It is time to turn the ole gimlet eye onto the news, cut through the clutter, provide a little ground truth, and introduce another obscure military concept to the FRI family and their informed friends. The start point is this article concerning the killing of a little girl by the Italian army ISAF contingent in Herat which I want to compare to the current civilian casualty flap in Farah Province where over 100 people are reported to have been killed in ISAF air strikes. In my opinion one these incidents should result in a murder charge and the other is the way things have to be but we are not managing that message well at all.
The facts as reported about the Italian shooting seem very clear. They overtook a civilian vehicle but reported it to be driving at high speed they claim to have fired warning shots but TV footage of the car shows it was hit repeatedly in the left rear quarter panel area indicating the shooter was behind the vehicle. The shooting resulted in the death of a 12 year old girl and the Italians drove right past after shooting this car load of people without even stopping. That is murder. There is no way to justify it as anything else based on the facts presented in the news article. Most civilian traffic will attempt to stay in front of convoys because once overtaken you’ll join 100’s of other vehicles in a miles long 20 mph rat line. Which of course is point #1 how can the Italians overtake a racing car in their armored troop carriers? They can’t.
It is a common technique for suicide bombers to slow down and wait for a convoy to draw close and then detonate their vehicles. It is also common for the slow moving traffic to allow convoys to overtake them too. These convoys pass vehicles all the time so that fact that this car slowed to allow the convoy to draw near and pass was also very typical behavior. I have mentioned this whole convoy procedure thing so many times that my Dad will send emails sounding like this; oh great son another post about convoysif I didn’t know better I’d mistake you for a whiner. At risk of receiving yet another email of this nature let me again attempt to point out the problem with convoys who shoot at vehicles they think to be VBIED’s.
John Boyd, who I had the pleasure of meeting once, is one of those eccentric’s often found behind the scenes in military history. He was a Colonel in the Air Force with the reputation as a strategist and unorthodox reformer. One of his greater contributions to military science was the Observe Orient Decide Act (OODA) Loop. Here is the Wikipedia entry on the subject:
According to Boyd, decision-making occurs in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain the advantage. Frans Osinga argues that Boyd’s own views on the OODA loop are much deeper, richer, and more comprehensive than the common interpretation of the ‘rapid OODA loop’ idea
Boyd developed this theory after an analysis of enemy tactics during air to air engagements over Korea during the conflict there. At the time the Soviet MiG-15 was faster than the American F-86 Sabre and they were operating from Chinese airfields close to the fight while the American jets would arrive with maybe 15 minutes of fuel. The MiG could out-climb the Sabre at all altitudes, and it had a greater operational ceiling. But the MiG had design flaws resulting in poor control at high speeds, a low rate of roll and directional instability at high altitudes. Boyd recognized that the way of taking advantage of these flaws was to enter a series of intricate turns designed to make the MiG react to the Sabre. Once the MiG was committed it just a matter of time before the Sabre was able convert his high speed maneuver advantage to get a gun solution using the K14 radar gun-sight, which was designed to use derivative movement information for the firing solution. This is why there is a Top Gun course and whatever the Air Force calls their jet fighter school which obviously lacks cool factor or we’d have seen a movie about it.
For earthbound gunfighters the OODA loop also has great utility. The best example would be the famous (in my circles anyway) Tueller drill. Named after Salt Lake City Police Sergeant Dennis Tueller (he was a Gunsight instructor too) it is a simple demonstration of perceived vs actual risk. The drill assumes an assailant armed with an edged weapon is being uncooperative and is designed to show how close is too close in that situation. The assailant stands back to back with a shooter who has a holstered pistol and is facing a target 7 yards away. On cue the assailant starts to run and stops when he hears the pistol report the shooter presents his weapon to the target and delivers a controlled pair center mass. A well trained shooter using a good rig and pistol can deliver a controlled pair from the holster in 1.1 to 1.3 seconds – about the time it takes a young adult male to cover the 21 feet.
Twenty one feet is about three car parking spaces or the length of a slightly bigger than average room. Most people feel safe with that much room between them and a stranger. If an assailant starts at you full speed from that distance only the best trained top tier shooters in the world have a chance of presenting a pistol and firing two effective shots. And that is only if they have already decided to shoot; the step in the OODA loop model which takes the longest to work through. The Tueller drill is a perfect example of training designed to improve OODA loop decision making. By illustrating how close is too close and reinforcing the concept with dynamic training the students learn how to make the critical shoot don’t shoot decision faster based off legitimate state of the art training.
Which brings us to ISAF convoys and machinegunners; ISAF convoys over take civilian traffic and pass on coming civilian traffic as a matter of routine. Convoy gunners are responsible for recognizing potential threats, warning them to keep their distance, and firing on them when that warning is ignored. Although ISAF convoys are slow they will still close with on coming traffic at a rate of 60 feet per second which is 3.5 car lengths. On a flat road with perfect visibility a convoy gunner has about 60 seconds – the time it takes a vehicle to reach him from just outside the max effective range of his machine gun – to determine if a vehicle is a threat. There are very few places in Afghanistan with that much flat terrain – my guess would be that the average civilian car to ISAF convoy encounter is around 10 to 15 seconds long. What do you think it would take to get your attention, have you orient your weapon, then make the critical friend or foe decision before firing into an oncoming car?
