Five Hundred Meter War

Herschel Smith at the Captains Journal has put up a great post which addresses a topic near and dear to my heart; infantry tactics. The post is The Five Hundred Meter War  and I want to reinforce Herschel’s point with some observations.

The tactical argument being raised by Herschel is the alarming trend of engaging in long range fire fights without even attempting to close with and destroy the enemy. The mission of American infantrymen (according to FM 2-21.20 The Infantry Battalion) is “to close with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver.”

Aggressive maneuver combined with active patrolling keep the enemy off balance. The army demonstrated this in Kunar over the last few weeks. The first graph below is from the week of the Camp Blessing battle and the second from the week of the elections.

Remember a few months back when I posted about the new army battalion at Camp Blessing in Kunar killing over 100 fighters in the Marwa valley? Here is the incident rate for the week that the fighting started
Remember a few months back when I posted about the new army battalion at Camp Blessing in Kunar killing over 100 fighters in the Marwa Valley?  Remember I was hoping this signaled a shift in operational focus away from drive by COIN visits to killing the villains who had unmasked themselves all over the Province? Here is the incident rate for the week that the fighting started.  In order to generate security incidents you need living and breathing insurgents and there were not too many of them left after the Army took off the force protection handcuffs and started getting after it. Graph is courtesy of Sami the Finn who is the Senior Information Analyst for Indicium Consulting.


Here is this weeks stats and the spike is due to the Taliban and HIG efforts to disrupt the election. If you watched the embeded video you probably caught that the troops on that mission were heading to a polling center for some reason and yet look at the stats for the week that those polls were open (actually most in Kunar were closed) It would appear that months of effort to facilitate voting in the Kunar Province was a complete waste of effort
Here as the stats from last week note the spike which came from Taliban and HIG efforts to disrupt the election. If you watched the embedded video you probably caught that the troops on that mission were heading to a polling center for some reason and yet look at the stats for the week that those polls were open (actually most in Kunar were closed) It would appear that months of effort to facilitate voting in the Kunar Province was a complete waste of effort

The incident rates above clearly  demonstrate a point made over and over by Herschel Smith and many other military bloggers have made and that is incident rates drop when kinetic activity increases. It also demonstrated the folly of running down a road to visit sites for a brief period of time and then returning to the FOB.  Yesterday a British national working for the development firm DAI was kidnapped right off the main Abad to Jbad road. She was moving in a two vehicle convoy of low profile Toyota Corollas which is normally a safe mode of travel as long as the people inside the Corollas can pass as locals at first glance. This method of blending in is not a good idea if the convoy is going to be static for any period of time allowing local spotters to get a good look at the passengers. There are internationals in Afghanistan who can fool a trained observer with local clothes and a local style beard but they don’t fool anybody once they start walking. Their gait does not resemble how Afghans move because westerners do not spend their lives squatting on their heels.

I do not know the woman who was kidnapped that well but can say she was one of the more experienced and savvy operators in the eastern region. The company she works for, DAI, is one of the “big boys” in the reconstruction business and although they are not as nimble or fast as we are they are still damn good. So here we are in the middle of the surge and the security situation has never been worse.  If the security situation continues to degrade it is just a matter of time before all of us reconstruction types pull up the stakes and go home. I think I am speaking for the outside the wire community when I say (to ISAF)  “it’s time to get off the FOB’s and into the fight….or we’re done here.”

21 Replies to “Five Hundred Meter War”

  1. I dunno about the anorexic part. I know a pretty well fed operator out there who tends to blend in quite well.

    1. I’m not too sure about that E2 – when your guy arrived in country from his Afrcian adventure he was pretty damn skinny. But after his summer adventures with you guys he is looking rather well fed. A few months down south and he’ll slim down again – unless somebody gets a container of beer down there and then I’ll have to concede your point.

  2. If your problem is an enemy that consistantly starts shooting at you at 500 m plus then the answer isn’t rifle qual with 5.56mm carbines to 500. The actual effective combat range of a rifleman is about half of his capability on conventional range. If he can hit 100% of the time at 300 on a range he’s good to about 150 in combat. How many troops can shoot 100% at 300? One in ten? One in twenty?

    The answer is to make squad riflemen ammo carriers/ security details for machine gunners whose effective combat range is the same as their range capability. This was the German system late in WW 2. So double or triple up on 7.62mm GPMGs, lighten everyones load by losing PPE and camping gear, have a intense aerobic fitness and dismounted tactics program (at the end of the day the troops should be too knackered to go to the gym) and train the infantry to get immediately get behind and above ambushes. A heli-borne QRF that was actually ready to be dropped in after an ambush is detected would be nice as well.

