a high price.   Noah Shachtman of Danger Room was recently in Tarmiyah, where 4-9th infantry is garrisoned.

We’re in an ugly, overgrown village called Tarmiyah, about 25 kilometers north of Baghdad.  It is an extremely bad place.  A professional-grade sniper has been terrorizing the town, killing two members of the 4-9th Infantry Regiment stationed here, and wounding seven more.  4-9’s Comanche company, primarily responsible for holding the town, has handed out 25 Purple Hearts in just five months.  That’s about a fifth of the men in the company.  To keep from handing out more Purple Hearts, the soldiers here go out as little as possible during the day.  They do their work at night.  And they sometimes take over local houses to crash out, in between missions.

A few months ago it was reported that if the Americans spend longer than 10 minutes in one place, a sniper will track them down and begin shooting.  “It is getting to the point where we really can’t interact with the people,” says Lt. Cody Wallace, executive officer of the unit that patrols the city. Even the local police chief who oversees the area that includes Tarmiyah refuses to set foot in the town.

If U.S. forces cannot interact with the people, then effective counterinsurgency cannot be realized.  The 4-9th has a complex challenge ahead in Tarmiyah, according the Captain Patrick Roddy.

The predominantly Sunni town – only about five percent of the population is Shia – harbors resentment for the Shia-run government in Baghdad. Insurgents favor the town for its prime location, with links to supply routes that run to Mosul, far north, and Baqubah to the east. The town is just 30 miles north of Baghdad. “It’s a good place to funnel weapons, fighters and equipment for use in Baghdad,” Roddy said. The town also has a large homeless Sunni population pushed out of Baghdad by Shia militias, said Roddy.

Meeting the challenge of professional grade snipers requires several things in which, despite advancements in U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine and practice, there is room for improvement in the military establishment - or for which there are inadequate resources.

Force Projection

There probably aren’t enough troops to cause the perception among the population that U.S. forces can defeat the enemy and secure the noncombatants.  Increased troop numbers along with increased presence on the ground in Tarmiyah – both day and night – will increase the likelihood of tactical successes during combat actions with the enemy.

Cash Payoffs for Intelligence

Cash for intelligence has been a staple of counterterrorism for years now, but this tactic faces cuts in Congress.  The Defense Department is urging Congress to extend a counterterrorism tool that gives the Green Berets and Navy SEALs up to $25 million a year to pay for information, buy guns for allied forces and hire fighters willing to battle al-Qaida.  The House and Senate are split, however, over whether to renew that authority because of questions about how productive the tool has been for the special operations military groups.

As for forces in Iraq in the day to day grind of counterinsurgency, there is little more than Army and Marine general funds from which to withdraw to pay a pittance to part-time neighborhood watch and police officers.  This is hardly meaningful financial support for the effort, and purchasing good intelligence will cost more than we have contributed thus far.  The cost will have to be proportional to the risk borne by the informant.

Distributed Operations

In Unleash the Snipers! and other articles I made several recommendations for distributed operations that could assist in the defeat of covert enemy operations.  Simply put, professional military establishments rely on chain of command, command and control, communication, logistical connectivity, and all the other things that keep a large force in the battle space and functioning.

Hezbollah proved that this could all be frustrated in the recent war with the Israeli Defense Forces by dispatching small (two- or three-man) teams, separated from their command and having been granted maximum latitude to engage in whatever means deemed appropriate at the time.  Despite the fear that this leads to chaos, this proved to lead not only to frustration of the IDF, but symbiotic battle space connectivity and fluidity of tactics.

This tactic brings increased risk, but deployment of small teams of infantry, countersnipers and special forces operators may be necessary to chase this sniper on the round-the-clock basis that is needed to secure Tarmiyah.

Robust Application of the Rules of Engagement

I covered snipers and rules of engagement in Concerning Snipers, Rules of Engagement and General Kearney.  With the support of the American people and enough will by the military establishment, the ROE can be made to be more accomodating, as they were during the second battle for Fallujah.

Eighteen elite Special Operations snipers hid inside the city, picking targets and reporting back on enemy movements. Polish snipers working alongside U.S. forces had been given less restrictive rules of engagement by their government, said a senior U.S. intelligence official with direct access to information about them. “The Poles could kill people we couldn’t,” he said. For example, he said, American snipers couldn’t shoot unless they saw a weapon in the target’s hands, while the Poles were allowed to fire at anyone on the streets of Fallujah holding a cell phone after 8:00 p.m. “They had an eighty percent kill rate at six hundred yards,” the intelligence official said. “That’s incredible range.”

Note especially above that although the U.S. would not allow Soldiers or Marines the latitude that the Polish military did, we would “work alongside” the Poles.  Such hypocrisy wins no friends among the U.S. military or the Iraqis.

Tarmiyah 2007 is not Fallujah 2004.  Nonetheless, if U.S. forces allow stipulations such as currently “brandishing a weapon” or actively “engaged in hostile acts” to prevent their killing of this sniper, more American casualties are on the horizon.

Conclusion

The perpetrator of death in Tarmiyah needs to be a marked man.  He needs to have a target painted on him; to be watched, to be scared, to lapse into a state of paranoia because of the men hunting him down, day and night, relentlessly and without emotion or remorse.  He is right now the one who chases.  He should the one who is chased.

The sniper of Tarmiyah will not live forever.  He will die one day at the hands of a U.S. Soldier or Marine, by a round fired from a U.S. service rifle.  The only question is “how many more sons of America will die before we go after this man and kill him?”

  • http://www.fumento.com fumento

    Hell, in Ramadi at it’s worst, you didn’t dare stay 30 seconds in one place without cover. We ran everywhere. Out of four civilian embeds with 1/506th, 101st Airborne, I was one of them. Of the remaining three, two were sniped. One was filming while the other — I’m not making this up — was taking a PORTRAIT photo outside the wire AFTER there had already been shooting. He got shot twice but, worse, the sergeant who had to haul his ass back to cover also got shot.

  • http://www.fndbook.com mmannske

    You need a sniper to kill a sniper.


You are currently reading "The Sniper of Tarmiyah", entry #625 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Army,Iraq,Small Wars,Tarmiyah and was published September 23rd, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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