Archive for the 'UBL' Category

Matt Bissonnette Discusses Killing Bin Laden

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 7 months ago

From, where the author points out ten things we allegedly need to know, this is extracted.

The Navy SEAL Team 6 member who used the pseudonym Mark Owen to write No Easy Day, the tell-all book about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, has been outed by Fox News. His name is Matt Bissonnette, age 36. What do we know about him?

According to White House and CIA officials, the military didn’t know about this book until the story was leaked online. When ex or current military personnel release a book about their military service, standard protocol is to give a copy to the Pentagon before the book is released publicly. This enables officials to comb through it and make sure that no confidential information gets leaked to the public. Bissonnette didn’t do this and is now taking heat for it. Dutton publishing house (a subsidiary of Penguin) claims that it did go through the book and deemed none of the information confidential. White House reps were quick to respond that Dutton’s vetting was not sufficient. If confidential info gets released in this book Bissonnette could face major jail time.

Word on the street is that Bissonnette is releasing the book in order to fight President Obama accidently (sic) taking credit for Bin Laden’s death. Bissonette was quoted saying “It’s time to set the record straight about the most important mission in US Military History.”

The SEALs are not happy with Bissonnette and his book. Fox News quoted one SEAL saying “How do we tell our guys to stay quiet when this guy won’t?” Other accounts have members of the SEALs going as far as calling him a “traitor.”

The only real description I can use to describe Seal Team 6 is “Scary Awesome.” SEAL Team 6’s official name is “ The United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group” (DEVGRU for short). DEVGRU is “awesome” because it is one of four counter terrorism/special mission units in the military and is so covert that most of the details and techniques of Seal Team 6 are not even commented on by the White House or DOD. Seal Team 6 is “scary” because it has the ability to work outside of both U.S. and international law. Bissonnette achieved the rank of chief in this elite group. He retired last summer.

Analysis & Commentary

Make sure to read the entire report, and there are others available as well.  In no certain order, I offer up the following observations.

I am not impressed with the whole OPSEC / FOUO classification.  It is a knee jerk, reflexive reaction to literally everything that the military produces, from mission details to PowerPoint presentations.  Oftentimes (or more correctly, most often) no thought whatsoever is given to the classification of some piece of knowledge, signals information or report.  The information released by Bradley Manning is a prime example, and except for the release of information with names of informants (which ultimately led to their deaths), I remarked at the time that the Manning information was mostly boring and worthless, and not useful for someone who had followed the details of the campaign for years like I had.  I basically learned nothing from it.

The instance surrounding the release of the presentation on Taliban tactics, techniques and procedures is a more detailed example of the reflexive tendency to classify everything.  In this case the presentation was classified FOUO, obtained my Michael Yon and posted to his site with some observations, linked by Glenn Reynolds, and then linked and discussed by me.  The officer who authored this presentation at one point attempted to force me to take the presentation down, but I refused, and for the better.

The Taliban already know of their own procedures.  The enemy doesn’t learn of their procedures by reading my web site, but our own Marines might be better equipped and prepared by doing so.  No matter, said this officer.  It was classified as FOUO and thus it should ever remain whether it had been released on another web site or not.  I again refused, still do so, and am convinced that some Marine somewhere (many Marines read this web site) benefited from knowing information that they would have never seen if it had not been made available by Michael and me.

One final example would be the information I describe about satellite patrols.  The things I learned from my son about them are based on what they did in Fallujah in 2007.  Al Qaeda doesn’t need to read this web site to learn about these things.  They observed them as they are happening, and they can no more (while it is happening) do anything about the fact that they don’t know where the next fire team will show up than if they read this web site.

Operations by Special Forces is similar in my opinion.  They are so secretive that names, dates, locations, TTPs, equipment, orders, logistics, etc., etc., are all off limits for conversation or even training items for the other forces.  Oftentimes I am convinced that it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way, or another way to put it is that the secretive nature of their operations adds to their mystique but not the success of the mission.

