Humanizing the Fight: a RAF Pilot’s Personal Account of the “War on Terror”

Last quarter we had a long discussion in class about civilian casualties and the risk of creating more insurgents. We also talked about the cold-blooded dimension of droning and air bombing. As a way of continuing and widening our debate on the subject, I decided to include the following piece on the blog. It was written by a friend of mine who serves as combat pilot in the Royal Air Force. He describes his own experience and evokes the ethical dilemmas that combat pilots inevitably come across when fighting the “War on Terror.” It is very personal, very intense, and I really enjoyed reading it. I hope you will too.

“As an operator at the sharp end myself, I see other events that also force focus. On the evening of 28th January 2010, I led a pair of GR4s to support a combined SBS & SAS “soft knock.” Two squadrons, nearly 200 men, 4 Chinook transport helicopters, 2 Apache attack helicopters, a Commando Sea King helicopter with a high powered infrared camera, a Hercules AC-130 Spectre gunship, and us, were allocated to the operation. The goal of the operation was to capture or kill two key IED facilitators and their caches. The two targets were within 5 miles of each other and the first boots on the ground were to be at 11pm. The insertion went as planned, and we watched 200 odd men secure the buildings and surrounding area and everything seemed quiet. At around midnight, the Spectre gunship reported “5 individuals moving tactically” up a small river gully towards the secured areas. They were initially located at 1300m to the friendly forces. All sensors in the air were pointed to them. Our picture from 18000’ was not very good, but we could make out 5-6 people moving along the wooded riverbank, stopping periodically at trees and hunching down. There was extensive conversation on the radio between the ground commander, the Sea King camera operator and the Apache pilots. Several long barreled weapons were identified, as was a heavy object one of them was carrying. All of them accumulated at a position 1000m from the friendly forces, still in the tree line, and took up a firing position. During this time the ground commander had sought clearance from a higher authority to use an unrestrictive Rule of Engagement. The conversation in my aircraft was about whether these people were posing a threat to friendly forces, and our general feeling was that the aircraft much lower and closer to them were in the best position to decide that. From the level of confidence in the radio conversation, we were satisfied that at least they were satisfied. A relatively unrestrictive Rule of Engagement was granted and an Apache fired 30mm high explosive rounds at the 6 people in a firing position. The enemy were neutralised and shortly after the attack I led the GR4s home as we were short on fuel. On the ground, my formation agreed that we would not have engaged that target on what we could see, but our level of trust in what the other platforms were reporting was high. We also wondered at the level of understanding of the insurgents about our night capability, about how from several thousand feet we could identify long barreled weapons and how easily we could track their movement.

The following day five bodies were delivered to a Forward Operating Base 10 miles from the attack; a six, eight and 10 year old boy, a 20 and a 30 year old man. They were presented as victims of the previous night’s attack. According to those who brought the bodies, they were picking fruit. Photos of the bodies showed them dirty, lightly blooded, but wrapped in blankets. Several experienced onlookers suspected the bodies had been dug up, noting the common Taleban strategy of claiming already deceased civilians as victims of NATO attacks, or even gratuitously killing and presenting the same. A check of the CASEVAC records for the previous 24 hours showed one person with life threatening injuries delivered to that FOB at around 0900, with estimated 40mm shrapnel wounds, no further details.

Command at the Apaches’ home base, Camp Bastion, were unsatisfied with the conclusiveness of the gun tape, and wanted more compelling evidence that they were indeed armed. We checked our tapes of the engagement to see if there were telling moments but the quality, due to the distance, was poor. We watched the Sea King’s tape, which was far better resolution. The people were definitely crouching alongside trees, keeping wide spacing between them, and definitely carrying objects. At least one of them, possibly, was carrying a rifle. One of them, clearly, was carrying a shovel. The people were all the same size, and appeared to be adults.
There was overarching desire to discover the truth, and the elements remained confusing and potentially contradictory. No one involved wanted to hide anything, and hours were spent watching and rewatching the tapes, looking for evidence either way. Although it would be a terrible tragedy if they were indeed civilians, our honest belief is sufficient defense. None of us has anything to gain and all much to lose by lying.

