The small units attacking with limited aim (a deep incursion, the capture of a critical position, the rescue of a personality, an ambush) constitute a military closed «system». This condition imposes a few specific characteristics in his «interfaces of action» with the enemy. That not always are identical to those of the fight of units and big units, especially in the limitation of the available means and of the time of action.
The units so committed must impose rapidly and keep a combative superiority on the enemy. To be able to obtain the local and temporary supremacy, which allows them to obtain the above mentioned limited aims. The characteristic or the factor of the conception of his mission is the simplicity. The characteristics of their preparation are the intelligence, the security and the training. The characteristics of their action are the surprise, the speed of action and the commitment of the participants in the mission.
«The Hunt for Bin Laden» is publicly treated by sufficient profusion and diffusion, as for his advertising, political, legal, human and technical characteristics. Now we will analyze the tactical and operative particularities that characterized it.
It took to the CIA almost 9 years to find Bin Laden from his «escape» in the autumn of 2001. Though then they had him at hand, scared and gentle.
In the autumn of 2001 took place the rapid crumbling of the Taliban regime of Afghanistan. It was a precarious and bad structured State, which was giving cover and logistic support to the headquarters of al-Qaida. This, together with his «escort agents», a small group of active members and training proselytes, gathered in time, forming an extensive and lax marching deployment. And they slipped, following the narrow and steep routes that the zone was offering them, for the Afghan mountains up to Tora Bora. It began then, in December, 2001, the great operation of search and capture of the maximum leader of to al-Qaida. That was the direct and declared person in charge of the attempts of September 11 against the USA.
They met for it near 100 specialized Americans groups in «long range independent operations», in the zone in which it was supposed that Bin Laden was hiding. Why they did not got or killed him? Possibly, if they were Israeli commands, they had achieved it. In his day, according to the reports that have been appearing to the public, they said that it was by «lack of means». «We needed more soldiers there!”, declared the agent of the CIA Gary Bernstein. During his testimony, he assured that «we might have finished everything there». In a 50 pages’ report published in 2010, are mentioned the testimonies of several military American at charge. They saw how his High Commands were denying them, for example, a thousand necessary men, according to them, to turn off the entrances and exits to Pakistan, or several support bombardments, without definite goals.
Did they need more than 100 elite commands for an operation of search, circle and annihilation of an enemy irregular group? That would be limited to the approximate zone where the enemy tracks and their electronic sensors, satellites, spies and intelligence agencies, were locating the enemy. Surrounded that zone, by means of a double ring, not necessarily continuous, but effective, the commands would penetrate centripetally in the suspicious area. Acting simultaneously, patiently, methodically and secretly, like a «swarm» of small units. Where the flank and the rear of every small unit would be defended by his initiative and offensive activity. And by the «influence» radiated by a nearby unit companion. Also they imputed part of the responsibility in the flight to a “falcon” like Donald Rumsfeld. In those days, they say now, Rumsfeld declared that if the USA was so hard in Afghanistan (for cleanly capturing the person in charge of that treacherous and civil tragedy?), it would wake an anti-American major feeling up that the already existed then. And because of it, he was more in favor with a «more «light» tactics, with controlled bombardments and the collaboration with the Afghan military men. This turns out to be neither coherent nor credible.
The failure of the operation constituted a decisive strategic failure. In fact, for years there has not been trustworthy information of Osama’s whereabouts, as admitted the secretary of Defense Robert Gates, on December 7, 2008. And now Al Qaida is renewed and spread. And Bin Laden, as the dead Che, inspires a new generation of Islamic extremists, spread over numerous countries.
Justice was done, though it was not according to all the laws.
The society has two enemies: those who do not fulfill the laws and those who fulfill them strictly. Between the last, in their legalistic paroxysm, are those who generated the Inquisitions and the pursuits in the History.
The military unit chosen to carry out the «Operation Geronimo» was the US Navy Seal. This is the unit of the Navy in charge of the punctual special actions by sea, air, and land. The Seals were created at the end of the decade of the 50 of the 20th century. On having appreciated the need to possess polyvalent military men, extremely prepared and capable of acting in any area in demanding conditions. At the beginning of the 60 and for desire of the president Kennedy, they began to act in Vietnam. The general formation of a Seal extends during years of hard work. The Seal receives between 37 thousand and more than 60 thousand Euros a year. His meticulous, precise, hard and dangerous work is not compensated economically. To satisfy his love to the militia, his vocation of service (this one is taught to him), his love to the mother land and his commitment with his colleagues and the unit are his principal pay. The «unit 6» of the Seals, a group of elite of a score of men, took part in this mission, taking charge of the principal aims. It is said that the admiral in chief directed the operation. The nature of the Seals, the structure of the airborne subunits participants and of the transport and supports, were elements that contributing to the simplicity of the mission, as they were adapted perfectly to it.
