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Subject: Sayeret Matkal/Shaldag doing deep penetration recce prior to the Israeli air strike in Syria
solidconservative    10/21/2007 8:11:05 AM
It seems that Israeli special ops forces had troops on the ground several hundred km into Syria both before and during the IAF air strike against the North Korean reactor being built in Syria. This undoubtedly means operators from the two top tier special ops units, Sayeret Matkal and/or Sayeret Shaldag. Shaldag is an air force unit that specialises in BDA and laser target designation, so it's highly likely that they were there during the strike. And according to published reports IDF troops visited the site prior to the air raid to take soil samples and gather other evidence to show Washington that Israel's intel was rock solid (pun intended). Those troops were most likely Sayeret Matkal, whose forte is deep penetration intel gathering. This is pretty standard stuff for Matkal, which goes deep into enemy territory on a semi-regular basis - at least several times a year. With all due respect to the Brits, when I contrast Matkal's SOP with that of Bravo Two Zero, the SAS doesn't come off too well by comparison. As McNab describes it (yes I am aware that his version of events is subject to controversy), the operational planning of the op was amateurish and haphazard. Not only did they have only the vaguest idea of the terrain and enemy forces in their zone of operation, but the decision to go in dismounted was reckless in the extreme. They went in semi-blind and with no capacity to get themselves out of trouble if their luck went bad. Pretty shoddy all around. Especially given the fact that they had weeks to prepare. As previously stated, Matkal regularly does very deep penetration intel collection ops throughout the Mid East and no one ever hears about them. And even when they don't have the luxury of lengthy planning processes, as during last year's war in Lebanon, they still don't get themselves into situations they can't get out of. The Matkal/Shaldag raid north of Ba'albek in the Bek'a Valley (150 km north of the Israeli border) went pear shaped when they encountered greater than anticipated resistance... but the troops were equipped with heavily armed vehicles and they drove their way out of trouble to extraction at an alternate LZ. The only fatality they had was the Lt. Col. in command of the operation (that is a reflection of the IDF's unique command philosophy of having senior officers lead from the front - but that's another topic).
 
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solidconservative    Defenders of the Regiment AWOL   10/24/2007 4:34:33 PM
I find it interesting that this topic starter has been on the board for a couple of days without a single response. I would have thought that all the SAS boosters would come out of the woodwork in droves to defend the honour of the Regiment. 

In all fairness, isn't my criticism of the ops planning for Bravo Two Zero valid?  This isn't just another mindless 'which unit is best' topic, although admittedly the clear implication here is that Matkal's level of competence is higher. But at least I predicate that view on a logical argument that is factually supported.

Over to you...
 
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mough       10/24/2007 4:49:45 PM

Whats to "defend" everyone and their mother knows B2Z was a balls up, Partially Regiment fault, partially SM's,  you don't hear of the  99% of the missions the SAS do because they are sucessfully carried out, and if you think SM have never effed up...I have some beach front property in Arizona I think you'd like

 
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Duubz       10/24/2007 4:52:21 PM
I'm certainly no expert on this sort of thing but Bravo Two Zero is just one SOP which seemed to go very wrong. I'm sure there are plenty of others which we don't hear about due to the fact that nothing went wrong with them. Albeit I'm sure it could be interesting to compare the two operations to see what went wrong with Bravo Two Zero and more importantly, what should have been done differently.
 
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solidconservative    Matkal's Botch Up   10/25/2007 4:19:27 PM
Eh.... Mough... I fail to see now "SM" ( by which I presume you mean Sayeret Matkal) can in any way be held responsible for the failures of Bravo Two Zero.  You are going to have to explain that one to me, because it doesn't compute.

And as for Matkal 'cockups,' there really has only been one - the 1974 hostage rescue raid at Ma'alot in which Palestinian terrorists murdered 26 schoolchildren.  The rescue op was botched because the IDF Chief of Staff at the time, Lieut. Gen. Motta Gur, forbade Matkal from implementing some of its more innovative takedown tactics, and instructed that they go 'hey diddle diddle, straight up the middle' through the front gate of the school.  The Israelis killed all the terrorists, but not before the Palestinians were able to empty several AK mags into the huddled mass of kids. 

