Operation Anaconda: Victory and Defeat in Afghanistan, March 2002

 

Operation Anaconda: Victory and Defeat in Afghanistan, March 2002

Operation Anaconda was the largest NATO combat operation since the Bosnian War of 1992-5, and the most complex Special Operations Forces (SOF) mission the United States has ever engaged in, dwarfing smaller but more high profile events such as the Battle for Tora Bora in December 2001 or the Battle of Mogadishu during Operation Gothic Serpent in October 1993.

Defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan would be a hugely complicated multi-domain operation conducted by Central Command (CENTCOM) the American military’s Unified Command responsible for the Middle East. What became known as Operation Enduring Freedom began only days after the September 11 attacks in 2001, the first component of which – involving CIA cash injections and Special Forces deployments – was codenamed Jawbreaker.

A pinprick in the now 19 year long war in Afghanistan, Operation Anaconda, 2 – 19 March 2002, was nevertheless the largest operation of the initial phase of the war. Today the operation has the reputation of a debacle, the result of flawed planning and joint cooperation.[1] Donald Wright, on the other hand, described Anaconda as “an overall success” and General Tommy Franks stated in his memoirs that the operation resulted in “winning a decisive battle”.[2]

 

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10th Mountain Division soldiers in the Shahi Khot valley, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

The two week-long battle for control of the Shahi Khot valley was the point at which, in the military sense, the coalition won the war in Afghanistan. The CIA had correctly identified a major enemy stronghold, and almost the entirety of the coalition forces in Afghanistan were employed to destroy it, demonstrating that not only American SOF and Special Forces, but also multinational conventional forces, could engage and destroy hardened al Qaida fighters on their home ground. The battle was the culmination of an operational concept meant to correct the errors of Tora Bora, by denying the mujahideen in the Shahi Khot the ability to escape.[3]

This post provides the background to Operation Enduring Freedom, and the essential battle narrative of Operation Anaconda, to give the reader the information needed to decide for themselves if the battle, and the war in Afghanistan, had by the end of March 2002 been a success or failure.

 

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Ethnicities map of Afghanistan, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War, (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute Press, 2010) & 1997 Ethnolinguistic map

 

Background: Enduring Freedom

The goal of Operation Enduring Freedom was to liberate Afghanistan, a mountainous Texas-sized country bordering on Iran, Pakistan, and the former Soviet Republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Reflecting the multi-faceted nature of the Global War on Terror, a key objective of Operation Enduring Freedom would be to defeat and destroy al Qaida terrorists inside the country. Operational planning for the invasion began in the weeks immediately following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC, and commenced with the insertion of the first CIA and SOCOM guerillas under codename Jawbreaker on 19 September, the day Bush later chose to designate as the beginning of combat operations in Afghanistan. The president had authorized CIA action against terrorists world-wide, beginning with Afghanistan, two days prior.[4]

 

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Pashtun belt and ring road, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

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1972 economic map of Afghanistan, showing the largely pastoral and agrarian nature of the country, textiles representing the only major industrial activity

 

The operation that developed was in fact a showcase of the new military concept of “transformation” that was a key goal of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. On 20 September during a Pentagon press briefing, Rumsfeld told reporters that the campaign “we’re engaged in is very, very different from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Kosovo, Bosnia…”.[5] On 4 October President Bush announced humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, stating in his remarks that, “this is a unique type or war. It’s a war that is going to require building a broad coalition of nations who will contribute, one way or the other, to make sure that we all win.”[6] On 1 November National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice reinforced these sentiments, stating, “this may be one year, it may be several years, it may be more than one administration…. This is going to take some time.”[7]

 

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President Bush speaking to Chief of Staff Andy Card and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, 12 September 2001,photograph by Eric Draper  & President George W. Bush in the Oval Office with Vice President Dick Cheney, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, 20 September 2001

 

On 7 October under the CENTCOM leadership of General Tommy Franks, Operation Enduring Freedom officially commenced. Within a matter of days there were 110 CIA officers and 316 Special Forces operators in country.[8] On 17 October President Bush told the assembled USAF air personnel at Travis Air Force Base, California, that, “you’re among the first to be deployed in America’s new war against terror and against evil, and I want you to know, America is proud – proud of your deeds, proud of your talents, proud of your service to our country.”[9] By 19 November Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was praising the special operators in Afghanistan, noting that just the day before, the coalition had flown 138 combat sorties and air dropped 39,240 daily rations.[10]

 

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20 September 2001, USAF stages assets for Operation Enduring Freedom, Washington Post archive

 

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), USAF General Richard B. Myers and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld giving a press conference on 9 October 2001., TSGT Jim Varhegyi collection. As early as 18 September Rumsfeld had stated that the War on Terror would require that the US “drain the swamp” the terrorists lived in, referring to the countries harbouring them, and that this effort would require “a distinctly different approach from any war that we have fought before.” On 7 October Rumsfeld and Meyers briefed the press at the Pentagon, announcing air and missile strikes against the Taliban, attacks by 15 bombers (including B2 stealth bombers), 25 naval aircraft, and 50 tomahawk missiles fired from USN and Royal Navy ships and submarines.

 

Airbases

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Coalition airbases at the outset of Operation Enduring Freedom, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War, & 7 October 2001, RAF, RN and USN, USAF airstrikes wipe out Afghanistan’s air defences.

 

Within sixty days the most immediate stages of the mission were complete: both Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, and its second largest city, Kandahar, had fallen to the US-led NATO coalition and the Afghan Northern Alliance (United Front), their fast moving teams of 5th Special Forces Group (SFG) green berets utilizing the coalition’s fearsome airpower to pulverize any opposition.[11] The combination of air support, air supply, and special forces on a large scale enabled a string of victories that effectively put the coalition in control of Afghanistan, and made possible Hamid Karzai’s elevation to head of the interim government, formalized by the UN’s Bonn Agreement of 5 December 2001.

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

18 October 2001, C-17A Globemasters launch from Naval Air Stations (NAS) Sigonella, Italy, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Staff Sergeant Ken Bergmann, USAF collection

 

Karzai was soon inaugurated as Chairman of the interim Governing Council, and just short of three years to the day later he was inaugurated as President under the newly promulgated Afghan constitution.[12] Parliamentary elections were at that time scheduled for the spring of 2005. On 7 November 2001 National Security Advisor Dr. Rice stated, “we are trying very hard to send the message this can’t be a made-in-America solution. This is something that the Afghans themselves are going to have to take on. And I think we are agnostic as to the form that takes… I think we will leave [it] at this point to the UN and to the members of the Afghan community who are trying to get it done.”[13] When Defense Secretary Rumsfeld visited Bagram Air Base on 16 December and met with President Karzai, one of the interim chairman’s aides applauded Rumsfeld’s approach: “The United States has done very well so far… The (American servicemen) who serve with our forces know our culture and respect it… You (are) doing this right,” said the aide favourably of the American effort, in contrast to the heavy-handed Soviet invasion of 1979.[14]

 

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Hamid Karzai posing with ODA 574, one of the 5th Special Forces Group (SFG) teams that acted as the spearhead for the Northern Alliance, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

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Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks taking questions during a Pentagon press briefing, 15 November 2001 & on 6 December Rumsfeld reiterated that the Taliban and al Qaida leadership would be brought to justice.

 

Tora Bora

On 13 November, as the Northern Alliance approached Kabul, the remaining Taliban forces, including bin Laden with the other al Qaida leadership, withdrew with between 700, 1,500 or possibly as many as 3,000 fighters, to Jalalabad, fifty miles from the Pakistan border, and then to their stronghold cave complex in Nangarhar province, the location of Tora Bora in the White Mountains that overlooked the Khyber Pass gateway into Pakistan.[15]

Battle of Tora Bora

Battle of Tora Bora, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War. Unlike the initial two months when 5th SFG green berets had taken charge, the assault on bin Laden’s compound was primarily a JSOC operation.

 

The Taliban had long been supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), who had used Kunduz in the north as a base for training fighters inside Afghanistan. But with the Taliban on the run the Pakistani forces in Afghanistan made a quick departure and President Musharraf promised to work with the coalition to secure the border, although how seriously he took this request is certainly debatable.[16] Musharraf had visited New York on 8 November for the UN General Assembly meeting, where he met with Bush who was grateful for the diplomatic efforts Musharraf had undertaken with Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee. Bush gave his UN address on 10 November, describing the terrorist attacks on September 11 in graphic Straussian terms, a Huntingtonesque international tragedy with the potential to culminate in Tom Clancy-like sum of all fears WMD attack, and demanding justice for the attacks.[17]

 

ENDURING FREEDOMENDURING FREEDOM

HMMWVS deploying “at a forward operating location” from C-17, 20 November 2001, Technical Sergeant Scott Reed, USAF collection & Navy SEALs disembarking from an MC-130E Combat Talon, 16th Special Operations Wing, 22 November 2001, TSGT Scott Reed.

In evidence of the United States’ resolve Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) attempted to infiltrate and capture bin Laden at Tora Bora.[18] This was the largest offensive of the war so far, with NATO and the Northern Alliance successfully clearing Tora Bora between 6 and 17 December.[19] This time the attack was spearheaded by Task Force Dagger, the Delta Force element, and the newly arrived Task Force K-Bar, Navy SEALs and 3rd SFG.[20] These SOCOM forces would enable three Afghan warlords of various competency, Hazarat Ali, Haji Zaman Gamsharik, and Hajji Zahir, to mass and deploy 2,000 fighters, combined with JSOC’s 40 Delta operators, 14 Green Berets, six CIA operatives (who had knowledge of the caves derived from their efforts aiding the mujahideen against the Soviets),[21] a handful of Air Force controllers, and 12 British SBS commandos.

 

 

ENDURING FREEDOMENDURING FREEDOM

2,000 lb Mk84 bombs converted to Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), loaded aboard the rotary launcher on a B-1B Lancer, 5 November 2001, Staff Sergeant Larry A. Simmons collection. & MV MAJ. Bernard F. Fisher unloading JDAMs on 26 October 2001, Staff Sergeant Shane Cuomo, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOMENDURING FREEDOM

JDAMs being loaded aboard B-1B bombers from the 28th Air Expeditionary Wing, 13 November 2001 & 28th Air Expeditionary Wing loading JDAMs onto B-52s, 28 November 2001, both from the collection of Staff Sergeant Shane Cuomo.

The coalition dropped 1,110 JDAMs and laser guided bombs (not to mention 15,000 lb daisy cutters) on the mountain caves but, despite the overwhelming firepower, Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Mohammed Atef, all escaped by fleeing into Pakistan while Taliban leader Mullah Omar went into hiding in the mountainous south-east of the country.[22] Elsewhere, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed fled into Pakistan until captured in March 2003. General Franks, at the time of Tora Bora, had believed that Pakistan would be more diligent in terms of preventing al Qaida from crossing into its territory, and that the Northern Alliance was more united than was in fact the case.[23] Furthermore, Franks himself was under pressure from the DOD and White House to wrap up the war in Afghanistan and deliver a viable Iraq war plan. Franks’ frustration with pacing had gotten to the point where the CENTCOM commander was contemplating intervening directly above Lt. General Paul Mikolashek of Third Army, who, based at Camp Doha, Kuwait, was ostensibly in charge of operations in Afghanistan.[24]

 

Tora Bora

Villagers watch B-52 strikes on 9 December 2001 during the Battle of Tora Bora (6 – 17 December).

 

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Delta Force AFO coordinator Lt. Colonel Pete Blaber (right) author of The Mission, The Men, and Me (2008), with Major Jim “Jimmy” Reese, at the grave of Ahmed Shah Massoud, assassinated by the Taliban on 9 September 2001.

 

Although the propaganda impact of bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora was immense, the strategic situation had changed little: CENTCOM was moving into Phase IV after the New Year, which meant deploying conventional US Army forces to assist with stability operations.[25] The next phase of operations would require a dramatic expansion in air lift, housing and logistics which Franks knew would impose a serious delay on the tempo of operations.[26] Moving to Phase IV was therefore an extremely difficult and escalatory action that would require several weeks to prepare, involving the deployment of conventional US Army assets from the US 10th Mountain Division (CO, Major General Franklin Hagenbeck), and the 101st Airborne Division.

Major General Hagenbeck and the 10th Mountain’s divisional HQ had arrived at the K2 airbase in Uzbekistan on 12 December, at which point it became the campaign’s Combined Land Component Command (CFLCC), represented by Lt. General Paul Mikolashek, US Third Army.[27] The command situation within Afghanistan was complex, all the cooperation between Special Forces and the Afghan warlords now conducted by Joint Special Operations Task Force-North (JSOTF-N), based at K2, and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-South (CJSOTF-S, CO Captain Robert Harward), established in December 2001 at Kandahar.

 

ENDURING FREEDOM 2001

UN Beechcraft B200 flying in to Mazir-e Sharif, 13 December 2001, Staff Sergeant Cecilio Ricardo, USAF collection

 

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Colonel John Mulholland, US Army, CO 5th SFG, and soldiers from the USAF and 10th Mountain Division, meeting with Donald Rumsfeld on 16 December 2001 at Bagram Air Base, Helene C. Stikkel collection. In addition to visiting the troops at Bagram, Rumsfeld met with international and Afghan press.

 

ENDURING FREEDOM 2001

General Dostum’s Northern Alliance troops after capturing Mazar-e Sharif, 15 December 2001, Staff Sergeant Cecilio Ricardo, USAF collection

 

But already the war seemed over, and by 25 January Hagenbeck and Mikolashek were contemplating measures for drawing down.[28] The military mission to liberate Afghanistan had already been achieved within the first hundred days, with humanitarian missions and demobilization now the foremost goal under international leadership. As early as 28 November UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had raised the issue of the estimated 6 – 7.5 million refugees fleeing Afghanistan, an issue President Bush agreed was of major concern.[29]

By December humanitarian assistance to the tune of 127,368 tons of food (the USAF air dropped 2,423,700 ration packets), had been delivered. On the military front the NATO-led coalition estimated that it had killed 250 al Qaida fighters, captured hundreds more, and scattered as many as 800, including the top leadership.[30] The coalition had destroyed 11 training camps and 39 command posts, in addition to liberating the nation’s capital and second largest city, all with the use of fewer than 3,000 US military personnel.[31] By the spring of 2002 the USN and USMC had flown 12,000 sorties, representing 72% of all combat sorties flown during Enduring Freedom.[32] Between 7 October and 23 December, CENTCOM aviation flew 6,500 strike sorties, released 17,500 munitions, and destroyed 400 vehicles and artillery pieces.[33]

 

ENDURING FREEDOM 2001ENDURING FREEDOM 2001

Refugees at the camp in Mazar-e Sherif, collecting aid from Doctors Without Borders, 23 December 2001, Staff Sergeant Cecilio Ricardo, USAF collection

 

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Karsai Bush

President Bush greets Chairman Karzai at the White House on 28 January, photos by Paul Morse and Tina Hager

 

Plans were now underway to introduce civilian stabilization measures, ranging from preparing a new Afghan school system to providing for vaccinations. Bush and Karzai, lauding the achievements of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) thus far, announced a joint New Partnership agreement during Karzai’s visit to the White House on 28 January 2002. Bush praised Karzai, stating that “the United States strongly supports Chairman Karzai’s interim government. And we strongly support the Bonn agreement that provides the Afghan people with a path towards a broadly-based government that protects the human rights of all its citizens.”[34] Karzai in return pledged to make Afghanistan an independent nation, fully backing the “joint struggle against terrorism… We must finish them. We must bring them out of their caves and their hideouts, and we promise we’ll do that.”

 

ASCFrankstestimony

7 February, General Franks testifies to the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Michigan Democrat Carl Levin. Republican Senator John Warner emphasized that the mission was almost complete, and Democratic Senator Landrieu emphasized the success of the Special Operations and Special Forces. General Franks emphasized the utilization of airpower, humanitarian airdrops, and that Afghanistan represented only one front in the broader war on terror, although in that theatre action had been taking place almost non-stop since mid-October.

On new years eve the President appointed Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, former Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University and a ‘90s RAND cold warrior employed by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, as his special enjoy for Afghanistan.[35] In his State of the Union address on 29 January, Bush unveiled the “axis of evil” – clearly indicating that Iraq was the next target in the Global War on Terror.[36] In fact, CENTCOM, in consultation with the Defense Department and the Vice President’s office, had been planning the invasion of Iraq throughout the entire duration of Operation Enduring Freedom.

 

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Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice talking in the White House Red Room, 13 February 2002, photograph by David Bohrer

 

Operation Anaconda 

With hindsight it is clear that the greatest risk to mission success in Afghanistan came from within the Bush administration itself. From the outset the White House had established three essentially conflicting objectives. The first, liberate and sustain a rebuilt Afghanistan, was a mission with a clear objective that was backed by the international community and best reflected the capabilities of the United States. The second, the Global War on Terror, was an ideological mission imposed by Bush and the Republican neocons to justify unilateral anti-terrorist action world wide. Third, the planning for the invasion of Iraq, was an unrelated but long-held objective of the former George H. W. Bush and Ronald Regan cold warriors once again dominant in the White House.[37]

In a C-SPAN interview on 8 January 2002, Donald Rumsfeld was confronted by these conflicting objectives when a caller asked the Defense Secretary to define victory in the War on Terror, and to differentiate between Afghanistan the broader anti-terror mission. While the Secretary was clear that the mission in Afghanistan constituted deposing the Taliban and capturing or killing Taliban and al Qaida senior leaders – requiring in his opinion further effort to destroy the “pockets” of fighters who had not yet surrendered – he was less clear on what the objectives of the War on Terror were, or how it could be concluded.[38] Of course, it is now evident that there was no intention to conclude the War on Terror so long as it could be useful to justify US-led interventions against potential enemy nations, such as the “axis of evil” Bush outlined in his 2002 State of the Union address.

 

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Joint Operations Graphic of the Gardez-Khost corridor

 

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Shahi Khot Valley showing Operation Anaconda area of operations and Takur Ghar peak, & Shahi Khot valley with surrounding mountain ranges.

 

But what about the mission to liberate Afghanistan, and the pockets of Taliban and al Qaida fighters still in the country? At the beginning of 2002 the main al Qaida controlled route out of Afghanistan was through the Shahi Khot valley, bordering on Waziristan, south of Kabul. Late in January 2002 human intelligence provided by the CIA indicated that there was enemy activity south east of Kabul in the Paktia province, focused on the Gardez, Khost and Ghanzi area.[39] On 6 January JSOTF-N received orders to prepare “a sensitive site exploitation (SSE) mission in the Gardez-Khost region”,[40] and on 13 February Lt. General Mikolashek – his staff including the special operations coordinator Lt. Colonel Craig Bishop and Major General Hagenbeck – relocated the CFLCC to Bagram airbase in preparation for the upcoming operation, at which point the flexible and by now very much overtasked 167 staff officers of the 10th Mountain Division HQ became Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) Mountain.[41]

 

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Commander Muhammad Smailzazi, CO Afghan Forces at Gardez, 10 March 2002, AP newsreel archive.

The following three weeks involved extensive reconnaissance, as the mission was organized and the Special Forces ODA teams integrated with their Afghan militia.[42] The CIA had designated a 10 km by 10 km box inside the 60 square mile Shahi Khot valley, 15 miles south of Gardez, that they believed contained the largest number of fighters. These combatants were holding key observation posts on the nearby mountains, and thus were in control of the villages between the mountain pass itself, although they were expected to attempt to retreat once the coalition arrived. By specifically isolating the escape routes the coalition intended to destroy or capture as many of the mujahideen as possible. The plan was worked out by CJTF Mountain and JSOTF-N staffs between 15 and 22 February.[43] Lt. General Mikolashek and Major General Hagenbeck both signed off on the plan, to which CENTCOM commander Tommy Franks also approved.[44]

 

Designated Operation Anaconda, the plan called for the rapid deployment of blocking forces followed by a thorough, possibly weeks-long, sweep of al Qaida and Taliban forces in the Shahi Khot valley. This ultimately took place between between 2 – 19 March and involved more than 2,000 coalition forces, plus several thousand Afghans.[45] The objectives of the operation were fourfold: first, to locate the enemy forces known to be operating in the Shahi Khot; second, while Afghan and Green Berets elements pressured the retreating al Qaida fighters towards the east, to deploy a blocking force, composed of components of the 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain Division, to prevent the enemy’s escape into Pakistan; third, to capture the enemy held mountain overwatch positions by helicopter assault; and fourth, to capture or destroy any high valued targets (HVTs) hopefully in command of the fighters in the valley.[46] This would be the largest and most complex operation of the coalition’s war in Afghanistan since inception.

 

Enemy Forces

Jalaluddin Haqqani was the overall Taliban commander in the southeast, in the ‘90s having been governor of Paktia province, and was an experienced strategist and guerilla who fought the Soviets on numerous occasions, including in the Shahi Khot in December 1987 during Operation Magistral, when Soviet mechanized units and paratroopers forced the route between Gardez and Khost.[47] The local commander was Maulawi Jawad, who had under him Maulawi Saif-ur-Rahman Nasrullah Mansour, the senior fighter actually in the valley. The mujahideen had fled to Pakistan following the defeat of the Taliban in October 2001 but, by February 2002, Jawad had gathered as many as 1,000 fighters and then despatched a picked force to return to Afghanistan through the old mujahideen stronghold in the mountains above the Shahi Khot. American estimates of the number of fighters in the Shahi Khot ranged from the low figure of 150 – 250, to as many as 800 – 1,500 at the upper scale.[48] In fact there were 440 fighters in the valley: Rahman Mansour with 175 Taliban fighters, 190 mujahideen from Uzbekistan and Chechnya under Qari Muhammad Tahir Jan, and 75 Arabs – al Qaidi fighters – from various countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Morocco, Somalia, Jordan and elsewhere.[49]

 

Battlearea

Approximate battle area, centred on Tergul Ghar, “the whale”, the village of Shir Khan Kheyl, and the passes through the mountains to eastward.

 

The mission profile suggested that the CJTF believed the lower figure of only 150 to 200 was accurate, and so it came as quite a surprise when TF Rakkasan landed amidst a valley held by significantly more than double that number of fighters.[50] The Shahi Khot valley, the low “Whale” of Tergul Ghar to the west, and the foreboding Eastern Mountains which flanked the passes to Pakistan, had been well fortified by the mujahideen since the Soviet era.[51] The pashtuns had fought the Russians here in 1981, cutting the supply line between Gardez and Khost.[52] The mujahideen made the Shahi Khot a source of constant irritation for the USSR, ambushing Soviet forces trying to secure the Gardez – Khost roadway on numerous occasions: March 1982, August 1983, November 1984, August 1985, and November 1987. Thus the Shahi Khot, despite numerous Soviet attempts to clear the valley, remained a mujahideen stronghold after the Soviets withdrew in 1988.[53]

 

CJTF Mountain

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Brigadier General Hagenbeck in June 2000, & Lieutenant General Franklin Hagenbeck, photographed in October 2006. CO CJTF Mountain

 

TFMountain

CJTF Mountain, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

The Coalition force selected to carry out Operation Anaconda was representative of the diverse mix of joint elements: a multinational force including soldiers from several Northern Alliance commanders, American Green Berets, CIA operatives, JSOC represented by SEAL Team Six, Delta Force squadrons, Army Rangers, and the USAF’s Combat Controllers, rounded out with Australian SAS, Canadian regulars and TF Rakkasan, the mixed 10th Mountain and 101st Airborne conventional forces.

 

Wiercinski

TF Rakkasan CO, Colonel Frank Wiercinski, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, 12 February 2002.

 

forces

3101st

TF Rakkasan organization, 101st Airborne Division, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

The coalition CJTF Mountain was itself commanded by 10th Mountain Division CO, Major General Hagenbeck. Operation Anaconda drew on elements from every component of CJTF Mountain, creating a confusing web of C2 that was in fact unprecedented in SOCOM history. At least nine nations were involved.

The various SOCOM and conventional Task Force designations were as follows:

TF Sword (aka, TF 11: JSOC), Major General Dell Dailey and USAF Brigadier General Greg Trebon (deputy CO JSOC), their AFO coordinator was Lt. Colonel Pete Blaber, Delta Force.[54]

TF Red (Rangers, CO Tony Thomas).

TF Green (Team Delta)

TF Blue (SEAL Team 6, DEVGRU, Joseph Kernan).

The Army’s Chinook helicopters were from TF Talon (Lt. Colonel James Marye).[55]

The 160th SOAR also provided their 1st and 2nd battalions, Chinooks, for the SOCOM missions, as TF Brown. TF 58 was the USMC designation.

Both Kernan and Thomas had elements in reserve at Bagram and Kandahar in the event an HVT was located and extraction was required on short notice (they also constituted the QRF force), although the flight out to the Shahi Khot at this distance would take at least an hour.[56]

 

Unidentified

Unidentified coalition soldiers boarding a C-17, 14 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

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Afghan National Army training at Gardez.

 

The Special Forces units employed were drawn from the two major commands that had so far run the SOCOM war in Afghanistan:

Joint Special Operations Task Force-North (JSOTF-N), out of the K2 base in Uzbekistan, CO, Colonel John Mulholland, 5th Special Forces Group, with 1st Battalion under Lt. Colonel Chris Haas, plus Delta A Squadron and a smattering of CIA operatives. CO Mulholland committed five SF teams to Anaconda: ODA 542, 563, 571, 574, and 594, plus TF 64, the Australian SAS.[57] This command was also known as Task Force Dagger (Northern).

ODA

 

Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-South (CJSOTF-S, CO Captain Robert Harward) at Kandahar,[58] with a collection of SOF forces including teams from Denmark, France, Germany and Norway, loaned to Anaconda 3rd SFG ODAs 372, 381, 392, 394 and 395.[59] This command was also known as Task Force K-Bar (Southern).

Blaber, Haas, with ODA 510, and the CIA (led by a man named Greg – “Spider”) were installed at Gardez, population 70,000, the capital of Paktia province, where the 50-strong SOCOM operators were variously involved planning, gathering intelligence, and training Zia Loden’s 400 strong Afghan militia contingent.[60]

 

The Plan

Shahikot plan

Coalition approach vectors, showing approach axis (Brass and Copper), and phase lines (Emerald and Ruby), from Leigh Neville, Takur Ghar (2013), p. 17

 

TF K-Bar would conduct the pre-operation reconnaissance, ultimately inserting 21 various teams for this purpose.[61] The TF 11 AFO teams would infiltrate several days in advance and secure the mountaintop observation points, before TF Rakkasan deployed the morning of, what at that time was still scheduled for, 1 March into the eastern Shahi Khot to secure the valley exits.[62]

Task Force Hammer would make the main drive from Gardez to the Shahi Khot, retrieve the AFO elements, and then clear the valley starting with the village of Babulkhel.[63] ODA 372, led by the 34 year old Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stanley Harriman, would lead the mixed SOCOM force, convoying trucks carrying Zia’s Afghan fighters, ranging from 400 to 600 strong, with Zakim Khan (ODA 542, 381) and Kamel Khan (ODA 571, 392) both fielding reserve forces of 400 – 500 each for what was designated Task Force Anvil, that force meant to drive towards the Shahi Khot from the east, ie, from Khost, hopefully encircling the enemy in the valley and enabling TF Hammer to sweep into the valley from the west.[64]

 

Shahikhot

 

The helicopter assault force, Task Force Rakkasan, with the vital objective of securing the “inner ring” of seven blocking positions (BPs),[65] was commanded by Colonel Frank Wiercinski and composed of battalions from the 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain Division. Lt. Colonel Charles Preysler’s 2/187 (2nd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment), and Lt. Colonel Ronald Corkran’s 1/187 (1st Battalion, in reserve at the Shahbaz Air Base, Jacobabad), plus the 10th Mountain Division’s 1/87th (1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment) commanded by Lt. Colonel Paul LaCamera, and lastly attached at Kandahar was the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.[66] For the purposes of Anaconda, the Canadians were attached to CJTF Mountain, while 1/187 was attached to the CFLCC HQ, Lt. General Paul Mikolashek.

TF Rakkasan’s mission was to helicopter into the Shahi Khot and for 2/187 to secure the northern four BPs and 1/87 the southern three BPs. The helicopter assault would be escorted by the 101st Division’s Apaches, the gunships had the responsibility of determining if the LZs were clear or not.[67] Preysler intended to have Captain Frank Baltazar’s C Company secure BPs Betty, Cindy and Diane, leaving BP Amy for the second wave, Captain Kevin Butler’s A Company, at H+11.[68] BP Eve would be taken by Captain Roger Crombie’s 1/87 A Company, while Captain Nelson Kraft’s C Company would take Ginger and Heather.[69] Once these forces were deployed, Wiercinski would insert to small tactical control (TAC) post near BP Heather (on the slopes of the mountain nick-named “the Finger”), with some of Lt. Colonel Corkran’s 1st Battalion HQ, to monitor the situation in the valley in the event the reserves needed to be deployed.[70]

Generals Hagenbeck and Mulholland briefed General Franks by video conference on 26 February, and D-Day was set for 28 February, although this was delayed 48 hours to 2 March due to white-out weather conditions.[71] TF Anvil drove west from Khost on 1 March and established its blocking positions behind the eastern mountains.[72]

 

Reconnaissance, 27 February – 1 March

valley

The Shahi Khot valley, from Pete Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me (2008). Note the imposing snow capped Eastern Mountains, also note the aridity of the terrain: extremely difficult for the recon teams to exploit given the lack of concealment.

A critical component of the plan was to insert three of Lt. Colonel Blaber’s AFO elements to identify and knockout enemy positions covering the valley entrances, prior to the arrival of the main force. Generally successful, the recon teams made difficult hikes into enemy occupied territory and identified key over-watch positions from which to call in air strikes. Intelligence was spotty, but there were believed to be as many as 1,400 civilians and non-combatants in the three villages in the valley, Shir Khan Kheyl (or Serkhankhel), Babol Kheyl (or Babulkhel), and Marzak.[73]

The AFO teams were divided into two Delta Force elements, Juliet and India, and a SEAL element, Mako 31. Once in position these teams would hold their sniper and air controller posts and provide overwatch before TF Hammer and TF Rakkasan arrived at H-Hour (6:30 am) on 2 March.[74] The 1:100,000 maps the operators had been issued for their initial prior environmental reconnaissance had proven insufficiently detailed for the kind of, craggy, snow-covered terrain they were crossing.

 

Insertions

India, Juliet, and Mako 31 routes, from Sean Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die (2005), p. 162

 

Juliet, India, Mako 31

Juliet Team, the northern five-man reconnaissance element led by Delta operators Master Sergeant Kris K. and Bill R., and supported by an Intelligence Support Activity (ISA), Gray Fox operator named Jason, drove in on ATVs, covering twelve kilometers through enemy held territory including the village of Menjawar (Menewar), that they navigated through at midnight.[75] Using JSTARS aircraft surveillance in combination with laptop GPS, the operators made their way north of the valley, designating a minefield and a pair of occupied DShK machine gun positions for the B-1s to strike, enroute to their south facing OP where they arrived between 4:45 – 4:47 am.[76] The Juliet team, from its position looking across the valley, could see the Takur Ghar peak and opposite it enemy positions, including mortar pits, along “the Whale” – the spine of the Tergul Ghar mountain.[77]

As the Juliet team was motoring north into the valley, John B’s SOF (three Delta and one SEAL Team Six operator) and Afghan fighter units were driving a pair of Toyota 4×4 pickup trucks, ferrying India Team, a three-man Delta recon element, and Mako 31, a five-man SEAL team, to their insertion points.[78] The recce elements departed at about 10:15 pm to hike into their positions at the southern end of the Tergul Ghar “Whale” and the north-facing prominence “the Finger” at the western approach to the valley, where they would have clear line of sight both of TF Hammer’s approach and the valley proper.[79] After deploying the recce teams, John B. and the Afghan fighters turned around their two Toyotas and started the drive back to Gardez.[80]

India team, led by “Speedy” and Bob H. (both Delta Force, armed with M4 carbines) and Dan (ISA, carrying an SR25), started their seven kilometer hike alongside Mako 31, following the Zawar Khwar creek, until three kilometers in at which point they turned north towards their OP.[81] The weather was at first poor, with intense sleet and snow, but by 5:22 am they were in position and undiscovered.[82] Speedy made satellite radio contact with Gardez at 9 am on the 28th.[83]

Mako 31, the five-man element, was composed of SEAL operators – three Team Six snipers and a demolitions expert armed with an M4 – plus their AFO, Andy. They started their hike alongside Delta’s India element but then diverted for the 11 km hike to their OP on “the Finger”. The round-about route combined with poor weather delayed the hikers, who had to take a position about a kilometer from their OP before daybreak. Between 5 and 5:15 am on the 28th they reported in to Gardez, informing Blaber, the AFO commander, that they would hunker down until the following night to make for their OP.[84]

The Juliet team, employing their thermal and night optics, spotted numerous mujahideen moving around on Tergul Ghar. Kris called Blaber on their satellite radio and informed him that “the Whale” was infested with enemy positions.[85]

The morning of 28 February India split up and moved into deeper cover as daylight revealed how exposed their OP actually was.[86] Speedy spotted a goat-herd and his flock below their position, but luckily avoided compromising the OP. Mako 31 meanwhile moved into a better position to view the roads heading east into the valley.

The three recce elements deployed telescopic lenses and Nikon handheld cameras to develop their intelligence while the AFOs and ISA operators designated targets for future air strikes. India could see that the TF Hammer approach was clear of mines and the village of Surki at the valley entrance appeared to be deserted.[87]

The two ISA operatives with the Delta teams detected radio and cellphone traffic, and around noon Mako 31 heard sporadic gunfire – presumably training – coming from the direction of Marzak.[88] Juliet by now also had positive IDs on a group of five men armed with AK47s and RPGs who, worryingly, seemed to have detected their ATV tracks and were moving in their direction, although they turned around at the last moment due to an approaching blizzard, and departed the area without discovering the AFO team.[89]

Sometime before the blizzard arrived the CIA employed an Mi-17 helicopter to film the valley, in search of enemy locations.[90] The weather then worsened as the blizzard carpeted the valley. Juliet took advantage of the two-hour long snow storm to booby-trap their ATVs and move camp to a higher position. The operators spotted another four suspected fighters on Tergul Ghar during breaks in the weather.[91] A few hours later they had identified at least several occupied positions: one fighter facing west on the Tergul Ghar ridge, another two in a camouflaged rock shelter nearby, and four more fighters moving between two shelters on the eastern side of the ridge, plus additional positions fifty meters below the ridge.[92] Mako 31 later confirmed these enemy positions.[93] Clearly “the Whale” was both occupied and well defended – knowledge that had thus far gone unnoticed to all of the aerial observations, suggesting the mujahideen’s mastery of camouflage as a cultivated experience from the Soviet war.[94]

India, meanwhile, could also hear the gunfire Mako 31 had reported in the direction of Marzak, although their OP was soon obscured by the weather and they were forced to rely on the ISA communication intercepts, the latter which were eventually relayed to Bagram for aircraft reconnaissance, as well as to the NSA for satellite tasking.[95]

At this time H-Hour was still set for 6:30 on 1 March, but Hagenbeck now made the decision to delay another 24 hours due to the weather.[96] Mako 31, by 2 am on 1 March, had moved to within 250 meters of the peak of “the Finger” the heights south of the valley.[97] Just after dawn Goody despatched his Team Six snipers to the ridgeline, and, after crawling for 500 meters, they spotted a large tent with attached stove pipe, and nearby a tripod mounted DShK machine gun. Mako 31 soon spotted two al Qaida fighters, who Goody at first suspected might be British SAS, a conclusion that was denied when Goody emailed digital photos back to Blaber at Gardez using the team’s laptop and satellite phone interface.[98] The SEAL Team Six officer knew the importance of knocking out the machine gun position, Blaber having briefed him that “the success or failure of your mission will predicate the success or failure of the entire operation”.[99] Blaber informed Hagenbeck of the enemy positions, and authorized Goody to wait until about an hour before H-Hour the next morning, and then knock out the machine gun before calling in an AC-130 gunship strike on the position.[100]

 

Shir Khan

The village of Shir Khan Kheyl from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

While the debate behind the lines was ongoing regarding the mission plan, in the Shahi Khot all the evidence was building towards a significant enemy presence in well concealed and defended positions. India reported three SUVs driving inside Babulkhel, near the valley entrance, and then three horsemen approaching the village. The horsemen were greeted by six men with Kalashnikovs. Speedy and Bob identified two occupied walled compounds in Serkhankhel, and spotted several women and a family, the only unambiguous sighting of civilians by any of the recon teams. Juliet’s view was at first obscured by clouds but as the weather cleared in the afternoon, and they were joined by a high-flying Predator drone, they also spotted armed men in pickup trucks moving around inside Serkhankhel.[101] Jason, the ISA operator, intercepted a call that he believed indicated a “group meeting” was being held that day.[102] Juliet spotted a group of six men carrying rucksacks moving back into Serkhankhel from a position no more than a kilometer from where the Delta team was observing (possibly the patrol that had almost discovered their ATVs before the blizzard).[103] By now both India and Juliet teams had seen enough enemy presence to convince them that the helicopter assault would be heading into a cauldron: the valley was not a series of villages with a hidden al Qaida presence, but in fact a mujahideen stronghold.[104] Familiarization with the conduct of the Soviet war confirmed the truth of this.[105]

Thinking about the implications of this intelligence Jimmy, Blaber’s deputy, went directly to Colonel Joe Smith, Hagenbeck’s chief of staff, and recommended changing the operation plan to better reflect the scale of the enemy presence. “The current plan is not going to work out for you,” Jimmy advised Smith. “I know, Jim,” said Smith, “but it’s too late to do anything about it.” Smith, according to Naylor and Blaber, turned down Jimmy’s request.[106] Hagenbeck, however, did inform Lt. General Mikolashek via video teleconference that there were many new positions they should airstrike before sending in TF Hammer. “Bomb these frickin’ things,” Hagenbeck said, according to Mikolashek. Air Force General Renaurt, Franks’ Director of Operations, again stated that the plan could not be changed at the last minute.[107] As a frustrated Pete Blaber wrote later, summarizing a fundamental truism regarding failed planning processes from time immemorial, “…the mission itself no longer had anything to do with the reality on the ground; the mission was to execute the plan on time.”[108] Ironically, the senior Taliban commander in the valley, Saif Rahman Mansour, was at that time making essentially the same error.[109]

At any rate the AFO teams managed to remain concealed for the remainder of 1 March and when night fell they received air support in the form of Grim 31, an AC-130H gunship, that arrived over the engagement zone at 2:04 am. At 2:55 am the India recce element spotted the headlights of TF Hammer as the main column drove south from Gardez along the muddy Zermat road to its planned staging ground at the Shahi Khot entrance. TF Hammer, with Ziabdullah and Chief Warrant Officer Harriman, ODA 372, in the lead vehicle (a HMMWV), would divide into two convoys: Harriman’s group heading to block the valley entrance north at a terrain feature known as “the Guppy” while the main body continued to the southern entrance known as “the Fishhook”.[110]

trucks

Some of TF Hammer’s trucks and vehicles viewed from their assembly point in Gardez, from Pete Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me (2008)

TF Hammer’s main column was commanded by McHale, Glenn Thomas, and Lt. Colonel Haas, and was composed of 39 or 40 vehicles, mainly pickup and flatbed trucks, consisting of a mix of SF (ODAs 594 and 372), SEALs, AFOs, CIA, Australian SAS, and an engineering squad attached to TF Rakkassan: this mixed coalition force supported 400 Afghan soldiers under Zia Loden and Ziabdullah, together having assembled at Gardez and then, at 11:33 pm on 1 March, commenced the treacherous two hour-long drive south.[111] Two trucks had to be sent back carrying wounded after a pair of vehicles became stuck in the mud and a third overturned.[112] They were already behind schedule, the plan being for TF Hammer to arrive at Phase Line Emerald, 1.5 km west of Tergul Ghar, while the pre-assault air strikes took place (about 5:30 am).

Around midnight meanwhile, Mako 31 was getting ready to move. Goody and Chris, armed with their suppressed SR25s, started to surround the DShK machine gun position while Andy, their AFO, called in P3 Orion and Grim 31 AC-130 coverage. At about 4 am Goody and Chris were spotted by a sentry.[113] With no choice but to attack, Chris and Goody charged towards the enemy tent, but their rifles jammed due to icing.[114] The sentries returned fire with their AK47s. A Chechen fighter charged Chris but was shot after the operator cleared his jam. Several fighters were killed fleeing the tent,[115] while another fighter tried to man the DShK but was shot before he could reach it. Meanwhile Eric was watching for fighters who might be attempting to flank them. Andy informed Chris that Grim 31 was ready to destroy the DShK position once the operators had withdrawn from their danger close positions. Andy received information from the sensor-laden AC-130 that there were at least two more fighters about 75 meters to their north. These fighters were in fact deploying a PKM machine gun, with which they quickly opened fire on Mako 31.[116] As the operators fell back, it was now approximately a quarter after four, the AC-130 gunship hovering above fired its 105 mm cannon, plastering the enemy camp and killing the machine gunners and several other nearby fighters.[117] This action, resulting in the death of the five al Qaida guards in the outpost, was the first combat of the operation, to be followed shortly at 4:44 when Grim 31 carried out a strike ordered by the Juliet AFO against an enemy OP on “the Whale”. These mountain top gunfires generally alerted the mujahideen around the valley that they were under attack from coalition forces.

When they checked the bodies of the enemy fighters they had killed on “the Finger” Mako 31 found evidence indicating that they were Arabic speaking Uzbeks and Chechens. The well serviced DShK position was armed with 2,000 rounds and included an SVD sniper rifle, several AK47s, the PKM automatic rifle, plus seven RPGs for a single launcher.[118] Mako 31 requested Grim 31 do another flyby of “the Finger” to verify there were no more enemy fighters, then phoned in to Blaber that they had terminated the threat, and hunkered down as dawn was breaking to watch TF Rakkasan arrive within the hour.[119]

 

Air Assault, 2 March

H-Hour was set for 6:30 am on 2 March, and was to be preceded by a 55 minute window for air bombardment. 2/187’s infantry would then make the first landing, followed by 1/87, the 10th Mountain troops, while 1/187 was held in reserve. The TF Rakkasan soldiers and officers had been preparing since 16 February, conducting their final rehearsal at Bagram on 28 February.[120] Senior NCOs were making it clear to the picked troopers that this was a combat mission.[121] The assault packaged continued to undergo last minute changes, with the second wave of troops being brought forward to three hours following H-Hour (ie, scheduled to arrive at 9:30 am), instead of the evening as had originally been planned, to provide ample forces for the blocking operation.[122]

 

Screen Shot 2020-05-16 at 5.34.16 PM

TF Rakkasan paratroopers boarding CH-47D helicopters during an exercise in the Shahikot, from Leigh Neville, Takur Ghar (2013), p. 18

 

At half past noon on 1 March the TF Rakkasan commander, Colonel Frank Wiercinski, was in Bagram’s chow tent briefing the 60 helicopter pilots and chief warrant officers (CWO) of TF Talon.[123] The Apaches were drawn from 3rd Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, the “Killer Spades” and were split into three groups of two, tasked with ensuring the LZs on the valley floor were clear. Wiercinski reiterated the importance of the Apaches for providing escort to the Chinook groups: “It will be on my word that we unleash hell,” he said, quoting Gladiator. From the roof of a Humvee Wiercinski gave a speech to the entire assembled battle group of 1,700, quoting from Saint Crispin’s in Henry V.[124]

Early the following morning the Apache pilots boarded their six gunships and were warming them up at 4:37 am for their 5:07 launch time. They would escort the Chinooks in and then take up attack positions in the last minutes before the air strikes started, and then remain on station until 7:35 when they were scheduled to fly the 80 km back to midway fueling station “Texaco” already established between Bagram and Objective Remington.[125] Due to a last minute hydraulic leak in the 30 mm cannon aboard Team 2 Chief Warrant Officer Bob Carr’s Apache, Captain Bill Ryan, commanding the Apache flight, merged Team 3 into Team 2 so that Carr could stop off at the “Texaco” fueling point and make repairs.[126]

 

Route of Task Force Hammer

TF Hammer’s approach to the Shahi Khot, note Phase Line Emerald west of “the Whale” and also the location of the friendly-fire incident on Harriman’s convoy, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War & from Sean Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die (2005), p. 187

 

After Mako 31 was forced to reveal themselves early, and the hydraulic leak in Carr’s Apache, the third major upset of the initial phase of the operation took place: At 5:30 am the AC-130 gunship Grim 31 mistakenly engaged Harriman’s four vehicle lead element. The eight rounds of 105 mm cannon they fired wounded several of the Special Forces, including Harriman himself who was hit in the back by a piece of shrapnel that punctured the door of the Hummer he was a passenger in, also wounding seven others and killing two of Ziabdullah’s fighters.[127] All four of Harriman’s vehicles were destroyed.[128] As soon as this unfortunate fire mission was delivered Grim 31 announced that they were low on fuel and departed, to be replaced on station by a flight of F-15Es.[129] Blaber and Glenn P. in Gardez quickly ordered a ceasefire when it became apparent from the AFO reports from the main TF Hammer column that Grim 31 was engaging Harriman’s northern element.[130] The main column despatched its four vehicle QRF, led by CWO2 Sean Ballard in an armoured SUV and including ODA 372 medic Sergeant First Class Brian Allen, who reached Harriman’s convoy ten minutes later.[131]

 

B05B-4

B-52s flying above the Shahi Khot on 5 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

At 6:30 the pre-planned air strikes started, including a B-1B, a B-52 and the two F-15s already on station.[132] A thermobaric bomb destroyed one of the cave complexes on Juliet’s target list, and the B-1B dropped 6 or 7 JDAMs on “the Whale” – but delays caused when the B-1B’s rotary launcher jammed added to concerns over hitting the AFOs in the valley, with the result that only a few of the designated targets were hit before the air assault commenced.[133] By now the friction of war had dramatically derailed the assault plan.

