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Old 09-10-2008, 03:52 AM
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Default Afghanistan

Poor Merchant 07-09-2008, 02:36 PM A couple of interesting pieces on Afghanistan:


http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7494357.stm


And:


http://www.time.com/time/magazine/ar...818181,00.html


There's also a very nice photo piece along with it.

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Targan 07-09-2008, 11:55 PM Australia lost another SAS soldier in Afghanistan on Tuesday, once again to a roadside bomb. I know other nations have lost a lot more soldiers over there than we have, but Australia doesn't have all that many SAS troopers to lose. Rest in peace Signaller Sean McCarthy, SASR.

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TiggerCCW UK 07-11-2008, 02:25 PM Rest in peace. Thoughts to the family.

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newyorkronin 07-11-2008, 08:57 PM I hope they get more MRAPs over there. A few months ago, I went to a talk on the Royal Canadian Regiment in Kandahar. http://libraryautomation.com/nymas/schedule.html


Some points from the talk:

M-1 tanks with mine plows take care of business.


Don't underestimate how much concealment can be found on flat terrain: a lot of enemy infantry can move very quickly concealed by brush, small irrigation ditches, low bearms, etc.


The speaker described how a large Taliban force moved into ambush positions at night and caught a patrol in the open just outside their base. Even with NVGs, the patrol was disoriented moving over broken ground and a supporting helicopter had to sweep a spotlight back and forth at their base (like runway landing lights) to guide the patrol back while under fire all the way. Whew!

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Webstral 07-12-2008, 02:45 PM My condolences to the family of that brave trooper. All losses are keenly felt.


Newyorkronin, the ambush you describe is a perfect example of what I’m talking about with a grenadier/dragoon/cavalry model. (Thanks, Brandon!) The enemy doesn’t have the hardware to engage in a toe-to-toe fight with either the Soviets or NATO. So they use the terrain and the night to their advantage. Like rabbits, the enemy’s light infantry must move and operate under constant threat from NATO elil: helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, drones, armored fighting vehicles, etc. Clearly, they have developed this skill to a high level. Our guys, on the other hand, are lost at night—even with night vision gear.


There are many understandable reasons for our inability to meet the enemy on his terms. None of them are adequate.


When confronted with steppe nomads, East and West chose different solutions. The Persians developed the cataphract. A horse and rider were so heavily armored that they could withstand any missile bombardment by the steppe nomads on their steppe ponies. After the steppe nomads had worn themselves out by riding in circles as they fired arrows at the cataphracts, the cataphracts would decide the fight in a thunderous charge that the exhausted steppe riders could not resist. Sounds good, right?


However, there were some logistical problems. All that armor requires a big horse. That big horse can’t be sustained by grazing. It needs a steady diet of high-calorie grain. In other words, the horse requires a major investment. Moreover, this diet isn’t available out on the steppes. The cataphracts might win battles on their own frontier, but they could not ride out onto the steppes and finish off the enemy. The enemy might lose battles, but he could come back again and again and again because his base of supply was intact. Inevitably, the Persians knights began to lose their interest in frontier duty. The diversions and culture of the cities somehow were more interesting than the frontier. Once the Persian knights began migrating to the cities, the stalemate was broken.


The Chinese, on the other hand, trained units of light cavalry to go after the steppe nomads on their own terms. Although this tactic was far from a panacea, the Chinese benefited more from this approach over the long term than did the Persians from theirs.


I see us (the West) as the Persians. True, we have some highly-motivated operators. They do good work. We don’t have nearly enough of them. For the most part, we have a force that is oriented towards cataphract work. Even our light infantry is oriented towards being an adjunct to mechanized forces. We need to develop entire corps of hardy, well-trained light fighters who can be deployed for eighteen months at a time (and suitably rewarded for being away from family) and who can fight as the enemy fights in the enemy’s country. We need our own killer rabbits in large numbers.


Webstral

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Targan 07-12-2008, 11:43 PM Webstral, your last post was extremly well put. I can't fault any of what you wrote. Good stuff.

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newyorkronin 07-12-2008, 11:47 PM The enemy doesn’t have the hardware to engage in a toe-to-toe fight with either the Soviets or NATO. So they use the terrain and the night to their advantage. Like rabbits, the enemy’s light infantry must move and operate under constant threat from NATO elil: helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, drones, armored fighting vehicles, etc. Clearly, they have developed this skill to a high level. Our guys, on the other hand, are lost at night—even with night vision gear.


A lot of night fighting manuals focus on NVGs but the most unusual piece I've ever seen on the subject is "Japanese Night Movements"

http://www.members.tripod.com/colla/.../nightmov.html

With an interesting take on the psychology of the dark, from a time before night vision.


Afghani fighters, whichever their affiliation, are crafty SOBs. I highly recommend Robert Kaplan's Soldiers of God, about the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.


Some examples:

A Soviets laid a minefield around their airbase. The guerrillas saw that they stored fuel near one of the walls but felt the mortars and rockets wouldn't be accurate enough to hit the fuel dump. So every night, they crawled into the minefield and worked all night probing and digging up mines in the dark. They would crawl back before dawn and do it again the next evening. Why the Russians didn't use spotlights or roving patrols I don't know. Perhaps they felt safe that no one would crawl through a minefield. Every night, the guerrillas would advance 10 meters more until a week later, they were within range to throw a charge with a timer into the fuel dump.