A debacle, but not really Matkal's fault.  The problems stemmed from: A) Motta Gur's overweening arrogance and anti-special ops bias (he was a conventional infantry officer) and B) the fact that hostage-taking was a relatively recent Palestinian terrorist phenomenon with which the IDF had relatively little experience.  Since that time the Israeli Border Police have established a dedicated counter-terror/hostage rescue unit - the Yamam that is certainly among the best in the world. Matkal operators still do hostage rescue training, and their skills are reasonably sharp, but they tend these days to focus more on their traditional deep reconnaisance and intelligence gathering roles.

I don't the Ma'alot debacle can fairly be compared to the SAS amateur hour with Bravo Two Zero because deep penetration recce was/is supposed to be the Regiment's raison d'etre.  Reconnaisance is supposed to be the SAS' bread and butter and there was nothing new about the task of putting OPs deep in enemy territory. Having read several books on BTZ, the one question that always comes to mine is 'where were the officers' during the planning process? Where were the troop and squadron commanders?  Why did they rubber stamp such a stupid plan? In the IDF, any similar operational scheme would have to be vetted, not only by Matkal's commander (a Lieut. Colonel,) but by also by the Chief of Military Intelligence. It the objective were particularly challenging, the IDF Chief of Staff himself would come along at the end of the planning process to see whether the op made proper sense.

The bottom line is that an amateur-hour balls up like BTZ could never happen with Matkal. And I believe it says something when a well-established unit botches so badly an op that is supposed to be its stock in trade. 

Is there something rotten in Denmark?  
 
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mough       10/25/2007 5:14:18 PM

Eh.... Mough... I fail to see now "SM" ( by which I presume you mean Sayeret Matkal) can in any way be held responsible for the failures of Bravo Two Zero.  You are going to have to explain that one to me, because it doesn't compute.


And as for Matkal 'cockups,' there really has only been one - the 1974 hostage rescue raid at Ma'alot in which Palestinian terrorists murdered 26 schoolchildren.  The rescue op was botched because the IDF Chief of Staff at the time, Lieut. Gen. Motta Gur, forbade Matkal from implementing some of its more innovative takedown tactics, and instructed that they go 'hey diddle diddle, straight up the middle' through the front gate of the school.  The Israelis killed all the terrorists, but not before the Palestinians were able to empty several AK mags into the huddled mass of kids. 

A debacle, but not really Matkal's fault.  The problems stemmed from: A) Motta Gur's overweening arrogance and anti-special ops bias (he was a conventional infantry officer) and B) the fact that hostage-taking was a relatively recent Palestinian terrorist phenomenon with which the IDF had relatively little experience.  Since that time the Israeli Border Police have established a dedicated counter-terror/hostage rescue unit - the Yamam that is certainly among the best in the world. Matkal operators still do hostage rescue training, and their skills are reasonably sharp, but they tend these days to focus more on their traditional deep reconnaisance and intelligence gathering roles.

I don't the Ma'alot debacle can fairly be compared to the SAS amateur hour with Bravo Two Zero because deep penetration recce was/is supposed to be the Regiment's raison d'etre.  Reconnaisance is supposed to be the SAS' bread and butter and there was nothing new about the task of putting OPs deep in enemy territory. Having read several books on BTZ, the one question that always comes to mine is 'where were the officers' during the planning process? Where were the troop and squadron commanders?  Why did they rubber stamp such a stupid plan? In the IDF, any similar operational scheme would have to be vetted, not only by Matkal's commander (a Lieut. Colonel,) but by also by the Chief of Military Intelligence. It the objective were particularly challenging, the IDF Chief of Staff himself would come along at the end of the planning process to see whether the op made proper sense.

