Category Archives: Unconventional Warfare

A Podcast with some Tradecraft

We’re not real capital-p Preppers here — when five pills a day keep you alive and mobile, TEOTWAWKI is quite literally Doomsday, or the gateway to it, so our maximum use-by date is maybe D+365 at best, But we do believe in small-p preparedness, You’re unlikely to see a New Ice Age, or Waterworld, or the desertification of the American breadbasket, or Nuclear World War, in your lifetime. Those are all calamitous events, but they’re very unlikely.

Don’t even start us on the zombies.

On the other hand you are very likely to experience several days without electric power, or potable water supplies; or undergo an extreme weather event: fire, flood, drought, blizzard. Each of these milder events can be calamitous in itself in not prepared for, and there is a near certainty of one or more of them coming to visit you in your lifetime.

Between the grim spectre of possibility on the one hand and the dead-certainty of mild disruption on the other, there are a number of intermediate events that may happen. These events happen rarely, have “always happened to other people” so far, and are rare enough that they make the news in some fashion when they do. The LA Rodney King riots, the collapse of the New Orleans PD during Hurricane Katrina, or the more recent Ferguson, MO riots come to mind.

It’s also at least possible that the engines of the government will turn on the people. There are strong tendencies inherent in government to do this; look at the various Federal law enforcement agencies that have been redefining mere political disagreement with the party in power as criminality. This doesn’t weaken the political opponents, paradoxically; they harden up and draw recruits. What it does weaken is public respect for the LE agencies. And this causes the agencies to know they were right about the opposition, and round and round it goes.

So it’s not inconceivable that you might find yourself alone, or with a few friends, in a hostile environment. To that end, it’s wise to study the techniques of intelligence operators and underground movements.

A lot of good, thoughtful, and generally doctrinally sound material that would help you in this direction is posted at Forward Observer Magazine. They’ve also just started a podcast, which covers a variety of things. The first podcast is mostly about source or agent handling,, and it’s accompanied by these notes, which on the real page link to documents, mostly:

Show Notes:

Radio Free Redoubt – How Mossad Recruits Palestinian Sources

Declassified CIA Report on Economic Espionage/American Personality Traits (PDF)


via Forward Observer Podcast Episode #001 – Source Recruitment & Operations Security | Forward Observer Magazine.

Funny how things go. When we were taught these things, we were taught that the motivators of spies were MICE: Money, Ideology, Compromise, and Ego. Working these kinds of things we added R ourselves — Revenge — and it’s part of the official acronym now. (So what’s “E”? We’re not telling. Go to the link and read the podcast or download the document).

Here’s a relevant bite of tradecraft from open sources. The Soviet espionage organs used to always set a compromise hook into even the pre-motivated ideological and monetary spies that were their bread and butter (ideology spies early, money spies late in the Cold War). That’s a good and valuable technique, and they made it as simple as making the guy sign for his payments. Bingo, Mr Spy, now you’re compromised and they can expose you and destroy your life at any moment. In other words, they own your ass. Having this pocket blackmail material gave the agent handler a solid tool in case his agents ever got cold feet. He usually never had to do so. Just the knowledge that he could was enough for the agent to check his own behavior.

Culper covers a lot in the podcast, fast. (This is not one of those things where you’re waiting for the guy’s tortoise mind to catch up to his hare mouth). That means that it might be confusing if you haven’t been exposed to it. Maybe what we need is Khan Academy style tradecraft bites?

Good-by, Lenin!

The monster of the 20th Century came tumbling down in Kharkiv, a Ukrainian city that was the scene of calamitous tank battles between two of world history’s most evil empires.

lenin statue in Kharkiv

It was the biggest Lenin left in Europe. Now it’s rubble, kind of like the Evil Empire that Lenin presided over, an empire built on lies and murder, an Empire that replaced the too-slow liberalization of the Romanovs with “a boot stepping on a human face, forever.”

But it wasn’t forever, Vladimir Ilych.

When the monster tumbled, he was found to be a classically Soviet production: shoddy.

Lenin's head showing shoddy Soviet construction


Free Ukrainians tore the statue apart with their bare hands, taking pieces of Lenin for souvenirs, as Berliners did with the evil Wall that was, ultimately, part of the empire of slaveholding that Lenin and Stalin built.

We kind of wish we’d gotten a Lenin bust for the war room (or maybe as a garden gnome) before they were all gone. But it was, and is, past time for Lenin to join his peer Hitler among the reviled and de-monumented.

