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03 June 2007


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Boots on the ground leave footprints - in this case tracks even a blind man could read.

What I'm curious about is the way cellular telephones have influenced street level tactics, beyond being used relays to detonate ieds. These phones have been a great leveler in battlefield communications; I hope the Army is jamming their signals before while they patrol.


IEDs are simply a means of force conservation for the Iraqis. There are five ways to stop making each trip out of the permanent base a spin at Russian Roulette;

1) Develop technical means to detect and destroy IEDs in place,

2) Win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis,

3) Move all Iraqis away from the convoy routes,

4) Place American troops in forts with interlocking fields of fire along convoy routes, and

5) Stop mechanized patrolling.

Only the first technique has been tried and failed since to actually defeat the Iraq rebellion would require a realistic apprisal of the manpower required and the actual strategic goal of the Iraq war.

Martin K

While I agree with the good colonels assesment, I am slightly worried that this tendency in any way is presented as news. While I have not served in Iraq, I would say that the whole theatre has been marked by high enemy adaptability. It also seems to me that the US response has been both somewhat random (based on wich commanders/units are rotating through) and at the same time unflexible/readable by enemy. This will only get worse and worse.

Im really curious to see how the neocons will explain this new aspect of "fact-based reality". For more pondering on that term, see http://salon.com/opinion/feature/2007/06/01/rhetoric/ ..

nna missed

Along with the more sophisticated tactics, due to the culture"ization" of U.S. military presence being absorbed -- there is this quote (and others)in the article:

[[U.S. deaths have risen sharply in some of Baghdad's outlying regions, such as Diyala province, where Sunni and Shiite groups have escalated sectarian violence and fought back hard against American forces moving into their safe havens. "Extremists on both sides of this thing are trying to make a statement by attacking U.S. troops,"]] Simmons said.

There's been a lot of here say lately about the Sadrist trend coupling up with (nonAQ) Sunni factions in a joint effort to expel the occupation. Although I've seen no formal evidence that this has materalized, I wonder whether this alliance has already taken shape within their ranks.

João Carlos

VietnamVet, I guess that #2 is impossible now, it is too late for win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis.

#3 is war crime: ethnic cleansing, a guy named Millosevic tried it at someplace at Europe some years ago. The supply lines run over shia areas and the shia will not like be displaced from their farms, villages and cities. That is an invite to Iran interfere. Pentagon lies that Iran's help the sunni insurgents, but when Iran start to really help any faction to fight the US troops everyone will see it: the US causalities will go up fast to 1000 a month and we will see a lot of copters and airplanes being hit by one man maned missiles.

#4 need more troops. Not enough troops for maintain all the small bases along supply routes. Need "the draw" before try it.

#5 is sit down and wait the enemy get enough strength for try overrun all the bases. Fort Apache will not work, the "natives" don't use spears and arrows, they use rpg and AK-47. Welcome to XXI century.

There is no military solution for the mess.



A formidable organization that uses mobile phones to totally organize themselves are Brazil's top street gang:




For those interested in the subject of what happens when ideologues with enormous parliamentiary majorities and psychotic press secretaries/political gurus decide to overrule all the pragmatists and professional experts in their governments and go gungho for their own improvised foreign policies - something I'm sure NO subscribers to this blog are at all interested in - here's a heads-up for a radio drama I've written about Neville Chamberlain's foreign policy and those pesky pragmatists and moralists in the Foreign Office and on the backbenches and in the Labour Party who were foolhardy enough to try and oppose him.

It is a farce - because sometimes farce is the only way one can deal with the most disturbing emotions - but deals with the immense practical and psychological difficulties of successfully opposing Chamberlain in the run-up to the Second World War. It covers the Italian Crisis and the resignation of Anthony Eden, being the first part of a trilogy also covering Munich and the Norway Debate of May 1940 when Chamberlain was finally overthrown, to be broadcast on the 70th anniversary of each of these events.

"How Not to Run a Foreign Policy" is being broadcast this Monday - the 4th of June - on BBC Radio 4 at 2.15 pm, BST. For those abroad it will be available at the time on the BBC site - press radio, then Radio 4, then the live feed - or a few hours later it will be available on line for a week at:


Press the Monday strand.

Sincerely, John Fletcher.


The bloom is off those new armored trucks, too. It seems that they're going to have to put add-on armor on them after they leave the factory, because they're no longer impervious to the really big bombs that are current. They were first requested by the Marines two years ago.

Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, opined on the Pentagon's day-late-and-a-dollar-short approach: "By the time we field all the vehicles we could be on our way out of Iraq. Sadly, this vehicle will probably find plenty of uses in other places. We've shown the world how to fight our army to a standstill."


In counterinsurgency, tactical success means nothing. This applies to both sides.


It seems that there is a large supply of munitions for this kind of stuff. I read that during the looting in 2003 there was over 250,000 tons of munitions looted!

