Infantry: August 19, 2004

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American infantry tactics in Iraq often look like they were copied from methods recently developed in Israel. Fighting Palestinian gunmen and suicide bombers since late 2000, the Israeli army has developed, by trial, error and analysis, infantry tactics that take away many of the inherent advantages irregular fighters have. Called organized unpredictability or swarming tactics, the Israelis take advantage of the better training and discipline of their infantry to disrupt anything the Palestinians might be up to. Collecting as much information as possible about the enemy (how many men, and weapon, which buildings they live, or hang out, in, what firing positions they might favor, what routes they might favor in moving, who the leaders are, where valuable assets might be stored, and so on), the Israelis move in from multiple directions, including troops landed from helicopters. The Israelis also set up roadblocks, and use electronic warfare (to knock out land line or cell phone communications). Each group of Israeli troops has an objective, and the ability to adapt quickly to unexpected situations. Fighting Palestinians in the mazes that characterized their towns and villages, the unexpected has to be expected. By coming from so many different directions, including blasting through walls and entire buildings, the Israeli assault would often cause the  Palestinians to panic, and move recklessly, running into impromptu ambushes set up by the Israelis. Snipers are used a lot. The Israelis favored night operations, where their UAVs overhead were thus hidden, and where the Israeli night vision devices gave them another edge over the Palestinians.

The Israelis have developed a thick playbook of drills for their infantry units, and keep adding, and modifying these to match new Palestinian tactics. They also keep copious records of the opposition. Many of the local Palestinian terrorist gang leaders are known, or suspected, and a network of informers brings in a steady flow of information on these guys. Each operations, which often involves a brigade (two or more infantry battalions and plenty of support troops), is planned with all this information in mind. The use of UAVs with day/night video cams, gives commanders a valuable new tool. The Palestinians know they are being watched, but often cannot avoid going out in the open in order to move. 

The Palestinians, of course, also use swarming tactics, not so much on purpose, but because thats what their best efforts add up to. The Palestinians work out ambushes and escape routes as part of a defense plan against Israeli attacks. But the Israeli swarming tactics try to put troops in places the Palestinians wont expect, and thus destroy any coordinated defense. Its all about getting the initiative and being in a position to call the shots. The Israelis have largely succeeded, taking very few casualties during these raids. The American military has long exchanged notes with the Israelis, and American tactics in Iraq look remarkably similar to what the Israelis are doing. 

 


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