Another instance, the commander wanted to launch a mortar attack but didn't know the exact range. So he ordered ten guerrillas with different heights to disguise themselves as locals and walk from a set point to the target and back again, counting the paces. The commander simply added all the paces and took the average. He had the exact range!


Finally, there was a guerrilla leader who figured out a way to dodge bombs and rockets from Soviet aircraft by simply riding towards the strafing rather than away from it, so the pilot always overshot.



The diversions and culture of the cities somehow were more interesting than the frontier. Once the Persian knights began migrating to the cities, the stalemate was broken.



I wonder if there was ever a study on the how Army recruits from different backgrounds adapt to climates and terrains. I've heard that troops who grew up in urban areas, where they walked around on flat, paved surfaces suffered sprained ankles at a higher rate than those who grew up in rural areas. Those from urban areas can draw mental maps of urban terrain more easily but can get lost in the woods and vice versa for those from rural backgrounds. But I digress.


It seems every culture rises to a level of dominance and then get lazy and collapses.



The Chinese, on the other hand, trained units of light cavalry to go after the steppe nomads on their own terms. Although this tactic was far from a panacea, the Chinese benefited more from this approach over the long term than did the Persians from theirs.



The Manchu eventually launched a massive expeditions in the late 18th and mid-19th centuries to put down rebellions in its Muslim western frontier. But they were never really tamed until they were given lucrative trade franchises. Thus, the continuation of Imperial policy of "managing" barbarians rather than conquering them.


But China's history is no different in terms of the collapse of the will to fight. Every dynasty grew strong and then withered. Even the Mongol/Yuan dynasty were absorbed into the culture, grew complacent and fell to the Ming dynasty, who fell to the Manchu/Qings, etc, etc.


A great quote: After the fall of Baghdad, the commander of the Mongolian contingent joked that "Say, we haven't been here since the year 1358!"

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Gen.Lee 07-14-2008, 12:05 PM A great quote: After the fall of Baghdad, the commander of the Mongolian contingent joked that "Say, we haven't been here since the year 1358!"


I SO badly wanted to be the Civil Affairs officer who could stride into a Baghdad neighborhood and warn the locals that I had Mongols on the other end of my radio, so they'd better behave!


Re: Afghan light infantry skills, rural. This sounds like stuff I read about the Chinese and the Korean War, too.


Re: non-urban fighting skills. I suppose you all know the Boy Scouts started from Baden-Powell's experiences in the Boer War. He felt that the mostly urban recruits of Britain lacked outdoors time, after dealing with the veldt-raised Boer guerilla cavalry.

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Webstral 07-14-2008, 05:36 PM [QUOTE=newyorkronin]A lot of night fighting manuals focus on NVGs but the most unusual piece I've ever seen on the subject is "Japanese Night Movements"

http://www.members.tripod.com/colla/.../nightmov.html

With an interesting take on the psychology of the dark, from a time before night vision.


Good stuff. It's not by coincidence that so many of the Japanese attacks on Allied positions during the island fighting in the Pacific campaign occurred at night. US forces dealt with night fighting by refusing to do it, whenever possible. US infantry operated offensively on a 9-to-5 basis, with obvious exceptions. The logic was fairly sound, given the nature of the force. We had an infantry force which was highly dependent on firepower for its advantage over the enemy. Firepower and good visibility are natural allies. Sustainability of action was another priority. This means eating well and getting plenty of rest. In some ways, the philosophy of the US Army in the Pacific was a counterpoint to that of the Wehrmacht under Hitler's control. Whereas the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front often was obliged by its senior leadership to race from success to success until it was thoroughly exhausted and ripe for counteraction, US Pacific forces recognized that sustained action was the only way to destroy the enemy. Ironically, the Wehrmacht's dilemma was a product of its superior maneuver-based style of warfare, while the American infantry approach in the Pacific was based more on our inheritence of an attrition style of warfare. There's a time and a place for everything, no?


In any event, the Japanese paid close attention to the role of machine guns and artillery during the pre-WW1 fighting in East Asia. They rightly concluded that having riflemen stand up in broad daylight and rush defenders in possession of automatic weapons was lunacy. Even bounding one element forward while the other "suppresses" is at best a variation on the infantry bum rush, to say nothing of bring horribly consumptive of ammunition.


Sadly for the Japanese, the sane and sensible voices arguing for a mode of behavior that inspired my grenadier argument competed with a horribly romantic view of warfare held by the officers and individual soldiers of the Imperial Army of the day. Individual Japanese soldiers were inculcated to endure incredible hardships for the sake of the force. The Allies repeatedly bore witness to the willingness of the Japanese soldier to move, fight, and endure under the worst of conditions, and to give himself as a matter of course for the Empire, the unit, and his family's honor. Truly phenomenal. The officers, on the other hand, frequently viewed courage as superior to tactics; dedication as superior to technique. Thus while there were many excellent night actions executed by the Imperial Army, there were many hopeless frontal charges against positions held by American machine gunners. Imagine what could have been accomplished by the Japanese riflemen had they been led properly. Of course, we have some hint of this in the Japanese-American units of WW2.


Webstral

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