Posts Tagged IED’s

Technology: QUIETPRO+ Earplugs

     I have never used this product, but I like the concept. Thanks to KitUp for bringing it to my attention as well.  The big ear muffs that guys wear on the range or for convoy security are not exactly the most comfortable option for ear protection and communications.  Plus, if you wear glasses with those muffs, the arm of your sunglasses can press against your head by the ear muffs and cause discomfort.  It also breaks the seal between the muff and the ear area, unless you have special glasses or are wearing them above the muff off your head.

     The muffs are still fine for range work or for the occasional convoy stuff, and you can still wear your sunglasses or goggles in a way where the seal is not broken. But still, it is not the most ideal arrangement and especially if you want to go low profile.

     The other factor with muffs is that they are hot and add weight to an already weighted down head (helmet, NODs, etc.)  Anything to lessen that weight, yet still achieve the same results as muffs, is pretty cool in my book.

     Now onto the downside with plugs like this.  Usually you sacrifice something when you reduce the size of the device. I don’t know if this setup below would be that durable.  The battery life and durability of the electronics and the rigors of combat zone operations all come into play. It must be able to handle a bunch of sweat and dirt bombarding the thing, as well as continuous abuse of the wires. If it can’t handle all of that, then I don’t think it will win many guys over.

   There are other electronic earplugs out there that I have seen at hunting stores and shooting ranges, but they are all kind of lacking.  With those, there are no wires, but they are also not that rugged and are easy to lose.  At least with these QUIETPRO+ Earplugs, they are tethered together via the wiring. The one earplug that I have heard good things about is the Invisio Bone Mic stuff, but that is about it.  Maybe there are others the readers can suggest?

   I guess the big one for me is that I want hearing protection that is comfortable, lightweight, unobtrusive, durable, functional(plays well with multiple types of radios), has outstanding clarity, and has excellent circuitry for shutting off the loud noises yet able to filter in all the important stuff. Battery life is important too, and you don’t want the thing shutting down in the middle of a mission. If QUIETPRO+ can do all of that, then that sounds like some good kit. –Matt


The earplug comprises a miniature loudspeaker and both internal and external microphones. (Credit: Image courtesy of SINTEF)

Earplug Lets the Message Through

June 29, 2010

An earplug with a built-in computer that allows speech to pass but shuts out unwanted and hazardous noise will make life easier in noisy environments.

The basic technology in the QUIETPRO earplug was developed at SINTEF ICT .The earplug comprises a miniature loudspeaker and both internal and external microphones. The inner microphone measures the noise in the ear. The earplug shuts out the noise but allows speech to pass, thanks to the electronics built into a microchip. In quiet surroundings the sounds that we wish to hear are allowed past, but in a noisy environment, the system shuts out the noise, allowing only speech to pass. The electronics are built into a tiny chip. In combination with a radio, the system is a complete communications terminal for use in noisy environments.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Afghanistan: Taliban Shadow Government Strikes In Marja

     “The Taliban are everywhere, they are like scorpions under every stone, and they are stinging all those who get assistance or help the government and the Americans,” Mr. Rahman, the farmer, said.


     You know, sometimes the best way to understand Afghanistan, is to look at it from the eyes of the farmer on the ground that is wedged in between this fight between the Afghan/Coalition and the Taliban. And honestly, I don’t blame these farmers and their families for packing up and leaving out of fear for their lives. I can also see why they are probably mad, confused, and have no respect at all for the Afghan government and the Coalition.

     The bottom line is that the Taliban are the home team, they are everywhere and they are all whispering into the ears of Afghans everywhere. They are telling them that when the coalition leaves, anyone that supported them or the Afghan government, is going to get their throats slit. They are also telling them that time is on the Taliban’s side–‘the coalition has the watches, but the Taliban have the time’.

     The Taliban are also doing their best to show that they are a better government for the people, than the Afghan government, and they are doing it in classic mafia style. It’s a shadow government, and they are doing anything they can to either win support, or get that support out of fear and intimidation.

