How to get killed in combat against competent enemies


These two videos contain short episodes of German ISAF soldiers in firefights in Northern Afghanistan. I don't want to especially single out individuals or the Bundeswehr, but I'll use these videos to illustrate a point:

This is how you get killed in combat against competent enemies. The Taliban are NOT competent enemies. They're the bottom-of-the-barrel enemies; capable only of the most simple forms of combat with low performance. The talk about increased competence and "adaptive" TB is a joke in comparison to modern warfare of the European or East Asian league.

A competent enemy would have killed several of these soldiers with aimed fire because they exposed themselves in a small arms fire fight for several seconds at a predictable place. That's survivable in face of enemy scoped rifle riflemen (almost) only if the latter are not interested in killing. Body armour and medics didn't change that.
Let's not even mention what a competent enemy mortar team with European 1930's training and equipment could 'achieve' if it joined the TB!

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There's of course the "benefit of the doubt" faction that insists that such short video clips don't show anything. Well, the short clips are terrible enough. A 5.56mm AR with 3.5x scope and a bipod 7.62mm iron sights machine gun were firing. That was either stupid or the enemy was assumed to be in their effective range. That in turn means that these soldiers' exposure time was enough to allow for an aimed 80-95% probability of kill shot at their heads by a WW2 quality sniper or a trained man with a cheap hunting rifle. They were lucky that the TB are fifth class shots.

There's a reason why the wars between modern armies yielded six to eight digit KIA figures instead of mere three or four digit KIA figures.

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How to do it better:

(1) Don't get into such a situation: A wall needs firing slits and observation (peri)scopes. You don't shoot over a wall like that - that's Russian Roulette.

(2) Don't get into such a situation, again: Infantry does neither fight nor secure on open terrain. That's AFV terrain.

(3) Do not use a firing position repeatedly. A patient marksman would wait for you to pop up again and kill you.

(4) Don't use a position that exposes your silhouette in front of a very different background. Seriously, that's ZDV 3/11 basics.

(5) Prefer a firing position behind a net. Yes, it's even possible to erect one as temporary concealment in a ten-minute firefight. Think of an umbrella - such tools have been used successfully in past wars!

(6) Stay behind cover if you don't intend to shoot immediately. That's the same as with the firearm safety.

(7) Use a periscope to observe from behind cover.

(8) Expose yourself only for a very short period (~3 sec).

(9) Don't stick to a known position for long. Support fires can kill you. OK, TB mortar teams are obviously not competent enough, but you don't want to be the first to know about their first competent team.

(10) Move only with concealment or cover if in a firefight. Use smoke. Suppressive fires are unreliable.

(11) Assume an enemy sniper to be in range if nearby comrades are firing.

(12) Keep in mind that a firing position close to a solid object (as a stone wall, paved road or metal) may be hit by ricochets in addition to direct hits.

In other words; be invisible almost all the time! Visible = target = offering your life at a bargain price to the enemy.

Finally, there should never be a lone platoon or squad; tactical movements should always happen in pairs or trios. That provides the option of an effective counter-attack if one part is being pinned down. It does also make the situation much more difficult and risky for the enemy. Your leaders should be competent enough to enable such a dispersed movement.

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Seconds. The videos showed seconds only and I felt compelled to mention a dozen points! Other nationalities' ISAF/OEF videos aren't much better either.

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I hope that we don't learn completely wrong lessons from these "small wars". There was no such incompetent and forgiving enemy as the Taliban in European military history 1914-2009.
There's no reason why our soldiers could ever expect such an incompetent enemy in the core constitutional mission of the Bundeswehr; national and alliance defence.

Sven Ortmann


  1. Do you think Western troops know the TB are incompetent enough in firefights that they can take the risks with their safety or has tactical training degraded to this level because of lax standards?

  2. The TB are apparently too incompetent to exploit about 99% of the mistakes done.

    On the other hand I've experienced, seen, heard and read enough to believe that infantry doctrine is in general as up to the conditions of high-end modern warfare as it was in 1889-1914.

  3. I'm afraid these small wars are teaching the wrong lessons and there's going to be a big payday down the road. The Brits have a long history of fighting these small wars against incompetent enemies and not being ready for the big show. Of course lessons will be learned very quickly once each squad suffers a few casualties in the opening minutes of a big war.

  4. That's the point. Peacetime training and doctrine should ensure that there's as little to learn at the beginning of a conflict as possible.

  5. Silly Q but am civilian , just find your site interesting.
    In the first video they had vehicles . What should they have done - driven on , left the vehicles for the ditch or hid in /behind / underneath them ? Would an unarmed transport vehicle explode if shot in the diesel tank , as in the movies ? Do the TB have anything that can damage a tank ?
    If they leave the vehicles , have the TB aquired any through ambushes ?

  6. Vehicles - The classic reaction would have been to use the vehicles for a movement into better position for a fight. A flanking counter-attack, for example. The enemy's morale would likely have crumbled if several armoured vehicles rushed them unexpectedly.
    The exact nature of the terrain (ditches?) and the given task of the troops probably excluded that option.

    Fuel - there's usually no secondary explosion. A secondary fire would be possible/likely with a gasoline tank (depends on circumstances).

    The TB use the famous RPG-7, which is an anti-tank weapon of approx. 200m effective range against vehicles. The behind-armour effect against modern AFV is rather small due to their spall liner. Penetrations are rare against well-protected vehicles.

    The TB would have no longer-term use for armoured vehicles because they would be destroyed from the air within hours. Even TB weapons as for example twin 23mm auto cannons (on an own trailer or a truck cargo bed) are rare because they're quickly destroyed.

  7. I dont think it would be difficult to disappear/destroy a tank , given ' a few hours ' , but I suppose that, like taking prisoners/hostages , or destroying supplies ,it is not the TB strategy ..perhaps the Nu-TB dont want to win back governing ,they are just criminals creating a disordered environment they can exploit . Bit like the Predator movie where the giant shrimps went hunting for sport only where there was already violence .

  8. Maybe it's changed by now (I doubt it) but the US Army, like a college student, didn't study (train) to "learn the material", but merely to "pass the test". The mission and the standard was to be able to look good on the reviews after the set-piece cookie cutter mock battles at the National Training Center. Instead of using a great training opportunity to test and experiment with new theories, tactics, improvisations, etc., one could only try to make field conditions conform to the step-by-step instructions in the book. Like Operation Anaconda...as long as it looks good on paper.

    A friend of mine made our Bn CO very squirmy and uncomfortable when, after his pep talk about our upcoming deployment to NTC, my friend asked, "Shouldn't we be training for WAR instead of for NTC?"

    The boss didn't really have a good answer for that question.

  9. I think that this video by Kyle Lamb is suitable to this thread.



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