 

Chinookformation

helicopterassualt

CH-47 Chinooks in formation, with Apache overhead, MH-53 at right, 11 March 2002, & Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters leaving Bagram, 14 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

The initial components of 2/187 battalion in their Chinooks was already on the way south from Bagram. The lead Chinook element was informed by the airborne AWACS “Bossman” that they would need to stop on their way back to retrieve the wounded from Harriman’s convoy.[134] The TF Talon helicopters circled around the valley to the south and then entered from the east. The first and second wave of three Chinooks arrived at their LZ and dropped off their infantry while the Apaches circled over head.[135] Hearing the reports of heavy combat in the Shahi Khot, Hagenbeck made the decision to hold off sending in the second wave of Chinooks until the situation had cooled down. The mujahideen meanwhile rushed in their reinforcements to surround the landing zones.[136]

On the way back to Bagram the Chinooks landed at Harriman’s location and picked up the wounded. At Bagram Harriman was tended to by medics from the 274th Forward Surgical Team, but his wounds were mortal.[137] The TF Hammer QRF departed the accident area, leaving two AFO personnel, John B. and Isaac H., behind to establish an OP, as the sun was rising.[138]

McHale, leading the main TF Hammer column, continued south towards the village of Gwad Kala to the west of “the Whale”, that was expected to be deserted. When he arrived he was met by Thomas and appraised of the situation at the rear of the column, which necessitated unloading several of the forward trucks so they could be sent back to replace breakdowns.[139] McHale was in the process of deploying his Afghan platoon into a nearby wadi when he began to receive mortar fire directed at Gwad Kala from “the Whale”.[140] McHale, with rounds exploding nearby, thought the best option was to get back aboard their trucks and move out. Several of his SF NCOs could see the puffs of smoke on the slope in front of them from enemy mortars firing.[141] Sergeant First Class John Southworth, the designated radio operator for TF Hammer, was able to get in touch with the Apaches to request assistance, but Zia Loden, who was expecting greater air support and had now sustained casualties from the blue-on-blue incident against Harriman’s convoy, refused to attack further. This effectively terminated the TF Hammer mission, although had it actually driven through “the Fishhook” and into the valley it certainly would have taken more casualties from the surrounding ambush positions.[142]

 

lz2

Landing Zone (LZs) and Blocking Positions (BPs) from Sean Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die, p. 228. BPs are only approximate. Note the locations of the AFO teams, Mako 31 & Juliet. India was on the southern tip of “the Whale”.

 

 

Anaconda plan

View of Shahi Khot Valley and concept of operations, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War. Note the seven blocking locations.

 

Apache pilots Hurley and Chenault, meanwhile, were busy attempting to identify and destroy enemy positions on the six kilometer-long ridgeline surmounting “the Whale”.[143] The two Apaches of Team 1 destroyed an eight-man mortar pit and surrounding area with rocket fire, and Chenault spotted tracer fire from a machine gun attempting to engage Hurley.[144] The Team 1 Apache moved back to the northeastern side of “the Whale” searching for a second reported mortar position, while the Team 2 Apache was taking fire from the southern valley. A lucky hit from a machine gun bullet in fact disabled several of the electrical systems associated with navigation and weapons control aboard Hardy and Pebsworth’s Apache, rendering their weapons useless.[145]

 

Apache

Apache gunship on 2 March, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

Shortly after this Hurley, flying the second Team 1 Apache, used his cannon and rockets to engage a four-man RPG team that he had spotted aiming at Chenault’s Apache.[146] After looping around for another pass Hurley and Contant’s helicopter was hit by an RPG, destroying the Apache’s left Hellfire pylon, which had carried three missiles, and in the process wrecking the left rocket pod. Gunfire pelted the helicopter, by now leaking oil and smoking, and at least one round penetrated through the cockpit and became lodged in the console in front of Hurley.[147] Hardy and Pebsworth’s Apache was likewise still taking RPG and machinegun fire, and with their weapons system already disabled they moved into formation with Hurley and Contant’s Apache and together the two damaged helicopters retired to the Texaco waypoint to rearm and repair, although within minutes the loss of transmission fluid forced Hurely to land in a nearby creek bed, Hardy also landing nearby. From there Hardy, the more experienced pilot and technician, swapped pilot’s chairs with Hurley, poured their reserve oil into the badly damaged Apache, and lacking fully functioning navigation instruments, took off again to arrive 26 minutes later at the Texaco fueling point, which was quickly developing into the logistical waypoint for the entire operation.[148]

At 6:15 am Captain Frank Baltazar’s 2/187 C Company, 2nd Platoon, and elements of Lt. Colonel Preysler’s HQ, deployed from their Chinooks in the center of the valley and began securing a perimeter. C Company’s three platoons were spread out around the valley at different LZs, with 3rd Platoon landing at LZ 4 for their march to BP Diane, 1st Platoon landing at LZ 3 for BP Cindy, and 2nd Platoon with all the HQ elements landing at LZ 1. Their immediate objective was to clear a small al Qaida compound that had been identified in recent reconnaissance photographs. All three platoons were taking fire: the 2nd Platoon LZ was fired upon from a machine gun position 400 meters away, actually on a ridge behind the compound.[149] Two of the company’s machine gunners returned fire, supressing a pair of fighters before the position was destroyed by an Apache strike that Preysler had ordered.[150]

As 2nd Platoon was clearing the compound they discovered that it had been recently occupied. The mujahideen, who had fled to the surrounding hillside, had been heavily equipped, their stash containing “several recoilless rifles, [2] 82 mm mortar tubes and rounds, dozens of AK-style assault rifles and RPGs, Dragunov [SVD] sniper rifles, three [or 1?] sets of U.S. PVS-7 night-vision goggles, binoculars, and handheld ICOM radios that Sergeant First Class Anthony Koch, the troops’ platoon sergeant, said ‘were better than ours.’” Other debris included a Nike sports bag originally from Beaverton, Oregon, 50 alarm clocks and an assortment of wrist watches, in addition to a quantity of foreign currency.[151] The compound had six beds, and the fighters who had scrambled out had left behind not only their still brewing tea but also their shoes.[152] The compound was soon taking gunfire from the surrounding hills, and Preysler attempted to call in 120 mm support, but his forward observer discovered that the mortar, at the southern end of the valley with Kraft’s company, had already been engaged.[153]

Preysler decided to set up his HQ just outside the compound and called in Apache helicopter and Predator drone attacks, which quickly combined to silence the enemy who were firing on them from the vicinity of  BP Cindy.[154] At about 7 am Preysler now informed Baltazar that he wanted them to move, with 2nd Platoon, to secure BP Betty to the northeast.[155] This took five hours to accomplish, by which time 1st Platoon had taken BP Cindy and 3rd Platoon BP Diane.

 

compound

The compound 2nd Platoon, C Company, 2/187, was ordered to take near LZ 1, at the northeastern side of the valley, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

2:87A

The situation in the north, 2 March, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

Sergeant First Class Kelly Luman of 3rd Platoon had responsibility for securing BP Diane, the easternmost position on Hill 3033, with Preysler’s Scout Platoon about half a kilometer away. Luman was a hard-charging platoon sergeant who had been promoted to command 3rd Platoon after Lt. Colonel Preysler had removed the lieutenant.[156] Luman’s platoon used M240 fire to eliminate an occupied camouflage position as they advanced towards their BP, reaching it in the snowline before 8:45 am, when they came under, and returned fire against, enemy positions on Hill 3033.[157] This was still going on at 10:30 am when all of Captain Baltazar’s platoons were in their positions, Baltazar, with Preysler and 2nd Platoon having left the compound and established themselves at to the north at BP Betty, before the HQ elements detached from 2nd Platoon to establish BP Amy.[158] By the afternoon, in short, all four northern blocking positions were established, a major success – if the mission had in fact still been primarily a blocking operation.

 

Amy

1/187 Soldiers at BP Amy, the entrance to the Shahi Khot from the north, Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

Just south of the 101st BPs, Captain Roger Crombie’s 1/87 A Company had been planning to land on LZ 5 on the slopes of Takur Ghar, although the Chinook pilots vetoed this choice as too steep, and instead landed south of BP Eve, east of the village of Marzak.[159] A Company’s scouts tracked south towards BP Ginger, while Crombie and 22 men from 1st Platoon moved west towards Eve.[160] Sergeant Reginald Huber used his M203 grenade launcher to kill two shooters, and scatter a group of suspected child soldiers who he spotted hiding in a crevice 100-150 meters away.[161] From his position on the slopes of Takur Ghar Crombie’s force could cover the entire valley, while only being exposed to fire from that mountain’s ridge, 1.8 km to the south.[162] In Marzak Crombie could see a dozen fighters mobilizing and wanted to call down air strikes, but could not get priority over the communications net.[163]

 

South

The situation in the south by mid-day, 2 March, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

C Company’s CO, Captain Nelson Kraft, 1st Lt. Brad Maroyka’s 1st Platoon and Paul LaCamera, the 1/87 battalion commander, all landed at 6:15 am in the first Chinook south of Marzak (LZ 13A), and were immediately reinforced by the second Chinook (LZ 13), carrying the battalion operations officer Major Jay Hall and 1st Lt. Aaron O’Keefe’s 2nd Platoon, plus a single seven-man 120 mm mortar commanded by Sergeant First Class Michael Peterson.[164] The third CH-47, carrying 3rd Platoon, flew to a different LZ two kms distant.[165]

1st Platoon, accompanied by both the battalion and company commanders, was taking fire as soon as it stepped onto the LZ. Within minutes of clearing the LZ Captain Kraft noticed the volume of fire increase dramatically, including RPGs and machine guns from the surrounding valley, and made the decision to drop rucksacks and begin engaging the enemy along the hillsides to their north.[166] 1st Platoon, with Kraft’s company HQ and LaCamera’s TAC team, deployed into a wide depression later coined “Hell’s Halfpipe”, perhaps half a kilometer in advance north of BP Heather. This was close to but vertically separated by a significant drop from where Mako 31 had knocked out the DShK position on “the Finger”.[167]

1st Platoon was soon taking accurate mortar and machine gun fire from Tarkur Ghar to the east, and several American soldiers were wounded when the 120 mm team was hit by the enemy’s 82 mm mortar fire, of which as we have seen there were numerous positions around the valley.[168] 1st Platoon was under constant mortar and even direct artillery fire, Maroyka’s squads sustaining a number of casualties, but also inflicting casualties on the platoon strength enemy on Takur Ghar.[169] 2nd Platoon was still taking automatic rifle and RPG fire near its LZ, but the enemy were suppressed by rocket and cannon fire from one of the orbiting Apaches. Battalion commander LaCamera conferred with Colonel Wiercinski – who was not more than a kilometer away at his outpost (see below) – on the radio, and then ordered Kraft’s C Company to secure the area and establish a defensive perimeter. Kraft in turn ordered O’Keefe’s 2nd Platoon to move up and reinforce 1st Platoon.[170] O’Keefe quickly established a casualty collection station, attended by battalion surgeon Major Thomas Byrne.[171]

India could see the location of one of the mortar crews that was firing on C Company: a machine gun and mortar redoubt that was close to their own position on Tergul Ghar facing “the Fishhook” – the southwestern entrance into the Shahi Khot. The AFO team had in fact called in air strikes against this mortar at 7:10 am, but the target was not destroyed until the Apaches swept “the Whale” at 8:40 am.[172] At 9 am Juliet, in the north, called in a JDAM strike against a squad of six fighters they spotted approaching Major Preysler’s battalion HQ about a kilometer distant from the compound at BP Betty.[173]

From his position at the south of the valley, where most of the fighting was taking place, Captain Kraft radioed Maroyka at 1st Platoon and ordered him to continue moving north, towards BP Heather, with the 120 mm mortar in support.[174]

At about this time, the Apache piloted by Chenault and Herman fired a Hellfire missile, destroying an al Qaida cave that had been identified by Preysler’s 2/187 battalion.[175] Pilots Ryan and Kilburn at this time were attacking a position north of BP Ginger with 30 mm canon fire when their canopy was raked by gunfire, bullets narrowly missing Ryan’s head.[176] The three remaining Apaches were at the end of their endurance, and at 7:50 am they retired to the Texaco fueling point to reequip.[177]

 

Raktak

TF Rakkasan snipers and air controllers on top of the TAC ridge, south of Objective Remington, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

TF Rakkasan commander Wiercinski and Lt. Colonel Corkran, who were orbiting the area in their C2 Blackhawks, now deployed to their pre-selected position on “the Finger” with views of the entire valley. Wiercinski’s Blackhawk took RPG and AK fire while trying to land,[178] but both helicopters unloaded their high-value passengers successfully onto the position that became known as the TAC ridge, after Wiercinski’s tactical command post, in fact overlooking Captain Kraft’s C Company position.[179] From the ridge 1st Lt. Justin Overbaugh, scout platoon leader, established a sniper and air control position from which they attempted to engage an enemy squad several hundred meters to their north. Wiercinski called in a JDAM strike that missed the target, and a follow-up Apache strike succeeded only in suppressing them.[180] The enemy squad was composed of nine men, who seemed oblivious to the coalition HQ they were walking south towards, and as such they were quickly eliminated by Corkran’s scouts when they got close enough.[181] It was now that Mako 31 scrambled down from the DShK location that they had knocked out and joined the TAC ridge HQ group.[182] This 11-man headquarters unit was now in the process of coordinating air strikes around the valley when it was put under accurate fire by mortars and automatic rifles. Panama veteran Wiercinski had James Murray, coordinating air operations from the orbiting Blackhawks, deliver F-16 strikes that quickly wiped out the nearby mujahideen firebase.[183]

It was now at 9:30 am, and Captain Kraft’s C Company, still missing most of its equipped from when they had dropped their rucksacks at the LZ, was heavily engaged by machine gun fire, the blocking position now a funnel through which al Qaida escaping the north were rushing.[184] After 10:00 am Technical Sergeant McCabe, who was LaCamera’s battalion terminal attack coordinator, arranged a B-52 strike from “Blade” that delivered 24 Mark 82 500 lb bombs on positions at the base of Takur Ghar.[185] This fearsome display of airpower boosted morale, but was dangerous given the proximity to friendly soldiers. By noon C Company had sustained dozens of casualties, at least 20, mostly from the accurate 82 mm mortar fire they had received from Takur Ghar, and  by this time was also running low on ammunition and gun lubricants.[186] At 3 pm LaCamera’s HQ group itself was hit, wounding Hall, their command sergeant major, the fire support officer (FSO), and several others.[187]

Given the intensity of the firefight in the valley below him, Wiercinski, after consulting with LaCamera, made the difficult decision to delay medivac flights until nightfall. Wiercinski also called in a reserve Apache from Kandahar, in fact the last immediately operational Apache in country other than Bob Carr’s, whose 30 mm hydraulics had been fixed within 45 minutes at Bagram.[188] An hour later two of the damaged Apaches had been suitably repaired, giving Wiercinski a total of four operational helicopters. Chenault was the first back on station. Later in the day all the Apaches were sent back to Bagram to re-arm and repair.[189]

Back at Bagram General Hagenbeck was making the decision to pull LaCamera, along with Kraft’s company, out of the south so that they could re-organize in the north where the situation was more stable.[190] In the north Captain Baltazar’s C Company was in good condition and Captain Crombie’s A Company had been only lightly engaged by about a dozen fighters, encountering only sporadic guerilla targets.[191] TF Hammer, however, clearly was not going to reach the Shahi Khot on schedule, and there were still many fighters offering staunch resistance in the valley. Hagenbeck intended to bomb Marzak itself, which seemed to be the source of the Taliban fighters, but was also vacillating on whether or not to commit the second wave of Chinooks, carrying the rest of TF Rakkasan.

The TF Hammer approach was indeed completely stalled. As the morning continued that mixed column withdrew to the village of Carwazi and deployed its own mortars to begin engaging the enemy positions on Tergul Ghar.[192] McHale and Haas were weary about advancing any further given the accurate fire they were taking from “the Whale” and the lack of a clear understanding about the situation in the valley also weighed against being too aggressive with their tenuous Afghan force. An F-15E and a French Mirage attempted to support TF Hammer, but more air support could not be supplied given the divided air support priorities between the AFO teams, TF Rakkasan, and TF Hammer.[193] That afternoon the mujahideen started shooting their Soviet 122 mm howitzers alongside recoilless rifles at TF Hammer, further dissuading the convoy from approaching the valley.[194] As the convoy was pulled back to avoid the incoming fire one truck was damaged beyond repair, and mortar fire hit a small group of Afghans, killing one fighter and wounding three badly amongst several others. The CIA operative “Spider” attached to the convoy called in an Mi-17 helicopter to medevac the badly wounded.[195] Although Zia Lodin initially wanted to continue the attack, by 2:30 pm the demoralized Afghan decided discretion was the better part of valour, and the entire force presently returned to Gardez.[196]

 

F5F4F3F02

Video of airstrikes by F-14s and F-16s released by the Pentagon from 3 March raids, AP newsreel archive.

 

To the planners back in Bagram events in the valley seemed to be spiraling out of control. Major General Hagenbeck, in a satellite telephone discussion with Wiercinski at 3:27 pm, was on the verge of calling off the operation all together and pulling out that night.[197] Blaber and Jimmy opposed this option, noting that the AFOs were still coordinating air strikes around the valley, and were scheduled to be resupplied by airdrop that night.[198] Hagenbeck and Wiercinski ultimately decided to send in the second wave of Chinooks, marshal their forces in the north, and then sweep the valley as initially planned, before extracting the 1/87 force in the south that night.[199] Wiercinski was adamant that LaCamera and C Company be pulled out and reformed at Bagram.[200] The TF Rakkasan commander communicated this decision to the 2/187 CO, Preysler, who was north with Baltazar’s C Company at BP Betty.[201]

In a frustration for LaCamera his second wave of three chinooks, with Kraft’s 3rd Platoon and every 60 mm mortar in the battalion aboard, was unable to land in the south during the afternoon due to protracted gunfire from the concentrated fighters below.[202] At 6 pm however Preysler’s A Company, plus an attached 60 mm platoon, arrived at LZ 15 in the north near BP Betty where the rest of C Company 2/187 and Helberg’s 1/87 Scout Platoon were assembled to spend the freezing night.[203]

Night fell after 6 pm, and with AC-130 gunships on station pulverising the DShK positions as they were identified, the level of enemy fire dropped so that by 7 pm LaCamera was able to call in a MEDEVAC from two HH-60 Pavehawks to retrieve 14 of his more than two dozen wounded.[204] Captain Kraft sent 1st and 2nd Platoons to retrieve their rucksacks, so that when the TF Talon Chinooks arrived the entire 1/87 force could be quickly loaded and extracted, which took place around midnight, the same time Captain Kevin Butler and 2/187’s A Company (with his 60 mm mortar section) was landing in the north of the valley, six hours behind schedule, and deploying to secure BP Amy.[205] For its part, LaCamera’s 1/87 infantry had sustained 26 casualties, none of which were mortal. At about 10:15 pm India coordinated a B-52 strike that dropped a string of JDAMs on an enemy casualty collection point.[206] Wiercinski, taking advantage of the cover of night, conducted some final business and then extracted his TAC HQ position by Chinook around 3:30 am, minus the SEALs in Mako 31 who, resupplied, departed to join up with India on “the Whale”.[207] Around 6 am a B-52 strike, authorized by Hagenbeck, bombed locations in Marzak, the village suspected of being the primary Taliban stronghold.[208]

 

Takur Ghar, 3 – 4 March

interior3interior19interior13interior11interoir2

AP newsreels, describing situation in Gardez, 3 March 2002, and showing airstrikes on the Shahi Khot.

The morning of 3 March was hazy, giving both sides a chance to recuperate somewhat from the intense fighting the previous day. At Gardez Blaber, who along with “Spider” and Chris Haas, was planning how to get Zia Lodin’s Afghan force back to the valley, was now joined by two fresh Team Six SEAL elements from Captain Joe Kernan’s TF Blue, Mako 30 and Mako 21 (and a ISA operator known as “Thor”) under the command of Lt. Commander Vic Hyder with orders from Brigadier General Trebon at TF 11 to insert as soon as possible.[209] Earlier that morning at 2:25 another SEAL element, Mako 22, had already inserted by MH-47 several kilometers south of India, as their replacement.[210] Trebon, the JSOC deputy, was taking charge of the AFO elements, but Lt. Colonel Blaber, the Delta AFO coordinator, was not satisfied that this was either prudent or necessary, given both the preparation that the AFO teams already in valley had taken and considering the risk of sending even more exposed transport helicopters into the Shahi Khot.[211]

Upon arrival at Tergul Ghar Mako 22 discovered not only that they were missing key equipment (they had to use some of India’s gear) but also that the airstrikes they were tasked with calling in on mortar positions in Babulkhel and on “the Whale” were greatly delayed by the confused situation in the valley. The resupplied Juliet team continued to coordinate airstrikes, including a highly accurate B-52 JDAM strike that obliterated an enemy bunker on “the Whale” at 6:04 pm, and another around 6:30 that destroyed a mortar position identified on Hill 3033, actions that were complimented by CIA Predator drone strikes on enemy locations at Zerki Kale.[212] After sunset India turned over their position to Mako 22, and, joined by Mako 31, both teams walked southwest to an arranged exfiltration point where they were met by Captain John B. and Sergeant Major Al Y., who retrieved the two AFO elements with their small three-vehicle convoy.[213]

airstrike03airstrike02airstrike07

airstrike08airstrike05

3 March 2002 AP newsreel on coalition leaflets dropped around Shahi Khot, interrupted when B-52 strikes take place. Villagers described extensive multi-day bombing and civilian deaths.

 

In the north Preysler’s men, joined by Butler’s A Company at about 8 am, had slowly made their way to LZ 15, while Crombie’s A Company 1/87 crossed the original al Qaida compound that Preysler had cleared the day before, ominously encountering sporadic enemy resistance including 57 mm recoilless rifle, mortar, DShK and RPG fire in the process.[214] Crombie’s men dropped their rucksacks at the compound and headed north.[215] Preysler’s force at LZ 15 was under fire from several 82 mm mortars that had appeared on “the Whale” – so far managing to avoid the F-15 strikes called against them – although Butler’s 60 mm section believed they had knocked out one mortar position, while 2/187’s scout-snipers went into action against another.[216] Although the enemy’s fire had in some cases been highly accurate, focused primarily on Lt. Jack Luman’s 3rd Platoon, by 10:30 am none of Baltazar’s platoons had yet sustained any serious casualties, but, with LaCamera’s men pulled out of the south the night before, the enemy could now concentrate all their effort against the north, and intense gun and mortar fire continued all day of the 3rd. “This was a coordinated ambush that we walked into,” Captain Crombie recalled.[217]

Lt. Colonel Corkran, still at Bagram, was also ordered to deploy the 1/187, to the north of the valley around noon, near Juliet’s position, and to start moving south to clear the enemy’s cave entrenchments, in the process retrieving the friendly blocking forces before rendezvousing with Preysler’s 2/187 units (there would now be four different company HQs around LZ 15) and then conduct a unified sweep south.[218] Corkran embarked his mixed units, including Captain Patrick Aspland’s C Company, plus 3rd Platoon from D Company, Captain Chris Cornell’s B Company, 1/87, the battalion Scout Platoon, and a Canadian sniper team. This powerful force was aboard their Chinooks and underway to LZ 15 at 12 pm.[219] Due to the gunfire on their LZ, Corkran’s main force was unable to land and, with fuel low, was redirected back to Bagram: Corkran was not able to get into the LZ until 8 pm, by which time Wiercinski had redeployed to LZ 15.[220] The CH-47 carrying Cornell’s B Company HQ, parts of C Company 1/187, and the 1/187 engineer platoon, however, did not receive these notifications and landed despite the enemy fire at approximately 3:10 pm, Cornell presently joining with Preysler’s units in the reaction to contact firefight that was developing in the north of the valley.[221]

 

Mako 21 & Mako 30

The two SEAL teams that had joined Blaber at Gardez had different objectives. Both teams would be flown in by 160th SOAR Chinooks: Mako 21 was to insert near Juliet team, locate them, and deliver resupply to keep the Delta AFO in operation,[222] while Mako 30 was tasked with inserting at LZ 1 near Takur Ghar, hiking for four hours up the mountain, and then establishing an OP.[223] Around 10 pm, when Blaber and the other SOCOM leaders were preparing for their next TF Hammer attempt (“Operation Payback” – an attempt to insert ODA 394 plus the Afghans at the valley’s northern entrance, known as “the Guppy”),[224] the SEAL commander Vic suggested to Blaber that they change Mako 30’s insertion point to the peak of Takur Ghar itself. This was a risky decision, given that it was well known by now that the mujihadeen were emplaced on and around Takur Ghar. Blaber, although he recognized the importance of the target, stressed that this was impossible to do that night.[225]

The two 160th SOAR Chinooks, Razor 03 and Razor 04, designated to carry the SEAL teams arrived at Gardez at 11:23 pm, picked up Mako 30 and 21, and departed for the Shahi Khot. Their arrival was delayed first by lack of AC-130 coverage and then by ongoing B-52 strikes.[226] The flights returned to Gardez. An engine problem aboard Razor 03 now delayed their launching while replacement helicopters were flown in from Bagram,[227] which meant that Mako 30 would not have enough time to climb to the Takur Ghar summit in the darkness before dawn.[228]

Razor 03, the MH-47E Chinook now carrying Mako 30, was piloted by Chief Warrant Officer Al Mack, 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR).[229] Mako 30 was primarily a SEAL Team Six unit, composed of six SEALs, one Air Force Combat Controller from the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron, and the ISA operator “Thor”.[230] Mako 30’s Team Leader was Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Britt K. “Slab” Slabinski. Slabinski’s point man was Randy, and they were joined by SEALs named Kyle, Brett, and Turbo, plus the M249 gunner who was Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil C. “Robby” Roberts. The attached USAF Air Combat Controller and radio operator was Technical Sergeant John “Chappy” Chapman.[231]

Slabinski, the Team Leader of Mako 30, was worried the delays would mean a daylight landing. His superior, Vic, called General Trebon (TF 11) at Bagram to request a 24 hour delay, pointing out that they could not possibly insert before 2:45 or 3 am.[232] While not ordering the mission to continue, Trebon strongly recommended that the target was important enough to be worth the risk of going ahead immediately.[233] Vic and Slab conferred with the Razor 03 pilot Al Mack, who had not seen imagery of the Takur Ghar ridge, although Vic and Slabinksi had both seen the AFO reconnaissance photographs of the peak. Mack was willing to try to land the team directly on the summit.[234]

An AC-130U, codenamed Nail 22, was covering the valley at this time. Al Mack requested that Nail 22 sweep the LZ (ie, the peak of Takur Ghar), to which the report was negative, no IR contacts.[235] Slabinski later said he thought the Nail 22 guys were bullshitting Mack: the confirmation had come back too quickly – worse, the AC-130 reported that it was supporting the troops in the valley, so could not maintain its focus on the summit. These cumulative red flags by this point seriously concerned Slab regarding the success of the mission, but he and Al Mack ultimately decided to proceed anyway.[236]

Razor 03 and 04 had refueled at the Texaco waypoint before heading for their landing zones at 2:30 am, now a moonlit 4 March. Mako 30 was thus approaching the snow covered peak of Takur Ghar at 3 am.[237] Approaching the 10,200 foot ridge the SEALs and Chinook pilot, through their night vision goggles (NVGs) could see the footprints of what they presumed to be Afghan goatherds in the snow.[238] The starboard ramp M60 gunner, Distinguished Flying Cross winner Sergeant Dan Madden, saw trenches criss-crossing the ridge. Over the Chinook’s internal ICS network Madden informed Mack.[239] As Mack flared the Chinook for landing a plume of snow was blown up around them, and it was at this moment that he spotted what he clearly identified as a DShK machine gun position facing away from them on the ridge. He reported this to Slab, mistakenly assuming the weapon was derelict from the Soviet war.[240]

As the Chinook was resting with its nose slightly uphill Madden, the rear right ramp gunner, spotted chickens and then a donkey slightly away from them and tied to a tree line.[241] Slab’s point man, Randy, augmented this report when he observed “goats hanging in a tree” – fresh meat, clear evidence that the LZ was occupied. A second later the left door gunner, Jeremy Curran, spotted a person, stating over the radionet that a “guy just popped his head up.”[242]

The Chinook pilot Mack was incredulous, so he ordered the gunners to hold since they were not yet taking fire. Slabinski at this point was convinced they were in an enemy occupied LZ, but Mack was not certain – the guys on the mountain could be anybody. Slab was ready to go. Madden called out to Mack, “We’ve been on the ground fifteen seconds already. Am I ramp-clear down?”[243]

“Yeah, ramp’s clear,” replied Mack. Madden started lowering the ramp. Curran again reported that he’d spotted somebody.[244] Suddenly machine gun fire was coming in along the rear of the helicopter. In the cockpit Mack remembered looking through the windscreen when he saw the first guy pop up and fire an RPG at them. The RPG penetrated the helicopter’s electrical pod, missed the fuel tank, but punched through the left minigunner’s magazine before exploding inside the helicopter. Mike Nutall, the right door gunner, was stunned and Jeremy Curran, the left door gunner, had the wind knocked out of him by the impact.[245] A second RPG at this point struck the helicopter’s right-side radar pod.

These two impacts instantly blinded and disarmed the Chinook, which, without AC electrical power, could not arm the miniguns or power the GPS navigation system or the CRT displays in the cockpit.[246] The intercom, however, used DC power and still functioned. Mack saw a third RPG explode in the snow in front of the aircraft, showering the windscreen in shrapnel, and he believed a fourth struck their starboard turbine engine.[247] Someone on the ridge was firing machine guns at them as bullets pierced the Chinook’s skin and significantly impacted the rotor transmission, cutting the hydraulic line and spraying the interior with hydraulic fluid, threatening to disable the aircraft entirely.[248] Luckily for the crew and occupants, now flat on their stomachs, the angle of the Chinook’s landing meant that the mujahideen’s fire was directed generally above them.

Al Mack wanted to know if Slabinski’s team was going or had already jumped. Madden, the starboard ramp M60 gunner, who had actually been hit twice by deflected AK47 bullets on his non-ballistic proof helmet, at this point shouted either “we’re hit, we’re taking fire, pick it up” or “fire in the cabin,” concluding with, “Go! Go! Go!”.[249] Madden tried to raise the ramp, but without hydraulic pressure the controls did not respond, so instead he grabbed his tethered M60 and started firing along the treeline, using the donkey they had spotted earlier as a reference point.[250]

Mack, however, was already lifting off and it was now that Neil Roberts, Mako 30’s M249 gunner, fell down the ramp. Madden saw the portside M60 gunner, Alexander “Prod” Pedrossa, trying to grab Roberts by the ruck handle, and Madden himself managed to catch Roberts by the boot, but the fully equipped SEAL weighed at least 300 lbs, and since he was not wearing a safety harness, nothing could stop his fall as the helicopter lifted off.[251] Roberts fell ten feet and landed on his back in the snow in the middle of the firefight on the mountaintop. Prod, strapped into the Chinook, was dangling from his tether as Madden pulled him back aboard, although Prod had ripped his M60 from its socket in the process.

 

roberts

Neil Roberts

“We lost one,” Madden shouted into his mic, “we got a man on the ground.” Mack and his co-pilot were convinced Madden was talking about a lost engine, which they suspected had been struck by an RPG, although Madden could hear that both engines had power.[252] What Madden could not hear was anything from the door gunners, Nutall and Curran, who he assumed had been killed. Mack wanted to know why the guns were not firing, to which Madden replied, “the miniguns are down. I got a 60. That’s all we got.”[253]

“There’s a guy on the LZ” Madden repeated. “What?” What did you say?” asked Mack. Madden repeated himself, adding that “one of the team guys is on the LZ.” Mack knew he had to go back. Curran clipped in over the net, wanting to know what was happening. Mack told him they were going back to get Roberts, despite the miniguns being out. The crew were ready to go when Mack realized he had lost control of the helicopter.[254] “I can’t move the controls” he reported, and then asked Madden to double check the hydraulic pressure. Madden reported again that the pressure was zero.[255] Madden saved their lives at this point by opening one of the spare cans of fluid kept near his station and pouring it into the auxiliary hydraulic fluid port.[256]

In the cockpit Mack felt his controls return. He circled the helicopter around the LZ, but feeling the controls going again he reported that he had “lost flight control” and was aborting the rescue.[257] Machine gun fire was hitting them again from the LZ, tracers flying through the night sky. Looking down at the ridge Madden was certain he could see the flashes from an M249, confirming in his mind that Roberts, 32, known as “Fifi” a 12 year SEAL veteran and graduate of BUD/S Class 184, was alive.

The Chinook limped four miles northward, down from the ridge, right over-top of Captain Butler’s HQ, before exhausting its supply or reserve hydraulic fluid (Madden pumped in all four of their spare cans),[258] and then crash landed at 2:58 am about 700 meters from Wiercinski and Preysler’s LZ 15 HQ, also relatively close to Juliet’s location.[259] Madden sustained fractures on two ribs and four vertebrae. Mack and his co-pilot exited the vehicle in shock while the remainder of the Mako 30 team grouped up on the ground. Mack asked Slab how many of his men had fallen out, but Slab had only seen Roberts fall.[260]

 

remainsRazor03
The remains of Razor 03, from Leigh Neville, Takur Ghar (2013), p. 39

 

Slabinski had Chapman set up his radio and try to get in contact with a rescue party. Chapman was soon in contact with Grim 32 (piloted by Air Force Major Daniel “DJ” Turner) and Grim 33, the two AC-130Hs that were now on station. Chapman tried to contact Roberts on his interteam radio but it was out of range, so Chapman asked Grim 32 to scan the peak and determine if Roberts was alive. Chapman soon found himself in contact directly with General Trebon, who wanted to know what the situation was.[261]

Mack’s wingman, Chief Warrant Officer Jason Friel flying Razor 04, who had delivered Mako 21 to their insert near Juliet’s position at 2:38,[262] was quickly rerouted, thanks to information provided by one of the orbiting AC-130 pilots, to pick up the stranded crew whose position he arrived at 30-45 minutes later.[263] Slabinski now radioed Blaber who, having departed Gardez at 2:20 am, had just arrived with the rest of the reconstituted TF Hammer at the northern Shahi Khot entrance (“the Guppy”) and informed him of the helicopter crash.[264]

Initially Friel and Mack planned to leave the Razor 03 crew behind and fly back up to Takur Ghar, with Mako 30, to rescue Roberts, before returning to the Razor 03 crash site and retrieving Mack’s crew, with the entire group then exfiltrating.[265] Meanwhile Chapman (and Blaber) coordinated with Grim 32 and 33, vectoring the latter to fly protection over the crash site while the former went to survey Takur Ghar.[266] With reports from an Orion P3 aircraft that there were approaching enemy near the crash site (in fact Wiercinski’s TF Rakkasans – demonstrating a serious communication flaw if the SOAR pilots and AC-130 gunships could not properly identify Wiercinski’s by now battalion-sized forces who had been holding LZ 15 for almost two days) and with the Razor 04 Chinook now dangerously overweight carrying two helicopter crews and Mako 30, the only option was to return to base. General Trebon relayed this order to Chapman.[267] There was a brief panic when Friel landed Razor 04 and collected the crashed crew, as two of Mack’s men were still securing the Razor 03 crash, but the crew heard Friel’s rotorwash and quickly climbed aboard.[268] Razor 04 landed back at Gardez at 4:34 am.[269] As Naylor has pointed out, the astonishing factor in this series of events was the lack of communication between TF Blue and CJTF Mountain – it was as if two completely separate battles were taking place less than a thousand meters apart.[270]

These developments led to two actions that would have significant consequences for the operation. First, at 4 am, the JSOC QRF, Captain Nathan Self’s A Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was notified to prepare for a rescue operation. Second, Slabinski and Friel decided to try once more to deploy Mako 30 on Takur Ghar, this time to rescue Roberts.[271]

Roberts had in fact survived his fall and activated an IR strobe. Grim 32’s Fire Control Officer Ian Marr spotted Roberts’ IR strobe at the same time a Predator drone arrived to observe the ridgeline, by the clock no more than 25 minutes after the initial aborted landing. Grim 32 used a laser to designate the ridge, hoping that Roberts, if alive, would be able to see the beam through his night vision.[272] Roberts appeared to be leaning against a tree and was surrounded by between three to six enemy fighters, but to Grim 32 this looked like it could be as many as ten, who were possibly taking him prisoner.[273] In fact, Roberts had by now been shot and killed at close range after trying to engage the enemy fighters with his M249, which likely jammed during the brief encounter.[274]

Stripped down to make the flight back to Takur Ghar, Razor 04 left Gardez at 4:45 am, carrying Brett the M60 gunner, Chapman and Turbo with M4s, and Kyle, Slab, and Randy with SR25s.[275] Slabinski had briefed the team that they were going back up to the ridge and concluded his brief with the oblique statement that “we’re going back up there and killing every last one of those motherfuckers.”[276] Blaber communicated with Grim 32 and authorized the AC-130 to attack the enemy visible on the ridge – also visible from Juliet’s position – just prior to the arrival of Mako 30.[277] Due to a last second change in communication protocol the AC-130 did not receive final permission to fire.[278]

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

11th Reconnaissance Squadron RQ-1L Predator Drone, based out of Indian Springs, Nevada, conducting pre-flight checkout from an undisclosed Middle Eastern location in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 9 November 2001, Technical Sergeant Scott Reed, USAF collection.

 

01

Razor 04 deploys Mako 30

 

Friel managed to make the landing, deploying Mako 30 on the mountain top, despite heavy enemy fire, just before 5 am.[279] Slabinski was temporarily delayed when he dropped waist deep into the snow, but John Chapman charged up the ridgeline, killing the two Chechen fighters who were manning the first position.[280] “It was as if the Controller [Chapman] was a man possessed” wrote Dan Schilling of this heroic moment.[281] In fact, by capturing the first position, Mako 30 was nearly on top of Robert’s body, but in the gunfight they never noticed the fallen SEAL.[282]

 

0203

Slab and Chappy move towards the enemy’s defensive position on the ridge

 

0405

Location of Roberts’ body and Chapman rushing the enemy

 

06

Chapman storms the enemy position, defeating two fighters, before being joined by Slab and the rest of Mako 30. Shortly after this Chapman is shot twice by the fighters from the second position.

 

Immediately after taking the first position, Mako 30 was exposed to PKM and RPG fire from a second entrenchment, 25 feet behind the first.[283] While Slabinski fired 40 mm grenades at the second position, Chapman was hit and mortally wounded, and as Chapman was the radio operator this temporarily cut off Mako 30’s communications.[284] Brett, the M60 gunner, blasted away at the second position, but was then hit by shrapnel from a frag grenade and shot twice in the leg.[285]

 

18

17

16

Visualization of Chapman storming the first position and engaging the second position, before being shot.

 

Despite throwing hand grenades and firing their weapons in an attempt to suppress the second position, the bunker had not been reduced and Mako 30 was already running low on ammunition.[286] Unable to capture the second position, with Roberts and Chapman both apparently killed and two or three others wounded, Slabinski tossed a smoke grenade and withdrew the team, scrambling down the mountainside at about 5:10, the entire firefight having lasted not more than thirteen minutes.[287] He then used his hand-held radio to regain communications with the orbiting AC-130 (Grim 32) – the pilots and crew described seeing gun flashes, tracers and lasers projecting in every direction – and proceeded to plastered the ridge with 75 rounds of 105 mm fire, as the mujahideen likewise fired mortars onto the mountain peak.[288]

 

0708

This shows Brett the M60 gunner (at left) engaging the second position (middle) from the boulder above the first entrenchment, until he is hit by grenade fragments and falls off the boulder, landing near Slabinski.

 

0910

Slabinski, with Roberts and Chapman believed dead and Brett injured, decided to pull out, and the SEALs can be seen here (bottom) retreating from the first position after popping a smoke grenade (just above them).

In fact, John Chapman had survived being shot, and continued to engage the enemy as additional mujahideen arrived on the summit. Chapman managed to despatch several fighters before being overrun and shot to death just as the QRF was landing around 6:11 am.[289]

 

1211

Grainy footage showing the wounded Chapman (green) engaging enemy fighters (red) after the GRIM 32 105mm howitzer strikes.

 

1314

Chapman, shortly before being overrun and shot at point blank range, attempts to distract the fighters around him from attacking the approaching QRF helicopter, which is nevertheless struck by an RPG.

 

Slabinski

In May 2018 Master Chief Petty Officer Britt “Slab” Slabinski was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role as the Mako 30 team leader at Takur Ghar on 4 March 2002

 

Chapman

 Air Force Controller Technical Sergeant John “Chappy” Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in August 2018

 

Robert’s Ridge

Roberts Ridge

Peak of Takur Ghar, March 2002

The 22-23 strong Ranger QRF, 1st Platoon, A Company (plus an air controller and a three-man 160th SOAR CSAR team), but lacking satellite communications had, about 5 am, departed Bagram aboard Razor 01 (piloted by Chief Warrant Officer Greg Calvert, carrying more than 20 men: the two pilots, a 160th medic, four crew chiefs, a CCT, 9 or 10 Rangers, an ETAC, and the CSAR parajumpers) and Razor 02 (about 16 men: two pilots, four crew chiefs, 10 Rangers and a SEAL).[290] As dawn was breaking the low-fuel AC-130 departed back to its airbase in Uzbekistan, meaning the QRF would be dangerously exposed when the Chinooks arrived on Takur Ghar.[291]

 

Self

Captain Nate Self and Staff Sergeant Arin Canon aboard an MH-47, from Nate Self, Two Wars (2008).