The bottom line is that an amateur-hour balls up like BTZ could never happen with Matkal. And I believe it says something when a well-established unit botches so badly an op that is supposed to be its stock in trade. 

Is there something rotten in Denmark?  
No SM is "Andy Mcnabbs" real name intials, I refuse to call him "Andy Mcnabb", he as the PC had been told to reconsider vehicles, he didn't want them, he as PC had final say, it was his patrol after all, and he over estimated himself, it happenes, that combined with frankly a loss of desert warfare skills in the regiment over the privios decade had an impact to, remember, most of the 80's was counter drugs op's and internal security ops in NI, the regiment had not fought in a war in quite a while, skills are perishable, the lack of equipment is squarly down to the MOD, the SAS was quite poorly funded for a SF unit at the time, now to compare what the SAS do to what MATKAL do is a little unfair, Matkal really only focus on their geographic area, they have adapted to it, yes they have done OOA but not much, by the rational you gave I could say MATKAL is effed up because of the 26 dead school children while the SAS succeed in the Iranian embassy the line of sucess from failure is a thin one, often measuere in millimeters, seconds and luck, BTW SM's line that B2Z where there tracking scud launchers is BS, they were on road watch, they were to camp out and watch, that is another reason vehicls were not used, thats not an excuse for not taking them, it's just a factor in the why of it all, things have changed markedly in 15 years for the regiment


BTW yes MATKAL have had their fair share of duff missions, more then once they walked into Palistinian ambushes at infiltration points, or raided the wrong place/time

 
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solidconservative    Sharp as Ever   10/27/2007 9:53:25 AM
Mough:

I'm glad to hear that things have 'changed markedly' in the SAS since B2Z, and that a similar cock up couldn't occur today.  After all, we are all on the same side here.  We are all fighting against the same jihadis who want to drag us back into medievalism at the point of an AK. 

You are absolutely right that luck can play an important role in special ops.  And yes, the relatively limited geographic and cultural theatre of operations of Israeli units make its life somewhat easier (although there are substantial social and linguistic differences between, say Arab countries in the Maghreb and those in the Mashraq) And yes, there have been dud Israeli SF operations.  Not so much Matkal, but other units. There was one notorious instance of a friendly fire error during a West Bank arrest op by Duvdevan (the undercover 'Arabist' unit). It was sloppy planning that I think could be put down to the fact that the unit was running at an extremely high op tempo with insufficient time in some instances to adequately prepare. And then there was the case of the Shayetet 13 raid in Lebanon that went sour and in which a slew of naval commandoes died. That was simply bad luck.

But I guess my question is to the operational planning process of B2Z, and what that says about the SAS (if anything). Particularly the question of command oversight. The IDF certainly allows junior commanders to plan their own ops, as I take it is the rule in the SAS. But as an ex IDF officer I can tell you that if any patrol commander made a decision as ill-advised as McNab/SM's plan to go in without vehicles, he would be overruled in a nano-second. And what's more, I can easily envisage the sheer dumbness of the plan bringing about the relief of the commander on the grounds that his superiors lost faith in his judgement.  

I mean, a system that promotes initiative down to the lowest ranks is a bedrock principle of the IDF ethos.  But initiative is one thing, and recklessness or irresponsibility are another.  So I guess I don't understand how the Major in command of whatever sabre squadron to which McNab/SM belonged allowed the op to proceed.

Perhaps this can be attributed to the perishability of 'hot war' skills during the 80s.  Although one would think that there would still have been NCO vets of the Falklands (Pebble Island) some 9 years later.  

In any event... I am heartened to hear that the Regiment has learned from the experience and evolved to a higher level. And in that spirit I would venture to assert that I think the US military certainly, and perhaps the British Army as well, are probably the best they've ever been.  They've been blooded enough to have gained valuable exprience that has allowed them to hone doctrine and SOPs. There is an entire generation of NCOs and junior/mid-ranking officers for whom this has been the formative experience of their military lives. And as a result I think that the culture of the US army will change irreversibly for the better. It will assimilate the principles of counter-insurgency war ito the very marrow of its being because that is the face of 21st century war.