Next summer, the kids will go to movies in which spandex-suited heroes fight supernatural monsters. But this ruins of a Lenin is a reminder that monsters are real, they are not supernatural, and they walk among us. But they can be toppled by men and women in street clothes — everyday heroes.


Put a HRT on ‘em — 1985 style

This video, found on Soldier Systems Daily, is a 1985 briefing on the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. The HRT was riding high at the time, coordinating closely with military special operations forces assigned the hostage rescue mission (overseas; FBI had authority stateside), and years from its appalling 1990s performances that included a sniper team getting (deservedly) indicted for homicide and saved only by a legal maneuver that introduced a technicality preventing prosecution.

The video starts with some action video of live-fire training in tire houses, and then goes into individual section briefings on equipment, arms, snipers, etc.

As you can see from the video, their TTPs are really dated now, but at least in terms of HR assault this was the heat in the Reagan years. (So were the mustaches).

Unlike their military counterparts, the FBI HRT members are all very well compensated, sworn Special Agents, college graduates who must have already been selected into FBI and succeeded in training as SA’s before applying to HRT.

A significant minority of them were at the time military veterans, mostly former officers, and that’s probably even more true today. (The guy with the Randall on his belt is one who’s at least seen some ARSOF cross-pollination).

They’re obviously pretty tactically hopeless in the woods. This is one thing that hasn’t changed.

A wise old friend who had served his country as a combat soldier and as an intelligence officer once explained the mindset difference to us: “Soldiers suck as spies. Spies suck as soldiers.” He would illustrate this with many pungent examples from Army and CIA history, most of them unclassified now. But the whole thing extends into a nine-square matrix when you factor in cops (and the FBI are simply glorified cops), who suck at soldiering and spying. (Despite the fact that more FBI guys are doing spook stuff than chasing Mann Act violators these days).

And soldiers and spies? They suck at being cops, and we can quote further examples….

Some Rhodesian Recommendations

Rhodesia FlagThe following recommendations were slipped under the transom by a friend of the blog last night. We’re finally getting around to posting them. The first two are free PDFs, and we’ve taken a quick look at them. The third is a review of a book published by the South African publishing house that has been most prolific on Rhodesian memoirs.

“Rhodesia: Tactical Victory, Strategic Defeat” (Marine Corps Command and Staff College)

We’re not terribly thrilled with this one so far, in part because the authors seem to have excepted a lot of conventional wisdom and conducted research mostly in secondary sources. It comes off a poor second to the Rhodesian African Rifles paper (from the War College) that we’ve recently featured in this blog. It does have a lot of the back story, but even there it’s dodgy (we do not know who the early, presumably Bantu, groups were that drove the Bushmen out; nor do we know that those groups were the same as the later builders of the Great Zimbabwe ruins. And to compare the GZ ruins to the construction of the Indian civilizations of Central and South America is to slander those lost races. The Zimbabwe carvings are cruder;  their builders did not know the art of building with interlocking stones, and they did not carve messages in a written language.

“The Rhodesian Insurgency: A Failure of Regional Politics” (US Army War College)

This brief paper makes the weakly supported argument that the war’s outcome was dictated by South Africa’s inter-African foreign policy. It’s a colorable argument but we’d need to see more diplomatic cables and South African player memoirs to give it credence.

“Winds of Destruction” (Peter Petter-Bowyes)

Petter-Bowyes was a Rhodesian Air Force officer during the entire UDI period. He has some unique insights and viewpoints. We’ve ordered the book.

Some Other Rhodesian War Books

These are some of the hard copy books in the Unconventional Warfare Operations Research Library. Links are to LibraryThing.

Bax, Timothy. 2013. THREE SIPS OF GIN: Dominating the Battlespace with Rhodesia’s famed Selous Scouts. Has a few stories in it that are not in Reid-Daly’s book. But get R-D’s if you’re only going to get one.

Baxter, Peter. 2011. SELOUS SCOUTS: Rhodesian Counter-Insurgency Specialists (Africa@War). More of a photo book.

Croucamp, Denis. 2007. The Bush War In Rhodesia: The Extraordinary Combat Memoir of a Rhodesian Reconnaissance Specialist. A quite incredible memoir.

Nesbit, Roy Conyers. 1999. Britain’s Rebel Air Force: The War from the Air in Rhodesia 1965-1980.

Pringle, Ian. 2013. DINGO FIRESTORM: The Greatest Battle of the Rhodesian Bush War.

