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The Day the Army Woke Up

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  • The Day the Army Woke Up

    Ten years ago today, Task Force Ranger embarked on a mission that was suppose to last for thirty minutes. Seventeen hours later, eighteen American soldiers, and an estimated 500 Somalis lay dead. While the outcome of the battle is still disputed (Rangers appear insecure with the results), one thing is certain. On October 4, 1993, the US Army was working its *ss off to prepare American soldiers for the brutality of modern urban combat.

    To say that the Battle of Mogadishu was the moment when the Army first realized future wars would be increasingly fought in urban environments is wrong. FM 90-10-1 was released earlier that year, and did offer a glimpse of things to come. Instead, it changed how the US viewed itself operating in such an environment. Prior to October 3, 1993, troops focused primarily on operating in a combat intensive environment, which was created out of the horrors that visited Moscow, Stalingrad, and Berlin, just to name a few during WWII. Troops would avoid using armor. Soldiers were not instructed to act with reckless abandonment for civilian lives. However, they lacked sufficent training to understand how to avoid killing scores of innocent people.

    The blood and sacrifice made by American and UN troops between October 3-4, 1993, gave way to new urban and close quarters combat doctrine. This doctrine focused more on precision rather than blunt force. Troops learned how to operate within an environment filled with hostile troops and non-combatants. Facilities such as the Joint Readiness Training Center allowed US Army soldiers to test their tactics in similar conditions. Leaders studied the Russian experience in Grozny (also important to American MOUT doctrine). New lifesaving tactics were the result.

    The success of that training materalized in Iraq. Cities that were many expected would require a corps to capture, were taken by Battalion Combat Teams. American and British troops used armor to move in and out of the urban environments to harrass and isolate the enemy, while minimizing combat. Analysts once predicted more than 100,000 Iraqis would die in the first few weeks of combat. Yet, many were spared. (Shouldn't mitigate the seriousness of all the lives lost.)

    Some can argue the Iraqis didn't fight, were poorly led, etc. However, in the end, the sole reason Baghdad and Basra fell with few casualties was because of the lessons learned from October 3-4, 1993. Political views should not detract from the military success of the campaign. American and British Forces fought and defeated an Army that would have given 99% of the countries in the world today all the hell they could handle.

    Nothing can compensate for the lives lost in battle. This is even more true when political leaders elect to place troops in harms way, while trying to minizing their own risk. In Somalia, Task Force Ranger was abandoned by the President of the United States. When the shooting started, he denied them the tools that might have kept many alive. Yet, none of the soldiers died and suffered in vain. In some form or the other, every soldier who participates in IRAQI FREEDOM owe their own lives to those who perished in wars past.

    In Somalia, as is the case in many wars, the soldiers displayed the ultimate degree of valor and courage, even if the politicians who sent them there fell unforgivably short of being worthy of having such people call them Commander-IN-Chief.
    "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

  • #2
    This summer I read Mark Bowden's book, "Black Hawk Down" (which inspired the movie) and although I can appreciate that the Pentagon has learned a lesson or two, I am skeptical of the actual impact on operational and tactical doctrine.

    We should not forget that this battle wasn't between two organized military forces. One was a highly trained, elite military force made of Rangers soldiers and Delta operatives, equipped with the latest technology. The other one was basically an untrained mob of people with some simple rifles (some lucky ones had AK47s) and a couple of RPGs. What gave trouble to the Americans was in fact the sheer overwhelming numbers of Somalis, and the incredible luck they got in sending down 2 big birds.

    There is a limit to the lessons you can draw out of this against another urban combat situation where you would actually fight real military resistance, with an organized, trained, and properly equipped group of soldiers.

    Except for a few cases of vicious but short bursts of heavy fighting in Bagdad, Karbala and Nasiriyah, urban combat in Iraq has been pretty limited. That is not to say American soldiers aren't good at MOUT - to the contrary, even if Iraqis would have a put up a more determined and coherent combat effort in urban ground, I still believe Americans would have overwhelmed them through superior tactics, training and technology.

    But as far as the Somali experience has been helpful...perhaps through improved methods and means of communication, yes. It was one of the big weakness of the American task force in Mogadishu (the pathetic trip of the rescue convoy wandering aimlessly in the city is a good example of weak C3 methods).

