The Devil's Trident
Two Canadian soldiers were killed by a roadside IED, only days after six others were killed, also by an IED. A third IED, which injured another Canadian, occurred about a kilometer away. Although few details are available, the IED was described as exploding "near" the targeted vehicles. (Comments discuss the recent explosions at the Iraqi Parliament)
"Two Canadian soldiers were killed and two others were injured, one seriously, when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle in Afghanistan," Col. Mike Cessford, deputy commander of Task Force Afghanistan, told reporters in Kandahar early Thursday.
The latest IED attacks were on Coyotes, which are Canadian versions of the Swiss Piranha 8-wheel AFV. The earlier attack which killed 6 were on Canadian LAVs, which are similar to equipment used by US Marines.
It is tempting to wonder whether the reference to bombs which exploded "near" the Coyote described an EFP. The IED which destroyed the LAV was probably a large conventional mine because it appears to have totaled the vehicle, whereas an EFVs would have punched a plate-sized hole in a LAV but would not necessarily kill six people.
But be that as it may, the IED and sniper are turning out to be two of the most effective weapons in the enemy arsenal. One suspects the enemy of relying on a kind of devil's trident: the IED, Sniper and AAA to hamper Coalition mobility, while using mortars to harass static bases. (Very little has been written about the counters to these new threats. There is some discussion about reactive armor developments effective against kinetic energy projectiles in the future. But doubtless many of the near term countermeasures rely on breaking up enemy IED cells, jamming and surveillance.) Terrorism is the ultimate defense in depth, the ultimate area ambush and those who think the US experience is peculiar to Iraq should look at the Allied experience in Basra and Afghanistan; and if they are historically inclined, to Algeria and Lebanon to see that it represents a tactical challenge of no mean dimension.
It's a challenge that will be presented again and again, whether or not the US leaves Iraq. It's a form of defense that will be mounted in Afghanistan, southern Thailand and Lebanon. The location of the battlefield may move -- even perhaps to Western cities -- but it will take the same forms unless the problem is solved.
Perhaps it is not coincidental that many of the tactics adopted in response to extreme defense in depth are forms of offense in depth as well. The most prominent of these has been the raid, in which Coalition forces strike at terrorist cells with men or from UAVs circling invisibly overhead. These measures are now being supplemented by recruiting local soldiery and allies and turning them against the enemy. The Russians have enlisted Chechens in their continuing campaign and America has tribal allies in Anbar. The attack against terrorists ingrained in a social structure will probably consists of twisting that very social structure against them. It is hard to imagine any continuing campaign against terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia or Pakistan that will not result in traumatic changes to these societies.
The attack on Canadians in Afghanistan are a sad reminder that the game, far from ending, has only just begun.