Boar Down!

Herschel Smith · 30 Oct 2022 · 11 Comments

Readers may have noticed I was absent the last several days.  It was a good time away.  A very good buddy and neighbor of mine, Robert, and I went hunting courtesy of the fine folks with Williams Hunting in South Carolina. I was shooting a 6mm ARC rifle with a Grendel Hunter upper, Aero Precision lower, Amend2 magazines, Brownells scope mount, Radian Raptor charging handle, Nikon Black scope, and a Viking Tactics sling.  I have no complaints about the gun.  It's at least a 1 MOA gun…… [read more]

Continuing Operations in Fallujah

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 3 months ago

Around mid-May, raw video of recent combat action in Fallujah was posted.  There are a number of interesting characteristics of this action, but particularly note the sniper fire coming from minarets.

In Fallujah: The Continuing Battle for Hallowed Ground, we discussed Fallujah being the most active city in the Anbar province for the insurgency, and the use of Fallujah as a staging location for enemy activity throughout not only Anbar but Baghdad as well.

Insurgent and U.S. operations continue with relentless consistency in and around Fallujah.  Eighteen people were killed south of Fallujah on June 5th when a “suicide bomber driving a truck packed with explosives plowed into a busy commercial district, police said. Fifteen others were wounded.” (other reports vary as to numbers killed and wounded).  “Some witnesses said the attack occurred near a meeting of tribal sheiks who have been fighting Al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

The multinational force does not issue press releases on all combat operations, and so the ease with which we can catalog coalition operations is a pointer to the regularity and comprehensive nature of the kinetic operations against the insurgency.

June 5th combat action by U.S. forces:

During continued operations to disrupt the al-Qaeda in Iraq network in Anbar province, Coalition Forces conducted a raid on four associated buildings northeast of Fallujah.  The ground force detained 13 suspected terrorists for their association with a cell that carries out attacks against Iraqis and Coalition Forces with VBIEDs, snipers, and mortars, and targets Iraqi infrastructure.

June 7th combat action by Iraqi army:

Iraqi Army Forces on June 7 detained four members of an al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist cell believed to be responsible for setting improvised explosive devices and conducting small arms fire attacks against Iraqi and Coalition Forces on and around Camp Fallujah.

With Coalition Forces present as advisors, Iraqi Soldiers detained the four suspects in the vicinity of Al Fayath, located south of Camp Fallujah. During the operation they seized assault rifles, numerous magazines, ammunition, and materials used to construct, trigger and place improvised explosive devices.

June 8th combat action by U.S. forces:

Coalition Forces killed one terrorist and detained 12 suspected terrorists during operations targeting the al-Qaeda in Iraq network Friday in Anbar province.

Based on information gained from an operation May 27, Coalition Forces raided several buildings northeast of Fallujah.  After they announced their presence through an interpreter, one terrorist outside the building threw a hand grenade at the ground forces.  Coalition Forces took appropriate self-defense measures and engaged the armed terrorist with small arms fire, killing him.

Coalition Forces searched the buildings and detained 12 suspected terrorists on scene for their alleged involvement in the al-Qaeda in Iraq network.  Information gained from earlier operations indicates the suspects are involved in indoctrination for al-Qaeda in Iraq.  In one ceremony conducted by the network, those who declined to join the terrorist group were killed.

June 9th combat action by U.S. forces:

Coalition Forces killed five terrorists and detained 11 suspected terrorists during operations targeting the al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network in central Iraq Saturday morning.

Coalition Forces tracked a suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq weapons distributor to a building southeast of Fallujah.  As they approached the area, five men in the front yard reached for weapons.  Responding appropriately to the hostile threat, Coalition Forces engaged the armed men, including the suspected weapons distributor, killing them.  Two other suspected terrorists were detained.

June 10th combat action by U.S. forces:

Coalition Forces captured six suspected terrorists Sunday morning during operations that continue to deny safe haven to members of the al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network.