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    • #3
      I read a very interesting article about this event in a French magazine, in a special issue dedicated to urban warfare.
      Deltapooh, you say that the Task Force Ranger was abandoned by Clinton, the president. But the military leaders certainly have their responsibilities in the drama, donít they ?
      As you say it the success of the urban operations in Iraq was due to the Iraqi soldiersí lack of readiness to fight. With fighters like the Chechen the things would have been different for the coalition. In fact the Coalition, whatever the method, managed in settling the urban warfare problem before it occurred, even if there still were some urban fights.


      Originally posted by Tzar
      We should not forget that this battle wasn't between two organized military forces. One was a highly trained, elite military force made of Rangers soldiers and Delta operatives, equipped with the latest technology. The other one was basically an untrained mob of people with some simple rifles (some lucky ones had AK47s) and a couple of RPGs. What gave trouble to the Americans was in fact the sheer overwhelming numbers of Somalis, and the incredible luck they got in sending down 2 big birds.
      If the Somalians were ďrusticĒ, they were intelligent too, and perfectly knew how to counter and defeat the Americans. And the Americans completely underestimated the Aididís militia. Aidid himself knew how to deal with the TF Ranger, provoking it with mortar attacks and raids on the blue helmets. In fact he controlled the situation, and played the game he had to play. Notably, he, and his lieutenants, had understood, after precedent operations, how the tactics used by the Americans, who followed each time the same methods, more or less. For example the Somalians perfectly used they RPG 7 against the blackhawks, a very good adaptation to the enemy. They knew the American rules of engagement, and used the Somalian civilians to approach the GIís. And for the GIís a Somalian was identical to another Somalian. The two choppers weren't completly the effect of luck.

      But itís true that the American soldiers proved their high professionalism, in a situation which was a real trap for them. You can compare what they did with what the Russians did in Grozny in 1995.

      LaPalice.
      Monsieur de La Palice est mort
      Mort devant Pavie.
      Un quart d'heure avant sa mort
      Il ťtait encore en vie...

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by LaPalice
        I read a very interesting article about this event in a French magazine, in a special issue dedicated to urban warfare.
        Deltapooh, you say that the Task Force Ranger was abandoned by Clinton, the president. But the military leaders certainly have their responsibilities in the drama, donít they ?
        The military commanders made mistakes. I'm very critical of General Garrison for launching this kind of dangerous raid under those conditions. He also should have considered whether or not using the P-3 Orion, which was an operational asset, in the manner he did.

        Yet, all of the decisions made were heavily influenced by the Clinton Administration's policies. The failure of the senior leadership made a disaster almost inevitable:

        -The UN Resolution that called for the arrest of those responsible for the massacre of the Pakistani Peacekeepers was not thoroughly considered. The Clinton Administration, who regarded the military as a political hazard, did not consult the Pentagon properly when it formulated it's mission. General Powell, who was the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, was never informed. He read about it in his Monday morning newspaper.

        -The Clinton Administration failed to issue a clear directive, with realistic, and achievable military goals. Commanders were placed under increasing strain to achieve success. Clinton Administration officials never tried to understand the complexity of the assignment.

        Of course, the military commanders had a duty not to allow such pressure to seriously endangers troops.

        -Abandonment by the White House of American troops in Somalia, and the resentment it created, seriously undermined ongoing operations. Former Ambassador Oakley went into detail about this. In his last visit to Somalia, he said the tension was so great, you could feel it throughout the US military command. The Clinton Administration basically left American troops to the UN, and never followed ongoing operations.

        This feeling was only reinforced when the Pentagon elected to deny armor and gunship support to Task Force Ranger.

        Originally posted by LaPalice
        As you say it the success of the urban operations in Iraq was due to the Iraqi soldiersí lack of readiness to fight. With fighters like the Chechen the things would have been different for the coalition. In fact the Coalition, whatever the method, managed in settling the urban warfare problem before it occurred, even if there still were some urban fights.
        A review of FM 90-10 (1979) FM 90-10-1 (May 1993 revised in August 1993 I believe) and FM 03.06.11 (2002) illustrates just how far American doctrine has evolved in respect to MOUT.