Reid-Daly, Lt.Col. Ron, as told to Peter Stiff. 1982. SELOUS SCOUTS – Top Secret War. Very good retelling of the Scouts’ unconventional COIN approach and concepts such as “pseudo terr groups,” by the Regiment’s founder and commander.

Smith, Ian Douglas. 1977. The Great Betrayal: The Memoirs of Ian Douglas Smith. Our copy is signed by Smith, but this memoir at the center of everything from UDI to the end of Rhodesia as a nation is a vital viewpoint missing from many students’ Rhodesian studies.

Wood, JRT. 2011. Counter-Strike from the Sky, Second Edition: The Rhodesian All-Arms Fireforce in the War in the Bush 1974-1980.

Wood, JRT. 2011. OPERATION DINGO: Rhodesian Raid on Chimoio and Tembue’ 1977 (Africa@War)

There are more, but that’s what a crude search kicks up. We also have a lot of ephemera like leaflets and posters.

…and one more download link.

This Rhodesian site has further books, including downloads.

Counter-ISIL Strategy: Designed to fail.

Did we call it? USS Arleigh Burke launches Tomahawks against targets that essentially round off to zero. Navy photo.

Did we call it? USS Arleigh Burke launches Tomahawks against targets that essentially round off to zero last night, as part of the Potemkin offensive. Navy photo.

The president has a simple, straightforward strategy for combating ISIL in the Middle East. But there’s just one problem with it: it’s designed to fail.

As he describes the Allied approach, it comprises ground forces provided by the Iraqis, along with separately-stovepiped air forces provided by the US (and possibly some allies, if he can convince any of them to sign on to a war he himself prosecutes halfheartedly). The problem is, for precision strikes to be effective you need two things: one, eyes on target to control and direct the fire, and two, precision guided munitions. In the past every attempt to use one or the other in isolation has come a cropper.

For example, the Kosovo War was conducted by PGM without eyes on the ground. Most of the ordnance was wasted on decoys or mistaken targets. In 1998, the US conducted a retaliatory strike against several Al-Qaeda-related targets in Afghanistan and Africa. The strikes were carried out using PGMs – specifically, sea-launched cruise missiles. The missiles we will have we hit their targets, but the targets were at best, worthless: in Afghanistan, we blew up the empty bleachers at training camps; and at worst, counterproductive: in Africa, we blew up an unrelated factory because of bad intelligence. In 1993, in Somalia, we tried putting Special Operations Forces on the ground without PGMs or, for that matter, any air support to speak of. We know how that worked out.

Precision guided munitions and drone strikes appeal to Washington politicians because politicians are men of incrementalism and half-measures and compromises, and these weapons are half-measures. War is no place for half-measures; ask a Vietnam veteran.

Some in the commentariat see the problem, that is, the problem of will and intent, if not the tactical and operational problem of how these half-measures can be even half-effective without skilled guidance from the ground, in close proximity to the targets (and therefore, in close proximity to the enemy). Angelo Codevilla, writing in The Federalist:

This indulgence so overwhelms our ruling class’s perception of reality that the recipes put forth by its several wings, little different from one another, are identical in the one essential respect: none of them involve any plans which, if carried out, would destroy the Islamic State, kill large numbers of the cut-throats, and discourage others from following in their footsteps. Hence, like the George W. Bush’s “war on terror” and for the same reasons, this exercise of our ruling class’s wisdom in foreign affairs will decrease respect for us while invigorating our enemies.

via Washington’s Ruling Class Is Fooling Itself About The Islamic State.

Codevilla is right, and he is right on target: none of the plans being kicked around by the amateur strategists in DC have either the intent or the capability of defeating the enemy.

There’s another problem with the absence of boots on the ground — what happens when a pilot goes down? Without a PR package on standby, he or she stars on al-Jazeera’s Beheading of the Week.

History tells us how Fortune disposes of irresolute half-measures. We’ve mentioned Vietnam, but another eerie parallel to the situation now unfolding in Syria and Iraq (and threatening Jordan and Lebanon) is the Bay of Pigs invasion of April 17-19, 1961.

Operation Bumpy Road was ordered by President Eisenhower, but was not ready to execute yet… and therefore the go/no-go decision fell to Eisenhower’s successor, John F Kennedy.

