Rule 1: “Many and Small” Beats “Few and Large.”
Rule 2: Finding Matters More Than Flanking.
Rule 3: Swarming Is the New Surging.
This latest suicide assaulter attack in Afghanistan is important to look at and study, and this post is dedicated to ‘knowing your enemy’. Tim over at Free Range International just posted an excellent run down of this latest attack in Nimroz at the governor’s compound, and Bill Roggio over at Long Wars Journal has some excellent stuff on this incident as well. I highly advise reading Tim’s post, because it comes with pictures and diagrams of the assault, along with Tim’s commentary on the whole thing.
As you can see, these guys are following a path that John Arquilla and others have laid out with the ‘new rules of war’. They are continuing to use this same type of attack, just because it is so hard to defend against and it causes so much chaos and confusion. The only thing working against the enemy is their ability to be organized and plan this stuff better. But some attacks have been successful, and they are learning. What I wanted to do in this post is match up what the enemy is doing with these three new rules I listed up top, and discuss their effectiveness.
Multiple assaulters armed with AK’s and suicide vests, are the many and small. Plus, with the suicide vest and AK, the assaulter has multiple options for killing. They can fight their way into concentrations of enemies, and blow up when close enough (finding). The human bomb can also identify specific targets, and detonate just close enough to kill them. They can also use their suicide vest to clear obstacles so other assaulters can punch in and shoot at people or detonate(swarming). But as Tim has pointed out in his post about the subject, these latest assaulters were not that organized or effective. My guess is that they were poorly trained and prepared for the mission at hand, which is a good thing for us. And of course they are poor shots, as Tim and others have pointed out, which is also a good thing.
But the next angle of this attack is the idea of using Toyota pickups and swarming, in order to arrive on target and overwhelm the defenders. This is exactly how the Taliban was operating and it deserves closer inspection. Tim mentioned in his write up that large vehicles really cannot move around in Nimroz, just because of the small streets and power lines all over the place. You either have to have a small truck, motorcycle, or be walking in order to get around in places like this. And as the Toyota Horde paper pointed out, small pickups can be a tactical advantage for attackers who are swarming or preparing a battlefield for the defense. They are cheap, you can use many of them, and they are great for all types of utilitarian activities for hybrid warfare. The Taliban continue to use these small pickup in places that MRAPs cannot go, and they can also use those pickups or motorcycles to outrun our large lumbering vehicles and forces. They can also blend in with the local population, because they all use pickups.
Further more, small pickups are essential for swarming operations. If you want to get a truck load of assaulters into position, and not cause too much attention, the pickup is perfect because it is low profile (meaning there are many of these in the attack area). Or they could use taxis, cop cars and ambulances as delivery vehicles. The key here is just getting into position so the assaulters can pour out and attack the target from multiple angles. Small vehicles that blend in are the perfect tool for delivery in this case.
What further adds to the attack, chaos, and blending in factor, is assaulters wearing police or soldier uniforms. These types of attacks can be extremely confusing, and they work great for the assaulter. They can also do secondary attacks as the real police and military show up, and it is all about blending into that chaotic environment to create as much chaos as possible. That is another reason why it is essential for defenders to get to know the local police and army stations really well, so they can recognize who should be on scene and shouldn’t. Still, this is very tough to defend against, and the enemy knows this. ‘Finding’ in this case, is extremely critical if we want to succeed in the defense, because combatants that look like cops or soldiers could be causing a whole slew of problems.
The swarming attack, coupled with the population camouflage I mentioned, is one of those deals that works well because it confuses the defender and brings a whole lot of chaos in a short period of time. And with assaulters that double as human breachers that blow apart gates (with their bodies strapped with bombs), the swarming attack becomes even more feasible and more lethal. It just takes really good planning and rehearsal for the enemy to accomplish the mission.
Finally, I want to give solutions to countering these types of attacks. The one thing that really screws up planning for these attacks, is the unexpected. Being random and doing things that no one expected, is definitely one way to counter these types of attacks. Also having excellent SOP’s to cover these types of swarming attacks is highly advisable, along with drilling over and over again to get proficient. To also war game all and any scenarios in your head, and talking it up with your fellow guards is another way to keep sharp. You should have answers in your head for all types of scenarios. Red teams are great tools to find out how an enemy might attack a facility, and those red teams should do all they can to mimic what the enemy is doing today.
For simmunitions developers out there, maybe building a paintball suicide vest for red teams would be a good product to sell? (it could already be out there for sale?) Red teams could simulate fighting their way into your position, and detonate the suicide vest as part of the assault. We have to start thinking about enemy assaulters as dual weapon systems–they shoot, fight their way in, and are seeking human pockets or obstacles to blow up. We also have to expect that suicide vests will also have plates in them, in order to make the assaulter tougher to kill. The plates also help to focus the blast outward, and further turn the assaulter into a human claymore. Stuff to think about, and our enemy’s tactics and strategy are definitely evolving–Joker eat your heart out. –Matt
May 05, 2010
At least eight attempted suicide bombers have been killed during a gun battle with police in southwestern Afghanistan, the interior ministry said.
Ministry officials said at least two Afghan policemen were also killed and five others wounded before the fighting ended in Nimroz province on Wednesday.
One witness said a female local council member was also killed in the attack.
Musa Rasooli, a senior police official in Nimroz, said the fighters were targeting the provincial governor’s compound and had entered the governor’s office.
He said two suicide bombers had blown themselves up outside the compound.
The interior ministry said the fighters had also targeted civilian buildings in Zaranj, the provincial capital.
“A group of terrorists attacked some civilian and government buildings this morning in Zaranj,” Zemarai Bashary, an interior ministry spokesman, said.