The sun was rising at 5:45 am, and between 6 and 6:15 am, Razor 01 arrived over Takur Ghar. The Chinook was immediately engaged by enemy machine gun fire, an RPG striking the Chinook’s right engine while the helicopter was still 20 feet off the ground. Riddled with gunfire, the cockpit glass was blown away and the helicopter crash-landed down onto the ridge. Razor 01’s copilot had been shot in the leg, and both door gunners were shot, Sergeant Phil Svitak, the right door gunner, was mortally wounded.[292] Three soldiers (Sergeant Bradley Crose, Specialist (Corporal) Matt Commons, and Specialist Marc Anderson) were immediately killed exiting the helicopter, and five more were badly wounded as the fighters on the mountaintop rained fire down on the crashed helicopter.[293] Razor 02 was waved off and flew back to Gardez.[294]

 

15

KIA and WIA from the QRF around the crashed Chinook

 

Razor01razor01peak

Razor 01 crashed on the peak of Takur Ghar, snow cleared. Al Qaida positions directly in front, from Leigh Neville, Takur Ghar (2013), p. 54-6

 

The Rangers, pilots, medics and crew chiefs blew open the Chinook’s emergency exits and quickly established a perimeter around the Chinook crash, returning fire as machine gun bullets and RPG fire continued to pour in.[295] The Rangers managed to shoot two of the RPG gunners, reducing the danger from the incoming fire.[296] With Specialist Aaron Totten-Lancaster using his M249 to provide suppressive fire, support was added by Rangers Gilliam and Depouli with their M240 machine gun, freeing Captain Self, with shooters Sergeant Josh Walker and Air Force Staff Sergeant Kevin Vance, to form a flanking movement and begin countering the fire from the positions above them.[297] Brian, one of the crew chiefs, picked up Specialist Commons’ M203 (the only one in Razor 01) and handed it off to Walker who dropped 40 mm grenades on the enemy bunker.[298] “We really turned the fight around in about a minute,” Self explained later.[299]

 

fighters

Fighters shooting down at the Razor 01 crash site, from Leigh Neville, Takur Ghar (2013), p. 52-3, note the sneakers

 

1280px-The_Battle_of_Takur_Ghar,_by_Keith_Rocco

Sergeant Keary Miller’s Silver Star action during the Battle of Takur Ghar, by Kieth Rocco.

 

At 7 am Vance, the QRF air controller, was able to call in F-15s which strafed the mountain with their 20 mm cannons.[300] Meanwhile Razor 02, carrying Staff Sergeant Arin Canon and the other half of the QRF again departed Gardez (the SEAL aboard Razor 02 was none other than Vic Hyder), along the way being informed by Slabinski that they should land near Mako 30’s position to avoid the hot LZ. Razor 02 touched down about 300 meters from Mako 30 at 7:30 am, although this meant a 2,000 foot climb up to the ridge to join the rest of the QRF.[301] While the Rangers climbed up to the summit, Vic Hyder went in search of Mako 30, reaching them about an hour later.[302]

 

Takur Gharridge

The tactical situation on Takur Ghar, 6 – 7 am, 4 March 2002.

 

The situation at the Takur Ghar ridge itself was critical, as the mujahideen were now deploying 82 mm mortars against the stranded Rangers.[303] The CSAR team moved the wounded, including Sergeant First Class Cory Lamoreaux,[304] and the PJ Senior Airman Jason Cunningham (who was in fact mortally wounded),[305] away from the crashed Chinook to avoid the mortars while Captain Self led a small contingent of four men to attempt to knock out the second position that was pinning them down, but were driven off.[306] An F-16 run that dropped two 500 lb bombs missed the enemy bunker, as did a Predator hellfire missile, although a second hellfire launched at 10:00 am (zeroed in by the Juliet AFO) scored a direct hit and wiped out the second position.[307] The Razor 02 Rangers reached the mountain top between 10:30 and 11 am.[308] The Rangers were still taking fire from mujahideen positioned on a false summit southeast of the Chinook crash site.[309]

 

battle

The firefight for the summit

 

ridge

The ridgeline, viewed from Specialist Randy Pazder’s M240B, from Nate Self, Two Wars (2008).

 

The QRF was still taking mortar fire, however, but by noon had cleared the Takur Ghar ridge, in the process discovering the fate of Roberts and Chapman.[310] A 70-man force (including 35 TF 11 operators) was at that time assembling at Gardez to fly onto Takur Ghar, escorted by Apaches, but this plan was delayed until 8 pm that evening, again indicating how important the cover of night and the presence of the AC-130s was to offset the enemy’s terrain advantage.[311] At 8:15 pm four Chinooks arrived and extracted the entire QRF and Mako 30, including the wounded (11) and KIA, of which there were seven Americans.[312] The mujahideen, however, had been dealt a serious blow as Takur Ghar was in fact their last stronghold in the valley. Furthermore the Taliban commander, Saif Rahman Mansour, was also killed during fighting on the 4th.[313]

 

rangers

Sergeant Philip Svitak, Specialist Marc Anderson, Sergeant Bradley Crose, PFC Matt Commons, USAF Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, from Nate Self, Two Wars (2008).

 

miller

Technical Sergeant Keary Miller, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, and Staff Sergeant Gabe Brown, mid-February 2002.

 

chalk1chalk2

Staff Sergeant Ray Depouli, Private First Class David Gilliam, Specialist Aaron Totten-Lancaster, rangers from Chalk 1 & Staff Sergeant Harper Wilmoth, Specialist Oscar Escano, Specialist Randy Pazder, Specialist Jonas Polson, Sergeant Patrick George, Specialist Omar Vela and Specialist Chris Cunningham, rangers from Chalk 2, from Leigh Neville, Takur Ghar (2013), p. 50, 62

 

shootdown

Looking into the Shahi Khot towards the Eastern Mountains from “the Fishhook”, 6:20 am on 4 March, just after the Razor 01 crash, from Pete Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me (2008)

 

Meanwhile early on the 4th, Corkran’s 1/187 troops had marched far enough to the north that they were in direct contact with the Juliet team.[314] Their task was to examine a cave complex identified by the Delta team, which in fact consisted of several huts and significantly two Soviet era 57 mm anti-aircraft guns, although they appeared to be non-functional.[315] Wiercinski now ordered Corkran to move south, clearing the eastern ridges in the direction of Takur Ghar as he did so. Corkran ordered Cornell’s B Company to take point as they moved south.

It was about midday when Cornell arrived at the compound already cleared twice, by Preysler and then Crombie. Aspland’s C Company now took the lead and continued the march south.[316] As they closed in on BP Diane on the afternoon of 4 March, the only area still not secure was BP Ginger, the slope of Takur Ghar through which Wiercinski was convinced the enemy’s reinforcements had been slipping into the valley. As such, Wiercinski now ordered LaCamera’s 1/87 infantry – waiting at Bagram since being withdrawn the night of 2 March, to form TF Summit (Kraft’s depleted C Company, reinforced by two of Crombie’s A Company platoons; all of C Company 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment – newly arrived from Kuwait; plus B Company 1/187 which until now had been in reserve) and to return to the Shahi Khot to secure BP Ginger. TF Summit was deployed at LZ 3 (west of BP Diane) by 4:30 pm on 4 March.[317] LaCamera’s orders were to clear Takur Ghar, which was a significant mountaineering challenge, and by nightfall TF Summit had only made it about a quarter up the mountain. They were soon joined by Crombie’s A Company who had marched south from LZ 15. As a snowstorm swept the eastern mountains a small group of Taliban, who had survived the battle on the summit, descended the mountain and surrendered.[318]

 

interior5InteriorBriefing by Major A. C. Roper, 101st Airborne, in Kandahar; he states more than 80 pieces of ordnance have been dropped around the Shahi Khot. Afghan Interior Minister Younis Qanouni states that they have started an operation with the Americans against the Taliban and al Qaida, intending “to clean them out.”

 

rumsfeld03rumsfeld01

Rumsfeld and Myers give press briefing at the Pentagon on 4 March. Rumsfeld describes heavy casualties, but states that the coalition will not be dissuaded and the Taliban and Al Qaida fighters must either surrender of be killed.

 

marchsouth

The march to the south, 4-6 March, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

Operation Glock, 5 – 12 March

The following morning (5 March) before sunrise LaCamera received orders to secure a suspected helicopter crashsite to the north west, and he despatched Crombie’s A Company for that purpose. Meanwhile Kraft’s C Company encountered an enemy squad, and was able to destroy it with help from an AC-130.[319] In the event it turned out the reports of the crashed helicopter were false. TF Summit however could see enemy fighters moving around the villages in the valley, in some cases hurriedly loading SUVs. The TF, which by now had a proliferation of 60 mm, 81 mm and 120 mm mortars, quickly bombarded the enemy concentrations. By 6 March BP Ginger was secured, and the Shahi Khot was declared a “free-fire zone” allowing airstrikes on the villages themselves.[320]

 

G06G05g04Gingerbomb

The Ginger draw being bombed, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

hagenbeck06Hagenbeck05

Major General Hagenbeck briefing reporters on the conduct of Operation Anaconda, 6 March 2002, stating that CJTF Mountain has destroyed as many as 400 enemy fighters, AP newsreel archive

 

By 8 March reinforcements, under the Tajik General Gul Haidar, were being rushed from Kabul to Gardez, including six BMPs, four T-54 tanks, and about 600 Afghan soldiers.[321] Thus reinforced, Zia Lodin (overcoming the cultural conflict between Pashtuns and Tajiks) was now willing to go back to the valley and begin clearing the villages.[322] The next phase was known as Operation Glock, and took place following a sustained air bombardment of the Shahi Khot over three days, 6 to 9 March. ODAs 394, 594 and 372 would lead the Afghan fighters back into the valley, now supported by their tanks and mechanized elements, after the villages had been suitably bombarded.[323]

 

SmithDelta

8 March, Colonel Joe Smith, 10th Mountain Division Chief of Staff, tells reporters the Task Force has engaged between 250 to 700 fighters in the last few days, AP newsreel archive

 

Haidar was in position the morning of 11 March, but his men on “the Whale” would not wait for Zia Lodin to arrive and thus rushed into the valley in advance of both Zai Lodin and Haidar himself who was moving with the mechanized forces through the northern entrance. At first Haidar’s men confused Captain Baltazar’s C Company at BP Betty (ie, directly across the valley) with the enemy and were preparing to engage them when C Company was able to to open communications and prove that they were friendlies. While Haidar cleared Shir Khan Kheyl, Zia Lodin arrived to the south and cleared Babol Kheyl and Marzak. This phase of the operation was over by the afternoon.[324] TF Rakkasan, meanwhile, which had been holding the eastern mountains for the better part of a week, had been selectively exfiltrated since 9 March, the last units arriving back at Bagram on 12 March.

 

glock

Operation Glock, the Afghan forces arrive and clear the Shahi Khot, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

contrails2contrails1

10 March 2002, B-52 contrails over Gardez, AP newsreel archive

 

T13T12T11T09T07T03T05T04T02

8-9 March 2002, lead mechanized elements drive to Gardez to reinforce Operation Anaconda (in preparation for Operation Glock), while Afghan T-54 tanks and BMPs depart from Kabul, AP newsreel archive

 

hilferty

9 March 2002, interview with Major Brian Hilferty, 10th Mountain Division spokesman, at Bagram, AP newsreel archive Hilferty stated the valley was still and active combat zone and that ongoing resupply missions were taking place.

 

strike03strike02strike05strike01

12 March 2002, Pentagon released gun-camera footage of F-16 and F-14 strikes carried out on 10 March, AP newsreel archive

 

afghans

Afghan fighters with Pete Blaber, clearing the Shahi Khot, 12 March 2002, from The Mission, The Men, and Me (2008)

 

apacheapache2binoscoolguygunsinterviewairbornemortarmortar2satphonetrooperpeaksstrikesview

10 March 2002, various shots of 10th Mountain division deploying, firing an 81 mm mortar, and clearing compounds, AP newsreel Archive

S08S07S06S05S04S03S01

Afghan mechanized column returning from Shahi Khot, 11 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

Operation Harpoon & Polar Harpoon, 12 – 18 March

harpoon

3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry on “the Whale”, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

Hagenbeck was still convinced there were enemy forces in the valley, although by this point the last pockets of the enemy were hopelessly overmatched. To follow-up the Rakkasan and Afghan effort, Hagenbeck formed TF Commando under Colonel Kevin Wilkerson’s 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain. They were supported by the Canadian’s 3rd PPCLI (Lt. Colonel Patrick Stogran), flown in from Kandahar, with Captain John Stevens’ A Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, plus HMM-165, a US Marine Corps helicopter unit with attached TF Talon Chinooks.[325] The Canadians were initially tasked with clearing the Naka Valley south of Takur Ghar, but due to confusion at CENTCOM were instead ordered to seize “the Whale” although by this point that objective had been thoroughly bombed and swept multiple times.[326] At any rate, Operation Harpoon was underway on 13 March, with the full Task Force deployed by 14 March.[327] Not surprisingly TF Commando discovered no enemy, although a number of weapons and ammunition caches were located. The afternoon of 15 March the TF did however locate an enemy emplacement held by three fighters, and quickly destroyed it. TF Commando was airlifted out on 18 March.[328]

 

return008return009return007return006return004return002return001

XbinosXfighterXflagXspecopsXt55

13 & 14 March 2002, coalition special forces and Afghan combatants, BMPs, T-54, return from the Shahi Khot, south of Gardez, as B-52 strikes take place overhead, AP newsreel archive

 

hagenbeck04Hagenbeck03

Major General Hagenbeck briefing reporters at Bagram on 14 March 2002, AP archive

 

anacondaplan

Graphic shown to the media by Hagenbeck, March 2002, AP newsreel archive, this indicates the situation during Operation Polar Harpoon.

 

The final sweep of the eastern valley was carried out by A and C Companies from 4/31 (Lt. Colonel Stephen Townsend) between 18 and 19 March. C Company with Lt. Colonel Townsends’ HQ landed on Takur Ghar and climbed the summit, while Captain Stevens with A Company swept the valley itself. Once again although few if any enemy were encountered a great number of weapons caches and fighting positions were discovered. One ammunition cache was so vast it took 6 hours to completely destroy. The mujahideen positions on Takur Ghar were revealed to be even more elaborate and developed than had been initially suspected, including trenches, command and control posts, and numerous weapons emplacements.[329] Townsend was still on the ridge the morning of 19 March when he heard over the radio General Franks – who was visiting Bagram – announce that Operation Anaconda was over.[330] The last of 4/31 was withdrawn before noon.

 

harpoon2

harpoon3

TF Commando movements during Operation Harpoon & Polar Harpoon, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

binosChinookchinooksupplyenemyenemycampphonesunsettroopsvaley02valleyvalley03valley04

US troops conclude operations in the Shahi Khot valley, 18/19 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

 

Aftermath & Conclusion

Cheney

Vice President Cheney touring the Middle East, 13 – 17 March, visiting Al-Udeid Airbase, Qatar, the USS John C. Stennis, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, and other locations.

 

reed

Sergeant David Martin Wurtz receiving the purple heart from Thomas E. White, US Secretary of the Army, at Walter Reed hospital in Washington, DC. Also awarded purple hearts on this occasion were Andrew Brent Scott, Lieutenant Bradley Majorca, and Ricardo Miranda Jr. AP newsreel archive, 12 March 2002

 

hers4herss2Herssherss3

ANACONDA

Immediately after the initial battles the bodies of seven Americans killed during Operation Anaconda are transferred to the United States via Germany, 5 March 2002, AP newsreel archive. National Archive, Staff Sergeant Justin Pyle, USAF.

 

Franks10Franks09

18 March, in Kabul General Franks awards Bronze Stars to 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry, 10th Mountain Division soldiers Sergeant First Class Michael Peterson, Staff Sergeant Randel Peres, Staff Sergeant Dwayne Simms, Staff Sergeant David Hruban.

 

The battle that took place between 2-19 March 2002 resulted in the death of three Northern Alliance fighters and 11 coalition soldiers, of whom eight were US servicemen, with another 40 to 80 wounded: the heaviest loss of US lives in combat since 18 Rangers and special operators were killed in Operation Gothic Serpent on 3-4 October 1993. Once again the casualties were proportionately on the side of the enemy, as many as 800 mujihadeen believed to have become casualties during Anaconda, of which at least 200 were killed. 41 cave complexes and 62 buildings were searched, and 26 mortars, 11 pieces of artillery (including five 122 mm howitzers left over from when the Soviet’s had penetrated into the Shahi Khot) and 15 DShK machine guns were captured or destroyed.[331]

 

artillery

Soviet 122 mm howitzers in the Shahi Khot, left over from Operation Magistral, November 1987 – January 1988, from Pete Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me (2008)

 

The numerous friendly fire near misses and actual blue on blue accidents suggested that air-ground coordination could certainly be improved. The al Qaida fighters and Taliban mujahideen in the Shahi Khot were experienced and motivated and inflicted significant damage on TF Rakkasan, damaging three Apaches, one badly, and then shooting down two Chinooks.

The coordination between the diverse air components, the AFO teams, and the conventional forces in TF Rakkasan and Afghan forces in TF Hammer had been a major bottleneck, leaving important enemy targets un-attacked and forcing the Apache gunships attached to the operation to engage a dangerous degree of enemy anti-aircraft weaponry. The initial TF Rakkasan air assault in the valley had been based on enemy force level estimates that were half their actual number, with the result that both LaCamera’s battalion in the south and Preysler’s in the north were initially deployed into positions in the valley that were enfiladed by a determined enemy dug in to the mountains surrounding them. The JSOC attack on Tarkur Ghar had been ill-conceived and devolved into a casualty intensive battle in which two Chinook helicopters were lost, although the target had certainly been a valuable enemy strongpoint. Perhaps most notably the presence of mortars, artillery, and the mujihadeen’s proficiency with these weapons had been entirely overlooked during mission planning.[332]

 

hagenbeck08hilferty02

Major General Heganbeck briefing the media that Operation Anaconda has concluded, 19 March, and Major Hilferty and Sergeant Steve Melbourne, 45 Commando, Royal Marines, giving briefings on 23 and 24 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

Rumsfeld4020408-D-2987S-123020427-M-0428C-002

Rumsfeld holding press conferences, 3 & 8 April 2002, Helene C. Stikkel collection, & Rumsfeld visiting Kabul, 27 April 2002, Staff Sergeant James Connolly collection

On 8 March in a televised interview with Fox News and CNN, Rumsfeld stated that Operation Anaconda was an example of a “cleaning up” operation, meant to dislodge and defeat “hard dead-enders” or loyalists who would never surrender to the coalition. Rumsfeld emphasized that the operation was winding down, in accordance with standard US joint doctrine for campaigns, and the following phases would see a transition to US involvement in the development of the interim government.[333] For the Bush administration the focus was shifting ever more rapidly towards Iraq. On 3 March, as Operation Anaconda was underway, General Franks had met again with President Bush in Crawford to refine war plans for the invasion of Iraq.[334]

Significant numbers of international forces, including commandos and special forces from Canadian, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Poland which had begun to arrive at Bagram in the new year, were now deployed in follow up operations in Gardez and throughout southern Afghanistan. On 13 March a follow-up mission in the Arma mountains just north of the Shahi Khot was conducted by American and Canadian forces. British operations, and other multinational operations started in April from Gardez.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan commenced on 28 March 2002.[335] CJTF Mountain was presently dissolved and reconstituted as Combined Joint Task Force 180. Within five months every battalion involved in Anaconda had left Afghanistan.[336] The 101st Airborne was superseded by the 82nd Airborne. Until 2004 there were never more than 1,500 US troops in theatre, and only 2,500 by 2006. Anaconda had been so successful in terms of defeating the Taliban and al Qaida fighters in country that there were only sporadic incidents of low intensity violence until late in 2005.[337]

The destruction of the mujahideen in in the Shahi Khot was in the fact the decisive battle of the war. As Carlotta Gall wrote in her history of the Afghan War, “The Taliban vanished after that. The survivors were seen trekking out along the well-worn mujahideen trail through the border village of Shkin, into Pakistan…. In May 2002, British Marines made a painstaking sweep through the mountain range of the Shahikot and found the insurgents were gone. The commander of the British task force, Brigadier Roger Lane, declared the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan ‘all but won.’”[338] General Franks stated that “the last al Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan had been destroyed.”[339]

By early May 2002 the Afghan Reconstruction Steering Group, chaired by representatives from the US, EU, Japan and Saudi Arabia, and including 60 other UN member countries and the World Bank, had raised US $4.5 billion to cover the cost of rebuilding Afghanistan over the next five years. Germany had committed to rebuilding the national police, Italy and the European Commission to training the Judiciary, the UK to the critical counter-narcotics mission (Afghanistan at the time of the invasion was the source of 90% of Europe’s heroin), while the UN and then later Japan took responsibility for general demobilization.[340] The draft of the new national constitution was completed on 3 November 2003.

 

2002map

Map of follow-up operations, 2002 – 2003, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

Enduring Freedom

Rumsfeld addressing 500 members of the coalition armed forces on 26 April 2002, at the Manas International Airport, “Ganci Air Base” in Kyrgyzstan. On 17 April Rumsfeld denied that CENTCOM had failed to capture bin Laden at Tora Bora, stating that the only evidence bin Laden had been there was “repeated speculation” – a disturbing mischaracterization given the scale of the JSOC effort in December.

On 8 May 2002 Rumsfeld stated in a Pentagon briefing that the work in Afghanistan was not yet finished, and that in particular the Gardez area required additional security. The British had infact deployed to secure Gardez on 5 May in Operation Snipe. On 16 May Rumsfeld testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that Afghanistan had demonstrated a new path forward for US military ‘transformation’ – his long-term goal for the Department of Defense, including in particular the use of “long-range bombers to provide tactical, close-air support,” adding that “this had never been done before.”

In Kuwait on 9 June to visit US troops, Rumsfeld told the US forces at Camp Doha that Afghanistan was only the first battleground of the Global War on Terror. He reiterated this point after the invasion of Iraq on 14 August 2003, stating then that “the Global War on Terror is far from over”.

 

binoschinooksmapSFsweep2valleywalk2

US conventional and Special Forces on Operation Mountain Sweep, 25 August 2002, AP newsreel archive.

 

On 13 August 2002 Rumsfeld stated at a Pentagon press event that he was “impressed” with the ongoing coalition efforts to destroy pockets of al Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan, in particular, in south eastern Afghanistan where the remnants of the Taliban were hiding. The Defense Secretary pointed to the death of 28 year old Sergeant 1st Class James Speer, Special Forces, who had died of wounds sustained in a firefight on 27 July, significant as the incident took place at Khost, the other end of the Gardez corridor.

Of course, the war did not end even after Resolute Strike, however by now major operations had moved on to Iraq, essentially dooming the mission in Afghanistan by downgrading it from the frontline US war of the 21st century to a low order of importance. The lessons of the Afghan war regarding the tactical future of warfare were reintroduced in the war against ISIL, by the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Reserve. Rumsfeld and Franks testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee on 1 August 2002, stating that the ISAF coalition required sustained funding and international commitment, with Franks adding that by the end of 2002 the coalition expected between 3,000 to 4,000 Afghan troops to be trained, making ground towards Rumsfeld’s objective of building security inside Afghansitan.

On 19 and 27 September Rumsfeld testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee, and then stated in a press briefing, that the link between al Qaida and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was “accurate and not debatable” and that Iraq was to be considered a component of the Global War on Terrorism. “We can fight the various elements of the global war on terror simultaneously,” Rumsfeld told the Armed Services Committee. At the following press briefing the Secretary went so far as to compare the situation to the Cuban Missile Crisis – another demonstration of the lengths the Bush administration was taking, long before the mission in Afghanistan was complete, to justify invading Iraq.

 

P22471-18.jpg

President Bush giving remarks on the success of the humanitarian mission in Afghanistan, at the Dwight Eisenhower Executive building, 11 October 2002

 

021024-D-9880W-021

Rumsfeld and Myers brief Pentagon reporters on 24 October 2002, Robert Ward collection

US Military Spokesman Roger King describing a battle that took place on 28 January 2003 when AH64 Apache gunships came under fire from a series of caves held by as many as 80 enemy fighters. QRF was flown in to support Special Forces, with their Afghan militia, who had discovered the location of the fighters. 19 JDAMs were dropped from B-1B bombers and two 500 lb laser guided bombs were dropped by coalition F16s  in the ensuing battle. Spokesman King stated that this was the largest enemy concentration the coalition had engaged since Operation Anaconda.

 

Bush

President George W. Bush delivering his January 2003 State of the Union Address, at which Captain Nathan Self was in attendance.

 

040304-F-0451J-011

4 March 2004, USAF Honor Guard retiring colors that flew over Afghanistan, in honor of the newly named SRA Jason D. Cunningham Leadership School, Moody AFB, after Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, pararescueman, 38th Rescue Squadron, 347th Rescue Wing, killed 4 March 2002 and posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross on 13 September 2002, Airman 1st Class Joshua T. Jasper, USAF collection

Major General Franklin Hagenbeck was promoted to Lt. General, and then in June 2006 to Superintendent of the US Military Academy, West Point, serving there for four years until his retirement.

 

Naylor

18 April 2005, author Sean Naylor discusses his book about Operation AnacondaNot a Good Day to Die.

 

bagramKarzaikabulkarzai2

President Bush visiting with troops at Bagram, meeting Hamid Karzai in Kabul on 15 December 2008, and being awarded the Ghazi Amir Amanullah Khan Insignia, shortly before leaving office in the new year.

Lt. Colonel Paul LaCamera, who commanded the 1/87 force in the valley, took command of the 3rd Brigade, 75th Ranger Regiment, and between 2005 and 2007 was the CO, 75th Rangers. From 2007 until 2012 he held senior posts in JSOC, before being promoted to Lt. General, with command of XVIII Airborne Corps, serving as CO Operation Inherent Resolve from September 2018 to September 2019, at which point he was promoted to four star, and assumed command of US Army Pacific.[341]

 

Image: U.S. President Donald Trump awards the Medal of Honor to Retired Navy Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt Slabinski for “conspicuous gallantry” in the East Room of the White House in Washington

24 May 2018, President Donald Trump presents Britt Slabinski with the Medal of Honor.[342]

 

Pashtunwali

Code of Pashtunwali, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

Appendix I, Photo Gallery

010502-D-2987S-004

Cabinet members at working lunch at the Pentagon, 2 May 2001, photo by Helene C. Stikkel.

 

cabinet2

Senior cabinet members conferring and listening to reports at the Emergency Operations Center at the White House, 11 September 2001, National Archives.

 

P7541-07

Dr. Rice on 18 September, by Tina Hager

 

BushMueller

President Bush and FBI Director Robert Mueller unveil a list of the 22 “most wanted” terrorists, 10 October 2001

 

BushTravis

President Bush delivering a determined speech to USAF personnel at Travis AFB, 17 October 2001

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

General Tommy Franks meeting with the US Ambassador to Qatar, Maureen Quinn, 26 October. TSGT Michael R. Nixon collection

 

Bush3KofiPowell

9:38 am, 10 November 2001, Bush delivers his speech at the UN General Assembly.

 

ENDURING FREEDOMENDURING FREEDOM

Lt. Colonel Ron Corkran, US Army, CO TF 1-187, listens to Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki on 23 November at a “forward operating location”. TSGT Scott Reed collection. & Shinseki meeting with Lt. Colonel Steven Hadley, USAF, CO 16th Special Operations Wing (Deployed)

 

Heather Mercer

President Bush meeting with Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer in the Oval Office, 26 November 2001. These Christian aid workers, along with six other prisoners had been held by the Taliban since 3 August, were liberated on 14 November when the Taliban fled Kabul.

 

Laura Bush

Laura Bush eating thanksgiving dinner, 21 November 2001, with members of the 101st Airborne division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

 

bushfranksBushFranks

The war in Afghanistan appeared to have been won, and on 28 December Bush invited Franks to his Crawford, Texas, ranch to discuss planning for the invasion of Iraq which, along with North Korea and Iran, he would label the “axis of evil” at his State of the Union address on 29 January, from Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack (2004), and the same event by White House photographer Susan Sterner

 

blair

British Prime Minister Tony Blair meets with Afghan interim chairman Karzai at Bagram, 7 January 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

Appendix II, Air Power & Naval Aviation

ENDURING FREEDOM

C-5 Galaxy carrying 366th Air Expeditionary Wing F-16C support personnel deploying, 8 November 2001, Staff Sergeant Michael D. Gaddis, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

ENDURING FREEDOM

Staff Sergeant Ken Bergmann, USAF, photograph of C-17 Globemaster III from Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, taking off in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 18 October 2001, & another C-17 taking off from Sigonella, 29 October 2001, Staff Sergeant Angela Evans, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

C-5 Galaxy carrying 366th Air Expeditionary Wing F-16C support personnel arriving in Middle East for Operation Enduring Freedom, 8 November 2001, Staff Sergeant Michael D. Gaddis, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

F-16s operating in support of Enduring Freedom, 9 November 2001, Staff Sergeant Tiffany Page, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

E-8C Joint Serveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft arriving in the Persian Gulf to support Enduring Freedom, 9 November 2001, Staff Sergeant Tiffany Page, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

KC-10A Extender, 763rd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, 29 October 2001, Staff Sergeant Wayne A. Clark, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

ENDURING FREEDOM

B-52H from the 28th Air Expeditionary Wing returning to base at Diego Garcia after conducting air strikes in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 30 October 2001, Technical Sergeant Cedric H. Rusidill, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOMENDURING FREEDOM

B-1B Lancer from the 28th Air Expeditionary Wing refuelling from 60th Air Expeditionary Group KC-10 Extender, night of 1 November 2001, Technical Sergeant Cedric H. Rudisill, USAF collection. & B-1B refuelling over Indian Ocean, 17 October 2001, Technical Sergeant Cedric H. Rudisill, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOMENDURING FREEDOM

USAF C-17 loadmasters checking loadout during humanitarian airdrop missions that delivered 35,000 daily ration packages to refugees inside Afghanistan, before the first airstirkes took place, 6 October 2001, Staff Sergeant Jeremy Lock, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

HMCS Vancouver FFH 331 alongside USS John C. Stennis CVN 74, deployed to the Middle East in November 2001, photographed here on 20 May 2002 by Tina R. Lamb, USN collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter deploys USMC artillery, Bravo Battery, 1st Marine Division, 15th Marine Expeditionary unit, 22 October 2001, Technical Sergeant Scott Reed, USAF collection. The Gardez – Khost mission had originally been a USMC objective, see From the Sea: U.S. Marines in the Global war on Terrorism

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

C-130 Hercules, Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 29 October 2001, Staff Sergeant Angela Evans, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

USN F-14 after refuelling from KC-10 on 7 November 2001, note the 2,000 lb GBU-32 laser guided bomb under the fuselage, Staff Sergeant Michael D. Gaddis, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOMENDURING FREEDOM

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

USMC F/A-18C from VMFA-251 refuelling on 30 October from Technical Sergeant Scott Reed collection &  USN F/A-18s over Afghanistan, armed with 1,000 lb GBU-16 laser guided bombs, 7 November 2001 from Staff Sergeant Michael D Gaddis, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

Royal Air Force CH-47 landing with RAF EC-130 and USAF KC-135R, 92nd Refuelling Wing, parked in foreground at Thumrait Air Base, Oman, on 14 November 2001.  Technical Sergeant Marlin G. Zimmerman collection 

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

Marines from VMGR-352 refuelling two USN H-60 Seahawks from their C-130 tanker, 9 November 2001, Technical Sergeant Scott Reed, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

ENDURING FREEDOM 2001

B-1Bs taking off, 12 November, and landing, 4 December, SSGT Shane Cuomo collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

F-15s refuelling night of 14 November 2001, Technical Sergeant Scott Reed, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

ENDURING FREEDOM

USS Iwo Jima (LHD7) and USS Peterson (DD969) at New York after returning from deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 22 May 2002, Michael Pendergrass, & Johnny Bivera collection.

 

Appendix III, TF Rakkasan

B03B02B01

Chinooks above the Shahi Khot on 5 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

chinooks6

Chinooks at Bagram, 6 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

bab09bab08bab10bab05Bab04Bab03bab07bab06Bab02Bab01

US forces in the Shahi Khot, near Babulkhel, 3-6 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

gardez2gardeznightvision006nightvision005nightvision007nightvision004nightvision003nightvision001apacheapache2gunnerphonephone2soldiersoldier3soldier4soldiers2soldiers5

Chinooks deploying US forces from Gardez in support of Operation Anaconda, 6 March 2002, AP newsreel archive & US forces involved in Operation Anaconda, 6 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

return003return005Xblackhawk101stblackhwakChinookschinooks2chinooks3M60

10 March, 101st Airborne division paratroopers returning to Bagram, AP newsreel archive

 

basereturn01Basereturn03

basereturn02Soldier01

11 March 2002, exhausted TF Rakkasan troops returning from Operation Anaconda, AP newsreel archive

 

Chinook refuelingchinook airlifting suppliesS10S11S09

Chinooks refuelling and delivering supplies from Bagram airbase, & Apaches attacking targets, 14 March 2002

 

BlackhawksUSMCCobraUSMCcobra2

TF 58 USMC Cobra gunships and Blackhawk helicopters, 19 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

c17coolguys

 C-17 unloading special forces, 23 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

Appendix IV, British Forces

RM04rm03RM02RM01antitankchinookchinookbackcommandovalleyInterviewinterview2interview3ladsphonevalleyvalleyc

16 April, 45 Commando operations from Bagram, 3 Commando Brigadier Rodger Lane announces initial operating capability for his three brigades of Royal Marines, and Lt. Colonel Paul Harradine, Royal Marines spokesman, gives an interview on 17 April 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

Forces1Forces2Rodgerlanevalley

British forces on Operation Ptarmigan, 18 April 2002, and interview with Brigadier Rodger Lane, British Forces Commander, AP newsreel archive

 

chinookhowitzerinterviewinterview2mrinesroyal Marinesroyalmarines2valley

5 May 2002, Royal Marines on Operation Snipe, near Khost, and interview with British Forces Commander, Brigadier Rodger Lane, AP newsreel archive

 

Appendix V, Infographics

mobilization

List of National Guard and Reserve units mobilized by 20 September in support of Enduring Freedom

 

binladen

Concentration of Taliban forces, and movements of bin Laden, 2 October 2001, Washington Post archive

 

infographic

Washington Post Afghanistan infographic, 1 October 2001, note the ring road, location of the Khyber Pass, and the unmarked area southeast of Kabul.

 

 

bombs2bombs

October 7/8/9, maps showing location of coalition airstrikes, BBC

 

Enduring Freedom

7 October 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom begins, Washington Post archive

 

Northern Alliance

Northern Alliance/United Front infographic, 27 September 2001, Washington Post archive. Note leadership: Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani with Muhammad Fahim as Ahmed Shah Massoud’s successor.

 

Oct2001Dec

SFsouth

5th SFG and Northern Alliance concentrations, October – December 2001, Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

anacaonda

The complex multi-mission elements involved in Operation Anaconda

 

Slide 1

2008 resource and mining assessment 

 

Carriers

Sorties1Sorties2

USN Aircraft Carriers on station for Operation Enduring Freedom, September 2001 – March 2002, from Benjamin Lambeth, American Carrier Air Power at the Dawn of a New Century (2005)

 

 

Notes

[1] Richard B. Andres and Jeffrey Hukill, “Anaconda: A Flawed Joint Planning Process,” Joint Forces Quarterly, no. 47 (October 2007): 135–40., https://ndupress.ndu.edu/portals/68/Documents/jfq/jfq-47.pdf

[2] Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War: The US Army in Operation Enduring Freedom, October 2001 – September 2005 (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute Press, 2010)., p. 173, Tommy Franks and Malcolm McConnell, American Soldier (Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2004)., p. 381

[3] Stephen Biddle, Afghanistan and The Future of Warfare: Implications for Army and Defense Policy (US Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 2002)., p. viii

[4] Bob Woodward, Bush at War (Toronto: Simon & Schuster, 2002)., p. 121, Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2004)., p. 26. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/12/20011214-8.html

[5] https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=44849

[6] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/10/20011004.html

[7] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011101-2.html

[8] Bob Woodward, State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006)., p. 78

[9] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/10/20011017-20.html

[10] https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=44434

[11] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 85

[12] US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command, 6th ed. (MacDill AFB, FL: Kindle ebook, 2007)., loc. 2409. https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/timeline-key-events-afghanistans-40-years-wars-69304042

[13] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011108-4.html

[14] https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=44350

[15] Peter Bergen, The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda, epub (New York: Free Press, 2011)., p. 160-3. Sean Naylor, Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command, Kindle ebook (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015)., p. 176-8. See also, Carlotta Gall, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001 – 2014, Kindle ebook (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2015)., p. 5

[16] Gall, The Wrong Enemy., p. 5-7

[17] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011110-7.html

[18] Naylor, Relentless Strike., p. 176 et seq

[19] Richard Stewart, Operation Enduring Freedom: October 2001 – March 2002, Kindle ebook, vol. 1, 2 vols., 2006., loc. 354 et seq. See also, “Remembering the Battle of Tora Bora” https://www.pri.org/stories/2015-12-22/remembering-battle-tora-bora-2001

[20] Stewart., loc. 428

[21] Ron Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006)., p. 73

[22] Barton Gellman and Thomas Ricks, “U.S. Concludes Bin Laden Escaped at Tora Bora Fight,” Washington Post, April 17, 2002, sec. Politics, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2002/04/17/us-concludes-bin-laden-escaped-at-tora-bora-fight/b579f38a-24bc-49eb-99b1-a02e9e309623/. Mark Bowden, The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, epub (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2012)., p. 115. Bergen, The Longest War., p. 167-9, 172

[23] Bergen, The Longest War., p. 170-1, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 120

[24] Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, 1st ed. (New York: Pantheon Books, 2006)., p. 30

[25] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 127

[26] Wright., p. 119

[27] Wright., p. 127

[28] Wright., p. 127

[29] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/11/text/20011128-7.html

[30] Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine., p. 75

[31] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/12/100dayreport.html

[32] Benjamin Lambeth, American Carrier Air Power At the Dawn of a New Century (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2005)., p. 28

[33] Lambeth., p. 28

[34] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020128-13.html

[35] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020128-8.html,  https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/12/text/20011231-1.html

[36] Gordon and Trainor, Cobra II., p. 36

[37] https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=44001; https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=44046

[38] https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=43874

[39] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 127

[40] Wright., p. 131-2

[41] Wright., p. 132

[42] Wright., p. 132

[43] Wright., p. 138

[44] Franks and McConnell, American Soldier., p. 378

[45] Bradley Graham, “Bravery and Breakdowns in a Ridgetop Battle,” Washington Post, May 24, 2002, sec. Politics, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2002/05/24/bravery-and-breakdowns-in-a-ridgetop-battle/dce1eefb-d159-47e9-846c-2678b1615fee/. Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 127

[46] Dan Schilling and Lori Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn: Medal of Honor Recipient John Chapman and the Untold Story of the World’s Deadliest Special Operations Force, epub (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2019)., p. 255

[47] Pete Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me: Lessons From a Former Delta Force Commander, epub (New York: Berkley Caliber, 2008)., p. 309-10, Gregory Feifer, The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan (New York: HarperCollins Perennial, 2010)., p. 234-7

[48] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 255

[49] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 335, 384

[50] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 192

[51] Named after the hill at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin in California, it was said to resemble. Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 135

[52] Wright., p. 130

[53] Wright., p. 130

[54] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 177-80

[55] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 142

[56] Sean Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda, 2018 ebook (Penguin, 2005)., p. 121

[57] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 137, US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2431

[58] US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2562

[59] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 137

[60] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 181-3

[61] US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2435

[62] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 259

[63] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 187

[64] Naylor., p. 197, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 137-9

[65] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 139

[66] Wright., p. 136

[67] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 193

[68] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 139

[69] Wright., p. 139

[70] Wright., p. 140-1

[71] Franks and McConnell, American Soldier., p. 379

[72] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 141, US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2444

[73] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 135

[74] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 189

[75] Naylor., p. 162

[76] Naylor., p. 163-4, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 348

[77] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 256

[78] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 347

[79] Blaber., p. 342-3

[80] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 164

[81] Naylor., p. 165

[82] Naylor., p. 165-6, 188, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 349

[83] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 167

[84] Naylor., p. 166, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 350

[85] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 351, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 168

[86] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 167

[87] Naylor., p. 168

[88] Naylor., p. 168

[89] Naylor., p. 168-9, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 351

[90] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 174

[91] Naylor., p. 169

[92] Naylor., p. 170

[93] Naylor., p. 171

[94] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 354

[95] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 170

[96] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 353

[97] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 171

[98] Naylor., p. 173-5, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 354-5

[99] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 174

[100] Naylor., p. 176, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 355-6

[101] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 176

[102] Naylor., p. 177

[103] Naylor., p. 177

[104] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 357-8

[105] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 166. Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 309, 359-60

[106] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 178, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 358

[107] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 182

[108] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 359, italics added.

[109] Blaber., p. 359-60

[110] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 185, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 141

[111] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 184-5, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 361

[112] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 141

[113] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 189, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 363

[114] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 260

[115] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 189

[116] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 262

[117] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz., p. 263

[118] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz., p. 263-4

[119] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 363

[120] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 171

[121] Naylor., p. 172

[122] Naylor., p. 171

[123] Naylor., p. 179

[124] Naylor., p. 179-80

[125] Naylor., p. 192-3

[126] Naylor., p. 193, 218

[127] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 141

[128] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 364

[129] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 201-3

[130] Naylor., p. 204

[131] Naylor., p. 204-6, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 141

[132] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 208

[133] Naylor., p. 208, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 142

[134] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 210

[135] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 143

[136] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 365-7

[137] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 211, 213

[138] Naylor., p. 212

[139] Naylor., p. 214

[140] Naylor., p. 214

[141] Naylor., p. 215

[142] Naylor., p. 215, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 142

[143] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 215

[144] Naylor., p. 216

[145] Naylor., p. 219

[146] Naylor., p. 220

[147] Naylor., p. 220-1

[148] Naylor., p. 222-6, 257

[149] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 146

[150] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 217-8, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 146

[151] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 217-8, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 146

[152] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 147

[153] Wright., p. 147

[154] Wright., p. 147

[155] Wright., p. 147

[156] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 249

[157] Naylor., p. 249-51

[158] Naylor., p. 251, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 147

[159] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 226-8, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 145

[160] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 145

[161] Wright., p. 145

[162] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 228

[163] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 145

[164] Naylor states that only the 120 mm mortar was brought, Wright stated that the 82 mm battery was also brought, see also, Daniel P. Bolger, Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, ebook (New York: Mariner Books, 2014)., p. 74 et seq.

[165] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 143-4

[166] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 237, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 144

[167] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 237, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 144, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 370

[168] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 239, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 152

[169] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 240, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 144-5, 149

[170] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 151

[171] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 252

[172] Naylor., p. 260

[173] Naylor., p. 262

[174] Naylor., p. 239

[175] Naylor., p. 246

[176] Naylor., p. 247

[177] Naylor., p. 247

[178] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 143, Bolger, Why We Lost., p. 74

[179] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 241-2

[180] Naylor., p. 243

[181] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 149

[182] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 243

[183] Naylor., p. 245

[184] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 150

[185] Wright., p. 151

[186] Wright., p. 153, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 269

[187] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 153, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 268-9

[188] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 257

[189] Naylor., p. 257-8

[190] Naylor., p. 256

[191] Naylor., p. 259-60

[192] Naylor., p. 273

[193] Naylor., p. 274-5

[194] Naylor., p. 276

[195] Naylor., p. 277

[196] Naylor., p. 276-81

[197] Naylor., p. 265-6

[198] Naylor., p. 266, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 371

[199] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 267

[200] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 154

[201] Wright., p. 153-4

[202] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 268-9

[203] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 155, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 284

[204] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 154, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 282

[205] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 282, 288-9, 292

[206] Naylor., p. 285

[207] Naylor., p. 284

[208] Naylor., p. 290

[209] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 375-8, , Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 301

[210] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 297

[211] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 377, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 288

[212] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 297-8

[213] Naylor., p. 298

[214] Naylor., p. 291

[215] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 155, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 295

[216] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 155-6, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 293

[217] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 294-6

[218] Naylor., p. 290

[219] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 155

[220] Wright., p. 156

[221] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 295, 297

[222] Naylor., p. 305

[223] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 379

[224] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 303

[225] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 380, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 305-6

[226] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 308, Malcolm MacPherson, Roberts Ridge: A Story of Courage and Sacrifice on Takur Ghar Mountain, Afghanistan, epub (New York: Bantam Dell, 2005)., p. 23-4

[227] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 25, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 308,

[228] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 381

[229] Graham, “Bravery and Breakdowns.”