The training and the test of the mission were not neglected, in spite of the enormous general experience of the men. Before the activation of the unit in Jalalabad, this was trained in a «model», which was reproducing faithfully the facilities, the extension and the characteristics of Bin Laden’s mansion and the bordering areas. «Essay model» was raised probably in one of more or less protected training bases of the Seals. And this extended for approximately 6 weeks, with intervals. During this phase the factor security of the mission was kept, because the tests and practices that the Seals realize are varied and changeable.
The attacking unit deployed in her principal operational base at least approximately 10 days before, to not increase her stress and to facilitate the final adjustment. The Taliban enemy, nearby, observant and vaporous, faithful tale-bearer to al-Qaida, was not capable of detecting her activation. The security factor was kept unscathed during the whole great phase of preparation of the mission.
In the evening of Sunday, the 1st of May, the chief of flight of the force of transport took the command of the operation and ordered the takeoff of the helicopters in their base near Jalalabad. The force of transport was coming from one of the 82 or 101 Airborne Divisions of the US Army. The flight to the objective, in a new moon night, followed up to 3 different directions, not to call the attention of observers or onlookers in land. The paths orientated East-Northeast, avoiding the nearby axis of ground communications of Islamabad-Peshawar-Khyber-Jalalabad. With it were protected the security and surprise factors of the mission, during the approximation phase. The operations force was using 4 or, possibly, 5 helicopters. They were probably of the type UH-60 Black Hawk, of the variant endowed in his knob with a pointed radar, for guided of night flights. One of them was seriously broken already in the objective and they chose to destroy it. But the remaining aircraft were sufficient to move home all the men, with their booty of information for the intelligence and the corpse of Bin Laden.
Already in the objective, the colonel chief of the assault force took the command of the operation. The crews of the helicopters, provided with means of heavy fires, took charge sealing the houses complex from the exterior. The 58 seals advanced on that from its three sides and some of them descended at the interior, over ceilings and courts, using ropes. A fraction of them formed a «ring» to isolate the complex from land. Already in the interior, most of the men took charge neutralizing the escorts and the civilians of the house complex. All they were communicated between themselves by means of a sophisticated Intranet. A special group, the «hunting team», at the command of the colonel, went for Bin Laden. The identification team was forming part of this group. Another group, the » intelligence collecting team” took charge gathering all the sensitive existing information in the great mansion. Both mission groups were dividing in subgroups, to complete rapidly their missions at the complex. Likewise, in the indicated detections all the men were collaborating inside the perimeter. Operation Geronimo culminated in around 40 minutes, the men occupied their helicopters and these departed returning home.
The operational characteristics of the «Operation Geronimo».
The simplicity allows to focus in a few critical related subaims. Using for it a limited number of men and means in an isolated «system». It is something like to look and to isolate the «limited objective» with a zoom, which crumbles and characterizes it for us. And to center in this «small giant» which occupies us. If we also manage to use, in addition, a new tactics or a new or different technology, which is original in the given situation, both the simplicity of conception and the surprise of execution will be very favored.
On September 12 of 1.943, the captain of the S. S. Otto Skorzeny realized the rescue of the Duce in his prison of the high mountain hotel in the Great Sasso, in the Apennines. The employment of gliders to assault the position, fighting against the difficult draughts (increased on having landed at the midday, for the delay in coming on) and landing in the scanty useful ground chunks, facilitated the surprise of the guarding «carabinieri». This extended, allowing Skorzeny and his team to accede to the principal building, when a General known by the «carabinieri», landed with him and he was accompanying him. The combat supremacy was achieved rapidly.
