Afghanistan: When the Moon Sets, Watch Out

18 September 2012

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Last Friday night, the moon phase left Afghanistan in near total darkness.  Even with clear skies, the enemy knew that at the brightest moment, the moon would only appear as an irrelevant orange sliver.  Such times are called “red illumination,” or “red illum.”  Planning calendars in Afghanistan highlight periods of red illum because they hamper aviation.

Even though this is the year 2012, and the Curiosity Rover is beaming images from Mars more than four decades after astronauts first trod on the lunar surface, the moon phase remains important when planning operations.  The moment that the nighttime attack on Camp Bastion was reported, the moon phase could have been safely guessed without looking up.

In every respect, Southern Afghanistan is a dark part of the world. Without moonlight, most villages are black at night.  The brightest places in the country are our bases.  Cultural lights present little danger to Taliban moving at night.  Our air assets, including our aerostat balloons, are often their biggest concern.

This war is mature.  The enemy knows us, and we know them.  After 11 years, the Taliban realizes that most helicopter traffic ceases during red illum.  Most birds will only fly for urgent MEDEVAC, or for special operations.  The enemy closely observes our air traffic.  Operations slow under red illum, so air traffic declines, and the chances of being spotted by roving aircraft are reduced.

There is a misconception that UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) such as Predators can detect everything.  They cannot.  Their field of vision is like looking through a toilet paper roll.  The UAVs are great for specific targets, such as watching a house, but imagine patrolling.  It is like trying to visually swat mosquitoes using no ears, no sense of touch, and only the ability to look through a toilet paper roll.  You will get some, and miss many.

We only have enough UAVs to cover small splotches of the country, and there are bases, roads, operations, and targets spread throughout Afghanistan and elsewhere that need watching.  The enemy can spoof observers by using a “pattern of life” (POL) for camouflage.  So even if our UAV operators see apparently unarmed natives moving, it is no guarantee of early detection.

Our UAVs over Afghanistan fly with their strobes flashing to avoid collisions.  If a Predator or Reaper crashes into a commercial airliner because it was flying blacked out while staring at the ground, that is a problem.  The enemy can see our UAVs from miles away.

A key realization: the enemy uses cheap night vision gear in the form of cameras that have night functions.  When our IR lasers, our IR strobes, our IR illumination or our IR spotlights are radiating, they can easily be seen using cheap digital cameras.  I recently told this to some Norwegian soldiers, who were as surprised as our soldiers to learn it.  I learned this from the enemy, not from our side.  The Taliban even use smart phone cameras to watch for invisible lasers.  The enemy in Afghanistan has been caught using cameras for night vision.  It is just a stroke of common sense: I have been doing it for eight years since I noticed an IR laser one night in Iraq.

A Norwegian trooper explained that one dark night in Afghanistan, they were ambushed with accurate but distant machinegun fire.  When they turned off their IR strobes, the fire ended.  When they turned the IR strobes back on, the fires resumed.  When they turned them off for good, it was over.

Many of our people believe that the enemy does not use night vision.  There was a time when this was true, but the war has matured and this is now false.  If your firefly is strobing on your helmet, or if you are carrying a cracked IR chemlight, do not be surprised if you take accurate fire during a black night.  When JTACs mark targets with IR lasers, or when aircraft such as Predators lase for Hellfire shots or for target ID, they look like purple or green sunbeams through night vision optics and they are crazy bright.  You cannot miss them.

To maximize chances of success for an assault such as that at Bastion last Friday, the Taliban know that it is best to start early, on a moonless night, just after red illum has begun.  Other Afghans engaged in normal masking movements can provide POL camouflage.  The enemy knows that only “Terry Taliban” is skulking around after midnight, so they start early when possible.

By 7PM last Friday, the night was very dark, and by 8PM, it was thick and black, making it a perfect time to close in on the target.  Camp Bastion would appear lit up like Las Vegas, standing alone, glowing like a giant bubble of light in the “Desert of Death.”  On the darkest nights, the lights of Bastion sometimes reflect orange off the clouds above, and they can be seen for miles around, causing Afghans to ask why the base glows like the morning sun, yet they do not have a drop of electricity.  The days of goodwill and hope are over.

