A couple of readers have emailed me on this subject, and here’s what I’ve come up with.
Insurgents in western Iraq fight to finish
This story from yesterday centers on the 3-25 Marines, the Reserve regiment that was mentioned earlier for losing an entire squad either killed or wounded. The fact that this regiment has been the center of most stories seems to indicate that the WaPo reporter, apparently only one of three American reporters actually reporting from Matador, is embedded with them.
It’s a good report stuffed full of details. It’s too bad that the media doesn’t have more guys outside the wire. I guess they’d rather hang out in the relative safety of Green Zone hotels and file reports on suicide bombers instead of covering the war.
Here’s a snippet from page 2:
They turned up weapons cache after weapons cache: bombs made to be dropped from airplanes, a bicycle with a seat made of explosives and an antenna for remote-control triggering, a vest rigged with explosives, a car rigged with bombs, mortar tubes, rocket launchers with new backpacks full of rockets, artillery shells.
The costly equipment, as well as body armor later recovered from the bodies of dead insurgents, suggested that the fighters were foreigners, the military said. Though the level of foreigners’ involvement in the insurgency has been disputed for nearly two years, Muslim men have come to Iraq from neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia and from as far away as Chechnya and Indonesia to fight the United States and its allies.
The Marines also found Soviet-designed PKM machine guns and belts of armor-piercing ammunition. In contrast, Lima Company was armed with M-16 assault rifles and carried nothing comparable — nothing that could penetrate walls and floors and still pack enough force to kill. [emphasis mine]
First of all, we’ve heard that many of these guys are foreigners and appear to have military training and equipment. Not your typical raghead jihadist.
They’ve not only got heavy weapons that can defeat our body armor. They’ve got body armor of their own.
This is trouble.
We’ve been going against, by and large, Joe Jihadist now for the past couple of years. This guy, for the most part, scrapes together whatever he can and charges the US Marines. He often gets a step or two before he’s cut down.
Now, really for the first time since the invasion, we’re running into trained, organized, disciplined soldiers who are equipped to fight a modern soldier. Now, don’t get me wrong. The Devil Dogs are wiping the floor with them.
But it probably isn’t nearly as easy as they’re used to. And it could be a harbinger of things to come.
Our Marines with M16 rifles are finding themselves outgunned.
Let me repeat that. Just in case it didn’t sink in.
The Marines are, on occasion anyway, seriously outgunned.
This isn’t a reason to run for the hills in panic. But it’s certainly a reason to pause and reassess our plan for the future. Marines with M16s are having trouble. What does that forbode for troops with an XM8, for instance? The XM8 fires the same 5.56×45 round that the M16, but the barrel is significantly shorter. So the velocity just isn’t there to punch through walls or body armor.
“As soon as he kicks the door, the machine-gun fire cuts him down,” said Hurley, a Dayton, Ohio, police officer serving in the Marine reserves. The Marine survived, but a second fell as well, fatally wounded. From inside, a foreign fighter fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the door.
At some point, the screamed prayers began: “Allahu Akbar” — “God is great.”
Marines fell, unable to tell the source of the screams or the shots. They fired blindly, as machine-gun rounds cratered the walls and floors around them.
“Our rounds couldn’t get through the walls,” Hurley said.
I hope a decision-maker is reading this very carefully.
Now, this news story on MSNBC.com certainly highlights the negatives and praises (though oftentimes with words of Marines) the tactics of the enemy. But the fact that our Marines were astonished by an enemy’s weaponry is troubling. I expect them to be amazed at the suicidal tendencies the jihadists often show. But something needs to be done about this 5.56 mess, XM8 or no XM8.
Meanwhile, ACE thinks that the 6.8 SPC will soon be no more than a collector’s item.
I don’t know what the answer is. But I don’t think the 5.56 NATO is it.