     So let’s go back to how we turn this around. There is no such thing as one solution or just one thing that will fix it all. It is my belief that you have to attack problems from multiple angles, and learn from mistakes to create the better solution. So having a learning organization is important, if in fact we want to find the right solution for a specific problem. It is what John Nagl identified as one of the reasons why we lost in Vietnam, and it is a lesson that should be applied today if we want to win in Afghanistan. So are we learning from mistakes and do we have learning organizations all focused on ways to defeat this shadow government, while at the same time elevating the legitimacy of the current Afghan government? Are we learning new ways of separating the Taliban from the population, or are we stuck in old ways that just don’t work? Most of all, are we listening to customer (locals) feedback and doing all we can to win their support, or are we standing around and just allowing the Taliban to do whatever the hell they want in places like Marja?

     And in true Feral Jundi fashion, I don’t just criticize, I also like to suggest solutions. The first solution I want to offer, is that we should assign squads to each farm, blocks of houses, or small cities. Tim has mentioned this on his blog, and the one thing that puts a cramp in the style of mafias, is a police or military that shows presence and hinders bad guy business on that particular patch of soil. In other words, we need to own Marja and in a big way. It’s like the ships that keep getting hijacked in the Gulf of Aden. You put security details on the ships, then pirates will have a tougher time of attacking it. Navy patrols do not stop pirates alone, and having well armed security professionals on the boat is insurance that the boat is protected if the patrols fail. We should be treating towns and farms in Afghanistan, like we should be treating ships in the Gulf of Aden. (I say should, because we are still not there completely–but close)

     I also think that if there is not enough soldiers to do this, well then contract the thing out. If contractors can protect FOBs, we can protect small towns, farms, etc. This is not rocket science, and to me, it is purely a numbers game. Determine the needs in manpower, put it out for bid, and treat it just like TWISS or the CMC program that the Army Corps of Engineers put on. Instead of defending bases, we could instead be defending Farms and Ranches. (hint)

     So on top of implementing sufficient defenses for these locals and showing presence to crimp the style of the Taliban shadow government/mafia, we should also be doing all we can to cause chaos within the ranks of the Taliban. I keep coming back to pseudo-operations as the best way to do that, along with relying on tips from the locals. But with pseudo-operations, the Taliban would really become paranoid, much like organized crime gets all paranoid by snitches or undercover cops posing as criminals within their organization. We should be doing all we can to insert ‘scorpions’ of our own into the Taliban machine, to share that space under the rock and get within their OODA loop. The Taliban needs some paranoia and confusion within their ranks, and the less centralized the Taliban are, the better it is for us. This would be labeled under ‘finding is better than flanking’. Hell, I would even call this tactic, ‘finding and flanking all rolled up into one big burrito of chaos’. lol Hey, the Taliban are conducting their own version of pseudo-operations every time they put on a police or soldier uniform and attack the Afghan government and/or people, we should be doing it too.

     Another point I wanted to make, is that we should also be looking more at honey pot strategies in order to lure out these ‘scorpions’. I read a great story the other day in the Stars and Stripes about a unit who is tasked with finding IED’s in Afghanistan, and they are doing a great job of it. The reason why they are doing a good job, is presence on the roads, becoming a better learning organization because of it, and looking at the roads as honey pots that draw in the enemy so they can kill them. If you give a unit the freedom to think up the solutions necessary to not only find IED’s but to actually go after the planters of IED’s and make the lives of those bomb farmers a living hell, well then now we are talking success. Matter of fact, I would take it one step further. I would provide a financial incentive to units that are able to find IED’s. Make it a game where finding the things and the makers/planters have value. If the Taliban want to make the roads a battleground, then we need to destroy them on that battleground. We also need to dominate the other battleground called people. And hey, if we actually got off the roads and hung out at the farms and villages for awhile, well then that would kind of throw a wrench into the whole IED game.

     Finally, why are we not growing food for the troops in Afghanistan itself? We can also grow fennel seed and make biodiesel. (A million dollars per soldier for a year, is waaaaay too much money to spend on this stuff, and we can do better) We can partner with these farmers to grow that food and biodiesel, and create an entire industry out of supporting the troops through agriculture. We can also grow the stuff on the FOBs, and secure food stocks that way too. Of course we will still have to ship in food, but when it is harvest season there is no reason why we shouldn’t take advantage of that. We have been there 9 years, and we are still shipping in food and fuel from other places and that makes things way to expensive-both in lives lost on convoys, and in money terms. The more we can become self sufficient in Afghanistan, the better. We will also interact with and come to depend upon the people, and create real partnerships that will give a true return on investment.