[230] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 311

[231] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 21-2

[232] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 381, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 308,

[233] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 29-30

[234] MacPherson., p. 30-1, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 381, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 309

[235] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 385

[236] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 33, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 310

[237] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 36

[238] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 311

[239] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 47

[240] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 311

[241] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 39

[242] MacPherson., p. 39

[243] MacPherson., p. 47

[244] MacPherson., p. 48

[245] MacPherson., p. 41

[246] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 313

[247] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 42

[248] MacPherson., p. 42

[249] MacPherson., p. 48

[250] MacPherson., p. 49

[251] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 314

[252] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 51

[253] MacPherson., p. 52

[254] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 157, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 314

[255] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 55

[256] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 325

[257] MacPherson., p. 56

[258] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 326

[259] MacPherson., p. 66, 68-9, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 157, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 387, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 315

[260] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 73

[261] MacPherson., p. 73-4

[262] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 311

[263] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 157

[264] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 386, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 310, 317

[265] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 77

[266] MacPherson., p. 84, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 387

[267] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 78

[268] MacPherson., p. 80

[269] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 332

[270] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 321-2

[271] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 157-8, MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 88-9

[272] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 87

[273] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 387-8

[274] Graham, “Bravery and Breakdowns.”

[275] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 90

[276] MacPherson., p. 91

[277] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 389

[278] Blaber., p. 394

[279] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 158, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 395

[280] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 343-4

[281] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 345

[282] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 349

[283] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 346

[284] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 349-50

[285] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 351, MacPherson., p. 133-4

[286] US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2492

[287] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 353-4. MacPherson says 22 minutes. Turbo had also been shot in the ankle.

[288] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 395, Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 376, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 327, MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 139-42

[289] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 383-91

[290] Every source gives a different description of the composition of the two QRF components. Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 158, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 396-7, US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2499, Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 363, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 332

[291] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 399, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 336. According to Naylor several MANPADs were in fact fired at Grim 32.

[292] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 158, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 341

[293] https://valor.militarytimes.com/hero/3745, Graham, “Bravery and Breakdowns.” US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2516, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 342

[294] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 400, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 158

[295] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 343

[296] Naylor., p. 345-6

[297] Nate Self, Two Wars: One Hero’s Fight on Two Fronts – Abroad and Within, ebook (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008)., loc. 2297 et seq

[298] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 346

[299] Naylor., p. 346

[300] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 158, Naylor., p. 351

[301] Wright., p. 158-9, US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2524, Mark Skovlund, Charles Faint, and Leo Jenkins, Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror (Colorado Springs: Blackside Concepts, 2014). p. 60, Naylor., p. 353

[302] Naylor., p. 353, 358

[303] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 159, Naylor., p. 354

[304] https://valor.militarytimes.com/hero/17147

[305] US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2540

[306] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 159

[307] Wright., p. 159, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 401, Naylor., p. 357

[308] US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2524, Naylor., p. 358

[309] Naylor., p. 361 et seq.

[310] Naylor., p. 359-60

[311] Naylor., p. 360

[312] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 159, US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2540

[313] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 403, http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/Afghanistan-Fighting/4346a5f7d51910b2394ac00b70a7b774

[314] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 160

[315] Wright., p. 160

[316] Wright., p. 160

[317] Wright., p. 162

[318] Wright., p. 162

[319] Wright., p. 163

[320] Wright., p. 163

[321] http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/Afghanistan-Front/a923b8b4787c77a621dedebdc89ad4b1. Wright., p. 163

[322] Wright., p. 163

[323] Wright., p. 163

[324] Wright., p. 165

[325] Wright., p. 166

[326] Wright., p. 166

[327] Wright., p. 167

[328] Wright., p. 169

[329] Wright., p. 171

[330] Wright., p. 172

[331] Wright., p. 173, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 404

[332] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 296

[333] https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=44274. https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_0ch1.pdf?ver=2018-11-27-160457-910

[334] Gordon and Trainor, Cobra II., p. 38

[335] unama.unmissions.org

[336] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 173

[337] Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, A Memoir, epub (New York: Sentinel, 2011)., p. 1,613-6

[338] Gall, The Wrong Enemy., p. 37

[339] Franks and McConnell, American Soldier., p. 381

[340] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/05/20020502-18.html

[341] https://www.defense.gov/Explore/News/Article/Article/1631934/operation-inherent-resolve-transitions-commanders-for-defeat-isis-mission/
https://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/former-inherent-resolve-commander-takes-over-us-army-pacific-and-its-85-000-soldiers-1.607819

[342] https://taskandpurpose.com/code-red-news/john-chapman-medal-of-honor-citation

Reflections on the 2017 McMullen Naval History Symposium

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This year’s biennial McMullen Naval History Symposium, hosted by the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, was a total success. This world-class conference featured a plethora of fascinating panels on subjects ranging from contemporary Canadian naval policy to Julius Caesar’s appreciation of naval power. As always, with a conference of this scale involving hundreds of historians and participants, any one person is only able to see a fraction of the total panels, so individual experience does matter. The conference was not generally digitized, thus, reflections from the participants provide the only method for intersubjectively preserving the experience itself, and there have already been (David Morgan-Owen) several (Trent Hone) contributions (Matthew Eng) in that regard.

The conference was organized by the vigilant Commander Benjamin “BJ” Armstrong, one of the “New Young Turks” relentlessly in pursuit of greater historical appreciation amongst the cadets and midshipmen of the growing United States Navy, not to mention a senior editor with the all-star blog, War on the Rocks. Commander Armstrong also edited the “21st Century” Mahan and Sims volumes for the US Naval Institute Press. The major themes at this years conference were the First World War (naturally enough considering the centenary), global and imperial history, seapower in the Age of Sail, the Asian and the Pacific theatres, the Second World War, naval education, and the evolution of naval technology in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Day One: September 14, 2017

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From left to right: Panel Chair John Beeler, Louis Halewood, Alex Howlett, and David Kohnen (photo credit, Tim Choi)

I was a presenter on one of the first panels, along with Louis Halewood and David Kohnen. My paper on the Royal Naval Air Service and the development of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) 1917-1918, examined the impact of changing administration during wartime, and the organizational learning that took place in an unprecedented and high-technology environment. Louis Halewood described his research on the development of the Anglo-American theory of geostrategy, raising the prospect of the pre-1914 “Imperial Superstate” concept, notably diagnosed by historians such as Carroll Quigley, and Ramsay Muir. Louis Halewood introduced the influential work of luminaries such as Hartford Mackinder, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Julian Corbett, Spencer Wilkinson, and Lord Milner, theorists of naval and military power, strategy and imperial defence, who would all reappear with regularity in the politically charged panels and discussions to follow. Ultimately, the unity of the Wilsonian Anglo-American alliance broke down in the interwar period, in no small measure due to the challenge to British naval supremacy from the United States, in the process destroying the Anglo-Japanese alliance, with profound implications for Britain’s role in the Second World War.

David Kohnen discussed his research on the Knox-Pye-King report, a significant paper published in the United States Naval Institute Proceedings in 1920, bringing to the US Navy (USN) the strategic focus which had been raised in the British school, in particular, by the pre-war historians John Laughton, Julian Corbett, and Captain Herbert Richmond. Captains Ernie King, Dudley Knox and William Pye had been influenced by the irresistible force of Admiral William Sims, one of the significant contributors to the argument in favour of introducing trans-Atlantic convoys, a deciding factor in the victory over the U-boats in 1917-1918. David Kohnen argued that the modern USN had a worrying predilection for defaulting to technological dogma, with the result of the Navy utilizing the acronym saturated language of the Defense Department to stress uncritical “warfighting” instead of historical engagement and peacekeeping as the basis for doctrine.

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Right to left: Panel chair Caitlin Gale, presenters Anna Brinkman, David Morgan-Owen, Paul Ramsey, and commentator Andrew Lambert (photo credit, Tim Choi)

With turn of the century grand strategy on my mind, I moved to the panel specifically examining British foreign policy, with the first paper given by Anna Brinkman (of Imperial Entanglements fame), on Britain’s strategy for managing Spain during the Seven Years War, a complex subject that relied on the interaction between significant stakeholders, Britain and Spain’s differing conceptions of the law of the sea, and the emerging balance of power in Europe. David Morgan-Owen, the brains behind the Defence-in-Depth blog, next brought the discussion into the 19th and 20th centuries by examining Britain’s evolving European and global situation, a subject that hinges on the the sticky topic of imperial and homeland defence, explored further in David’s new book. The expansion of the Committee for Imperial Defence by Prime Minister Arthur Balfour in 1904 was a watershed moment, ultimately leading to the development of conflicting army and naval strategies during the government of Herbert Asquith. Lastly, Paul Ramsey examined Spenser Wilkinson’s debate with historian Julian Corbett about the proper relation of Britain’s foreign and military policy to national strategy, a historically and politically charged sparring played out in the popular press. Professor Andrew Lambert, who was the panel commentator, observed the intricate connections between the papers, with Corbett, a scholar of the Seven Years War and Russo-Japanese War, visualizing Britain’s naval role as a component of an integrated system that only made sense once the land dynamic, with a debt to Clausewitz and Jomini, was integrated.

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Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson announces the winners of the CNO’s inaugural Naval History Essay Contest (photo credit, Tim Choi)

With this auspicious start, the conference was on a sound footing. I enjoyed lunch in the beautiful Bo Coppedge Room, at the Alumni Hall, where I had an enjoyable conversation with a young officer and naval scholar on the fascinating subjects of Athens versus Sparta, US Marine Corps culture, and the recent Graham Allison book, The Thucydides Trap, concerning the possibility of American conflict with China in the 21st century. I was impressed with the student’s insight, candor, and breadth of knowledge, all of which I found refreshing (as was the key-lime cheesecake). Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson then presented the awards to the winners of the inaugural Naval History Essay Contest, which promised to raise the bar for scholarly research amongst historians and practitioners alike.

After lunch we headed to the final panel for the first day, again focused on British naval policy in the 19th century. By this point the conference was beginning to resemble a choose your own type of adventure. This was both an advantage and disadvantage of the conference’s scale and international reach. Breaking out of my own area of interest was certainly possible, with simultaneous panels taking place on American, South American, and Second World War naval history, all of which would have been fascinating to attend, if not especially related to my research focus. The conference organizers did the attendees a service by arranging the panels in such a manner that overlap was minimal and it was a fairly straightforward process to figure out which panel was the best choice for my own preferences.

This panel was chaired by John Mitcham, and the first paper was presented by John Beeler, the editor of the Navy Record Society’s Milne papers, on the subject of the Liberal party’s naval policy during the late 19th century. Beeler, who literally wrote the book on the subject, argued that the questionable choices of the Liberal party in terms of naval policy were an indication of a lack of clear strategic thinking, compared to Salisbury’s vision. The nuances of the political situation was emphasized by Peter Keeling, who followed this thread by specifically expanding on the Liberal party’s 1889 Naval Defence Act with original research that examined who voted for and against the Act, and why. Presenting the last paper of the day, Rebecca Matzke, in a fascinating paper reminiscent of the work of Michael Neiberg, discussed the efforts of British propagandists to influence American public perception of the Royal Navy’s war effort, in particular, as it related to the Royal Navy’s blockade and Germany’s counter-blockade (the unrestricted U-boat campaign). Taken together, this panel explored the interrelation of optics, how public support is galvanized by policymakers and NGOs, and the realities of budgetary and geostrategic constraints, firmly recognizing that military policy is never formed in a vacuum, and more often than not, is the result of a complex patchwork of influence.

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James Goldrick delivers the 2017 McMullen Sea Power address in Mahan Hall, (photo credit, Tim Choi)

Thus we adjourned for day one. The next event was the McMullen Sea Power address to be held later that evening in the appropriately named Mahan Hall. Taking advantage of the warm evening air while moving between buildings, I stopped the always approachable James Goldrick for a brief discussion that touched on wide-ranging concepts such as Britain’s anti-submarine defence in the First World War, Germany’s strategic bombing campaigns in two world wars, and the origins of aircraft carrier strike doctrine. I was impressed as always by Professor Goldrick’s erudition. In this spirit of historical reflection, the conference participants made their way over to the fantastic US Naval Academy Museum. After touring amongst the excellent warship models and artifact displays, discussing defence policy with friends, I was stunned into a moment of clarity by news which spread like fire between the attendees that North Korea had launched yet another long-range missile, dramatically bringing home the importance of the subjects we had discussed, in otherwise academic detachment, throughout the day.

Not much more than an hour later I was sitting on the balcony of Mahan Hall watching Rear-Admiral (retired) Goldrick, Royal Australian Navy, deliver the formal 2017 Sea Power address. Professor Goldrick delivered his keynote directly to the young midshipmen sitting across from me on both wings of the balcony, and strove to reconcile the need for thorough professionalism within military education, transcending technological determinism, while also avoiding the other end of the spectrum, ivory tower detachment, a synthesis rare enough amongst long-time scholars yet also essential to the future of service culture: the next generation of young scholar-officers.

Day Two: September 15, 2017

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From left to right: Trent Hone, Wes Hammond, and John Miller, USN.

With three excellent panels on Anglo-American and imperial naval history behind me, I decided to start off day two on a slightly different tact. There would be four panels to see, and I felt it was time to broaden the discussion by revisiting some areas of interest from my previous academic work. Easing into things I visited the panel highlighting some of the winners of the CNO’s essay contest, starting with Trent Hone’s analysis of operational learning by the USN at Guadalcanal in 1942. Hone argued that the Navy, with a strong foundation in historical education and doctrine, derived from the inter-war period and First World War, was well situated to adapt to operational disasters such as the Battle of Savo Island, enabling the Navy to reverse-course and ultimately out think the Imperial Japanese Navy. Lieutenant John Miller then read his case-study analysis of training failure, notably looking at the USS Stark, USS Panay, and USS Chesapeake incidents, concluding that readiness can only be achieved by a thorough understanding of not only ship and crew capability, but also, significantly, environmental awareness, the multifaceted elements of which can only be mastered through carefully cultivated experience and preparation, frequently missing in a high-tempo, rapid deployment situation. Wes Hammond then expanded on this subject by observing the importance of mobile basing, stressing the element of fleet logistics, repair and salvage, upon which all other elements are reliant. An important theme uniting these papers, explored in the panel discussion, was the recognition that contemporary naval affairs are defined by questions with historical antecedents. The notion of having, “been here before” was startling, and a clear reminder of the importance of historical investigation prior to framing naval policy.

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From left to right: Dr. Nicholas Lambert, Alan Anderson, James Smith and G. H. Bennet

The fifth panel was chaired by the Naval Academy’s own Dr. Nicholas Lambert and featured papers by G. H. Bennet, Alan Anderson and James Smith. This panel took a sweeping look at the Admiralty as a political and educational organization in the 20th century. Plymouth University’s Bennet presented on the unique subject of ship and naval station libraries, a critical component in naval education that at first glance might appear parochial, yet, like many of the papers presented, once explored in detail provided rich insight. Bennet’s research explored the organic knowledge networks that developed aboard ships as crew and officers traded and circulated books, while providing a warning evidenced by the decline of these networks during the transformation of the Royal Navy as budgets tightened in the 20th century. Alan Anderson followed up by examining the seemingly bizarre decision of the Admiralty to promulgate the Declaration of London in 1909, and the implications this would have for Britain’s blockade strategy in 1914. Anderson, who has been critical of Nicholas Lambert’s work on British blockade theory, argued that in fact the Admiralty gained significant concessions from the Declaration, notably including affirmations on the illegality of shipping “absolute contraband” in times of war, while simultaneously shoring up neutral shipping rights, essential components of the Royal Navy’s historical mission as safeguard of the seas. James Smith (of the Seapower Thinker blog) built upon these papers with his criticism of the introduction of the Ministry of Defence by the Earl Mountbatten, who was Chief of the Defence staff for six years, starting in July 1959. Smith argued that Mountbatten’s personal ambitions led him to undermine Britain’s traditional maritime focus, relegating the senior service to equality with the RAF and Army, thus stripping the Navy of its institutional power, which had been carefully built up over hundreds of years.

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The Battle of Virginia Capes, 1781

Controversy continued to abound in the two finals panels, both of which I attended out of interest. The first was focused on the Battle of Virginia Capes, 5 September 1781, and second on Japanese naval policy in the 20th century. This was a trip back in time for me, as I had previously written my Masters thesis on the culminating naval battle of the American Revolution, as well as my undergraduate thesis on the only decisive naval battle of the ironclad age, the Battle of Tsushima, 27 May 1905. The first of these panels was known colloquially as the Naval War College panel, featuring papers drawn entirely from that fine institution. Chaired by the College’s John Hattendorf, James Holmes presented the first paper, an insightful strategic analysis of Britain’s naval policy during the Revolutionary War. Holmes argued that Admiralty decision-making ultimately led to the abandonment of the American colonies in favour of protecting the more profitable imperial territories in the Caribbean and India, and seen from the perspective of grand strategy, was reflective of the concept of “antifragility” which helped to explain the Admiralty’s thinking. Holmes provided a broad framework that was then detailed by Jim McIntyre’s paper, examining the egodocuments of Hessian mercenary Johann Ewald, who witnessed the siege of Yorktown. The presentation of Stanley Carpenter flowed naturally from this point, providing a thorough analysis of the Royal Navy’s tactics at the Battle of the Capes itself, with particular attention to the Graves-Hood controversy that emerged. I was pleased to see, eight years after completing my thesis on the subject, Lord Hood receiving the criticism he rightly deserves for failing to bring battle decisively against the Comte de Grasse’s fleet when ordered so by Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves. The discussion after this panel was particularly insightful, with John Hattendorf moderating a lively debate about the vagaries of timing, strategic movements, and the many “mistakes” made, for example, by Lord Cornwallis, who should have known better than to allow his Carolina offensive to become locked up in a position from which the only possible escape was by sea.

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Dr. Alessio Patalano presenting on Japan’s Cold War submarine policy, (photo credit: Tim Choi)

The final panel I attended was presented by Andrew Blackley, covering the lessons of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5, in particular the Battle of the Yalu, followed by presentations from Masashi Kurarni, Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, looking at the Japanese contribution to the Mediterranean in 1917, and finally, by Alessio Patalano, who introduced the Self Defense Force’s submarine policy during the early Cold War. Andrew Blackley argued that Japan’s naval doctrine of rapid-fire close attack proved decisive in two major naval wars, indeed, demonstrating significant flexibility when faced with technical faults or warship losses. Flexibility was further indicated by Masashi Kurarni’s paper, showcasing Japan’s significant international alliance contribution to the anti-submarine war in 1917-1918, providing insight into the under-examined U-boat campaign in the Mediterranean. In keeping with these themes, Alessio Patalano presented the final paper, kindly aware of his duty to move quickly prior to the conference’s conclusion. Patalano observed that Japan’s strategy of core-competency paid dividends when the submarine began to take on a more significant role in Japan’s defence planning. The JMSDF was able to retain capability despite political, budgetary, and strategic transformation on an unprecedented scale.

The conference concluded back at the official symposium hotel where the 2017 Knox Awards Banquet was held, during which Dr. Edward J. Marolda, Commander Paul Stillwell and Dr. Jon T. Sumida were presented with Lifetime Achievement Awards for their stellar and dedicated contributions to naval history.

In conclusion, I was struck by the inspiring collegiality of this professional, academic conference. It serves the historians well to leave their monk-like confines to engage with the free-flow of ideas that historical symposiums inculcate. Between the brilliant and inspiring papers it was a real pleasure to be included in debate that frequently involved world-class subject experts and naval practitioners. In short, this was a transformative experience I highly recommend to anyone considering attending the next Symposium in 2019.

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Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve: The Air Campaign, Effectiveness, Part III

NATO Secretary General at the Global Coalition to Counter-ISIL Defense Ministerial

Logo for the Global Counter ISIL Defence Ministerial, held in Washington D.C., 20 July 2016.[i]

Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve: The Air Campaign, Effectiveness, Part III

CENTCOM’s CJTF-OIR mission is now entering the second year since its inception in August 2014. It has been almost six months since the United States and its coalition partners began transitioning to the expanded phase of the CJTF-OIR mission. April to October 2016 witnessed a general expansion of the Global Coalition’s air campaign, complemented by relentless diplomatic pressure to bolster the Coalition’s political support and capabilities. Turkish ground forces intervened in August to prevent the Kurdish occupation of Manbij, and in September Russia accelerated its support for the Syrian regime forces battling in Aleppo. The April – October period ended with the Coalition preparing for its final series of operations against Raqqa and Mosul.

Diplomacy: Strengthening the Commitment, Two Years of Progress

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US President Barack Obama speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin on 18 April 2016. Control between the Russian and Coalition partners remained both complicated and dangerous, and was not always conducted with mutual satisfaction.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg flies by helicopter to Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 Flagship, Bonn, 21 April 2016.[ii] NATO’s role in the Coalition remained hugely important, especially in the naval, air and training roles, although the United States continued to shoulder the majority of airstrikes and ground personnel.

Command reshuffling continued throughout the April – October period. On 21 April, Major General Peter E. Gersten, the deputy commander, operations and intelligence for the CJTF-OIR and 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force, was moved to the Secretary of Air Force’s office at the Pentagon as deputy assistant for programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller,[iii] continuing a trend seen throughout 2016 of Iraq and Afghanistan senior commanders moving between and into Washington posts.

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Vice President Joseph Biden boards a C-17 aircraft after concluding his visit to Baghdad on April 28.[iv] Biden’s surprise visit was meant to impress the importance of the Coalition’s long-term Mosul strategy; the recapture of ISIL’s Iraq capital is one of President Obama’s year end goals.

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In Hannover, US President Barack Obama met with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron; the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, President of France, Francois Hollande and Matto Renzi, the Prime Minister of Italy. 25 April 2016. Europe’s commitment to the counter-ISIL mission remained steadfast despite a number of ISIS terrorist attacks on European soil.

On April 28, Lt. General Thomas Waldhauser, formerly the director joint forces development at the Pentagon (J-7, Joint Staff HQ, USMC)[v], was promoted full general and appointed the commander, US Forces, AFRICOM.[vi] The Africa Command played an important role in the expanded counter-ISIL mission: several high profile strikes were carried out in Libya.

On 2 May, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that Norway had agreed to provide special forces to Jordan to assist in the training of Syrian Sunni fighters. The coalition continued to train “vetted” Syrian fighters. Norway also agreed to send a special medical team directly to the combat areas of northern Iraq.[vii] Carter personally thanked Norway’s Defence Minister, Ine Eriksen Soreide for her assistance in securing Norway’s commitment to the ongoing mission. Carter planned to meet with Defence Minister Soreide in Stuttgart for a CJTF ministers meeting happening later that week.

On 4 May Air Force Lieutenant General Charles Q. Brown Jr., the deputy commander USAF Central Command, Southwest Asia, became deputy commander, US Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base.[viii] That same day, Ash Carter met with the Danish Defense Minister, Peter Christensen, at the Stuttgart anti-ISIL defence ministerial. Christensen pledged to commit Danish forces to the full spectrum of military operations in Iraq and Syria.[ix]

On 11 May, Elissa Slotkin, Acting Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs, and Joint Staff Director for Strategic Plans and Policy, Lt. General Kenneth F. McKenzie, held a video-conference with their Russian MOD counterparts to recommit to the US-Russia memorandum of understanding on flight restrictions for Syria., the first of many teleconferences for the period.[x] The Russia-US memorandum would become especially significant towards the end of September with the collapse of the ceasefire agreement, and the renewed Russian air campaign against Aleppo.

On 13 May, US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter announced that Belgium would commit air assets (F-16s) to Syria as part of the counter-ISIL mission. Carter commended Prime Minister Charles Michel and Defence Minister Steven Vadeput for their support.[xi]

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Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Curtis Scaparrotti (US Army), and General John W. Nicholson, commander Operation Resolute Support (Afghanistan), at the Meetings of the Chiefs of Defence, in Brussels, 18 May. The interplay between Afghanistan, NATO, and the CJTF-OIR was maintained at the highest level, yet remained only one of the several security challenges facing the US and NATO. Other areas of concern were Eastern Europe and the Asia-Pacific.

Meetings of the Chiefs of Defence at NATO Headquarters in Brussels - MC-CS Resolute Support Format

18 May 2016, General Joseph F. Dunford (USMC) meeting with Vice Admiral John N. Christenson, the US Military Representative to NATO, at the 175th session of the Meetings of the Chiefs of the Defence at NATO HQ, Brussels.[xii] Dunford, along with Secretary Carter, were instrumental in pushing for US troop increases to the CJTF.

On 18 May, Secretary Carter met with Qatar’s defence minister, Minister of State for Defence Affairs Khalid al-Attiyah, and they discussed mutual security, including the counter-ISIL missions.[xiii]

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US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg prior to the US-NATO bilateral meeting in Brussels on May 19.[xiv] Stoltenberg and Kerry conducted nearly round-the-clock global diplomacy to keep the Coalition on mission, while building bridges for ceasefire negotiations in Syria, but also keeping the broader strategic perspective in mind.

On 24 May, the US DOD announced that Brigadier Karen H. Gibson, deputy commanding general Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber, US Army Cyber Command, had been promoted to Director of Intelligence, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, based in Kuwait.[xv] That same day, Brigadier General G. Kaiser was made commander, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. These appointments reflected a long-standing trend of moving intelligence and special forces personnel to CJTF and Afghanistan. Cyber, intelligence, training and battle-space control only increased in significance as the air campaign and ISF training operations expanded during the summer.

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US President Obama photographed here taking notes before the G7 leaders working lunch in Shima City, Japan, 26 May 2016. Russia had been evicted from the G8 following the March 2014 invasion of Crimea. Along with Secretary Kerry, with only half a year left in office, President Obama maintained focus on the counter-ISIL mission and Afghanistan, the two wars that had not ended during his eight years as President.

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June 2, Graduates of the USAF Academy Colorado Springs celebrate. President Obama congratulates graduate in the background.[xvi]

On June 3, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, during his visit to Singapore, met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and the two discussed countering terrorism, including ISIL, as well as joint air operations in the Asia-Pacific. Carter thanked the Prime Minister for his aggressive stance on counter-ISIL and anti-piracy (Gulf of Aden) missions.[xvii] The coalition relied on smaller partners and regional actors to handle specific tasks, often outside the main theatre of operations.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meeting with French President Francois Hollande on 3 June 2016.[xviii]

On 3 June Army Command Sgt. Major William F. Thetford, command senior enlisted leader for US Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, replaced Army Command Sgt. Major Christopher K. Greca as command senior enlisted advisor for CENTCOM, MacDill AFB.[xix]

On 8 June, US DOD Secretary Ash Carter and Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work held a meeting with Sweden’s Minister of Defense, Peter Hultqvist. Discussion topics included Russian aggression and expanding the counter-ISIL mission. Bob Work later met with the Defense Minister of Montenegro, Milica Pejanovic-Djuisic, thanking the minister for their commitment to Afghanistan.[xx] Also on June 8, Brigadier General Daniel R. Walrath, deputy commanding general (maneuver) 1st Armored Division; and commander Combined Joint Operations Center/Army Forces-Jordan, Operation Inherent Resolve, Jordan, was moved to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, US Army, Washington DC.[xxi]

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ISW European situation map, showing ISIL attacks between March 25 and July 15, 2016. Turkey’s greater involvement in the Coalition drew a number of ISIL backed attacks.

On 10 June, Brigadier General Aaron M. Prupas, the deputy director of intelligence, US Forces – Afghanistan, also assistant deputy of staff of intelligence to NATO HQ, Operation Resolute Support, was made the director (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance strategy, plans, policy, and force development) CENTCOM, Kabul, Afghanistan, under the Deputy Chief of Staff (ISR), USAF HQ at the Pentagon.[xxii] Brigadier General Aaron replaced Major General Linda R. Urrutia-Varhall who became the director (operations) and the military deputy at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Springfield, Virginia.

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            President Obama at the Department of Finance to give a statement on the Orlando shootings (12 June 2016), following a National Security Council meeting on June 14, 2016. James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, is standing in front of the camera. The Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew are to his left.[xxiii] .[xxiv]

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14 June: NATO Defense Ministers meet in Brussels. US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter meets with Pedro Morenes Eluate, the Spanish Secretary of Defense , and Jeab-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defense for France.[xxv] Carter also met with Michael Fallon, Britain’s Secretary of State for Defence.[xxvi] Accelerating the ISIL campaign was discussed by all parties. Later, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met with Fikri Isik, the Turkish Minister of Defense. Carter emphasized Turkey’s critical role in the Counter-ISIL Coalition. Carter also thanked the Minister for his support in the ongoing refugee crisis, and in his commitment to Afghan security.[xxvii] Carter also met with the Secretary of State for the Defence of France, Jean-Yves le Drian.[xxviii]

The next day, June 15, Carter met with General Stepan Poltorak, the Ukrainian Minister of Defense, and confirmed the US and NATO commitment to Ukrainian security, including US non-recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014.[xxix] On 16 June, Secretary Carter met with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman. Carter and bin Salman discussed Saudi Arabia’s important role in the counter-ISIL mission, as well as the Saudi operations to counter Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, particularly in Yemen.[xxx]

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Afghanistan situation map for June 30, 2016.[xxxi] ISW map. The long war entered its 15th year in October 2016.

On 17 June, the US Department of Defense released its Afghanistan situation report, “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan” covering the period December 2015 to May 2016.[xxxii] The report discussed the successes of the counter-ISIL mission in Afghanistan (Islamic State – Khorasan), as well as the ongoing NATO Operation Resolute Support and US led Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. The report, significantly, noted that insurgent violence has led to increased levels of civilian and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) casualties. The report also highlighted ongoing capability gaps in the ANDSF (although noting that Afghanistan’s aerial capability had increased three times from its 2015 level thanks to the delivering of ground attack aircraft and helicopters), and observed that while the NATO commitment continues to hover around the 7,000 soldier level, the US was significantly short of its 9,800 troop level establishment during the report period. US troop level is expected to fall to 5,500 by January 2017.

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            A video-conference was held between Russian and US DOD personnel on 18 June regarding Russian airstrikes carried out on June 16 that targeted At-Tanf in Syria, where US backed Syrian opposition and counter-ISIL forces were stationed.[xxxiii] At the Pentagon, on 20 June, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met with Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Minister of Defense. They discussed regional security concerns, as well as Lieberman’s planned visit to Fort Worth, Texas, where he would see the F-35 JSF production line (Israel will be the first foreign country to receive F-35s).[xxxiv] That same day, Carter issued a statement applauding Polish Minister of National Defense Macierewicz’s decision to deploy 60 special operations forces to Iraq, as well as commit four F-16s to Kuwait for reconnaissance missions.[xxxv] Likewise, Carter issued another statement, also 20 June, thanking Gerry Brownlee, the Minister of Defense of New Zealand, for his commitment to the training mission in Iraq through November 2018.[xxxvi]

            The next day, 21 June, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work met with the Dutch Minister of Defense Secretary-General Wim Geerts at the Pentagon, where the two discussed Europe and the counter-ISIL campaign.[xxxvii] On 24 June Ash Carter spoke by telephone with UK State Secretary for Defense Michael Fallon: they discussed the ongoing counter-ISIL mission and US-UK commitment to NATO.[xxxviii]

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US Secretary of State meets with NATO Secretary General for bilateral talks on 27 June 2016, in Brussels.[xxxix] The same day US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter issued a statement congratulating Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi for the progress made securing Fallujah from ISIL control.[xl]

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June 29, 2016: North American leaders summit working lunch at the National Gallery in Ottawa, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto. US Secretary of State John Kerry sits to Obama’s right and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice is to his left.[xli] Canada’s role in the Global Coalition remains complex, with the Liberal government committing 168 special operations forces to Iraq, while continuing to fly reconnaissance and refueling missions.

On June 28 there was a suicide bombing attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.[xlii] Secretary Carter called Turkish Minister of Defense Fikri Isik to express his condolences.[xliii]

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US President Obama discusses a statement on Afghanistan with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, July 6, 2016.[xliv]

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NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow meets with the Minister of State for Defence Affairs, Mohamed Ahmed Albowardi Alfalacy, of the United Arab Emirates, 6 July 2016[xlv] The UAE plays a crucial role in the coalition, providing basing and support for US airstrikes, while also committing to the all important training mission.

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8 July 2016, the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Secretary General Stoltenberg visits with NATO Allied Ground Surveillance personnel and their Global Hawk UAV.[xlvi]

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Jens Stoltenberg meets with US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Warsaw on 8 July 2016.[xlvii] Operation Resolute Support was the major subject of discussion, with commitments made to sustain the operation through the conclusion of 2016, with financial commitments made to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces through the 2020 timeframe. It was hoped Afghanistan would be capable of financial responsibility for its security forces by the end of 2024 (the conclusion of the “Transformation Decade” as arranged at the 2012 NATO Chicago Summit).

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Enemy attacks in Afghanistan, January 2014 to May 2016. The figures indicate an overall decline in IED and mine fatalities, but an increase in direct actions.

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8 July 2016, Family Portrait of NATO heads of state, Warsaw Summit.[xlviii] Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom smiles, despite having lost the Brexit Referendum in June. He was to subsequently to resign on July 13. A week after this picture was taken, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, standing in front of Chancellor Merkel, would survive the coup attempt of July 15, 2016.

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9 July 2016, Warsaw: Barack Obama shakes hands with Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer, Abdullah Abdullah and Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the President of Afghanistan. Ash Carter is on the left and Jens Stoltenberg on the right.[xlix] Secretary Carter later met with Turkey’s Defense Minister, Fikri Isik, expressing uniformity on the anti-ISIL mission, and looked forward to meeting again in Washington DC for the July 20-21 Counter-ISIL Defense Ministerial.[l] Carter then left for Baghdad, arriving July 11.

US Defense Secretary Carter met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi in Baghdad shortly after arriving on 11 July. At this meeting Carter highlighted the success achieved by capture the Qayyarah West airfield. Carter announced that the US intended to deploy another 560 troops to Iraq to build on momentum leading up to the planned assault on Mosul, an arrangement that had been made with CJTF-OIR commander Lt. General Sean MacFarland.[li] Mosul, the plan went, would be attacked from both north and south: in the north by Kurdish Peshmerga forces and in the south by Iraqi Security Forces. Manbij, the strategic hub along the Turkish border between Iraq and Syria, was now surrounded and under intensive aerial bombardment.

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July 15, 2016, President Obama meets with Gerard Araud, French Ambassador to the US, following the ISIS terrorist attack in Nice. US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian to offer his condolences.[lii]

On 19 July US Secretary Carter called Turkey’s Fikri Isik to reiterate his support for the democratically elected government, following the 15 July 2016 coup attempt.[liii]

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Global Coalition to Counter-ISIL Defence Ministerial, chaired by US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter, 20 July 2016, at Joint Base Andrews, outside Washington D.C.[liv] Carter later spoke with French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian. Carter expressed gratitude for the decision to deploy France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to support the CJTF.[lv] Carter also met with the Defense Ministers from Saudi Arabia and Australia, both involved in the training mission in Iraq.

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French (and USN and German) naval forces operating against ISIL.

On 26 July the next video-conference between Russian MOD and US DOD personnel took place.[lvi] On 28 July Brigadier General Terrence J. McKenrick, the commanding general, Brigade Modernization Command, Army Capabilities Integration Center, US Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Bliss, Texas, was promoted to deputy commanding general, US Army Central/Third Army, Kuwait.[lvii]

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August 2, 2016. President Obama greets Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore on the White House south lawn. The Prime Minister also met with Secretary Carter for a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

On 2 August Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Eric D. Neilsen, was moved from the Joint Special Operations Air Component – Central, Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to become the senior enlisted leader for NATO Special Operations Forces, Supreme HQ Allied Powers Europe, Mons, Belgium; highlighting the close integration between CTJF and NATO special operations.[lviii]

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Russian airstrikes in Syria, July 28 to August 20, 2016. Institute for the Study of War map.[lix]

September 7, 2016: Secretary Carter met with Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman for a bilateral meeting during the London UN Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial. They discussed regional security and ISIL.[lx] Carter then met with Fikri Isik, Turkey’s Minister of Defense, on September 8. Carter reaffirmed his commitment to Turkey’s security, and assured the minister of US support for anti-ISIL operations along the Turkish border.[lxi]

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ISW situation map for ISIL activity in Turkey the year of 2015-2016.[lxii]

On 16 September, the US President’s National Security Council met. It was noted that at this time in the campaign, 50% of Iraq territory once controlled by ISIL had been recaptured, and that ISIL in Syria was now effectively cut off from the outside world.[lxiii]

The next video-conference between US DOD and Russian MOD liaisons took place on September 14, with another conference held on 22 September following the Russian or Syrian regime airstrikes on a UN aid convoy, disrupting the weeklong ceasefire agreement before the end of September.[lxiv]

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September 20: US President Barack Obama before delivering his final presidential address at the UN General Assembly.[lxv]

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            Stoltenberg attending the UN General Assembly session on 20 September 2016, during his visit to New York.[lxvi]

             On 22 September, Secretary Ash Carter met with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Pentagon. They discussed US and Australian support for the counter-ISIL mission and the ongoing campaign in Afghanistan, as well as regional security concerns, the recent North Korean nuclear test, and naval developments in the Asia-Pacific.[lxvii]

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            Also on 22 September, the United Kingdom’s Michael Fallon met with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, who expressed gratitude for the UK’s commitment to the coalition training mission.

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            NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attends a seminar at the Kennedy School, Harvard, during his visit to the United States, 23 September 2016. NATO and the Coalition took great lengths to explain the importance of the mission to often skeptical populations; the Combined Joint Task Force continued to maintain youtube and twitter pages filled with regular updates on airstrikes and other coalition movements.

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Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford and Secretary Ash Carter state that the coalition has gained momentum in battling ISIL in Syria, September 24, 2016.[lxviii] On September 28, Carter announced that an additional 600 US soldiers were being committed to Iraq, in anticipation of the Mosul offensive.[lxix]

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19 September. CJTF-OIR commander Lt. General Townsend meets US Army Secretary Eric Fanning in Baghdad at the beginning of the Secretary’s tour of US forces in Iraq.

Operations in Transition: Escalation

            The summer of 2016 was a transitional period for the CJTF: while Ramadi had been recaptured at the end of 2015, and Hit was soon to follow (April 2016), with the Mosul – Raqqa corridor squeezed at Sinjar, although Fallujah was still under ISIL control. Much of the air campaign over the past five months was focused on the degrading of ISIL forces in preparation for the expected showdown over the ISIL capitals in Syria and Iraq.

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Two French Mirage 2000Ds refuel over Iraq, April 8, 2016.

In the target information section of the CJTF-OIR strike reports, it is not unusual to see one strike credited with destroying dozens of ISIL fuel trucks, or destroying a cluster of local targets, from tunnels, bridges, rocket vehicles, VIEDs, IEDs and explosives factories, many boats and river craft, medium and heavy machine gun positions, bunkers, communications, HQ, and training facilities, currency mints, oil derricks, pump jacks, well heads, technicals, tactical vehicles, bulldozers, rear-end loaders, recoilless rifles, artillery pieces, mortars, weapons caches, fighting entrenchments, ISIL camera positions, sniper positions, multistory buildings, entire House Borne IEDs (HBIEDs), and some particularly interesting targets such as battle tanks and at least one ISIL controlled drone. A typical example, representative of the dozens of strikes conducted during any given day, are six strikes executed near Qayyarah, on April 5, 2016, destroying an ISIL tactical unit, weapons storage facility, four mortar firing positions, a supply cache, a VBIED production facility, and 13 staging areas.

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Table showing the monthly weapon release figures for one year of the war, February 2015 – 2016. The low figures in the spring of 2015 coincide with the withdrawal of the B-1B bombers for modifications, and subsequent uptick with the arrival of B-52s.[lxx]

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Table showing breakdown of CJTF-OIR strike mission targets for April 2016.[lxxi] Mosul was the most heavily attacked, receiving 137 strikes, nearly twice as many as Mar’a in Syrian, with 70 strikes. Fallujah, Hit and Qayyarah received more than 50 strikes each.

            A huge series of strikes were carried out against ISIL controlled refinery assets near Mosul on 14 and 15 April 2016.[lxxii]

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16 April: airstrikes target a VBEID and ISIL troop barracks near Al Hawl.[lxxiii]

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18 April: coalition strikes destroy ISIL explosives and IED factories at Qayyarah[lxxiv]

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Coalition strikes on April 24, targeting ISIL munitions factories in Fallujah and Sultan Abdallah, fighting positions around Manbij were also attacked.[lxxv] More ISIL infantry positions were engaged outside Fallujah on 25 April.[lxxvi]

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Qayyarah was targeted on 27 April, as was Al Huwayjah.[lxxvii] An HQ facility at Washiyah, Syria, was also destroyed.

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On 28 April an ISIL fueling station outside Mosul was destroyed.[lxxviii] Mar’a was also targeted.[lxxix]

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An ISIL VBIED factory at Al Qam was destroyed on 29 April. Additional VBIEDs were targeted near Kirkuk.[lxxx]

On 4 May 2016, the US Defense Department announced that Special Warfare Operator 1st Class, Charles H. Keating, a US Navy SEAL, had been killed in combat at Tall Usquf Iraq, May 3.[lxxxi] On 8 May, the DoD announced that 1st Lt. David A. Bauders of Seattle Washington, 176th Engineer Company, had been killed while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, on 6 May at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq due to a non-combat related incident.[lxxxii]

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Weapons facilities at Qayyarah were bombed on May 5.[lxxxiii]

            On 10 May US Special Operations Command carried out a hostage rescue raid in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, freeing Ali Haider Gilani, son of Pakistant’s former Prime Minister, had been held captive for three years by Al Qaeda.[lxxxiv]

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19 May: Snipers in Ar Rutbah are targeted.[lxxxv]

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On 20 May, the ISIS Syrian capital at Ar Raqqah was hit, a huge weapons cache destroyed along with an oil derrick.[lxxxvi] A mortar position at Mar’a was targeted on May 21. Another weapons cache was destroyed on May 22, again near Mar’a.[lxxxvii] Also on 21 May, the US killed Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Mansour in an airstrike in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Mansour had been the Taliban leader since July 2015. He was succeeded by Mullah Haybatullah Akhundzada.

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On 24 May a VBIED was destroyed at Fallujah.[lxxxviii] PGM circled.

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An ISIL HQ building in Mosul was destroyed on 25 May.[lxxxix]

On 23 May, the US DOD announced that Taliban leader Mullah Mansur had been killed in an airstrike carried out along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border on 21 May.[xc] On 28 May, Gunner’s Mate Seaman Connor Alan McQuagge, a 19 yearold from Utah, died of a non-combat related injury while underway in the Red Sea, aboard USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.[xci]

On 27 May the US conducted an airstrike against Abdullahi Haji Da’ud, an al-Shabaab commander in south-central Somalia. Da’ud was responsible for coordinating militia operations between Somalia, Kenya and Uganda, and had been head of Amniyat, the al-Shabaab intelligence branch.[xcii]

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Another large ISIL VBIED was destroyed at Fallujah on 28 May.[xciii] PGM circled.

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ISIL technical destroyed at Hit on 30 May.[xciv]

An Iraqi Shi'ite fighter fires artillery during clashes with Islamic State militants near Falluja

May 29, Iraq Shiite fighters fire artillery at ISIL controlled Fallujah.[xcv]

As of May 31 2016, 20,131 US military personnel had been wounded and 1,843 killed in Afghanistan since the start of the conflict in October 2001.

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Strike data for June 2016. Manbij, along the strategic M4 route to Aleppo, received 32% of all strikes, over 276 of the 874 strikes conducted that month. Qayyarah accounted for 106 strikes, Mosul and Fallujah another 96 and 80 respectively.

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On 6 June an ISIL oil tanker facility at Mosul was bombed.[xcvi] On 11 June a fuel weighing station at Qayyarah was destroyed as part of the mission to disrupt ISIL oil supplies.[xcvii] Mosul was bombed again on 14 June.

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Another ISIL technical is destroyed near Mar’a, 18 June.[xcviii] An ISIL position is bombed, 21 June, near Mabij.[xcix]

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ISIL technical destroyed near Manbij, 22 June.[c] PGM circled. That day the US DOD reported that Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew J. Clement, 38, had died on 21 June from non-combat injuries sustained while he was deployed to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.[ci]

On 25 June the US conducted strikes against two ISIL commanders near Mosul, killing both: Basim Muhammad Ahmad Sultan al-Bajari, ISIL’s deputy minister of war (and former al Qaeda operative), and Hatim Talib al-Hamundi, ISIL military commander, Mosul.[cii]

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On 26 June, Iraqi forces announced that Fallujah had been fully liberated, ISIS losses estimated at 2,500.[ciii] ISF Counter-Terrorism soldier drives through the streets of Fallujah.

