It now appears that it may very well have been a suicide bomber, not a rocket or mortar attack, that did the most damage during the recent mess-tent assault in Mosul.
Regardless of that, mortars were definitely used to shell the hospital where wounded were taken immediately after the attack.
These are Michael Moore’s Minutemen.
Also, much is being made of a WaPo article entitled Precision of Base Attack Worries Military Experts. This is the quote everyone’s running:
The major difference between the latest attack and the earlier incidents is that it was an attack on a U.S. base, rather than on troops in transit in vulnerable aircraft. That difference appears to reflect both the persistence of the insurgency and its growing sophistication, as experts noted that it seemed to be based on precise intelligence.
This would give one the impression that an attack on a US base is something new. It isn’t. Of course, most Americans will not remember the long list of rocket and mortar attacks on US bases over the past year and half, but they’ve been there. I’m not saying that anyone is wrong to be troubled by this attack, but it isn’t really anything new. It’s just the level of success the attackers achieved that’s different than any of the hundreds or thousands of similar attacks since the insurgency began hitting its stride in late 2003.
As for the “precise intelligence”, that is indeed a problem. But again, it’s nothing new. We know that there are traitors among the Iraqi military, police, and especially among the Iraqis that work for our military. This spectacular success probably won’t be the last of its type, but also keep in mind that after that CH-47 Chinook was shot down in late 2003 we heard all about how the hundreds of unaccounted-for man-portable surface to air missiles were going to wreck havoc with our operations.
Though there have been few attempts to bring down US planes and helicopters, not all of them unsuccessful, nothing approaching the predicted damage has occurred to date.
A private-sector security expert who recently left Baghdad after more than a year there agreed, noting that the United States originally put an entire division in the Mosul area, the 101st Airborne, but replaced it earlier this year with a force about half that size, only to see insurgent attacks increase. “We have replaced a division with a brigade and think we can offer the same amount of security,” he said, insisting on anonymity because his opinions are so at odds with the official U.S. government view.
The brigade which replaced the 101st Division, as MO readers will already know, was the first Stryker Brigade. In addition to the brigade, whose wheeled Stryker vehicles and advanced comm gear allowed a brigade of Strykers to cover more ground effectively than a brigade of footsore air assault soldiers, significant Iraqi forces were added to the mix.
And I’m a little confused. Whenever anyone criticizes the Strykers, they like to point out that Mosul is a relatively calm area and that’s why the Strykers were sent there. But now we’re hearing that it’s been pretty bad because there aren’t enough troops.
Which is it?
The article also notes that the month leading up to the Iraqi elections at the end of January is likely to be bad. This I happen to agree with 100%. I wrote two and a half weeks ago (in an article about fighting in Mosul, incidentally):
I expect that December will be a slightly quieter month, casualty-wise, as the insurgents marshal their forces, regroup after what had to be a significant setback at Fallujah, and finalize their plans to turn January into month of hell. The insurgents will focus on hitting softer targets like police stations and daycare centers for a few weeks, then make a major push in the weeks leading up the elections at the end of next month.
We need to weather the storm. Iraqis need to hunker down and demonstrate that they are determined to forge ahead with democracy despite violent opposition. To back down now would signal that violence is indeed the answer to the nagging problem of 21st-Century reality versus 11th-Century thinking. To delay the elections, even for six months, would set back the bigger picture at least a year or two.
The month preceding the elections are going to be filled with bloody carnage, whether it’s next month, next summer, or next year.
I could have added mess tents and hospitals to “police stations and daycare centers”, I guess.
In that post, I noted that our forces were noticing a change in their attackers. More of them seemed to be from outside the Mosul region or not from Iraq at all, and they seemed better-trained. I supposed that maybe the cream of the insurgent crop had escaped Fallujah before we attacked it in mid-November, and my supposition still stands.
(Expect to hear soon that the Tet Offensive has begun again, by the way. Remember that it just might be the Ardennes Offensive instead, though.)