Surface Forces: Honoring The Dead


March 13, 2017: A January 29th American commando raid in Yemen led to an unusual release, a month later, of some details on what was recovered. This was done to quell U.S. critics of the raid and it revealed that the raid obtained a large haul of information on AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) training techniques and targeting priorities and dozens of additional items. No more details were released because captured data is more valuable if the enemy doesn’t know exactly what you got. This has been learned the hard way because in the past some of these details did get out (accidentally or stupidly boasting) and suddenly a lot of the captured data was no longer very useful. That is because these raids often capture detailed personnel lists or current locations of key personnel and bases. Islamic terrorists are very fond of smart phones, laptops and all manner of electronics that can hold lots of data. That is why raids concentrate on leaders or others who would be carrying lots of useful data around. Since 2005, as smart phones got more powerful and laptops smaller. It has been found that most time sensitive data must be acted on as quickly as possible to get their before the enemy can move people or material. That was probably one reason for waiting a month to say anything at all. There was a lot of political pressure in the United States to justify this particular raid because a new American government had taken power on January 20th and the opposition was eager to accuse the new crew of being blundering incompetents. Unlike most special operations raids this one ran into some serious opposition as well as an aircraft damaged. This resulted on one dead and seven wounded. In the United States the political opposition was claiming that the raid was an expensive failure.

This sort of situation is always a problem in American wars, especially those that last longer than three years. In all of America's wars popular support for the war effort sharply declined after three years. Even though the U.S. government said, from late September, 2001 on, that the war on terror would be a long one, this has not changed the impact of what has come to be known as the Three Year Rule. If you can't get it over with within three years, you are going to face more and more voter opposition to the war effort. Go back and look at the history of all of America's long (over three years) wars and you will see this play out. It happened in the war on terror, and the various theaters of conflict (notably Afghanistan and Iraq.) This led ambitious politicians to declare deadlines, which makes life a lot more difficult for American combat commanders, and encourages the enemy no end.

The purpose of the January raid was no secret. It was the first U.S. commando raid in Yemen for 2017 and was an effort to capture or kill Qasim al Raymi, the AQAP leader. This raid was in preparation since late 2016 and depended on lots of intel and surveillance to succeed. Raymi had survived for so long by adapting to the American use of continuous aerial surveillance. So finding Raymi became a matter of combing through vast quantities of video and electronic surveillance searching for patterns. That finally produced a prediction that Raymi would be meeting with tribal and other AQAP leaders in a small mountain village at night on January 29th. Some 40 special operations troops were involved, including Navy SEALs. Apparently Raymi had not yet arrived or had just left and he was not involved in the fighting. It is still unclear what Raymi was doing but he is still alive. The raiding force, while a few minutes away from the target, was informed that aerial surveillance indicated that there was more activity down there and it was unclear why. The raid commander decided to proceed. Once on the ground the raiders found many in the villagers awake and using their weapons to fight back. Air support fired on houses from which the raiders were being shot at. The raid left three AQAP leaders dead, along with eleven other AQAP gunmen. Lots of documents (mostly electronic) were seized and it was not revealed if any prisoners were taken. One SEAL was killed in the fighting and the villagers claimed over fifty civilian casualties from all the shooting (by raiders and their air support). Three more of the raiders were injured when leaving because their V-22 tilt wing aircraft had engine trouble when taking off and made a hard landing. The passengers and crew were put on another aircraft and got away safely. The disabled V-22 was destroyed by another air strike. It was a costly raid, by special operations standards, but considered justified nonetheless.


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