Category Archives: asymmetric warfare

Now the Taliban faces an insurgency of its own

Although America’s longest war is over, the Taliban isn’t fully victorious in its now-liberated country. There are several groups still holding out against the resurgent regime. After all, it is a civil war there. 

Ahmad Massoud, 32, the well-spoken leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, is the son of the famed Soviet Afgha War-era mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated in 2001 while heading of the Northern Alliance. A graduate of Kings College and the University of London, the younger Massoud last week published an op-ed in the WaPo pleading for help.

I write from the Panjshir Valley today, ready to follow in my father’s footsteps, with mujahideen fighters who are prepared to once again take on the Taliban. We have stores of ammunition and arms that we have patiently collected since my father’s time, because we knew this day might come.

Of course, although he is asking for arms and support from the West, the likelihood of it coming overtly is slim to none.

However, it should be noted that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is is funded almost exclusively by the American government, is running short reports highlighting his struggle. 

 

At the same time, Amrullah Saleh, one of the old republic’s vice presidents and former Intelligence chief, is still in the country and, along with former Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi (one of the elder Massoud’s better commanders in the Northern Alliance against the Soviets and a former Chief of Staff of the Afghan National Army), are in the Panjshir with Massoud The Younger, where they are trying to form a larger resistance movement in line with a government in exile concept.
 
At least some are coming to the call. 
 
Massoud is being joined by “Hundreds of Tajiks from the southern town of Kulob” who  “say they’re prepared to join anti-Taliban militias in Afghanistan. The Afghan fighters are based in the Panjshir Valley, a predominantly ethnic-Tajik region that has repelled Taliban incursions in the past.”
 
 
Other reports are not quite as glossy as the Taliban move in to put down the unruly valley, just 100 miles from Kabul. 
 
 
Still, if Massoud and the gang can make it to the end of the fighting season, 2022 could be a big year for them. 
 
Meanwhile, there is an Uzbek angle.
 
Another vice president and warlord-figure, the aging Abdul Rashid Dostum (who was marshal of the Afghan National Army and a senior officer of the Communist-era ANA) along with Atta Muhammad Nur, a well-known Tajik who served as a mujahideen resistance commander for the Jamiat-e Islami militia against the Soviets before joining the Northern Alliance back in the day, fled from their stronghold in Mazar-e-Sharif to Uzbekistan a couple of weeks ago, where they no doubt still have a myriad of contacts across the border. Whether or not they make inroads back into the country remains to be seen but, as they say, you can run the warlord out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the warlord.
 
The more things change…
 
 

Toughing it out Behind the Iron Curtain

Lithuanian resistance fighters (left to right) Klemensas Širvys-Sakalas, Juozas Lukša-Skirmantas, and Benediktas Trumpys-Rytis stand in the forest circa 1949. Note their civilian attire, augmented by American pineapple grenades and pistol belts, likely Lend-Lease supplied to Soviet troops, as well as a Czech Sa vz. 23/CZ 25 sub-gun of more recent vintage. (Photo courtesy of the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania)

If the above image strikes an interest, check out the (free) newly published “Survival in the Russian Occupied Zone Command and Organization in Resistance Underground Operations,” by Col. Kevin D. Stringer, PhD, U.S. Army Reserve. 

Mirages over the Keys

This month, Textron subsidiary Airborne Tactical Advantage Company has been supporting F-35Cs from Eglin AFB’s 43rd Fighter Squadron during a deployment to Naval Air Station Key West to help sharpen their Dissimilar Air Combat Training skills.

Providing contract adversary air OPFOR airframes, ATAC brought Mirage F1s with them to the Keys, still wearing very nicely preserved French Armee de L’air camouflage.

The company bought 63 former French Air Force Mirage F1B, F1CT, and F1CR fighters; 6 million assorted spare parts, and 150 spare Atar 9K50 engines for a total value of €25 million in 2017. Last September, they pulled down a contract to use their aircraft as training assets against the USAF in seven locations.