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An ISIL convoy destroyed by coalition airstrikes, June 29, 2016.[civ] An uparmoured dump truck was also destroyed at Abu Kamal the same day.[cv]

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Fleeing ISIL vehicle about to be hit by airstrike (in red) outside Habbaniyah, Iraq, 29 June 2016.[cvi]

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A building complex controlled by fighters is demolished on 30 June 2016 near Manbij. Manbij was the most heavily bombed target for June and August.[cvii]

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Russian airstrikes in Syria between 18 June and 28 June, 2016. ISW map.[cviii]

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Syrian Democratic Forces fighter watches coalition airstrike near Manbij, July 2016.[cix]

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Iraqi Army Aviation M-28 Havoc attack helicopters annihilate an ISIL convoy fleeing Fallujah, July 2016.[cx] The helicopter attacking here is circled.

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3 July 2016: ISIL vehicle destroyed near Manbij.[cxi]

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ISIL controlled building are destroyed on 5 July 2016 near Manbij.[cxii]

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ISIL VBIED moments before destruction by coalition airstrike, outside Bayji, 7 July 2016.[cxiii]

On 9 July, US Forces-Afghanistan killed Umar Khalifa in an airstrike. Khalifa was a leader of the Tariq Gidar Group of the Islamic Sate-Khorasan Province, and responsible for multiple high profile attacks in Pakistan.[cxiv]

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11 July, ISIL artillery piece destroyed near Manbij. PGM circled.[cxv]

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13 July 2016: more buildings targeted in Manbij.

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Buildings in Manbij explode as they are targeted by CJTF-OIR airstrikes, 11 July.[cxvi]

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Rubble in Manbij, 16 July 2016.

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16 July 2016, B-52 refuels from KC-10 Extender, Iraq.[cxvii]

The US DOD announced that 1st Lt. Anais A. Tobar, 25 years old, of Miami, Florida, had died on 18 July in Southwest Asia, in a non-combat related incident. 1st Lt. Tobar had been supporting Operation Inherent Resolve when she was killed.[cxviii]

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Fireball engulfs Manbij neighbourhood on 19 July 2016.[cxix]

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A huge cloud of smoke spirals up from an airstrike on Manbij, 24 July 2016.[cxx] Further strikes were carried on 26 July.

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Al Baghdadi was the subject of airstrikes on 25 July.[cxxi]

On July 26 US forces conducted an airstrike against ISIL-K in Afghanistan, targeting Hafiz Sayed Khan, killing him. Khan was an ISIL emire involved in recruiting and participating in attacks in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.[cxxii]

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Fireball from coalition airstrike on Manbij, 27 July 2016.[cxxiii]

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ISW map for late July 19-25, showing terrorist activity in Iraq.[cxxiv]

Lt. Col. Flando E. Jackson, USAF, died on 4 August in Southwest Asia from non-combat injuries sustained during support for Operation Inherent Resolve.[cxxv]

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Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force “Strike”, carries out a fire mission with their M777 howitzer in support of Iraqi Security Forces operating at Kara Soar Base, 7 August 2016.[cxxvi] Artillery fire missions are not counted in any of the coalition air campaign strike tallies, nor are the Russian or Syrian regime figures.

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CJTF OIR strikes for August 2016. Manbij, close to the Turkish border, continued to be targeted, receiving 144 strikes, more than twice as many as Mosul (61) and more than three times as many as Qayyarah (49). Ar Raqqah, the Islamic State’s capital in Syria, was only struck 14 times, for 3% of all strikes. 522 strikes were conducted in August.

On 1 August the US conducted an airstrike against Sirte, Libya, stating that the airstrike had been requested by the Libyan government to counter ISIL forces.[cxxvii]

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August 9: Coalition airstrikes destroy ISIL command and control node near Sultan Abdallah, Iraq.[cxxviii]

A terrorist attack was carried out in Southern Turkey on 10 August.[cxxix] On 14 August the DOD announced that Staff Sgt. Christopher A Wilbur, US Army, 36 years old, died from non-combat injuries on 12 August, in Kandahar, Afghanistan while supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.[cxxx]

On 13 August, Syrian Democratic Forces announced that they had occupied Manbij.[cxxxi] On 15 August the US DOD announced the liberation of Manbij.[cxxxii]

On August 23rd one US soldier, Staff Sgt. Matthew V. Thompson, 28 years old, of Irvine California, was killed and another wounded, along with 6 Afghan Security Forces soldiers in an IED blast in Helmand province.[cxxxiii]

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Coalition airstrike destroys an ISIL VBIED factory near Mosul on 25 August.[cxxxiv]

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Turkish APCs head towards Jarablus on August 25. Turkey began its armed intervention in the Syrian Civil War on 24 August, taking aim against both Kurdish and ISIL fighters.

The delicate diplomatic situation between Turkey and the Kurdish YPG forces in Manbij was redressed somewhat when Kurdish forces withdrew from Manbij on 25 August.[cxxxv]

On 30 August the US conducted an airstrike against Abu Muhammad Al-Adani, near Al Bab, Syria. Al-Adani, who was killed, was an ISIL spokesman and recruiter, responsible for organizing lone-wolf attacks.[cxxxvi] Another strike, carried out 7 September against Raqqa in Syria, killed Wa’il Adil Hasan Salman al-Fayad (“Dr. Wa’il), a senior ISIL leader, information minister, and a member of the Senior Shura Council. Wa’il was credited with overseeing production of the Islamic State’s gruesome propaganda videos.[cxxxvii]

The DOD announced that 1st Lt. Jeffrey D. Cooper, 25 years old, had died September 10 in Kuwait from non-combat-related injuries.[cxxxviii] On September 9, US Air Force Chief of Staff, General David Goldein stated that the air campaign was gaining momentum.[cxxxix]

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11 September 2016, Task Force “Strike”, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, trains with 15th Iraqi Army Division soldiers during their advise and assist mission in support of CJTF-OIR in Kuwait.[cxl]

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13 September, 7RAR (7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment) soldiers train with ISF at Taji.

On 16 September Warrant Officer Travis R. Tamayo, 32, of Brownsville, Texas died from a non-combat related incident in Abu Dhabi, UAE, while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.[cxli]

On 17 September, the DOD announced that it may have struck Syrian regime forces near Dayr Az Zawr.[cxlii] On 20 September the US Navy announced the death of Aviation Boatswain’s Mate, Airman, Devon M. Faulkner, 24, who died from non-combat related injuries while supporting Operation Odyssey Lightning, the US campaign in Libya.[cxliii]

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21 September, 2016. US Secretary of the Army, Eric Fanning, takes photographs with Task Force Strike soldiers during his visit to the Combined Joint Task Force.[cxliv]

ISF forces raised the Iraqi flag over Sharqat on 23 September, liberating the city.[cxlv]

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Infographic provided on the CJTF OIR website showing total training establishment as of September 24.[cxlvi]

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September 25, 2016. CJTFOIR commander, Lt. General Stephen J. Townsend met with XVIII Airborne Corps soldiers at the Qayyarah airfield, Iraq.[cxlvii] XVIII Airborne Corps had previously led the coalition mission in Afghanistan, completing its tour there in December 2014. Townsend, commanding XVIII Airborne Corps, replaced Lt. General Sean MacFarland, III Armored Corps, shortly after 10 August, 2016. Townsend is expected to oversee the CJTF-OIR assaults on Mosul (Operation Conquest) and Raqqa, the ISIL capitals in Iraq and Syria. Russian airstrikes against Aleppo dramatically accelerated at the end of September, as Syrian regime forces prepared to enter the city in what many expect will be the decisive battle of the Syrian Civil War.[cxlviii]

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RAF Tornado with 500 lb/230 kg Paveway IV laser-guided bombs on a strike mission, September 23, 2016.[cxlix]

Conclusions

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USAF F-4C Wild Weasel flying over North Vietnam, December 1972.[cl]

During Operation Linebacker I between May and October 1972, 150,000 tons of munitions were dropped on North Vietnam; probably more than 130 kilotons: 300 million lbs.[cli] 40,000 tons were dropped on the area around An Loc between April and June 1972, while B-52s, flying 2,700 sorties, dropped 57,000 tons in Quang Tri Province. 18,000 sorties were flown in Military Region I, including Hue and Quang Tri.[clii] The B-52 Operation Linebacker II raids over eleven days in December 1972 produced 729 sorties and more than 20,000 tons dropped: 40 million lbs. One million tons of bombs were dropped during Operation Rolling Thunder, March 1965 to November 1968, the equivalent of 40 B-52s dropping full payloads, 800 tons, per day.[cliii]

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B-52 refueling over Southeast Asia, 1967.[cliv] Operation Arc Light preceded Linebacker. B-52Ds could deliver 40,000 lbs of bombs. In the 1990s, the B-52G delivered 66,000 lbs of bombs, and modernized B-52Hs can carry 70,000 lbs, a typical strike package consisting of eighteen 1000 lb mk83 bombs.

In Iraq and Syria the tempo of the air campaign remains enormous, with 17,369 weapons releases for the first seven months of 2016, with an average of almost 2,500 launches per month. In December 2015, 21,113 sorties yielded 715 strikes that delivered 3,139 releases (often described as “bombs dropped”). That year a total of 21,113 sorties were flown. Of those, at least 9,914 had resolved in a weapons launch, with a number of estimates putting the total number of bombs dropped and guided missiles fired (presumably excluding cannon expended, although cannon attacks are included in the strike figures), at over 20,000 for 2015. For the first seven months of 2016, the figure was 12,350 sorties, with 6,575 of those sorties resulting in a weapons launch.

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KC-135 Stratotanker flies over New Jersey on 31 August 2016.[clv] KC-135 and other refueling assets conducted 46,535 aircraft refuelings as of 31 July 2016, year to date.[clvi]

In April 2016 there were 2,582 weapons releases, then 2,341 coalition aircraft weapon releases in May.[clvii] There were 3,167 in June (almost double the quantity of launches in June the previous year),[clviii] and in July 2016 the B-52s began to operate in Afghanistan. In Iraq and Syria, 2,411 weapons were launched that month.[clix] There have been numerous reports that US stockpiles are decreasing, with the munitions industry struggling to keep up with demand for JDAMs, 1000 lb laser guided bombs, and other precision guided ordinance. The coalition is undoubtedly dropping many hundreds of thousands of lbs of munitions on Iraq and Syria, perhaps more than a million of lbs, every month. Keep in mind that none of these figures include Syrian regime airstrikes, or Russian airstrikes in Syria.

B1B2.JPG

In February 2016, Rockwell’s B-1B Lancers, comprising the bulk of the USAF bomber force, and responsible for dropping 1/3 of total ordinance between July and January 2015,[clx] were withdrawn from the CJTF-OIR theatre for systems, weapons (JASSM-ER) and cockpit upgrades. Each B-1 can deliver 125,000 lbs of ordinance, with a typical load of 75,000 lbs of bombs not uncommon. This B-1B, with F-16 and F-15K escort, flies over South Korea on 21 September 2016, UN International Peace Day, in a show of resolve following the latest North Korean nuclear test.[clxi] The B-52s and B-1Bs have now been integrated into the USAF Global Strike Command, and will no doubt be deployed together in the expected air war finale, possibly before the end of the year.

[i] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_134215.htm

[ii] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_130212.htm

[iii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/740029/general-officer-assignments

[iv] https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery_img_full/image/image_file/vpotus_baghdad.jpg

[v] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/745287/general-officer-announcement

[vi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/745154/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-lt-gen-thomas-waldhauser

[vii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/747626/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-norways-decision-to-expand-role

[viii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/751030/general-officer-announcements

[ix] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/751477/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-danish-minister-of-defense-peter-chri

[x] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/757136/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-us-russia-video-conference

[xi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/759621/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-belgiums-expanded-role-in-the-c

[xii] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_130941.htm

[xiii]

[xiv] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_131090.htm

[xv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/780277/general-officer-assignments

[xvi] https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery_img_full/image/image_file/_b4a8635.jpg

[xvii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/790166/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-singaporean-prime-minister-lee-hsien

[xviii] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_131963.htm

[xix] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/791045/command-senior-enlisted-leader-assignment

[xx] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/794803/readout-of-deputy-secretary-of-defense-bob-works-meeting-with-montenegrin-minis

[xxi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/794218/general-officer-assignments

[xxii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/796688/general-officer-assignments

[xxiii] https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery_img_full/image/image_file/2_p061416ps-0381.jpg

[xxiv] https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery_img_full/image/image_file/p061516ps-0402.jpg

[xxv] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_132431.htm

[xxvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/799360/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-british-secretary-of-state-for-defens

[xxvii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/798513/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-turkish-minister-of-defense-fikri-ik

[xxviii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/799360/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-british-secretary-of-state-for-defens

[xxix] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/799690/readout-of-secretary-of-defense-ash-carters-meeting-with-ukrainian-minister-of

[xxx] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/801790/readout-of-secretary-of-defense-ash-carters-meeting-with-kingdom-of-saudi-arabi

[xxxi] http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/APR-JUN%202016%20AFG%20Threat%20Assessment%20Map%20PDF%20final%20%281%29_0.pdf

[xxxii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Enhancing_Security_and_Stability_in_Afghanistan-June_2016.pdf

[xxxiii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/803046/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-us-russia-video-conference

[xxxiv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/804931/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-israeli-minister-of-defense-avigdor-l

[xxxv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/805485/statement-by-secretary-carter-on-polands-decision-to-expand-campaign-against-is

[xxxvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/805527/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-new-zealands-decision-to-extend

[xxxvii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/808727/readout-of-deputy-secretary-works-meeting-with-dutch-minister-of-defense-secret

[xxxviii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/812022/readout-from-secretary-carters-call-with-uk-state-secretary-for-defense-michael

[xxxix] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_132812.htm

[xl] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/814822/statement-from-secretary-carter-on-fallujah

[xli] https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery_img_full/image/image_file/2_p062916ps-0719.jpg

[xlii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/775865/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-qatari-minister-of-state-for-defensege/image_file/p062816ps-0823.jpg

[xliii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/819791/readout-of-secretary-carters-call-with-turkish-minister-of-defense-fikri-ik

[xliv] https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery_img_full/image/image_file/pod1-p070616ps-0128.jpg

[xlv] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_133044.htm

[xlvi] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_133039.htm

[xlvii] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_133048.htm

[xlviii] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_133042.htm

[xlix] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_133060.htm

[l] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/832439/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-turkish-minister-of-defense-fikri-iik

[li] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/832829/defense-secretary-commends-iraqi-forces-announces-new-accelerants-to-combat-isi

[lii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/840876/readout-of-secretary-carters-call-with-french-minister-of-defense-jean-yves-le

[liii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/850006/readout-of-secretary-carters-call-with-turkish-minister-of-defense-fikri-iik

[liv] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_134215.htm

[lv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/850679/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-french-minister-of-defense-jean-yves

[lvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/858304/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-us-russia-video-conference

[lvii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/879127/general-officer-assignments

[lviii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/885684/command-senior-enlisted-leader-assignment

[lix] http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/10%20-%2029%20AUG%20Russian%20Airstrikes.pdf

[lx] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/936475/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-israeli-minister-of-defense-avigdor-l

[lxi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/937226/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-turkish-minister-of-national-defense

[lxii] http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/ISIS%20Turkey%20Map.pdf

[lxiii] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/09/16/readout-presidents-national-security-council-meeting-counter-isil

[lxiv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/946209/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-us-russia-video-conference

[lxv] https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery_img_full/image/image_file/p092016ps-0057.jpg

[lxvi] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_135173.htm

[lxvii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/953167/readout-of-secretary-of-defense-ash-carters-meeting-with-australias-prime-minis

[lxviii] https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cs-3JXqUsAA8Fmv.jpg

[lxix] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/958052/statement-from-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-additional-support-to-iraqi-c

[lxx] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/03/21/u-s-air-war-against-isis-enters-new-phase-but-the-fight-for-mosul-is-coming/

[lxxi] http://www.inherentresolve.mil/Portals/1/Documents/Strike%20Releases/2016/04April/20160407%20Strike%20Release%20Final.pdf?ver=2016-04-07-084253-203

[lxxii] http://www.inherentresolve.mil/Portals/1/Documents/Strike%20Releases/2016/04April/20160415%20Strike%20Release%20Final.pdf?ver=2016-04-15-081540-793

[lxxiii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBXH_2Vh2y0

[lxxiv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGQ1dwLfyE4

[lxxv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Um2cTjCsatI

[lxxvi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nulyzL6jwqg

[lxxvii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdE-ZIFgLds

[lxxviii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgqJuGGKi9Y

[lxxix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4YdRQ0iiWE

[lxxx] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Unnu81Emvuw

[lxxxi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/751070/department-of-defense-identifies-navy-casualty

[lxxxii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/754273/dod-identifies-army-casualty

[lxxxiii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW3y49ULreY

[lxxxiv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/756104/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-hostage-rescue-in-afghanistan

[lxxxv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwelYG6Q-94

[lxxxvi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSkdBnzkVQQ

[lxxxvii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXzUH0T7fqE

[lxxxviii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaYboMzvXPc

[lxxxix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9H6JEesdcK0

[xc] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/778259/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-us-airstrike-against-taliba ; http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/778380/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-us-airstrike-against-taliban-le

[xci] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/784079/dod-identifies-navy-casualty

[xcii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/788062/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-us-airstrike-in-somalia

[xciii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH4X-EGtDYo

[xciv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtjtCn896yU

[xcv] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-falluja-idUSKCN0YL1B0

[xcvi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvnMY7u026c

[xcvii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kr1eoi94es

[xcviii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Z04I8iCHcw

[xcix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vO53IUFXols

[c] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzZyusGFTSs

[ci] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/810435/dod-identifies-navy-casualty

[cii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/823506/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-strike-targeting-isil-milit

[ciii] http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/1.727142

[civ] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxBpqNbvuJs

[cv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCnrlEeQlwA

[cvi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXb1GSDxeSA

[cvii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuHeeLWUmLQ

[cviii] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-airstrikes-syria-june-3-28-2016

[cix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lqJ89GgiRs

[cx] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eM4TGOJgon4

[cxi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPPPybddQ0A

[cxii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yx3emfVNoN8

[cxiii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iby9R5p1MAc

[cxiv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/836651/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-death-of-umar-khalifa

[cxv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEHu2ZYIDPw

[cxvi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pY1og3vuO4M

[cxvii] https://www.sofmag.com/barksdale-airmen-continue-b-52-mission-against-isis/

[cxviii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/849496/dod-identifies-air-force-casualty

[cxix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSiHbRUy6WI

[cxx] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvBofL5Tgtg

[cxxi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKVk2h0xcps

[cxxii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/913820/statement-by-deputy-press-secretary-gordon-trowbridge-on-strike-targeting-an-is

[cxxiii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTc8jV4MJjw

[cxxiv] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-airstrikes-syria-june-3-28-2016

[cxxv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/906735/dod-identifies-air-force-casualty

[cxxvi] http://www.inherentresolve.mil/News/Article/954941/coalition-continues-counter-isil-progress-across-iraq-syria/

[cxxvii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/881794/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-us-air-strike-in-libya

[cxxviii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bsawnnI4sQ

[cxxix] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/911063/statement-from-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-attacks-in-turkey

[cxxx] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/914092/dod-identifies-army-casualty

[cxxxi] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-islamic-state-idUSKCN10N178

[cxxxii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/914947/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-the-liberation-of-manbij

[cxxxiii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/923444/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-us-casualties-in-afghanistan ; http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/924303/dod-identifies-army-casualty

[cxxxiv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eQSmoK99Rs

[cxxxv] http://www.wsj.com/articles/turkey-send-more-tanks-into-syria-as-kurds-pull-out-of-manbij-1472129794

[cxxxvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/930843/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-precision-airstrike-targeti ; http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/941733/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-strike-against-isil-senio

[cxxxvii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/946983/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-airstrike-against-isil-se

[cxxxviii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/940436/dod-identifies-army-casualty

[cxxxix] https://www.airforcetimes.com/articles/fight-against-isis-gaining-momentum-goldfein-says-on-npr

[cxl] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ac62VSqMSc0

[cxli] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/947846/dod-identifies-army-casualty

[cxlii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/947848/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-coalition-airstrike-in-syria

[cxliii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/951831/department-of-defense-identifies-navy-casualty

[cxliv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNvMQfSMzX0

[cxlv] https://twitter.com/OIRSpox/status/779367961266098176

[cxlvi] https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CtNGQ6BWcAAB-SA.jpg

[cxlvii] https://twitter.com/CJTFOIR/status/780092970074791936

[cxlviii] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/01/john-kerry-suggests-syrian-elections-include-assad-as-hospitals/

[cxlix] https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CtEZ6ZvWYAApNza.jpg

[cl] http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Upcoming/Photos.aspx?igphoto=2000558442

[cli] https://t.co/VuTIIKOYv2

[clii] Drew Middleton, Air War Vietnam, Arno Press, New York Times Company, New York, 1978.

[cliii] Karnow, Stanley, Vietnam: A History, p. 468

[cliv] http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Upcoming/Photos.aspx?igphoto=2000270836

[clv] http://www.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/223/Article/938871/af-week-in-photos.aspx

[clvi] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/Airpower_31_July_2016.pdf

[clvii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/Airpower_31_May_2016.pdf

[clviii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/Airpower_30_June_2016.pdf

[clix] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/Airpower_31_July_2016.pdf

[clx] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/03/21/u-s-air-war-against-isis-enters-new-phase-but-the-fight-for-mosul-is-coming/

[clxi] http://www.af.mil/News/Photos.aspx?igphoto=2001638865#.V-k6nlNUE0E.twitter

Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve: The Air Campaign, Effectiveness, Part II

Inherent Resolve Camp

The Operation Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal, instated March 30, 2016.[i] The first five medals were awarded by US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on 18 April 2016.

medals2

Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve: The Air Campaign, Effectiveness, Part II

It has been over six months since the 13 November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. Russian involvement has significantly changed the situation in Syria, while the latest terrorist attack against the Brussels airport and metro-station on 22 March, in addition to the 19 March attacks in Istanbul, seem to suggest ongoing pressure from the Islamic State’s European terrorist network.

How has CENTCOM’s Operation Inherent Resolve and its vast air campaign developed since November 2015? According to US Department of Defense figures, since the beginning of the air campaign (dated to 8 August 2014), over $6.5 billion dollars has been spent ($11.4 million a day), with total coalition sorties, as of 28 March 2016, estimated at 87,940.[ii] Of those, 11,230 were strike missions, with 7,556 carried out in Iraq and 3,674 in Syria. Meanwhile, the White House, Pentagon, NATO, and Moscow have all been been keen to stress improvements, such as the recapture of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, at the end of 2015, or the capture of Palmyra, in Syria, by the Russian supported Syrian Army at the end of March 2016. Likewise, Baghdad, with US and NATO backing, is now preparing to begin an offensive against Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province, and a major ISIL stronghold. Meanwhile, Kabul remains a target for terrorist attacks,[iii] and the broader War on Terror is expected to continue into 2018 at least. How has the enormous Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve’s air campaign effort been maintained by the Global Coalition in diplomatic and operational terms? How effective has it been over the last six months?

Diplomacy and Strategy: Maintaining the Coalition

On December 2, 2015 the UK parliament voted to expand the RAF mission to include Syria. That day, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made a statement applauding the UK’s commitment, and also voiced approval of the 1,200 personnel committed by Germany.[iv] On 7 December, the Defense Department announced that it had killed Abu Nabil (aka, Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi), who was an Iraqi ISIL leader and operative in Libya. He had been targeted as part of a strike on 13 November.[v]

On 15 December, the DOD announced that as part of the broader anti-Terror strategy, including air-strikes against targets in Somalia, the US was prepared to maintain a force level of 9,800 personnel in Afghanistan, to transition to 5,500 after 2016.[vi]

carterselva

Ash Carter and General Paul J. Selva, USAF, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify before the Senate Armed Service Committee on 9 December.

On 19 December, as part of a tour of US and Coalition naval forces in theatre, Ash Carter made a phone call to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi regarding what appeared to be a friendly-fire incident involving the death of Iraq Security Forces by Coalition airstrikes.[vii] That same day Carter visited the French nuclear carrier Charles de Gaulle, then the flagship of the USN’s Central Command Task Force 50. Carter placed a phone call to French Minister of Defense, Jean Yves Le Drian, in which the two discussed the ongoing anti-ISIL mission and, significantly, the future role of Russia in Syria, as well as the position of Iran.[viii] Carter also met with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain at the King’s residence, where they discussed counter-ISIL strategy.[ix]

On 22 December, Secretary of Defense Carter called Italy’s Defence Minister, Roberta Pinotti, to follow up on their meeting in Rome the previous October. In this phone call they discussed Italian commitments to Iraq and Libya.[x] Six days later, following the Christmas break, Carter made a statement congratulating Iraq’s Prime Minister for the recapture of Ramadi from ISIL forces.[xi]

Meanwhile, the Pentagon was confronted with the North Korean nuclear test of 6 January which caused a flurry of activity: Carter was in close communication with Japanese and South Korean Defence Ministries, as well as US Forces Command Korea to discuss responses.[xii] As a result of these developments, Brigadier General Tony D. Bauernfeind, the Deputy Commander Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan was transferred to Special Operations Command, Korea, as Commanding General.[xiii]

On 11 January, Carter met with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the Pentagon. Together they discussed the situation in Syria and reaffirmed their mutual commitment to countering ISIL.[xiv]

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Barack Obama and Director of Speechwriting Cody Keenan work on the State of the Union Address while Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, looks on, seemingly exasperated. January 11, 2016.

On 13 January 2016, at 9:10 pm EST, US President Barack Obama gave his final State of the Union address to the joint session of Congress. In his address, the President described the efforts that had been made thus far to degrade and destroy ISIL and al Qaeda- while the President denied that the Long War against global terrorism represented a new “World War III”, he did acknowledge that the US led 60 member nation coalition had conducted over 10,000 air strikes. Obama once again asked the US Congress to pass a vote authorizing military action against ISIL.[xv] Earlier that day, Ash Carter made a statement thanking US Secretary of State John Kerry for negotiating the release of ten US Navy sailors held by Iran.[xvi]

The next day, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work traveled to Israel as part of a two-day trip to shore up US-Israeli defence commitments. During the trip, Work met with Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon and the Director-General of Israeli Ministry of Defense Dan Harel, as well as Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin. In addition to broader discussion of regional strategy, the meeting emphasized US-Israeli technology cooperation, specifically the DOD’s Third Offset Strategy.[xvii] Work was scheduled to follow up this trip with another trip to the United Kingdom. While in Cheltenham and Hereford during January 14, 15, 16 and 17, the Deputy Secretary met with UK Minister of State for Defence Procurement, Philip Dunne, and discussed “global security issues, bilateral defence cooperation,” and other technical issues related to refocusing the UK’s defence establishment on cyber, special operation and technical innovation, following on the UK’s Strategic Defense and Security Review.[xviii]

On 18 January Ash Carter met with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Pentagon, following a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. The focus of the discussion was on Syria and Iraq, in addition to the ongoing crisis in the Asia-Pacific region. Carter expressed his desire to see continued Australian cooperation, in particular, Turnbull’s participation in the upcoming counter-ISIL coalition meeting in Paris.[xix]

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January 19th, President Obama says goodbye to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull following a working lunch.

Next, Coalition partners, meeting in Paris, issued a joint statement on January 20th. The Defence Ministries of Australia, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK and United States affirmed their commitment to accelerating the “C-ISIL/DAESH” mission. The joint statement confirmed that the coalition had gained momentum and was now preparing to move into, “its next phase targeting ISIL/DAESH vulnerabilities.” The statement emphasized that, while the military campaign was a critical component of the overall strategy, equally important would be ongoing political steps to ensure regional stability.[xx] A further meeting would take place in February.

Major re-shuffling of the Afghan-Iraq command occurred on 21 January. Major General Jay B. Silveria USAF was moved to deputy commander USAF Cent-Com, and, wearing a second hat, also became deputy Combined Forces Air Component Commander, Cent-Com (Southwest Asia). Brigadier General Jeffrey B. Taliaferro became Commander 9th Air And Space Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan, as well as NATO C-in-C for Air Command-Afghanistan, in addition to deputy commander USAF-Afghanistan Central Command. Brigadier General Richard A. Coe, the deputy commander (air) for Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Iraq, and Joint Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq (for CJTF-OIR) was moved to the Inspector General position for HQ Air Combat Command in Langley Virginia. Brigadier General Coe was replaced by Col. Matthew C. Isler- promoted, Brigadier General- formerly of the 12th Flying Training Wing, Air Education and Training Command, San Antonio Texas. To support closer integration with UK forces, Brigadier General Chris M. Short, 57th Fighter Wing commander, became the defense attaché-UK, within the Defense Intelligence Agency.[xxi]

Meetings of the Chiefs of Defence at NATO Headquarters in Brussels- Military Committee in Chiefs of Staff Session

Left to right: General Sir Nicholas Houghton (UK Chief of Defence) with General Tom Middendorp (Chief of Defence, The Netherlands) and General Joseph Dunford (Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff)

174th Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session, Brussels. General Sir Nicholas Houghton, UK Chief of Defence, General Tom Middendorp, Chief of Defence, The Netherlands, and the Chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, met on 21 January, 2016.

The next day, Ash Carter met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. They reiterated their commitment to countering-ISIL, with Carter stressing the successes in the Ramadi operation.[xxii] The global coalition was preparing for a major summit in Brussels. Carter also met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, where they discussed the deployment of Afghanistan’s A-29 aircraft in the counter-Taliban campaign, and both looked forward to meeting again at the NATO summit in July to be held in Warsaw.[xxiii] The A-29 contract is worth $427 million, and will deliver 20 of the close attack planes by 2018.[xxiv]

''The Global Security Outlook'' Session at the World Economic Forum

Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, US Secretary of Defense Ash B. Carter, the Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, Office of the Prime Minister of Singapore, and Espen Barth Eide, Head of Geopolitical Affairs, World Economic Forum are seen discussing the Global Security Outlook at the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, 22nd January.

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US President Barack Obama at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, January 22nd 2016

On 27 January, Carter announced that General John Campbell, C-in-C US Forces Afghanistan and Commander NATO Operation Resolute Support was to be replaced by Lt. General John Nicholson, former commander US 82nd Airborne Division and Chief of Staff for the International Security Assistance Force and US Forces Afghanistan.[xxv]

The following day the US and Russian Defense personnel consulted via video conference on further implementation of their “memorandum of understanding” designed to prevent flight accidents over Syrian airspace.[xxvi] The next day, 29 January, Ash Carter made a statement regarding the Dutch Minister of Defense, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert’s, decision to expand Dutch airstrikes over Syria. Carter looked forward to meeting with Hennis-Plasschaert, and the representative from the 26 nation military coalition, in two-weeks time in Brussels for the coalition’s Defence Ministerial conference.[xxvii]

January 29th: Major General Mark R. Stammer, C-in-C Combined Joint Task Force Operation Enduring Freedom-Horn of Africa was replaced by Brigadier General Kurt L. Sonntag, formerly Special Operations Command South, US Southern Command.[xxviii] Brigadier General Scott A. Howell, promoted Major General, became commander, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan.[xxix] On 5 February Colonel Daniel L. Simpson was promoted to Brigadier General and transferred from the National Security Agency to deputy director of intelligence, US Forces-Afghanistan, as well as assistant deputy chief of staff of intelligence to NATO HQ, Operation Resolute Support.[xxx] It is significant to note the number of intelligence officers being transferred to Afghanistan postings.

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As of February 2nd, Lt. General Sean B. Macfarland, C-in-C CJTF-OIR had approximately 6,500 soldiers from 17 nations under his command in Iraq.[xxxi]

NATO Secretary General attends European Defence Ministers meeting

February 5th, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg photographed at the European Defence Ministers meeting.

On February 9th, President Obama sent Congress his Fiscal Year 2017 budget for $582.7 billion for the DOD. The budget was meant to reflect changes in the security situation, including, “Russian aggression, terrorism by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and others, and China’s island building and claims of sovereignty in international waters”. The budget allowed for 460,000 soldiers in the Army, 335,000 soldiers in the National Guard, and 195,000 soldiers in the Army Reserve for 56 total brigade combat teams. The Marine Corps would consist of 182,000 marines and 38,5000 reservists. The Navy was to expand from 280 ships to 308 (over 5 years), with 380,900 active duty and reserve sailors. The USAF was to consist of 491,700 active duty, reserve and national guard airmen, for 55 tactical fighter squadrons.[xxxii]

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February 10th, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Staff in bilateral meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Defense Secretary Carter met with Canadian Minister of National Defense Harjit Sajjan on 10 February during Carter’s visit to Brussels. Sajjan was thanked for his commitment to countering ISIL, including the extension of Canada’s role in aerial refueling and surveillance. Canada is also expanding its training and intelligence missions for Iraq.[xxxiii]

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NATO Defence Ministers family portrait 10th February 2016, NATO HQ, Brussels.

On 11 February, Ash Carter met with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Defense, Mohammed bin Salman, in Brussels. Both parties agreed on the importance of accelerating the counter-ISIL mission. Carter responded favorably to the Minister’s offer to expand Saudi Arabia’s role in the air campaign.[xxxiv]

On February 12th, Brigadier General Scott A. Kindsvater, formally the Assistant deputy commander USAF Central Command, became deputy commander-Operations and Intelligence, CJTF-OIR.[xxxv] Also on the 12th, Ash Carter met with United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Defense Affairs, Mohammed Al Bowardi, in Brussels. Carter “welcomed” the Minister’s willingness for the UAE to rejoin the coalition air campaign.[xxxvi] Further, on the 12th, the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) members met at Munich to discuss a Cessation of Hostilities agreement.

February 15 was the beginning of the Syrian Democratic Forces operation to secure Shaddadi.[xxxvii] On 16 February Brigadier General Antonio M. Fletcher, formerly the special assistant to the commanding general, US Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, became deputy commander, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Brigadier General Robert P. Walters Jr., formerly the director of intelligence US Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base became deputy chief of staff, intelligence, Resolute Support Mission, NATO and director J-2, US Forces Afghanistan, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel- continuing the trend of appointing intelligence officers to Afghanistan postings.[xxxviii]

The following day, Secretary of Defense Carter made a statement condemning the 17 February terrorist attacks in Ankara.[xxxix] On 19 February the DOD announced that it had conducted an airstrike on an ISIL training camp near Sabratha, Libya, targeting Noureddine Couchane (“Sabir”), a Tunisian, operating the ISIL training camp there.[xl] That same day, Brigadier General David W. Hicks (USAF) was transferred from vice commander First Air Force, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, to Commander NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan, Operation Resolute Support.[xli] The following day the DOD admitted that two Serbian hostages held in Libya had been killed, although the Defense Department did not admit if it was responsible, or if these were reprisal killings for its 19 February airstrike.[xlii]

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23rd February, President Obama and members of the national security team meet via video conference with Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and French President Francois Hollande to discuss the situation in Syria. From Obama’s right is Vice President Joseph Biden, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, Lisa Monaco, Avril Haines, Deputy National Security Advisor, and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice.

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ISW map estimating Taliban control in Afghanistan, 23 February 2016.[xliii]

On 23 February USMC Colonel William H. Seely III was promoted to Brigadier General, serving in the function of chief of staff USMC Cyberspace Command, Fort Meade, then deployed at the J-2 Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Iraq.[xliv]

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February 25th, President Obama at a National Security Council meeting held at the US State Department to discuss the Counter-ISIL mission.

February 29th: the DOD held a video conference with Russian Defense officials concerning the ongoing US-Russia memorandum of understanding on flight safety over Syria.[xlv]

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1st March 2016, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets with Iraq’s President Fouad Massoum.

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March 4th, Barack Obama and members of the National Security Council discuss counter-terrorism, via video conference from the White House Situation Room, with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. From the President’s right are Vice President Joseph Biden, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, Lisa Monaco, Peter Lavoy, Senior Director for South Asian Affairs, Avril Haines, Deputy National Security Advisor, and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice.

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Institute for the Study of War, ISIS Regional Campaign map showing major areas of operation, March 2016[xlvi]

On March 8th, Ash Carter met with German Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, at the Pentagon. The two discussed the counter-ISIL mission, the situation in Ukraine, and Afghanistan, and Carter was pleased with Germany’s ongoing commitment to Operation Resolute Support.[xlvii] On 11 March the DOD announced that Army General Curtis M. Scaparrotti would succeed USAF General Breedlove as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.[xlviii] Scaparrotti had previously commanded the International Security and Assistance Force Afghanistan during the 2011-2012 surge.[xlix]

On 14 March, Carter met with Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon at the Pentagon. On March 15, the DOD appointed Major General Paul A. Ostrowski to deputy commanding general for support, Combined Security and Transition Command-Afghanistan, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.[l] Likewise, Brigadier General Jeffery D. Broadwater, the deputy commander of the 1st Armored Division, was appointed the director CJ-35 for Resolute Support Mission, NATO, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, replacing Brigadier General Richard C. Kim. Brigadier General Broadwater traded postings with Brigadier General Joel K. Tyler, who had formerly been the director of operations for the CTJF-OIR.

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NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg conducts a briefing during his visit to Afghanistan with Chairman of the Military Committee, General Petr Pavel (left) and Operation Resolute Support Commander, General John Nicholson (centre), 14 March 2016.

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March 18th, 2016. President Obama speaks with French President Francois Hollande and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel regarding the capture of Salah Abdeslam, a planner of the November 13 2015 Paris Terrorist attacks. Standing across from Obama is Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.

On the 17th, the Pentagon released its 2017 Defense Posture Statement.[li] In that document, Defense Secretary Carter lamented the possible sequestration that would follow 2017, resulting in a $100 billion in cuts from 2018 to 2021. Carter acknowledged a dramatic shift in the global balance of power, suggesting that the concept of a return to great power politics may be a valid comparison. The Secretary of Defense stressed the importance of countering ISIL, “most immediately in its parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, and also where it is metastasizing, in Afghanistan, Africa, and elsewhere”. Carter noted that the $7.5 billion budget for Operation Inherent Resolve would be “critical to continuing to implement and accelerate the coalition military campaign plan that the United States has developed”. The 2017 strategy would focus on destroying ISIL in Raqqa, in Syria, and Mosul, in Iraq.[lii]

The budget included the all important figure of $630 million for training and equipping the Iraqi Security Force, and another $250 million for “enabling Syrian anti-ISIL forces.”[liii] Significantly, only $41.7 million was earmarked for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Another $9 million was earmarked for other counter-ISIL operations in the Levant, and a further $166 million for the North and West African theatres. The DOD intended to spend another $1.8 billion to purchase over 45,000 GPS guided bombs due to the reduction in coalition stockpiles caused by the air campaign.[liv] A further $5.7 billion was earmarked for the increase of global daily unmanned air patrols form 70 to 90 by the end of 2018. These patrols would include “a mix of MQ-9 Reapers, Extended Range Reapers, and MQ-1C Advanced Gray Eagles” and require “60 patrols from the Air Force, 16 from the Army, and 14 that are government-owned and flown by contractors for the Air Force and US Special Operations Command”. The A-10 Thunderbolt II would continued flying until 2022, as the A-10s operating in support of Operation Inherent Resolve flying out of Incirlik Air Base in Turkey were deemed essential for the air campaign.[lv]

On March 19th the Pentagon announced the deployment of the XVIII Airborne Corps HQ to Kuwait, along with 450 soldiers, where the XVIII Airborne Corps would replace III Corps as the command HQ for the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.[lvi]

On 22 March Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work met Danish Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Defense, Thomas Ahrenkiel, at the Pentagon, where they discussed the counter-ISIL campaign.[lvii]

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22nd March, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg prepares to give a statement following the Brussels airport terrorist attacks.

On 24 March Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work hosted Norway’s Secretary for Defense, Oystein Bo, at the Pentagon, where the two discussed broader counter-ISIL strategy.[lviii] Secretary of Defense Ash Carter meanwhile called Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Defense, to discuss the situation in the middle-east and the counter-ISIL mission.[lix]

On 25 March Major General Christopher K. Haas became deputy chief of staff, Operations, Resolute Support Mission, having been transferred from his posting as director, force management and development, US Special Operations Command.[lx] Major General Hass replaced Major General Mark R. Quantock, who became director J-2 US Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base. Brigadier General Willard M. Burleson III, the director, Mission Command Center of Excellence, US Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, also became senior advisor to the Ministry of Defense, US Forces-Afghanistan, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

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March 25, Ash Carter and Marine Corps General Joe Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed reporters on counter-ISIL strategy.

On March 29th Ash Carter hosted the Estonian Defense Minister, Hannes Hanso, at the Pentagon to discuss Estonia’s support for “operations in Afghanistan, Africa, the Balkans, and importantly its support for the coalition’s counter-ISIL campaign.”[lxi] Naturally, Russia was another major item on the agenda.

On March 30th the Defense Department announced that service members who had been active in Iraq, Syria, or nearby water or airspace from June 15, 2014, onwards would be eligible to be awarded the newly implemented Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal.[lxii]

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March 31st, President Obama hosts a working dinner with the heads of state and delegation members attending the Washington Nuclear Security Summit in the White House East Room.

On 31 March, Acting Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs Elissa Slotkin, and Joint Staff Vice Director for Strategic Plans and Policy Major General Steven M. Shepro, held a video conference from the Pentagon, with Russian MOD counterparts concerning the ongoing memorandum of understanding regarding flight safety over Syrian airspace.[lxiii]

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April 1st, 2016. US President Barack Obama bids farewell to Chinese President XI Jinping at the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit, Washington DC.

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April 4th, President Obama and members of his national security team meet with Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, in the Oval Office. To the right of the President are Vice President Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Seated in front of the camera, holding a highlighted document, is Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, and right of Carter is Avril Haines, Deputy National Security Advisor, and Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.

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President Obama shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during their bilateral meeting on April 4th. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry visible in background.

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April 4th, Barack Obama poses with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office following their bilateral meeting.

President Obama also met with his National Security Team and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on April 5th and issued a statement in which he stressed the need to continue accelerating the air campaign, which he credited with cutting critical the Raqqa-Mosul supply line.[lxiv]

On 14 April, the DOD announced that Brigadier General Dennis S. McKean, formerly the commandant US Army Armor School, would become the chief, Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq, US Central Command.[lxv]

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On April 13, President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Kerry, CIA Director Brennan, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford made a statement on the coalition’s anti-ISIL strategy.[lxvi] Speaking from the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, President Obama stated that the Islamic State is now on the defensive. The President noted successes in Anbar province, Iraq, especially around Hit. The President also pointed to gains made in Syria at al-Shaddadi, including the cutting of the supply corridor between Raqqah and Mosul. “In other words,” said the President, “the ISIL core in Syria and Iraq continues to shrink,” with ISIL fighters estimated to be in their lowest numbers in two years. Meanwhile, Obama pointed to diplomatic efforts about to resume in Geneva, seeking a conclusion to the Syrian civil war.[lxvii]

On April 16th, the New York Times reported that the Obama Administration was planning to accelerate its anti-ISIL campaign by increasing the deployment of Special Operations forces to Syria, as well as Army helicopters to Iraq. “Dozens” of SOF soldiers were to be added, to the 50 currently working inside Syria, up to as many as 200. The SOF were expected to provide support for the planned operation against Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital, while the Army’s Apache helicopter gunships (which Iraq’s government had refused in December 2015)[lxviii] would support the planned future operation to capture Mosul.[lxix] Ash Carter, meanwhile, was in Al Dhafra air base for a tour of the Middle East. There were approximately 5,000 US service members in Iraq at the time. The coalition was now transitioning to its second phase of operations.

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Ash Carter meets with Global Hawk pilots during his tour of Iraq, April 17, 2016.

Operations and Tactics: Executing the Mission

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Kurdish Peshmerga fighters training in Irbil Iraq, October 11 2015.