        FM 90-10

        FM 90-10-1 (in pdf format)

        FM 3-06.11

        One should also read, "We Band of Brothers", written by the RAND think-tank;

        http://www.rand.org/publications/DB/DB270/

        While I agree the Chenchans would have given us more hell, our doctrine was critical to success. Troops were more comfortable working with armor, and the urban environment. Prior to Somalia, American forces still trained to fight very well organized forces. We didn't focus on precision combat. The British Army had recognized these changes many years. America has been slower.

        Originally posted by LaPalice
        If the Somalians were ďrusticĒ, they were intelligent too, and perfectly knew how to counter and defeat the Americans. And the Americans completely underestimated the Aididís militia. Aidid himself knew how to deal with the TF Ranger, provoking it with mortar attacks and raids on the blue helmets. In fact he controlled the situation, and played the game he had to play. Notably, he, and his lieutenants, had understood, after precedent operations, how the tactics used by the Americans, who followed each time the same methods, more or less. For example the Somalians perfectly used they RPG 7 against the blackhawks, a very good adaptation to the enemy. They knew the American rules of engagement, and used the Somalian civilians to approach the GIís. And for the GIís a Somalian was identical to another Somalian. The two choppers weren't completly the effect of luck.
        This is a correct assessment. Aideed was a very well trained military officer. If I'm not mistaken, he attended one of the USSR's finest military schools. He studied our operation, and recognized the helicopter, and our social ideals to be weaknesses he could exploit. Aides to Aideed said he did have some control over his forces throughout the battle. One claimed the primary reason we didn't loose any troops during the final breakout on October 4, 1993, was because Aideed had instructed his forces to back off. He was very concerned the Americans were not finished. So he wanted to preserve his forces, who were badly mauled.

        While the technique of shooting down helicopters with RGP-7's was nothing new, the Somali militia likely received guidance from Al-Qaeda operatives. I know we seem to blame everything on Al-Qaeda, but in this case, there is good evidence. At the time, these terrorists were in Sudan training Khartoum's government forces.

        The book Black Hawk Down doesn't offer a clear analysis of all the mistakes made, and what could be learned. There is a document called "A Critical Analysis of the Defeat of Task Force Ranger" available online. I dispute some of the information in the document, but it was still well-written.

        http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB63/doc10.pdf

        Of course, all this is more or less my own opinion. The US military was looking at MOUT for some years prior to Somalia. The Joint Readiness Training Center was redesignated in September 1993. The village was later designated "Shugart-Gordon."
        "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

        Comment


        • #5
          Thank you Deltapooh, a lot of things to read now .
          About the RPG 7, it was a tactic invented by the Afghans against the Russians. Before the October 04 the Somalians had destroyed a chopper with this tactic, but the Americans officers thought it was only an accident or something like that, and thought that the Aideed militia was only a bunch of brigands whereas they were relatively well organized. Otherwise the tactic can explain a link with Al Qaeda. I had heard the info too some time ago. Ben Laden was in Sudan at this moment, wasnít he ?

          Edit : Certainly a completely stupid idea about Liberia : if Iím not wrong the Americans criticized Taylor for having harbored some Al Qaeda members. Do you think that Bush administration thought that there could be a trap if the GIís went on the ground as what happened in Mogadiscio ?

          LaPalice.
          Last edited by LaPalice; 04 Oct 03, 14:23.
          Monsieur de La Palice est mort
          Mort devant Pavie.
          Un quart d'heure avant sa mort
          Il ťtait encore en vie...

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks Deltapooh for these interesting references!

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            • #7
              I'm not as well read up as I should be on the Black Hawk Down mess-up,but a TV docu a few months ago had an interview with one of the US servicemen involved,who said "We were sent in by day whereas it should have been by night when our night-vision equipment would have given us the decisive edge"

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by LaPalice
                About the RPG 7, it was a tactic invented by the Afghans against the Russians. Before the October 04 the Somalians had destroyed a chopper with this tactic, but the Americans officers thought it was only an accident or something like that, and thought that the Aideed militia was only a bunch of brigands whereas they were relatively well organized. Otherwise the tactic can explain a link with Al Qaeda. I had heard the info too some time ago. Ben Laden was in Sudan at this moment, wasnít he ?
                The downing of the 101st AA helicopter should have been viewed with more alarm. If they could hit a helicopter at night, the Somalis were certainly improving. On October 3, they hit TF Ranger with everything they had. There were dozens of RPG-7s fired. Someone was bound to get lucky.

