Sunday, August 19, 2007

Donkey Island

MSNBC's account of the Battle of Donkey Island describes a meeting engagement between a patrol of three Humvees and an assault team of 40 highly motivated and trained al-Qaeda fighters trying to position themselves for an attack on Ramadi. It was basically an infantry duel using the organic weapons available to both the sides. No artillery or aerial support was used by the US side. Neither of the small units engaged withdrew. They contested the battlefield until one side was annhilated. Reinforcements appeared to come from local US response units. As history it is a snapshot of the state of 2 small infantry units encountering each other on the Iraqi battlefield.

Anyone who is looking for proof of a demoralized US Army or a shattered al-Qaeda will be disappointed. Both sides fought as well as could be humanly expected. The MSNBC article dwells in great on the discipline, training and determination of the al-Qaeda men. The enemy moved with tactical finesse; they did not break even when they took heavy casualties from the US troops; they resisted, like the Japanese in World War 2, to the point of death. But the performance of the US troops was absolutely amazing, a fact that is even more impressive because it was combat between a numerically inferior US unit against an elite enemy force using organic weapons. They held their position, maneuvered for advantage and were never even remotely at the point of panic or breaking.

Of course, once the local American reinforcements arrived the al-Qaeda unit was doomed, but their fate was sealed earlier. The three Humveee patrol fixed, disrupted and cut up a force three to four times their size and immobilized an enemy unit that saw its mission change instantly from the infiltration of Ramadi to surviving. It's an amazing story.

Nothing follows.


Blogger NahnCee said...

What, or who, is al Queda in Iraq? Would these be imported terrorists or homegrown?

The story talks about hand-made grenades made out of bottles, and suicide vests. It doesn't say anything about sophisticated Iran-supplied munitions.

So who thunk up this idea, and who supplied them?

Would it be right to conclude that the Americans won because they were being supplied with extra ammunition and people throughout the night? That it started off with 9 soldiers against 30-40 (or more), but by the end of the battle, there were many more Americans involves, lots more equipment like Bradleys, and gazillions more bullets.

One of the lessons of the Cold War is don't try to out-spend us. No one on earth can, and certainly not a bunch of Bedoins in a tent.

8/19/2007 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Imported terrorists or homegrown? They seemed to be well-trained... I wonder if that helps answer the question. Maybe homegrown with outside training...

Anyway, well done by the 77th armor

8/19/2007 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger Solomon2 said...

How was Al-Qaeda able to train these men in Iraq? Why couldn't Iraqi and coalition forces detect and neutralize their training facility before this incident ever took place?

8/19/2007 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

No, because as General Lynch so aptly put it just two weeks ago, solomon2, the US military controls where ever it stands, no where it does not.

The PKK stand as testament to that truth.

8/19/2007 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

Why are there no photos of the dead AQ minions lined up in rows? In the information war we don't seem to be advertising our victories.

8/19/2007 09:09:00 PM  
Blogger NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

Hmm. They seem to be training to fight actual battles. That could be a problem in the future.

I wonder if this was a specially trained assassination team that was going to assault the sheik's building. If it was, we destroyed a very valuable asset. It's hard for the enemy to build trained units in Iraq, especially since they take heavy casualties when they fight and often have to leave wounded behind.

I'm sure the intel types are going over this to determine if this is a special team or if Al Qeada is becoming more professional overall.

Still, if I'd been the enemy commander I would have disengaged after initial contact and saved my men for a battle they could win. Guerillas don't win this kind of war by fighting in the open like that. Perhaps they were a little too motivated.

8/19/2007 09:48:00 PM  
Blogger NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

I wonder if this was a rear guard and maybe some more bad guys got away? That's what the Afghans did when confronted with a superior Russian force. They're certainly dedicated enough for the job.

8/19/2007 09:55:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I like the idea of an assassination team. I keep wondering who the five "civilians" were in the Bedouin tent. Maybe they were the home-grown spotters who were supposed to get the bad guys in closer to their target.