An F-1 Mirage with Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) takes off from Boca Chica Field to provide adversary air support for training. 20 August 2021 U.S. Navy photo by Danette Baso Silvers

Running around in sometimes cranky obsolete high-performance jets can sometimes be hazardous. One of ATAC’s Mirages had an “incident” earlier this year at Tyndall.

They also do “red air” for the Navy.

Check out this trio of an ATAC Mk 58 Hunter, a former IDF Kfir C-2, and a Navy F-35C.

The Hunter dates to 1959 while the Kfir is a 1979 model. Meanwhile, the F-35C is Navy NJ-121 (BuNo 169160) of VFA-101 “Grim Reapers.” The Reapers were the Navy’s Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) based at Eglin until they shuttered the unit in May 2019, moving the mission to NAS Lemoore’s VFA-125.

Cowboy Guns as Brush Guns for Canadian Guerillas

As part of the general mass panic that came about all along the Pacific coast of North America after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which kicked into overdrive with the follow-on actions of Japanese submarines off Oregon and California and the seizure of windswept islands in the Aleutians within six months of that Infamy, a home guard force was formed in British Columbia.

Eventually christened the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers, they eventually grew to some 15,000 members. With guns and training time for new types short, they were outfitted with old bolt-action rifles which dated to the previous World War– which grizzled old vets of the Rangers no doubt remembered– as well as almost 5,000 commercial rifles from Connecticut.

Lever action Marlins and Winchesters.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Ghost Army Halfway to Congressional Gold Medal

“Ghost Army” Insignia circa 1944.

The U.S. House passed H.R.707, Ghost Army Congressional Gold Medal Act, on the 19th, sending it to the Senate.

The bipartisan (173 Dems, 126 Republicans as co-sponsors) resolution finds the following:

(1) The 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, comprised of the 23d Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops, the 603d Engineer Camouflage Battalion, the 406th Combat Engineer Company, the 3132d Signal Service Company and the Signal Company, Special, 23d Headquarters, Special Troops and the 3133d Signal Service Company were top-secret units of the United States Army that served in Europe during World War II.

(2) The 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, was actively engaged in battlefield operations from June of 1944 through March of 1945. The 3133d Signal Service Company was engaged in operations in Italy in 1945.

(3) The deceptive activities of these units were integral to several Allied victories across Europe and reduced American casualties.

(4) In evaluating the performance of these units after the War, a U.S. Army analysis found that “Rarely, if ever, has there been a group of such a few men which had so great an influence on the outcome of a major military campaign.”.

(5) Many Ghost Army soldiers were citizen-soldiers recruited from art schools, advertising agencies, communications companies, and other creative and technical professions.

(6) The first four members of the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, landed on D-Day and two became casualties while creating false beach landing sites.

(7) The 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, secret deception operations commenced in France on June 14, 1944, when Task Force Mason, a 17-man detachment of the 23d led by First Lieutenant Bernard Mason, landed at Omaha Beach. Task Force Mason conducted Operation ELEPHANT between 1 and 4 July, 1944, to draw enemy fire and protect the 980th Field Artillery Battalion (VIII Corps) as part of the Normandy Campaign.

(8) Operation ELEPHANT was a prelude to 21 full-scale tactical deceptions completed by the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops.

(9) Often operating on or near the front lines, the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, used inflatable tanks, artillery, airplanes and other vehicles, advanced engineered soundtracks, and skillfully crafted radio trickery to create the illusion of sizable American forces where there were none and to draw the enemy away from Allied troops.

(10) The 3132d and the 3133d Signal Service Companies, activated in Pine Camp (now Fort Drum), New York, at the Army Experimental Station in March 1944, were the only two active duty “sonic deception” ground combat units in World War II.

(11) Soldiers of the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, impersonated other, larger Army units by sewing counterfeit patches onto their uniforms, painting false markings on their vehicles, and creating phony headquarters staffed by fake generals, all in an effort to feed false information to Axis spies.

