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16 May 2007


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Nicholas Weaver

If the goal is spotting IED emplacers, why do you need an outpost for it, given that the US owns the sky?

(and if we don't own ENOUGH of the sky, 2-seat Super Tucanos or similar armed/reconissance aircraft are ~$4M apiece)


May God have mercy on all of them.

W. Patrick Lang


Lamentably (great word)airplanes come and go and are usually not around when things are happening. In this case guerrillas listen for airplanes. and abstain from emplacing IEDs when they ar around. That's one of the reasons why our people often don't catch them putting them in. pl

W. Patrick Lang


For those inerested, the Polar Bear in the crest represents the campaign in Siberia against the Bolsheviks after WW1. pl

anna missed

I always thought an OP relied on being hidden to avoid contact -- or am I thinking of an L(istening)P. Seven men in two up armored humvee's conspicuously parked alongside a road for the night hardly qualifies as an LP. But would, as an obvious target (minus the blinking neon sign). At any rate, there should never be any such outpost that doesn't have support/rescue structured into its function -- and doesn't take into account the much higher profile of big vehicles. You just can't transfer infantry procedure into mech. without making adjustments. I've always thought this "happy motoring" method of warfare used in Iraq as stupid.

Robert A. Seeley

The media reference to a "patrol" is clearly misleading here. An outpost this poorly set up was a tragedy waiting to happen. A very useful and distressing posting.


RE: How long it took backup to arrive.

Here's the AP account of the attack. If that can be believed, a drone was on site 15 minutes after communication was lost, and backup arrived an hour later. According to this followup, two units sent to the scene encountered roadside bombs en route, which is why it took backup an hour to arrive.

Re: Guerrillas listening for aircraft. Prior to the development of radar this was the best way to detect aircraft, especially at night. On the off chance people here haven't seen them, some wonderful looking devices were created to listen for aircraft.This page has pictures of the German 'ring horn' acoustic detector, as well as other neat gear.

W. Patrick Lang


We, the US have been spending billions of dollars on technical solutions, modeling and systems analysis trying to catch people emplacing IEDs. None of it has really worked. Why? Because the solution lies in none technical appraoches. See "The Missing Factor" on "The Athenaeum." pl


What does establishing this kind of position say about the level of threats that have been common for this unit - or its experience in this operating area?

Is part of the issue here that these kinds of positions have been routinely established and having not been effectively attacked before became SOP?

Alternatively, are the local insurgents getting smarter about attacking this kind of position? Was this a snatch operation intended to get the ensuing huge media coverage??

Of interest is a report today on Iraq Slogger that two participants in this action have been captured and have stated that they are not insurgent group members, but rather they were contracted for this operation.


Col: You'll get no argument from me there.

What I found disturbing about the idea the units dispatched to help had run into roadside bombs was the chance that that the attackers had planted those bombs. It seems to add another layer of sophistication to the attack, since it implies they know the routes the American forces would take.


"The solution" Col., doesn't the solution to the war (re:GWOT) rely on ideas not technology or firepower?


They wear a patch predicated on that intervention? Whew....

W. Patrick Lang


The 31st Infantry Regiment and the 27th Infantry Regiment (Wolfhounds) were both in that campaign.

You have a problem with fighting Bolsheviks?

Army regiments have crests not patches.

The 31st Infantry Regiment was wiped out in the Bataan campaign and in Japanese prison camps thereafter. pl

Nicholas Weaver

Col Lang:

Or heck, a remote camera on a tethered balloon?

What would happen if you stuck the Predator's camera and communication package on a large weather balloon with a dangling solar panel and radar reflector and left it tied up floating at 10,000-20,000 feet?

There is no technological silver bullet, but there has to be something better than having 8 people exposed like this.

W. Patrick Lang


Would you not have to defend the point(s) at which the balloon(s) are tethered?

And how many balloons would be required? pl


At the risk of being a broken record yet again, the American armed services are uniquely ill equipped for fighting counterinsurgency.

I do not doubt their courage, intelligence and patriotism, but they have the wrong equipment. The wrong training. The wrong mindset.

The equipment is still designed for fighting against standing armies. It is nice, but too complex and requires too much support, that means that the "Teeth to Tail ratio" is too low.

The tactics are just plain wrong on so many levels. WTF are Commanders thinking? You must always assume you are under observation and you never ever do the same thing twice.

You also use deception plans.

You don't establish an effing OP to guard against insurgents planting IED's anyway, WTF are two Humvees, immobilzed in a sea of razor wire, going to do anyway???

If you want to guard against this type of activity, you establish ambushes - something I have not heard, in the entire war so far, of any American unit doing successfully.

You have to take the initiative away from the insurgents, something you cannot do driving around in a helicopter, Humvee, Stryker or whatever confounded armoured vehicle you have. You do it on foot, and at night, you patrol quietly, you set ambushes, so that insurgents never know where you are going to pop up next. You use deception plans, at least one Australian patrol started with a company leaving its base in trucks with swimming gear and beach towels and no weapons.

I read somewhere else on the internet of a soldier complaining about IED attacks on his unit "we have to do a resupply convoy every two days, and this time they got us." Who trained this idiot?

I expect that the insurgents are now gnashing their teeth that they didn't rig IED's in some of the houses near the position with a few fake blood trails as well to take out more of the rescuers.

Sorry for the rant, but I am afraid that this is the beginning of the end for Kagan's "surge".


P.S. The mission was pointless anyway. If you are an insurgent, and you know an outpost is occupied, you simply plant your IED somewhere else.


While I find every lost soldier in Iraq a tragedy which should never had happened, the search for them reveals the futility of the occupattion.

