Taliban Turning the Tables on Special Operations Forces Night Raids

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 10 months ago

From The Guardian:

Taliban commanders claim they are foiling intensified night-time attacks by elite troops that Nato officials hoped would bring the insurgents to the negotiating table in Afghanistan.

Officials say a fivefold increase in “kill or capture” raids and escalating airstrikes are putting the Taliban under unprecedented pressure and prompting some rebel groups to seek a ceasefire.

Insurgent commanders from Helmand and Kandahar, interviewed in Kabul, say the effectiveness of Nato special operations forces has diminished.

“In the past year they have had a lot of successes with these operations, but now we have got used to it and changed our tactics,” said the commander of a group of 50 men in Dand, Kandahar province.

“At night we have two people in every village who do not go to sleep – if they hear the helicopters, we contact each other before they arrive.”

Another commander, now based in Marjah, a rural area of Helmand that US marines are struggling to subdue, had a similar story.

“In spring they came to try to arrest me, but when the helicopters landed we were called by other bases and we quickly ran away from the house,” he said. “They took two men but two days later they were released.”

Coalition officers concede their targets often get away. A senior officer from Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said in 25% to 50% of raids the soldiers found their prey had escaped.

“We know they have tippers: you go to a place and you get three guys but the real guy has snuck out the back door,” the Isaf officer said.

Analysis & Commentary

The Taliban have stolen a page from the U.S. Marines with guardian angels watching over their people.  They can do this ad infinitum.  Sleep rotation doesn’t harm anyone in the group, and if the Taliban can thwart half of the raids with a technique as simple as this, they will keep doing it while they also develop other solutions to their problem.

Recall from High Value Target Campaign is Failing in Afghanistan, NCO DirtyMick observed:

When I was recalled from IRR to active duty in Kunar Province for 10 months this year with a PRT as an 11Bravo NCO, “Big Army” caused major problems when 2/12 Infantry pulling out of the Korengal right when the spring offensive kicked off and combined with cherry Battalions (1st and 2nd Battalion 327 Infantry 101st Airborne) conducting a RIP caused needless deaths. Sigacts in the Pech River Valley went through the roof and pretty much everything north of Asadabad was a nightmare because the Taliban believed this was a victory. In my opinion as an NCO in order to conduct a proper counter insurgency you need to kill taliban, hunt them down where they congregate and lock down areas. There should be no reason every time a patrol goes through Matin Village in the Pech it gets into a firefight. You take a rifle company and clear that village by going door to door. When we had an IED problem you establish a curfew and nobody is allowed on the MSRs past 2100. If you are you get detained or killed. You can have ODA do raids all you want on HVTs but until you start having line platoons go out actively killing scores of Taliban it’s not going to matter. You can kill a senior Taliban leader in Kunar but in the end you’re still going to have platoon or two platoon plus size elements of Taliban attacking army convoys. The 327 did that over the summer when a battalion went in and cleared out the Marawara district but more needs to be done.

The reason that the SOF troopers have to drive so far to work is that … ahem … they don’t live among the people.  I think I’ve heard something before about having to commute to the fight and how, you know, it’s a bad thing.  Yes.  I’m sure that I have.  We are misusing our resources, and we cannot possibly win this way.

  • http://wingsoveriraq.blogspot.com Starbuck

    Wait…this is a revolutionary new tactic? A night watchman?

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Not new. Just simple.

  • davod

    Maybe its time to bring back HILO ops.

  • Borja

    This simple tactic has a simple counter-tactic.

    Fly a helicopter a 4am in the morning. Thouse who run out of their houses are the taliban that you want to detain. Record everything in video and you have a good idea of their safe houses.

  • Dray

    Ok I have a proven recipe for success lets take an Unconventional War and put Conventional Forces in charge of it and see what happens. On what planet does this make any sense, yet thats what you have right now in Afghanistan. Trust me the SF guys are not the problem, the conventional thinkers here are the problem, they dictate policy from those ivory towers nicely tucked away on those FOBs you love so much. Oh and letting the CF guys run Special Operations is about as smart as giving a bottle of Crown Royal to your teenager, then tossing him the keys to your new corvette.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Good post. “Those FOBs you love so much.” I see you cited the article I wrote entitled “Those FOBs I Love So Much.”

    There might be good objections to what I advocate, but you haven’t landed on any of them. Try again some time.

  • http://federaleagent86.blogspot.com/ Federale

    Clearly the solution is a use of Hellfires or bombs instead of trying to capture or kill with troops. Simple problem, simple solution. Sleep rotation does not protect one against high explosives.

  • Dray

    Have you ever been to Afghanistan, or do you just trust your experts and their opinions. I must admit that I agree with 90% of what you talk about on your most entertaining Blog, but it often becomes bitterly clear that you have very little operational experience. When I get home I would love to sit down with you and give you the ground truth about SF and SOF over here. Take care and keep up the good fight Mr. Smith

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    No one agrees with me 90% of the time, not even my wife. Well, never mind. Bad example. She agrees with me maybe 5% of the time. Not even my loyal dog agrees with me 90% of the time.

  • Dray

    Maybe you should find a smarter dog!

  • Dray

    I am coming to the end of my journey now and I must say that I have more questions then answers. But one thing I am sure of is that you are right Mr. Smith, the HVT SOF solution is an abject failure that is destroying a once proud organization, that used to be interested in winning hearts and minds. I am now sure that we are witnessing the complete destruction of US Army Special Forces. As an institution SF has all but forgotten that we are a people driven unit that must interact with the indigenous population in order to truly free the oppressed. I never though that I would see the day when multiple GBs would tell me they do not ever wish to speak to another Afghan, but that day has arrived! I have been in the SOF community for quite some time and I am for the first time ashamed of what we are becoming.


You are currently reading "Taliban Turning the Tables on Special Operations Forces Night Raids", entry #5699 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,High Value Targets,Special Forces and was published October 31st, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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