    Check out “Pegasus Bridge” by Stephen Ambrose for a description of a combat training progaram run by a company commander who was really serious.

    1. Excellent comment Mr. Harlan. But…(and simply re-enforcing your point).

      The Germans actually started using that system in late WW1 and improved on it during WW2 with the arrival of the MG-42 and again later with the StG-44. By the end of WW2 they had reorganized their companies into two “assault” platoons and one traditional “rifle” platoon per company. The assault platoons had two eight man squads (armed with StG-44’s and a single MG-42), and a machine gun squad with eight men (armed with StG-44’s and three MG-42’s).

      In effect the WW2 German infantry squad was basically just a big machine gun suport unit.

      The day the 5.56mm M-249 SAW was accepted for US service I knew that the US military had lost its grasp of the basic concept.


  3. Maybe you ladies have missed Obama’s team whispering “Hell no, we won’t go!” all these months. What makes you think this “warrior spirit” of our “lawyer trained” political leaders hasn’t been fully integrated into our offshore commanders’ decisions?

    Where’s that “white flag” sent to us 18 months ago?

  4. what percent of our casualties are coming from being hit by a bullet ? The insurgent will almost always have the choice of fight or flight.

  5. I spoke with an aggressive squad leader down in Paktika about his engagements. He goes out on patrol 240 heavy, and M14’s to back them up. He said they rarely use M4’s unless they are very close.

  6. 1. 40 years back, we were running 3 seven men squads per platoon.
    2. Each squad had an M-60. Gunners and A-gunners carried 300 rounds. Everyone else carried one or two assault packs for the gun as part of their BDA.
    3. A few times, when we knew we were in for some s**t, we’d carry one or two more guns.
    4. Training was nominal. Didn’t really learn how to employ a MG until I switched to the Marine Corps -and not everyone there knew. either.
    5. Never saw an M-60 tripod outside the Corps.
    6. Never used one without it in the Corps.
    7. Don’t think the M-14 would be much more effective than an M-16 in a fight. You need that MG banging away to fix the bad guys so you can do your stuff.
    8. OTH know some USMC units hung onto some of their 14’s. See logistical issues with that -had enough of a weapons mix already. Didn’t happen where I was, anyway.
    9. One of the ugly secrets of WWII is how effective German infantry units were in comparison to their allied counterparts.
    10. A lot of the studies that contained that information were quietly declassified in the 60’s and 70’s.
    11. No one wants to learn that their loved ones were killed because of inferior leadership and tactics. Don’t suppose that has changed.
    V/R JWest

  7. I can’t believe a military would just drive past a known ambush site over and over again and not do something about it! It’s like a kid that lets bullies ambush him every time he walks home.

    I guess that’s what happens when you commute to the fight with pop guns. I feel sorry for the soldiers that are caught in the middle of this. They’re paying for it with life and limb.

  8. Base Monti seems to have significant resources – that was a 155 blasting the mountains. No? It also seems to have a lot of modcons – rooftop AC unit? That would make it more like a home and a feeder.

    As far as going up the mountain after the villains, it strikes me that they probably would be there for the occasion, but a rapid reaction heliborne force might work the next time that ambush zone lights up.

    Interesting that the “What are you laughing at?” comment about civilians along the road, shows the same kind of underlying mentality the drive-by shoot-em-ups that got this dance rolling and have maintained the failure to win.

    What ‘lit up’ the lead vehicle anyway? It didn’t look like it had been exploded.

    1. No. M-102 105mm and also at least one vehicle mounted TOW launcher (expecting Paki tanks are we?).

      The lead vehicle looks exploded enough in the first frames of the video. RPG maybe? Both front wheels are still attached, they’re designed to blow off with an underneath explosion.

      Talib thinks they destroyed a “tank” there. We all know better…


  9. From the American Spectator: “The departure of at least part of the American/NATO force has to be expected by Karzai. Quixotic or not, Hamid Karzai is smart enough to realize he has to make a deal with the Taliban or “get out of Dodge.” Obama is already counting on the withdrawal of U.S. combat operations by next summer to kick off his reelection campaign. Hamid Karzai knows that, too. He is feverishly attempting to line up cooperative Taliban offering a semblance of security and a veneer of victory.