But Kennedy couldn’t decide, “go” or “no-go”. Instead he, And his brother, Atty. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy, decided to micromanage the invasion plan. They moved the invasion, from a place where a failure could’ve left the survivors in good position to conduct guerrilla warfare from the mountains, to a place where a failure would have left the survivors defenseless on the water’s edge. And then they cut the planned Exile Air Force airstrikes, to well below the minimum the professional planners had originally been willing to accept. (Once the operation was undeway, RFK cut the strikes still further).

Result: the biggest US foreign policy fiasco of the 20th Century.

And it looks like the prototype of what they’re planning now.

Well, the 21st Century is young.


Well, what did we tell you? The image we just added to this is not a file photo of the futile, symbolic, domestic-politics-driven cruise missile pinpricks against AQ in 1998. No, it’s from last night’s futile, symbolic, domestic-politics-driven cruise missile pinpricks against Khorasan (same Islamic turd with a new label on the punch bowl):

U.S. strikes hit the group’s “training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communications building, and command and control facilities,” according to a Pentagon statement released Tuesday morning.

…White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes …

Wait, was he the guy who used to be a campaign flack, or the guy who used to be a campaign van driver? We get our incompetent national security officials confused sometimes…

Rhodes said that Syrian opposition forces alone are “certainly unable” to combat the threat of the Khorasan Group.

What Syrian oppo is he referring to? ISIL, against whom we’re supposedly also launching ineffectual pinpricks with one eye on the approval ratings and the other on the midterm elections? The Al-Nusra Front, which has made common cause with AQ? AQ itself? There’s no western, pluralistic opposition.  They were wiped out during a previous period of half-measures and poll-watching!

And what good can we expect a handful of Tomahawk pinpricks directed at empty bleachers (“training camps”) and mud huts (“explosives and munitions production … and command and control facilities”) to do? Ah, but it makes a manikin look more like a man, perhaps.

And finally — the Navy was critically low on Tomahawks before this little play opened in off-Broadway national security theater. Now they’re lower than that, and nothing to show for it.


“Book” Link: the Rhodesian African Rifles

Most of the writing about the Rhodesian Army concentrates on three specific units: the Rhodesian Light Infantry, the SAS, and the Selous Scouts. One of the most effective regiments in the Rhodesian army was the Rhodesian African Rifles, a unit in which other ranks were all black natives, and which led, or tried to, anyway, in developing black African officers. The RLI was a white unit, as was the SAS; the Scouts were a mixed-race unit, like the RAR.

Commander and sergeants major of the RAR (identified by name in the book).

Commander and sergeants major of the RAR (identified by name in the book).

All of these units, and the overall strategy and tactics of the Rhodesian UDI government, were significantly more effective than a simple comparison of available forces would suggest. Why was that?

While the other three units participated in the high-profile cross-border operations, the RAR most we operated inside the country. There were reasons for this, and they come out in the volume we’re currently reading, thanks to DTIC. It also answers some of the questions about why the Rhodesians were so effective, and most interesting of all, it suggests why the RAR was effective, even though its officers and men were came from three different, and sometimes politically opposed, ethnic groups: white Englishmen, black Ndebele (relatives of the Zulus) and black Shona (the ethnic majority in Rhodesia and today’s Zimbabwe).

The Rhodesian African Rifles: The Growth and Adaptation of a Multicultural Regiment through the Rhodesian Bush War, 1965-1980 is actually a thesis, written by MAJ Michael P. Stewart as a Command and General Staff College graduation requirement, and it’s over 160 pages of deep dive into RAR history and sociology. Stewart notes the cultural differences between the RAR’s battalions, as well as the cultural “secret sauce” that made the unit not only one of Rhodesia’s most effective, but the only one the Zimbabwe government could count on when faced with a coup threat by the Matabele minority ZAPU party and its well-armed ZIPRA wing in the first year of majority rule. The abstract tells you what Stewart thought that “secret sauce” is: regimental tradition and spirit:

The Rhodesian African Rifles overcame profoundly divisive racial and tribal differences among its members because a transcendent “regimental culture” superseded the disparate cultures of its individual soldiers and officers. The RAR’s culture grew around the traditions of the British regimental system, after which the RAR was patterned. The soldiers of the RAR, regardless of racial or tribal background, identified themselves first as soldiers and members of the regiment, before their individual race and tribe. Regimental history and traditions, as well as shared hardships on deployments and training were mechanisms that forced officers and soldiers to see past differences. The RAR is remarkable because these bonds stayed true through to the end of the war, through incredible pressure on black Rhodesians to succumb to the black nationalist groups and cast off a government that was portrayed to them as oppressive, racist and hateful. Through the end of the Bush War, 1965-1980, RAR soldiers remained loyal and steadfast to their regiment, and that must be their legacy. In the end, the values of the government were irrelevant. It was the regiment that drew these men in, and their loyalty was more to their comrades and their heritage than to any particular government or cause.