    The other thing to think about is what message does that send to the local farmer, when we ship in tomatoes from somewhere else? It pisses off farmers in the US when we ship in tomatoes from somewhere else and not go local, why wouldn’t it irk local Afghan farmers? To develop a food production plan/strategy (agro-strategy) to feed all of these troops for all of these years, would have been smart and cost effective. It would have also invigorated the local farms of Afghanistan, and given them something to grow other than poppy for the Taliban. It would have also given farmers something to export when we all leave, and the money made off of exports could have brought in money to the Afghan government and people for the rebuild of their country. Not to mention turning Afghanistan into the biodiesel capital of Central Asia by growing their own fuel.(ambitious, I know) We still have a chance to get them going on this path, and agro-strategy and people protection should be top priorities in Marja and in Afghanistan. –Matt

Edit: 5/19/2010 – Check out this excellent article from Strategy Page on how the war on IED’s is going in Afghanistan.


Taliban Hold Sway in Area Taken by U.S., Farmers Say


May 16, 2010

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan — Farmers from the district of Marja, which since February has been the focus of the largest American-led military operation in Afghanistan, are fleeing the area, saying that the Taliban are terrorizing the population and that American troops cannot protect the civilians.

The departure of the farmers is one of the most telling indications that Taliban fighters have found a way to resume their insurgency, three months after thousands of troops invaded this Taliban stronghold in the opening foray of a campaign to take control of southern Afghanistan. Militants have been infiltrating back into the area and the prospect of months of more fighting is undermining public morale, residents and officials said.

As the coalition prepares for the next major offensive in the southern city of Kandahar, the uneasy standoff in Marja, where neither the American Marines nor the Taliban have gained the upper hand and clashes occur daily, provides a stark lesson in the challenges of eliminating a patient and deeply rooted insurgency.

Over 150 families have fled Marja in the last two weeks, according to the Afghan Red Crescent Society in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

Marja residents arriving here last week, many looking bleak and shell-shocked, said civilians had been trapped by the fighting, running a gantlet of mines laid by insurgents and firefights around government and coalition positions. The pervasive Taliban presence forbids them from having any contact with or taking assistance from the government or coalition forces.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Mexico: Cartels Take It Up A Notch And Focus Their War On Authorities

    Public Safety Secretary Minerva Bautista was among the wounded but was recovering from non-life-threatening injuries, according to the state attorney general’s office. She was traveling in a bullet-resistant sport utility vehicle.

   State Attorney General Jesus Montejano told the local Milenio television station that the attackers used assault rifles, grenades, a grenade launcher and a powerful .50-caliber sniper rifle whose rounds are capable of penetrating bullet-resistant materials.

  “In the ambush, they used concentrated fire from these types of weapons, forcing her and her escort to crash into a trailer truck that they had pulled across the road,” Montejano said.


   I posted three stories here, that are pretty telling of where Mexico is at with their war against the cartels.  There are two ways to read this.  Either the cartels are threatened more by the government and authorities, or the cartels are thinking in terms of taking the fight out of the authorities so they can continue to eradicate their competition.  So is the government a threat, or are they just getting in the way?  Interesting stuff, and this first article below goes into the various angles on this.

   My personal thoughts on it, is that the cartels will do whatever they need to do in order to win control over the drug markets.  If law enforcement or government officials directly or indirectly help their competitors, they will do what they can to remove that element of the equation.  Because I really think that if the cartels were purely focused on combatting the government, we would see way more deaths of officials.  The death toll figures support this as well, with most of the deaths in the war being members of the drug cartels. But this could change, and we will see how this goes.

   None the less, these are still attacks on the state.  And when the cartels start using .50 caliber sniper rifles (see second story below), grenade launchers, and assault rifles against armored motorcades in well coordinated ambushes, I tend to take notice.  Unfortunately, the next level will probably be more usage of IED’s in these ambushes and all of the rules of Iraq and Afghanistan will apply to this latest evolution of the drug war.