    The only question left unanswered is whether General Petraeus will continue to go along with this plan for the next nine months. If he does, he will be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. If he doesn’t, someone will want him as a presidential candidate.”

    It’s easy to remember the “post Cambodia crisis” of early ’70s when students at our American college campuses were “aghast” that our troops had been roaming around in that country and Laos hunting “bad guys” while at the same time, seeing this week how our military is chasing “bad guys” in what has been labeled “hot pursuit” into Pakistan’s territories from which this “good war” of the Democrats and spoken of by our great “warrior of words” Obama-Mao, a commander in chief who salutes soooo sharply those who do in fact wear the uniform, far too many others want to be “tactical” generals who know how to win the war, all the while realizing it’s our “politicians” who truly make the policies others are charged to implement via strategies, etc.

    As you argue weaponry…

    Cue John Kerry, tax dodger, small boat captain, shot in ass loser to come forward this winter and ask his fellow Democrats “how many of your children shall be the last ones to die in Afghanistan?” except I’m not sure that there are those children in America’s uniform fighting over there. Demand Jane Fonda to leave exercise class, and take one of Ted Turner’s green friendly planes to the Taliban’s homeland for photo ops…sooner, rather than later so Bill Clinton–draft dodger, can get his wife (who he hasn’t slept with in some time…look at her!) positioned with a snappy blue pants suit and wild hair for a presidential run, even as Chicago shows us once again how to elect a person that knows what’s what in our world while carrying a dead fish!

    There ain’t nothing like a “professional” political class to run America, right?

    I’ve lost faith, even beyond Bill Maher’s anti critical thinking malignant narcissism.

    However, don’t you worry, Oliver Stone is working on the script right now…the truth shall come forward!


  10. You leave out much of the truth on this site. You may not be able to handle the truth, but most combat vets demand it.
    Some reasons why Islamic irregulars defeated US ground forces in Afghanistan and Iraq:
    -Top leadership emphasized using soldiers as janitors for nation building
    -Foolish ROEs and “laws of War,”interpretations that favored the enemy
    -The institution of morale crushing micromanagement to the max
    -Using soldiers to be bag men that paid bribes to the rag heads so that certain US forces or installations would not be attacked
    -Allowing the US (communist) media to castrate US POW interrogation and other forms of battlefield intelligence
    -Picking political Clintonista, commie generals like Petraus. Thgis asshole recently said: “If an American minister burns a Koran, my men will be killed in retaliation.” if you cannot understand why such an outlook from a “combat” general is plain stupid on many levels, I would like to beat your ass till you cry. I mean it, I am sick of stupid cry baby soldiers! I served in the Army and Marines, on the line, so I am not tolerant “boy scout ” attitudes in war.
    -Failing to properly award medals for valor to US enlisted men who earned them. The staff pogues viewed good fighters as “psychopathic killers not to be encouraged;” They preferred to give medals for “life saving.”
    -Allowing commie “journalists” (all of who had to be called “sir” and were given the rank of Major)to encourage discontent
    – Offering every captured Muz murderer his: Miranda rights, a free attorney and other perks orchestrated by the Red Cross!
    -High officers who still direct hate at the long dead Nazis and wet-eyed, exaggerated respect for the pedophiles, female beating and murdering faggot Muz. Culture? They can win against the weak, but they can’t install indoor plumbing.
    If you want evidence of the US military’s paying of protection money, I will provide copies of several substantiating documents. As a veteran I did not fight to make the world save for Hussein Obama and his ilk. Therefore I wish that I had never volunteered. My son will get his military experience in a foreign army that emphasizes fighting for victory, not end states and honors enlisted men.

    My last sentence CORRECTION: “not end states; and he will serve in an army that honors professional fighting men, especially enlisted men.

    1. Kurt I write about what I see from my perspective in Afghanistan if you think I can’t handle the truth you have not gone through past posts. If you have a different perspective write your own blog. Nobody on this blog has any interests in your opinions or any interest in reading more of your rantings.

  12. That British woman who got kidnapped? Died the other day during a rescue attempt.

    The case is now with the British tabloids. May god have mercy on the poor souls who were tasked with rescuing her. Nothing causes suicide like good old British media mob hysteria. See the Baby P case for an example.

    Not saying the guys who tried to rescue her cocked it up, we don’t know anything yet and thats precisely why the British media should be more respectful of the poor dead Woman’s family and not drip drip gory details.

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