During periods of utter darkness, many of our light-intensifying systems are useless.  There is not enough light for them to work with, which is why many aircraft do not fly during red illum.  This also affects ground troops whose systems likewise do not have enough light to intensify, and it reduces their air cover, and thus all air and ground operations.

Last Friday was dark without infrared spotlights, or IR illumination fired from cannons and mortars. It is not always a good idea to fire those around major airbases.  And besides, the spotlights and illum rounds have limitations and cannot see around contours.  Thermal imagers work during complete darkness but they cannot see into hidden gullies.  Ground surveillance radar (GSR) and other sensors are of limited use, especially when the enemy uses masking POL.  All of these systems work together, and they can be helpful, but they can be foiled through experience and subterfuge, especially when our forces are complacent in the armored cocoons of the mega-bases.

Camp Bastion is set far back in the desert as a security precaution.  Approaches can be seen for miles.  Consulting Google Earth and other imagery might lead you to believe that there is no approach that cannot be observed.  This is true when the air assets are up, and it is true up close whether the aerial surveillance platforms are up or not.  But the desert is not flat like a billiard table.  We all know what water and wind can do to terrain.  The surface is closer to a waffle than to a pancake.

I scouted around Camp Bastion more than six years ago, before the camp was up and running, and since that time I have flown low-level there on many occasions.  Many ripples and folds provide cover from direct observation from the base perimeter.  The micro-terrain might not be obvious from Google Earth or from maps, but there are dead-space approaches that locals can use.  Afghans have long been expert at traveling unseen in what appears to be wide-open territory.  This is one of their strengths, and it has been described in accounts of war after war.  Just as navies can hide in the open seas, Afghans can hide in treeless deserts, unless aircraft or roving patrols detect them.

The Taliban’s major vulnerability is our mastery of the air, but if they can negate it, we are approaching tactical equality because they have home turf advantage, and they have lived there since antiquity.  Local Afghans have had six-years since Bastion was built to map ingress and egress routes, and to probe ISAF defenses and reactions.

This morning, four days after the attack, ISAF HQ in Kabul announced that they had arrested one of the Taliban leaders behind Friday’s attack.  According to ISAF, they nabbed him in Nad ‘Ali district.  This district is a green zone about sixteen miles from Camp Bastion.  Some of the closest built-up areas contiguous to Nad ‘Ali are just a handful of miles away from Camp Bastion.  If the enemy were coming to shoot rockets or mortars at Bastion with the intention of escaping, the hazard would be high, depending on ISAF rules of engagement. But attackers who are prepared for a one-way trip have demonstrated that they can achieve success.

Last Friday, a few hours after sunset, the Taliban struck at about 10PM. They killed two US Marines, one of them a commanding officer, and they wiped out roughly 8 percent of our Harrier jet force.  Harriers are no longer manufactured, so these aircraft cannot be replaced.  Scratch one squadron, and now the military must reallocate aircraft to cover the deficit.

The enemy fooled all of our high-tech gadgetry with training, observation, intelligence, terrain, planning, rehearsal, and audacity, using basic military tactics that were perfected long before anyone reading this was born.  Persistence and luck was also a key factor: the Taliban have attempted similar attacks at different bases in the past with poor results. The Taliban only have to be lucky once. We have to be lucky all of the time.

The Taliban destroyed six jets, damaged two more possibly beyond repair, leaving Marine VMA-211 squadron with only two aircraft, and they killed the squadron commander.

All of this by Taliban who likely never served in any military.  If they did serve, they joined up, they got some good training, and then they put it to use.