   The third story is another disturbing tale about cartels purposely attacking law enforcement.  Seven officers killed is pretty bad, and that indicates to me that the cartels have absolutely no fear or respect for law enforcement.  They are just obstacles that need to be removed, so they can focus on the bigger war of gaining territory for their drug operations. Thanks to Doug and others for sending me these stories. –Matt


Body Guards

An injured bodyguard of Mexico’s Michoacan state’s public safety secretary walks with help from a police officer after being wounded during a shootout in Morelia, Mexico, early Saturday. A fellow bodyguard lies dead. 

Mexico says cartels turning attacks on authorities

By MARK STEVENSONThe Associated PressSunday, April 25, 2010

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s drug cartels have changed tactics and are turning more attacks on authorities, rather than focusing their fire on rivals gangs, the country’s top security official said Sunday.

Interior Secretary Fernandez Gomez-Mont said at a news conference that two back-to-back, bloody ambushes of government convoys – both blamed on cartels – represent a new tactic.

“In the last few weeks the dynamics of the violence have changed. The criminals have decided to directly confront and attack the authorities,” Gomez-Mont said.

“They are trying to direct their fire power at what they fear most at this moment, which is the authorities,” he said.

Officials here have long said that more than 90 percent of the death toll in Mexico’s wave of drug violence – which has claimed more than 22,700 lives since a government crackdown began in December 2006 – are victims of disputes between rival gangs.

Mexican drug gangs have been known to target security officials. The nation’s acting federal police chief was shot dead in May 2008 in an attack attributed to drug traffickers lashing back at President Felipe Calderon’s offensive against organized crime.

But such high-profile attacks were rare in comparison to inter-gang warfare. But after the large-scale attacks on officials Friday and Saturday, “casualties among the authorities are beginning to increase in this battle,” Gomez-Mont said.

On Saturday, gunmen armed with assault rifles and grenades attacked a convoy carrying the top security official of the western state of Michoacan, in what appeared to be a carefully planned ambush.

The official survived with non-life-threatening wounds – she was traveling in a bullet-resistant SUV – but two of her bodyguards and two passers-by were killed. Of the other nine people wounded, most were bystanders, including two girls ages 2 and 12.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Mexico: Cartels Team Up To Destroy Los Zetas

   You know, on the flip side I guess this should be good news that the cartels are killing each other.  But the violence impacts the locals, and the police and army get in the way and they get killed too. And eventually someone takes the top position of the heap, and imposes their will on the population.  It will be interesting to see what cartel wins in this exchange, and it would be a fascinating study to find out what was the strategy involved.  This kind of cartel/gang warfare, is really free market warfare. It is also hybrid warfare, because these guys are using military hardware and tactics–complete with grenade launchers, assault rifles, and IED’s.

   The cartels contract their hit men or contract killer companies, and they all fight each other with no limitations on strategy or tactics. That is interesting, because in that kind of environment, innovation can really flourish.  If chopping someone’s head off makes strategic sense, they do it. Putting a price on the head of their enemies, and turning it into a sustainable industry makes sense to them.   So this kind of cartel/private warfare is interesting to watch.

   The question I have is when the dust clears, will we see a cartel that rises to the top that has the kind of capability that not only can destroy their competitors, but can take on the government and all of it’s forces?  For the sake of Mexico and the world, I hope not. –Matt


Mexico: Cartels team up to destroy hit men gang


Apr 12, 2010

MEXICO CITY — Two Mexican drug cartels have joined forces to destroy a feared gang of hit men along the border with Texas, a shift in allegiances that is fueling drug-war violence, federal police said Monday.

Intelligence reports indicate the Gulf and La Familia cartels — formerly bitter rivals — have formed an alliance to fight the Zetas gang in the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas, said Ramon Pequeno, the head of the anti-narcotics division of Mexico’s federal police.

It was the first official confirmation of the alliance, which has been rumored since banners appeared throughout the region announcing the pact and warning residents not to leave their homes, saying the conflict would get worse. E-mails were also sent with the same message.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Mexico: Drug Cartels Using IEDs

   This was expected.  I suspect the learning curve will be especially short do to all the available information and examples for use out there.  The thing to watch here is the possibility of Mexico tapping into private industry in order to deal with this threat.  IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan have created a need for specialists in the private industry, and of course those same folks will probably be called upon by Mexico through the Merida Initiative. The UAV industry will definitely be called upon for this latest phase of the drug war as well.