(12) During the Battle of the Bulge, the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, created counterfeit radio traffic to mask the efforts of General George Patton’s Third Army as it mobilized to break through to the 101st Airborne and elements of 10th Armored Division in the besieged Belgian town of Bastogne.

(13) In its final mission, Operation VIERSEN, in March 1945, the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, conducted a tactical deception that drew German units down the Rhine River and away from the Ninth Army, allowing the Ninth Army to cross the Rhine into Germany. On this mission, the 1,100 men of the Ghost Army, with the assistance of other units, impersonated forty thousand men, or two complete divisions of American forces, by using fabricated radio networks, soundtracks of construction work and artillery fire, and more than 600 inflatable vehicles. According to a military intelligence officer of the 79th Infantry, “There is no doubt that Operation VIERSEN materially assisted in deceiving the enemy with regard to the real dispositions and intentions of this Army.”.

(14) Three soldiers of the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, gave their lives and dozens were injured in carrying out their mission.

(15) In April 1945, the 3133d Signal Service Company conducted Operation CRAFTSMAN in support of Operation SECOND WIND, the successful allied effort to break through the German defensive position to the north of Florence, Italy, known as the Gothic Line. Along with an attached platoon of British engineers, who were inflatable decoy specialists, the 3133d Signal Service Company used sonic deception to misrepresent troop locations along this defensive line.

(16) The activities of the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops and the 3133d Signal Service Company remained highly classified for more than forty years after the war and were never formally recognized. The extraordinary accomplishments of this unit are deserving of belated official recognition.

(17) The United States is eternally grateful to the soldiers of the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops and the 3133d Signal Service Company for their proficient use of innovative tactics throughout World War II, which saved lives and made significant contributions to the defeat of the Axis powers.

Z Man Loadout

The “Z Special Unit” or “Z Force” detachments, immortalized in the early Sam Neil/Mel Gibson action film Attack Force Z (which included some great suppressed M3 Grease Guns and folbot action from an Oberon-class SSK) ripped up Japanese held islands throughout WWII. There is a really fascinating history behind these units and the redoubtable men who served in them.

Check out this loadout, showing a Webley/Enfield revolver, M1 Carbine, the wicked Welrod suppressed .32 “special purpose” gun, a machete (or possibly one of William E. Fairbairn’s Smatchets), and pack, courtesy of A Secret War.

Now, that looks fun. (Photo: A Secret War)

Goodbye, Asymmetric Warfare Group

Sgt. Maj. Raymond Hendrick(left), Asymmetric Warfare Group Adviser, explains specifics of the blast radius of the man-portable line charge system during a training exercise just outside of Forward Operating Base Zangabad, Afghanistan, Oct. 20, 2013. (U.S Army photo by Cpl. Alex Flynn)

In what is likely one of the last public posts by the Army’s highly-praised AWG:

The Soldiers, Department of Army Civilians, and Consultants of AWG invite you to digitally join us for the group’s color casing ceremony on May 13th at 10:30am. The event will be live-streamed on Facebook and MS Teams. Due to COVID restrictions, we had to limit the number of in-person guests for the ceremony. If you have already RSVP’d then we look forward to seeing you in person.

Think. Adapt. Anticipate.

Formed just 15 years ago to explore the depths of unconventional operations in modern times, and come up with rapidly scalable solutions to such monkey wrenches, the battalion-sized force is being cast aside because, surely, we will never have to face the same sort of threat again, right?

Vale, Idriss Déby, Emir of the Toyota Wars

The Chadian government last week reported that recently reelected six-time president (!) Idriss Déby, 68, died of injuries following clashes with rebels in the north of the country at the weekend. Deby’s son, leader of the Presidental Guard, has been installed as the country’s leader.

The Deby government came to power in 1990 as part of a military coup while he was head of the military. Although we aren’t in the habit of celebrating African authoritarian strongmen, it should be noted that Deby was a legend of asymmetric warfare.

