Skip to comments.IRAQ - Special Operations Chief Describes Vast Scope
Posted on 07/28/2003 10:18:53 AM PDT by swarthyguy
MacDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. Brig. Gen. Gary L. Harrell, commander of Special Operations missions for the war in Iraq, sat in an office whose interior design favors hand-tooled tomahawks and recalled the day he ordered a dozen Green Berets and a small band of Kurdish fighters to take on a division of Iraqi Army troops.
It was in northern Iraq, during the hottest days of ground combat, and American commanders were improvising on a war plan that had called for the Fourth Infantry Division to attack from Turkey an option vetoed by the government in Ankara. On that day, commanders feared that Iraqi divisions in the north, threatened by no large American force, would swing back toward Baghdad and add their firepower to Iraqi defenders facing the American and British forces' mechanized assault coming up from Kuwait.
Army Special Forces, the Green Berets, had slipped into northern Iraq and hooked up with Kurdish fighters, known as pesh merga.
"One of our missions was to try to do everything we could to keep those Iraqi divisions in place, to keep them out of the war in the south," General Harrell said during a rare interview at his headquarters here. "One day, we were against some of the Iraqi forces.
"I said, `Send one of the O.D.A.'s down to hit this force,' " he added, using the military's abbreviation for Operational Detachment-Alpha, more commonly known as a Green Beret "A Team."
His military intelligence officer looked at the map and said to him, "Boss, you know that icon is an enemy division," the general recalled. "I said, `Yeah, I know. But they're having pretty good success.' "
That success, he said, was achieved by leveraging the power of Special Operations forces maneuvering covertly on the ground with close-air support.
"It's pretty easy to take on these large numbers of enemy forces when you've got an aircraft carrier in direct support of an O.D.A.," he said. "Now an O.D.A. is 12 men. So 12 guys and some pesh merga took on a division and moved it."
But the Special Operations war was not simply combat by laser range finder guiding bombs and missiles to distant enemy targets.
In one attack, the general said, Special Forces soldiers destroyed at least three Iraqi T-55 tanks that had closed to within 200 yards. Some of the fighting was almost hand to hand, so tight that a number of Iraqi soldiers were killed by shotgun blasts.
General Harrell, who served with secret commando forces during the first Persian Gulf war and was a major participant in the "Black Hawk Down" battle in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, described the precedent-setting scope of the Special Operations war in Iraq under his command. "I have characterized it as the largest since World War II," he said. "In actuality, I suspect it's probably the largest one we've ever done."
He declined to give specific numbers for troops committed to the Special Operations war in Iraq. At the Pentagon, though, military officials have said more than 10,000 members from Special Operations units were committed to the conflict.
General Harrell said large numbers of conventional ground troops from the Army and the Marine Corps were also assigned to the Special Operations war.
Even before the ground war against Iraq officially began with the assault out of Kuwait, allied Special Operations forces secretly entered Iraq's western desert, destroying fortified border observation posts.
But not every one of them.
"We did engage some observation posts," said the general, an army officer whose title is commander, Special Operations Command, for the military's Central Command. "But all of them weren't taken out. Sometimes it's good to have somebody carry your message back, or call it back."
It was a case of combining direct and intensely violent military action attacking Iraqi border positions to blind Iraq's forces to the American and British forces' entry from the west with an important information operation. By making certain that some Iraqi troops along the western front lived to report back to headquarters, American commanders hoped to rattle Baghdad.
The Special Operations forces occupied vast swaths of Iraq, General Harrell said, which limited the Baghdad government's ability to maneuver its army, to carry out counter-attacks or to launch missiles at American and British forces or regional allies, including Israel.
Even so, despite the dangerous missions assigned to Special Operations forces from the Army, Navy and Air Force and the intense combat, not a single one of their lives was lost to hostile fire, he said.
No question about it. Rummy will put us in position for a decade to come, to dominate any conflict we may face. That is, unless the unthinkable occurs and the quisling RATs somehow regain power.
Did he write "Task Force Dagger" about SFs in Afghanistan?
My bet is he's tramping around Northern Iraq, getting drunk with old Green Berets recalled to active duty.
12 guys and an air wing can't do that.
Shades of LBJ!
Not to mention an inordinate amount of respect for the Durand Line by the decision makers.
And those Islamofascists hiding in caves, the Red Chinese, the N. Koreans and all other chumps like these are imagining the same thing, and cringing in fear as they should.
those Islamofascists hiding in caves, the Red Chinese, the N. Koreans and all other chumps like these are imagining the same thing, and cringing in fear as they should.
Which is probably why these thugs are paying the left wing media and politicians around the world to attack President Bush in attempts to electronically lynch him.
Of course, that is certain to happen from time to time.
But as the posted article mentioned in the last sentence - not a single SpecOps warrior was lost to hostile fire.
These New Breed, High Tech SpecOps guys have firepower, communications and real time intel of a quality we couldn't even dream of.. Plus, they have the advantage of small unit size - with its natural protections and stealth.
They KNOW where the enemy concentrations are, and can bring Hell and Brimstone on the bastard's asses faster than we could determine the coordinates we wished attacked.
I've never done any valid research, but it is just gut feel that we suffered proportionally fewer WIA/KIA from our small team attack missions or search and destroy patrols - than when moving about in larger unit missions... Large targets attract more attention from the bad guys --- to attack or avoid...
The small teams of today - can move about cleanly and determine the value of targets and have them destroyed within moments after a "phone call"... They can avoid detection and deliver destruction FAR out of proportion to their size...
Todd - (F18A Pilot from whom I have forwarded notes to you) has mentioned frequently they are CONSTANTLY overhead in "hot areas" (teams below), even TODAY.. They can deliver their payload within a few minutes - as precisely as GPS/Laser can I.D. target..
And to be frank.....the loss of a 12 man team, is preferable to effectively destroying a Platoon or Company - as happened occasionally.
Robert C. Heinlein would be grinning to see our real-life "starship troopers."
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