                I'm not sure whether or not Bin Laden was in Sudan. Al-Qaeda was working closely with the Egyptian-based Jihad-Islami. They were spreading radical Islam throughout eastern Africa. Sudan had become a flashpoint because the Sudanese Khartoum Regime was fighting the SPLA, which practiced Christianity. Al-Qaeda also had a group in Somalia known as IT-IT. When the fighting broke out in Somalia, Aideed was quick to form alliances with former foes, and anyone who wanted to help. A BBC report a while back comfirmed one of these groups was the Al-Qaeda backed IT-IT. I'm not sure if they brought in Al-Qaeda forces training in Sudan, or if Aideed sent personnel to Sudan to train. I recall both stories. I also believe IT-IT brought down the first helicopter on October 3.

                I'm certain Bin Laden was encouraged by America's response to the battle. Aideed had gambled, and thought he lost at first. His forces were badly mauled, and reports stated a number of the factions who had allied with him, turned backed off. Their initial thought was that America would respond with all it's military might. Only when that didn't materialize, did Aideed breathe easier. For Bin Laden, it confirmed the Vietnam ghost was alive and well.

                As for Islamic fundamentalism, it failed for many of the reasons explained by Tzar a while back. Once people got a taste of it, they rejected it. Khartoum ended up replacing all his military officers with Islamic radicals who were more skilled at theology than military tactics. A series of defeat inspired rebellion in the Islamic North.

                In Somalia, IT-IT ended up ticking off almost everyone. Their strict preaching didn't go over well with the sinning Somalis who enjoyed their daily khat fix and shootouts. Today, they occupy a very small area of Somalia, almost always under attack.

                Originally posted by LaPalice
                Edit : Certainly a completely stupid idea about Liberia : if Iím not wrong the Americans criticized Taylor for having harbored some Al Qaeda members. Do you think that Bush administration thought that there could be a trap if the GIís went on the ground as what happened in Mogadiscio ?
                I don't recall that, but it's certainly possible. Bush seems to blame everything negative on Al-Qaeda.

                However, Somalia has left a very negative impression on the US military, which played a role in our decision in Liberia. The military doesn't like open-ended commitments. And the people of Liberia appeared to expect more from us than we were prepared to give. We all knew if we fell short, there might be problems. The reality is much different. I was scared of Liberia myself. Yet, that doesn't mean we have a right to run away. Once the conditions were met in Liberia, the US should have moved more rapidly to act.

                Originally posted by Poor Old Spike
                I'm not as well read up as I should be on the Black Hawk Down mess-up,but a TV docu a few months ago had an interview with one of the US servicemen involved,who said "We were sent in by day whereas it should have been by night when our night-vision equipment would have given us the decisive edge"
                Another reason night was preferred was because most of the militia would be crashing from their daily khat fix. The assault began at around 1530, when their high was at it's peak. The Somali militiamen were feeling little pain, and ready for a fight. Both Black Hawks were brought down due to strikes toward the tail of the helicopter. this is the most vulnerable spot for the RPG-7. It required the shooter to get into position, wait until the chopper passed, then fired. This was quite risky given everyone in the helicopters were keeping their eyes and weapons out for people in that position.

                It was a bad ideal all around. Other raids occured along the border of Aideed's terrority. This raid was right smack in the middle of it. Our forces were incircled before the first soldier's boot touched the ground.
                "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

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hello,

                  If not I'm mistaken, the TF Rangers had conducted several raids before the one occured on Oct. 3, therefore the Somanlians knew what they were up to. In each of previous raid, the heliochopters were used, which was a mistake, Somanlians saw and used this to their advantage.

                  The patterns were similar in all of the previous raids, so the one that took place on Oct. 3 was no different from them, the Rangers never knew what hit them until it was too late. Had the task force used different routes or attacked at night, the result would have been dramatically different.

                  Anyway, I am wondering is Aideed still alive? The last time I recalled, he was supposedly killed in the factional fightings. If that's true, then good riddance to him, it's just that too bad we didn't get a chance to kill him and hang his head on a pike. It has been 10 years since this happened.

                  Why did Aideed attend one of the USSR's top military schools? How did this happen? Did the USA knew about this, and made any preparations in meeting this new challenge or information?

                  I wonder how did Durant feel about being captured by a bunch of thugs and warlords? It must have been horrible in his mind, but he was lucky to be alive, and even luckier not to be dead at hands of his torturers.

