Subject: OIF Observations from an Inf Bn Cdr in Iraq
Some more AARs/TTPs from Iraq.
Attached are OIF observations.
1. Weapons and Munitions Availability - The amount of weapons and
ammunition readily available is astounding. Every house, every single one
of them, had multiple automatic weapons when we arrived. Arms dealers were
everywhere; dealing military weapons is easy and very profitable. There
were complete mortars of varying sizes for sale on the main road in Ba'Qubah
when we first entered the city. Raiding a weapons bazaar was, in fact, our
first mission in the city and we seized over 20 mortars at a roadside stand
on the city's main street.
Iraqi Nationals have looted weapons and munitions from the many
military installations throughout our area of operations, which in turn
provide a ready market for the arms dealers mentioned above. Weapons are
hidden everywhere, Date Palm orchards, irrigation canals, even in graveyards
(which would create quite a stink if Americans began searching in the graves
for weapons caches, as I am sure you can imagine). We have found women
hiding weapons underneath their black gowns, which may not seem like such a
good idea until you consider that only female soldiers can search IZ
females. This presents a challenge at remote sites and checkpoints. While
we have not found WMD, we have come across lots of chemical defensive
equipment, to include nerve agent antidote, MOPP suits, and masks.
2. Economy/Standard of Living - The economy/standard of living is
very depressed, while unemployment is sky high. We have killed/captured
many Iraqis we believe where paid to shoot at us in order to make a little
money. The consequence is that these folks usually don't aim very well and
shoot wildly erratic, but sometimes they get lucky. Many of these men are
reported to be drunk or under the influence of drugs during the commission
of their activities (according to HUMINT sources), however, none of the
detainees we have processed appear to be under the influence of anything
except bad judgment. A little money goes a long way here and we have been
pumping so much money into the infrastructure it is crazy. Regardless of
the money pumped into the local economy it has not yet turned the tide.
This area has suffered from 35 years of neglect, 12 years of UN sanctions,
and the results of a dictatorial leadership; you would not believe how bad
It appears that corruption is commonplace, lots of black market
activities and political graft/bribery. We have made a concerted effort to
spend our Commander's Emergency Relief Program (CERP) and our Field Ordering
Officer (FOO) monies in our zone of operation. The local purchasing of
goods and services are necessary to fill gaps in the military logistical
system, which had a significant early impact on the local economy. Our
introduction of U.S. dollars into the marketplace without a formal
established conversion rate led to uncontrollable inflation and black
3. Infrastructure - The water system is particularly bad and has
been for many years. The water does not meet U.S. standards for potability.
Most of the water treatment plants are not functioning because of damage,
neglect, or looting of machinery. The electrical grid is overloaded and
most rural areas only get electricity for a few hours each day. There has
been a huge problem with IZ nationals stealing power cables and bootlegging
electrical power. The loss of these power cables makes delivery of
electricity to towns even more difficult as only rudimentary rerouting is
possible on the electrical grid. Our ability to establish basic services
will go a long ways towards stabilizing the country. Electricity has become
a key component to coalition strategy, our ability to provide electricity
will demonstrate that things are getting better for the Iraqi people.
It is very important to understand previous standards of living in
the local environment in order to establish realistic and attainable
measures of success when planning and executing infrastructure improvement
projects. Though a western-level of infrastructure may be the expectation,
it may be an unachievable goal. We measure our progress in local
areas without understanding what the standard really is. For example, a
well or filter that produces potable drinking water would provide a service
never before seen in most of the areas in our zone of operation. To expect
water piped into every home is unrealistic for many years to come.
4. Local Populace Attitude - Most of the people are glad Saddam is
gone but that is about all they have in common. Political parties are
sprouting up but they really do not have set political agendas or platforms.
The Kurds are the best when it comes to political organization and this has
helped them when we form local governments. The Arabs for the most part do
not trust political parties (Ba'ath Party influence, I think) but some have
started to form there own parties; primarily as a way to get their foot in
the door concerning local politics. Most Iraqi's also feel that the
Coalition is a necessary evil to prevent a civil war, but a good portion of
these folks would rather we not be here. There are small groups adamantly
opposed to our presence but most people take a "wait and see" approach to
life. They are reluctant to help because they are afraid of the future,
which I think they realize will not include U.S./Coalition Forces. Many do
not want to be known as "traitors" for helping the Americans.