While Stewart depends heavily on previously published works, and on Rhodesian historian Dr JRT (Richard) Wood, he also conducted 30-odd interviews with former RAR officers and warrant officers. He came away with a great admiration for them and their “worthy and noble regiment.”

As early as World War II, the RAR distinguished itself, against the Japanese in Burma. Stewart quotes an excerpt from Japanese officer’s diary, initially published in Christopher Owen’s 1970 The Rhodesian African Rifles.

[t]he enemy soldiers are not from Britain, but are from Africa. Because of their beliefs they are not afraid to die, so, even if their comrades have fallen, they keep on advancing as if nothing had happened. They have excellent physique and are very brave, so fighting against these soldiers is somewhat troublesome.

When officers of the Imperial Japanese Army take note of your fearlessness, you’ve arrived.

The unit heritage, history, culture and traditions provided something to unify everyone; the badge combined Ndebele and Shona symbology, but the basic trust was man-to-man and mutual leader-subordinate respect.

There were also informal traditions, one of the most amusing being the African soldiers’ secret nicknames for their white officers:

African soldiers had a name for every officer in the regiment. It was a sign of acceptance for a white officer to be given a name by his soldiers, from Lt Col F.J. Wane (named Msoro-we-gomo, or “the top of the mountain”), who served with the Rhodesia Native Regiment in World War I and then rebuilt the RAR in 1940, to a young subaltern (named “Mr. Vice” after his father’s position in the Rhodesian Air Force), or Captain (later Brigadier in the Australian Army) John Essex-Clark (named Mopane, after the tall, slender hardwood found in the Rhodesian bush). The names were not always particularly flattering or exalting, but the existence of a nickname demonstrated acceptance of an officer among the ranks of his soldiers, and were shared with the officers only occasionally by the NCOs of his platoon.

The best traditions, in our experience, are organic and spontaneous. The naming of officers is a perfect example.

There was also a uniquely RAR adaptation on the TO&E, the Platoon Warrant Officer, in effect a platoon-level sergeant major — something a bit grander than the American platoon sergeant, and a bit more dedicated to the propagation of unit culture.

He knew, taught, and exemplified the history and values of the regiment. Without exception, every former officer interviewed spoke with special respect and reverence for this class of leaders in the regiment.

Coming in to this multitribal, multiracial environment, the successful officer was the one who best learnt his men’s language and culture, and who led by example.

RAR troops with FALs and MAG-58.

RAR troops with FALs and MAG-58.

Finally, Stewart notes that the lessons of the RAR, the African soldiers who fought like lions against African nationalism, are exactly on point to those, native and foreign, trying to build multicultural armies today, in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere.

The Rhodesian African Rifles: The Growth and Adaptation of a Multicultural Regiment through the Rhodesian Bush War, 1965-1980 is not the last word on the RAR — Stewart admits it’s too dependent on the views of former officers, and the enlisted men’s viewpoint is largely missing and left to a future researcher. But it’s an excellent work that you ought to enjoy reading, if the Rhodesian bush war interests you, or if you might be charged with unifying disparate groups under a single command.

You can download the .pdf or read it online from DTIC, and if DTIC reorganizes their files again and breaks that link, you can pull a copy from Rhodesian African Rifles – a556553.pdf

ISIL VBIED with American Suicide Operator

aby_hurayra_moner_abu_salahMeet al-Hurayra al-Amriki, the last bit of which means “the American.” He blew himself up in an attack on the Syrian Army in Jebel al-Arba’een in Idlib Province on 25 May 14. (Al-Hurayra, “The one with the kitten,” was one of the companions of Mohammed; al-Qaeda’s glamor shot of his suicidal namesake shows him holding a kitten, presumably his love interest).