   The second story below that ties into the whole IED thing, is cellphones.(Thanks to Matt for sending me this) Mexico is now forcing everyone that has a phone, to register their identity with the cell company/government.  I am sure the cartels will find ways around this, but at least it is a start.  The big one here to remember is when cartels start using cellphones for IED triggering, much like insurgents have done in Iraq or Afghanistan, that is when it will be vital to have a handle on cellphone IDs. Or at least the forensics for this stuff, as well as tracking signals.

   That and tips that come in via cellphone text, can be better confirmed based on this registration. That whole ‘garbage in, garbage out’ HUMINT concept is one area that the Mexican government would probably like to clean up for their SMS strategy in their war. –Matt


Mexican Cartels Using IEDs


AUSTIN – The Mexican military seized improvised explosive devices just miles from the Valley.  The IEDs (or roadside bombs) are the same weapons terrorists use in the Middle East.

The homemade explosives can be sophisticated or crude.  They’re often deadly.  They’ve killed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned the weapons are also in the hands of the drug cartels in Mexico.

On March 30, more than 50 cartel members attacked the Mexican military in Matamoros and Reynosa.  Eighteen people died.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , ,

Industry Talk: Contractor Deaths Accelerating In Afghanistan As They Outnumber Soldiers

   Lots of meat in this nice little post from Mr. Miller.  All of this is nothing new to those of us in the industry that know the real deal.  But I love posting this stuff and spreading the word to those readers who are looking for information about contractors in this war.  We are making great sacrifices and we outnumber today’s military, yet these facts are also the most ignored element of the war.

   The other factor I want to bring up is that when guys get killed on your contract,  that is the time when you see the great epiphany happen within a small percentage involved.  Those who were in it purely for the money are usually the ones that cut and run after seeing their co-worker blown up in front of them. But for those that are in the game not just for the money but because they actually believe in the cause and truly despise the enemy and all they represent is a different story. For them, to stay and press on is the only option.

   In my view, and from what I have seen in this war, the guys who stay and press on far outnumber that 1 percent of 1 percent who shouldn’t be there in the first place. Years of contracting in war zones, tends to weed out those that do not have the heart for this stuff–which is good. It is also an indicator to me, that there are more contractors driven by something other than profit.

    With that said, no one feels that their life is cheap.  Even soldiers do not ‘volunteer’ for military service.  The military and my industry have families to feed and no one does this work for free.  A soldier joins the military to fight for their country, but they also join the military to get a new and better life than the one they left behind. That includes sign on bonuses, paycheck, medical care, dental, housing allowance, insurance, valuable training or clearances, clothes, food, shelter, tax breaks, education, retirement plan, job security, veterans preference for federal jobs and the GI Bill. Wow, that doesn’t sound like volunteer work to me. lol. (I have actually heard of contractors going back to the military because it was a better deal for them and their family)

   I highly doubt that if the military was to ask a civilian population to work for free as a soldier in a long war such as this, that they could get anyone at all.  How would those soldiers feed their families, or would the military only hire single people with no life?  Yet again, tell me how that would work?  The point is with contractors and soldiers, is that the government and war planners don’t get our pound of flesh for free.  Our service has value, our deaths or injuries have value. At least that is how I view things. –Matt


Contractor Deaths Accelerating in Afghanistan as They Outnumber Soldiers

by T. Christian Miller

April 14, 2010

A recent Congressional Research Service analysis [1] obtained by ProPublica looked at the number of civilian contractors killed in Afghanistan in recent months. It’s not pretty.

Of the 289 civilians killed since the war began more than eight years ago, 100 have died in just the last six months. That’s a reflection of both growing violence and the importance of the civilians flooding into the country along with troops in response to President Obama’s decision to boost the American presence in Afghanistan.

The latest U.S. Department of Defense numbers show there are actually more civilian contractors on the ground in Afghanistan than there are soldiers. The Pentagon reported [2] 107,292 U.S.-hired civilian workers in Afghanistan as of February 2010, when there were about 78,000 soldiers. This is apparently the first time that contractors have exceeded soldiers by such a large margin.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,