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During airstrikes carried out on 13 November 2015, nine coalition strikes were carried out against ISIL units near Ramadi, while other strikes near Ramadi destroyed 16 buildings, two weapons caches, six ISIL fighting positions, two light machine guns, an ISIL rocket launcher and two sniper positions. Also targeted and destroyed were five vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), a staging area, two heavy machine guns, two command and control positions, a supply cache, an ISIL vehicle, another fighting position, plus damage was done to an ISIL controlled road.[lxx]

As part of Operation Tidal Wave II (the targeting of ISIL controlled oil assets), 116 fuel trucks were destroyed near Abu Kamal, Syria on November 15.[lxxi]

nov16a.jpg

            In the above image a PGM (precision guided munition) can be seen moments before it destroys an ISIL fuel truck. In the image below, incoming cannon rounds from the attacking A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft can be seen a split second before destroying another truck.[lxxii]

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            On November 18th coalition airstrikes destroyed a bridge leading to Ramadi.[lxxiii]

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On November 19 the coalition conducted three strikes near Kisik , Iraq, destroying four LMGs, two vehicles and two supply caches. [lxxiv] That same day the coalition destroyed an ISIL anti-air emplacement near Fallujah.[lxxv]

nov22

nov22a

Shortly afterwards, on November 24, the CJTF-OIR youtube page uploaded video highlighting the destruction of 283 ISIL fuel trucks during November 22, near Al Hassakah and Dayr Az Zawr Syria.[lxxvi] The images above show a small sample of the trucks, parked end-to-end in a huge circle, being decimated by A-10 cannon strikes.

            On the 24th of November the coalition destroyed a homemade exposive (HME) cache near Ramadi. On December 1st the coalition targeted a VBIED factory near Al Qaim, Iraq, and destroyed it, following that up with airstrikes the next day that destroyed two VBIEDs near Ramadi.[lxxvii]

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            The photo above shows the VBIED factory before its destruction, while the colour before and after screen captures (below) show the destruction of VBIEDs near Ramadi.

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On December 5, the coalition destroyed five ISIL oil wellheads near Dayr Az Zawr, Syria.[lxxviii] PGM circled.

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Two VBIED factories near Qayyarah Iraq were targeted on December 7th and 10th, and a logistics factory was also hit.[lxxix]

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On December 9, six strikes were carried out near Ramadi, destroying 2 ISIL boats used to cross the Euphrates, as well as two “tactical units” and five “fighting positions” and three weapons caches.[lxxx] Further strikes were carried out at Ramadi on 13 December, destroying multiple ISIL controlled buildings.[lxxxi] These were only a small sample of broader coalition strike missions, which included hundreds of attacks on a monthly bases. Multiple strikes were carried out every day.

dec15

On 15 December coalition airstrikes hit Al Qaim, Iraq, destroying an HQ building, an IED factory and a VBIED factory.[lxxxii]

During December 16-17 multiple strikes were carried out at Mosul, pulverizing ISIL positions and vehicles.[lxxxiii] More strikes were carried out on 20 December.[lxxxiv]

On 21 December six USAF personnel were killed when they were attacked while on patrol by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle at Bagram Air Base in Afhganistan. [lxxxv] Another two services members were injured as was a US contractor.[lxxxvi] These soldiers had been operating as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

On December 24 the coalition continued to hammer ISIL oil assets near Dayr Az Zawr, Syria. In sum 11 strikes were carried out in Syria that day followed by 19 strikes in Iraq.[lxxxvii] Cave complexes around Al Baghdadi were targeted, as shown in the image below.[lxxxviii]

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On December 25-26 the coalition targeted ISIL controlled bridges near Tal Afar, Iraq.[lxxxix]

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On December 28th the ISF recaptured portions of Ramadi, raising the Iraqi flag over the rubble of a government building.[xc]

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On December 29 the New York Times reported that Iraqi Security Forces had recaptured Ramadi- one the heaviest bombed cities during the December air campaign.[xci] By this point the CJTF-OIR had trained 15,892 ISF forces with another 4,200 in training.

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This chart shows the number of times a respective area was targeted, according to CJTF-OIR website press releases for December 2015, providing an indication of the scale of daily and monthly attacks. It is important to recognize that these figures do not include the hundreds of sorties and strikes carried out by Russian aircraft during the same period.[xcii]

Jan1

Further strikes against the Dayr Az Zawr oilfields occurred on December 29.[xciii] Additional strikes were carried out against Mosul,[xciv] and further attacks hit the Abu Kamal bridge, Syria, on January 1st.[xcv] The various oil works at Dayr Az Zawr were targeted again on 2 January.[xcvi]

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Ramadi was subjected to additional airstrikes on 5 January.[xcvii] A PGM seen here moments before obliterating an ISIL controlled building.

On 6 January 2016 the DOD announced the death of Staff Sgt. Matthew Q. McClintock, 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), who was killed in Marjah District, Afghanistan, during a firefight as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.[xcviii]

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French F-2 Rafale flies over Iraq on 8 January.[xcix]

jan10

On January 10 a bridge at Tal Afar was destroyed.[c] Mosul was again targeted on January 11, this time an ISIL controlled bank and mint was targeted. This was the beginning of a shift in focus towards targeting central Mosul, in particular, ISIL’s financial assets. Other buildings were also targeted, again, dozens of strikes were carried out each day.[ci]

jan12

Kisik, Iraq was bombed on January 12th.[cii] The following day an IED factory at Hit, Iraq was bombed.[ciii] Mosul was again the targeted of bombing on 15 January, PGM circled.[civ]

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Mosul was bombed again on the 18th: you can see approximately seven separate bombs hitting the same target in the video posted on the CJTF-OIR youtube page, before the structure collapses- significantly this would only count as part of one “strike” in the vernacular of the US Defense Department.[cv]

jan18jan18b

On January 17 the DOD announced the death of Major John D. Gerrie who was killed in “a non-combat related incident” on January 16th while involved in Operation Inherent Resolve- the US Central Command’s anti-ISIL campaign.[cvi] The casualty had initially been attributed to Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, but was re-categorized as an OIR loss on January 22.

On January 25 airstrikes near Mar’a, Syria, destroyed another ISIL HQ building.[cvii] On 28 January an ISIL controlled communication array in Mosul was destroyed.[cviii]

Jan28jan28b

On 29 January the DOD announced the death of Sgt. Joseph F. Stifter, 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, when his HMMWV rolled over near Al Asad Airbase, Al Anbar Province, during activity supporting Operation Inherent Resolve on 28 January.[cix]

jan2016

This chart shows the strike allocations conducted in Iraq and Syria for January 2016. Notice that despite the Iraqi Security Forces having entered Ramadi at the end of December 2015, Ramadi and the surrounding area accounted for 23% of all coalition strikes during January, and received the most strikes in absolute terms. Mosul was the next most heavily targeted city, accounting for 19% of all strikes that month. Interestingly, the ISIL capital in Syria, Ar Raqqah received only 3% of strikes, only 24 in total, compared to the 167 against Ramadi and 138 against Mosul. Note also the dropping off of strikes against the oil centre of Dayr Az Zawr, which had received 28 strikes the previous month, but only 11 in January.

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Map showing territory lost to the Islamic State by February 2016.

Meanwhile, during the end of January, and the first week of February, Russia flew 468 sorties in Syria, destroying 1,354 facilities in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Damascus, Raqqa, Daraa, and Deir-ez-Zor.[cx]

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ISW map showing Russian airstrikes in Syria, February to March 2016.[cxi]

A series of coalition strikes were carried out on 2 February. The oil fields at Dayr Az Zawr, Syria were targeted again. Then ISIL positions at Manbij, Syria were bombed.

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Further heavy airstrikes were carried out on 13 February. Mosul was bombed again: see the before and after comparison below.[cxii] Several major buildings were destroyed, again note the multiple bomb impacts.[cxiii]

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Abu Kamal, Syria, was bombed on 15 February, targeting weapon storage.[cxiv] ISIL barracks and vehicles were also targeted.[cxv]

feb15

The Dayr Az Zawr oil and gas plants were bombed again on 19 February.[cxvi] On 20 February ISIL positions near Al Hasakah Syria were bombed.[cxvii] Additional strikes against Al Hasakah were conducted on 21 February.[cxviii] Bridges at Dayr Az Zawr, Syria, were bombed on 21-22 February, and further wellhead strikes took place.[cxix]

feb21feb22feb22b

An IED factory near Al Qaim, Iraq, was bombed on February 24th.[cxx]

feb24feb25

On 25 February an oil separation facility at Abu Kamal, Syria was hit.[cxxi]

Fallujah, one of the major ISIL control-points in Iraq, was targeted on 29 February, where an ISIL weapons storage facility was bombed.[cxxii] Also on the 29th, a VBIED was destroyed at Manbij, Syria.[cxxiii]

            On 1 March another VBIED and a weapons storage warehouse at Mosul were destroyed.[cxxiv] The PGM can be seen before a series of explosions obliterates the warehouse in the images below.

mar1amar1b

An ISIL technical was destroyed at Ramadi on 2 March.[cxxv] On 3 March, Syrian President Bashir al-Asad’s forces recaptured the strategic city of Palmyra, a major turning point in the Syrian Civil War. On 4 March, the DOD carried out an airstrike at al Shaddadi, Syria, targeting senior ISIL leader Tarkhan Tayumurazovish Batirashvili, aka, Abu Umar al-Shishani, or Omar the Chechen, a senior member of the Islamic State’s war council. Omar the Chechen had been targeted as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.[cxxvi]

hornets

US Navy F/A-18 Hornets fly over Iraq on 3 March 2016.

On 5 March ISIL vehicles were bombed at Manbij, Syria, while a weapons facility at Hit, Iraq, was also bombed.[cxxvii]

mar5amar5

On 7 March the DOD announced that on March 5th it conducted an airstrike against al-Shabaab’s training camp in Raso, Somalia with manned and unmanned aircraft.[cxxviii]

ISIL positions at Mar’a were targeted on 8 March.[cxxix] An ISIL vehicle was also destroyed at Mar’a on 11 March.[cxxx]

mar8

ISIL positions at Hit, Iraq, were bombed on 12 March.[cxxxi] At least two IED factories at Mosul was destroyed on 14 March.[cxxxii] In the video, multiple PGMs can be seen hitting the targets, before secondary explosions completely destroy them.[cxxxiii]

mar14mar14amar14b

Another ISIL vehicle was destroyed near Hit, Iraq on 15 March.[cxxxiv] Also on 15 March, it was reported that Russia would begin a phased withdrawal of its forces from Syria, following the success of pro-regime forces at Palmyra. Russia was expected to maintain a reserve presence in support of the Syrian Army.

On 19 March the coalition dropped bombs on an ISIL HQ building in Mosul.[cxxxv] Also on 19 March, Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was killed while “providing force protection fire support” near Makhmur, Northern Iraq, when their fire base was attacked by ISIL rockets.[cxxxvi] Several other marines were wounded in the attack. The Pentagon noted that this was the second combat fatality since the start of OIR.[cxxxvii] On 21 March, the Pentagon admitted it had formed a USMC base in northern Iraq, staffed by 100 to 200 marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.[cxxxviii]

mar19

mar19b

On 22 March the DOD announced that it had conducted an airstrike in Yemen against an al-Qa’ida training camp, then being used by more than 70 militants training with the al-Qa’iada in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).[cxxxix]

mar23

On 23 March the coalition carried out multiple strikes at Qayyarah, Iraq; where a radio tower and other communication facilities were demolished.[cxl] An ISIL vehicle was also destroyed at Al Hawl, Syria.[cxli] The bridge at Qayyarah was again targeted on 24 March, destroying a large part of it.[cxlii]

mar24

training, Czech.JPG

Afghan tactical air controllers call in practice strikes at a training range in Kabul, 27 March. Czech Republic air advisors look on.

An ISIL barracks and a safehouse, at Hit, Iraq were bombed on March 28th.[cxliii] The next day an HQ building in Hit was destroyed.[cxliv] Further strikes at Hit on 31 March destroyed a VBIED.[cxlv]

mar31mar29

On 31 March the DOD carried out an airstrike in Somalia, targeting Hassan Ali Dhoore, a senior al-Shabaab agent within the organization’s Amniyat (security and intelligence) wing.[cxlvi]

ISIS Sanctuary 31 MAR 2016-01_2.png

Institute for the Study of War map showing estimated ISIL control in Syria and Iraq on 31 March.[cxlvii]

On 1 April a weapons cache at Qayyarah was bombed.[cxlviii] A bridge at Hit was bombed on 2 April.[cxlix] On 3 April a VBIED was destroyed near Shadaddi, Syria.[cl] In the video, the vehicle can be seen racing down a road before it is surrounded by cannon fire and explodes in a huge fireball.

april5.jpg

On April 7, the Pentagon announced that it had killed Abu Zubary al-Bosni near Bajar, a Swedish fighter, and Khalid Osman Timayare, the “deputy emir of the Anwar al-Awlaki Brigade,” also a Swedish national, was killed at Ar Rayhaniyah.[cli] By this point in the Shaddadi offensive, 6,100 square kilometers had been recaptured, and the coalition had conducted over 209 strike missions, “killing hundreds of enemy fighters.”[clii]

A number of attacks were carried out on April 8. In Syria, remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) carried out eight strikes, one at Hawl and seven at Mara. In Iraq, fighter aircraft and attack planes, supported by RPAs, bombed targets at Huwayjah, where an HMG was destroyed, at Fallujah, and at Hit, where two HMGs were destroyed, as well as a recoilless rifle, a supply cache, a boat and two vehicles. At Kirkuk two strikes destroyed an ISIL bunker, two vehicles and seven rocket systems plus a VBIED. At Mosul, seven strikes destroyed various targets including a VBIED manufacturing plant and a supply cache. At Qayyarah eight ISIL positions were bombed. Near Sinjar two supply caches were destroyed. At Sultan Abdallah a supply cache was destroyed and an assembly area bombed.[cliii]

humvee.jpg

Iraqi HMMWV fires TOW missile in Hit during fighting early in April.

On April 9th, attack aircraft carried out two strikes in Syria, one bombing the Dayr Az Zawr oil separation plant. At Manbij, a strike destroyed ISIL artillery and rocket systems. 21 strikes were conducted in Iraq. An ISIL HMG was bombed at Huwayjah. 22 rockets and two “rocket rails” were destroyed at Albu Hayat. An ISIL mortar system and vehicle were destroyed near Habbaniyah. At Haditha an ISIL tactical unit and fighting positions were bombed. At Hit four strikes were carried out, destroying an HMG, an artillery piece, and anti-aircraft piece and 30 boats and one vehicle. At Kirkuk a fighting position was bombed. At Kisik two strikes hit an ISIL “command and control node”. At Mosul three strikes were carried out, destroying additional buildings and three rocket systems. An ISIL HQ building was bombed at Tal Afar, and at Qayyarah four strikes destroyed weapons facilities and two ISIL VBIEDs were also destroyed.[cliv] This level of destruction was typical for the entire period, November 2015 to April 2016.

B-52.JPG

On April 9, B-52 bombers operating out of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar began operations as part of the CJTF-OIR effort, signaling a dramatic expansion of the air war.[clv]

On 10 April one strike was carried out at Raqqah, Syria, and 24 strikes were conducted in Iraq. Qayyarah was bombed 3 times, destroying two boats and a vehicle. Mosul was bombed eight times, destroying five communications facilities, two vehicles and a boat. Kirkuk was hit four times, destroying two ISIL HMGs, and a supply cache, amongst other areas and targets bombed.[clvi]

On 11 April the coalition carried out five strikes in Syria and 13 strikes in Iraq. On 14 April four strikes were conducted in Syria, at Hawl, Raqqah, and Ma’ra in Syria; while 17 strikes were carried out in Iraq, at Hit, four machine gun positions were destroyed, a boat and boat dock, an ISIL vehicle, and a command position were all bombed. In Kisik two ISIL units were destroyed as well as a bunker. At Mosul, a VBIED and a storage facility were destroyed. At Qayyarah, an HQ unit and financial centre were bombed. Near Sultan Abdallah two strikes destroyed seven ISIL boats and a mortar position. Another mortar was bombed at Tal Afar.[clvii]

prowler.JPG

US Marine Corps EA-6B Prowlers deployed to Turkey to support the OIR air campaign, starting on 14 April.[clviii]

On April 14th, the New York Times reported that a team of Italian engineering specialists had arrived to work on repairing the Mosul dam, recaptured from ISIL in 2014, which earlier in the year CJTF-OIR commander Lt. General Macfarland described as a serious humanitarian disaster waiting to happen should it collapse.[clix]

The A-29 Super Tucano airplanes, flown by USAF trained Afghan Air Force pilots, went into action on 15 April.[clx] Also on 15 April Airman First Class Nathaniel H. McDavitt, operating at part of Operation Inherent Resolve, was killed when the building he had been working in collapsed as a result of high winds.[clxi]

strikes15paril.jpg

Strikes carried out the week of 9 to 15 April.

On 18 April, Reuters newswire reported that the previous day, the coalition had conducted 20 airstrikes against IS militants in Syria and Iraq. Three strikes targeted two anti-aircraft pieces in Syria, and in Iraq, 17 strikes hit near eight different cities, destroying a weapons cache, communications facility, and safe house, a mortar position, a boat and a rocket team; basically par for the course in the ever increasing tempo of air operations.[clxii]

Conclusion

 

The coalition has dramatically accelerated its bombing campaign, conducting round-the-clock operations in Syria and Iraq. In the current phase of operations, heavy airstrikes are conducted daily against the major IS cities of Mosul, starting in February 2016, and the focus is now shifting to the IS capital, Raqqah, in Syria. More assets have been deployed to increase the pressure, including, in April, B-52 Stratofortress bombers, signaling a major escalation. The diplomatic and military effort to keep the coalition dedicated has yielded some results, with nations pledging either increased or continued support. However, by far the majority of strikes remain USAF led. The Russian campaign in Syria has been carefully orchestrated to prevent a conflict with coalition aircraft operating in the area, and is expected to maintain pressure if not at the tempo that had been carried out when Russia first intervened. President Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone conference on April 18, and both parties agreed to “increase coordination” in the Syrian air campaign.[clxiii]

            Meanwhile, NATO and US coalition airstrikes are carried out in Afghanistan- as part of Operation Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel- as well as in Somalia, Yemen, and Libya as part of the broader anti-al Qaida, anti-ISIL campaign. The US, NATO and the coalition have confirmed their intent to maintain troop presence in Afghanistan, and increasing deployments are being made to Iraq, where the US has suffered a handful of casualties, including combat fatalities. As a result of all this devastation from the air, the coalition has noticed a significant decrease of ISIL activity in Afghanistan.[clxiv] If true, this represents a major turning point since, in January 2016, the incoming Operation Resolute Support commander Lt. General John W. Nicholson described the situation in Afghanistan as “deteriorating” in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on January 28.[clxv] The difficult nature of the situation in Afghanistan remains evident, following  the major attacks in Kabul on 19 April.

However, Operation Inherent Resolve staff estimates suggest that the Islamic State has lost 40% of its former Syrian and Iraqi territory, with the CJTF-OIR spokesman stating that ISIL was “weakened” and efforts were now shifting to focus on fracturing the terrorist group.[clxvi] However, the OIR spokesman also pointed to the Iraqi Security Forces defensive posture at Fallujah, and noted that ISIL forces are putting up the staunchest resistance yet experienced, despite having suffered over 500 deaths from over 21 airstrikes in Iraq in the last week.[clxvii] At this time the coalition of nations involved in targeting ISIL in Iraq include the US, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. In Syria, strikes have been carried out by the US, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

total.jpg

The Combined Forces Air Component Commander Air Power Statistics for March 2016 show large increases in overall sorties and, significantly, in strikes, from November through to February, with March still showing an overall increase over the preceding year.[clxviii]

In the following phase of operations, the focus will shift to further pulverizing Mosul and Raqqa, while the diplomatic agenda will accelerate to secure the modest gains made over the past six months. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if the ISF and coalition aligned Syrian forces can operate on the scale necessary to conduct the large-scale offensives required for Mosul or Raqqa, and the increasingly combat orientated presence of US Special Forces and Marines seems to suggest skepticism regarding the success of the training regime. The arrival of additional coalition, USAF, Army and USMC air assets, including Apache helicopters and other close attack aircraft, not to mention the B-52s, no doubt heralds a further expansion of the air war in the future.

[i] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/708442/department-of-defense-publishes-inherent-resolve-campaign-medal-guidance

[ii] http://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/0814_Inherent-Resolve

[iii] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-blast-idUSKCN0X80PX ; http://www.mysask.com/portal/site/main/template.MAXIMIZE/?javax.portlet.tpst=635b2ff202604ea181fa421740315ae8_ws_MX&javax.portlet.prp_635b2ff202604ea181fa421740315ae8_viewID=story&javax.portlet.prp_635b2ff202604ea181fa421740315ae8_topic_display_name=World%20News&javax.portlet.prp_635b2ff202604ea181fa421740315ae8_topic_name=World&javax.portlet.prp_635b2ff202604ea181fa421740315ae8_news_item_id_key=37135419&javax.portlet.begCacheTok=com.vignette.cachetoken&javax.portlet.endCacheTok=com.vignette.cachetoken

[iv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/632434/statement-from-secretary-carter-on-counter-isil-actions-by-the-united-kingdom-a

[v] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/633221/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-nov-13-airstrike-in-libya

[vi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/634187/dod-releases-report-on-enhancing-security-and-stability-in-afghanistan

[vii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/637498/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-secretary-carters-phone-c

[viii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/637499/readout-of-secretary-carters-visit-to-frances-aircraft-carrier-charles-de-gaull

[ix] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/637503/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-the-king-of-bahrain

[x] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/637806/readout-of-secretary-carters-call-with-italian-minister-of-defense-roberta-pino

[xi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/638744/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-progress-in-the-fight-for-ramadi

[xii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/641779/dod-identifies-army-casualty ; http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/641725/readout-of-secretary-of-defense-carters-call-with-republic-of-korea-defense-min

[xiii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/642709/general-officer-assignments

[xiv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/642261/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-his-majesty-king-abdullah-ii-of-jordan

[xv] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/12/remarks-president-barack-obama-%E2%80%93-prepared-delivery-state-union-address

[xvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/642791/statement-from-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-us-navy-sailors-departure-fro

[xvii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/643050/readout-of-deputy-secretary-works-visit-to-israel

[xviii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/643424/deputy-secretary-of-defense-bob-works-visit-to-the-united-kingdom

[xix] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/643442/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-australian-prime-minister-turnbull

[xx] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/643681/joint-statement-on-counter-isil-cooperation-by-the-defense-ministers-of-austral

[xxi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/643975/general-officer-assignments

[xxii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/644017/readout-of-secretary-of-defense-ash-carters-meeting-with-iraqi-prime-minister-h

[xxiii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/644250/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-the-president-of-afghanistan-ashraf-g

[xxiv] http://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/04/15/a29-super-tucanos-see-first-action-afghanistan.html

[xxv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/645193/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-change-of-command-in-afghanistan

[xxvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/645700/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-us-russia-video-conference

[xxvii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/646430/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-the-netherlands-expansion-of-ai

[xxviii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/646918/general-officer-assignments

[xxix] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/646920/general-officer-assignments

[xxx] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/651341/general-officer-assignments

[xxxi] http://www.voanews.com/content/sixty-five-hundred-coalition-troops-in-iraq-us-wants-more/3172721.html

[xxxii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/652687/department-of-defense-dod-releases-fiscal-year-2017-presidents-budget-proposal

[xxxiii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/653572/readout-of-secretary-of-defense-ash-carters-meeting-with-canadian-minister-of-n

[xxxiv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/654672/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-deputy-crown-prince-and-minister-of-d

[xxxv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/655507/general-officer-assignments

[xxxvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/655588/readout-of-secretary-of-defense-ash-carters-meeting-with-the-emirati-minister-o

[xxxvii] http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/715735/coalition-kills-2-foreign-fighters-in-iraq-oir-spokesman-says

[xxxviii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/656601/general-officer-assignments

[xxxix] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/657534/statement-from-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-bombing-in-turkey

[xl] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/658458/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-libya-airstrike

[xli] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/658511/general-officer-assignments

[xlii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/669095/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-serbian-hostages-in-libya

[xliii] http://understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/February%202016%20AFG%20Map%20JPEG-01_4.jpg

[xliv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/671680/general-officer-announcements

[xlv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/682038/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-us-russia-video-conference

[xlvi] http://understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/ISIS%27s%20Regional%20Campaign%20MAR2016-01_16.png

[xlvii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/688855/readout-of-secretary-of-defense-ash-carters-meeting-with-german-minister-of-def

[xlviii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/691544/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-the-presidents-nomination-of-ge

[xlix] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/691544/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-the-presidents-nomination-of-ge

[l] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/694035/general-officer-assignments

[li] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2017DODPOSTURE_FINAL_MAR17UpdatePage4_WEB.PDF

[lii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2017DODPOSTURE_FINAL_MAR17UpdatePage4_WEB.PDF , p. 12

[liii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2017DODPOSTURE_FINAL_MAR17UpdatePage4_WEB.PDF , p. 13

[liv] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2017DODPOSTURE_FINAL_MAR17UpdatePage4_WEB.PDF , p. 16

[lv] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2017DODPOSTURE_FINAL_MAR17UpdatePage4_WEB.PDF , p. 16 – 17

[lvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/698377/da-announces-deployment-of-fort-bragg-based-units

[lvii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/700438/readout-of-deputy-secretary-works-meeting-with-danish-permanent-secretary-for-t

[lviii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/703814/readout-of-deputy-secretary-works-meeting-with-norways-state-secretary-for-defe

[lix] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/704104/readout-of-secretary-carters-call-with-the-kingdom-of-saudi-arabias-deputy-crow

[lx] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/705322/general-officer-assignments

[lxi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/707770/readout-of-secretary-of-defense-ash-carters-meeting-with-estonian-minister-of-d

[lxii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/708442/department-of-defense-publishes-inherent-resolve-campaign-medal-guidance

[lxiii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/709886/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-us-russia-video-conference

[lxiv] https://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2016/04/05/president-obama-meets-combatant-commanders-and-joint-chiefs-staff

[lxv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/721116/general-officer-assignments

[lxvi] https://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2016/04/13/president-obama-delivers-statement-isil

[lxvii] http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/721148/obama-counter-isil-campaign-accelerates

[lxviii] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/17/world/middleeast/ashton-carter-iraqi-officials-isis.html

[lxix] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/17/world/middleeast/us-plans-to-step-upmilitary-campaign-against-isis.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

[lxx] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMMEv8UaIos

[lxxi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXvrfmzH05M

[lxxii] http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/military/2016/04/18/idaho–10-wing-deploys-operation-inherent-resolve/83191594/

[lxxiii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mU6QuBjANiM

[lxxiv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86-2OJqNmWU

[lxxv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bl_yRKs9so

[lxxvi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AN9moYkOyHY

[lxxvii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc-7mHjD-Tw

[lxxviii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyn7PEWmdfM

[lxxix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spwHT0UfG2U ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tz11ORkQxwY

[lxxx] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyJR6mLJQA4

[lxxxi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hck20jtn5ZE

[lxxxii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=715A5f2bxwk

[lxxxiii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SOSI4Jbxyc

[lxxxiv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejFDF7wr_wU

[lxxxv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/637802/dod-identifies-air-force-casualties

[lxxxvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/637634/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-attack-against-us-service-membe

[lxxxvii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7n1bxTCpiJQ

[lxxxviii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml9BnDYuwnY

[lxxxix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jhj28_eSDgY

[xc] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JR8q_LyIQPI

[xci] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/30/world/middleeast/isis-ramadi-iraq.html

[xcii] http://www.inherentresolve.mil/News/StrikeReleases?platform=hootsuite

[xciii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOYzhlSIK-8

[xciv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dcTsQtnsT0

[xcv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tedSmieC2Oc

[xcvi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43TG2VmfcuI

[xcvii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb9NFDvU0gU

[xcviii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/641779/dod-identifies-army-casualty

[xcix] http://media.defense.gov/2016/Jan/18/2001335607/-1/-1/0/160118-D-XT155-002.JPG

[c] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtFsttZhU68

[ci] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eN5vnS_NSY

[cii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55OUUrMbEUo

[ciii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IihM3fFwlnI

[civ] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQmnFEFBTZA

[cv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PIC-7csbzo

[cvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/643431/dod-identifies-air-force-casualty

[cvii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dwGTYbgUPU

[cviii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZoRRKmujRc

[cix] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/646338/dod-identifies-army-casualty

[cx] http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-isis-supply-lines-destroyed-extensive-russian-airforce-operations-1354-terrorist-facilities-targeted-over-7-day-period/5505288

[cxi] http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/JPG%20Russian%20Airstrikes%2029%20FEB%20-%2015%20MAR-01_5.jpg

[cxii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1E56Mkf_8s

[cxiii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNQHa0TLQqI

[cxiv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSbKaqtLKY8

[cxv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRLZPqFgtJg

[cxvi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jrfM0Uj_8g

[cxvii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hgc_f2dJyfk

[cxviii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6l9Jgx0KHUo

[cxix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRU7yDU9C1o

[cxx] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZcEzDYrrPQ

[cxxi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmEvB8QAwL4

[cxxii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUjjpLlNFpI

[cxxiii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpUvB0KqxXg

[cxxiv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIrTGBFHMaM

[cxxv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mOdyUOu9uk

[cxxvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/688810/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-syria-airstrike

[cxxvii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdArmuVODY0

[cxxviii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/687305/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-airstrike-in-somalia

[cxxix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4QNu7Kl9qc

[cxxx] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA4dxpZPMrU

[cxxxi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtYhuBO5lpM

[cxxxii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NXSj4bf1hU

[cxxxiii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHPJ3uLaUa4

[cxxxiv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aApCFfBIR5Y

[cxxxv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MtYKsoBOlQ

[cxxxvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/698404/dod-identifies-marine-casualty

[cxxxvii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/698359/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-us-casualty-in-iraq

[cxxxviii] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/22/us/politics/marine-base-in-northern-iraq-is-confirmed-by-pentagon.html

[cxxxix] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/700454/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-yemen-airstrike

[cxl] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUlsgRqSEHk

[cxli] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkgRft0xAQ4

[cxlii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuYx9BeGIEs

[cxliii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX0-g8IfoaM

[cxliv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zuvLKDpR1k

[cxlv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7KkUOizhZc

[cxlvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/711634/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-airstrike-in-somalia

[cxlvii] http://understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/ISIS%20Sanctuary%2031%20MAR%202016-01_2.png

[cxlviii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA14s5QzRxI

[cxlix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwrpyUYeDHc

[cl] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wS6p8QOcVX8

[cli] http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/715735/coalition-kills-2-foreign-fighters-in-iraq-oir-spokesman-says

[clii] http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/715735/coalition-kills-2-foreign-fighters-in-iraq-oir-spokesman-says

[cliii] http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/716447/coalition-strikes-hit-isil-terrorists-in-syria-iraq

[cliv] http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/717094/military-strikes-continue-against-isil-in-syria-iraq

[clv] http://www.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/223/Article/717091/b-52-stratofortress-joins-coalition-team.aspx

[clvi] http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/717213/coalition-strikes-target-isil-terrorists-in-syria-iraq

[clvii] http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/720818/counter-isil-strikes-hit-terrorists-in-syria-iraq

[clviii] http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/721537/marine-corps-aircraft-deploy-to-turkey-for-operation-inherent-resolve

[clix] http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/04/14/world/middleeast/ap-ml-iraq-mosul-dam-.html

[clx] http://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/04/15/a29-super-tucanos-see-first-action-afghanistan.html

[clxi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/722602/dod-identifies-air-force-casualty

[clxii] http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKCN0XF1D5

[clxiii] http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/latest-russia-calls-direct-syria-peace-talks-38478336

[clxiv] http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/721629/number-of-isil-fighters-in-afghanistan-drops-significantly-official-says

[clxv] http://understandingwar.org/map/afghanistan-partial-threat-assessment-february-23-2016

[clxvi] http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/720245/coalition-focuses-on-dismantling-fragmenting-isil-oir-spokesman-says

[clxvii] http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/720245/coalition-focuses-on-dismantling-fragmenting-isil-oir-spokesman-says

[clxviii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/March_2016_Airpower_Summary.pdf

The Effectiveness of Air Power against the Islamic State: Operation Inherent Resolve

The Effectiveness of Air Power against the Islamic State: Operation Inherent Resolve

Inherent_Resolve

The World

Introduction

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, US Central Command (CENTCOM)’s Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF), accelerated airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/Daesh), with the United States Air Force and Navy leading a broad NATO and non-NATO country coalition in a vast air and ground campaign against ISIS. The complex nature of the coalition’s Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) has increased dramatically in recent months. Operation Inherent Resolve is stated to have officially commenced on 8 August 2014. The 16 month long campaign to degrade and destroy the Islamic State accelerated at the end of October 2015 when the USAF began targeting ISIL’s oil reserves and refineries: the black market oil controlled by ISIS is worth $40 million USD a month.[i] A topic of significant political controversy: how successful has the coalition’s strategic air campaign been?

Iraq

Theatre of Coalition operations, the Middle East.[ii]

Background, Building the Coalition

2013 had been a violent year for Iraq, with 8,868 Iraqis killed in terrorism related violence according to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq.[iii] By June of 2014 ISIL forces had secured Mosul, looting Iraq’s central bank to the tune of $429 million, and were preparing to move against Baghdad.[iv] Syria’s Air Force commenced bombing operations against ISIL in Iraq on 24 June, and Iraq’s Air Force moved to purchase Sukhoi Su-25 fighters from Russia and Belarus, to bolster its air support capabilities following delays in the delivery of 36 F-16s from the USAF.[v] On 28 June 2014, US President Barack Obama requested $500 million from Congress to fund a training and advisory mission in Syria, and by this point there were 180 US military advisors deployed in Iraq.[vi] On 29 June 2014 ISIS proclaimed a caliphate, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph.[vii] Between 3 and 17 July, ISIL captured Syria’s al-Omar and Shaer oil and gas fields.[viii]

MapMay

Institute for the Study of War, ISIS situation map, June 2014.[ix]

ISISbattleAugust 8th, Operation Inherent Resolve commences.[x]

Operations commenced early on 8 August 2014, when two US Navy F/A-18s, in support of Kurdish forces, dropped a pair of 500 lb laser guided bombs (LGBs) on a “mobile artillery piece” near Erbil.[xi] Attacks continued into the morning of the 8th, with a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) destroyed an ISIL mortar that was being used to attack “U.S. personnel” involving in “assisting the Government of Iraq.”

LGB

US Navy F/A-18 strike against ISIL artillery.[xii] 500 lb LGB circled.

This airstrike was followed by another US Navy F/A-18 strike, involving four aircraft, against an ISIL convoy and mortar position, at 11:20 am, in which 8 LGBs were dropped.[xiii] The United Kingdom’s Michael Fallon, Defence Secretary, announced plans to support the US led efforts with humanitarian airdrops, and speculation followed that the UK would soon join in a military coalition with the United States.[xiv]

Shortly after these strikes, President Barack Obama issued a statement (at 9:30 pm EST – August 7th – at the White House), acknowledging that the situation at Erbil, where the US consulate is located, had become critical.[xv] The President described the impending massacre of Yezidi “women, men and children” stranded on Mount Sinjar, as justification for the strikes, and emphasized the low footprint of the “several hundred American advisors” then deployed to Iraq. The President followed up this announcement on August 11th, reiterating his commitment to supporting Iraq’s government with military and humanitarian assistance.[xvi] By August 10th France announced plans to join the coalition in providing arms to Kurdish Peshmerga forces.[xvii]

Meanwhile, on 9 August, US Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, spoke in a telephone conference with the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, regarding military coordination for Iraq.[xviii]

p080714ps-0095

US President Barack Obama met with his National Security Team in the White House Situation Room on 7 August, 2014.[xix]

On August 21st, the US acknowledged that it had carried out a raid to rescue hostages held at Raqqa, including reporters James Foley and Steven Sotloff two months prior, on 3 July. The Delta Force and 160 SOAR mission failed due to the hostages having been moved before the strike took place.[xx] On August 30th the United States Air Force (USAF) conducted a combined humanitarian airdrop and combat mission with support from Australian, French and UK aircraft at Amirli, where ISIL forces had besieged thousands of Shia Turkomens. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) played an important role in the humanitarian component of this mission. [xxi]

hagel and Dempsey

US Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey photographed at the Pentagon on 21 August 2014.[xxii]

On 5 September 2014 US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released a statement explaining the conclusions reached at the NATO Summit meeting held to discuss security challenges, including ISIL. The joint statement expressed the Alliance’s commitment to begin systematically degrading ISIL, militarily, ideologically, financially and politically, and established the groundwork for the development of an international coalition to affect this mission.[xxiii]

Airstrikes were carried out on 7 September under CENTCOM authority to counter ISIL forces threatening the Haditha Dam in Iraq’s Anbar province, and on 10 September President Obama approved plans to deliver $25 million in “military assistance” to the Iraqi and Kurdish governments.[xxiv] On 14 September, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott committed 400 Australian Air Force personnel and 200 troops plus “up to eight Super Hornet aircraft” to fight ISIS.[xxv] Abbott stressed that these forces formed part of a broad coalition, including the US, UK, France, Canada, Jordan, Bahrain and UAE. Airstrikes by France took place on 19 September. Belgian involvement was authorized for a month long trial period with F-16s operating out of Jordanian airfields, and Denmark also deployed seven aircraft and 250 personnel.[xxvi] Shortly thereafter, British Prime Minister David Cameron implored parliament to approve airstrikes which passed the house by a 524-43 vote.[xxvii]

18_nato_14

NATO Summit meeting at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, Wales, 4 September 2014.[xxviii]

US President Obama addressed the media at 10:11 am on 23 September from the White House south lawn to announce that the US had conducted strikes against ISIL targets in Syria. Raqqa, the proclaimed Syrian capital of ISIS, had been hit with Tomahawk cruise missiles, and airstrikes were flown by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar.[xxix]

fighter-jets-us

F-15E aircraft conduct strikes on the 23rd of September.[xxx]

President Obama stated that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, and Qatar had joined with the US led coalition of “over 40 nations [that] have offered to help” in carrying out this mission. The President also stated that airstrikes had been carried out against al Qaeda operatives in Syria known as the Khorasan Group. Obama stressed his close consultation with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi in building the coalition to fight ISIL.[xxxi] The strikes continued through 24, 25 and 26 September. On 30 September RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft dropped Paveway IV bombs on heavy weapons positions and a technical in Northern Iraq.[xxxii]

Technical targeted by RAF aircraft, 30 September 2014.

tornado

RAF Tornados flew missions on 30 September from bases in Cyprus.[xxxiii]

Canada now joined the coalition on October 2nd, its commitment closely mirroring Australian deployments, in this case, CF-18 fighters, refueling aircraft and surveillance assets.[xxxiv] On 14 October, ISIS forces captured Hit, and on 24 October the ISF (Iraq Security Forces) launched Operation Ashura to recapture Jurf al-Sakhar, backed by 22 US strikes.[xxxv]

iraq-security

Iraq’s Special Operations Forces (ISOF) deploy for a patrol to Jurf al-Sakhar, south of Baghdad.[xxxvi]

us-airstrikes-isis

Turkish Kurds near the Mursitpinar border crossing watch coalition strikes on Kobani.

us-airstrikes-isis (1).jpg

Heavy airstrikes occurred against ISIL forcing controlling the town of Kobani on October 14th, 2014.[xxxvii]

For ten days CENTCOM hosted an anti-ISIL strategy conference, from November 12th to the 21st (22nd) at the MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. Representatives from 33 nations attended, with almost 200 “coalition participants” taking part. Planning was led by Brigadier General Gary C. Deankin, British Army, and Deputy Director of US Central Command Strategy, Plans and Policy division. According to General Lloyd J. Austin III, CENTCOM commander, the focus of the conference was on developing plans to support Iraq’s security forces.[xxxviii]

On 23 November the ISF defended against ISIS attacks on Ramadi.[xxxix] By 30 November KSF (Kurdish Security Forces), Peshmerga fighters, had recaptured villages in the Gweir and Makhmour area, 28 miles south of Erbil.[xl] Between December 17 and 27 the KSF launched an operation to break the siege of Mount Sinjar.[xli] On 19 December Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby announced that coalition airstrikes had killed Haji Mutazz, one of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s chief deputies, amongst others, including Abd al Basit, ISIL’s chief of military operations in Iraq, and Radwin Talib, ISIL’s military governor for Mosul.[xlii]

terry

CJTF-OIR commander Lieutenant General James L. Terry announces the high profile airstrikes in December 2014.[xliii]

By 9 February 2015 the coalition had conducted over 2,000 airstrikes against ISIL. A multinational conference was held February 3rd and 4th to discuss strategic planning, with Colonel Ryan Jurykowski, CJTF-OIR deputy chief of plans, and Lieutenant General James L. Terry, commander CJTF-OIR in attendance.[xliv] By this point in the war the Task Force had established a twitter page (@CJTFOIR).[xlv] Also on the 9th, airstrikes were carried out near Mosul, with Kurdish Peshmerga forces capturing three bridgeheads over of the Tigris River. These operations, taking place between 6 and 8 February, involved four Close Air Support (CAS) strikes, as well as Coalition Advise and Assist (A2) ground teams. Lt. General James Terry called the operation an example of “how Daesh can be defeated” through the Coalition’s Aviation and Advise and Assist (A3) strategy.[xlvi] Meanwhile, on February 13th, the ISF, supported by coalition surveillance troops, stopped an ISIL attack against the Al Asad Air Base in Anbar province, killing the eight attackers. 800 ISF personnel were receiving training at the Al Asad base.[xlvii]

Between 22 February and the first week of March, 26 airstrikes were carried out in support of ISF and Tribal Fighters (TF) actions against ISIL positions around Al Baghdadi, securing three bridges over the Euphrates River. Further gains were made along the road to Hadithah.[xlviii] On March 9th the Kurds captured an important ridgeline west of Kirkuk as part of an operation to secure the Kirkuk oilfields. CJTF-OIR airstrikes destroyed “ten enemy fighting positions, five tactical units and ten ISIL weapons systems” in support of this operation.[xlix] Videos from the strikes carried out March 9 – 13 at Mosul, Fallujah, and Kirkuk, were posted to CENTCOM’s youtube page (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNEEHeS9Y2yFVLbWGeHhbYA).[l]

During March 24th and 25th, coalition aircraft conducted strike and surveillance missions in support of ISF forces engaged in liberating Tikrit.[li] Iranian military officials assisted in the massive 30,000 ISF strong Tikrit operation. Air support was carried out by Iraq’s Air Force.

tikrit

ISF offensive at Tikrit.[lii]

Video from some of these strikes was released the following day, with more footage to follow on the 31st.[liii] Attacks and counterattacks took place at Kisik, Kirkuk, Bayji and Habbaniyah, in the shape of Vehicle IEDs (VIED), and a dozen suicide bomb attacks. The coalition’s forces continued their “ongoing advise and assist operations, airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR.”[liv] By March 30th, the coalition had 1,500 troops in theatre, involved in training 4,800 ISF soldiers, the majority of that buildup commencing in the first week of March.