Comments   

 
+10 # RE: Afghanistan: When the Moon Sets, Watch OutJason A 2012-09-18 14:25
Good read Yon.
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+6 # but...Jay Price 2012-09-18 14:53
Guys in the towers pretty much everywhere Ive been in Helmand were using thermal imaging as their main surveillance system, even at the tiniest fobs.
They of course also had standard NVGs. But there is surely no question the guys in the towers at as major a base as Bastion/Leather neck had and were using thermal stuff.
Other than good intel, the biggest key to this was the US uniforms worn by the attackers. Clearly they expected to be seen, not just slip in unnoticed. Would be interesting to determine where those came from. Talib have not captured enough US troops for that to be the source, not even close.
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+5 # RE: but...VMI88 2012-09-18 16:43
Quoting Jay Price:

Other than good intel, the biggest key to this was the US uniforms worn by the attackers. Clearly they expected to be seen, not just slip in unnoticed. Would be interesting to determine where those came from. Talib have not captured enough US troops for that to be the source, not even close.

US uniforms are openly for sale at bazaars in Afghanistan. The source is most likely stolen truck shipments that come overland through Pakistan and Central Asia. There are also local copies of US uniforms for sale: not good enough to pass close inspection, but would easily pass at night.
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# RE: RE: but...sardo 2012-09-19 14:54
Quoting VMI88:
Quoting Jay Price:

Other than good intel, the biggest key to this was the US uniforms worn by the attackers. Clearly they expected to be seen, not just slip in unnoticed. Would be interesting to determine where those came from. Talib have not captured enough US troops for that to be the source, not even close.

US uniforms are openly for sale at bazaars in Afghanistan. The source is most likely stolen truck shipments that come overland through Pakistan and Central Asia. There are also local copies of US uniforms for sale: not good enough to pass close inspection, but would easily pass at night.


US uniforms are not shipped there and if locals are selling US uniforms they normally will get confiscated from them.
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+1 # RE: RE: RE: but...VMI88 2012-09-21 11:26
Quoting sardo:

US uniforms are not shipped there and if locals are selling US uniforms they normally will get confiscated from them.

I'm not sure what you mean by "US uniforms are not shipped there". There are warehouses full of uniforms in Afghanistan. And yes, uniforms at the bazaars in or near US military bases may be confiscated but it's a big country and we don't control all of it. I've seen brand new ACUs with the tags still on them for sale within a couple of hundred yards of the main gate to Bagram. And I should also have mentioned that a lot of uniforms end up in the trash to be picked up by local national contractors. Yes, I know they're supposed to be destroyed but a lot of them aren't. I've seen this myself too.
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+1 # RE: RE: RE: RE: but...kris 2012-09-22 12:36
US uniforms are most certainly for sale in Afghanistan. I saw them, and knock offs, for sale in many Kabul bazaars. We bought back tonw of equipment that was stolen while en route through Hijackistan, including quite a few Blue Force Trackers
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# SenhorMacca 2012-09-26 11:02
How do you see uniform at night time ???
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+4 # RE: but...Jason A 2012-09-18 17:27
Of course you don't see it on TV but supply convoys are attacked and abandoned in Pakistan all the time. Much of the equipment is sold in local markets.
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+1 # 03xxBert 2012-09-18 23:10
From hijacked supply trucks coming from Pakistan.
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# RE: but...Bill R. 2012-09-21 03:36
You're correct that they have not captured enough US troops, but they have blown up many convoys in AFPAC through the years. I've seen video of bazaars in Pakistan where American military goods are plentiful and for sale. Uniforms should not be a problem for them.
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# RE: RE: but...Lurker 2012-09-24 04:01
They've got friends outside AFG who can buy surplus/replica stuff. Supply of uniforms isnt an issue one way or another.
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+5 # RE: Afghanistan: When the Moon Sets, Watch OutTravis 2012-09-18 14:59
Great dispatch Michael.
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-9 # PatriotRudy 2012-09-18 15:14
Long for the day when intelligent 'bots' will patrol and destroy these morons.. we're not too far away from having killer 'bots' with surgical precision (see Amy in Red Planet) - then it's sit back and watch the mayhem ensure.
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+31 # RE: PatriotwoodNfish 2012-09-19 01:24
We already have them, they are called drones. They worked real well in this instance, didn't they?