Watching six people killed under a fiery hail of high explosive believing that they are enemy forces is confronting moment. Watching the same events under the light that they are potentially civilians, collecting fruit, albeit from bare trees past midnight in the middle of winter, is horrifying. It set me thinking about what I might do if presented with the same circumstances again – I was providing area coverage searching for potential enemy activity, there were several aircraft far better placed than I to make a judgment about the threat posed. During a Special Forces’ operation, many highly trained, armed and capable people and aircraft involved – at what point is it appropriate to step in with a suggestion about escalation, being the worst placed to assess any of the events? Ironically, that point now stands out clear as day. Precisely that fact, that we were the worst placed to assess the threat gave us the detachment to make such a call. I’ll never know if it would have made a difference that night, or if we would simply have been told to no longer contribute.

As it turned out, there were other intelligence sources that were able, along with the tape evidence, to conclusively identify the victims as enemy fighters. The ground commander had access to these before the attack, and made his judgment considering that information. Nonetheless, the experience is a lesson in humility. It really hammers home the truths all combat pilots know: it’s far better to let 6 enemy go free than to kill a civilian; a flick of a switch from the air will be irreversible, lethal, and totally detached.”

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About Afghanopoly

I am an Assistant Professor of peace and conflict studies at Radboud University's Centre for International Conflict Analysis and Management (CICAM). I completed my PhD in Political Science at Northwestern University and Sciences Po under the supervision of Will Reno and Bertrand Badie. Among other things, I teach students about the politics of international intervention in Afghanistan and elsewhere. My research focuses on the political strategies that Afghan strongmen use to consolidate and legitimize their authority. I am particularly interested in how these actors manage to conduct their own forms of international relations. My field research brings me in contact with Afghan community leaders, politicians, diplomats and foreign military officers.
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28 Responses to Humanizing the Fight: a RAF Pilot’s Personal Account of the “War on Terror”

  1. This was indeed a fascinating read. I do remember our discussions in class about the morality of the war, fought ostensibly to avenge 9/11, that is causing much civilian casualties. Reading this article is informative and made me remember that the (often questionable) morality of war could be, and most of the times is, different from the sum total of the (often upright) morality of the individual hands pulling the trigger.

  2. Valkyrie says:

    Reading this drives home the obvious point that the decision to engage is never taken lightly and that the resulting action is carefully reviewed after it occurs.

    Out of curiosity (because of lack of personal experience with the military here in the United States), is it the rule that there is always a record of any action taken? At all times? Just wondering. If so, it seems the perfect accountability tool as well as one with which to learn from past tactical maneuvers.

    Also, another blogger has assured me that she’ll join once the current quarter ends (which is great, because her research on the drone activity was quite interesting to read). I didn’t have to go cherching too far, because we sit together in class most of the time. Some are busy this quarter, will rejoin later, but will rejoin nonetheless.

    Last note: I’m so ready to go rent “Top Gun” after reading this piece.

    • Valkyrie says:

      Clarifying question:

      By “record,” I meant what was referred to as the “gun tape.”

      It’s always recorded as a rule?

  3. Valkyrie says:

    This is for L, by the way…

    http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlla/top-gun-sequel-tom-cruise-tony-scott-jerry-bruckheimer-david-ellison_b22997

    Ellison pitched Top Gun‘s original team — Cruise, director Tony Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer – on ways to update the story to the 21st century, such as integrating the increasing use of unmanned drones by the military.

    She’s probably cringing that they might put that in a movie, to glorify it.

    Actually, I think the drones are intriguing, just that there’s less accountability when you’re not even the one flying over the target, but are just operating via remote control. THAT’S detachment.