The Iraqi people have been submitted to a dictatorship that prevented them
from voicing their opinions without retribution. Unsure of the future, they
are tentative to assist either side for fear of such retribution. Rumors
spread like wild fire and are readily believed by the populace. Many are
unsure that Sadaam is gone for good. The people prefer to remain neutral,
often saying, "I saw nothing". There are still many that fear
repercussions from other tribes or families if they identify someone as a
regime loyalist. The concept of the "Blood Feud" is very much alive and
well here. The police do not have much legitimacy at this point so
paybacks often occur between families and tribes. Much of the cooperation
we get is, in many cases, people "fingering" someone to settle old scores
and get even with their adversaries.
Populations that have survived in a brutal regime over the past 35
years should not be expected to rush to the streets, offering unconditional
assistance. These people are survivors and very willing to play both sides
of the street as long as it is beneficial to do so. Trust must be earned
(usually in the form of financial investment and visible improvement
projects in the area) before they can be expected to provide assistance or
intelligence. Apathy on the part of the general population should not be
viewed as a threat to U.S. operations, rather as an untapped resource, yet
to be won over.
5. Crime/Organized Crime - Crime is rampant. Sadam released all prisoners in Iraqi jails in what he called "the Forgiveness". This was basically just another way he could de-stabilize the area and it also provides Former Regime Loyalists (FRLs) with a cadre of triggermen. Organized crime families have been the target of at least one Brigade size raid in our area of operations, which was successful in removing this network. This particular crime family dabbled in various illegal activities and was blatant about their activities. The reader should imagine a "Pancho Villa" type organization as opposed to a traditional Mafia type organization. There is no pretense of respectability and weapons (to include machine guns and hand grenades) were openly carried as a very visible reminder to the local population of the consequences of challenging this criminal element. Reports that this family was engaged with direct action operations against coalition forces were beginning to trickle in, but the destabilizing effect that they had on the local community was sufficient reason to remove them as a major player in this area. It is important not to try and superimpose western thought, morals, or codes of conduct over activities of local nationals. Virtually every structure not guarded by privately sponsored security has been looted. Entire buildings have virtually disappeared because the local population will loot the very bricks used to build the structure, not to mention the tiles, pipes, wires, windows, doors, etc. Vehicles abandoned on the side of the road are stripped with-in minutes. The local population steals power lines supporting the national electrical grid and then illegally taps into the electrical system, receiving free power. This unaccounted for requirement adds strain to an already stressed power grid and compounds the problem of getting the grid operating at near capacity levels. Locals also "steal" water for their fields. They dig unauthorized irrigation canals that siphon water from the canals. This significantly reduces the amount of water available at the intend locations, affecting crops further downstream, local population water supplies, and creating artificial shortages. Farmers found doing this believe they have a right to the water as well as anyone else, even though they know digging illegal irrigation ditches is against the law. With very few exceptions, there is no white or black; only shades of gray. We are talking about poverty levels that are staggering and a society of "haves" and "have-nots". One must remember at all times, that almost every local national they come in contact with has a self-motivation. 