And what's more they've been tested to the point where the non-performing deadwood has been exposed and weeded out.  So for all the talk of the American military being at breaking point, I would think that the Army and Marines - and by extension the Brits, are as operationally sharp as they've ever been.... perhaps even sharper
 
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bob the brit       10/28/2007 5:30:20 PM

Mough:


I'm glad to hear that things have 'changed markedly' in the SAS since B2Z, and that a similar cock up couldn't occur today.  After all, we are all on the same side here.  We are all fighting against the same jihadis who want to drag us back into medievalism at the point of an AK. 

You are absolutely right that luck can play an important role in special ops.  And yes, the relatively limited geographic and cultural theatre of operations of Israeli units make its life somewhat easier (although there are substantial social and linguistic differences between, say Arab countries in the Maghreb and those in the Mashraq) And yes, there have been dud Israeli SF operations.  Not so much Matkal, but other units. There was one notorious instance of a friendly fire error during a West Bank arrest op by Duvdevan (the undercover 'Arabist' unit). It was sloppy planning that I think could be put down to the fact that the unit was running at an extremely high op tempo with insufficient time in some instances to adequately prepare. And then there was the case of the Shayetet 13 raid in Lebanon that went sour and in which a slew of naval commandoes died. That was simply bad luck.

But I guess my question is to the operational planning process of B2Z, and what that says about the SAS (if anything). Particularly the question of command oversight. The IDF certainly allows junior commanders to plan their own ops, as I take it is the rule in the SAS. But as an ex IDF officer I can tell you that if any patrol commander made a decision as ill-advised as McNab/SM's plan to go in without vehicles, he would be overruled in a nano-second. And what's more, I can easily envisage the sheer dumbness of the plan bringing about the relief of the commander on the grounds that his superiors lost faith in his judgement.  

I mean, a system that promotes initiative down to the lowest ranks is a bedrock principle of the IDF ethos.  But initiative is one thing, and recklessness or irresponsibility are another.  So I guess I don't understand how the Major in command of whatever sabre squadron to which McNab/SM belonged allowed the op to proceed.

Perhaps this can be attributed to the perishability of 'hot war' skills during the 80s.  Although one would think that there would still have been NCO vets of the Falklands (Pebble Island) some 9 years later.  

In any event... I am heartened to hear that the Regiment has learned from the experience and evolved to a higher level. And in that spirit I would venture to assert that I think the US military certainly, and perhaps the British Army as well, are probably the best they've ever been.  They've been blooded enough to have gained valuable exprience that has allowed them to hone doctrine and SOPs. There is an entire generation of NCOs and junior/mid-ranking officers for whom this has been the formative experience of their military lives. And as a result I think that the culture of the US army will change irreversibly for the better. It will assimilate the principles of counter-insurgency war ito the very marrow of its being because that is the face of 21st century war.

And what's more they've been tested to the point where the non-performing deadwood has been exposed and weeded out.  So for all the talk of the American military being at breaking point, I would think that the Army and Marines - and by extension the Brits, are as operationally sharp as they've ever been.... perhaps even sharper

unfortunately solidcon'... you will never know the full details behind B20, thus it you can only hypothesise as to whether going in 'wheel-less' was a good idea. i know a number of lads who would have likely come to the same decision being that the patrol was only 2 bricks (thus two pinkies) and that the oppo was a stationary observation. in the end, as pat' leader his say was the way, hindsight's a beautiful thing.
mough, having outed you as a dressmaker, i'm curious as to how you have met the 'legendary mcnab'?
 
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solidconservative    Bob the Brit   10/29/2007 4:13:22 PM
I have no first hand knowledge of any unit in the British Army, conventional or special. But I can bring to bear my own military experience that includes several years of combat ops as an IDF officer in Lebanon (I know I'm dating myself). 