So what TTPs were used is not important regarding secrecy.  What might indeed be of great importance is the fact that helicopter technology apparently fell into Pakistani hands, and then ultimately into Chinese hands.  The greatest failure of the mission for UBL was the fact that inadequate barriers were in place to prevent this from happening.  Whether the mission included Matt Bissonnette, how long they trained, what weapons they brought, where they trained, what happened to UBL’s body, timing of mission details, names of other team members, and so on and so forth, aren’t critical to past or future missions.

Knowing when a ship is going to be in a strait or knowing when a patrol is going to pass by is OPSEC, and it is traitorous to divulge it.  Knowing that Matt Bissonnette was on the raid to kill UBL is not, and talk of traitorous actions on Matt’s part is juvenile.  Knowing the materials in the design of the helicopter they used that night is OPSEC; knowing that someone killed UBL with a double-tap to the head is not.  Some of my military readers will disagree.  So be it.  You won’t change my mind.

Next, to Matt’s claim that this was “the most important mission in US Military History.”  Oh my.  Oh goodness. Of all of the Marine Recon missions in the South Pacific, of all of the Ranger missions in Europe in World War II, of all of the recon missions during the War of Independence, this one was the most important.

Um, I don’t think so.  Not by a long shot.  I have made it abundantly clear that I am no advocate of the high value target campaign.  While being one pseudo-useful tactic, it doesn’t even nearly rise to the level of a being a functional strategy, which is what we have tried to do in Afghanistan.

It would have had far greater strategic value to have killed the Haqqanis, Hassan Nasrallah or especially General Suleimani than bin Laden.  There is no question that a generation of Americans had a sense of accomplishment when bin Laden was killed.  But making this out to be something that it isn’t is no better than the administration being offended at the “OPSEC” divulged in the book.

No one questions that the SEALs are the best on earth at what they do.  No one should question the bravery of those who conducted the mission.  I just think we should keep this all in proper perspective.  And I would be happy to review the book – for a free, signed copy.

Concerning Killing Bin Laden

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

A former Navy SEAL is challenging Nicholas Schmidle’s account of the OBL raid.

Forget whatever you think you know about the night Osama bin Laden was killed. According to a former Navy SEAL who claims to have the inside track, the mangled tales told of that historic night have only now been corrected.

“It became obvious in the weeks evolving after the mission that the story that was getting put out there was not only untrue, but it was a really ugly farce of what did happen,” said Chuck Pfarrer, author of Seal Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden.

In an extensive interview with The Daily Caller, Pfarrer gave a detailed account of why he believes the record needed to be corrected, and why he set out to share the personal stories of the warriors who penetrated bin Laden’s long-secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

In August the New Yorker delivered a riveting blow-by-blow of the SEALs’ May 1, 2011 raid on bin Laden’s hideaway. In that account, later reported to lack contributions from the SEALs involved, readers are taken through a mission that began with a top-secret helicopter crashing and led to a bottom-up assault of the Abbottabad compound.

Freelancer Nicholas Schmidle wrote that the SEALs had shot and blasted their way up floor-by-floor, finally cornering the bewildered Al-Qaida leader:

“The Al Qaeda chief, who was wearing a tan shalwar kameez and a prayer cap on his head, froze; he was unarmed. ‘There was never any question of detaining or capturing him—it wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees,’ the special-operations officer told me. (The Administration maintains that had bin Laden immediately surrendered he could have been taken alive.) Nine years, seven months, and twenty days after September 11th, an American was a trigger pull from ending bin Laden’s life. The first round, a 5.56-mm. bullet, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye.”

Chuck Pfarrer rejects almost all of that story.

“The version of the 45-minute firefight, and the ground-up assault, and the cold-blooded murder on the third floor — that wasn’t the mission,” Pfarrer told TheDC.