In May of 1.940, German airborne forces landed in gliders on the ceilings of Eben Emael’s Belgian fort. 78 men had to neutralize a garrison of approximately 1200 Belgian soldiers, to allow that the German ground forces should approach Albert’s channel, dominated in a great extension by the heavy artillery of the fort. Apart from the surprising disembarkation on the fort, the Germans were possessing a new weapon: the hollow load bombs. These later would find wide usefulness as antitank weapons. With them they demolished the domes and bunkers where the cannons were lodging and blocked some of the redoubts, where the soldiers that not surrendered had sheltered. The enemy remained overwhelmed and neutralized, without capacity of useful response. The arrival the following day of the German columns, specially the pioneers (engineers), precipitated the surrender of the fort Eben Emael.
The security refers principally to the stages of planning, preparation and training and, if it proceeds, to the stage of transport or insertion. It must be active and passive. Giving different information and concealing the real intentions, up to after the stage of action on the objective. The safety was supported and respected carefully along all the phases of conception, preparation and execution of the Operation Geronimo.
The necessary intelligence supposes the complete and continuously updated knowledge for the mission, in time, circumstances and characteristics that meet in it. For the characteristics of this and the exiguous specialized means of assault, the intelligence is facilitated by agencies and units foreign to those who intervene in the mission, even those of state level (singularly the CIA, the Agency of National Security, more known as NSA and the Central Security Service or CSS, which acts as link of the last one with the Pentagon).
The training must be as much generic, in the actions and different tactics, as in the specific for the planned mission. Independently of those who make the different units, it is necessary to realize the training of the coordinated actions, with the units that take part simultaneously somewhere in the mission. It is also necessary to realize a “full rehearsal” with all the characteristics of the mission, including its “foreseen duration”, with a margin of error.
The independent variable «time» introduces sometimes unexpected and unforeseeable effects in a mission like this. And not always are good. For example, a vehicle, an auxiliary machine, only present problems after X hours of severe functioning. And they do not give them in a “limited time test” or «at scale». It is good also to include some variant that represents a mistake, an unforeseen event or a loss of capacity of combat or of movement. And that the men train in correcting them or, at least, in neutralizing them with his own effort. For example, a part of the helicopters is knocked down or lands at major distance of the expected landing zone.
The surprise supposes attacking the enemy, even deployed in “prepared strengthened defense”, in an «aspect» or «flank» neglected by him in these moments. This offers to us a favorable»interface of action» to act. Always it must suppose a tactical innovation. Though also it contains technical differential or new elements, which will promote it. These were the hollow load and the flame-throwers in their moment. The surprise is the sufficient and necessary multiplier of the capacity of combat of the incursion force. That will allow her to compensate the scanty military resources that she has on the area. Together with her inconsiderate employment, carefully applied with speed. To achieve the temporary local superiority. As being an “isolated military system”, the incursion force will receive neither reinforcements, nor supplies, not any more operation time. Time is not neutral, here is her enemy.
The speed consists in consistently operating ahead the enemy in elementary successive «cycles of action», that define a full action or process. This also supposes acting with opportunity and pace (relative speed, adapted to the enemy). Let’s remember that a cycle of action has a phase of observation, other one of determination of the «situation», one of decision and that of execution. If we are «going forward» the enemy, he will be acting according to “almost instantaneous already antiquated” situations.
The speed also implies rapidly reaching the “active supremacy situation” in useful combat capacity against him. The military initial actions must be specially thoughtless, to get it. The enemy speed of reaction is always initially very slow. He will be with stupor and will try to check what happens. His phase of determination of the initial situation will get longer. A “deception action” in these moments, will lengthen the time passed up to his perceptions and determination of the real picture of the situation. For example, the utilization of the uniformity, of some equipment or the language of the enemy, by certain parts or subunits of the units involved in the action.
Once the supremacy is reached over the enemy, it must be kept always. As his loss and the scanty relative means the force locally deploys, will make its recovery very difficult. On having reached the capacity of combat supremacy, the “mission success” probabilities increase exponentially. And the vulnerability of the force will be diminished also drastically against the enemy, during her action.
The commitment of the men and commands and theirs selection qualities used will give some characteristics of moral and physical courage to their actions. These are necessary to overcome the uncertainty, the apprehension, the mistakes and the diversions, the action of the enemy, sometimes punctually critical, and to take advantage of the opportunities. The loss of comfort and the general wear does not seem that are going to have a degrading effect on the force, due to the limited action time. The commitment supposes the full knowledge of the characteristics and the transcendence of the mission and his voluntary and enthusiast assumption by all the participants. Evidently, it is presumed in advance that the chosen forces have the motivation and the necessary formation for the mission.