Based on information gained during a successful operation May 27, Coalition Forces targeted a location in Fallujah looking for an individual suspected of recruiting for al-Qaeda.  The suspected jihad leader is known for using “join or die

Iraqi Government on the Verge of Powerlessness

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 3 months ago

In Intelligence Bulletin #3, we said:

… if Sadr returns to Iraq, his arrest or disappearance might incite such a firestorm of problems that the Baghdad security plan is brought to a halt.  The Mahdi army doesn’t like even the presence of combat operation posts or bases in Sadr City.  Sadr will never be convicted in a court in Iraq, and a show trial that exhonerates him would be the worst of all possible outcomes.  The U.S. is tracking the whereabouts of Sadr.  Major General William Caldwell said that Sadr was still inside Iran as of 24 hours ago.  This seems like a confident report, and assuming its accuracy, it gives lattitude for the appropriate action to remove Sadr from the political and spiritual scene, thus enabling the security plan to succeed.  We highly commend the notion of a strategic disappearance of Sadr as one key to the overall success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In Iran, Sadr, and Iranian Forces Deployed Throughout the Middle East, we said:

At the standdown of the surge and security plan, Sadr will return to Baghdad, heavily guarded, to women crying and waving their scarves in the air, and men shooting their AK-47s and and swearing to kill on command.  Sadr will be received back as not just a hero, but as someone almost divine, who stood down the U.S.  Any capture of Sadr and turnover to the courts of Iraq would have the opposite outcome of that intended, because no Iraqi court will convict Sadr of crimes, thus exhonerating and codifying him in his rule of his followers.

Iran will then have their forces deployed in Lebanon, headed by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and in Iraq, headed by Moqtada al Sadr.  Only confident actions by the administration – rather than acquiescence by the State Department – will avert such an outcome.  The Brits would rather “de-escalate,

Air Power in Small Wars

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 4 months ago

The Marines take a close one.

In Can the Air Force Contribute to Counterinsurgency?, I posted my response to Major General Dunlap’s comments concerning the use of the Air Force in counterinsurgency.  Dunlap made other interesting observations in his comments.

FM 3-24 reflects an outdated notion of airpower in its annex. Specifically, with respect to the collateral damage issue, it expresses a ‘fossilized’ view of airpower’s propensity to cause collateral damage and openly discourages commanders from employing it.

Mysteriously, FM 3-24 has no such cautions about other kinds of fires (MLRS, artillery, etc.) In fact, today’s airpower’s precision targeting pods, smaller warheads, weaponeering, ISR, and ground-based controllers, etc., have all served to vastly reduced collateral damage – from even the high standards of 2003’s major combat operations.

Perhaps the video above is an example of what Dunlap discusses.  Dunlap is trying to put meat on the skeleton of theory concerning the involvement of air power in small wars, while in fact the increased use of air power is occurring at this very moment.

Four years into the war that opened with “shock and awe,” U.S. warplanes have again stepped up attacks in Iraq, dropping bombs at more than twice the rate of a year ago.

The airpower escalation parallels a nearly four-month-old security crackdown that is bringing 30,000 additional U.S. troops into Baghdad and its surroundings — an urban campaign aimed at restoring order to an area riven with sectarian violence.

It also reflects increased availability of planes from U.S. aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. And it appears to be accompanied by a rise in Iraqi civilian casualties.

In the first 4 1/2 months of 2007, American aircraft dropped 237 bombs and missiles in support of ground forces in Iraq, already surpassing the 229 expended in all of 2006, according to U.S. Air Force figures obtained by The Associated Press.

“Air operations over Iraq have ratcheted up significantly, in the number of sorties, the number of hours (in the air),” said Col. Joe Guastella, Air Force operations chief for the region. “It has a lot to do with increased pressure on the enemy by MNC-I” — the Multinational Corps-Iraq — “combined with more carriers.”