“I had to try and figure out, well, look: Why is this story not what I’m hearing? Why is it so off and how is it so off?” he recounted. “One of the things I sort of determined was, OK, somebody was told ‘one of the insertion helicopters crashed.’ OK, well that got muddled to ‘a helicopter crashed on insertion.’”

The helicopters, called “Stealth Hawks,” are inconspicuous machines concealing cutting-edge technology. They entered the compound as planned, with “Razor 1″ disembarking its team of SEALs on the roof of the compound — not on the ground level. There was no crash landing. That wouldn’t occur until after bin Laden was dead.

Meanwhile, “Razor 2″ took up a hovering position so that its on-board snipers, some of whom had also participated in the sea rescue of Maersk Alabama captain Richard Phillips, had a clear view of anyone fleeing the compound.

The SEALs then dropped down from the roof, immediately penetrated the third floor, and hastily encountered bin Laden in his room. He was not standing still.

“He dived across the king-size bed to get at the AKSU rifle he kept by the headboard,” wrote Pfarrer in his book. It was at that moment, a mere 90 seconds after the SEALs first set foot on the roof, that two American bullets shattered bin Laden’s chest and head, killing a man who sought violence to the very end.

Pfarrer goes on to describe how the announcement of the mission on the very day of the mission rendered all intelligence taken from the compound as moot and worthless.  Then there is this bombshell statement.

Whether or not bin Laden resisted ultimately developed into a barrage of murky official and unofficial explanations in the days following. And statements from as high as then-CIA Director Leon Panetta offered confirmation  that the endeavor was a “kill mission.”

Pfarrer dismisses that assertion.

“An order to go in and murder someone in their house is not a lawful order,” explained Pfarrer, who maintains that bin Laden would have been captured had he surrendered. “Unlike the Germans in World War II, if you’re a petty officer, a chief petty officer, a naval officer, and you’re giving an order to murder somebody, that’s an unlawful order.”

Good grief.  I don’t know about the balance of this report, and I like and respect Nick Schmidle and his work.  He can address the criticism better than can I.  But I will address this last statement by Pfarrer.

This is an absolutely absurd, ridiculous, outlandish, outrageous claim to make.  I have discussed the rules of engagement before with 69 articles to date and more detail than be found anywhere on the internet, linking and discussing the standing ROE issued by the CJCS, the Iraq-specific ROE, the Afghanistan ROE and General McChrystal’s tactical directive, and so on.

The fact of the matter is that there are mission-specific rules of engagement, and they don’t always comport with the theater-specific ROE.  Furthermore, while it might have been correct to say something like a targeted killing does not comport with the standing ROE issued by the CJCS, thus requiring specific instructions to these servicemen, or thus requiring an order by the POTUS, what Pfarrer has said is that such an order would be “unlawful” and the action tantamount to “murder.”

It’s the same error in judgment that General Kearney made with he attempted to charge two Army snipers with murder when they targeted an unarmed Taliban commander.  General Kearney should have been dismissed from his command for being an idiot and the two snipers commended for their actions.

It is legitimate to conduct these kinds of missions, just as it is to conduct sniper operations.

… discussion of the location of bin Laden’s weapon and whether he might have been wearing a suicide vest are utterly irrelevant: engaging bin Laden with deadly force is most appropriately viewed as grounded on the second rationale: jus in bello.

The law pertaining to the conduct of hostilities (jus in bello), which has developed since antiquity and includes certain provisions of the modern Geneva and Hague conventions, permits the sanctioned killing of an opponent in an armed conflict, regardless of whether he is armed at the moment he is engaged. So long as the opponent meets the minimum criteria to be regarded as a combatant (even an unlawful combatant), he may be engaged with deadly force, even if he is separated from his weapon. He may be killed while sleeping, eating, taking a shower, cleaning his weapon, meditating, or standing on his head. It is his status as an enemy combatant, not his activity at the moment of engagement, which is dispositive.

It is manifestly absurd to assert that an order to kill OBL would have been tantamount to murder.  It was and is no different than the targeted killings of Tehrik-i-Taliban commanders by drone strikes (which we do on a semi-daily basis).

