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February 08, 2007

Afghanistan; Version 2.0

Josh Marshall writes:

That brings to six the number of US military or de facto US military (i.e., private security firm helicopters) shot down in Iraq in little more than two weeks.

There seems little doubt now that this is more than a statistical anomaly. But investigators still don't seem to have a clear grasp of what's happening. The one piece of information that appears relative clear is that this is not being caused by new weaponry. It's been accomplished with high-caliber machine gun fire in most or all cases. The insurgents are just getting better, or more aggressive, or more ominously, they're getting better at knowing where the helicopters are going to be.

This is actually a Very Big Deal. We've spent the last few years training an unknown number of eager jihadists on the ins-and-outs of terrorism and urban warfare. We should've known better. It's commonly understood that the modern jihadist movement -- al-Qaeda included -- sprung out of the Afghanistan War, where thousands of radicals spent years learning how to fight and damage an army far stronger and far better equipped than themselves. In Irag, the insurgents have learned the same thing.

We're never going to kill every insurgent, and after we leave, the innocents we've shot and children we've maimed and humiliations we've meted out will ensure a long and enduring legacy of hatred. The chaos of Iraq's broken society will, of course, offer few good options to males between the ages of 16 and 24, so hungry terrorist groups should find it a fertile recruiting ground. And, unlike in the past, these recruits will have already spent years training against the finest army in the world. That, day, by day, they're becoming more effective, more able to shoot down copters and detonate tanks and snipe patrols, is a terrifying glimpse of what the world has to look forward to.

February 8, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

When you claim to go to war against a tactic and say that while implementing it yourself against a party who had nothing to do with the initial aggravation, nobody can trust your judgement ( or sanity ).
I've been having interesting back-and-forth with exMI, who still thinks Iraq winnable ( Someone Should Care, Maybe Not You http://exmi.blogspot.com/ ) and is hardly uninformed.
Afghanistan is a place where the people were trained and equipped by the U.S. to defeat "conventional" forces by guerilla tactics. My thought is that Bush simply plans to escalate the "Balance of Terror" - a faith based initiative - and is not limiting that to one nation, but to a geographic sector.
Arms suppliers would have a market and no nation would be powerful enough to dictate terms to oil companies. Bonus points are given for the ability to control world markets in petroleum.
( I didn't say I expected this to work. If this projection proves correct, the attempt can be counted on to add to the world's misery exorbitantly. Unhappily, less than a campaign of extermination will result in a stiffening of local resistance. Genocide would mean that the world would have to practice sabotage of the U.S. Quite the conundrum. There is little sign people realize this extreme scenario is steadily more possible.)

Posted by: opit | Feb 8, 2007 9:50:30 AM

This "Very Big Deal" seems a little overblown to me. Is Iraq really going to become a mass terrorist training camp? I'm sure there will be some truly dangerous people coming out of the whole thing, but I doubt the overall impact will be very serious. The Afghanistan War was all about a group of guerillas fighting off a foreign invader in a country that was subsequently taken over by the Taliban. Iraq currently is a civil war between competing interests for control of the country, with a foreign invader/power suck between them. Those are different scenarios, with different consequences.

Also, I fail to see the implications of terrorists who are able to "shoot down copters and denonate tanks." So what? Those are insurgency and war skills. Terrorism is about blowing up buses and flying planes into buildings. I mean, yeah, these developments are really bad for Iraq, the U.S. project in Afghanistan, and the Middle East in general. But the effects are localized. Not much is going to spill over into the West.

Posted by: Korha | Feb 8, 2007 10:24:20 AM

I realize there was a blogroll amnesty day. But everyone screwed up how i get around the blogosphere. I'm used to clicking here from digby, then from here clicking on josh marshall, who no longer has a link here!

Obviously, not a big deal, but I just felt like saying!

Posted by: jambro | Feb 8, 2007 10:49:57 AM

I don't understand the fascination of the military brass with helicopters to begin with. Their liabilities seem painfully obvious, I mean, the most important moving parts of the machine are on the outside of the craft. If it's low enough to the ground an adversary doesn't even need a gun, just a rock and a decent throwing arm.

Posted by: Midwest Product | Feb 8, 2007 10:59:29 AM

Anyone recall, out of the piles of weaponry supplied to the mujahedin in Afghanistan by the CIA, what was most valuable?

The Stingers. Here's why.

