“”Coalition Forces attack helicopters engaged and killed 17 al-Qaeda gunmen southwest of Khalis, Friday.
Iraqi police were conducting security operations in and around the village when Coalition attack helicopters from the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade and ground forces from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, observed more than 15 armed men attempting to circumvent the IPs and infiltrate the village.
The attack helicopters, armed with missiles, engaged and killed 17 al-Qaeda gunmen and destroyed the vehicle they were using.”
The above is an account by the US military of an attack on al Qaeda militants in the village of al-Khalis, north of Baquba on June 22nd. It was widely reported by western news media as a successful mission.
Jim Muir, a reporter for the BBC has discovered a somewhat different story:
“…….villagers in largely-Shia al-Khalis say that those who died had nothing to do with al-Qaeda. They say they were local village guards trying to protect the township from exactly the kind of attack by insurgents the US military says it foiled.
They say that of 16 guards, 11 were killed and five others injured – two of them seriously – when US helicopters fired rockets at them and then strafed them with heavy machinegun fire.
They added that the guards, lightly armed with the AK47 assault rifles that are a feature of practically every home in Iraq, were essentially a local neighbourhood watch paid by the village to monitor the dangerous insurgent-ridden area to the immediate south-west at Arab Shawkeh and Hibhib, where the al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed a year ago.”
This is not the first time western military tales of success have turned out to be false. In fact, piecing together the jigsaw of stories to emerge, both from Iraq and Afghanistan, reveals not the experienced, high class, well disciplined, US military held in such high regard by the American people, but a disorganized, badly led, undisciplined bunch of trigger-happy renegades with no experience of guerrilla warfare, unreliable intelligence, often inept leadership and little regard for the civilians they are supposed to protect.
American troops may be well versed in riding roughshod over the enemy on an open battlefield, where superior technology and firepower cannot fail to win the day, but in the closed combat arena of inner city guerrilla warfare the US military is totally out of its depth.
In this sense, America’s leaders have failed miserably to learn the lessons of Vietnam. Jungle warfare and urban guerrilla warfare are tactically very similar. The prime reason America lost so many troops in Vietnam was their enemy’s total superiority in close-quarter, jungle warfare. US soldiers are suffering a similar fate in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Unable to win against superior fighters, the military continues to fall back on all it knows, the use of air power and heavy armament. Such weapons, particularly when coupled with poor intelligence, more often than not result in heavy civilian casualties while the more experienced enemy combatants melt away to regroup and fight another day.
Winning the hearts and minds of a local population, vital to any chance of success on either front, is not going to happen while they are being regularly slaughtered by those charged with their protection.
The inability of the US military to fight an efficient war under such circumstances, particularly in Iraq, has the result of merely complicating an already complex situation. It is hard to envisage that situation ever improving while the US military is still involved there.
As occurred in Vietnam, the only sane conclusion to be drawn is for the US military to accept defeat and get out.
Jim Muir’s report is worth reading. It can be found HERE.
Filed under: Botched