Again, Nick Schmidle can handle the balance of the criticism.  Thus far, I am not impressed with Mr. Pfarrer’s tirade.

Bin Laden: Mission Kill or Mission Capture?

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 11 months ago

A striking contradiction has been present for a long time in the so-called war on terror, but this contradiction is highlighted with the recent death of Osama Bin Laden, the highest of all high value targets.  There are two narratives that have developed in the short time since he was killed (it’s amazing that any administration could get things so confused).

The first narrative is that the women were thrown out in front of the men and used as human shields.  This makes me celebrate.  No, not the death of non-combatants, but the action, if it in fact occurred.  Bin Laden, who is routinely shown in file tape toting a Kalashnikov and wearing tactical gear, hid in caves at Tora Bora rather than fight, and then fled when he could.  Rather than fight with his recruits or even be seen in public, he hides behind walls and then when the fight is brought to him, rather than protect his family, he throws them out in front of himself to avoid being shot.

How rich.  Jihadist-Warrior-Martyr my ass.  He was a cowardly weasel.  I’m okay with this.  Or, there is the second narrative to consider, and it makes me happy too.  Rather than fighting from behind women and children, they just got in the way and some perished while others were wounded.  But the legendary, storied SEAL Team 6 simply went in and shot him.  Bin Laden didn’t even have a weapon when he was shot.  In fact, not a single shot was fired at the SEAL Team (presumably the Pakistani police know this because of spent cartridges?).

Working hard to justify this to themselves, they are.  Eric Holder testified before Congress today.

“The operation in which Osama bin Laden was killed was lawful,” Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “He was the head of al-Qaida, an organization that had conducted the attacks of September 11th. He admitted his involvement and he indicated that he would not be taken alive. The operation against bin Laden was justified as an act of national self defense.”

He was a very bad guy and we’re in a war.  Fine.  But wait, there’s more.

Holder said bin Laden was a legitimate military target and he had made no attempt to surrender to the U.S. forces that stormed his fortified compound near Islamabad on Monday. He was shot in the chest and head.

It was lawful to target an enemy commander in the field and the mission was conducted in the way that was consistent with U.S. laws and values, Holder testified, adding that it was a “kill or capture mission.”

“If he had attempted to surrender, I think we should obviously have accepted that, but there was no indication that he wanted to do that. And therefore his killing was appropriate,” Holder said.

Senator Lindsey Graham chimed in thusly.

“You have to believe this guy was a walking IED,” and that any of the Navy SEALs would have wanted to kill bin Laden as far away as possible from the other members of the American team.

Yes, Lindsey, I routinely put on my explosive vest every day when I get home from work.  I’m sure that Bin Laden was wearing one too.  Holder jumped right on that ridiculous bandwagon by agreeing with Graham, so they both looked even more ridiculous than when they started.

But wait, there’s even more.  The narrative gets muddled.

The SEALs’ decision to fatally shoot bin Laden — even though he didn’t have a weapon – wasn’t an accident.  The administration had made clear to the military’s clandestine Joint Special Operations Command that it wanted bin Laden dead, according to a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the discussions.  A high-ranking military officer briefed on the assault said the SEALs knew their mission was not to take him alive.

So by walking this back, Eric Holder is actually placing the SEAL Team 6 members at risk by alleging that there was a fire fight, and that resistance can occur with or without a weapon, and so on.  No one actually believes that a 54 year old man without a weapon is a threat to the most fit, well-trained warriors on earth.  No one.

They shouldn’t feel the need to work so hard at the justification.  We already engage in targeted assassinations, i.e., the drone strikes that kill high value targets all over Western Pakistan, just like the strike that killed Baitullah Mehsud (and that strike killed family members as well).  Baitullah Mehsud couldn’t surrender to an aircraft, and surely wasn’t pointing a weapon at a U.S. service member when he died.  Yet we killed him anyway because he was the enemy, or at least, one of them.