If the accounts I've been reading are accurate, there have been 4,000 soldiers searching for the 3 missing men. Now, if I'm an insurgent and I see the type of resources placed into finding these men, I would certainly begin devising plans to capture soldiers and keep countless resources occupied on search missions rather than the actual mission (whatever it may be).

At every turn the cluelessness of our leaders, both military and civilian are laid bare.


I continue to be amazed by the shock with which everyone is treating this incident. During 2004, my unit conducted this type of operation EVERY DAY outside of Samarra. As part of Gen. Batiste's undermanned 1st ID. We patrolled a 10K strip of highway using 4 humvee's on an eight hour rotation. We'd split the platoon in half with two trucks in the north and two in the south. We didn't use wire as that would hinder our mobility, but we'd spend as many as two consecutive hours stationary at the same set of half a dozen ops every day. There were only so many locations with line of sight and standoff distance from VBIED's attacking us by veering off the highway. I estimate that during the four or five months that these tactics were applied by us, about 15 RPG's were fired at our recon troop's vehicles. Fortunately, none of the rockets hit their mark. Two weeks before we handed over the sector, my two truck patrol fell victim to a complex ambush. As the trial vehicle, I had just passed through our turnaround point and the lead vehicle was already out of the killzone. We took small arms from both sides of the road and atleast 5 RPG's were fired, all missing. As the driver, I gassed it out of the killzone while my gunner attempted to suppress. It took at least three or four minutes for the other two trucks in my platoon to reach us and air support (apaches) took about twenty. With air cover, we creeped back into the killzone, but the enemy was long gone. Had any of those RPG's met their mark, I'd either be dead, or captured like the three now MIA. Sometimes I think back about what we could have done differently. However, given the manpower and vehicles at our disposal, I'm at a loss. The roads must be protected, or we can't supply the guys fighting in the cities. However, it continues to amaze me that the enemy wasn't more effective. With only limited coordination, they could have placed land mines or IED at our frequently used OPs. Also, rather than one shot pop and run RPG attempts, complex attacks would have killed us easily. In regard to Col. Lang's comments at the beginning, even though we were Forward Observers in the Artillery attached to scouts, there were no preparations for indirect fires, even though howitzers were within range. I believe this was a conscious decision due to the proximity of local inhabitants, not a act of negligence. Otherwise, without the bodies available to seriously control an area, its proven all too easy for the enemy to take the initiative. We were solely a preventative/reactionary force. I chose to write not because I felt that my unit was "chewed up" or that our situation was unique, but because I genuinely believe that these ad hoc SOP's were and continue to be used throughout Iraq by countless company sized units. Though inherently risky, the only alternative is to leave the routes completely unguarded and thus invite catastrophic losses when attempting to bring in supplies.


It appears this was a multiple classic text book case of violating basic principles of the old FM 100-5. After the incident the position over-run was a generously defined as an ‘outpost’ or OP. It was terribly undermanned for what the force was asked/directed to do even if it was occupied on an ad hoc or temporary basis. A key to a successful OP is good fire support planning first, then active patrolling and, at night or during hours of darkness, establishment of listening posts or LPs. LPs are positions forward or out of the wire from the OP itself that serve as early warning to the greater OP. The LP should be at least sufficiently out of the wire as to provide the OP enough time to react to any enemy force approaching the OP. The bottom line on the LP, usually three or so troops, is that the LP may be sacrificed to provide the OP enough time in case of an impending assault to prepare an adequate defense to protect the larger force in the OP.

Simply stated there were not enough troops to protect themselves in the event of any large scale attack from a determined, well-organized enemy force in the first place. This sort of deployment is war on the cheap. It’s putting insufficient troops in a single position hoping to catch the enemy in oneys or twosies planting an IED before sunrise and not considering that the enemy’s objective that morning was the anemic force itself out there to get them vice planting IEDs in the road. ‘But they had done it like this before, and never got stung.’ Yeah, well guess what…the enemy ain’t stupid. And as any Fort Benning IOB student knows too well, hope is not a course of action. The company commander of this patrol on up thru brigade was woefully negligent. The old combat adage ‘that he who screws up must pay’ is again proven true.


Mr. Nicholas Weaver, you’re question is a good one and seems to beg a modern technological answer. But fifty years ago in his 1963 history of the Korean War, This Kind of War’, T.R.Fehrenbach’s blunt but eloquently expressed assessment is, if anything, more pertinent today.

“You may fly over a land forever, you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life--but if you desire to defend it, protect it and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud.”

I am the Infantry, follow me.

Cold War Zoomie

"On Point," a NPR radio program, covered this last night for an hour.

You can listen here:


W. Patrick Lang


Thanks to the soldiers "old" and serving who have written on this.

The very worst thing about this from the point of this "dinosaur" is that this little force was put out there without any effective possibility of fire support or reinforcement in the face of an enemy who is both clever and methodical.

I have done quite a lot of COIN work and I know all about the "hearts and minds" but the first rule of warfare is that you must do everything you can to survive. Sometimes the bear eats you in spite of your best efforts, but these, surely, were not our best efforts.

No fire support because civilians might get hurt? My men always came first. Always pl

Chris Marlowe

This may be a naive question, but why aren't there special forces teams fluent in Arabic going on ambushes, at night if necessary, to ambush and go after the guys who set the IEDs?

After four years of "occupying" an Arab country, is that too much to ask for our tax dollars? Instead of having ordinary troops sitting out there like ducks in a shooting gallery?

W. Patrick Lang


We don't have such people. I used to teach Arabic. We will never have many such people. The lahguage is too difficult for most people.

Besides, this was a mission that "ordinary troops" as you put it are trained to do. pl

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