This long video, captured by the Middle East Media Research Institute, is his “martyrdom video,” the crude mohammedan imitation of the genteel Shinto tea and saki ceremony that saw the kamikazes off. The parallels are remarkable, notably the shallowness of awareness of the propaganda-soaked suicides. Our interest is not in his reasons, nor in his message — the first is shallow, juvenile angst and gang-identification, the death-seeking of a 22-year-old going on 16; the latter the empty boasting of a child-man about to die in futile service to a lost cause and cynical leaders — but in his means. If you skip ahead to about three minutes from the end, you’ll see what’s purported to be the VBIED that he used to make an attack on Syrian government forces, and film that purports to be the explosion that may or may not have injured the Syrians, but presumably was, as SVBIEDs always are, 100% effective in punching “Abu’s” ticket. Did he see the “smile of allah” he so wished for? We’re doubtful.

An ideology that tells you, “Blowing yourself to smithereens in the hopes you indiscriminately kill somebody, practically anybody, is the path to salvation,” may be bearing a message from a supernatural being, but it ain’t God.

As he tells us, he’s the spawn of an Arab palestinian man and an Italian-American woman. Well, this neckbearded numbskull is not the worst result ever of an airheaded broad getting her multiculti mandingo on; he’ll be a forgotten footnote to these decades of barbarism.

As he doesn’t tell us, his real name was Moner Mohammed Abu-Salha. He was from Vero Beach, Florida. His father carried a Jordanian passport; his mother converted to the religion of death and barbarism, and they raised their children — including two other boys and a girl — in the ways of Mohammedanism. The father was a grocer, but the family was improvident with money and lost their home to foreclosure. Yet they managed to find money for visits to the middle east.

Moner was a loser, suspended from high school for fighting, then dropping out. He obtained a ticket-punch GED from a “school” that specializes in that kind of thing, then stumbled through three different colleges, dropping out of each without measurable achievement.

The jihadis who launched this not-so-smart bomb were smart enough to avoid any opsec violations that tell us much about the bomb and its triggering device(s). It is customary to have multiple initiators: a command initiator for the splodydope himself to pull, a remote initiator for the commanders to use if the splodydope loses his nerve or is disabled, and a dead-man switch. Judging from the fireball, there was a lot of low-grade explosive in the truck, probably a mix of ANFO and fillings melted out of ordnance (or complete shells if they were in a hurry). Other jihadi social media postings have suggested that the truck contained 17 tons of explosive, primarily artillery shells.


The vehicle is a commercial dump truck, crudely armored. It’s a good choice as it has plenty of power and a very strong frame, just the ticket for carrying the explosives and the armor. The armor appears to be mild steel plate, little respected by armor buffs, but wait… what are the steel targets at your range made out of? Exactly. This thing isn’t a tank designed to go into combat, fight, disengage and then go back later, keeping the crew safe: it’s designed to go into combat and keep the crewman alive long enough for him to trip the bang switch, or to get close enough to the enemy for his ever-helpful masters to trip the switch for him.

(These masters are surely going to shaheed themselves, surely, one of these days, just not right now).


The armor, then, is meant merely to delay the vehicle’s penetration. In front of the main front armor plate, there is an additional flat front plate, and a sort of cow-catcher plow to remove road obstacles. The heavy armor on the front indicates that they intended a straight, direct assault against their objective.


This second shot of the cow-catcher was taken as the vehicle drove off to perdition. The bags may contain explosives. The cow-catcher was rather high, probably in order to clear the unimproved roads where the vehicle started out. It appears to be welded in place. The cow-catcher also adds to the protection of the vehicle’s powerplant; a mobility kill is a mission kill against a VBIED.

The flags are those of the al-Nusra Front, one of the al-Qaeda-associated jihadi groups fighting against Bashar al-Assad. After literally years of American dithering, there are no significant anti-Assad groups left that are not also anti-American. Arming Syrian rebels now means arming American enemies. Naturally, Washington is all for it.


Visibility from inside the vehicle was poor straight ahead. The driver had a small window in the armor plate in front of him, and an even smaller one in the vertical armor plate in front of that. Standoff between the two plates provides some protection from RPGs as well. Jihadi slogans and Koran quotes painted in the cab bolster his will.


There was no armor visible on the side of the cab.


The nose was not the only vital part of the VBIED to be armored. Jihadi welders added plate to the rear wheel area and the fuel tanks, and armored the tires with big disks attached to the lug nuts. It’s impossible to tell if the steel plate alongside the nose end of the dump body is armor or trim. (The part that is forward of the slanted front of the dump body).


We are not sure what make of truck this is. We have ruled out most of the Japanese brands, Mercedes, Magirus, Renault, and Kamaz. Any ideas?