He was the head of the Chadian National Armed Forces (FANT) during the Toyota Wars of the 1980s.

Trained in a series of French officer schools to include the prestigious École de Guerre, Deby’s Mad Max-style troopers pulled off a French-funded Deserts Rats-esque campaign against Gaddafi’s set-piece Libyan armored columns in Chad’s northern deserts, pitting 400 Milan- and machine gun-armed technicals against T-54s– and coming out on top. 

Since literally taking office 30 years ago, Deby has remained a big friend to Paris in backing up the old colonizer’s fight against Islamists on the Continent and setting up Chad as the model of stability in the region. 

With that, there should be no surprise that France– who has long looked the other way on Chad’s intermittent border clashes with Nigeria– is supporting the Chadian military’s seizure of power following Deby’s death on the battlefield.

Speaking of which…

Chad and France have a unique bond that goes back to WWII.

On 26 August 1940, just two months after the fall of metropolitan France to the Axis, Chad was the first French territory in Africa to break with the Vichy government and join De Gaulle’s Free French movement.

With the blessing of colonial governor Felix Ebouse and Lt. Col Pierre Marchand, commander of the Senegalese infantry regiment of Chad (Régiment de Tirailleurs Sénégalais du Tchad, RTST), the local unit, DeGaulle sent a young Major Philippe Hauteclocque (under the nom de guerre, Leclerc) who handpicked a column of 400 to strike out from the colony against the key oasis of Koufra in Italian Libya in January 1941 to aid the British push in the Western Desert.

1940 uniform of Régiment de Tirailleurs Sénégalais du Tchad, via the Musee d’la Armee

Free French infantryman, a native of the Chad colony, who was awarded the Croix de Guerre, 1942 for combat in North Africa. Note the tribal face scars, British helmet, and fouled anchor insignia common to French colonial troops (NARA)

Leclerc’s truck-borne unit, augmented by some old armored cars and a couple of 75mm guns, kicked the Italian Sahariana di Cufra around the desert for two months and, upon victory, which was hugely symbolic to the Free French, Leclerc and his men (some 3/4ths were Africans from Chad), took the so-called “Koufra Oath,” promising not to lay down their arms until the Free French flag flew from the Strasbourg Cathedral.

Fast forward to 23 November 1944 and Leclerc, then general in charge of his own armored division of Sherman tanks and on his way to becoming a Marshal of France, liberated Strasbourg.

The Régiment de Marche du Tchad still exists in the modern French Army today, based in Meyenheim in Alsace, as a mechanized infantry unit of some 1,200 soldiers. 

Keeping that in mind, the odds of the French ever quitting Chad are somewhat lower than zero.

Happy National Book Day

Official caption:

With a loaded M2 .50-caliber machine gun close at hand, one crewman reads a book while another keeps watch off the stern as their PB Mark III patrol boat cuts through the water of the gulf. This patrol boat is among the Navy assets operating in support of efforts to provide security for US-flagged shipping in the Persian Gulf.

U.S. Navy Photo 330-CFD-DN-ST-89-08778 by PH1 Smith, labeled 1/1/1989

U.S. Navy Photo 330-CFD-DN-ST-89-08778 by PH1 Smith, labeled 1/1/1989

Now go grab a book, you heathen.

OSS Training Grounds, as Close as Your Local National Park?

You wouldn’t think it, but the NPS has a great book online that stretches 600 pages and chronicles the use of the country’s national parks during WWII as training grounds for the secret squirrels of Bill Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services: OSS Training in the National Parks and Service Abroad in World War II, by Professor John Whiteclay Chambers II of Rutgers University.

It makes sense as many of the early trainees used old CCC camps located deep in the woods on newly-cut logging and forestry roads. Where else would you train super-soldiers, right?

Besides the logical NPS details, the book also goes into extensive coverage of the teams that deployed overseas, with some great illustrations.

Enjoy!

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