This marks the first in our series of after-action reviews of actual combat operations, and realistic training exercises. Today, we will look at an attack on a desert outpost in Yemen. Below is a minute-by-minute breakdown of what is actually going on.
NOTE: The following video is real. These are real people, who are bleeding real blood, killing real people or being killed by real people. This is not a video game. It is definitely not safe for either work, or children. You have now been warned. Let's get started with the video portion:
00:00 - 00:44 BlahblahblahSalafistblahblahblahAllahyaddayaddayaddaHouthiblahblahblah
00:45 - 01:17 Reconnaissance from an elevated hide. The target outpost is a collection of small, mud-walled/adobe-like structures around a well -- fairly typical for the region. Note how the surveillance team zeroes in on personnel and possible defensive structures. Other than ridiculously low walls partially sandbagged and reinforced with piled up rocks that are too close to structures -- restricting fields of fire -- there are no defensive obstacles of note: no wire line, no trenches, no fighting holes, no firing positions built on top of houses, only some badly-placed firing positions along the perimeter that are completely exposed at their rear. Also, note the lackadaisical attitude of the people (they can't really be called a "garrison") on the target site, and the lack of any form of guard detail. I am willing to bet good money, that the people at the target simply piled up the rocks they found there, and scooped loose sand into bags, rather than bother themselves with actually "digging in" or "fortifying" their location, because it was too hot, and required real, physical labor (albeit not much)...This is a real problem in all 3rd World militaries, especially tribal and religion-based militias. Save yourself the pain, and at least watch this guy's video.
01:18 - 01:56 Attack team training with a full-scale hasty mock-up. Note how they take the time to both actually drive in, and film from both inside and outside the vehicles for both propaganda and later review...Team tactics are crude, but aggressive. In a word -- they suck, but they are at least rehearsing. Note also, the cadre member at 01:43 providing instruction on getting the AK into action as they exit the vehicle.
01:57 - 02:10 Approach to target. The "shields" that they're carry in the pickup are actually a water barrel cut in half, in an attempt to disguise them as a supply vehicle. The fact that they believed that such a crude ruse would be effective speaks volumes about the people on the target.
02:11 - 02:16 The attack begins, shot again from the previous hide location. Apparently, the people in the outpost were too busy with other things to like, "patrol", and stuff.
02:17 - 02:41 The attack goes in. The initial contact, while resembling a drive-by in Los Angeles, quickly turns into a fast, aggressive and violent infantry assault. The shooters deploy per their rehearsal, but their maneuvering is extremely sloppy, and their weapons control is non-existent, as they flag each other repeatedly.
02:42 - 02:54 Grenade the building. Note that this is the correct tactic for employing a fragmentation hand grenade - the thrower's stand well back, to avoid the blast and fragments, then dump mags into the doors immediately after the blast. However, they are exposing too much of their bodies to the "Fatal Funnel" in the doorways, a very common mistake.
02:55 - 03:29 Pursuit. After a quick check of the interior, the camera-gunner and another shooter round the corner, and pursue-by-fire a pair of survivors. Note the shooter in the swanky red sneakers: he is firing steadily on semi-auto. The shooters take the fleeing pair down, then pursue up to their remains; apparently, at least one of them is still alive during the pair's approach, as they pause to blaze off a few more rounds, for completion's sake.
03:30 - 03:49 Regrouping and follow-through. The shooters move back into the outpost, and recheck buildings and dead enemies. While this might be seen as propaganda for the camera, it isn't: regrouping and checking the dead is a vital task, as there may be un-wounded enemies hiding from the attackers, who can wipe out the entire group as they remount their vehicle.
03:50 - 04:05 Intelligence collection and assessment. Apparently, at least one of the dead guys in the outpost was or had been a government soldier at one point (note the uniform and military gear, not common for that area), making the lax entrenchment situation even more inexcusable - this is the One-and-Twenty, not Beau Geste.
04:06 - 04:19 Casualty recovery and remount. The attackers suffered at least one man wounded; in all likelihood, he was shot in a friendly-fire flagging incident, given the abysmal maneuvering and weapons-handling skills the attackers displayed. Note, however, that the attackers expected casualties -- someone was brought along who had at least minimal combat trauma care training, as they have a saline drip into the casualty, and are evacuating him on a stretcher (no clue where the stretcher came from; it may have come from the outpost).
04:20 - 04:24 BlahblahPromoyaddayaddaDaeshFlagblahblah
04:25 - 04:41 Promotional/propaganda show-off of the haul...which was pretty considerable for this level of combat.
Assessment: The outpost's lack of basic-everything -- preparation, patrols, entrenchments, firing positions with designated fields of fire, etc -- was inexcusable. Their equipment, while sparse, could have been used far more effectively than it was. There was no reason for an attack force that small to succeed that well. A PKM GPMG (General-Purpose Machine Gun) and four AKM rifles with plentiful ammunition and magazines should have been more than sufficient to defend against the attack force. On the attackers side, this demonstrates that Daesh is learning. Despite their high casualty and personnel turnover rates, they are learning the lessons: they are conducting acceptable recon; they are making a reasonable plan for the situation; they are assigning appropriate forces to the target, based on the target's size and security levels; they are conducting realistic-enough rehearsals; and while they need serious work to cut down on flagging and on building entry, their weapons handling has evolved from 'spray-n-pray' to at least realistic attempts at engaging point targets with accurate, shoulder-fired small arms. ...The people in the outpost are dead. I have no sympathy for them, because they killed themselves, through their own inexcusable lack of effort. Lack of formal military training does not apply here, because even reasonably intelligent amateurs could have done better. That Daesh is learning at the low levels is not unexpected. It is, however, very disturbing and distressing. However, too many people will not see it that way...Which is even more disturbing.