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"Lions led by Dogs" - Special Forces Operations in Iraq

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  • "Lions led by Dogs" - Special Forces Operations in Iraq

    Interesting article in today's NYT about the role Special Forces played in the war.

    "War Plan Drew U.S. Commandos From Shadows
    By JAMES DAO


    UWAIT, April 26 For America's Special Operations forces, the war in Iraq almost started with a disaster.

    On March 18, three MH-53 Pave Low helicopters swept low and fast through the night toward a landing zone in the southern Iraqi desert. In their bellies were Toyota pickup trucks carrying Army Special Forces soldiers: the unconventional vanguard of an invasion that was to begin in two days.

    But in the swirling dust, one of the helicopters clipped a rock outcropping as it tried to land. The aircraft whirled about like a bucking bronco before crashing on its side in a screech of twisting metal, flipping a truck on top of a soldier inside.

    At an air base in Kuwait, commanders watched in horror as the scene unfolded in real-time video broadcast from a Predator drone circling the crash scene.

    "I heard, `Chopper down!' " recalled a Special Operations soldier who was aboard one of the other helicopters. "I thought: we're done. We'll have to go home. I thought we had lost a third of our team."

    But the air crew and commandos walked away from the crash without serious injuries. The soldiers crowded into their remaining trucks and raced into the dark toward their final destination, the city of Nasiriya.

    So began the secret war in Iraq."

    <More>


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  • #2
    Interesting article.

    The Special Forces greatest enemy might be their success and importance. In the past, SF was considered a hazard politically. However, since the end of the Cold War, and more importantly, since 9/11, that has changed. The fact that small groups of men can dramatically influence the outcome of political agenda might be too enticing to misuse.

    Special Forces should always be employed with a clear understanding of the groups limitations. These forces rely primarily on shock and surprise to get them through a mission. Once the enemy is able to figure out what is going on, the teams had better be long gone or it will be in serious trouble.

    I also believe conventional military commanders don't understand Special Forces. In Afghanistan, Gen. Tommy Franks ignored the advice of 1st SFOD-Delta operators and assigned a large Ranger company to support a raid on a Taliban Compound. Surprise was compromised, the young Rangers failed to fight effectively on the defense. A large Taliban force split the Ranger force providing security, and the Delta Squadron at the compound. The Rangers immediately broke contact, leaving Delta to play hide and seek in the desert for several hours.

    I'm a big fan of Special Forces and believe we should have been using them more in the past. However, I recognize these are just men trained to perform a specific task. When the bullets start flying and hitting bodies, SOF operators get dead. They should not be seen as supermen, but a part of the larger force. Their elite at what they do. The same can be said for an artilleryman, tank gunner, or fighter pilot.

    We must never forget that.
    "As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."-Christopher Dawson - The Judgement of Nations, 1942

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