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Posted by on Feb 18, 2007 in War | 8 comments

Iraqi Terrorists Adapting

The New York Times reports:

Documents captured from Iraqi insurgents indicate that some of the recent fatal attacks against American helicopters are a result of a carefully planned strategy to focus on downing coalition aircraft, one that American officials say has been carried out by mounting coordinated assaults with machine guns, rockets and surface-to-air missiles.

The documents, said to have been drafted by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, show that the militants were preparing to “concentrate on the air force.� The contents of the documents are described in an American intelligence report that was reviewed by The New York Times.

The American military has said that seven helicopters have been downed since Jan. 20, a figure that exceeds the total number of coalition aircraft shot down in 2006.

After downing the helicopters, the insurgents often laid ambushes for the American ground troops they expected to come to the rescue, sometimes using roadside bombs that they placed in advance. American troops were attacked in five instances in which they rushed to the scene of aircraft that had been shot down, military officials said.

This is obviously a very significant development. Taking down aircraft costs a lot of American lives, it costs the American military a lot of money and it is highly symbolic. Seeing an American helicopter that has been shot down by Iraqi terrorists has a very negative impact on American national psyche.

According to some American analysts the terrorists don’t use new weapons, they simply use a new strategy.

Importantly:

Maj. Gen. James E. Simmons, a deputy commander of the American-led multinational force in Iraq and an Army aviator, told reporters this week that multiple weapons systems had been used against American troops before, in attacks south of Baghdad last year.

“This is not a new tactic,� he said. “But it is the first time that we have seen it employed in several months.�

“We are engaged with a thinking enemy,â€? he added. “This enemy understands based on the reporting and everything else that we are in the process of executing the prime minister’s new plan for the security of Baghdad. And they understand the strategic implications of shooting down an aircraft.”

This means that the American military has to think as well. The American military has to adapt to the adaptation of the Iraqi terrorists.

As Michael Gordon points out, helicopters are used extensively in Iraq. In 2006 U.S. army helicopters flew 270 000 hours. In 2007 that’s expected to increase to 400 000 hours.

Obviously taking down helicopters provides the terrorists with some ‘great’ propaganda material. They film it, put it on the Internet, millions of people watch it.

Gaius meanwhile rightfully remarks that “inquiring minds want to know exactly where they are getting the weapons. Someone is facilitating these attacks and supplying the weaponry.”

It doesn’t seem to be far-fetched to me that Iran might be delivering (some of) the weaponry.

I have said it before; the U.S. does not have to exaggerate Iran’s involvement in Iraq / Iran’s support for terrorism. Iran is supporting terrorists in Iran, in Lebanon, in Palestine, etc.

Back to the subject at hand, Merv comments:

The article has descriptions of the recent attacks. The focus of the enemy is pretty much what I anticipated. They are using their own “combined arms” approach. By throwing up a lot of different ordinance at the same time they fire anti aircraft missiles they present the pilots with more to deal with and make it possible that something will break through the defenses…

It is possible that with their scouting, the enemy is predicting flight paths and preparing attack positions to take advantage of them.

If so it is important that pilots not only vary their approach but their altitude during operations in Iraq.

Indeed. The question is whether the American military will adapt before many more helicopters are shot down.

We also have to wonder whether this will spread to Afghanistan (it’s very likely that it will). If so, what will it mean for the coalition forces there? British and Dutch (and other) troops are fighting in Afghanistan, at the moment many helicopters are being taken down, support the war in Afghanistan, still widely considered to be legit, might decrease.

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