The effective defense of the billeting, redoubts and military camps from the attack and harassment of the irregular armed rebels is based on three operative qualities: the initiative, the mobility and the offensive action. These, in turn, are directly determined by the mentality and the combative disposition of the military men (which depend fundamentally on them) and by the military capacity or available means in the operations zone (that depend fundamentally on the politicians and the public managers).
The countless military, social, ethnic and economic guerrilla targets in an asymmetrical conflict.
Almost by definition, the military and police available means in a war against the irregulars are very scanty, and even they can be scandalously insufficient. And this does not depend so much of them not on the established authorities, but it is a direct function of the strategy inherent in a guerrilla right development process. The number of possible, potential goals and targets, which offers an organized modern, more or less developed society, to the operative solvent strategy of an armed insurgency is almost countless and inexhaustible.
Let’s see an expressive, but not exhaustive relation:
Attempts on civil and religious authorities and on isolated members or little groups of the armed forces and policemen.
Destruction and sabotage of the plants and energetic networks: thermal plants, dams, combined cycle plants, wind fields, refineries, fuels deposits, crude oil and gas pipelines, electric transformers and high tension lines and their centers of control and distribution.
Assaults to the lines of communications: television and mobile telephony repeaters, broadcasting stations, radio antennas, telegraphic wires, bridges, tunnels and viaducts, halts and railway stations, railroad track and catenary parts, trains and buses, great tonnage trucks and distribution transport vehicles, temporary obstacles in the roads and railway tracks, covered or not by indirect or direct fire.
Destruction or incapacitation of directly economic means of all sizes and importance: mines, plantations, industries, shops, hotels and resorts, groups of tourists. In these cases the insurgency must value the direct loss of working places and the probable alienation of part of the popular sympathy towards it; the effect is similar if there gets depressed the economic activity, but the employment is not destroyed directly.
The biased political intervention in this kind of social irregular military conflicts is a plague for the military struggle.
Sun Tzu is the real or supposed name of a Chinese author, who wrote The Thirteen Chapters on the Art of War, between 400 and 320 BC The style unit and its originality allow to affirm that it is neither a collective work nor a summary. And the use of the cross-bow did not generalize until 400 BC and the cavalry was not incorporated into the army before 320 BC And, what does Sun Tzu say on the military missions and the political spurious interference on them?
«Normally, when the armed forces are employed, the general first receives the general orders from the sovereign. Later he assembles the troops, and makes the army a quite homogeneous and harmonious unity and installs it in its camp”. Chapter 7, verse 1.
«It is necessary to know the sovereign has three ways of taking his army to the disaster. They consist in proceeding as follows:
To ignore that the army must not advance and order that it should advance, or, to ignore that it must not withdraw and arrange a retreat. This is what is called «to put the army in a difficulty». Chia Lin’s commentary: «there is no major calamity that the orders of a sovereign that resides in the court».
To ignore all the military matters and to take part in its administration. This disorients the officials.
To ignore all the problems of the command and to take part in the exercise of the military responsibilities. This destroys the spirit of the officials » Chapter 3, verses 19 to 22.
«That who has competent generals and protects them from the interference of the sovereign, will be the victor”. Ibid, verse 29. Hsi Ho Yen’s commentary: «In the war hundreds of changes take place in every stage. To say that a general must wait for all the orders from his Superiors is like to inform a Superior that you want to extinguish a fire. Before the orders come the ashes will be cold. And it has been said that in such circumstances it is necessary for him to consult the General Inspector of the Army! To tie shortly a competent general, while he is asked to suppress a crafty enemy, is like to hold the Black Greyhound of the Han and later give it the order to catch unattainable hares»
«There are cases in which the orders of the sovereign do not have to be executed necessarily. Chang Yu’s commentary: «The king Fu Chai has said: ‘ If you know which is the conduct to follow, go on; do not wait the instructions».
A general who possesses a perfect knowledge of his trade, knows how to handle the troops. Chia Lin’s commentary: «The general must be sure of being able to exploit the situation in his profit, according to its circumstances» Chapter 8, verses 8 and 9.
A vivid example of a right camp defense taken from the Vietnam’s war.
2 º battalion of the 28 North American infantry regiment carried out in March, 1966 the operation Cocoa Beach, of “search and destroy” units of the Viet Cong, in the Ben Cat district, Binh Dueng province of South Vietnam. The battalion, at lieutenant colonel Kyle M. Bowie’s orders, moved afoot on March 2 from the base of its brigade in Lai Khe up to the Lo Ke rubber plantation. There it established a strong defensive perimeter, in a flat and free of bushes area, except for some hedges and elephant grass spots. West of the plantation a thick jungle was raising. The time was good.
The following day, the companies A and B initiated their missions, remaining the company C in garrison. In its return, company B located an enormous trench of several km, which was passing in North and North-East directions from the US camp. And that had been occupied recently by an important enemy force, as the new excavations in it were proving.
Colonel Bowie supposing that a great Viet Cong force was in the vicinity, coordinated with the 3 ª brigade to assure himself the air and artillery supports. The fighting positions of his men in the camp were improved and protected everything possible. Bowie also established three observation and combat positions, each for a reinforced section, advanced by each company, at approximately 500 m. out the camp perimeter.
Around 06:00 on March 5, the second lieutenant Robert Hibbs, company B, in positions with his section on the perpendicular crossing of the routes Blue and Red, at the northwest of the camp, observed a group of armed women and children carrying ammunition. They were moving slowly through the Red route (parallel to the trench) and stopped at approximately 100 m. from the patrol.