The fact is we have no business "nation buiding" with a bunch of dark ages tribal savages. Western democracy and freedoms are cultural and not transferable. Admitting that would go a long way toward ending this kind of meddlesome stupidity.
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+2 # RE: RE: PatriotRob 2012-09-20 18:25
fact.
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+19 # Sad and FrustratingAmericanJarhead 2012-09-18 15:15
This is a very sad story and very frustrating as well. If we're going to be at war it should be on our "front burner" and not anything like an after thought... Jets can be replaced but Marines (Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell) cannot be. I for one would like to get our of there unless there is some visible evidence that there are signs of growing stability... Guess we should be packing.
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+7 # RE: Sad and FrustratingJason A 2012-09-18 17:31
Totally agree. The human cost - Americans that is - is devastating but you no longer see it discussed on TV or in the news. We should have left, at the very least, right after OBL was killed in Pakistan.
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# Casualties do not make a war wrongCharles, Bath 2012-09-18 20:15
Jason

The US has had approximately 1,988 service people killed in the 11 years since it got involved in Afghanistan.

About the same number of people die every 3 weeks on American roads. Should we abandon the roads?

America lost nearly as many on Omaha beach in 1 day. Should America have withdrawn from D-Day as a result?

The loss of everyone single one of those wonderful men and women in Afghanistan is awful, but the level of casualties should not be over-emphasised.

Above all, America should be asking 'how do we win'?
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# RE: Casualties do not make a war wrongYZ 2012-09-19 03:27
you are comparing apples with oranges.
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+3 # RE: RE: Casualties do not make a war wrongMike in MD 2012-09-19 19:00
No...Charles is comparing dead people to dead people...and his poing is right.
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+8 # RE: Casualties do not make a war wrongJason A 2012-09-19 15:55
Win? What does "win" mean in Afghanistan? When congress passed the Authorization to use Military Force on September 14, 2001 it was to go after those that "planned, authorized, committed or aided" those that attacked us on September 11th. We shouldn't be handing out soccer balls, building schools or roads, or training their police. The Taliban will regain control of Afghanistan as soon as we leave, just as the Mujahdeen retook Afghanistan, with the exception of a few isolated pockets, after the Soviets left.
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+5 # After the Russians Left AfghanistanJack E. Hammond 2012-09-20 04:47
Dear Jason,

Actually the Mujahindeen broke into several groups fighting not only themselves, but the Russian back Afghan government. And the Afghan government forces held out longer than expected. Mainly because of a pro-government militia made up of Tajiks and Herzaries who hate the Pashtuns. Then when the pro Russian Afghan government was defeated a couple of years later they each took turn occupying and shelling Kabul and being the government. Then the Muhahdeen/War Lords went to far and started not only looting but kidnapping young pre-teen boys for sex. That was to much and an unknown one-eyed preacher named Mullah Omar and religious students organized (some say with Pakistan help) to fight the war lords. They were called the Taliban. The Taliban religious students were OK fighters, but just OK. Also there was the tribal thing of not fighting each other and starting a vendetta. Then a certain person by the name of Osama bin Laden got kicked out of Sudan (everyone thought he would go to Saudi Arabia and loose his head, but the Saudi did not want him) and he offered to provide Omar with some Grade A #1 Arab shock troops to enforce discipline in the Taliban army, if he would give refuge to his organization and himself when they were kicked out of Sudan. Omar said "Hell, Yes!" and that was the start that ended with 9/11.

A Pakistani writer published a book name TALIBAN 6 months before 9/11 and many people in various intelligences agencies begged everyone who was a power that be to read it. Especially, the last chapter dealing with al Qaeda and bin Laden. They were ignored. And even today very few Americans who should have read that book.

The #1 book AFTER 9/11 that Americans should read is GOD'S TERRORISTS. It is about the first Taliban established in eastern India before the Great Indian Mutiny in 1857 (they planned and started the Mutiny not a spontaneous act over greased rifle cartridges). The British only partially destroyed them in 1857 -- ie everyone called them "Hindu Fanatics" no knowing they were Muslims. In fact the British government punished one brave British police officer in India for seeing what they were and cracking down on them. The original Taliban left overs, from 1857, made life a hell for the British -- murdering one British Viceroy -- and Hindus and Sikhs. And the British did not know it was them and blamed it on Hindus.