And from my admittedly foreign and 20/20 hindsight perspective, it strikes me as strange that the decision to go in dismounted was not overridden by McNab's - or whatever his real name is - superiors. I guess the IDF ethos must be different, but whenever Sayerets Matkal or Shaldag does a deep penetration raid, there is always a substantial extraction force on immediate readiness should the need arise. 

Now I realise that the scope of the SF operation in Desert Storm, with literally scores of British and American OPs scattered over a large geographic area of Iraq, might have made such an extraction effort far more complicated. But then if you don't have a dedicated force of cavalry ready to ride to your rescue, all the more reason to have the organic ability to high tail it on your own if things go south. Even having only two pinkies gives you an opportunity to maneouver with a measure of mutual support in either bounding or travelling overwatch (translation from Hebrew - hope terminology is correct).  This is especially true of the trucks are equipped with ATGMs like Milan or, even better, TOW. And if you conclude that an 8 man force is excessively vulnerable, you increase its size.  Either that, or you don't do the op.

All of which brings me once again to my original conclusion - the operational plan of B2Z was irresponsibly overconfident, and the command oversight process was profoundly flawed. Being a combat-experienced soldier myself, I realise that in a battlefield situation you can go from hero to zero in a nano-second. I realise that dame fortune plays a big role in combat. But it would seem to me that in light of the Clauswitzian friction and uncertainties of battle, you take prudent measures to cope with a possible fiasco. And this is especially true when the operation in question is a special op deep in enemy territory. The line between boldness and recklessness can be narrow, but it exists nonethesame. And I remain of the view that in this particular instance, the SAS crossed it.
 
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bob the brit       10/29/2007 8:04:27 PM

I have no first hand knowledge of any unit in the British Army, conventional or special. But I can bring to bear my own military experience that includes several years of combat ops as an IDF officer in Lebanon (I know I'm dating myself). 

And from my admittedly foreign and 20/20 hindsight perspective, it strikes me as strange that the decision to go in dismounted was not overridden by McNab's - or whatever his real name is - superiors. I guess the IDF ethos must be different, but whenever Sayerets Matkal or Shaldag does a deep penetration raid, there is always a substantial extraction force on immediate readiness should the need arise. 

Now I realise that the scope of the SF operation in Desert Storm, with literally scores of British and American OPs scattered over a large geographic area of Iraq, might have made such an extraction effort far more complicated. But then if you don't have a dedicated force of cavalry ready to ride to your rescue, all the more reason to have the organic ability to high tail it on your own if things go south. Even having only two pinkies gives you an opportunity to maneouver with a measure of mutual support in either bounding or travelling overwatch (translation from Hebrew - hope terminology is correct).  This is especially true of the trucks are equipped with ATGMs like Milan or, even better, TOW. And if you conclude that an 8 man force is excessively vulnerable, you increase its size.  Either that, or you don't do the op.

All of which brings me once again to my original conclusion - the operational plan of B2Z was irresponsibly overconfident, and the command oversight process was profoundly flawed. Being a combat-experienced soldier myself, I realise that in a battlefield situation you can go from hero to zero in a nano-second. I realise that dame fortune plays a big role in combat. But it would seem to me that in light of the Clauswitzian friction and uncertainties of battle, you take prudent measures to cope with a possible fiasco. And this is especially true when the operation in question is a special op deep in enemy territory. The line between boldness and recklessness can be narrow, but it exists nonethesame. And I remain of the view that in this particular instance, the SAS crossed it.
i was not at the planning stages for the B20 patrol (to busy at my "desk" job), so the only conclusion i can come to is he gave good reasons for the no-wheels. i was told after the whole fiasco that there was a consensus among the eight to not take pinkies.
you can already understand the pros of going mounted (ie, greater fire power, more kit, speedy esape if the world goes bollocks up, etc.) but you must look at the cons given the oppo and the place
firstly it was a stationary observation, not a "roam around free for all and f*ck the scuds" as has been said in a number of stories/media interpretations, it was simply get there/sit there/look there/leave there. secondly, the terrain wasn't favourable for taking vehicles, especially coupled with the oppo type (whilst a-squaddies went in with wheels in similar, billiard board terrain, they didn't have to sit around and stick out like a sore thumb)
the terrain around the oppo site didn't lend itself well to concealing two pinkies which would have stuck out like a bulldog's bollocks, i've seen the maps/overheads, which leads me to the next point... the visual intel of the area was shite, and what there was, one could only conclude that the vehicles would have stuck out in the previously mentioned manner.
with vehicles sticking out like that, there would have been no telling if the locals have spotted you or not.
and what happens if one pinkie gets fudged and can't be repaired? eight men on one pinkie ain't easy... we tried.
you make very valid points solidcon, and i understand your opinion that if eight men are too vulnerable, increase the number or don't go, but i have been in a couple of similarly daunting oppos, and there are a number more, where everything went ATP with two thumbs up. now having said all this i am not advocating mcnab's decisions, simply showing a couple reasons he, and the rest, may have come to the decision they did. who know's, if they had have taken vehicles, maybe it would have gone balls up in different manner.