6. Threat Tactics - Though not backed by a truly conventional military force, his tactics can otherwise be accurately described as those of a guerilla force. Small group tactics, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), ambushes, and harassing attacks are his line of operations. His intent is not to draw U.S. forces into a larger conflict (see #7), rather, to instill fear and inflict casualties regularly. This may be my COE training coming out but the Threat is clearly aware that military defeat of Coalition forces is unattainable, strategic culmination is a more readily attainable goal and the purpose, I believe, of his attacks. Threat tactics have evolved to fit the intent of the responsible group and spread to like groups throughout the country. When a TTP is observed in a large population center it quickly becomes prevalent in smaller towns. The ultimate goal the Former Regime Loyalists (FRL), Badr Corps, and criminal groups is to remove Coalition forces from the country. Each has its own reasons for doing so; however, the methods are the same. As mentioned before, I believe they are trying to weaken resolve and attain early withdrawal of Coalition Forces. Success at the tactical level, in my estimation, occurs when the Threat conducts an attack and is not killed or captured, regardless of whether or not this attack resulted in Coalition casualties or damage to equipment. When these groups do inflict injuries on US forces it will be reported in the international media and is seen as a major victory. It also has the intended effect of inspiring other group members to conduct attacks and is an effective recruiting tool. On the other hand, when an attacker is wounded/killed, it deters attacks for a period of time while the group regroups and recruits new members. Initial attacks against Coalition Forces in our zone were direct fire small arms and RPG ambushes. This led to heavy Threat losses with minimal negative impact on our forces. The net effect was that the guerilla force was entering into a war of attrition with Coalition Forces. This tactic rapidly became unsupportable from a threat standpoint and attackers have begun to use tactics that allow for more standoff distance. Small arms fire accuracy is not the Threat's strong point. The threat uses AK-47s with no butt stock and often fire from the hip. They are not very good marksmanship. They need to be close to hit you. It is the same with RPGs. They need to be close to hit, especially for moving targets. The use of command detonated IEDs has become fashionable. Wire leading several hundred meters to a concealed position is common. This has also resulted in heavy Threat causalities when conducted against combat arms units and the threat has further adapted his tactics to target specific units and unit types. See Note No. 7 for more on this TTP. Threat IEDs are very rudimentary, but innovative. Using "daisy-chained" mortar rounds and Artillery rounds on the high end to a shampoo bottle full of C4 on the low end; there is quite a variety. Animal carcasses, vegetable oil cans, fire extinguishers and a bag of garbage have all been used as IEDs. The bottom line is we drive around potholes and any debris on the roads or the sides of roads. Most are not very effective and some do not even ignite. They mostly use command detonation with electrical wire running 200 to 300 meters from the IED location to increase stand off. Mortar fire is another tactic that rarely results in Coalition casualties but is very safe for the attackers. If you accept that success is defined as the ability to engage and live to engage again another day; mortars becomes the best way for the enemy to be successful. We believe the Threat is setting up their mortars in the direct lay mode and firing within in sight of the Forward Operating Base. They are not precise and the sheaf is fairly dispersed, indicating that the Threat is just shooting in the general direction of the FOB and then quickly evading. We have never had more than one mortar engage at the same time, although I do not know if other FOBs have been engaged by multiple mortars or not. It is very difficult to counter mortar fire. The Threat normally fires three or fewer rounds per engagement and they will engage each target only once per day, very often skipping days between attacks. By the time the rounds begin impacting, the attackers have begun their exfiltration. Acquisition of firing points has been achieved with Q-36/Q-37 radar, although these radars are not designed to acquire mortar trajectories and are normally not reliable. Crater analysis allows us to conduct pattern analysis to determine likely launch points. We can then conduct anti-mortar ambushes with ground forces but there are more launch points than we can realistically cover.