Training

Cavalry trooper from the 82nd Airborne Division training soldiers from Iraq’s 15th Division.[lv] Training video was released on April 6th.[lvi] In Syria, Major General Michael Nagata led the training effort.[lvii] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgv7fFrpktGrcJtanYifRYw

april2015

The Islamic State as of April 2015.[lviii]

Between April 1st and 9th the coalition conducted 47 airstrikes in support of an ISF battle at the Bayji Oil Refinery.[lix] A large operation held in Kirkuk was announced on 19 April in which 11 villages were re-captured from ISIL with the assistance of coalition air support.[lx] A major coalition conference was held April 27th to May 1st at MacDill Air Force Base, with representatives from 39 nations attending.[lxi] Videos of airstrikes at Kobani and Al Asad (19-20 April) in Syria were released on 27 April.[lxii] A further video of an airstrike against ISIL positions near Mosul that occurred on May 4th were released on 13 May.[lxiii] On May 16th US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter issued a statement indicating that ISIL commander Abu Sayyaf had been killed in a US SOCCOM (Delta Force) raid, and his wife, Umm Sayyaf, was captured.[lxiv]

            On May 7th CENTCOM announced that it had begun training “vetted” Syrian opposition fighters with the support of the now 60 nation strong “Global Coalition to Counter ISIL”.[lxv] Between May 19th and the 22nd the ISF conducted an attack in preparation for seizing the contested Bayji Oil Refinery, in a battle involving IEDs, suicide VIEDs, and heavy weapon and rocket fire. Chief of staff of CJTF-OIR at this point was Brigadier General Thomas Weidley.[lxvi] Lt. General James Terry, CJTF-OIR commander, was displeased with ISIL gains in Ramadi.[lxvii] During that same period another conference was held (May 19-20), with representatives from 21 nations in attendance. By this point in the conflict the coalition had conducted over 4,100 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.[lxviii] On June 10th 2015 the Pentagon announced that it had been authorized to deploy another 450 US “non-combat” personnel to Taqaddum Air Base. US personnel now numbered 3,550.[lxix] On June 26th CENTCOM commander General Lloyd J. Austin gave his condolences to the family of Iraqi Brigadier General Rais Mohammed Sadiq who was killed in a training accident while operating with the USAF in Arizona.[lxx]

            On July 4th the coalition conducted 16 interdiction airstrikes against ar-Raqqah, the ISIS capital in Syria.[lxxi] CJTF-OIR’s new chief of staff, Brigadier General Kevil Killea, announced that between August 26th and 28th the coalition had conducted airstrikes (“13 deliberate and 12 dynamic”) over three days to support Peshmerga operations east of Tuz, northern Iraq.[lxxii] Declassified video of a strike targeting a VEID was posted the same day.[lxxiii]

mapseptember

ISW ISIS situation map, September 2015.[lxxiv]

Iraq’s Air Force now received delivery of the much delayed F-16s, the first strikes by the new fighters was carried out on 6 September. The first four F-16 aircraft had been purchased in July.[lxxv]

On 8 September a stadium in Ramadi was bombed: the arena was being used to marshal ISIL fighters.[lxxvi] On 21 September CENTCOM announced that the training mission for Syria had produced 70 graduates, shortly dispatched to join the New Syrian Forces. On the 23rd, airstrikes destroyed two VIED factories near Mosul.[lxxvii] Video was posted simultaneously.[lxxviii]

sept23

Airstrikes pummel ISIL controlled buildings as part of coalition operations near Al Huwayjah, September 23, 2015[lxxix]

50 airstrikes were carried out in support of a KSF operation to clear ISIL positions in the villages west of Kirkuk, starting on 30 September.[lxxx]

NATO Defense Ministers met in Brussels on 8 October to discuss the ISIL mission, and there were questions about Russian involvement, considering that Russian aircraft had violated Turkish airspace on recent occasions.[lxxxi] As of 8 October US Defense Department figures provided by Central Command (CENTCOM), indicate that 13,781 targets have been destroyed, include 126 tanks, 354 HMMMVs, and 3,930 “fighting positions”, 3,956 buildings, plus 4,622 undisclosed “other targets”.[lxxxii] US Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, at this point approved weapons deliveries to select members of the New Syrian Forces.[lxxxiii]

oil2

On 16 October the coalition bombed the Qayyarah Oil Refinery in Iraq.[lxxxiv] Attacks against the Khorasan Group of al-Qaeda continued with the demise of Saudi national and al-Qaeda commander in Syria, “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” Sanafi al-Nasr (Abdul Mohsen Adballah Ibrahim al Charekh).[lxxxv] A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between the US and Russia regarding access to Syrian air space.[lxxxvi] USAF B-1 bombers targeted the Omar oil field in Syria, worth between $2 and 5 million USD a month to the Islamic State. The strike was carried out on 21 October, and destroyed 26 targets.[lxxxvii] On October 22nd KSF and SOCOM teams raided an ISIL prison near Hawijah, Iraq, freeing 70 hostages, and capturing 5 prisoners.[lxxxviii]

prison

The prison was then demolished.[lxxxix] On 23 October, Lt. General Sean B. MacFarland, commander CJTF-OIR, reported that the task force had suffered a casualty, Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, while three of Iraq’s “special operations soldiers” were wounded.[xc] On October 27 Ash Carter met with Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s Defence Minister and the two discussed Israeli and regional security concerns. Israel is expected to acquire F-35 capability in 2016.[xci]

By 31 October 2015 Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) involved between 17,592 and 22,286 sorties flown for 2015, plus between 6,663 and 6,292 sorties for 2014, of which, 8,064 (2015) and 2,040 (2014) sorties involved weapon launches.[xcii] As of 31 October, Operation Inherent Resolve is estimated to have cost $5 billion, with $11 million spent everyday over 450 days of operation.[xciii]

sorties

Total Sorties as of 31 October 2015.[xciv]

costs

Cost breakdown by US DOD as of 9 November 2015.[xcv]

 

Recent Developments

The expansion of ISIS terrorist activity around the globe coincides with the escalation of the Global Coalition’s devastating air campaign. Senior coalition military and political leadership have been clear that their strategy is one of persistence and coalition building, to contrast the “shock and awe” air campaigns carried out against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya during the decade 2001-2011. Nevertheless, the US remains responsible for the majority of strikes, with Russia and the coalition following suit. The UK has carried out 350 strikes since committing RAF assets in October 2014, and plans to escalate its involvement in Iraq.[xcvi]

russiaoil.jpg

Russia, in particular, has joined with the coalition’s efforts to target ISIS oil revenue, releasing video of strikes carried out against an ISIS oil refinery on 19 November.[xcvii] Over the past week Russia also carried out strikes with Tu-22M3 bombers and launched 12 cruise missiles against Aleppo and Idlib in Syria, followed by raids against Raqqa and Deir-Ez-Zur, announcing that the strikes had destroyed ISIS HQ buildings, bomb factories and three oil refineries.[xcviii]

ISIS escalated the scale and frequency of its terrorist attacks in particular following Russian intervention in the Syrian Civil War.[xcix] Between November 7th and 13th the coalition carried out 30 strikes, destroying 101 ISIL targets,[c] including the killing of 27 year-old British national Mohammed Emwazi, “Jihadi John” the suspected top executioner for ISIS.[ci] In addition, the US targeted Abu Nabil, – Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi – an Iraqi and al Qaeda operative in Libya.[cii] Videos of the strikes from November 8th were uploaded to the CJTF-OIR youtube page on November 14th, detailing the destruction of ISIL petroleum resources (Operation Tidal Wave II).[ciii] Further video was uploaded on 13 November showing coalition airstrikes carried out on 11 November in support of Peshmerga forces fighting at Sinjar.[civ]

sinjar2 

            Securing Sinjar: KSF cuts the communication line between Raqqa and Mosul.[cv]

strikes

CJTF-OIR Twitter graphic showing location and number of airstrikes in Syria and Iraq between 7 and 13 November, 2015.[cvi]

strike6

strike11

strikes4

Frames from declassified CJTF-OIR surveillance video posted to youtube, showing the destruction of ISIL controlled buildings on 11 November near Sinjar, Iraq; Operation Free Sinjar, which had been prepared by a month of air bombardment (involving 250 strikes).[cvii] By November 12th, the US plus the coalition had conducted 8,125 strikes (5,321 in Iraq and 2,804 in Syria). Of these, 6,353 strikes had been conducted by the US (3,695 in Iraq and 2,658 in Syria), the US doing almost all of the heavy lifting in Syria, the rest of the coalition counting for only 146 strikes there, compared to 1,626 in Iraq. By November 14, the Global Coalition had flown 57,301 sorties.[cviii]

 obamaNovember15

President Barack Obama meets with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey on Sunday, 15 November 2015, with National Security Advisor Susan Rice in attendance.[cix]

Ash Carter spoke with France’s Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and the two discussed intensifying the campaign.[cx] The the coalition was continuing its bombing mission, conducting 10 strikes in Syria with “attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft.” Another 13 strikes, coordinated with Iraq Security Forces (ISF) including rocket artillery hit ISIL targets, on November 15.

iraq2

ISIS territory as of October 22.[cxi]

situation2015

The political situation on November 15th, grey represents area controlled by ISIS.[cxii]

At Abu Kamal 116 ISIL fuel trucks were destroyed, while near Al Hasakah two ISIL positions were destroyed. At Al Hawl two strikes destroyed five buildings and a vehicle. At ar Raqqah one strike destroyed an ISIL storage depot. Another strike near Mar’a hit “an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions.” Near Al Baghdadi two strikes destroyed a Heavy Machine Gun (HMG), and an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) cache. At Fallujah a building was destroyed, and at Albu Hayat an “ISIL tactical unit” was hit. Another enemy unit was hit at Kisik, as well as at Qayyarah where a weapons cache was also destroyed. Five strikes at Ramadi hit “six separate ISIL command and control nodes”. Near Sinjar two strikes destroyed four ISIL vehicles. The strikes were carried out without loss.[cxiii]

rafale2

One of ten Dassault Rafale aircraft surged to attack Raqqa.[cxiv]

Operation Tidal Wave II continues. French Air Force Rafale and Mirage 2000 aircraft flying out of the UAE and Jordan sortied for three days, targeting Rakka, and Mosul.[cxv] French President François Holland has dispatched the CVN Charles de Gaulle to deploy its 24 strong naval aviation wing. USAF capacity has increased with access to the Turkish Incirlik base for A-10 and F-15 aircaft.[cxvi] On November 19th US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced plans to escalate the air campaign amid calls from the Republican controlled US Congress to deploy additional ground forces to support anti-ISIL security forces.[cxvii] Carter stressed the potential for greater cooperation with Russia, in particular.

[i] Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Steps Up Its Attacks on ISIS-Controlled Oil Fields in Syria,” The New York Times, November 12, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/13/us/politics/us-steps-up-its-attacks-on-isis-controlled-oil-fields-in-syria.html.

[ii] https://twitter.com/hashtag/TIDALWAVEII?src=hash https://www.google.ca/maps/@35.2475487,40.4147392,1339609m/data=!3m1!1e3 http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/AfghanistanTopographicalMap_full.jpg

[iii] Mu Xuequan, “18 Killed, 46 Wounded in Attacks in Iraq’s Capital.,” Xinhuanet, January 29, 2014, Global edition, sec. World, news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2014-01/30/c_126080379.htm.

[iv] Kathleen Caulderwood, “Mosul Bank Robbery Isn’t The Only Thing Funding ISIS,” International Business Times, June 13, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/mosul-bank-robbery-isnt-only-thing-funding-isis-1601124.

[v] Martin Chulov and Fazel Hawramy, “Isis: Maliki Hails Syrian Air Raids in Iraq as Leaving Both States ‘Winners,’” The Guardian, June 27, 2014, sec. World news, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/26/nouri-maliki-admits-syria-air-raids-isis-iraq. ; Alaa Shahine and Selcan Hacaoglu, “Iraq Buys Used Russian Fighter Jets Amid U.S. Delivery Delay,” Bloomberg.com, June 26, 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-06-26/iraq-buys-used-russian-fighter-jets-amid-u-s-delivery-delay.

[vi] jpost.com staff, “Obama Seeks $500 Million from Congress to Train ‘Moderate’ Syrian Rebels to Fight ISIS,” The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com, June 28, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Obama-seeks-500-million-from-congress-to-train-moderate-Syrian-rebels-to-fight-ISIS-360845.

[vii] Adam Withnall, “Isis ‘Declares New Islamic State’ in Middle East,” The Independent, June 30, 2014, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-declares-new-islamic-state-in-middle-east-with-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-as-emir-removing-iraq-and-9571374.html.

[viii] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/07/islamic-state-fighters-seize-syria-gas-field-2014717134148345789.html ; http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/03/us-syria-crisis-islamicstate-idUSKBN0F80SO20140703

[ix] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/isis-sanctuary-map-june-10-2014

[x] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/11023094/Britain-considers-air-strikes-to-avert-genocide-in-Iraq.html

[xi] http://archive.defense.gov/Releases/Release.aspx?ReleaseID=16878

[xii] https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/transcoded/c/c7/U.S._FA-18_Super_Hornet_strikes_in_Iraq_August_8_2014.ogv/U.S._FA-18_Super_Hornet_strikes_in_Iraq_August_8_2014.ogv.360p.webm

[xiii] http://archive.defense.gov/Releases/Release.aspx?ReleaseID=16879

[xiv] Ben Farmer et al., “Britain Considers Air Strikes to Avert Genocide in Iraq,” August 8, 2014, sec. News, ;http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/11023094/Britain-considers-air-strikes-to-avert-genocide-in-Iraq.html.

[xv] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/08/07/statement-president

[xvi] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/08/11/statement-president-iraq

[xvii] France 24, “Middle East – France to Consider Arming Iraqi Kurds Battling ISIS,” France 24, August 11, 2014, 24, http://www.france24.com/en/20140810-france-consider-arming-iraq-kurds-battling-isis-fabius/.

[xviii] http://archive.defense.gov/Releases/Release.aspx?ReleaseID=16881

[xix]https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery_img_full/image/image_file/p080714ps-0095.jpg

[xx] Nicholas Schmidle, “Inside the Failed Raid to Save Foley and Sotloff,” The New Yorker, September 5, 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/inside-failed-raid-free-foley-sotloff.

[xxi] http://archive.defense.gov/Releases/Release.aspx?ReleaseID=16909

[xxii] http://www.voanews.com/content/islamic-state-beyond-just-a-terrorist-group-says-hagel/2423915.html

[xxiii] http://archive.defense.gov/Releases/Release.aspx?ReleaseID=16922

[xxiv] http://archive.defense.gov/Releases/Release.aspx?ReleaseID=16927 ; Roberta Rampton, “Obama Authorizes $25 Million in Immediate Military Aid to Iraq: White House,” Reuters, September 10, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/10/us-iraq-crisis-obama-militaryaid-idUSKBN0H52BH20140910.

[xxv] ABC.net, “Australia Commits Military Force to International Fight against IS Militants,” Text, ABC News, (September 14, 2014), http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-14/australia-to-deploy-military-force-to-uae/5742498.

[xxvi] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/26/denmark-isis_n_5887230.html

[xxvii] http://www.newsweek.com/britain-belgium-and-denmark-join-global-coalition-against-islamic-state-273570 ; http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/cae69a7523db45408eeb2b3a98c0c9c5/Article_2014-09-26-EU–Europe-Iraq/id-ec4ff073827b494a95ffb0ed438b04fb

[xxviii]https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery_img_full/image/image_file/18_nato_14.jpg

[xxix] http://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/23/world/meast/syria-isis-airstrikes-explainer/index.html?iid=article_sidebar

[xxx] http://www.newsweek.com/britain-belgium-and-denmark-join-global-coalition-against-islamic-state-273570

[xxxi] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/23/statement-president-airstrikes-syria

[xxxii] https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/raf-tornados-strike-first-islamic-state-targets-404310/

[xxxiii] https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/raf-tornados-strike-first-islamic-state-targets-404310/

[xxxiv] http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/canada-joins-us-uk-airstrikes-against-isis-iraq-1468426 ; http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-29483160

[xxxv] http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/iraqi-forces-recapture-key-towns-isis-following-22-us-air-strikes-1471756

[xxxvi] http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/iraqi-forces-recapture-key-towns-isis-following-22-us-air-strikes-1471756

[xxxvii] http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-battle-kobani-becomes-spectator-sport-kurds-turkey-watch-air-strikes-1469908

[xxxviii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/20141116-CENTCOM-News-Release-Coalition-Planning-Conference-in-Support-of-Counter-ISIL-Operations-Concludes.pdf

[xxxix] http://www.voanews.com/content/us-plans-to-arm-sunni-tribesmen-in-iraq/2531289.html

[xl] http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/11/30/kurdish-fightersretakefiveiraqivillagesfromisil.html

[xli] http://gulfnews.com/news/mena/iraq/kurds-press-sinjar-operation-in-north-iraq-1.1429595

[xlii] http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/12/19/several-top-isis-leaders-killed-in-iraq/

[xliii] http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/12/19/several-top-isis-leaders-killed-in-iraq/

[xliv] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/Coalition-Conference-held-to-discuss-OIR.pdf

[xlv] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/Coalition-Conference-held-to-discuss-OIR.pdf

[xlvi] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/Bridgehead-Press-Release.pdf

[xlvii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/Press-Release-Al-Asad-Attack.pdf

[xlviii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/ISF-Take-Al-Baghdadi-release-March-06.pdf

[xlix] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/Peshmerga-Fighters-take-Key-ridgeline-Press-Release.pdf

[l] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/CENTCOM-Media-Advisory-Airstrike-Video-in-Support-of-Operation-Inherent-Resolve.pdf

[li] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/20150305_-_CENTCOM_News_Release_-_Video_of_Coalition_Airstrikes_Against_ISIL_in_Tikrit.pdf ; http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31699632

[lii] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31699632

[liii] https://www.dvidshub.net/video/396141/cjtf-oir-airstrike-daish-controlled-bridge-25-mar-15 http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/20150309_-_CENTCOM_Media_Advisory_-_Airstrike_Video_in_Support_of_Operation_Inherent_Resolve_Now_Available.pdf

[liv] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/ISF_blunt_ISIL_attacks.pdf

[lv] https://www.dvidshub.net/image/1843557/iraqi-soldiers-receive-class-82nd-abn#.Vkwav9-rSRs

[lvi] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/Video_of_BPC_Operations_in_Iraq_now_available.pdf

[lvii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20150402_-_CENTCOM_News_Release_–_Correction_to_the_Record.pdf

[lviii]http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/20150410_ISIL_Map_Unclass_Approved.pdf

[lix] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/Government_of_Iraq_in_full_control_of_Bayji_Oil_Refinery.pdf

[lx] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/Peshmerga_Forces_Seize_More_ISIL_Held_Terrain_-_v3.pdf

[lxi] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20150404_-_CENTCOM_News_Release_–_CENTCOM_hosts_Coalition_Planning_Conference_27_April_-_1_May.pdf

[lxii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20150405_-_CENTCOM_Media_Advisory_-_Airstrike_Video_in_Support_of_Operation_Inherent_Resolve_Now_Available.pdf

[lxiii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20150505_-_CENTCOM_Media_Advisory_-_Airstrike_Video_in_Support_of_Operation_Inherent_Resolve_Now_Available.pdf

[lxiv] http://archive.defense.gov/Releases/Release.aspx?ReleaseID=17274

[lxv] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20150503-_CENTCOM_News_Release_-_Initial_Class_of_Syrian_Opposition_Forces_Begin_Training.pdf

[lxvi] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20150515_-_Media_Release_-_ISFBOR.pdf

[lxvii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/Coalition_United_to_defeat_Daesh.pdf

[lxviii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/Coalition_United_to_defeat_Daesh.pdf

[lxix] http://archive.defense.gov/Releases/Release.aspx?ReleaseID=17328

[lxx] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20150601-CENTCOM_Media_Advisory-Statement_by_the_Commander_US_Central_Command.pdf?SpeechID=1949

[lxxi] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20150704-Media_Release-Coalition_Airstrikes_degrade_ISIL_freedom_of_movement_in_Syria.pdf?SpeechID=1949

[lxxii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20150828_Media_Release_Peshmerga_Successfully_Clears_Territory_and_Liberates_Villages.pdf

[lxxiii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSNPupGz_T8&feature=youtu.be

[lxxiv] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/isis-sanctuary-map-september-15-2015

[lxxv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/616367/statement-on-iraq-conducting-its-first-counter-isil-air-operations-using-f-16-f

[lxxvi] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20150908-Media-Release-Coalition-airstrikes-destroy-an-ISIL-staging-area-and-weapons-cache.pdf

[lxxvii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20150924-Media_Release-Mosul_VBIED_Network_Airstrikes.pdf

[lxxviii] https://youtu.be/RfDTKaIeD4I

[lxxix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZX-b0buK6A&feature=youtu.be

[lxxx] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20150930-News_Release-Peshmerga_Offensive-FINAL.PDF

[lxxxi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/622516/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-turkish-minister-of-defense-vecdi-gon

[lxxxii] US Defense Department, “Operation Inherent Resolve: Targeted Operations Against ISIL Terrorists,” Summary, (October 31, 2015), http://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/0814_Inherent-Resolve.

[lxxxiii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/622610/statement-on-syria

[lxxxiv] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20151016-News_Release-Qayyarah_Oil_Refinery-FINAL.pdf

[lxxxv] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/624656/statement-on-airstrike-in-syria-that-killed-sanafi-al-nasr

[lxxxvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/624923/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-memorandum-of-understandi

[lxxxvii] Gordon and Schmitt, “U.S. Steps Up Its Attacks on ISIS-Controlled Oil Fields in Syria.”

[lxxxviii] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20151022-01_CENTCOM_News_Release-CENTCOM_CDR_Statement_on_Hostage_Rescue.pdf

[lxxxix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBJZmI1O2T4&feature=youtu.be

[xc] http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20151023-Media%20Release-Operation_Inherent_Resolve_Casualty.pdf ; http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20151025_-_News_Release_-_Airstrike_Destroys_ISIL_Prison_-_FINAL.pdf

[xci] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/626144/readout-of-secretary-carters-meeting-with-israeli-minister-of-defense-yaalon

[xcii]http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/31_October_2015.pdf

[xciii] US Defense Department, “Operation Inherent Resolve: Targeted Operations Against ISIL Terrorists.”

[xciv]http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/31_October_2015.pdf

[xcv]http://www.defense.gov/portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/costUpdates/ISIL_Master_Report-31Oct15.png

[xcvi] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3321934/Britain-joins-fight-RAF-steps-bombing-campaign-against-ISIS-wake-Paris-attacks-killing-30-terrorists.html

[xcvii] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/video-shows-russian-air-strike-explode-isis-oil-refinery-a6740256.html

[xcviii] http://oracleherald.com/2015/11/18/russia-russian-federation-bombards-raqqa-isis-hq.html

[xcix] http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/06/17/world/middleeast/map-isis-attacks-around-the-world.html?_r=1

[c] https://twitter.com/CJTFOIR/status/666274656014454784

[ci] Robert Verkaik, “Jihadi John Dead: Mohammed Emwazi Has Been Killed, but Others Will Replace Him – Times of India,” The Times of India, November 16, 2015, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Jihadi-John-dead-Mohammed-Emwazi-has-been-killed-but-others-will-replace-him/articleshow/49798432.cms.   ; http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/628777/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-airstrike-in-raqqa-syria

[cii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/628954/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-us-strike-in-libya

[ciii] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgv7fFrpktGrcJtanYifRYw

[civ] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDNb59ng54Y

[cv] http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/06/12/world/middleeast/the-iraq-isis-conflict-in-maps-photos-and-video.html

[cvi] https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CT8VRNMVAAAIo0M.jpg:large   ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UObneqgeME

[cvii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDNb59ng54Y ; http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2014/0814_iraq/docs/20151112-News%20Release-Peshmerga_Sinjar_Offensive_E.pdf

[cviii] https://youtu.be/RfDTKaIeD4I

[cix]https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery_img_full/image/image_file/p111515ps-1198.jpg

[cx] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/628974/readout-of-secretary-carters-call-with-french-minister-of-defense-jean-yves-le

[cxi] http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/06/12/world/middleeast/the-iraq-isis-conflict-in-maps-photos-and-video.html

[cxii] https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/61/Syria_and_Iraq_2014-onward_War_map.png

[cxiii]https://www.facebook.com/CJTFOIR/posts/1635460616720073?utm_source=hootsuite

[cxiv] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3319696/French-fighter-jets-carry-massive-airstrike-operation-ISIS-stronghold-city-Raqqa-Syria.html

[cxv] Nathalie Guibert, “Raids aériens pour « casser la machine » Etat islamique,” Le Monde.fr, November 18, 2015, sec. Société, http://www.lemonde.fr/attaques-a-paris/article/2015/11/18/raids-aeriens-pour-casser-la-machine-etat-islamique_4812441_4809495.html.

[cxvi] Ibid.

[cxvii] Eliza Collins, “Defense Secretary Ash Carter Signals an Escalation against ISIL,” POLITICO, November 19, 2015, http://www.politico.com/story/2015/11/ash-carter-isil-syria-216049.

Armour Tactics at the Battle of 73 Easting, 26 February 1991

Tank tactics at the Battle of 73rd Easting: February 26, 1991.

Introduction

            Two days into the coalition ground war in Kuwait and Iraq, Phase IV of Operation Desert Storm,[i] the armour of Third Army’s VII Corps attacked Iraq’s Republican Guard and other armour brigades in a series of battles, forty-one hours in duration, that commenced with the Battle at 73 Easting.[ii] After crossing into Iraq on 24 February, the Coalition’s armoured and airborne forces raced across the desert to locate and engage Iraq’s Republican Guard, known to be holding positions near the border with Kuwait. On February 26th, VII Corps’ mechanized units encountered the Republican Guard and three of its own mechanized divisions, deployed to protect the flank of Iraq’s withdrawal corridor through Basra. Keeping this route open was crucial, as was closing it to prevent Iraq’s Army from escaping.[iii]

M-1A1 Abrams main battle tanks of the 3rd Armored Division move out on a mission during Operation Desert Storm.

US 3rd Armor crosses the Iraqi desert.

The actions occurred on the afternoon, and evening of 26th February, 1991, around the 73rd easting grid coordinate, near Objective Norfolk west of the Kuwait-Iraq border. When President Bush’s ultimatum of February 23rd expired, the Coalition launched its massive offensive, with the expectation of a confrontation with Iraq’s Republican Guard shortly to follow. The ground phase of the campaign commenced on the 24th, with the advance of VII (armour) and XVIII (airborne) Corps through the desert, combined with Joint Forces Command-North & East, and Marine Forces Central Command, operations to secure Kuwait and Kuwait City.[iv]

Although the battle that started at 73 Easting continued on the 27th and engulfed components from the Republican Guard’s Medina, Adnan and Hammurabi Divisions, and the remainder of the 12th Armored Division, this post examines primarily the tactical and operational circumstances of the Battle at 73 Easting between VII Corps and the Tawakalna Division, on 26th February.[v]

The battle has generated significant interest amongst scholars and soldiers alike as a case study concerning the influence of technology and training on operations and tactics, including the role of air power and close air support prior to land operations; the significance of weather and environmental friction, and the importance of battlefield intelligence and robust command and control to prevent blue-on-blue incidents. The one-sided nature of the engagement has unsettled analysts and military historians as to the deceptive role played by any one of these elements.[vi] The Battle of 73 Easting was the first salvo in the last major tank battle of the Cold War, indeed, what turned out to be the largest tank battle since the Battle of Kursk in July 1943.[vii] This post looks at the tactical movements during the opening phase of battle through a narrative, and the conclusion addresses the historiographical question of the tactical lessons of the battle.

 iraqi disposition

Disposition of Iraq’s Army at the start of the ground war, 24 February 1991.[viii]

iraq

Disposition of forces.

Iraq deployed 26 of its infantry divisions along its Saddam Line, and supported these with 9 mechanized divisions, with the 8 Republican Guard divisions acting as a mobile reserve. The Republican Guard had been formed in the 1970s and expanded during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-8 with the recruitment of college educated soldiers. By 1990 the Republican Guard comprised 3 armoured divisions and 5 infantry divisions. The Tawakalna Division, the main antagonist of VII Corps on February 26th, was composed of 220 T-72s and 278 Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs), and was commanded by Major General Salah Aboud Mahmoud. The division had been moved to the west of the Iraq Petroleum Saudi Arabia (IPSA) pipeline road, roughly 80 miles from Kuwait City.[ix]

The Coalition’s Third Army, to which VII Corps was attached, published its programme of operations on 5 January: Operation Plan 001 which ordered VII Corps to, “Conduct main attack in zone to penetrate Iraqi defenses and destroy RGFC [Republican Guard Forces Command] … in zone.”[x] XVIII Airborne Corps would cover the 260 kilometers to the Euphrates, and VII Corps, with the heaviest concentration of armour, would move on Al Basrah where Iraq’s Republican Guard was deployed.[xi] A US Army heavy brigade was a formidable force, containing up to 3 battalions of M1A1 tanks (116 total) and another battalion of 54 Bradleys plus scout, mortar, air-defence and support vehicles. Formed into a 22,000 soldier division, the unit covered a frontage of 25-45 kilometers, with a depth of 80-150 kilometers.[xii]

100 hour war

Operation Desert Storm: The 100 hour ground campaign.[xiii]

3_AD_Iraq

3rd Armored Division tanks

            Battle Narrative

            

Coalition1

Initial Coalition movements, G-day, 24 February.[xiv]

At 2:30 pm on 24 February, VII Corps started its drive to the Euphrates. Small groups of the enemy were encountered and destroyed, and prisoners were captured from overrun outposts. Almost all but 200 members of Iraq’s 110th Infantry Brigade surrendered when their position was overrun by US armour.[xv] Unfortunate friendly fire incidents raised concern amongst Army leadership. An entire division of artillery was assembled from five brigades of M109A2 155mm self-propelled howitzers and rocket launchers in preparation for supporting the advance the following day.[xvi] Meanwhile, the night of the 24th, General Salah Aboud Mahmoud issued orders to redeploy two brigades from Iraq’s 12th Armoured Division to support the Tawakalna Division.[xvii] By the end of the first day, the Coalition offensive had secured 13,000 prisoners at the cost of 8 combat dead and 27 WIA.[xviii]

day2

G+1, 25 February.[xix]

The drive was continued on 25 February, as the VII Corps forward elements encountered scouts from the Republican Guard divisions, destroying a number of Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) in the process. General Schwarzkopf (CENTCOM) urged Lt. General John Yeosock (Third Army), to put pressure on VII Corps commander, Lt. General Frederick M. Franks, to accelerate his advance.[xx] Delays were caused when prisoners were taken or the tanks had to stop to refuel. Otherwise, the T-55 tanks and groups of infantry deployed to screen the heavier elements positioned closer to Kuwait, were brushed aside without much resistance. American helicopter gunships engaged T-55 tanks from Iraq’s 26th Infantry Division. The deadliest Scud attack of the war, in terms of military casualties, occurred on 25 February when an IRBM fired at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, hit an American barracks and killed 28 soldiers, wounding 100 more.[xxi]

It was now the morning of February 26th and the leading elements of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) were tired, having slept, still in their Nuclear Biological Chemical (NBC) suits, for only a few hours in three days, and the days before had been spent rehearsing under an ever increasing tempo of operations. Worse, the tank formations were facing adverse weather conditions, including oil-rain, which was limiting strategic reconnaissance.[xxii] The enemy had so far put up only sporadic resistance from isolated vehicles and strongpoints, but was certain to have massed large formations of tanks and artillery nearby the Basra corridor. In fact, the Tawakalna commander was now aware that he faced a large Coalition force, including American armour, and had prepared reconnaissance positions (no more than 20 tanks and 40 IFVs) to provide information on the American advance.[xxiii] The division’s three heavy brigades, the 18th, 29th, and 9th were positioned to cover the IPSA road. The Tawakalna line also included the 37th Armoured Brigade, and the remains of the 9th and 50th brigades. [xxiv]

G2

G+2, 26 February, defeating the Republican Guard, Kuwait City is secured.[xxv]

destruction

Battle of 73 Easting, US armour attacks the Republican Guard Forces Command (RGFC).[xxvi]

At 8:30 am, Ghost Troop, 2d ACR scouts, engaged and destroyed an Iraqi troop carrier from the Tawakalna Division.[xxvii] At 10 am, Eagle Troop was maneuvering into position through the fog.[xxviii] Lt. Petschek, commanding Eagle Troop’s scout platoon of six Bradleys and 30 soldiers, deployed forward, with Lt. Timothy Gauthier’s third platoon scouts in close contact with Fox Troop to the north. Lt. Michael Hamilton and Jeffrey DeStefano had two tank platoons positioned behind the scouts to support them. At this point, Staff Sergeant Patterson, Eagle Troop, reported contact with three enemy MTLBs (Soviet Multi-Purpose Tracked Vehicles).

Ghost Troop Bradleys quickly destroyed two more of the enemy APCs (Armoured Personnel Carriers), scouting elements of the Tawakalna Division. Captain H. R. McMaster, in his command M1A1, engaged and destroyed the third MTLB before it could escape, gunner Staff Sergeant Craig Koch hitting the APC with a HEAT round at over 2 kms distance.[xxix] By 10 am the rain had cleared, but only to produce a thick fog and low clouds. Eagle Troop was now ordered to move south of Ghost Troop, and tie in with Iron Troop of 3rd Squadron. 2nd Squadron’s operations officer, Major Douglas MacGregor, assured McMaster that Eagle Troop would be in the lead when, “contact with the Republican Guard was imminent”. At 12 pm the Troop was leading the squadron’s movements towards the 60 easting.[xxx] The Troop was ordered to stop again at 1 pm, and prepare defensive positions, during which they again refueled their vehicles.

sand

sand2

Sandstorms encountered in the Second Gulf War: 5th Marines on 26 March 2003, and a V Corps Humvee.[xxxi]

The Left Flank

A sandstorm now obscured visibility as the American forces approached the Iraqi positions.[xxxii] The Troops pressed forward, and at 3 pm, encountered and destroyed 3 enemy tanks.[xxxiii] Between 3:15 and 3:25, McMaster’s Eagle Troop was ordered to push to the 70th Easting, and fix the location of the Republican Guard forces.[xxxiv] Within 15 minutes, Eagle Troop came under fire from Iraqi artillery and infantry occupying buildings at the 69th Easting. These were the forward elements of the 18th Mechanized Brigade. Enemy air-burst artillery landed amidst Lt. Petschek’s scout platoon, causing them to close their hatches.[xxxv] The M1s (Abrams tanks), and M3s (Bradley cavalry vehicles) returned fire and pushed forward, despite incoming Iraqi artillery.[xxxvi] At 3:56 Staff Sergeant Jon McReynolds (3rd platoon) passed an Iraqi bunker whose four occupants quickly surrendered when McReynolds and Sergeant Wallace, and Private First Class Robert Sanchez, dismounted and confronted them.[xxxvii] At 4:07 Eagle Troop found the Republican Guard main force, in the form of dug-in T-72 tanks. Ghost Troop’s 1st Lt. Keith Garwick, commanding a 3rd Squadron Bradley platoon, was engaged in an intense firefight at 4:42 pm, in which a T-72 company counter-attacked their position, and by 5 pm the Bradley’s had destroyed 9 APCs and were engaging enemy infantry.[xxxviii] Also at 5 pm the Iraqis opened a counter-barrage on Ghost Troop, with rounds landing near Bradley G-16 obscuring the sight of 23-year-old gunner Sergeant Nels A. Moller, and within seconds a tank shell hit the Bradley’s turret and destroyed it, killing Moller, while the remaining crewmen escaped to nearby Bradley G-15.[xxxix] PFC Jeff Pike, 21-years-old and the driver of Captain Sartiano’s command M1A1, believed their gunner now destroyed the responsible enemy T-55, although it was impossible to confirm.[xl] It was now just after 6 pm, and the sandstorm reappeared with intensity: soon visibility was limited to a mere 50 yards.[xli] The Republican Guard attacked in waves of tanks, and Ghost Troop was unsupported by coalition air forces, although it was backed by powerful regimental artillery.

column

American Mechanized column.

Meanwhile, north of 2d ACR, at 4 pm, Captain Gerald Davie of Alpha Troop, 4/7 Cavalry, 3rd Armd Division, was moving as part of a compact, 27 kilometer wide formation of two brigades, supported by divisional artillery and followed by the 4th Battalion of the 34th Armored Regiment.[xlii] When it arrived at the 73rd Easting, Alpha Troop’s 3rd platoon (6 Bradleys) reported Iraqi BMPs (Soviet IFVs) and infantry in front of them, and 2nd platoon, with another 7 Bradleys deployed and opened fire with 25mm cannon. Captain Davie, in 2nd platoon, “could see tracer rounds streaking across the battlefield in both directions. He could see small explosions as the 25-mm rounds impacted on the BMPs. Through his thermal sights, Davie could see more vehicles in the distance.”[xliii] Although they could only see a few vehicles abreast of him, due to the storm, the platoons continued to advance, and although Captain Davie did not realize it, was now moving into the sights of T-72 tanks: obscured by the weather and only 300 or 600 meters away. Alpha Troop encountered enemy infantry at 75 meters and soon Iraqi artillery began hitting their position. Within moments Alpha Troop was in a major engagement with Republican Guard tanks. Bradley A-24 was destroyed and Staff Sergeant Kenneth Gentry, despite the efforts of medics deployed by A-25 and A-26, died of his wounds. The Bradleys began to engage the enemy T-72s with TOW missiles. A-33 was hit by heavy machine gun fire, wounding its commander.

t-72

Destroyed Tawakalna Division T-72.[xliv]

With 1st platoon acting as a diversion, 2nd and 3rd platoons withdrew under fire. Davies was also under friendly-fire from elements of the 2nd ACR and 4th battalion, 34th Regiment. As A-36 withdrew, it was hit by small arms gunfire, knocking out the vehicle’s transmission. As A-36’s occupants were about to be picked up by A-31, an M1A1 fired at A-36, showering the Bradley’s driver with shrapnel. The wounded man was retrieved and A-31 moved westward, when it was struck twice by armour-penetrating sabot rounds, neither wounding any of the occupants. However, Sergeant Edwin Kutz, gunner of A-22, was killed when the Bradley was hit by a tank round. Alpha Troop accelerated its withdrawal, deploying a smokescreen and moving west at thirty miles per hour.[xlv] Alpha Troop had two KIA and 12 WIA with three Bradleys out of commission and another four with various degrees of damage.

Meanwhile, to the south of Alpha and Ghost Troops, the tank platoons of Eagle Troop advanced, crossing a minefield, and engaging the enemy. McMaster’s command tank destroyed a T-72 at 4:18, and by 4:22 a total of 9 Iraqi T-72s had been destroyed, and the advance continued.[xlvi] Within forty minutes of joining battle, Eagle Troop had destroyed 37 T-72s and 32 other vehicles. [xlvii]With many Iraqi tanks destroyed, McMaster pressed forward until he reached the 73rd Easting, radioing when asked why he was passing the 70th Easting: “I can’t stop. We’re still in contact, Tell them I’m sorry.” At 4:40, with as many as 17 more T-72s in sight, but out of range, Eagle Troop halted its advance.[xlviii]

            Iron Troop, to the south of Eagle Troop, attacked the fortified positions Eagle Troop had by-passed, and destroyed a number of T-72s and BMPs, while support from Apache helicopters neutralized the enemy’s artillery to a depth of 12 kilometers beyond the 73rd Easting.[xlix] At 4 pm, 3d Brigade of 1st Armored Division, and 2nd Brigade, 3rd Armored Division were engaged in an air and artillery battle with Iraqi forces. The 3d Brigade called in A-10 Thunderbolt II attacks, and the 2nd Brigade engaged the enemy in-front of them with artillery. Progress was slow, and despite the M1A1 thermal sights, visibility was limited to less than two kilometers by the sand and rain.[l]

bunker

1st Cavalry trooper prepares to enter an abandoned Iraqi bunker.[li]

North of Alpha Troop, Lt. Colonel John Brown’s 3/5 Cavalry was encountering Iraqi bunkers and prepared positions, about 5:05 pm.[lii] Captain Tony Turner’s Charlie Company, of 3/5 Cavalry, encountered an Iraqi bunker complex and dug-in T-72 tanks and BMPs. Within seconds, First Lieutenant Donald Murray’s Bradley was damaged in the track-wheels by T-72 fire.[liii] Captain Turner ordered his M1A1s into position and soon First Lieutenant Marty Leners, from tank Charlie 1-1 was engaged in a duel with a T-72, destroying the enemy tank after missing his first shot.[liv] With artillery support, the entire 1st Brigade developed its advance, with Charlie company, 3/5 Cavalry, leading the assault on the bunker complex.

            Lt. Col. Tony Isaacs and 1st Squadron, 2d ACR, had meanwhile encountered elements of the 50th Armored Brigade and engaged several battalions as it pressed towards the 70 Easting. At 5 pm, the 1st Squadron was positioned to attack the 37th Armored Brigade. The sun was setting at 5:50 pm.[lv]

The Centre

            North of 1st Brigade, 2d Brigade’s Colonel Higgins, 3rd Armored Division, also attacked at 5 pm. A Task Force comprised of a reinforced battalion was drawn from 4/8 Cavalry to lead the centre of the brigade’s attack, and was supported by divisional artillery.[lvi] 4/8 Cavalry engaged the enemy at 5:22, and was fighting 4 enemy BMPs at 5:27. The 3rd Armored Division had encountered three battalions of the 29th Mechanized Brigade, three armoured and one mechanized battalion from the 9th Armored Brigade, and one battalion of the 46th Mechanized Brigade plus a T-62 tank battalion, for a combined total of 160 Iraqi tanks and 117 BMPs.[lvii]

Captain Ernest Szabo’s Charlie Tank Company attacked into a flurry of enemy RPGs and artillery rounds. Ordered back by Lt. Col. Beaufort Hallman, Szabo, in tank Charlie 66, was delayed when the tank threw a track. Captain Szabo dismounted and ran through the artillery storm to eventually find Charlie 65 with a working radio and Charlie Company pulled back at 5:55. Colonel Higgens asked for artillery and Apache support and was given it, providing breathing space for the battle group to reform under artillery and air cover, with plans to continue the attack at 10 pm. General Funk, at 3rd Armored Division headquarters, prepared am artillery barrage including 5 battalions of artillery and an attack helicopter battalion.[lviii] When the attack came it lasted for 4 more hours, ending at 2 am on February 27th, with the 2nd Brigade having fought through much of the enemy’s 29th Brigade, despite the enemy’s determined counter-attacks.

Meanwhile, at 6 pm 4/7 Cavalry Squadron encountered dug-in Iraqi tanks. Unable to press the advance without heavy armour, the Bradley squadron pulled back, suffering damage to 9 of its 13 M3 Bradleys, plus another 2 damaged by friendly fire. 4/7 suffered 2 KIA and 12 WIA during this engagement. In effect, Iraq’s 9th Armoured Brigade had halted the advance of the US 1st Brigade, 3rd Armored Division.[lix]

The Right Flank

The 1st Armored Division moved across the Phase Line (PL) Tangerine at 6 pm, three brigades abreast. 1/1 Cavalry, a detachment alongside 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, encountered a large number of enemy tanks, 52 in all, and called down artillery against them, destroying 30 successfully.[lx] At 6:30, Colonel Zanini, commanding 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (the most heavily armoured formation in the US Army, known as the “Bulldog” Brigade), delivered orders to Lt. Col. Ed Dyer commanding 1/37 “Dragon” Armor Battalion, who then issued attack orders to the battalion’s company commanders at 6:45: “Buster, Cobra, Dauntless, Gator – we have just gotten word that one brigade of the Tawakalna Division is a few kilometers to our front. The enemy unit consists of more than a hundred armored vehicles…”, and concluded with orders to form, “DRAGON’S ROAR [formation] on my command!”[lxi] The 1/37 battalion’s formation included 45 M1A1 tanks, supported by attack helicopters and Bradleys.[lxii]

            155mm DIPCM howitzers from 3/1 Field Artillery began hammering the enemy positions in front of 3rd Brigade at 7pm.[lxiii] Although the artillery missed its target, it scattered the Iraqi forces nevertheless, who believed they were under air attack.

            This was the situation at 8 pm: Ed Dyer’s TF 1/37 Armor Battalion, and TF 7/6 supported by TF 3/35 in reserve, moved on the 68th Easting at PL Libya. Task Force 1/37 Abrams tanks moved into position, using their patent battalion formation in phalanx form, in which the M1A1s presented a single front, each MBT (Main Battle Tank) fifty meters apart, the entire line 2 kms long (2d ACR, for its part, had its own formations, such as the Troop Diamond formation, with four Troops forming the diamond’s points).[lxiv] Delta Company, 1/37 now approached the positions occupied by Iraqi infantry, who, once the American artillery lifted, assaulted Delta’s position in rushes. They were quickly reduced by heavy machine gun, and more targets were encountered on the horizon. The brigade opened up with TOW missiles and cannon fire, and at 8:30 pm Colonel Zanini ordered 1/37 to advance into the Iraqi positions, with 7/6 providing over-watch. As the divisional artillery MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket Systems) went into action on targets in the rear of the Republican Guard positions, Captain Dana Pittard, of Delta Company, led the advance of Bravo and Charlie companies, storming a ridge and continuing to engage Iraqi vehicles.[lxv]

trenches

Iraqi trenches.

