Showing posts with label friendly-fire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friendly-fire. Show all posts

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Fighting Daesh in Afghanistan - "It's Complicated"

Achin District, Nangarhar Province

Franz Marty, an independent journalist based in Kabul, examines a recent friendly fire / insider threat incident that took place on 11 January 2018 in Achin district, Nangarhar province. News reports about the event were in the headlines for a few days but in the absence of reporting from the remote location (and very brief comments from USFOR-A) the story soon died. What seems to have happened is that a skirmish ensued with one U.S. soldier being wounded and one or more Afghans (militia or ?) being killed. This was followed by an U.S. air strike on a compound that possibly killed more Afghans. The story is a bit sketchy.

U.S. special operations forces, along side their Afghan SOF counterparts, have been taking the fight to the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) insurgents based in southern Nangarhar for the past couple of years. These ground actions, along with a healthy dose of air support, have deeply hurt the ISKP fighters . . . however, they seem to have a robust replacement pipeline because the group is still very active.

Franz Marty traveled to the remote region to get clarity on the incident but comes away, through no fault of his own, with an incomplete explanation of what actually happened. However, his on the ground investigation reveals the tangled web of politics, militias, and various (and shifting) allegiances found on the ground in local communities of that region of Afghanistan. It also reveals the obstacles in the path of U.S. military members who attempt to understand what is truly happening on the ground.

Fighting Daesh in Afghanistan "It's Complicated", by Franz Marty, February 10, 2018

Sunday, July 26, 2015

U.S. Friendly Fire Incident Kills ANA Soldiers

At least seven Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers were killed and others wounded in a friendly-fire incident in Logar province on Monday, July 20th. It appears from initial reports that a U.S. helicopter attacked an ANA checkpoint after receiving surface to air gunfire. USFOR-A is conducting an investigation into the incident involving an Apache helicopter. Resolute Support HQs issued a short statement offering condolences to the ANSF (RS Press Release, Jul 20, 2015). The Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) says the helicopters came under insurgent fire. How the helicopters then attacked the ANA position is unknown. Read more in "U.S. copters blow up Afghan army outpost", CBS News, July 20, 2015. (Photo: SGT Richard Jones, DVIDS, May 14).

Thursday, January 8, 2015

4 Airmen Disciplined after Friendly Fire Incident

Four U.S. Air Force airmen were disciplined through administrative means for their role in a friendly fire incident last June in Afghanistan where five U.S. Army Soldiers and one Afghan Soldier died during a Special Forces operation in Zabul province. The incident took place on June 9, 2014 when a B-1B Lancer dropped two bombs on the Special Forces position. The aircrew incorrectly thought the bomber's Sniper pod could detect the infrared strobes carried by the Soldiers on the ground. This, as well as other miscues, caused the six deaths. Read more in "4 airmen disciplined after June friendly fire incident in Afghanistan", Air Force Times, January 7, 2015.

But  wait . . . there is more. It seems that the "discipline through administrative means" is not quite as harsh as it seems. Another news report says that "Air Force clears crew in 'friendly fire' deaths", The Washington Times, January 7, 2015.  According to the Air Force the mistakes by its B1-B air crew when they targeted the American Soldiers did not directly cause the Afghan Wars's worst case of 'friendly fire' casualties. A CENTCOM investigation conducted by a two-star Air Force general place the blame on the SF team. Meanwhile, the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) Commander, LTG Charles Cleveland, has cleared the team leader and team sergeant of the SF team of wrongdoing - attributing the blame on the Air Force JTAC attached to the team and the B-1B air crew. Supporters of the A-10 point to this incident as an example of why the Air Force needs to keep the Warthog as the primary close air support aircraft.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