  4. M.A.G says:

    R, I was reading this article and thought of this post:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/03/world/asia/03afghan.html?_r=2&hp

    The morality of war is such a murky area seeing that yes, we are all individuals whose rights and feelings exist, however, these must be put aside to fit into the definition of war – especially for personnel. War has always been a black and white issue i.e.”Good” v “Bad” – perhaps a grey strategy would be better with different but concurrent goals. Especially in a country that is traditionally decentralised due to social and cultural traditions.

  5. Durkheim says:

    Valkrie – You are awesome.

    To the hero who wrote the piece on drone warfare:
    “Our picture from 18000’ was not very good, but we could make out 5-6 people moving along the wooded riverbank, stopping periodically at trees and hunching down. There was extensive conversation on the radio between the ground commander, the Sea King camera operator and the Apache pilots. Several long barreled weapons were identified, as was a heavy object one of them was carrying.”
    You probably have already seen this video but just in case you haven’t here is the link:

    Unfortunately, You are not the only one who experienced such an event (empirical evidence in link above). Bombing civilians via drones is quite common actually and has happened several times. I have provided two links (below) supporting the fact that drones are not “targeted killings” they are assassinations which is illegal according to IHL:
    http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/05/14/afghanistan-us-should-act-end-bombing-tragedies
    http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/14session/A.HRC.14.24.Add6.pdf
    I would like to know your response to the following question: Is drone warfare effective during unconventional warfare? And is it even legal according to IHL/Geneva Conventions?

    “There was an ‘extensive conversation on the radio’ in this incident as well…
    Precisely that fact, that we were the worst placed to assess the threat gave us the detachment to make such a call…As it turned out, there were other intelligence sources that were able, along with the tape evidence, to conclusively identify the victims as enemy fighters. ”
    This demonstrates precisely why drones should be banned. These are not what IHL call “targeted killings. ” Drones do not fulfill the principles of proportionality and distinction as outlined in international law. The principle of distinction is the cornerstone of the 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention that requires parties in a conflict to distinguish between civilians and combatants as well as between civilian objects and military objects (As I am sure you know). As you are probably aware of, the CIA operates a drone program in states that we are not in conflict with. I thought only lawful combatants can use force legally. CIA personnel are not lawful combatants and, according to the law, may be charged with a crime.

    Furthermore, I am curious about your opinion on the CIA drone program in Pakistan. I do not understand how this does not violate state sovereignty as outlined in IHL.

    “It really hammers home the truths all combat pilots know: it’s far better to let 6 enemy go free than to kill a civilian; a flick of a switch from the air will be irreversible, lethal, and totally detached.”
    I completely agree. A famous study in psychology known as the Milgram Shock Experiment demonstrated that people are significantly more likely to inflict pain on others from a distance and much less likely to do so in close proximity (studies show that soldiers who participated in conventional warfare, such as WWI and WW2, were less likely to shoot the enemy compared to today’s unconventional warfare). CIA UAVs are operated thousands of miles away from combat zones in Nevada and Virginia by people who typically have little military experience. Despite the fact that they are untrained in IHL, operating a drone is very much like operating a video-game and encourages a “playstation mentality” to killing that likely contributes to the high death toll of unintended targets.

    I apologize if I sound preachy. I’m just passionate about the topic.

    • Valkyrie says:

      @ Durkheim:

      I apologize if posting a comment about drones on this thread possibly confused (I was pretty aware that the combat pilot was flying a traditional air mission, and not part of a drone mission, but I think meandering over to the drone comment might have possibly confused? If so, sorry about that).

      That aside, carry on with your debates…

  6. Durkheim says:

    And I wasn’t being sarcastic when I called you a hero. I really meant that.

  7. Afghanopoly says:

    Just to clarify things… The “hero” who wrote the piece I posted doesn’t talk about droning. He talks about civilian casualties and the ethical dilemmas that combat pilots face everyday in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The legality of droning (and targeted killing) is a totally different issue.