8/19/2007 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger Valentine Smith said...


In the end it makes no difference where the insurgents are from.
Obviously they are not trained in Iraq.
We would love nothing more than for them to stand up and do battle.

These cats weren't wearing suicide vests for nothing—they intended to die. And most of them did.

8/19/2007 10:50:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

32 to 2 sounds like pray and spray on the part of the highly trained aQ forces. I guess they are more interested in committing suicide than combat. The only deaths on the American side weren't from expertise but from luck and concealment of a single enemy. An estimated 70 enemy fighters weren't effective enough to hold their own let alone gain any advantage.

"Spannagel, the scout leader, said the fighting revealed "a false sense of security that we'd won the battle in Ramadi."" I would like to know the genesis for this statement. In fact from the tenor of this story I'd like to know if Ms. Tyson's last name isn't Beauchamp.

How did she know that the insurgents were evacuating their wounded to 'tents in the north'? And the bedouin civilians (women)? I wonder if they were presented as such? Normally highly trained military units don't carry hostages with them, it puts a crimp in their flexibility.

BTW, the pin failing on that grenade was a stroke of luck. I've never heard of a pin failing on a grenade, was it sheared or did it fall out? These niggling little questions.

8/19/2007 10:50:00 PM  
Blogger Glenn Howes said...

From reading the article, I get the impression the civilians were local Bedouins murdered for their identities, and to keep them from raising an alarm as the al Queda unit was trying to masquerade as Bedouins.

I don't envy the Army's having to separate the bad guys from the bystanders.

8/19/2007 11:04:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

"At 1:35 a.m., as a group of insurgents was evacuating casualties to tents to the north, Young ordered a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that had arrived on the scene to open fire. Eight insurgents and five civilians, three male and two female, were later found dead in two tents, the military said."


"Buchan, known for his many Iraqi friends, walked north to look at the Bedouin tents. Inside, he found two dead Bedouin women, whom he covered with a blanket. Returning along the road, he noticed a link of PKC machine gun bullets and bent to pick it up to give to the Iraqi police"

It's somewhat confusing, were there 7 civilians or 5, were the 5 or 7 included in the count of 32 enemy dead? She should have a handle on the action since she took the photo of Capt Lauer at the scene.

8/20/2007 12:27:00 AM  
Blogger Pieta said...

"One of the lessons of the Cold War is don't try to outspend us. No one on earth can..."

With the world's largest proven gas reserves and the second largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia, I'm afraid Putin is set to effect a post-Cold War reversal of fortune with his recent initiation of a £100 billion program of military refurbishment and enhancement with which to reassert Russian power dominance vis-a-vis the West, and explicitly, America.

8/20/2007 04:21:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Create pain, lots of pain, for those whom we consider our enemies...and their supporting or unwitting friends. So much pain they decide to stop fighting us...surrender is a word that comes to mind.

I don't mind people who choose to eat on the floor, even if covered with hand made rugs, using their fingers, talking in a different tongue.

What I mind is when their leaders, who hide within a religion, convince the youth to surrender their young lives for a belief system that does not include the elders joining them in their adventures.

Sure, we can look at history and say this is how is has been done in the past, it is common, yet when one group sends out its future to die--in wholesale, well it does tell us about that group.

Our enemies are sick peoples. This doesn't make us right, nor morally superior, it just seems that these people are very limited in their visions and certainly in their creativities.

Dangerous for sure, and if they didn't sit on that oil...well, wouldn't we just leave them alone? After all, who wants to spend time, blood, and treasure on nut jobs?

Open up the rules of engagement so our sons and daughters can be safer and return home quickly. As to "civilian" deaths, this is the new speak of "clean and precise" warring.

Warring is not clean, nor precise: It is death, destruction, pain, misery and energy spent for victory. Haves and have nots have always fought. Civilians always die in war.

Let's get this over with, I want to see Vick's court appearance on tv: Will he be as arrogant now? Will PETA throw lawsuits at him? Will the Hip-Hop community embrace him in his time of need?

