Attrition: Snipers Rule


October 31, 2007: While roadside bombs account for about half the American casualties in Iraq, gunfire causes about 30 percent, and an increasing number of those shots are from snipers. Over the last three years, Iraqi snipers have gotten much better. They don't go for head shots that much anymore, but for easier to hit targets, like arms and legs (the trunk is protected by armor that will often stop sniper rifle bullets.) The Iraqi snipers have been getting professional training, either from al Qaeda men with military training (the best being Chechens who attended the excellent Russian sniper schools) or Iranians. This means that as soon as the Iraqi sniper has fired his shot, he moves. Depending on the situation (how many Americans are in the area), he will leave the vicinity, or go to another prepared firing position. Like professional snipers, the Iraqi snipers often operate teams, with another man to act as a spotter and bodyguard for the shooter.

While U.S. troops have used electronic sniper detector equipment to quickly locate Iraqis shooting at them, taking out the professional snipers is more of a job for detectives (intelligence personnel). The growing number of competent Iraqi police and troops makes this easier. The Iraqi security forces can query civilians in an area where enemy snipers are operating, and then chase down the gunmen, either on the job, or at their safe house.

While U.S. forces has thousands of snipers in Iraq at any time, commanders are still learning how best to use them. The American snipers are very professional, but troop leaders often have a lot to learn about how to best use snipers. The most informed commanders let their snipers "go hunting," providing troops for transportation or support as needed. A sniper hunter-killer team can often catch Iraqi snipers and kill them. And even if they don't, the U.S. snipers often come back with lots of useful information on what is going on in the area. That's one reason the marines call many of their shooters, "scout-snipers."


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