As the battalion moved down the ridge, it encountered dug-in Iraqi tanks. At extreme ranges, the longest of 3.7 kms, and an average between 2 and 3 kms, the Americans engaged the Iraqi tanks, devastating them with M-829AI Armor Piercing Sabot depleted uranium munitions. Apache helicopters covered 1/37s advance.[lxvi] M1A1, Delta-24, was hit and destroyed- the crew injured, but escaped- and the battle became close-in around burning vehicles and bunkers. One of Bravo company’s tanks was hit in the rear and disabled, the crew escaped unharmed, tank burning. C-22 was hit shortly afterwards, and also disabled without major injuries. The C-Company commander’s tank was hit, for a total of four damaged tanks with 16 general uninjured crewmen escaping.[lxvii] The battalion was under fire from concealed Iraqi positions strewn amongst the burning hulks of their tanks and bunkers. 7/6 Infantry now advanced and secured prisoners, and by 11 pm the battlefield was reported cleared, with over 100 prisoners taken.[lxviii]

At 8:30 pm, HQ-26, a Bradley AFV from 4/32 scouts, was engaged by a T-72 and enemy infantry. Private First Class Frank Brandish was able to knock out the T-72s road-wheels with a TOW missile, however, in return, the T-72 killed Staff Sergeant Christopher Stevens in the Bradley’s turret. Nearby, HQ-21 joined the skirmish, destroying the T-72 with another TOW missile. As PFC Bradish and PFC Adrian Stokes escaped the wreck of HQ-26, they were fired at with heavy machine gun. Peppered by gunshots and their own ammunition as it cooked-off inside the burning AFV, Stokes went down, but was retrieved by the wounded Bradish, although Stokes soon succumbed to his wounds. Bradish continued to retrieve supplies and equipment from the Bradley, and was able to recover gunner Sergeant Donald Goodwin, who had been blown fifty meters from the destroyed Bradley, and was suffering from a chest-wound.[lxix] Lt. James Baker, in HQ-21, called in mortar fire on the Iraqi infantry engaging HQ-26 and then moved to recover survivors. Twenty minutes later, rapidly arrived medical tracks were administering to the wounded Bradish and Goodwin.

            The battle continued until about 10 pm, when General Funk decided to suspend the attack until the following day, to prevent further friendly fire incidents.[lxx] Specialist Chris Harvey, in an APC of the hard-pressed Ghost Troop, recalled seeing 360 degrees of carnage from his position: “All I saw were things burning,” he recalled.[lxxi] Air and artillery attacks continued throughout the night.

ff

M3 destroyed by friendly fire.

General Griffith, with 3d Brigade, had engaged the northernmost elements of the Tawakalna Division, and he soon dispatched 1/1 Cavalry to search for the Medina Division to the north. As the sun was setting, the cavalry troops were 50 kms ahead of the rest of the division, when they encountered enemy T-72s and BMPs. It was now 10 pm, and 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, had also started to encounter the forward positions of the Medina Division, although they had been abandoned as the division contracted into its close security zone.

euphrates

American troops secure an abandoned Iraqi Army radio station along the Euphrates river valley.[lxxii]

As this was happening, General Funk received intelligence from VII Corps command, informing him that a JSTARS aircraft had spotted a battalion sized detachment from the Tawakalna Division preparing to counter-attack between 1st and 3rd Armored Divisions. Colonel Burke, General Funk’s Aviation Brigade Commander was now alerted, and he rapidly deployed 24 Apache gunships, which struggled through the worsening weather and storms and, identified the enemy tank formation at 11 pm. Descending on their targets the Apaches destroyed 8 T-72s and 19 BMPs in 3 minutes, while more Apaches from the 1st Infantry Division attacked far behind the enemy’s lines at the 90th Easting.[lxxiii] Throughout the night 3rd Armored’s 4/18 Infantry was involved in intense combat with Iraqi infantry counter-attacks. A VULCAN antiaircraft system was employed to decimate the enemy’s infantry attacks.

m11320mm

20mm VULCAN cannon mounted on M113 APC, destroying an Iraq Army truck.[lxxiv]

The “Big Red One”, 1st Infantry Division, now pressed the attack, providing relief to the 2nd ACR. The 1st Division included 334 M1A1s, 224 M2A2 Bradleys, and 3 battalions of attached engineers.[lxxv] It was an apocalyptic scene for the soldiers of 1st “Devil” Brigade who encountered a situation in which they pressed, “… through the darkness toward what looked like Armageddon. The eastern horizon was ablaze with green and red tracers and MLRS rocket trails, punctuated by bursts of light from tank cannon fire and artillery explosions. Fires raged from destroyed Iraqi vehicles all along the horizon.”[lxxvi]

bigredone

Movements of the 1st Infantry Division.[lxxvii]

2nd Battalion, “The Dreadnoughts”, 34th Armored Regiment, now pressed in to relieve Ghost and Eagle Troops, although the plan at this point was vague and intelligence on the enemy incomplete. Colonel Maggart of the 1st Brigade moved forward to the 2/34 battalion’s position and ordered the 5/16 battalion to screen 3 kilometers to his rear.[lxxviii] In the process of this leap-frog attack. 1/34’s “Centurion’s” battalion encountered BMPs and T-55 tanks. Captain James A. Bell saw a regimental scout Bradley go up in flames, the crew, with 4 injuries, running from the flaming wreck. As M1A1 tanks moved up to engage the T-55s, another Bradley was hit, killing the gunner and wounding the leader of the scout platoon.[lxxix] The 1/34 pressed its attack, supported by 1st Brigade and 3rd Brigade, and 2/34 battalion had overrun the Republican Guard positions and were indeed arriving at the Kuwait border (PL Milford) after 1:35 am.

Meanwhile, at 1 am, B Troop of 1/1 Cavalry came under artillery fire as they began to encounter the Adnan Division, and suffered 23 soldiers wounded and 5 vehicles destroyed. Apaches were dispatched to counter the enemy’s artillery.[lxxx] In the ensuing Apache attack, 38 T-72 tanks were destroyed, along with 14 BMPs and 70 trucks.

3rd Armored Division was now beginning to approach the Iraqi Al Faw Division, and on the orders of General Franks, Colonel McCauley and the 18 Apache gunships under his command, were ordered to attack Objective Minden, logistical stores and division command for the Al Faw Division. McCauley assigned target areas and the Apaches engaged until they ran up against the 20th grid line, which demarcated USAF area of operations, in which F-111s were active.[lxxxi]

G+3

Victory: the situation by the evening of 27 February, G+3.[lxxxii]

Fighting continued into the morning, and at 7 am, orders were issued to cross into Kuwait. After 7:30 am, 4/32 battalion encountered a stray Iraqi tank battalion moving northward and destroyed it, including 15 tanks and 25 other vehicles.[lxxxiii] After halting to reform, the advanced continued, and at 12 pm, the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, attacked The 2nd Brigade of the Medina Republican Guard Division, in what is known as the Battle of Medina Ridge, “the largest single engagement of the war”, where the Iraqi 2nd Brigade was totally destroyed for no Coalition fatalities.[lxxxiv] Following reports from Schwarzkopf that of the 4,700 tanks deployed by Iraq, nearly 3,700 had been destroyed, President Bush suspended operations at 9 pm, Wednesday, Washington time, confirmed by General Colin Powell, for 8 am the following day in Kuwait.[lxxxv] This was in part influenced by media reports coming from Iraq regarding the carnage on Highway 6, soon named the “Highway of Death”.[lxxxvi]

Conclusion

At the conclusion of the forty-hours of combat, VII Corps had destroyed 1,350 tanks, 1,224 armored troop carriers, 285 artillery pieces, 105 air defence systems, and 1,229 trucks, while having sustained only 36 armored vehicles losses to enemy fire: 47 KIA with 192 wounded.[lxxxvii] These figures are significant: before ground operations commenced Third Army Personnel Command predicted that VII Corps would sustain 20,000 casualties by G+4.[lxxxviii]

The Coalition suffered 148 American, 47 British, 2 French, and 14 Egyptian fatalities, and 357 WIA, in the ground campaign.[lxxxix] 60,000 Iraqis had been killed and 2,500 tanks, 2,000 IFVs, and 2,000 guns destroyed.[xc] As historian Stephen Biddle put it, the salient fact of the war was the Coalition’s miniscule casualty rate: “795,000 Coalition troops destroyed a defending Iraqi army of hundreds of thousands for the loss of only 240 attackers.”[xci] Over 80,000 of Iraq’s soldiers had surrendered or been captured with another 100,000 retreating back to Iraq.[xcii]

oil

Oil wells on fire: the First Gulf War as an ecological catastrophe.[xciii] The average cost of the war was 1 billion US dollars a day, with total cost estimated at over $200 billion, accounted in 1991 dollars.[xciv]

The heavily engaged 2d ACR elements, in particular, Ghost, Eagle and Iron Troops, destroyed an entire Republican Guard Brigade; 50 T-72 and T-62 tanks, over 35 other AFVs, (113 AFVs in total), and at least 45 trucks, wounding or killing over 600 Iraqi soldiers, and capturing another 600.[xcv] Only one Bradley IFV was actually destroyed by enemy fire, with a second lost to friendly fire.[xcvi] The 1st Amored Division, for its part, had destroyed large elements of the Tawakalna Division as well: 112 tanks, 82 APCs, two pieces of artillery, and 94 trucks, plus two air defence artillery systems and over 500 prisoners.[xcvii] Task Force 1/37, alone, destroyed 21 T-72s, 14 BMPs, two Shilka vehicles, a T-62 and a MTLB. The 29th Brigade of the Tawakalna Division was wiped out by a force one-fourth of its size, and likewise the 18th Brigade was annihilated and only managed to inflict a single loss on the enemy’s, smaller, AFV force.[xcviii]

Superior technology, and general preponderance, certainly played key roles in the victory: it allowed the Coalition air forces to achieve air superiority and the suppression of the enemy’s air defence network within six-weeks, and was followed by a month long air campaign in which one-third of all Iraqi armed forces were destroyed. When maneuvering, especially at night, Iraq’s forces became vulnerable to US Army helicopter gunships quipped with FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) pods.

Mobile artillery, acting in the classic role of field artillery, on both sides, produced significant results: breaking up attacks, countering other artillery, and supporting embattled units, while also demonstrating the capability to destroy armoured vehicles and tanks. Ghost Troop had called in 2,000 howitzer rounds and 12 rockets in support of its position during the defensive battle on February 26.[xcix] The Artillery was also proven in the more traditional role of fixed bombardment, such as with the 90,000 round 2 and a half hour long opening bombardment fired against the Iraq border defences.[c]

Indeed, clear qualitative and quantitative disparities did exist: the 120 mm cannon mounted on the M1A1 MBTs outranged the T-72s and T-55s by more than a kilometer in terms of penetrative power.[ci] Furthermore, the depleted uranium (DU) anti-tank rounds fired by the M1A1 could penetrate through both the defensive berms and armour of any vehicle behind it, rendering the Iraqi sand-work obstructions counter-productive.[cii]

USAF aerospace power, stealth technology, reconnaissance satellites, laser-guided munitions, global positing systems, laser range-finders, thermal sights and FLIR pods, and remotely piloted vehicles, all represented a margin of technological superiority over the hardware of the Iraq Army.[ciii] Biddle calculated that the “average date of introduction for the US weapons used in Desert Storm”, was roughly 1974 for the Coalition and 1962 for the Iraqis.[civ]

In the event, the Coalition air forces had flown 106,000 sorties during the campaign, and these attacks crippled the Iraqi Army’s ability to resist. Airpower, naval and land-based, had contributed in no small measure to this victory: 1,388 tanks, 1,152 pieces of artillery, and 929 APCs had been destroyed by Coalition air power before the commencement of ground operations altogether (CENTCOM estimated that 39% of the Iraqi tanks, 32% of APCs and 47% of their artillery had been destroyed before G-day).[cv]

surrender

During the coalition mechanized assault over 80,000 prisoners were taken.[cvi]

On the other hand, the USMC, in operations to liberate Kuwait, suffered fewer tank losses against equally powerful armoured forces and did so with older M-60A1 tanks. Furthermore, despite the destruction of the Tawakalna by VII Corps on 26 February, and the Medina division likewise the following day by the 1st US Armored Division, the third Republican Guard armoured division, the Hammurabi division fought another one-sided engagement against the 24th US Mechanized Division at Al-Tawr al-Hammar on 2 Marc, after the ceasefire.[cvii]

prisoners

Processing Iraqi prisoners.

The significant limitations on battlefield range imposed by the weather- and the impact this had on the scale of air support that could be provided- should also not be under-emphasized. Training was essential, and while the Republican Guard units had combat experience from the Iran-Iraq War, the US Army mechanized forces had been redeployed from Germany, where they had prepared to engage the Soviet Union’s expected massive armoured assault. Once in theatre, the Coalition had time to prepare and rehearse the planned operation, and time was also spent acclimatizing: for example, Eagle Troop had arrived in Saudi Arabia on December 4th, 1990, which allowed almost three months of preparation time.[cviii]

An overly centralized and rigid command structure limited the Iraqi Army’s capacity to adapt and respond, a problem compounded by logistical interference in the form of Coalition airstrikes. The destruction of the Republican Guard’s outposts and reconnaissance elements meant that little intelligence was moved up the chain of command, producing tactical surprise.[cix] H. R. McMaster, the Eagle Troop commander, and the author of an influential book reviewing the political decisions that contributed to the failure in Vietnam,[cx] observed of 73 Easting that the battle demonstrated the importance of tactical decision making by lower echelon commanders, and indeed, exposed the real limitations of technology, and airpower.[cxi] Historian Stephen Bourque argued that the US Army Staff tended to over-plan by focusing on worst-case scenarios, while the attempts by senior commanders to try to be everywhere (through over-use of their personnel helicopters) meant delays in decision making.[cxii] Other low-tech delays impacted the American forces, such as vehicles becoming lost because they lacked compasses, or were bogged down by the rain.[cxiii] Likewise, some Iraqi tanks, whose crews had dismounted fearing Coalition air strikes, did not appear on thermal sights because their engines were not running.[cxiv]

Stephen Biddle, based on computer simulations of the battle, observed that the US Army’s high-tech arsenal was only a force-multiplier when matched with the rigorous training and professionalism of the American soldiers and officers, combined with apparent mistakes made by the Iraqi commanders.[cxv] Likewise, despite possessing older equipment, the Republican Guard and Iraq Army divisions may have been significantly more effective had they been trained to Western standards.[cxvi] The various explanations have sparked intense debate,[cxvii] and many questions remain unanswered.

simulations

Table of simulated outcomes.[cxviii]

clancy

Tom Clancy prepared a script treatment to be produced by Universal Studios and directed by John McTiernan.

[i] Diane Putney, “Planning the Air Campaign: The Washington Perspective,” in Air Power History: Turning Points from Kitty Hawk to Kosovo, ed. Sebastian Cox and Peter Gray, Cass Series: Studies in Air Power 13 (New York: Frank Cass Publishers, 2002), 249–57., p. 249

[ii] Stephen Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2004)., p. 134

[iii] Ibid., p. 134

[iv] Stephan Alan Bourque, Jayhawk!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War, Google ebook (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 2002), https://books.google.ca/books?id=-qWfpwO3e0cC., p. 189

[v] Richard S. Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse Star, Inc., 2008)., p. 157

[vi] Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle., p. 132

[vii] Otto Friedrich, ed., Desert Storm: The War in the Persian Gulf (Time Warner Publishing, Inc., 1991)., p. 89

[viii] Alastair Finlan, The Gulf War 1991, Essential Histories 55 (Oxford: Routledge, 2003)., p. 53

[ix] Stephan Alan Bourque, “Correcting Myths about the Persian Gulf War: The Last Stand of the Tawakalna,” Middle East Journal 51, no. 4 (1997).

[x] Bourque, Jayhawk!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War., p. 184

[xi] Ibid., p. 189

[xii] Ibid., p. 214

[xiii] Friedrich, Desert Storm: The War in the Persian Gulf., p. 111-2

[xiv] Finlan, The Gulf War 1991., p. 56

[xv] Bourque, Jayhawk!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War., p. 225

[xvi] Ibid., p. 207

[xvii] Bourque, “Correcting Myths about the Persian Gulf War: The Last Stand of the Tawakalna.”

[xviii] H. Norman Schwarzkopf and Peter Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero (New York: Bantam Books, 1992)., p. 456

[xix] Finlan, The Gulf War 1991., p. 61

[xx] Ibid., p. 62; Bourque, Jayhawk!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War., p. 206; Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 456-7

[xxi] Finlan, The Gulf War 1991., p. 57

[xxii] US Defence Department and H. R. McMaster, Battle of 73 Easting, Kindle ebook, 2014., p. 8; Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 461

[xxiii] Bourque, “Correcting Myths about the Persian Gulf War: The Last Stand of the Tawakalna.”

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] Finlan, The Gulf War 1991., p. 64

[xxvi] Bourque, Jayhawk!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War., p. 326

[xxvii] Vince Crawley, “From the Stars and Stripes Archives: The Battle of the 73 Easting,” Stars and Strips, June 7, 2003, http://www.stripes.com/news/the-battle-of-the-73-easting-1.6319.

[xxviii] Mike Guardia, The Fires of Babylon: Eagle Troop and the Battle of 73 Easting, Google ebook (Casemate, 2015), https://books.google.ca/books?id=_j8bCgAAQBAJ., Chapter 6, Day of Battle; Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 158

[xxix] US Defence Department and McMaster, Battle of 73 Easting., p. 10

[xxx] Ibid., p. 11

[xxxi] John Keegan, The Iraq War: The 21-Day Conflict and Its Aftermath (London: Pimlico, Random House, 2005)., colour plates

[xxxii] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 157; Crawley, “From the Stars and Stripes Archives: The Battle of the 73 Easting.”

[xxxiii] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 158; US Defence Department and McMaster, Battle of 73 Easting., p. 10

[xxxiv] US Defence Department and McMaster, Battle of 73 Easting., p. 11

[xxxv] Ibid., p. 12

[xxxvi] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 158

[xxxvii] US Defence Department and McMaster, Battle of 73 Easting., p. 13

[xxxviii] Crawley, “From the Stars and Stripes Archives: The Battle of the 73 Easting.”

[xxxix] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 159-60

[xl] Crawley, “From the Stars and Stripes Archives: The Battle of the 73 Easting.”

[xli] Ibid.

[xlii] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 160-1

[xliii] Ibid., p. 161

[xliv] Bourque, Jayhawk!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War., p. 329

[xlv] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 163

[xlvi] Ibid., p. 158

[xlvii] Spencer C. Tucker, ed., “Battle of 73 Easting,” in Battles That Changed American History: 100 of the Greatest Victories and Defeats, Google ebooks (ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2014), 291–92., p. 291

[xlviii] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 158

[xlix] Ibid., p. 158

[l] Ibid., p. 167

[li] Friedrich, Desert Storm: The War in the Persian Gulf., p. 63-4

[lii] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 163

[liii] Ibid., p. 164

[liv] Ibid., p. 164

[lv] Bourque, Jayhawk!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War., p. 206

[lvi] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 164

[lvii] Bourque, “Correcting Myths about the Persian Gulf War: The Last Stand of the Tawakalna.”

[lviii] Ibid.

[lix] Ibid.

[lx] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 167

[lxi] Ibid., p. 167

[lxii] Bourque, “Correcting Myths about the Persian Gulf War: The Last Stand of the Tawakalna.”

[lxiii] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 167

[lxiv] Guardia, The Fires of Babylon: Eagle Troop and the Battle of 73 Easting. ebook

[lxv] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 169

[lxvi] Ibid., p. 169

[lxvii] Ibid., p. 169

[lxviii] Ibid., p. 170

[lxix] Ibid., p. 166

[lxx] Ibid., p. 165

[lxxi] Crawley, “From the Stars and Stripes Archives: The Battle of the 73 Easting.”

[lxxii] Friedrich, Desert Storm: The War in the Persian Gulf., p. 75-6

[lxxiii] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 170-1

[lxxiv] Friedrich, Desert Storm: The War in the Persian Gulf., p. 67

[lxxv] Bourque, Jayhawk!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War., p. 195

[lxxvi] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 171

[lxxvii] Ibid., p. 172

[lxxviii] Ibid., p. 172

[lxxix] Ibid., p. 173

[lxxx] Ibid., p. 181

[lxxxi] Ibid., p. 180

[lxxxii] Finlan, The Gulf War 1991., p. 65

[lxxxiii] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 185

[lxxxiv] Ibid., p. 189; Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle., p. 145

[lxxxv] Friedrich, Desert Storm: The War in the Persian Gulf., p. 93; Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 471

[lxxxvi] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 468

[lxxxvii] Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle., p. 135

[lxxxviii] Bourque, Jayhawk!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War., p. 184

[lxxxix] Friedrich, Desert Storm: The War in the Persian Gulf., p. 96

[xc] Keegan, The Iraq War: The 21-Day Conflict and Its Aftermath., p. 82

[xci] Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle., p. 133

[xcii] Keegan, The Iraq War: The 21-Day Conflict and Its Aftermath., p. 81, 83

[xciii] Friedrich, Desert Storm: The War in the Persian Gulf., p. 197-8

[xciv] Ibid., p. 197

[xcv] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 160; Tucker, “Battle of 73 Easting.”, p. 292

[xcvi] Tucker, “Battle of 73 Easting.”, p. 291

[xcvii] Lowry, The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq., p. 170

[xcviii] Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle., p. 145

[xcix] Tucker, “Battle of 73 Easting.”, p. 291

[c] Bourque, Jayhawk!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War., p. 194

[ci] Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle., p. 135

[cii] Ibid., p. 138

[ciii] Ibid., p. 135; Bourque, Jayhawk!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War., p. 199

[civ] Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle., p. 135

[cv] Putney, “Planning the Air Campaign: The Washington Perspective.”, p. 255; Tim Benbow, The Magic Bullet? Understanding the Revolution in Military Affairs (London: Chrysalis Books Group, 2004)., p. 66

[cvi] Friedrich, Desert Storm: The War in the Persian Gulf., p. 91-2

[cvii] Bourque, “Correcting Myths about the Persian Gulf War: The Last Stand of the Tawakalna.”

[cviii] Douglas Macgregor, Warrior’s Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2009)., p. 43; US Defence Department and McMaster, Battle of 73 Easting., p. 2

[cix] Bourque, “Correcting Myths about the Persian Gulf War: The Last Stand of the Tawakalna.”

[cx] H. R. McMaster, Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam (HarperCollins, 1998).

[cxi] David Leonhardt, “Why Success Starts With Failure,” Economix Blog, NYT, May 9, 2011, http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/09/why-success-starts-with-failure/.

[cxii] Bourque, Jayhawk!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War., p. 198, 216

[cxiii] Bourque, “Correcting Myths about the Persian Gulf War: The Last Stand of the Tawakalna.”

[cxiv] Bourque, Jayhawk!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War., p. 355

[cxv] Stephen Biddle, “Victory Misunderstood: What the Gulf War Tells Us About the Future of Conflict,” International Security 21, no. 2 (Fall 1996): 139–79., p. 165-6

[cxvi] Daryl G. Press, “Lessons from Ground Combat in the Gulf: The Impact of Training and Technology,” International Security 22, no. 2 (Fall 1997): 137–46., p. 137

[cxvii] Stephen Biddle, “The Gulf War Debate Redux: Why Skill and Technology Are the Right Answer. (response to Press, Keaney, and Mahnken and Watts).,” International Security 22, no. 2 (1997): 137.

[cxviii] Biddle, “Victory Misunderstood: What the Gulf War Tells Us About the Future of Conflict.”,

NATO’s Interim Spearhead Force

The NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF)

On December 2, 2014, NATO restated its intention to develop an “Interim Rapid Response Force” of brigade size, starting January 1, 2015. NATO chiefs reviewed the progress made on the commitment to the Readiness Action Plan and Wales Summit Declarations of September 2014, pledging to expand NATO’s joint Response Force (NRF), the combat component of which is the Immediate Reaction Force (IRF), and commit to reverse falling defence spending amongst member-states.[i]

On 3 December NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with the new President of the European Council (EC), Donald Tusk, at the EC HQ in Brussels.  The two reiterated plans for closer cooperation on defence, in particular, mutual defence against possible Russian aggression.[ii]

 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets with the new President of the European Council (EC), Donald Tusk on 3 December 2014.[iii]

This new international brigade will compliment other NATO and European assets focused primarily on Air & Sea power, such as the NATO Reaction Force.[iv]

 The new NATO ground force has been seen as a component of the larger NATO reaction to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, triggered after the Russian military takeover of the Crimean peninsula.[v]

Broader NATO strategy for Russia includes the re-militarization of Ukraine: On 3 September 2014, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk stated that the Ukrainian economy was successfully mobilizing. A new National Guard had been created.[vi] Ukraine’s new government plans to increase its defence spending from 1% to 5%. Current Ukrainian military intentions are outlined in the Strategy 2020 document.[vii]

 RForg

Organizational Structure of NATO showing Immediate Reaction Forces alongside standing naval forces and air commands, such as the Reaction Force (Air) Staff, HQ located in Kalkar, Germany.[viii]

NATO Response Force

In 1999 the Common Security and Defence Policy of the EU was outlined.[ix] By 2000 NATO non US Ally defence spending was falling from the average 2.0% of GDP.[x] In 2001 the United States provided 63% of NATO’s defence budget.

 The NATO Response Force was first announced at the Prague Summit in 2002 November.[xi] The NRF was declared operational on 13 October 2004 at the Poiana Brasov, Romania, meeting between NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer of the Netherlands and Supreme Allied Commander Europe General James L. Jones USMC.[xii]

As of October 2014 the NRF was composed of three branches: a Command & Control branch, “the Immediate Response Force [IRF], a joint force of around 13,000 high-readiness troops” and a general pool to supplement the IRF.[xiii] The IRF is composed of: a land brigade of three battle groups with support, maritime components from the Standing NATO Maritime Group (SNMG) and Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group (SNMCMG), a combat air component and support, special operations forces, and a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence task force.[xiv] Until January 2015 France’s NATO Rapid Reaction Corps (HQ, Lille) provides the land-based component of the NRF.[xv]

29 October 2013, French and NATO soldiers train at Harskamp, Holland, in preparation for the 2014 NRF rotation.[xvi]

Member nations contribute land, air, maritime and special forces to the IRF for what were initially 6 month terms but as of 2012 are 12 months.[xvii] Finnish F/A-18 pilots took part in the NRF 2014 rotation.[xviii] The NRF represents a benchmark for international cooperation between combat forces. Operational command moves between Brunssum, Holland and Naples, Italy.

A major short fall for the NRF has been air-to-air refueling. Europe fields about 40 air refueling tankers, compared to the 550 fueled by the USAF. The European Defence Agency (EDA) carried out air-to-air refueling trials in the Netherlands between 31 March and 11 April 2014 in cooperation with the European Air Transport Command.[xix]

The European Defence Agency (EDA)

The NRF was created as part of a series of reforms including the creation in 2004 of the European Defence Agency.[xx] The EDA reports to the Council of the European Commission. The EDA mainly organizes international training operations, for example, from September 17 to 5 October 2012 the EDA Belgian Air Component hosted the Green Blade exercises involving helicopter troop operations, supported by F-16s.[xxi] Three major events involving air crews have been organized during 2014.[xxii] Nevertheless, the EDA’s efforts are generally focused on air and seapower, highlighting what some analysts describe as a “defence deficit” between capability and scalability.[xxiii]

NATO forces

NATO forces operating abroad before the Iraq war in 2003.[xxiv] During the 1990s and 2000s the NATO nations generally froze conscription, transitioning to all volunteer forces.[xxv] By 2014 United States share of total NATO Defence spending has risen to 72%.[xxvi]

NATO VJTF

The new NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) was first announced on 29 August 2014 by NATO Secretary General Andres Fogh Rasmussen[xxvii] and was reinforced by Britain’s PM David Cameron at the 4-5 September NATO (Wales) summit.[xxviii] NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Phillip Breedlove discussed the functions of the new VJTF on 27 October 2014 (see interview).[xxix]

 

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen arrive at the Wales Summit, 4 September 2014.[xxx] The NATO Summit resulted in the publication of the Wales Summit Declaration, pledging NATO members to reverse declining defence budgets.[xxxi]

In the 2 December 2014 announcement it was stated that the “‘interim spearhead’ force will be made up of German, Dutch and Norwegian troops” between 3,000 and 4,000 strong.[xxxii] The VJTF will primarily consist of “a land component with appropriate air, maritime and Special Operations Forces available.”[xxxiii] According to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, the “interim force” which will become operation on 1 January 2015, is expected to be replaced by a “permanent” force sometime in 2016.[xxxiv] NATO Defence Ministers will arrange the new “spearhead force” size and function in February 2016.[xxxv]

Conclusion 

Britain, as of 1 September 2014, also plans to prepare a separate 10,000 strong Joint Expeditionary Force.[xxxvi]

            Despite the refocus on European and NATO military capability, “Europe continues to lack the ‘key enablers’ – air-to-air refueling capacity, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance and satellite communications.”[xxxvii]

            Non US Defence spending amongst NATO member-states has dropped from 1.5% in 2007, although current US Defence Spending has not significantly increased since 2007, floating between $650 billion in 2007 to $635 billion in 2014.[xxxviii]

Recent Developments in Ukrainian Crisis

As of 2 December, the US had committed $118 million to the government in Kiev.[xxxix] Currently Russian debt valued at $700 billion is owed to Western banks.[xl] The Russian economy is expected to enter a recession in 2015.[xli] On 1 December 2014 Ukraine described attacks by Russian special forces against the Donetsk airport. [xlii]

 

 

 


 

 

[i] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “Statement of Foreign Ministers on the Readiness Action Plan,” NATO, December 2, 2014, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_115551.htm. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/351406/Wales_Summit_Declaration.pdf

[ii] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “Secretary General: NATO and the European Union Are Stronger Together’’,” NATO, December 3, 2014, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_115652.htm.

[iii] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_115298.htm

[iv] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “NATO Response Force,” NATO, October 2, 2014, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_49755.htm.

[v] Alexander Howlett, “Russian Operational Art of War in Crimea, March 2014,” blog, Airspace Historian, (November 5, 2014), https://airspacehistorian.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/russian-operational-art-of-war-in-crimea-march-2014/.

[vi] Globalsecurity.org, “Ukraine Defense Doctrine” (Globalsecurity.org, November 5, 2014), http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/ukraine/doctrine.htm.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_units_and_formations_of_NATO

[ix] Anand Menon, “Confronting Europe’s Defence Deficit,” European Defence Matters, p. 18

[x] Anand Menon, “Confronting Europe’s Defence Deficit,” European Defence Matters, 2014. p. 17

[xi] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “NATO Response Force.”

[xii] Wikimedia Foundation, “List of NATO Secretaries General,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, November 30, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_NATO_Secretaries_General&oldid=633802724., Wikimedia Foundation, “Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, December 1, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Supreme_Headquarters_Allied_Powers_Europe&oldid=635289410.

[xiii] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “NATO Response Force.”

[xiv] Ibid., http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_49755.htm?selectedLocale=en

[xv] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “The Headquarters of the Rapid Reaction Corps, Based in Lille, France, Prepares for the 2014 Rotation of the NATO Response Force,” NATO, October 29, 2013, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_104586.htm.

[xvi] http://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pictures/2013_10_131028b-rrc/20131029_131028b-02.jpg

[xvii] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “NATO Response Force.”, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_49755.htm?selectedLocale=en

[xviii] Lauri Tapio Puranen, “Finnish Air Power: In Defense of the Homeland,” in European Air Power, ed. John Andreas Olsen (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2014), 185–98. p. 189

[xix] Editorial, “Building Trust for Multinational Operations,” European Defence Matters, 2014. p. 28

[xx] European Defence Matters – The Role of the European Defence Agency, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VK7oHT6dEhc&feature=youtube_gdata_player.

[xxi] Green Blade 2012, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1LIb7aF6G8&feature=youtube_gdata_player.

[xxii] Editorial, “Building Trust for Multinational Operations.” p. 28

[xxiii] Menon, “Confronting Europe’s Defence Deficit.”, p. 16

[xxiv] Table 2: Forces of NATO Countries Operating Abroad in 2003, Cindy Williams, “From Conscripts to Volunteers: NATO’s Transitions to All-Volunteer Forces,” Naval War College Review 58, no. 1 (Winter 2005): 35–62. p. 40

[xxv] Table 1: Conscription Policies in NATO countries. Ibid., p. 37

[xxvi] Menon, “Confronting Europe’s Defence Deficit.” p. 17

[xxvii] The 12th Secretary General of NATO, Denmark’s Andres Fogh Rasmussen was succeeded by the former Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg on 1 October 2014, part of an arrangement made at the end of the March crisis:

[xxviii] Reuters, “Seven NATO Allies Will Reportedly Create New Rapid Reaction Force,” Www.huffingtonpost.com, August 29, 2014, online edition, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/29/nato-rapid-reaction-force_n_5738800.html.

[xxix] US Defence Department, “NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force,” October 27, 2014, http://www.defense.gov/video/default.aspx?videoid=369311.

[xxx] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_112410.htm

[xxxi] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/351406/Wales_Summit_Declaration.pdf, see also http://www.gov.uk, “The Wales Declaration on the Transatlantic Bond – GOV.UK,” September 5, 2014, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nato-summit-2014-wales-summit-declaration/the-wales-declaration-on-the-transatlantic-bond.

[xxxii] Michael R. Gordon, “Nimble New NATO Force to Take Form Next Year,” The New York Times, December 2, 2014, Online edition, sec. Europe, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/03/world/europe/nato-to-create-interim-rapid-response-force-to-counter-russia.html?_r=0.

[xxxiii] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “NATO Response Force.”

[xxxiv] John-Thor Dahlburg and Lara Jakes, “NATO Steps up to Russia, but Back from Afghanistan,” The Associated Press, December 2, 2014, online edition, sec. News, https://news.yahoo.com/nato-ministers-condemn-russia-support-ukraine-135248663.html.

[xxxv] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “NATO Foreign Ministers Announce Interim Spearhead Force,” NATO, December 2, 2014, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_115552.htm.

[xxxvi] Ewen MacAskill, “Nato to Create High-Readiness Force to Counter Russian Threat,” The Guardian, September 1, 2014, Online edition, sec. World news, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/01/nato-high-readiness-spearhead-force-counter-russian-threat.

[xxxvii] Menon, “Confronting Europe’s Defence Deficit.” p. 18

[xxxviii] http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/year_spending_2007USbn_16bs2n_30#usgs302

[xxxix] Dahlburg and Jakes, “NATO Steps up to Russia, but Back from Afghanistan.”

[xl] Andrew Kramer and Neil MacFarquhar, “With Russia on Brink of Recession, Putin Faces ‘New Reality,’” The New York Times, December 2, 2014, Online edition, sec. International Business, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/03/business/russia-forecasts-a-recession-in-2015-signaling-a-toll-from-sanctions-and-oil-prices.html?contentCollection=world&action=click&module=NextInCollection&region=Footer&pgtype=article.

[xli] Alexander Zemlianichenko, “Russia Will Hit Recession in 2015 because of Oil and Ukraine, Kremlin Admits,” News, Cbc.ca, (December 3, 2014), http://www.cbc.ca/1.2857186.

[xlii] Reuters, “Ukraine Says Russian Special Forces Involved in Attacks on Airport in East,” Reuters, December 1, 2014, Online edition, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/01/us-ukraine-crisis-military-idUSKCN0JF1ZN20141201.

Russian Operational Art of War in Crimea, March 2014

Russian Operational Art of War in Crimea, March 2014

  flags1

Russian flags fly from a watchtower at the Ukrainian Naval headquarters at Sevastopol.[i]

During March 2014 Russian military forces captured key Ukrainian army, navy and air force bases around Crimea. By the end of the month Russia had completed the annexation of the entire Crimean peninsula and was under pressure from the international order.[ii] The lightning military conquest of Crimea triggered a major Russia-NATO showdown that is still evolving. How was this stunning military success achieved at the operational and tactical levels? What does the Crimean conquest reveal about current Russian operational doctrine?

            Following the turmoil of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution Western analysts expected some form of blowback from the Russian Federation. Talk of Ukrainian inclusion in NATO as early as 2008 had challenged Russia’s control of the Black Sea Fleet base at Sevastopol, prompting then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to describe Ukraine as an “artificial country.”[iii] Russian control of the Black Sea Fleet base, however, had not been scheduled to expire until at least 2017.[iv] Had this occurred, the Black Sea Fleet would have been relocated at the naval base of Novorossiysk.[v] Events leading towards military intervention began to unfold on 25 February 2014 in the Crimean capital of Simferopol where hundreds of pro-Russian protesters were involved in demonstrations against the new Ukrainian government.[vi]

Covert military deployments began at the end of February. On 26 February military personnel wielding Russian flags established checkpoints along the highway between Simferopol and Sevastopol.[vii] On 27 February sixty pro-Russian gunmen, 30 of whom arrived by bus and were described as heavily armed, seized the Crimean parliament buildings.[viii] The next day, 28 February, Russian forces described by Rueter’s newswire as “Russian servicemen wearing helmets and armoured body protection and backed by armoured personnel carriers” blockaded Belbek airport at Sevastopol.[ix] Another 50 gunmen in fatigues but without markings and described as wearing “the same gear as those who seized the buildings of the Crimean parliament” laid siege to Simferopol airport. The gunmen arrived in three KAMAZ military vehicles without plates or markings.[x]

Meeting in an emergency session, the Crimean parliament voted no-confidence to the Prime Minister, appointing as a replacement, Sergey Aksyonov of the Crimea Russia Unity Party, who promptly moved for a referendum on secession from Ukraine with a preliminary date set for 25 May 2014.[xi]

Military Action in Crimea

Whatever the origin of the plan, the seizures and preparations prior to 1 March suggest the calculated and complex nature of the Crimean operation. The initially covert actions acted as the prelude to the breakout of Russian forces from the Sevastopol naval base.

 miller

Info-graphic displaying the initial movements.[xii]

The Russian Federation Council, upper house of parliament, at the behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized the use of the Russian military to ensure the security of ethnic Russians living in the Crimean region.[xiii] According to statements made by Putin later on, there were approximately 22,000 Russian personnel in Crimea at the Black Sea Fleet base at Sevastopol prior to March 2014. [xiv]

Military action commenced on 2 March with a series of incidents involving the surrender and capture of Ukrainian marines at Feodosiya and the attempted hijacking of the Ukrainian navy ship Slavutych.[xv] A standoff quickly developed between the Ukrainian and Russian naval bases at Sevastopol.[xvi]

            The standoff continued on 3 March, with allegations that Alexander Vitko, the C-in-C Black Sea Fleet had issued an ultimatum to the Ukrainian forces in Crimea urging them to surrender.[xvii] Russian naval vessels blockaded the Ukrainian anti-submarine warfare (ASW) ship Ternopil and the command ship Slavutych in port at Sevastopol.[xviii] 200 unarmed Ukrainian soldiers from the 240th Tactical Air Brigade were ejected from and then attempted to renter Belbek airbase.[xix] The 204th Fighter Unit of the Ukrainian Air Force defected, delivering up to 49 combat aircraft including MiG-29 fighters.[xx] Russian soldiers next seized the ferry terminal at Kerch, a key crossing point from Russia to Crimea.[xxi] By this point the Ukrainian government suspected 16,000 Russian troops had “massed in Crimea”.[xxii] The US estimates put the number at a more cautious 6,000.[xxiii]

Mikoyan-Gurevich_MiG-29_(9-13),_Ukraine_-_Air_Force_AN1734687

Ukrainian MiG-29.[xxiv]

            On 4 March Vladimir Putin made a statement that the military forces in Crimea did not belong to Russia, but rather to local pro-Russian Crimean self defense forces.[xxv] Events continued to escalate the next day with the “unknown gunmen” in Simferopol taking UN special envoy Robert Serry hostage.[xxvi] 700 soldiers and officers from the 50th, 55th, and 147th anti-aircraft missile regiments at Yalta, Feodosiya and Fiolente defected. By 5 March as many as 5,500 Ukrainian personnel had defected, turning over hardware including 20 SA-11 and 30 S-300 SAM systems.[xxvii]

SA-11 system

SA-11 SAM system.[xxviii]

 S-300

S-300 launch vehicle.[xxix]           

            On 6 March gunmen seized the Simferopol Radio and Television Transmitting Station, taking the station off-air.[xxx] Russian Black Sea Fleet sailors next scuttled the old cruiser Ochakov at the entrance of Donuzlav Bay to act as a blockship: an attempt to prevent the Ukrainian Navy from sortieing to the Black Sea.[xxxi] According to the Ukrainian border service, Russia now had upwards of 30,000 soldiers in Crimea.[xxxii] The next day a second blockship was sunk near the Ochakov.[xxxiii]

            Over the next week, Russian forces captured additional buildings in the capital, and secured several border crossing points. The major triumph came on 11 March when the Simferopol International Airport was occupied by pro-Russian forces, effectively closing Crimean airspace- except for flights direct from Moscow.[xxxiv]

 bases

Locations and descriptions of Ukrainian naval, air and army bases captured during March, 2014.[xxxv]

By 13 March, in advance of the Russian-backed referendum on Crimean secession, military drills were organized in Kursk, Belgorod and Rostov along the Ukrainian border. These exercises involved at least 10,000 soldiers, their vehicles and support aircraft, including six Su-27 fighters dispatched to Belarus in response to NATO F-16 deployments in Poland.[xxxvi] Attempts to deescalate prior to the 16 March referendum represented only slight friction for the Russian forces in Crimea, as they continued to seize Ukrainian military facilities.

            On 18 March masked gunmen entered Ukraine’s military topographic and navigation directorate at Simferopol, capturing the building. Two Ukrainian service members were killed in the gunfight that ensued.[xxxvii] The Ukrainian Fleet HQ at Sevastopol was then captured on 19 March, stormed by “several hundred militiamen”.[xxxviii]

International Reaction

 Obama

Monday 24 March 2014: US President Barack Obama announces Russia’s suspension from the G8.[xxxix]

Russia announced its annexation of the Crimean peninsula on Tuesday, 18 March 2014. The Ukrainian government moved to relocate its 25,000 military personnel and families to the mainland the following day.[xl] Sevastopol, along with the rest of the Crimean peninsula, had voted in the controversial plebiscite on 16 March to join the Russian Federation as the Crimean Federal District (26 thousand square kilometers and population 2 million).[xli] The Russian Duma ratified the bill of accession on 21 March 2014.[xlii] On 22 March, Russian soldiers backed by half a dozen infantry fighting vehicles captured the Ukrainian military base at Belbek, followed shortly by the air base at Novofedorivka.[xliii]

The month long military takeover came to a conclusion when the Ukrainian government agreed to withdraw its forces from the peninsula.[xlvii] On 26 March acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov ordered the withdrawal of Ukrainian military forces from Crimea.[xliv]

 20UKRAINE-articleLarge

Ukrainian naval officials, civilian and military personnel surrender Sevastopol. Unidentified armed men, suspected to be Russian soldiers, stand guard.[xlvi]

On 27 March the UN General Assembly passed a resolution condemning the referendum that had justified the Crimean peninsula’s absorption by the Russian Federation. The International Monetary Fund was at this point actively backing loans to the pro-European Ukrainian government to the tune of at least US $14 billion.[xlix] Russia had been expelled from the G8 Nations and Ukraine had withdrawn from the Soviet successor Commonwealth of Independent States.[l] US backed resolutions at the Security Council had been vetoed by Russia.[li]

 russianforces

The news media could hardly ignore the stunning success of the Crimean operation: a showcase of Russia’s military prowess and modernization. Here unmarked Russian soldiers equipped with 100 (century) series AK assault rifles, Kevlar helmets, tinted goggles, and radio encryption units.[lii] Western military analysts went into overdrive, speculating on Putin’s next coup as early as 21 March.[xlviii]

On 8 April the Russian and Ukrainian governments signed an agreement of exchange whereby the 70 Ukrainian warships captured or surrendered during the March operation were returned to Ukraine.[liii] Also returned were 200 vehicles including T-64B main battle tanks and ZSU-23-4 Shilka self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery.[liv]