    On a more pragmatic (and cynical) note, those civilian casualties have endangered “the mission” from day 1, creating more resentment among the population and fuelling the insurgency (especially since the “enemy” uses strategies such as “claiming already deceased civilians as victims of NATO attacks” to artificially inflate the numbers).

    Civilian casualties have also worsened the United States’ relationship with President Karzai, who has been skillfully using the deaths of innocent civilians to distance himself from the coalition and affirm his own power. So Durkheim is right: air bombing and droning might end up being counterproductive.

  8. Durkheim says:

    “Just to clarify things… The “hero” who wrote the piece I posted doesn’t talk about droning. He talks about civilian casualties and the ethical dilemmas that combat pilots face everyday in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The legality of droning (and targeted killing) is a totally different issue.”
    You are completely right and I apologize for diverting attention away from the actual issue at hand for my own purposes. One is rarely exposed to the perspective of an actual combatant so this was a major learning opportunity and I hope he continues to share his stories and thoughts.
    Empowerment Engineer stated that “Reading this article is informative and made me remember that the (often questionable) morality of war could be, and most of the times is, different from the sum total of the (often upright) morality of the individual hands pulling the trigger.” Very well articulated and I completely agree. Kalyvas would be proud of you.

  9. Afghanopoly says:

    No apologies necessary! Droning is a very interesting issue we can of course discuss here. I just wanted to make sure that there was no misunderstanding regarding the story.

  10. Durkheim says:

    I associated the post with drone warfare because of the reference to “the cold-blooded dimension of droning and air bombing. As a way of continuing and widening our debate on the subject, I decided to include the following piece on the blog.” I should have paid more attention to the actual substance of the article rather than making erroneous conclusions. If at all possible, I still would like to know your friend’s opinion regarding drones in Pakistan. I feel like my perspective pertaining to this issue is biased and I am a proponent of open-mindedness so I would appreciate to learn the perspective of a combatant.
    Keep on posting!

  11. The author says:

    I’m very flattered by what some of you have said here, I certainly don’t regard myself as heroic. It’s not necessarily an easy job, but it certainly isn’t hard in comparison to life on the ground. I’m pleased too that some of you found it interesting.

    To answer a couple of specifics:

    Reporting:
    There is a report written for every single mission, regardless of what happened (often absolutely nothing happens.) Any kinetic events (weaponry) all the aircraft sensors that have it recorded (eg designator pod, gun camera) will be milked for the data and it will be filed with the report. The reports go up the chain of command and certainly every weapon event is analysed by the legal lot and strategic commanders. It was near the bottom end of this chain that the issue in my story was raised, demonstrating, I suppose, that the system is capable of self-monitoring (not that I would endorse that.)

    Drones:
    There were drones “in the stack” (the aircraft operating above the ground mission) during this mission but I chose not to mention them as they played no part. For the record, the sensors onboard a drone are usually better than those available to combat aircraft. They can fly lower (better imagery), for far longer, and be operated by people who are fresher. Of course, they are geographically distant, which means they are very “detached.” But for a given situation, they are probably no more “detached” than a fast jet pilot, as they get almost all the same information. In fact often they will have a better strategic (even tactical) understanding because the secure chat system is available to them, whereas it is not to a fast jet. The jet pilot can look out the window, but what can you see that’s 2-3 miles away? A final point – I doubt very much that drones cause more unintended casualties than any other actor.

    As a general point on air power, I’m sure you’re all aware just how heavy a hammer it is. I’m unconvinced as to its usefulness in winning a war like Afghanistan, not that I have a solution. But if you are going to use the heavy end of military power available, air is quite a good option, over say artillery. A laser or GPS guided weapon will almost always hit its target first time, artillery, including GPS guided rockets, will almost always miss first time. But be under no illusion; though a 500lb bomb is not a small bang, it is one of the smallest used.