There is confusion over this issue generally because there is confusion at the highest levels of the administration.  It’s why flag officers who should know better tried to hold snipers accountable for murder because they shot an unarmed Taliban commander in Afghanistan.

And herein lies the rub.  We unleashed SEAL Team 6 to kill Bin Laden, apparently, and I don’t have a problem with that.  It isn’t necessary for me to believe that he was holding a weapon or wearing a bomb or somehow a threat to the team.  He wasn’t.  He was the enemy, and that’s enough for me.

But we hold Marines in the Helmand Province, still under fire, fighting for their lives, to a completely different standard.  After recently lampooning the prison system in Afghanistan (something I have done repeatedly), a Marine father responds this way.

According to my son, a USMC 0311 recently returned from Helmand, the effect on their morale when seeing released Taliban was significant. He recalled capturing two bombers after an IED wounded a squad-mate. A week later they saw the two walking by them, smiling and waving. He said apparently American testimony is inadmissible in Afghan courts. Many of the IEDs they saw were command detonated, so they would hustle to catch the bomber.

The officers and visiting Senators would interact with the Afghans, but the 03s in my son’s company didn’t trust any of them, including the imbedded ANP. The only one they would get to know were the interpreters (“terps”), but they were the primary target of the bombers, so they turned over a lot. The squad leaders walked with the terps, so they turned over a lot too.

SEAL Team 6 is to be congratulated.  But there’s still fighting going on.  The catch-and-release program in Afghanistan is a joke, and prisons do not work in counterinsurgency.  The only thing prisons are doing in Afghanistan is making the American fighting man look like a chump when Taliban whom they have captured walk down the road smiling and waving at them.  It isn’t winning any hearts and minds, and it isn’t going to change.  The system is too corrupt, and we don’t want it to change badly enough.  We would rather see Marines lose their legs.

So if you agree with what SEAL Team 6 did to Bin Laden, and if you agree with the drone program, then sleep well.  But if you have a problem with the Marines in Helmand doing the same thing to Taliban fighters, then you are inconsistent.  Consistency isn’t the Hobgoblin of little minds.  It’s the stuff of life.

I simply won’t let this inconsistency pass.  I will force it upon me [you] [y’all] [us] [them] [the administration] [everyone].  It’s not okay to be irrational.  You can’t have it both ways.  If you wanted to see Bin Laden and Baitullah Mehsud dead but you want the Marines to play by different rules in their particular piece of hell, then you must go to sleep tonight knowing that you’re irrational, and you are irrational deep down where it matters most, on basic issues of morality, violence, warfare, life and death.

UPDATE: From the AP.

Only one of the five people killed in the raid that got Osama bin Laden was armed and fired a shot, a senior defense official said Thursday, acknowledging the new account differs greatly from original administration portrayals of a chaotic, intense and prolonged firefight.

The sole shooter in the al-Qaida leader’s Pakistani compound was quickly killed in the early minutes of the commando operation, details that have become clearer now that the Navy SEAL assault team has been debriefed, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

He said the raid should be described as a precision, floor-by-floor operation to hunt and find the al-Qaida leader and his protectors, rather than as it has been portrayed by a succession of Obama administration briefers since bin Laden’s death was announced Sunday night.

Increasing clarity, just not from the administration.

Tora Bora Revisited: How We Failed To Get Bin Laden

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 4 months ago

The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has published a report entitled Tora Bora: How We Failed To Get Bin Laden and Why it Matters Today.  I didn’t read much of it, but let’s rehearse a bit of the executive summary.

Bin Laden expected to die. His last will and testament, written on December 14, reflected his fatalism. ‘‘Allah commended to us that when death approaches any of us that we make a bequest to parents and next of kin and to Muslims as a whole,’’ he wrote, according to a copy of the will that surfaced later and is regarded as authentic. ‘‘Allah bears witness that the love of jihad and death in the cause of Allah has dominated my life and the verses of the sword permeated every cell in my heart, ‘and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together.’ How many times did I wake up to find myself reciting this holy verse!’’ He instructed his wives not to remarry and apologized to his children for devoting himself to jihad.