The armor shows that the enemy is a learning enemy, even if his splodydopes themselves can’t pass on their lessons learned. It’s a far cry from the SVBIED of ten years ago, which was a couple of 155 rounds in the trunk of a taxi driven by some martyrdom wannabe. But it’s not invulnerable.

Vulnerabilities of this kind of SVBIED include antitank weapons and enfilading fire. Accurate .50 M2HB or DShK fire would also be effective, even from dead ahead. If you’re operating in SVBIED country, you want to have flanking outposts on your high-speed avenues of approach, able to light up the cab of your would-be al-Jazeera star from the side. You need them on both sides, and they need aiming stakes so that they know to check fire when their fire would otherwise fall on the opposite outpost. (The enemy will be trying hard enough to kill you. Don’t do his work for him).

That an attack like this is still effective over 30 years after they did it to the USMC in Beirut shows that the attack, while easily frustrated by effective fire, can often be executed in the time it takes defenders to shake off the cobwebs. Also, too many gate posts are expected to stop an attack with a rifle or a rifle-caliber light machine gun; what happens when the attack looks like this? We’ll tell you what: your gate can’t stop the attack, not in time.  Give them something that can hit a moving tank and turn it to slag… and give them no-hesitation ROE. (The enemy will probe your ROE with unarmed civilian vehicles, and then go all lawfare on you if you smoke ‘em. Smoke ‘em anyway. You’ll have sent some jihadi impersonating a civilian to the martyrdom he seeks, and your guys will not go to the martyrdom they most definitely aren’t seeking — win all round.

More on Moner al-Deadmeat:

Weds Thurs Weapons Website of the Week

spy vs spyIf you’re a prepper…

If you’re a veteran…

If you’re interested in how the world of intelligence works at the nuts and bolts level…

…you’ll want to read GuerillAmerica.

The blog provides practical, doctrinally-based instruction in intelligence tradecraft across a wide range of disciplines. In particular, its analytical tradecraft posts like this one about evaluating single-source information are pure gold (and something that is often covered poorly in analytical training, even inside the IC).

Few people think about UW intel tradecraft beyond collection, or perhaps beyond agent handling. Those things are important, but anything from networks to entire countries that has been rolled up after being taken unawares, usually had collected all the information they needed to see the fist that was about to hit them. It was their failure to evaluate and analyze this information — failure to process raw information into usable, actionable intelligence – that condemned them to be bystanders at Pearl Harbor, the roll-up of SOE’s réseaux in the Netherlands, the Nork invasion of South Korea in 1950, the abject failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961, or the al-Qaeda attacks on 11 Sep 2001.

(Yeah, this was supposed to go up on Wednesday. It didn’t. So sue us. Our next scheduled date for lawsuit service is 29 Feb 15).

Sten Gun Manufacturing, 1943 or So

This footage survives because it was documenting something thought remarkable at the time — entire ordnance factories operated mostly by women. But if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may be more interested in what these British ladies are doing in the Royal Ordnance Factory at Enfield: manufacturing STEN Mk II submachine guns.

The guns and their near-cottage-industry manufacturing processes are both interesting. The guns are clearly Mk. IIs, but there appear to be two variants of the tee stock — perhaps the film crew was there at the exact moment of a running change, or perhaps the stocks came in from subcontractors and a degree of variation in appearance was the norm.

The industrial processes in use include some automatic rifling machines, but it looks like a lot of manual labor went into a STEN. It was only the el cheapo gun of legend because these ladies of Enfield were getting paid such token sums. In the short video, you’ll see brazing, welding, and hand-riveting with a hammer. There has to be a video somewhere of Guide Lamp cranking out Grease Guns, and you can imagine the automotive industry process engineers shaking their heads if they saw how a STEN went together.

Some men work in the plant, too, but the original filmmaker’s focus was on the women. Men have had held some jobs exclusively, including test-firing completed STENs, but women are doing a lot of things that they’d never have applied themselves to pre-1939. After the war, it was no longer unprecedented for women to work outside the home, even in industrial crafts, and England (and the world) never reverted to the status quo ante.

As a bonus, in keeping with the theme of women in war production, here’s a film about how they did it at the Willow Run B-24 plant (Ypsilanti, MI).

Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal

Actors in an Indian movie about the 21 Sikhs.

Actors in an Indian movie about the 21 Sikhs. Note the practical Khakis for desert/mountain combat.

Say whaaat? We thought we were perfectly clear. We said, “Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal!”