SF Team Cleared in Friendly Fire Incident

Two Special Forces Soldiers from the 5th Special Forces Group have been cleared of wrongdoing in a friendly fire case that occurred on June 9, 2014. A B-1B bomber dropped two bombs on the position of a Special Forces team killing five Americans and one Afghan sergeant. U.S. Central Command conducted an investigation and pinned some of the blame on the SF team on the ground. The lead investigator, Air Force MG Jeffrey Harrigian, called for charges against the two Green Berets. However, the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), commanded by LTG Charles Cleveland, conducted a review of the incident and cleared the SF team leader and team sergeant of any wrongdoing. The B-1B was conducting a five-mile orbit at 12,000 feet - placing it outside of the effective range of the radios used by the ground team - which caused a decrease in communications effectiveness between the aircrew and the ground team. In addition, the air crew was relying on night vision devices that did not have sufficient range to detect ground team signals. An Air Force Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC) on the ground with the SF team called in the air strike. The bombs landed directly on the SF teams position. The B-1B, flying too high and too distant from the SF teams position, was unable to properly execute a mission more suited to the Air Force A-10. The A-10 has crews that specialize in close air support of ground units and can fly low and slow - increasing the effectiveness of communications and able to observe the situation on the ground. Read more in "Green Berets cleared in Afghanistan friendly fire deaths", The Washington Times, December 28, 2014.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

JTAC - A Tough Job

B-1B Bomber
Joint Terminal Attack Controllers or JTACs in the Air Force have a very demanding, complex, and important job. JTACs are Air Force personnel who are assigned to ground combat units to direct close air support. The Afghans have a similar job specialty called the Afghan Air Tactical Coordinator or ATAC. Over the past decade or more the Air Force has reserved the function of JTACs for Air Force only personnel - much to the dismay of the Army and Marines. The Air Force controls the selection, training, and assignments of JTACs but they fail to meet the needs of the Army combat units in terms of the number of JTACs (this has been true ever since 2001 in Afghanistan and 2003 in Iraq).

The JTACs have a high operational tempo - with frequent deployments overseas into combat zones. While they sign up for the Air Force they spend most of their time with the Army on combat operations. The frequent deployments have caused a high rate of attrition - many JTACs are opting out and leaving the service. This attrition rate causes a perpetual shortage of JTACs and a lowering of the overall experience level.

There are limited opportunities for personnel of other services to achieve a JTAC rating. One is the Special Operations Terminal Attack Controller Course (SOTACC) which teaches special operations personnel from the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps the conduct of close air support missions and fully certify them as qualified Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC). However, the SOTTAC course has a limited capacity to train personnel - so most special operations teams must rely on a JTAC provided by the Air Force.

The latest 'friendly fire' incident in which five Army personnel were killed (mid-2014 in Zabul province) in a Special Forces operation is partly the result of a JTAC who had a mediocre record of performance. In addition, the B-1B crew has been grounded. Read more in "Attrition: A Rare Friendly Fire Incident Explained", Strategy Page, November 14, 2014.

Friday, October 31, 2014

B-1B Bomber Blamed for Friendly Fire Incident

A newspaper report has stated that a B1 Bomber played a role in the deaths of five U.S. Army personnel in Zabul province. According to the report "The B-1B's sheer size required it to fly a wide orbit of five miles for optimum bombing as it made right turns over the nighttime battle site. This put it outside the range of night vision goggles. The goggles were the only equipment the bomber had to identify the infrared strobe lights worn by U.S. troops to distinguish them from the enemy and to keep them safe". News accounts like this one will likely generate support in Congress for keeping the A-10 Thunderbolt in the U.S. Air Force inventory; as it is the best suited aircraft for close air support. Read more in "Budget cuts, errant B1 bomber blamed in deadly 'friendly fire' accident in Afghan war", The Washington Times, October 29, 2014.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Five Friendly Fire Deaths Were Avoidable

Five U.S. military members who recently died in a friendly fire incident were the victims of bad communications among air and ground elements. The deaths occurred during a combat mission in southern Afghanistan in June 2014. A military investigation found that key personnel "collectively" failed to execute some fundamental procedures which could have averted the tragedy. A B-1B Lancer bomber dropped two guided bombs on a U.S. and Afghan ground position. Learn more about the investigation findings in "Report: Deaths were avoidable in Afghan 'friendly fire' incident", Stars and Stripes, September 5, 2014.