The psychological aspect of this can only go in the favor of the insurgent teams, because this is difficult to defend against. It reminds me of listening to comments from B-17 crews bitterly complaining about flack, because they were unable to shoot back. This can't be helping moral.

stanley Henning

I wonder, in the midst of all this shuffling about in strategy and tactics on both sides, how the PSYOP factor is being applied. As I mentioned a while back, PSYOP is only as good as our ability to back it up with substance and we seem to have flitted about to the point where there may be little substance we can offer, but it appears to me that the time has come for a concerted, serious effort to bring the Iraqi government in on an intense effort to appeal to all Iraqi's to unite to blot out AQ, cooperate for the good of all Iraqi's and, in unison, wave "Goodbye" to the Americans.

If this appears to be too idealistic then we probably need to bid adieu and leave them to their own devices.


The occupation has produced hundreds of thousands of young men who

1) Hate America, with good reason.

2) Have gotten pretty good at urban guerrilla warfare.

3) Have learned the hard way how to avoid American surveillance.

4) Have experience using explosives even against targets with heavy police protection.

Expect blowback.


An interesting thought by the poster 'lally' over at TPMCafe:

"It's not Hezbollah or Hamas who are most seriously threatened by the strengthening of Bin Laden's acolytes in the region. It's Israel."

The unintended consequences of sowing the wind is reaping the whirlwind, no?



5) Stop mechanized patrolling.

I believe that is the goal of the Iraqi Resistance. It's a good strategy to target the vehicles; considering the fact that the US only patrols with mechanized forces and even the Infantry is actually deployed as lite-Cav. Tanks are designed to be used against tanks - but now they are being used as protective transport (ala the PopeMobile) and lite-vehicles are also being up-armored to serve as protective troop-transport. In Lebanon, the Israelis tried using Merkavas against irregulars hiding behind bushes without much success (proved a bit harder than stone-throwing Palestinian boys). Granted, HezbAllah had real land mines and modern RPGs rather than the machineshop-produced IEDs being used by the Iraqi Sunnis. However, the crude MacGyver-ish pipebombs with concave brass caps are proving to be rather effective. Consider for a moment how devastating it would be for US forces if Iraq were flooded with REAL man-portable anti-tank guided missiles and REAL anti-tank land mines rather than this homemade garbage.


To VV's points:

1) Was certainly done early on, when means were employed to counter the cell phone relay trigger system;

2) Hopeless. If one reads the right wing blogs, the real champions of the invasion and occupation, there is nothing but contempt for Arabo-Islamic culture. Why should anyone think that there is less contempt in the field? I would love to hear Col. Lang's opinion about this?

3)I can't think of a better way to set those routes into patterns more predictable than the ones existing now., plus, see #2. Forcible eviction of Iraqis is a non-starter.

4)Khe Sanh?

5)Better - end the occupation.


I just came across the following insurgent video http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=d8a_1180675064 of Humvee attacks using hand-thrown "thermal bombs". I have not read any accounts of this type of attack or weapon, but at least from the video they appear effective. Is this more evidence that Iraq is becoming a global test bed for effective asymmetric tactics?

anna missed

JoeC's link,

Whats up with those!! The equivalent of U.S. supplied SAM's in the Soviet/Afgan war? If a lot of these things get distributed around the troops are in some deep shit.


sgt york raisnes a question

"Granted, HezbAllah had real land mines and modern RPGs rather than the machineshop-produced IEDs being used by the Iraqi Sunnis. However, the crude MacGyver-ish pipebombs with concave brass caps are proving to be rather effective. Consider for a moment how devastating it would be for US forces if Iraq were flooded with REAL man-portable anti-tank guided missiles and REAL anti-tank land mines rather than this homemade garbage."

are the weapons sgt york lists uavailable to the sunnis? (am i wrong in thinking IEDs mean sunni's for the most part?)

if they are available to how come they are not being used?

James Pratt

This isn't rocket science. The ABC News/USA Today/BBC/ARD poll, University of Michigan survey and University of Maryland survey of Iraqis have shown that the occupation is alienating Iraqi Arabs of all sorts more and more in both numbers and intensity.
The armored patrols are necessary to suppress the anti-occupation majority's efforts to establish independent media and alternative government structure.
The efforts to win over the people with elections of pro-occupation candidates debating everything but the occupation and a pervasive American propaganda and censorship program have failed.
The loss of the political war means few IED's revealed by Iraqis, more recruitment by the insurgencies despite heavy casualties and a local auxilliary force so heavily infiltrated that they are distrusted by their own American allies, except at the press briefings. Lots of luck dampening a fire with yet more kerosene.


"Consider for a moment how devastating it would be for US forces if Iraq were flooded with REAL man-portable anti-tank guided missiles and REAL anti-tank land mines" - Sgt. York

This is something that has puzzled me - why haven't more sophisticated Iranian arms been delivered to the militias in Iraq? Are they holding it in reserve in case they really need to escalate? Clearly Iran has the anti-tank weapons that HA used so successfully against the IDF last summer. Also, why haven't more sophisticated Russian, Chinese or East European weapons made it into theater? There has always been a large black market for these kind of things.