But of course, for most of the world that Sikh battle cry is meaningless. It means “Victory is his who calls on God with a true heart,” and it was the last phrase on the lips of the “21 Sikhs of Saragarhi,” the most valiant forlorn-hope defense that you probably never heard of. Everyone knows about the 300 at Thermopylae, the 47 Samurai, the Alamo, the Little Big Horn, Isandlhwana, and Dien Bien Phu. If you’re a military historian you might have heard of Lima Site 85, Camarone or Shiroyama. But we had never heard of these plucky Sikhs until recently.

After the battle, the outpost was in ruins. With soldiers from the 36th Sikhs.

After the battle, the outpost was in ruins. With soldiers from the 36th Sikhs’ too-late relief force.

Saragarhi was a rocky outcrop with hastily built brick or rock sangars, west-southwest of Peshawar, and two Pathan tribes were in arms: the Afridi and the Orakzai. These same Pathans — we call them Pushtuns — have been involved in numerous insurgencies ovet the centuries, and in 1897 they were rebelling against Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, and Victoria’s Indian Army.

The British and their Indian allies had built a chain of forts, but Saragarhi was not designed to be a defense position. It existed because the British had a radical new communications tool, the heliograph, and there was no line of sight between the deliberate forts Gulistan and Lockhart, which had been sited by Maharajah Ranjit Singh to defend a major line of communication.

The helio-relay site was occupied by 21 Sikh soldiers of the 36th Sikh Regiment, under command of Havildar (Sergeant) Ishar Singh. Their mission was to defend their communicator, Sepoy (Private) Gurmukh Singh (Sikhs take “Singh,” lion, as a surname). But instead of targeting the harder forts, the Afridi-Orakzai force, 10,000 tribesmen armed with a mix of modern rifles, jezails, and edged weapons, attacked the relay site.

Havildar Ishar Singh had Gurmukh Singh send an immediate request for relief, or support. But his commander, Lt. Col. John Haughton, had his hands full (perhaps with a feint or demonstration) at Fort Gulistan to the west. Haughton asked the Sikh detachment to hold out.

At this point, Ishar Singh and his 20 men — a corporal, a lance-corporal, and 18 privates — made a pact. They would not surrender; they would fight to the last round and the last man. There was a camp follower with them, a cook, and he would share their fate.

Ishar Singh was remembered by Viscount Slim as having the reputation of an extrovert.

The Pathans would take a bloodless victory if they could get it, and they made all kinds of promises to the holdout Sikhs, both before the battle was joined and once it was underway. Pushtunwali would not let them dishonor a truce, so their promise to the Sikhs that they might keep their lives was, and the Sikhs new it was, not an empty one.

The Sikhs rejected every offer.

The Sikhs fought until their ammunition was exhausted — then, the shrinking garrison fought with sword, bayonet, and captured arms. As night approached, Pathan engineers who had approached by stealth breached the wall, and the garrison went down in desperate cold-steel fighting.

The last man at his station was Gurmukh Singh, reporting all of this faithfully by heliograph to Lt. Col. Haughton. With Ishar Singh and the other 19 privates dead, Gurmukh respectfully asked permission to fix bayonet and charge the Pathans.

Haughton granted permission. Gurmukh was soon among his mates, in the Sikh afterlife.

The burnt-out ruins of Saragarhi

The burnt-out ruins of Saragarhi.

The Pathans set fire to the outpost and celebrated their victory — 14,000 men had defeated 21. About then, the British forces shook off their opponents and began to rain artillery on the Pathans. Point made, the Pathans withdrew, leaving behind a garrison of Orakzai who, in turn, died in the ruins of the fort.

The 21 Sikhs were granted posthumously the highest medal of the time, the Indian Order of Merit, in an unprecedented and unrepeated mass award. Their mates of the 36th Sikhs advanced on the post the next day.

The Pathan withdrawal hadn’t been deliberate; they’d left 600 of their dead unshriven on the field alongside the 21 Sikhs of Saragarhi.

The 36th Sikh Regiment has, in the way of these things, undergone some changes as the British granted India independence and the Indian Army reorganizes from time to time, as any Army must do. But its traditions and honors remain with the 4th Battalion, Sikh Regiment, Indian Army today, where the story of the 21 Sikhs of Saragarhi is taught to every recruit, and the Sikh forces celebrate it much as the Foreign Legion celebrates their glorious last stand at Camarone.

Sources: The Business Standard (India), Times of India, Badass of the Week, SikhWiki, News and Views 24.