The bottom line, however, is that it is difficult to identify the exact firing point quickly enough to action forces before the attacker flees. It is necessary to work with local residents to identify the perpetrators and the locals are more afraid of the Threat than they are willing to help the Coalition. It all goes back to that "wait and see" mentality. We have, in the Brigade zone, used indirect fires to counter the mortar threat but units must understand the constraints facing them when they conduct this type of response. Given the proximity of non-combatants to threat targets, counter-battery is nearly non-existent because indirect fires are nearly impossible to clear. Further compounding this dilemma is the fact that disposition of U.S. forces in relationship to threat targets often prevent adequate firing solutions above 120mm mortars, minimizing the capability of the 155mm howitzers available for fire support. 7. Why attack the lion when you can attack the sheep? Most attacks when we first arrived in zone were conducted against my infantry patrols. This was a very bad choice of targets and the threat paid dearly for these attacks. Threat planners and financiers have switched tactics to attack log convoys or other soft targets. I believe the Threat has learned to distinguish between units that will stop, establish a base of fire and then maneuver to destroy them versus units that break contact. Our unit marking systems aid this identification. My units are the former as the Threat has discovered over time, and my units have repeatedly passed through areas unscathed only to have another convoy (one that adheres to the "break contact" TTP) trailing 15 minutes behind and get hit with IEDs, RPGs, and small arms fire. Attacks on convoys in our AO have been deterred by several TTPs. Initially, our BFVs, scouts and other combat patrols were ambushed with direct fire and RPGs. Despite their efforts, the threat rarely escaped without suffering casualties. We found that if we maintain contact and immediately attack their positions, the threat will immediately try to break contact and runaway. He knows he cannot win toe to toe with US forces. Unaware of our night fighting capability, they would often mistake distance with safety, thinking we cannot see them. Many would be attackers walked into direct fire engagements initiated by our forces as a result. Occasionally the Threat was successful in initiating ambushes or attacks but very rarely did these cause damage to US forces personnel or equipment. They usually did result in Threat casualties and/or detention. If a convoy is attacked, the element must return fire, maintain contact and attack through the enemy. If not, the threat will escape and fight another day. The threat uses hit and run tactics, but if you do not engage him he will stay and continue to try inflict damage. If a convoy breaks contact, the enemy will escape before a QRF can get out there. The threat soon stopped ambushing/attacking us with small arms and RPGs and resorted to the use of IEDs. This increased their stand off and increased their chances of escape. Despite this, we still were able to engage them and cause enemy casualties. They have since stopped attacking any of our convoys, resorting instead to attacking vehicle convoys that are not from our task force. We believe that if units look prepared (i.e., gunners up and scanning, crew served weapons manned and scanning, personnel in vehicles facing out and vigilant) then they most likely they will not be attacked. The threat picks his targets wisely, and given the macho influence of this region, normally attempts to avoid direct contact with prepared and capable forces. The best deterrence to threat contact is to appear prepared and willing to return fire and destroy the threat. 8. Strange bedfellows (opposition groups teaming up)- The adage that my enemy's enemy is my ally is very much alive in this AO. Groups (both political and religious) that previously opposed each other, quickly find common ground when they share a common enemy (e.g. U.S. forces). At the same time, one cannot assume that these types of alliances are automatic given a common foe, as the sides can/do play each side against each other, in an attempt to eliminate both threats simultaneously. 9. Sheiks - A balance between Sheiks (family heads), professionals (educated citizens), religious leaders (Imams), and political party leaders is essential in establishing a functional and legitimate government. Appointed/selected positions and social perception are essential to the preservation of the Sheiks status within this society. In addition, it is imperative to ascertain the difference between a legacy Sheik (one who inherited the position/title through legitimate family ascension) and "90s" Sheiks, appointed by the former regime based upon loyalty or wealth. To combat local populace apathy and vendettas, we must hold the local sheiks and people accountable for actions that occur in their towns/villages. They would much rather have us work with the Sheiks then clear every house in their village. The local villages and towns are fairly closed and are very aware of outsiders when they come in to their town. After a relationship is established with a sheik, he will often identify troublemakers and outsiders that don't belong in the area. We try to make them understand that the more peaceful the town, the more NGO's come in, the more money, the more improvement. 10. Government/limited CA - The traditional BN/TF is ill-equipped (and manned) to conduct "nation-building" without significant augmentation and training (e.g. establishment of government, police, judicial, and financial activities). Personal talents may mitigate this shortfall, but it does not correct the systemic shortage of trained resources. Tactical Human Intelligence Teams, Tactical Psyops Teams, Civil Affairs, and translators all contribute significantly to successful interaction between the local populace and Coalition Forces. These assets, as critical as they are, do not prepare the commander for his role in assisting in the formation of local governments, entering into negotiations, and dealing with Sheiks and other community leaders. Translators MUST be provided early on in theater in order to facilitate day-to-day operations. Units cannot plan-on or rely-on English-speaking local nationals for this duty, as many locals will remain apart from U.S. forces until the situation stabilizes. One final thought; the biggest combat multiplier is money. Population approval and acceptance is the decisive point and while combat operations against non-compliant forces are necessary, they should not be viewed as the task Forces Main Effort. Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
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