    I too like Empowerment Engineer’s turn of phrase regarding the morality of war. The strongest motivation for us was most about looking after those yomping about on the ground. “Morality” for us was the protection of their lives, and non-combatants too. For me, it was rather counter-productive to consider the wider morality and execution of the war. It’s certainly not a new phenomenon – looking after your mates has always been the prime motivator for soldiers, I don’t believe it could ever be different.

  12. Durkheim says:

    The Author:
    I truly appreciate your prompt response. And I will look it over more thoroughly in the near future. I’m swamped with work and school right now (finals week).

    You stated that:
    “But for a given situation, they are probably no more “detached” than a fast jet pilot, as they get almost all the same information. In fact often they will have a better strategic (even tactical) understanding because the secure chat system is available to them, whereas it is not to a fast jet. The jet pilot can look out the window, but what can you see that’s 2-3 miles away? A final point – I doubt very much that drones cause more unintended casualties than any other actor.”
    For the meantime, I am wondering if you know about the Milgram Shock Experiment? This study has been replicated several times over the past 50 years or so and has been thoroughly validated by scientists across the world. If not, I urge you to look it over, particularly regarding proximity of the “victim” from the “teacher.”
    Also, I concur with you that drones are an excellent source for human intelligence gathering. Pakistan agrees with this as well. However, I am not a big fan of utilizing such technology as lethal force, given that the precision is not as accurate as one might think.
    I am only focusing on this part of your response right now because it caught my eye and I am exhausted right now. I will follow up…

    Once again, thank you so much for responding and I hope to hear from you soon!

  13. Durkheim says:

    I think this is relevant to the conversation at hand. Very interesting piece:

  14. The author says:

    I have read of the Milgram shock experiment. Interesting point, so if bayonetting was the only response fewer people would be killed? I’m not so sure. The scores might be more even, but I wouldn’t think they’d be smaller. But you probably don’t mean this, so what are you suggesting?

    “However, I am not a big fan of utilizing such technology as lethal force, given that the precision is not as accurate as one might think.” What exactly do you mean here? Are you saying that a drone’s weapon delivery is less accurate than another air platform?

    • Valkyrie says:

      Hey there from across the pond (US citizen, here).

      First off, thanks for answering questions based on your expertise (what a great learning experience the blog is, even though the actual course some of us took at NU has ended).

      Secondly, thanks to you Brits (I understand the author is in the RAF) for punk rock, the BBC (I love “Dr. Who”), and The Rolling Stones (you can keep Lady Gaga, though).

      Finally, I just wanted to add that I think that when others bring up the Milgram experiments, the point is that many seem to think that there’s a strong degree of detachment that may make it easier for some to rationalize a strike on a target, even outside of the correct “moral” reasons (unless, of course, one thinks all war is entirely immoral, no matter what–many do, I’m quite sure).

      From someone with more experience than the rest of us, though, are you making a point that no matter what type of method of delivery, there is always going to be some degree of error? Because I’ve always thought air strikes were the most prone to error, due to the distance. Your point about artillery, however, did make sense; it would, indeed, seem as if there’s still going to be collateral damage, even with ground forces in combat.

      But again, I suspect that Durkheim is thinking about how very very far away the controller of the drone is from the target.

      I do have to say that in the Milgram experiments, innocent people were shocked, whereas the drone program is clearly not meant to target innocents, but to take out “high value targets” (aka terror leaders). Big difference, there, but is droning less prone to error than other types of strikes? I thought the program was to deal with the very challenging terrain over there in Pakistan, and also, because we learned that the Pakistan government didn’t actually want our boots on the actual ground (hence the drone strikes in the tribal areas from above).