The Afghanistan War was all about a group of guerillas fighting off a foreign invader in a country that was subsequently taken over by the Taliban.

No, it wasn't. The Soviet invasion and occupation propped up a puppet Afghan government. The resistance was a loose, baggy entity composed of competing ethnic interests, foreign mujahedin and US materiel. After the Soviets withdrew, most of the foreigners went home, you had four years of ethnic civil war, and then the Taliban made its way through most of the country bringing relative peace and order at the price of Islamic rule.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Feb 8, 2007 11:20:16 AM

Oh, really? Better make sure that doesn't happen in Iraq then!

Posted by: Korha | Feb 8, 2007 11:25:08 AM

Ezra: ...these recruits will have already spent years training against the finest army in the world.

this sentence would have extra clarity and punch if it read:

"these recruits will have already spent years being training by the finest army in the world".

We are training Army, and police forces on how to use our tactics when it is well known that both groups are infiltrated with guys that walk with and behind our troops during the day and shoot against at night. This is almost literally "we have trained the enemy and they are us in tactics".

With Saudi money, the Sunni's are able to afford lots of weapons; with Iranian money, the Shia in the Daiwa militia (Badr Corps) have access to lots of weapons; and with US dollars (the tons of cash the US Federal Reserve shipped to Iraq ministries) Shia Sadr militia are able to buy what they want. And all three indigenous groups have been trained by US personnel, since we really can't tell who we are training.

It is not often that a foreign govenment trains all the sides in a civil war: another imperial innovation brought to the world by the enlightenment of BushCO neo-conservatives.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Feb 8, 2007 11:54:30 AM

Jim Portland OR Think Bush will regard that as an accomplishment of his term of office ? It sounds hysterically funny for something with so tragic implications.
For the fellow who doesn't have his own collection of links available - for whatever reason. Open a del.icio.us account in your own name and you can keep bookmarks online for access from Firefox browser ( install 2.0 ) from Mozilla at no charge for either service.

Posted by: opit | Feb 8, 2007 12:27:23 PM

"Afghanistan; Version 2.0"

Let us pray not. I just spent 15 minutes looking but I forget who posted about Afghanistan and anti-helicopter tactics in great detail this week. Damn, I gotta get organized.

We use helicopters because we don't control the roads. If the enemy can take out helicopters we could be in a very deep world of shit. The Soviets lost thousands of men trying to escape Afghanistan.

People laughed at me when I said we could outright lose this war, not at home, but in Iraq. That Iran could beat us.

This looks organized, escalated, timed, and planned. By the enemy. I am getting scared, not of five years from now, but of five months from now. The political value of destroying the major part of the US Army is incalculable.

I will ake the bet again. Bush/Cheney will not serve out this year.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Feb 8, 2007 12:29:50 PM

Come to think of it, Yahoo's Beta Bookmarks program will allow you to do that without browser changes. Links posted at http://opit.wordpress.com/ Blogroll.

Posted by: opit | Feb 8, 2007 12:31:12 PM

Many think the hassle of impeachment won't fly due to the short term left. I also worry about Afghanistan/Pakistan blowing up out of control. exMI says the Taleban isn't popular in Afghanistan, something I've heard elsewhere, but it wouldn't be the first time the Afghans wiped out an "Expeditionary Force" - though it looks as if the Brits have "lost" that part of their history.

Posted by: opit | Feb 8, 2007 12:39:06 PM

"Many think the hassle of impeachment won't fly due to the short term left"

I, and to be fair, Steve Gilliard, are not talking about impeachment. More like nervous breakdowns, heart attacks, and resignations. Or resignation under pressure. This is not something I am at all cheerful about, because it implies catastrophe.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Feb 8, 2007 1:16:01 PM

I am getting scared, not of five years from now, but of five months from now. The political value of destroying the major part of the US Army is incalculable.

Wait, what? And how?

Posted by: Korha | Feb 8, 2007 1:23:44 PM

The big deal is that it's an effective tactical innovation. Where's that come from? Somebody else's military intelligence service. Because the US certainly isn't training anybody to shoot down helicopters.

My guess, frankly, is the Saudis. We've been really straining our relations with them. It would be an easy way for them to make our life harder without having any real consequences. The Iranians, had they that intel, probably would have used it by now. But it really doesn't matter. What matters is that we're loosing troops and tactical flexibility.