The Air Force report did not break down the specific locations in Iraq where bombings have been stepped up. But U.S.-led forces also are locked in new and dangerous fronts against insurgents outside Baghdad in such places as Diyala, a province northeast of the capital.

Left unaddressed in this account is whether the increased use of artillery would have caused the same collateral damage as ordnance delivered by air, or whether the rise in civilian casualties is even related to the use of air power.

The air force (and navy) has said “we want back in this war.”  The Multinational Force has said, “it’s good to have you back.  As to how this all happens, we’ll have to work those details out as we go.”  And Dunlap’s project remains interesting.

**** UPDATE ****

The Strategy Page has a related commentary, large parts of which are reproduced below:

A major problem in Iraq is that there are two, quite different, solutions to the violence problem. Most of the bombings, and violence in general, are the work of Sunni Arab groups, desperate to get back into power, and avoid being brought to justice for atrocities committed during Saddams long reign. The Iraqi solution is the traditional one; punish the entire Sunni Arab community. Since the Kurds and Shia now have far more men under arms than do the Sunni Arabs, this approach would result in a series of battles against Sunni Arab neighborhoods (in large cities) and towns (out in the countryside). These areas would be cut off from the outside world. Food, water and electricity would cut off as well. Surrender or die. Those who surrendered would be disarmed, taken to a border area, and forced out of the country. In some areas, there might be massacres as well. It’s an Iraqi tradition that’s hard to shake.

The other approach is less popular among most Iraqis, and it is the American one. This involves getting Sunni Arab leaders to tame the terrorists in their midst, and become law-abiding Iraqis. Few Kurds or Shia Arabs feel they can trust the Sunni Arabs, but if they want to keep American troops in the country (which keeps the Iraqi casualty rate down, and unfriendly neighbors out), they have to go along with the current “surge” campaign. This has resulted in two interesting developments. First, many more Sunni Arab leaders are switching sides, coming over to the government, and joining the fight against the Sunni Arab terrorists groups (a mélange of  nationalist and religious fanatic organizations, plus al Qaeda and other foreign factions.) Sunni Arab militias are not much more effective against the terrorists (who are certainly more fanatical, a major military advantage in the Arab world), than the Iraqi security forces. But these new alliances have led to more information about where the terrorists hang out, and this has resulted in the greater use of American smart bombs. So far this year, about 250 have been used. That compares to the 229 dropped for all of 2006. In Afghanistan, where the number of terrorists is much lower, and the tips more numerous, nearly a thousand smart bombs have been used so far this year. Iraqis have also adapted to the use of smart bombs, and civilians are more quick to get out of the way when terrorists invade, and take over, their homes. Thus while the smart bomb use has more than doubled this year, the number of  civilian deaths from these weapons is only up about 25 percent (that’s about fifty people so far this year). In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the terrorists try to use civilians as human shields. Understandably, the civilians are reluctant to cooperate.

This is interesting on a number of levels.  First, as I have hinted in my articles on rules of engagement (and especially see The NCOs Speak on Rules of Engagement), the protest that more robust ROE would infuriate the population and lead to high civilian casualties turns out to be incorrect.  The ironic truth appears to be that when civilians learn that a home is no protection from U.S. combat action, when the insurgents show up they leave the home or drive the insurgents out.  If the presence of the insurgents means less security (as has been the case so far), then U.S. refusal to deal with the insurgency due to ROE means a prolonging of that insecurity (consider also the calamitous British failure in Basra and the degradation of security over the last three years, a subject for a future article).

Second, in using the phrase “religious fanatic” (there are surely some of them in Iraq) the authors at the Strategy Page appear to be ignoring Kilcullen’s view, i.e., there are no religious fanatics in the insurgency in Iraq.

Understanding the Events of Haditha

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 4 months ago

With regards to the events of Haditha, on the one hand we have John Murtha’s histrionics; on the other, the forthright, deadpan observation in recent testimony at Camp Pendleton:

CAMP PENDLETON — A Marine lieutenant testified Wednesday that he had never considered that Marines might have done anything wrong in killing 24 people in the Iraqi town of Haditha, even as he found the bodies of two women and six children huddled on a bed.