But the Al Qaeda leader would live to fight another day. Fewer than 100 American commandos were on the scene with their Afghan allies and calls for reinforcements to launch an assault were rejected. Requests were also turned down for U.S. troops to block the mountain paths leading to sanctuary a few miles away in Pakistan. The vast array of American military power, from sniper teams to the most mobile divisions of the Marine Corps and the Army, was kept on the sidelines. Instead, the U.S. command chose to rely on airstrikes and untrained Afghan militias to attack bin Laden and on Pakistan’s loosely organized Frontier Corps to seal his escape routes. On or around December 16, two days after writing his will, bin Laden and an entourage of bodyguards walked unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan’s unregulated tribal area. Most analysts say he is still there today.

The decision not to deploy American forces to go after bin Laden or block his escape was made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his top commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, the architects of the unconventional Afghan battle plan known as Operation Enduring Freedom. Rumsfeld said at the time that he was concerned that too many U.S. troops in Afghanistan would create an anti-American backlash and fuel a widespread insurgency. Reversing the recent American military orthodoxy known as the Powell doctrine, the Afghan model emphasized minimizing the U.S. presence by relying on small, highly mobile teams of special operations troops and CIA paramilitary operatives working with the Afghan opposition. Even when his own commanders and senior intelligence officials in Afghanistan and Washington argued for dispatching more U.S. troops, Franks refused to deviate from the plan. There were enough U.S. troops in or near Afghanistan to execute the classic sweep-and-block maneuver required to attack bin Laden and try to prevent his escape. It would have been a dangerous fight across treacherous terrain, and the injection of more U.S. troops and the resulting casualties would have contradicted the risk-averse, ‘‘light footprint’’ model formulated by Rumsfeld and Franks.

But commanders on the scene and elsewhere in Afghanistan argued that the risks were worth the reward. After bin Laden’s escape, some military and intelligence analysts and the press criticized the Pentagon’s failure to mount a full-scale attack despite the tough rhetoric by President Bush. Franks, Vice President Dick Cheney and others defended the decision, arguing that the intelligence was inconclusive about the Al Qaeda leader’s location. But the review of existing literature, unclassified government records and interviews with central participants underlying this report removes any lingering doubts and makes it clear that Osama bin Laden was within our grasp at Tora Bora.

This has limited usefulness because I already said it.

Air Force special operators with satellite uplinks guiding JDAMS to target, CIA operatives making shady deals with halfway reliable (or all the way unreliable) allies, Delta Force operators in the background, gizmos, gadgets and thingamajigs, tribal elements in the foreground, minute-by-minute radio communications on the whereabouts of UBL, and cloak-and-dagger secrecy after the fact … it all makes for interesting television, civilian amazement, and even more honest books about the abject failure of the Rumsfeld strategy in Afghanistan.

Marines are always in ready reserve, and if their forces needed supplementing, the 82nd or 101st Airborne should have been able to respond to the need of the moment. There is absolutely no replacement for infantry, and in this case, terrain control, interdiction and authority over transit was the solution to the problem. Infantry could have provided this, special forces could not. We let UBL escape, and it was not the fault of special forces. It was Rumsfeld’s fault. It was a strategic blunder.

It isn’t a reflection on their specialized billets, their capabilities or their commitment. It’s a function of force projection. Special forces cannot supply the force projection necessary to win counterinsurgencies. Only infantry can do this. This is what we learn when we put aside the sophomoric posturing over who’s special and who isn’t.

To be sure, the capture or killing of Bin Laden wouldn’t even have come close to ending the transnational insurgency called Islamic Jihad, but at least as regards Bin Laden, to the extent to which the Senate findings comport with our own, they are correct.

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