                  Dan
                  Major James Holden, Georgia Badgers Militia of Rainbow Regiment, American Civil War

                  "Aim small, miss small."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cheetah772
                    Anyway, I am wondering is Aideed still alive?
                    I'm certain Aideed is dead. He made alot of enemies.

                    Originally posted by Cheetah772
                    Why did Aideed attend one of the USSR's top military schools? How did this happen? Did the USA knew about this, and made any preparations in meeting this new challenge or information?
                    I'm certain the CIA profiled him. Aideed had ties with both the US and USSR. In fact, one of the people he asked to head up an investigation into the Pakistani massacre was former President Jimmy Carter. Former Ambassador Robert Oakley (an excellent diplomat) negotiated the agreement that proceeded the arrival of the US force in 1992. Aideed said to him, "I am like Eisenhower; a great commander in a time of war, and an excellent leader in times of peace." He replied, "Aideed this is a time for peace." Oakley went on to express what became a constant fear that Aideed would turn on the UN. His smile and intelligent manner concealed a ruthless mindset.

                    So we knew about Aideed. However, the US was overconfident. When President Clinton came into office, men like Robert Oakley and others were replaced by less experienced, people, who thought of Aideed as nothing more than a psycho-path with an army. Aideed was commander who understood urban warfare.

                    Originally posted by Cheetah772
                    I wonder how did Durant feel about being captured by a bunch of thugs and warlords? It must have been horrible in his mind, but he was lucky to be alive, and even luckier not to be dead at hands of his torturers.
                    Durrant wrote a very good book about his experience called "In the Company of Heroes." The militia treated Aideed better than was expected. They didn't torture him. In fact, he was assigned a bodyguard, who happened to be a top aide for Aideed.

                    Oakley played a critical role in securing Durrant's release. Aideed didn't want to simply give him up. He told Oakley Somalis don't give something for nothing.

                    Oakley's reply was direct and simple. He politely informed Aideed that in his opinion, refusal to release Durrant immediately would touch off a chain of events. Oakley warned that there was a huge force gathering strength. The rest of the "deadly Rangers" were on their way, along with tens of thousands of their buddies. All of whome were extremely pissed off and looking for a fight. Oakley said to Aideed that the force would be so great, and the emotions behind it so consuming, nothing would be left of his controlled terrorities. "People, Goats, houses, trees, everything" would be destroyed. Aideed released Durrant 24hrs later.

                    Originally posted by Cheetah772
                    I'm not as well read up as I should be on the Black Hawk Down mess-up,but a TV docu a few months ago had an interview with one of the US servicemen involved,who said "We were sent in by day whereas it should have been by night when our night-vision equipment would have given us the decisive edge"
                    This is a fair assessment. Night did provide the Task Force with a great advantage. It was also the militia's "crash time." They would consume a drug called khat in the morning. By the afternoon, users were feeling little pain, and very unstable. It provided them with the courage they needed to fight. In the evening, abusers crashed, and were slow and uncoordinated.
                    "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

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cheetah772

                      Anyway, I am wondering is Aideed still alive? The last time I recalled, he was supposedly killed in the factional fightings. If that's true, then good riddance to him, it's just that too bad we didn't get a chance to kill him and hang his head on a pike. It has been 10 years since this happened.
                      He died in August 96, apparently indeed a week after being wounded in a factional battle: http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9608/02/aideed/
                      He has proclaimed itself Somalia's President after the departure of the UN troops in 95, but in fact he never managed to control the country.

                      The Somalia affair is one of the worst disaster in terms of foreign intervention in a country. 10 years after Operation Restore Hope, Somalia is still in dire straits, without any government. Rebel separatists in northern Somalia have proclaimed their own state, called Somaliland, but it is not recognized by the international community. The rest of the country is in a state of anarchy, without any government or authority. Quite a mess.

                      Why did Aideed attend one of the USSR's top military schools? How did this happen? Did the USA knew about this, and made any preparations in meeting this new challenge or information?
                      It should not be forgotten that Somalia, up to the end of the 80s, was in the USSR's sphere of influence. I think the official ideology of Somalia at the time was the typical African marxist-leninist doctrine. So lots of Somali officials were having regular contacts with Soviets... Aideed being one of these government officials, I guess that's why I got the opportunity of going to Soviet military schools.

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