Jack E. Hammond

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+3 # RE: After the Russians Left AfghanistanJason A 2012-09-20 14:22
Got it...so that's what we have to look forward to in a "free" Afghanistan.
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+1 # RE: Casualties do not make a war wrongMichael Martin 2013-03-16 18:01
And what if there's not a way to win? Fighting foreigners is a way of life for these guys. They're willing to fight to the last man. Are we?
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+4 # Re: Sad & FrustratingEd 2012-09-19 01:58
Jarhead, you are right. We owe it to those in harm's way to play hard or to go home. Period.
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# strengths to focus onPeter 2012-09-18 15:15
Michael, a forensic autospsy will tell how a patient dies, but what is really needed is a pre forensic detailization, to tell how to prevent the catastrophic event. How can we win in Afghanistan?
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+7 # For PeterRusski HIC 2012-09-18 19:52
Peter,
Not trying to be flip here, but first, define "winning." Clear objectives are the start. They are not there. They have not been there for many years, if ever they really were. Then, those objectives need to be reachable with resources we are willing to dedicate to the fight. Also not really there in a well-defined sense for many years. After that, perseverance and execution of planning. Both of which are lagging and ebbing as we speak.
Peace.
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+3 # RE: Afghanistan: When the Moon Sets, Watch Outdmw 2012-09-18 15:21
Fascinating read. I wonder if the Taliban get copies of a Moon Phase calendar from a J-2.
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# Hah!John-Capt in ANG 2012-09-18 15:53
Now that's funny right there.
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# RE: RE: Afghanistan: When the Moon Sets, Watch OutLurker 2012-09-24 03:59
Quoting dmw:
Fascinating read. I wonder if the Taliban get copies of a Moon Phase calendar from a J-2.


I think they already know.
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+2 # RE: Afghanistan: When the Moon Sets, Watch OutPat 2012-09-18 15:37
The Taliban are really no different from the Viet Cong. Both wars show the limits of the best available technology of the time. I would think that the wire could have some type of sensor attached to it to indicate a breach. I'm sure the ISI has supplied the Taliban with all sorts of devices.
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+1 # You mention UAV, but really it's PTDSJohn-Capt in ANG 2012-09-18 15:51
You won't find UAVs circling any ISAF HQ/COP/FOB on any typical day. However there are fixed ISR assets which should, and likely did, record the breach. There are countless times the PGSS or PTDS (blimps) catch local crimes or just really stupid insurgents doing dumb things. The insurgents test our perimeters all the time, and these assets also assist QRFs in the vicinity of a base. I know this will be touted as a failure but having been through a few base attacks, and reading the daily intel, I have full confidence in our physical security, ISR and TTPs. There will be a lessons learned, Bastion will get better, and my condolences to the Marine families affected.
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+1 # RE: Afghanistan: When the Moon Sets, Watch OutGtrips07 2012-09-18 16:00
I am not in the military but stumbled on your page from Drudge. What happened to all of the money being spent on lighter than air vehicles? Would they be useful in this instance?
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+2 # IR DetectionDerek 2012-09-18 16:18
I amazed folks at work one day back when I worked for a defense contractor by taking a cheap digital camera and showing how pointing a TV remote at it you can see the IR when you press a button. When asked how I knew this I told them that tech support for Nintendo told me that is how I can check to see if the motion sensing bar on the wii is working. It has two IR outputs on either side and if you can see them shine in the camera then you can it is working.
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+4 # RE: Afghanistan: When the Moon Sets, Watch OutSamIam9 2012-09-18 16:28
Surely our guys after 11 years are also fully aware of the moon cycle/attack correlation? Did they feel invulnerable at this large base and get lax? The base commander has much to answer for as well as the smaller guys in charge of perimeter security.
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+8 # Beware "primitive" enemiesin_awe 2012-09-18 16:46
This reminds me of the war in Serbia where a F117 stealth aircraft was downed by a SAM-3 missile. We were stunned by that - how could a 2nd or 3rd tier military force locate and shootdown a stealth aircraft? The Serbs (using Russian hardware) were unable to find the aircraft on radar (score one for stealth technology). Instead they looked for what wasn't there - interruptions in cell phone signals between cell towers caused by the passage of the jet through signal fields (score one for ingenuity).