Immediately he detected a company of the Viet Cong advancing from north to south in the Blue route, which stopped at approximately 50 m. of his position. Three Viets went to the group of civilians. The patrol used the delay to direct all her Claymore grenades on the Blue route. Finally, the guerrilla company continued the march. When its main body was at approximately 6 m. of the patrol, this one detonated her Claymore and threw hand grenades, dispersing finally the rest of the Viets with the fire of the M-16s. On having heard the explosions colonel Bowie ordered Hibbs to return. In her way of return, the patrol reached the rear of another enemy company, deployed already to attack. The American patrol attacked the enemy and crossed its assault deployment, routing it totally. Hibbs died trying to recover with his sergeant a wounded straggler. Before falling down definitively, hurt several times, he destroyed his night vision devices. Honor’s Medal of the Congress was granted to him.
The patrol of the company A was operating south of the camp. Soon she was totally surrounded by Viet Cong columns, which ignored her presence and which were going towards the American battalion. The patrol stuck at the end of an enemy squad, to go approaching the perimeter. Already near it, this way out was made initially shooting and launching grenades over the nearby guerrillas, slipping towards the camp.
Bowie withdrew patrol C. Around 07:00 the battalion was occupying his defense positions almost in full force.
The opportune detection of the enemy intention, the premature dislocation of part of his attack deployment, the precise support by the brigade heavy fire and the defensive positions in depth of the battalion were decisive. Around 12:00 the enemy assault, by the 272 regiment of infantry of the Viet Cong, reinforced by a heavy weapon battalion in war subordination, had vanished with the most serious losses.
One example from the Iraqi counter insurgency war. The Spanish base in Diwaniya
On August 28, 2003 an Spanish infantry brigade assumed the control of the sector centered in Diwaniya, as part of the Hispanic Polish division, deployed in the south center of Iraq. Diwaniya, city of approximately 100 thousand inhabitants, is the capital of Al-Qadisiya’s province.
Scarcely come to the power in April, 2004, one of the first orders of the Spanish Chief of the Government Rodríguez was the retreat of our forces of Iraq. The following one was to grant the Great Cross of the Military Merit to the minister of Defense, for the above mentioned withdraw operation. The shame of his family made resign Mr. Bono the above mentioned high decoration. On May 21 were transferred officially the control of our three barracks, Spain, Al-Andalus and Santo Domingo, in Diwaniya to the North American forces.
The North American command initiated this April an offensive in this zone against the so called Army of the Mahdi (the guided by Allah) of the imam chií Muqtada al-Sadr (see our article » Iraq Hoy” in this blog) and they requested the active Spanish help. As our forces did not have a Parliament “mandate” to take part in attack operation, the continuity of their mission in the reconstruction and stabilization of Iraq was staying in precariously indefinitely.
The situation had deteriorated so much that the Iraqi governor of Al-Qadisiya, more extensive than Estremadura Spanish province and with approximately 800 thousand inhabitants, had just deserted and to form a band of approximately 40 followers, to make worth) his master of the war’s rights.
Diwaniya’s facilities, where were lodging our more than thousand men, remained turned into Fort Apache’s imitation. Because the Iraqi rebels are not in the habit of estimating these subtleties like: «I am here, but I do not attack you» or «I am white, rich and use Kevlar helmet, but I am not Yankee». We were an easy and comfortable target for their fury and hatred to a not Islamic democracy and to the winning Christians occupants.
During more than one month the irregular rebels chiíes realize a permanent harassment of our barracks, tremendously defended (sensors, pits, wire fences and fortifications) against the islamist suicides assault bombs. But it happens that these suicides, who are illuminated but not silly fanatics, attack enemies groups not protected sufficiently, searching as passport to the Houris Garden, to take with them the major possible number of dead or mutilated enemies. There was not even a suicidal attempt against us.
The majority of the days of wait up to the announced retreat, our billetings were scourged by automatic fire of light weapon and mortar shells, with an average of 10 grenades for assault. In order to remove the origin of the indirect fire, our forces realized assaults with limited aims, expelling the irregular mortars up to the other side of the river. In the encounters and ambushes suffered, we killed approximately 20 rebels. We suffered a dozen of injured men in the whole process and several Arabic collaborators died. We do not have any news or help from the chií battalion of the Iraqi Army that we were training. And whose colonel was asking formally us not to return to Spain.
Some possible right fighting missions for this type of defense.
The gravity center of the active defense of the military fixed positions resides in the observation and the control of the approximation routes. That in rural zone can be a semi flooded rice field; in mountainous area, a heights line below the military crest; in urban zone, the streets orientated towards them, from certain distance, and in a road, a verge. All this compounded by the climate and the day hour.
The observation and fighting positions can consist from the couple of snipers up to a platoon, according to the characteristics of the area and the intentions and capacities of the enemy. Those are apart of the perimeter defense and of the patrols who cross it randomly, that constitute a part of the camp static defense.
The enemy is in the habit of exploring, at least initially and also in fluid fighting conditions, by observation. It is important to locate and to eliminate these reconnaissance positions. The patient observation is the way. Bearing in mind that if the exigency is intense, every 30 minutes the observer must be replaced, because he looks, but already not sees.
If additional means exist for it and as complement, it is very necessary to use the energetic patrolling (see our article “Irak, hoy” in this blog) against the enemy, moving away much more.
A passive defense, limited to rejecting the assaults, with the initiative and the election of the moments in hands of the enemy, is almost the most solvent of the combat morale that can experience a force, leaving apart a defeat. Ask about it to the Frenchmen who were defending multitude of redoubts and positions in Indochina before Dien Bien Fu in 1954 and to the nationalistic Chinese until 1949.