Saturday, July 18, 2015

Special Ops

An article at Strategy Page relates some interesting details about American and British commandos operating in Syria against ISIL. The article starts out talking about how British SAS forces are being beefed up in Syria as a response to the recent murders of dozens of British tourists on a Tunisian beach by an ISIL attacker and then goes on to discuss a bit about how American and British special operations forces are operating in ISIL controlled territory in Iraq and Syria.
Britain has had aircraft bombing ISIL since late 2014 but no ground troops fighting ISIL. The SAS and SBS operators join American SEALs and Delta Force in Syria and Iraq, along with commandos from several other nations (some of them Arab) who prefer to remain unidentified just now. The only reporting on the activities of these commandos is when they stage a raid and capture or kill someone.

In fact, most of their time is spent on reconnaissance and seeking out high-quality targets for the bombers and UAVs overhead. In some cases a commando team will find a target and immediately call in a missile or smart-bomb strike. Keeping quiet about these operations protects the operators (who do not want their tactics and methods known to the enemy) and increases the fear among the Islamic terrorists being sought.

Islamic terrorists would like nothing better than to capture or kill some of these commandos, but they rarely have the opportunity. The commandos are highly trained, experienced, thorough and careful. The commandos go in with plenty of backup, especially aircraft overhead and fellow commandos as well as dependable non-commando troops available to help out. The commandos practice what to do if spotted and pursued and this generally involves quickly calling in air strikes on all their pursuers. Some commandos consider such dangerous and desperate situations to have some benefits.

Such a pursuit creates a “target rich environment” as the Islamic terrorists call in all the reinforcements available in the area. This means many vehicles full of gunmen headed for the scene. For those the commandos cannot see, aircraft overhead have targeting pods to look at these vehicles up close, confirm who they are and use a missile or smart bomb to eliminate the threat. More experienced terrorist leaders try to halt this stampede which nearly always creates more targets for the bombers rather than making it more likely to capture or kill some commandos. This is especially true when the terrorists believe the myth that Western sensors cannot see through sand storms.

Despite all these advantages Western commandos prefer to remain undetected and find targets quietly rather than using themselves as bait. Since there are only a few hundred commandos in Syria at the moment the addition of the British contingent is a substantial increase and should show up in the news as more spectacular air strikes against ISIL, especially ISIL leaders.
The ISIL jihadis are caught in a Catch-22. Spotting the special ops guys is bad luck, but then not spotting them is also a misfortune. Perhaps that's one reason why they're showing up here. It's a lot easier to kill Americans on military bases and recruiting centers which for some peculiar reason the authorities have declared to be gun-free zones.

Now if these wise men and women could just find a way to convince the Islamic shooters to obey the signs.