The Serbs also found how to listen in on AWACS to fighter radio communications to learn about flight paths and targets.

The US and other 1st tier military forces develop a sense of hubris - "we're smarter and more advanced than these [fill-in a pejorative about the enemy here] - our technology assures our victory." Ask the Germans and Japanese about their secure codes in WWII for example. The world has come a long way since then and it doesn't take a Bletchley Park to achieve a breakthrough that negates a technological advantage. Even if a fighter never attended school he can be shown in 10 minutes how a point and shoot camera can locate the enemy in the dark.

We also need to recognize that many third world fighters get assistance from advisers and sympathizers from first world nations and their surrogates.
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+3 # RE: Beware "primitive" enemiesslhancock 2012-09-18 19:25
I agree totally with your comment. We worked overseas for over 25 years. The military used to be more humble in their attitude, working in various countries, but they began to exhibit a cocky mentality. It always bothered me. I sensed we'd have a day of come-uppance ahead if it was not checked. Let's hope this is the worst that happens...bad enough, really.
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+2 # Beware "primitive" enemiesin_awe 2012-09-19 19:16
I am very concerned with the increased dependency on GPS for navigation and targeting. Do we really think that China, Russia and Iran aren't working overtime on finding ways to disable the GPS systems that are so ubiquitous in our weapons and vehicles? The big guys may attack the satellites, while the little guys will find a way to overwhelm or spoof the faint signals. Then what? Do we still train using something as crude as maps and transits?

The same thing with communications that rely on a "secure internet" system. If they aren't interrupted, are we CERTAIN that enemies haven't found a way to decode the messages and know everything about our tactical positions and plans? With something like 5,000 cyber attacks on US defense sites daily, the law of large numbers predicts some attacks will succeed and find the chinks in our armor.

We should be concerned about "being too smart by a half".
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+1 # RE: Beware "primitive" enemiesMike in MD 2012-09-19 19:18
While your point about the cell towers is probably valid, I doubt it was the source of intel. You second point is much more valid. When I flew out of Aviano AB back in the 90's, there were "tourists" at the end of the runway watching us all take off. I can guarantee you that they were calling on their cell phones passing the word on our side and tail numbers, our weapon loadouts, and they probably knew our names from our voices. Then knew who was where with what all the time.
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+3 # "Prepared for a one-way trip"The Sanity Inspector 2012-09-18 16:49
That's chilling. Those are some hard men, right there...
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+4 # LTC, USMC(Ret)James Owens 2012-09-18 21:13
Were there any listening posts outside the wire? We used to say"The road to hell is paved with the bones of Second Lieutenants who failed to put out security." Michael's fine account doesn't indicate that there was.
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+3 # RE: LTC, USMC(Ret)doramin 2012-09-18 23:06
Nah, too primitive. It would also have been considered to laughably stone-age for OUR side to have spent some of those six years carefully charting out the ravines, gullies and stream beds in the immediate area to determine for ourselves the obvious attack paths. To have suggested that perhaps the Base CO send every qualified man with a rifle to quietly set up ambushes in those places in anticipation of a moonless night would have really invited ridicule.