Will Maliki survive through the end of this year?

I want my team to win, period! Americans love to work, play and especially help other people: This I know, we are not evil!

Religion of peace...sure, try some more lipstick on this pig!

8/20/2007 05:34:00 AM  
Blogger buck smith said...


The whole Russian economy is $733 billion by exchange rate, $1.73 billion in purchasing power parity. This is from CIA factbook. The US DOD spends $493 billion in 2007.

8/20/2007 06:09:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

We spent USSR into oblivion once. Since then, in addition to a rusty and collapsed infrastructure, they've developed both a galloping AIDS epidemic *and* endemic alcoholism. Not to mention how many really smart and motivated people have fled that barren country.

I suppose Russia AND China AND Saudi Arabia could team up to try to out-spend, out-play, out-wit, and out-last us, but somehow I just don't see them getting along all that well together.

But hey, if you're inherently pessimistic and anti-American and looking for a nit to pick, I suppose Putin's macho antics are as good a thing to hang your hat on as anything.

(I read something last week that he's posing for bare-chested muscle pictures for distribution here and there. If true, that would make Dubya's flight jacket look suave in comparison.)

8/20/2007 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Daedalus Mugged said...

While it was an "infantry duel" it is worth noting that the US unit involved, 1-77 Armor "Steel Tigers" are tankers not infantryman. They are highly skilled operators of the M1 main battle tank. These are US soldiers who, although trained, equipped and organized for tank combat, dismounted their tanks, changed their primary weapon system, and learned the skills necessary to operate quite effectively as infantry soldiers. As good as they are and proved to be, that isn't even their real specialty.

I just thought it worth noting.

8/20/2007 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

We have very motivated volunteers defending our Constitution and take their Soldier's Creed serioulsy.

The great leadership finally in place from DOD to Petreaus and his advisor Kilcullen to their subordnates and retrained troopers are making a major difference. There is obvioulsy great improvement in tactics such as less reliance on airpower and firepower (M-1 MBTs).

I fear it may be too little too late. The critical and strategic issue is a government in Iraq considered legitimate by the people of Iraq.

I pray hard for this because so much blood and treasure is invested and the insugents have a home field advantage. This is why so rarely has a foreign power has been able to subdue an occupied insugency since WWI. It has only succeeded if a government considered legitimate by a vast majority of it's people is in place.

See Fabius Maximus on

Salaam eleikum.

8/20/2007 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

Thank you buck and DM for your responses to Pieta, who might also consider that even in their Wahabbist indolence, the Saudi royal family understands that the threat to their reign and lifestyles (most visible in the persons of ObL and the genocidal midget doc Zawahiri) is KGB nurtured, if not bred, and that Putin (and the entire Pootie admin in Russia) is KGB...and the Saudis are flexible of mind enough to understand that that old saw about "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." is bait for chumps.

8/20/2007 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

...and may God bless the guys of 1/77 and may He keep close the 2 guys who bought it that following morning.

8/20/2007 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger Solomon2 said...

They contested the battlefield until one side was annhilated.

Reading the report a bit more closely, I see the troops' original estimate was up to 70 insurgents, yet after the battle only 32 insurgents were reported killed, and the story reports only one captured (though I suppose there may have been more).

So what happened to the other thirty-plus insurgents? Was it an understandable over-estimate by soldiers under the stress of battle, or did some insurgents escape?

8/21/2007 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger rod said...

Amrerican forces generally fight very well, we are well trained and motivated. The fact that they out manuevered a superior adversary till they achieved tactical advantage speaks volumes for their training and espirit. As for where the jihadi trained, Iran, The Bekah valley, Syria the Afghan Pakistan frontier does it matter they fought and lost as a coherent unit. Infantry fights genrally start with small groups, the winners hold out till help arrives or not. Gettyburg, Marathon, The Bulge, Ia Drang, Waterloo...

8/22/2007 11:16:00 AM  

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