  15. Durkheim says:

    Hello all! Sorry I haven’t been posting much recently.
    Some very fascinating news regarding the CIA drone program in Pakistan.
    The author-
    You first ask “so if bayonetting was the only response fewer people would be killed? I’m not so sure…. But you probably don’t mean this, so what are you suggesting?” Actually, that is exactly what I am suggesting. A bayonet kills one person at a time, drones and other air strikes are more likely to cause collateral damage considering the distance from the target and the fact that air strikes can kill dozens and destroy massive amounts of land whereas a bayonet kills one person at a time and does not harm the environment.
    You asked “What exactly do you mean here? Are you saying that a drone’s weapon delivery is less accurate than another air platform?” Precisely. The law of proportionality is clearly violated in our drone program over in Pakistan. In fact, the Pakistani government is begging us to stop these attacks that are launched without their approval. Not to mention that “they are hugely unpopular with the Pakistani public” according to the BBC. Furthermore, within the past year, the actions taken by the US has severely strained its relationship with Pakistan:
    1. Upon Raymond Davis’ (the CIA contractor who murdered two Pakistani civilians and got off scot free because the US paid off the families of the deceased) was released from prison a drone strike killed many civilians causing mass protests against the attacks from Pakistan’s army chief
    2. A NATO air strike killed 2 Pakistani soldiers in late 2010 forcing Pakistan to shut down a crucial border crossing
    3. The previous undercover CIA chief in Pakistan was forced to leave the country for safety reasons once his name was published in a Pakistani lawsuit.
    I received my information from the following articles and I urge you to take a look:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13046012
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/world/asia/14pakistan.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/raymond-davis-held-lahore-shooting-cia-contractor-blackwater/story?id=12964133

  16. Durkheim says:

    I’ve been doing some more research and found an excellent report from NPR:
    http://www.npr.org/2011/03/22/134755618/Pakistan-Rebukes-U-S-Over-Drone-Missile-Attack
    Civilians in the street are shouting “America, go [home]!” and “The friend of America is our traitor.” While militants have died as a result of these attacks, many of the casualties have been tribal elders and civilians (most recently the March 17 drone attack). It’s as if the US and its “friends” consider themselves superior to the international community and the laws defending another state’s sovereignty. The laws of proportionality and distinction cannot be restricted to physical trauma but also emotional/mental (self-reports from physicians working in Pakistan demonstrated that 70-80% of their patients sought treatment for a mental illness (i.e. depression, anxiety, PTSD) not physical ailments). And not only that, look at how these strikes are destroying communities, inflicting paranoia and economic hardship across the state:
    “The mere sound of drones creates panic,” says Rahim-ullah Wazir, a shopkeeper who lives in Miran Shah, the main city of North Waziristan. “People can’t sleep. The rich with property and businesses have left. They fear being suspected as informants for the U.S…Hundreds have been executed as spies…Their bodies lay unclaimed in the streets for days…In fact, the drones are fomenting hatred against the government and turning the people against America…We are killed by drones and then labeled as terrorists.” (quotations taken from NPR article link above). The bodies of four men were reportedly discovered in North Waziristan after they allegedly provided the U.S. information used in the March 17th attack.
    Sorry for bombarding the blog with my posts. I’m just interested in the topic.

  17. Durkheim says:

    The author-
    I would like to expand my response to your question “What exactly do you mean here? Are you saying that a drone’s weapon delivery is less accurate than another air platform?” As Valkyrie pointed out in her most recent post on the “Politics of Survival” topic, a drone has recently killed our own (U.S.) troops. Here is an article explaining the situation (thank you Valkyrie for finding this news report): http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/04/drone-reportedly-kills-two-u-s-troops-in-friendly-fire-incident/ I also recommend checking out the article links under “See Also.”

  18. Valkyrie says:

    @ Durkheim

    Um, you are quite welcome, although I’m not sure why you emailed to say I should post that story on the drone “friendly fire” accident, when you’ve already done it, apparently.

    Or perhaps you forgot that you already posted the link? In any event, I was just about to post it up here, until I saw that it was already done by someone else.