By the way Mike, have you heard of Douglas A. Wissing's "Funding the Enemy: How U.S. Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban" published earlier this year? It's not quite what you would think from the title. It's all about the same sort of wasteful hubris that stuck us in Viet Nam (my comparison, not the author's) Wissing knows his stuff, and it's pretty damn outrageous. The author does dip into fashionable Amerikka-bashin g now and again but fairly infrequently and not always without cause. It makes for a very discouraging litany of arrogance, ignorance and corruption and you will recognize a good deal of it, I'm afraid to say.
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+3 # RE: RE: LTC, USMC(Ret)Jason A 2012-09-19 16:15
Agreed. It appears that the old "Brilliance in the basics" is just a saying. This was becoming a problem in Iraq as well. Cutting corners, and relying too much on technology is one of our vulnerabilities that is exploited by the enemy.
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+2 # RE: RE: LTC, USMC(Ret)Mike in MD 2012-09-19 19:20
"It would also have been considered to laughably stone-age for OUR side to have spent some of those six years carefully charting out the ravines, gullies and stream beds in the immediate area to determine for ourselves the obvious attack paths."

When I was a 2ndLt back in the early 80's, this is what they taught in basic training...and what we practiced.
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# RE: RE: LTC, USMC(Ret)Michael Martin 2013-03-16 18:15
Quoting Mike in MD:
"It would also have been considered to laughably stone-age for OUR side to have spent some of those six years carefully charting out the ravines, gullies and stream beds in the immediate area to determine for ourselves the obvious attack paths."

When I was a 2ndLt back in the early 80's, this is what they taught in basic training...and what we practiced.


Mike, why don't they teach it anymore? Are we relying too much on technology instead?
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+3 # RE: RE: LTC, USMC(Ret)Jimbo 2012-09-20 13:33
static security, including listening posts, are a drain on manpower. Far easier for us to contract it out and save the warfighters for patrolling, etc.

We don't have enough Soldiers / Marines in AFG. Never have.
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+6 # Lack of AP MinesJack E. Hammond 2012-09-19 03:29
Dear Michael,

I know this is not-PC to say but one of the reasons the attack on Bastion was easier (not impossible just easier) was the US agreeing to go along with the outlawing of AP mines. Imagine trying to approach a defended perimeter with AP mines scattered in front. The reason was the high PR campagin by NGOs from areas where one side -- or both -- scattered small foot poopers willie-nillie with no metallic content. Instead of charting where they were and digging the mine in with a hunk of metal under it. Last the US is responsible for the world problem with cluster munition (right when they got a 100% fool proof fuzing system they out lawed them) it is not responsible for the AP mine problem. Especially if our enemies still use them.


Finally, Yon you are probably unaware, but the British who invented the Harrier, have completely retired all their Harrier carriers -- but one converted to a helicopter carrier -- and Harriers (Just like the Marines AV-8B except no multi-role radar) and had put them in extended life storage. The USMC recently bought all of them for a penance and moved them to Arizona. So the lost of those eight Harriers can fortunately be replaced cheaply.

Jack E. Hammond

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+1 # RE: Lack of AP MinesRudy 2012-09-20 00:18
Used to work at Cherry Point MCAS (2dMAW) - VSTOL RULES!
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+1 # RE: RE: Lack of AP MinesJack E. Hammond 2012-09-20 04:56
Dear Rudy,

Did you deal with AV-8As or AV-8Bs? The British Harriers are better ground attack and CAS air craft than the Marines Harriers, but lack the radar to engage in air to air with radar guided missiles, engage targets at night or search for vessels when patrolling the ocean. I don't know if the Marines are going to leave the British Harriers they bought as dedicated ground attack/CAS missions or take off the nose and fit them with that multi-role radar like the rest of the Marine Harriers? Be interesting to see what decision they make.

Jack E. Hammond

.
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+2 # DagoRed2Chris - Cobra driver 2012-09-19 16:29
Michael, excellent as always, rings shades of Vietnam. What is "Terry Taliban"?
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# Terry TalibanMichael Yon author 2012-09-29 01:17
Chris,

I've heard British Soldiers call them Terry Taliban.
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+3 # Base Security Vietnam/Afghani stanSierra Papa 68-69 2012-09-19 22:22
When will our military leaders learn that when it comes to base security, electronics are great but they don't take the place of men armed with both weapons AND a first hand knowledge of the surrounding terrain? Do our troops rig up trip-flares in gullies and ravines and use slap-flares for local illumination when they think they see or hear movement? These tools may be "old school" but they served us very well on the air bases in Vietnam. Every single guard should have detailed training/knowle dge of the surrounding topography and how the enemy might use it to gain access to the base. OP's and LP's can never be replaced by electronics. Have we learned nothing?
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+2 # An old school fort MoatJack E. Hammond 2012-09-20 02:48
Folks,

I know this is arm chair quarter backing, but when the Marine HQ was bombed in Lebanon, before President Reagan stepped in Admiral Sharp asked why didn't they do something as simple as bury a sewer pipe half way in the entrance road so the truck could not speed in?