We rely on helicopters for their speed and versatility. It's not that we don't control the roads, it's that choppers can get you places that roads don't go, or go only very indirectly. And between 3-10 times as fast.

The problem with this development (and why it really is a big deal) is that it's not dependent on a scarce, expensive, training-intensive weapon like a shoulder-launched SAM. Shoulder launched missles (not the launchers, they would cost more) cost $5-10K a piece (guessing here), where a machine gun probably costs in the range of fifteen hundred in the midst of a free-for-all arms bazaar like modern Iraq. And ammo is a lot less expensive, and a lot less bulky, which is important when it has to be brought in semi-covertly.

Also, from a tactical point of view, say that you're in an Apache attack helicopter escorting two or three Blackhawks. Say a Blackhawk gets shot down. If it was with a missle, you have an instant target ID from the exhaust trail, and as long as there's only one (they're rare), you can probably shoot it before it can be reloaded. If it's a machine gun, well, you don't know where it is, and it's a lot more likely that there's more of them.

Damn, I hope we can get out soon.

Posted by: chimneyswift | Feb 8, 2007 1:26:21 PM

A terrifying vision of the future indeed--one where Americans can't slaughter the brown people with impunity.

Posted by: RLaing | Feb 8, 2007 1:48:49 PM

"It's not that we don't control the roads"

Mahdi Army Gains Strength ...Tom Lasseter, McClatchey Newspapers

"U.S. Army commanders and enlisted men who are patrolling east Baghdad, which is home to more than half the city's population and the front line of al-Sadr's campaign to drive rival Sunni Muslims from their homes and neighborhoods, said al-Sadr's militias had heavily infiltrated the Iraqi police and army units that they've trained and armed.

"Half of them are JAM. They'll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night," said 1st Lt. Dan Quinn, a platoon leader in the Army's 1st Infantry Division, using the initials of the militia's Arabic name, Jaish al Mahdi. "People (in America) think it's bad, but that we control the city. That's not the way it is. They control it, and they let us drive around. It's hostile territory."

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Feb 8, 2007 2:05:06 PM

chimneyswift - I have to disagree. There is next to no reason this could not be an internal development.

You're pretty smart, I'm sure if you were camped out in Iraq with a rifle being strafed by US helicopters on occasion you'd start to fire back. You'd experiment. As would those around you. As soon as someone "got lucky," everyone else would want to know how and try doing it the same way. First time it may be that you just "got lucky" but eventually it turns out you find a weakness. They've had probably a couple of years of practice now, they're getting good.

Of course, this could just be a pile of faulty maintenance hitting home.

Or it could be the arrival of some serious armor-piercing rifles. Which may just be the "free market" in action or as you say the weapons and tactics may have been supplied by someone. Or the US supplied the weapons (higher powered rifles) and the locals innovate the tactics...

Posted by: Meh | Feb 8, 2007 2:21:05 PM

I believe there's a famous quote that applies here: those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Or something like that.

Posted by: Jake | Feb 8, 2007 4:35:53 PM

A terrifying vision of the future indeed--one where Americans can't slaughter the brown people with impunity.

Indeedy. In the official documents, this is cited as the reason why Iranian nukes are so scray. They don't think the Iranians are going to fire off a missile at Israel or that they'll pass one to Hizbollah; they think Iranian nukes will "limit America's operational options".

Which is Pentagon-speak for not being able to slaughter the darkies with impunity.

Posted by: Phoenician in a time of Romans | Feb 8, 2007 7:03:40 PM

The more of the US Army that doesn't make it out, the more military equipment used and destroyed, and the longer this debacle lasts, the longer it will be until the next war. See, for example, Vietnam. Not such a terrible prospect.

Posted by: faux facsimile | Feb 8, 2007 7:24:39 PM

"The more of the US Army that doesn't make it out, the more military equipment used and destroyed, and the longer this debacle lasts, the longer it will be until the next war. See, for example, Vietnam. Not such a terrible prospect."

Truly, I hope this is satire. Maybe the U.S. should have stayed in Vietnam for another 15 years, and then we wouldn't be in Iraq today! Of course, it's all become so clear to me now.

Posted by: Korha | Feb 8, 2007 8:27:46 PM

If we had stayed in Vietnam for 50 years we still would have lost, and Iraq would still be FUBAR, korha, you dumbass.

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Posted by: judy | Sep 26, 2007 10:52:49 PM

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