    There’s a lot of intriguing stuff on the topic over at WIRED, so if anyone is interested, do poke around at the various stories over there. I find this stuff on a blog at WIRED called “Danger Room.” Verrrry interesting, to say the least (especially the stories about the cadre of lawyers involved in ordering the strikes, as if by merely having lawyers around, it makes things 100% clearly legal, or something, as opposed to murky and debatable).

  19. The author says:

    Durkheim, I think you are have two questions here – (1) is the use of air power in Pakistan by the USA legal and (2) are drones effective in counter insurgency. I’ll stick to the latter; the former is a different issue. Although I didn’t write about drones, that seems to be the way the chat has gone.

    I sometimes get the impression that people think drones are autonomous robots. This is incorrect; they are remotely piloted and none of their weapons systems is able to operate without human input. Furthermore, as with all Close Air Support, the initiator of every single task and engagement, without exception, is on the ground, geographically close, if not directly below where the asset is looking. Nobody just flies around looking for targets; every kinetic asset, drones included, is allocated a Forward Air Controller.

    In some of the posts, the ideas of accuracy, collateral damage and target identification have been a mixed up. Accuracy refers to how well weapons systems are integrated, from targeting pod to weapon, and then how precisely a weapon then strikes a target. As a concept, it is nothing to do with collateral damage or target identification.

    Collateral damage is damage that was not intended, not necessarily unexpected. It is related to the size and nature (say airburst vs delayed fusing) of the weapon being used. At a simple level, it means when you stand this close to that bomb, do you get hurt. As unmanned aircraft use the same weapons as manned platforms, collateral issues are the same. Generally speaking, the rules of engagement say that if there is any risk of civilian casualties, there is no permission to engage. Destruction of property is a consideration too.

    Almost always, a blue-on-blue is an accurate strike on a misidentified target. Instances of weapon failure, either guidance, fuse or explosive, are extremely rare. Identification of a target is almost always the hardest part of the process, and keeping track of a target through an urban environment is very challenging. Even in a rural area it is tough. Time pressure, breakdowns in comms and situational awareness are common is war (and life) so it’s unsurprising that mistakes are made.

    As I have already written, air power is a fearsome capability and as with any military intervention, should be employed as a last resort. Afghanistan may need police not soldiers, it may need something in between. I suppose this is more what I wanted to emphasise in my story. I was simply telling a story of one thing that happened to me, and I thought what seemed to fall out of it was the difficulty of war, especially how grey (as opposed to black and white) the issues are.

  20. Durkheim says:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13256676
    “The al-Qaeda leader was killed in a ground operation in a mansion outside Islamabad in an operation based on US intelligence, reports said.”
    I guess we didn’t need air attacks to capture Osama (if the reports are true).

    “Two senior counterterrorism officials confirmed to the Associated Press that bin Laden was killed in Pakistan last week. One said bin Laden was killed in a ground operation, NOT by a predator drone.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/01/osama-bin-laden-dead-killed_n_856091.html)

    • Valkyrie says:

      I can’t believe it took so long to find a guy tall enough to play on a championship basketball team, no matter how it was that they finally got him in the end.

      Thumbs up to US Special Forces, President Obama, and everyone else involved in the stunningly amazing success, albeit a late one. Patience is, indeed, a virtue.

      Peace!

    • Valkyrie says:

      Just to add…

      Isn’t it interesting that, no matter the method of the actual attack, it was certainly NOT Pakistan that brought this international criminal to justice?

      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42860415/ns/world_news-death_of_bin_laden/

      Is the Pakistani government wholly or only quasi “legitimate” if it cannot police its own nation? Makes you wonder…

  21. Afghanopoly says:

    As I mentionned in my post on UBL’s death, I don’t think that what just happened can be refered to as “justice.” That being said, I invite you to follow this discussion under the “UBL is dead!” post.

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