To wit, when they established Bastion they had to move a lot of soil to build the runway and fill those blast container walls (for get the name if if like Helio). Why didn't they dig a dry moat around Bastion like the old fortresses of old. And have a fence on the outward facing side of the moat slightly slanting in wards with razor wire on top and filled the moat with razor wire. With fence facing slightly inwards, they can climb it easier but they will be jumping into the razor wire. Then on the other side have thousands of trip flares (better AP mines).

Jack E. Hammond
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+4 # Pakistan/Haqqan iMary Madigan 2012-09-20 16:03
This isn't my comment, it's a comment by "dd_us" on an article in the National Review titled "Was Pakistan behind the Camp Bastion attack?":

"Study the strategies used by the Pakistani Punjabi Army Generals (PPAG) from 1947 to present and you can almost predict their actions today and tomorrow. There is no way the raid on the Camp Bastion base was even possible without the active participation of the PPAG. In fact, the PPAG ordered it.

The attack was not as much in response to the killing of OBL but more as a PPAG's retaliatory response to US recently, formally designating the Pakistan-based Haqqani network as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. This branding of the Haqqani is rightly perceived by the PPAG as branding the PPAG themselves. This is an open secret in the South Asia though many Americans are not even aware of such an important, basic fact...

..The latest attack on the Camp Bastion base was without doubt one of the PPAG retaliatory response to US for declaring the Haqqani (and in turn the PPAG) an FTO.

I will bet my last dollar that the recent attacks on the American embassies and the violent riots in Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Indonesia and Yemen had a PPAG hand (through the Army/ISI) behind them. This is another retaliatory response of the PPAG for the Haqqani/PPAG-FT O (Foreign Terrorist Organization) episode. These international events were simply too well planned, synchronized & coordinated to be spontaneous and the Army/ISI presence there is well known."
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+2 # RE: Afghanistan: When the Moon Sets, Watch OutJoeFromSidney 2012-09-20 16:33
This reminds me of a study a friend of mine at RAND did during the Vietnam war. Same thing. Plot the frequency of VC attacks vs. level of moonlight. Attacks peaked when the moon was down or was new. Don't we ever learn anything?
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+1 # GTHOjohny doe 2012-09-22 16:19
The US should get the hell out there, it's not our country. All it's doing is fighting for the already irreversibly weakened Dolar. The US is bankrupt and the only they can make the money is by causing wars, so they can sell the weaponry and take over the countries.
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# RE: Afghanistan: When the Moon Sets, Watch OutBowery Grenadier 2012-09-24 00:52
My father was into building homebuilt airplanes. His last one used a V6 engine out of a Ford taurus, flew 180 kts and cost at that time about twenty thousand dollars to build. With that same tech why can't we build cheap drones that we could field as flying illuminators like the old Grumman ASW aircraft? Why is a Predator FOURTEEN MILLION DOLLARS when it uses a garrett engine originally designed to compete in price with a Lycoming costing a twentieth as much? We are getting screwed with this high tech stuff.

We can win in Afghanistan if we concentrate on changing the geography with huge draglines, LeTorneau earthmovers and maybe even Operation Plowshare style nukes: and, if we kill all the insurgents like Genghis Khan. I believe that. But we won't. We aren't ruthless enough.
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+3 # RE: Afghanistan: When the Moon Sets, Watch OutPatrick Henry 2012-09-26 12:24
Good information to have on developing tactics here at home when everything collapses and US troops are rolling through the streets
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