Lt. Max Frank, who had been ordered to take the bodies to the city morgue, said he assumed that the Marines had “cleared” three houses of suspected insurgents according to their standing orders — by throwing in fragmentation grenades and entering with blasts of M-16 fire.

The smoke from the grenades, Frank said, would have kept the Marines from seeing that they were firing on women and children.

How can Murtha behave so hysterically, with Lt. Frank testifying that he never considered that anything wrong was done by the Marines under his charge?  Context is everything, and most discussions about the events of Haditha lack the proper context.

The events of Haditha occurred at the end of what we should consider Operation Iraqi Freedom 2: heavily kinetic operations against insurgents, with most of these operations involving military operations on urban terrain (MOUT).  The events that most poignantly mark OIF2 occurred in Fallujah, i.e., the first and second battles of Fallujah.  It is important to understand these battles.

Military doctrine can be simply described as a core set of beliefs, or a way of thinking about problems and framing military planning.  Military strategy involves the planning and conduct of war.  The two go hand in hand, with each informing the other.  Military tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) are the lowest level conduct of war, and should be seen as a function of doctrine and strategy.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom 1 (or the initial stages of the war when heavily conventional TTPs were employed), large population centers such as Fallujah were bypassed.  This strategy led to the rapid overthrow of the regime, but the congregation of insurgents in urban areas.  The battle for Fallujah in 2004 had as its strategy to force out the noncombatants, thus leaving the insurgents the (presumed) only persons left in the urban area.  This assumption was essentially correct.

At the doctrinal and strategic level, the decision could have been made, for example, to starve the insurgents out of the city.  Since there were displaced residents, there wasn’t time for this.  From the standpoint of TTPs, the decision was made to engage the insurgents in heavily kinetic operations, relying most heavily on room clearing operations.  In room clearing, the presupposition is that the room is inhabited by the enemy, and that the enemy is lying in wait to kill Marines.

The specific procedure, which will not be explained in detail here, involves first the use of a fragmentation grenade followed by fire from the firearms of the fire team (M16A2 or M4, and SAW).  This is true with the exception that the Marine cannot carry enough grenades to use on all rooms in a city the size of Fallujah, and eventually, the TTP in the battle for Fallujah involved only firing, i.e., no  use of a grenade.  Firing is immediate and aimed at all inhabitants of the room, under the assumption, once again, that all inhabitants are the enemy.

Cordon and knock and other ‘softer’ approaches to counterinsurgency came later (so-called Operation Iraqi Freedom 3), but for the time periods marked by Fallujah (and in 2005 Haditha), room clearing was the TTP relied upon when fire was taken from a location in Anbar.  It is also important to know that many veterans of the battle for Fallujah who left the theater after this battle went into the drill instructor ranks (for boot camp) or trainers for SOI (School of Infantry).  Room clearing was taught to new Marines, and is still taught to this day.

On that fateful day in Haditha, the Marines were engaging in room clearing tactics.  It isn’t any more complicated than that.  It was an approved method of battling insurgents, it was ordered, and given that fire was coming from the location of the rooms that were cleared, it was justified.  As we observed in Haditha Events Coming to a Head:

The one who led the stack into the room that day had previously been engaged in the battle for Fallujah.  The protocol was to toss in a fragmentation grenade, and follow with a stack of four Marines (a “fire team

Fallujah: The Continuing Battle for Hallowed Ground

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 4 months ago

In Enemy Operations in Baghdad and Fallujah, relying on Andrew Lubin’s reporting from Fallujah, we discussed Fallujah as being a hot spot of insurgent activity as the ‘security plan’ got underway, and how far ahead Ramadi was in terms of pacification than other some parts of the Anbar province.