In the last superpower proxy war in Afghanistan, we supplied the mujahideen with sophisticated arms including Stinger missiles that they used with devastating effect on Soviet helicopter gunships. That's why I am puzzled with the restraint in "pay backs a bitch" specially from Putin.

Babak Makkinejad


It does not puzzl me; no one wants to provoke the wounded American giant. People might be crazy but they are not necessarily stupid.

Frank Durkee

Col. I share zanzibar's curiosity as to why more sophisticated weapons have not made their way into onsurgents hands and/or usage. Since some anti vehicle and helicopter weapons seem to be avialable on the arms market. I would like to see your thoughts on this issue.


zanzibar: I can think of two reasons, one is that once Putin sends arms into a lawless area like Iraq, there's no guarantee they won't get shipped to Chechnya or elsewhere. In other words, never give someone a gun unless you know it won't be turned on you. Two is that giving the insurgency access to that kind of weaponry could force a fast withdrawal by the US, and that's not really in Putin's best interest. The longer the US is in Iraq the more damage it does to the US Army, the deeper the US goes into debt, the bigger the political wounds it inflicts back home. If the US looked like it was in danger of winning in Iraq, you might see more and more sophisticated weapons showing up.

I think Putin is cold blooded enough to see that even if payback might be emotionally satisfying, it's not in Russia's long term interest. Even though the US was apparently unable to make the same calculation in Afghanistan. I've read accounts that said a major motivator for the US arming the Mujahadeen was 'payback for Vietnam'.

I honestly think that the same calculation could be made by all the people who might have the desire and ability to supply weapons to the insurgents. That and the Iraq's immediate neighbors probably don't want to have to deal with what happens after the Americans withdraw, and want to keep that can kicked as far down the road as possible.

Steve: Seems about right, if this can be believed. This wasn't just old artillery shells either. They looted HMX and RDX explosives from IAEA monitored sites.

Duncan Kinder

This isn't rocket science.

You're ever so right, and the irony of it all is that we nevertheless are sending our younger generation to Harvard and MIT to learn rocket science in order to be "competititive."

Many years ago - more than I care to admit - while I freshmen, I reached the thesis of "the overriding significance of guerrilla warfare." Which basically meant that the scientific and technological machine of the West was going to be rendered moot by guerrilla armies.

In response to João Carlos, There is no military solution for the mess, I respectfully submit that "this mess" shall emerge as a norm with which we will have to learn to live somehow.

This sounds grim and probably is. One benefit, however: If your kid got rejected by Harvard and MIT, it might not have been such a setback after all.

João Carlos

zanzibar wrote:
"This is something that has puzzled me - why haven't more sophisticated Iranian arms been delivered to the militias in Iraq? Are they holding it in reserve in case they really need to escalate? Clearly Iran has the anti-tank weapons that HA used so successfully against the IDF last summer."

Because Iran is allied the Iraq's SHIA government. Iraq's government is Iran's puppet. Look, the guys that rule Iraq now are guys that were hidden in Iran while Saddam was on power.

Iran have no reason for help the SUNNI insurgents. What you heard at the media it is propaganda. White House try to sell to the american public that Iran is the big bad guy sustaining the guys that kill shia... and the american public is buying that bs like they bought the Saddam's wmd bs. The objective is start war with Iran.

And how Iran really have that weapons and they are allied to the SHIA there (the current Iraq's government)we all can imagine what will happen if a war with Iran start.

Currently US army is attacking Mahdi army hideouts. Well, their leader, Sadr, is shia but not exactly friendly to Iran. They don't had trained personnel and weaponry at 2004 (when US army fought them last time), but maybe now they have better trained personnel and better weapons. If the US army force them enough maybe Sadr decide to ally to Iran for get better weapons and some training for the Mahdi army. Talk about to make your enemies ally one another, I will say it is not wise.

The other shia guys (the Badr corps and other guys) certainly get weapons and training at Iran (well, they hide at Iran while Saddam was on power), but they are waiting their time for attack the US army, they are having fun seeing US army fight their enemies sunni and their not so good - not pro-iranian shias - allies as Sadr.

So, what we can guess is why the SUNNI rebels don't get that weapons until now. Probably their benefactors at Saudi Arab don't are giving them tons of money for buy that weapons because they don't want to see they hurt the US army.

So, to answer your questions:
1- the sunni don't have money for buy them (the Saudi aren't giving them enough money?)
2- some shia like the Mahdi army and Sadr don't are pro-iranians so they don't get help from Iran.
3- other shia, the pro-iranian guys that are the Iraq's puppet government, probably get help from Iran, but they are waiting for attack US army (these guys are the Iraq government and the guys that US is training as Iraq's army)other shia like the Mahdi army and Sadr don't are pro-iranians so they don't get help from Iran.

For me, #3 are the most dangerous to US army. #2 will be really dangerous if Sadr decide to ally to Iran. And #1 are killing the US soldiers now. There is a name for that: FUBAR.

There is no military solution. Call the diplomats.

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