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Observations from a Marine enlisted guy in Afghanistan: Notes from the Sandbox #4

Bad Guys:

1) Bad guy technology: Simple yet effective. Most communication is by cell and satellite phones and also by email on laptops. They use handheld GPS units for navigation and “Google Earth” for overhead views of our positions. Their weapons are good, if not fancy, and prevalent. Their explosives and bomb technology is TOP OF THE LINE. Night vision is rare. They are very careless with their equipment and the GPS units and laptops are treasure troves of Intel when captured.

2) Who are the bad guys? These are mostly “foreigners,” non-Afghan Arab Jihadists from all over the Muslim world (and Europe). Some are virtually untrained young Jihadists that often end up as suicide bombers or in various “sacrifice squads.” Most, however, are hard core terrorists from all the usual suspects (Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas etc.). These are the guys running around murdering civilians en masse and cutting heads off.
The Chechens (many of whom are Caucasian) are supposedly the most ruthless and the best fighters. They have been fighting the Russians for years. The terrorists have been very adept at infiltrating the Afghan local govts, the police forces and the Army. They have had a spy and agitator network there since the Iran-Iraq war in the early 80’s.

3) Bad Guy Tactics: When they are engaged on an infantry level they get their a**es kicked every time! Brave, but stupid. Suicidal Banzai-type charges were very common earlier in the war and still occur. They will literally sacrifice 8-10 man teams in suicide squads by sending them screaming and firing AK’s and RPG’s directly at our bases just to probe the defenses. They get mowed down like grass every time. When engaged, they have a tendency to flee to the same building, probably for what they think will be a glorious last stand. Instead, we call in air and that’s the end of that more often than not. These hole-ups are referred to as Alpha Whiskey Romeo’s (Allah’s Waiting Room).

We have the laser guided ground-air thing down to a science. The fast mover’s, mostly Marine F-18’s, are taking an ever increasing toll on the enemy. When caught out in the open, the helicopter gunships and AC-130 Spectre Gunships cut them to ribbons with cannon and rocket fire, especially at night. Interestingly, artillery is hardly used at all.

Fun facts: The enemy death toll is supposedly between 45-50 thousand. That is why we’re seeing less and less infantry attacks and more IED, suicide bomber sh-t. The new strategy is just simple attrition. The insurgent tactic most frustrating is their use of civilian non-combatants as cover. They know we do all we can to avoid civilian casualties and therefore schools, hospitals and especially Mosques are locations where they meet, stage for attacks, cache weapons, and ammo and flee to when engaged. They have absolutely no regard whatsoever for inflicting civilian casualties. They will terrorize locals and murder without hesitation anyone believed to be sympathetic to the Americans. Kidnapping of family members, especially children, is common to influence people they are trying to influence but can’t reach, such as local govt. officials, clerics, tribal leaders, etc. The first thing our guys are told is “don’t get captured.” They know that if captured they will be tortured and beheaded on the internet. They openly offer bounties for anyone who brings in a live American serviceman. This motivates the criminal element who otherwise don’t give a sh-t about the war. A lot of the beheaded victims were actually kidnapped by common criminals and sold to them. As such, for our guys, every fight is to the death. Surrender is not an option. The Afghani’s are a mixed bag. Some fight well; others aren’t worth a damn. Most do okay with American support.

Finding leaders is hard, but they are getting better. Many Afghani’s were galvanized and the caliber of recruits in the Army and the police forces went right up, along with their motivation. It also led to an exponential increase in good intel because the Afghani’s are sick of the insurgent attacks against civilians.

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