This contrast is accentuated by recent reports, and from the perspective of combat operations, Fallujah still remains the most active city in the Anbar province.  Omar Fadhil observes that after “Looking at the two main routes of al-Qaeda and how the main strongholds around Baghdad are aligned, they suggest that the Fallujah area and its immediate surroundings still remain the main hub for terrorists.”  Fallujah is strategically located, being in the Anbar province but close enough to Baghdad (slightly more than half an hour drive away) to still be a significant base for the insurgency in Baghdad.

The Marines continue to set up checkpoints, conduct raids, and patrol through the streets and neighborhoods of Fallujah.  The insurgency continues to terrorize the population.  “In western Iraq on Thursday, a suicide bomber hit a police recruiting center in Fallujah, and there were conflicting reports about the death toll. Police said as many as 25 people were killed, but the U.S. military said just one policeman died.”  Yesterday, the insurgents sent several mortar rounds into residential population centers in Fallujah, killing nine noncombatants.

One reason for the continued violence in Fallujah is the lethargy of involvement of the tribes in combating the insurgency contra the model displayed in Ramadi.  Mohammed of Iraq the Model gives us an explantion of the state of the so-called Awakening Council in the greater Fallujah area.

A member of the Anbar Awakening Council said that forces loyal to the council are close to clear Ramadi from terrorists who destroyed the city with the sabotage acts against society and infrastructure, adding that these forces are almost done clearing Heet, Kubeisa, Rutba, Barwana and Baghdadi while progress toward Fallujah, Huseiba and Haditha remains slow because the formations of the Awakening are still humble (in those areas).

Michael Yon is sending positive reports back from Anbar, but he is in Hit (or Heet), not Fallujah.  The reports we are receiving and reading are consistent with the observations of Omar and Mohammed.  Anbar cannot be discussed in a single breath, for it is too diverse.  Fallujah lags behind the balance of Anbar and remains an area affected by the insurgency.

One needn’t spend much time around Marines to learn what Fallujah means in the lore and history of the United States Marine Corps.  The first and second battles for Fallujah made it hallowed ground for the Marines.  The insurgency seems determined to incite violence and prevent pacification of the area.  The Marines are just as determined not to see the desecration of hallowed ground.  And so the battle continues.

**** UPDATE ****

From AP:

U.S. and Iraqi forces killed seven members of al-Qaida in Iraq and destroyed a truck bomb factory Saturday in Fallujah, the military said.

A two-hour gunbattle began just after 7 a.m. when Fallujah police came under small-arms fire and spotted two men wearing suicide vests fleeing from the scene. Marines accompanying the police returned fire, killing both militants, according to a statement.

The Marines with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment then fired at five other suspects trying to escape, killing them and causing another suicide vest to explode, the military said.

The U.S.-led forces subsequently discovered a compound with two trucks rigged as suicide bombs and more bomb-making materials, which the military said were destroyed in a controlled detonation that did not damage nearby buildings.

Eight suspects were detained for questioning, the military said.

And from the Middle East Times:

BAGHDAD —  UPDATED: Unidentified gunmen shot dead a local Al Qaeda leader in the western Iraqi city of Fallujah Saturday, police said, as fighting between rival Sunni factions undermined the insurgency.

The apparent assassination of the militant kingpin came as the US military announced that marines and Iraqi security forces had killed seven Al Qaeda fighters in a gunbattle during an assault which led to a truck bomb factory being destroyed.

Both incidents appeared to be linked to increased cooperation between Sunni factions, once sympathetic to the Iraqi resistance, and the US military, which is encouraging nationalist factions to fight Al Qaeda.

Colonel Tareq Al Dulaimi, a senior police intelligence officer with close ties to Anbar Province’s pro-US tribal coalition, confirmed reports that Muwaffaq Al Jugheifi had been killed but did not identify the attackers.

Dulaimi described the slain Al Qaeda leader as an Iraqi from Fallujah.

The process that Ramadi has been through … grips Fallujah at the moment.

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