To distinguish potential threats in the normal chaotic local traffic clutter requires gunners with enough knowledge to apply the rule of opposites. Suicide vehicle drivers tend to have a signature, they tend to behave erratically, and in order to detect one in time to warn and engage him you would have to detect him a long way off. If you think through this process – especially while driving so you can do a little real time war gaming – you will come to the same conclusion I have. And that is our counter VBIED measures will never work because it is not possible for a soldier to complete the OODA loop and reach an informed firing solution given the small amount of time, short distances, and number of innocent people who drive like lunatics in Afghanistan. You cannot recognize a VBIED that fast – not possible – so why the hell are we still shooting 12 year old girls in this country? Because we have the wrong troops here. Killing people is serious business best left to professionals.
Then there is the story of the 100 dead civilians, victim of an ISAF air strike. Apparently the Afghan Army responded in support of a police post which had been repeatedly attacked by fighters who disappeared into some small hamlet in Farah Province. The Taliban continued to fight from that hamlet and ISAF air was called in to deal with them. ISAF air is not controlled by the Afghan army which means American trainers or an SF team was with them to handle the tac air. The Taliban starts a fight, kills a few of the local cops, goes to ground in a local compound which we blast causing the deaths of all inside you tell me who is the asshat? Not us this is what happens when you allow the Taliban to operate out of your village. And don’t tell me the poor villagers are defenseless in the face of these swarms of Taliban which just appear out of nowhere in their midst. They are anything but defenseless and the last time I checked there was the Kharan Desert just south of Farah province so where are all these Taliban fighters coming from anyway?
The people in Farah are rioting over this incident; the politicians are making hay with it. Time magazine is outraged (I know I could give a rats ass too about what Time thinks) and the newly rehabilitated President Karzai has chimed in to declare the incident unacceptable. This is not the same as all the previous incidents where we acted based on false intelligence because we are not smart enough to confirm targets with ground based assets this was hot pursuit and they have to end the same way every time with a bang not a whimper. Body counts are irrelevant we will never kill enough Taliban to win what we need to do is bring security to the people. Do the reconstruction we said we would do, and go home. But to do that we must deal with armed assaults by putting a hurting on those doing the assaulting. You cannot let these guys ambush you time and time again with impunity. They want to fight? fine we fight and when that happens they die. That is how it has to be.
I had a dream – in that dream my Commander in Chief gets President Karzai into the oval office and leans on him like he does the lawyers representing the secure debt holders of Chrysler Motors. He tells Karazi in no uncertain terms how things are going to be and to stop the pissing and moaning over civilians who give sanctuary to Taliban fighters. He’ll allow him to continue to get upset over random acts of stupidity like the Italian shooting, which I think to be murder anyway but would make him toe the line on civilian casualties which were taken when we flew in SUPPORT OF HIS ARMY WHO WAS IN CONTACT AT THE TIME. If he doesn’t like it then the Chief of Staff Rahim “Boom Boom” Emanual might just take him for a ride and give him some truck music Chicago style. Just like we do to hard working honest Americans who attempt to discharge their fiduciary obligations in accordance with our laws and blessed constitution. If the President can bully them why not our allies too?
Yeah it is a dream but if the President of the United States can attack private citizens engaged in the execution of their fiduciary obligations to clients and expose them to harassment and ridicule for refusing to sell their clients out in order to benefit the auto unions than why can’t he do a little arm bending to benefit all the citizens of this country? Isn’t that his job now? Well.Chris Matthews leg says he is executing all duties flawlessly so what do I know?
I mentioned a rehabilitated President Karazi because by my calculations August’s presidential election was decided about five days ago and Karzai is the winner. The day after Nangarhar Provincial Governor Gul Agha Shirzai withdrew from the presidential race I had the following conversation with my local fixer/manager/man of influence Mr. W.
Me: what is going on the President Karzai and why is the Governor so down?
Mr. W: He is the leader of our country and a great man. His Excellency Governor Shirzai is tired is all he too is very happy for our country
I thought Karzai was just the mayor of Kabul who cannot even stop his ministries from preying upon the citizens let alone govern?
When he first started he was just Kabul mayor but he had no one below who knew about government and it was bad. But he now learn how to govern and how to work with the Americans and this is the most important thing to work with Americans.
What about Marshall Fahim? Isn’t he a warlord from the north?
No he is great Mujahedeen leader from the north and also a great man
What? When did all this happen? How long have you been thinking that Marshall Fahim and the President are the future of your country?
Ohfor five maybe six days now.
Ole Mr. W – demonstrating a text book use of one of most potent tools of the Scots Irish tribe irony. This from a man who as child worked on an NGO project in Jalalabad during the Taliban times carried a flag for escorting female NGO sponsored health awareness workers. His job was to escort them in public and then stand outside the compound during their home visits so that all knew the woman was out and about on official government business and should not be beaten on sight. For this he earned 5 kilos of wheat per day and now Mr. W, who is the driving force behind many aid programs which target the female population because he believes their education and empowerment is key to the future of his country, is mastering irony too.
It would appear that President Karzai has quietly built a capable coalition during these last 100 days despite snubs from both VP Biden and President Obama. It was rumored that Speaker of the House Pelosi commissioned a hand crafted Haitian-American Karzai voodoo doll for just 375,000 tax payer dollars into which she plunged needles dipped in Newt’s urine. Newt Gingrich urine; not urine from the small amphibian known to all Disney fans as a common witch spell ingredient. Nothing but the best for our speaker and that includes the urine used on hand crafted voodoo dolls. But none of that fazed President Karzai who is off to Washington to deal with Obama with a recently acquired position of strength. Intuition tells me that Karzai has taken the measure of our bright, handsome, articulate, President and decided to stay in the game despite months of our side (the most talented and honest administration ever) hinting he should collect his chips and go home. I wonder why that is?