 
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solidconservative    Thanks for the civility   10/30/2007 6:47:21 AM
Thaks Bob:

I appreciate the civil nature of your response. But I guess coming from my particular background I find it puzzling that the available visint about the target area was so poor.  I mean, it's not as though this was an operation done by frago... they presumably had months to prepare. I can tell you that any IDF deep recce ops has visint, sigint and even humint coming out the wazoo.  Even if it's a op is of a relatively quick reaction variety within a relatively telescoped time frame (along the lines of the Ba'albek raid during last year's Lebanon war, at a bare there certainly would be a numerous photo-recon passes done, both oblique and vertical to provide hi-resolution current imagery.

Yes, I'll be the first to admit that being able to focus on a limited theatre of operations has its distinct advantages.  The primary worry of the IDF can be found in a circle 1000 km in radius from Jerusalem (although even that is no longer strictly true in light of Iran's nuclear ambitions).  But the IDF has launched DA and operations much farther afield and with quite limited planning times. The Abu Jihad hit in Tunisia and the Entebbe raid come to mind.  

Perhaps it's a question of scale and priorities.  Even in a full fledged shooting war, Israel would only be executing a handful of such ops, and they would have top priority from the entire military from CoS through the air force. But presumably the planning for the special deep recce ops had been going on for some months before Desert Storm.  The enemy LOCs were well known in advance, and the op sites were surely determined well before the outbreak of the shooting war. And so it strikes me as extremely odd that the senior SF guy at Schwartzkopf's HQ wasn't able to arrange high quality imagery for each and every op site.  I mean, its not as though US/RAF aircraft weren't overflying all of Iraq anyway. 

Could it be that the paucity of good intel stemmed from pure military politics and inter-service rivalry?  Could it be that the air force zoomies simply couldn't be bothered to sacrifice one bomb for a camera pod and to reroute their planes to gather the requisite intel for the SF ops?  Is this the anti-special ops bias that they talk about? And it seems to me that this just wasn't a British problem.  I remember reading the story of a US SF team that had similarly crappy intel about their op site.  They were discovered by a shepard boy and only barely escaped by the skin of their teeth. 

It just seems to me to be a helluva way to run a railroad.  Having so much time to prepare and yet having so little intel-wise to show for it.  I have read about inter-service rivalry in the US military, and if that was a significant element leading to the B2Z cock up, then that rivalry must be extremely bad.

The IDF certainly isn't perfect - as we saw in 2006.  But I can guarantee you that no one would dream of mounting such a special op in the IDF with such bad intel as you describe. And if the faulty intel was due to military politics... the rear echelon weenie responsible should have been fragged. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm a great admirer of the British military and of the SAS.  You guys cut the mould that everyone else follows.  And we are all on the same side of this fight of the free world against jihadi Islam. So if the Regiment learned some lessons from this to improve it's game, so to speak, then we're all better off for it.
 
 
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