Murphy's Law: September 11, 2003


On September 11, 2001, StrategyPage carried its usual collection of updates on ongoing wars and military affairs. The material was written and posted before the two aircraft plowed into the World Trade Center towers. In an interesting coincidence, that day we reported what had been going on in Afghanistan in the past few days. The big news was the assassination of Northern Alliance military leader Ahmad Masood on September 9th. Two Arabs posing as journalists had a bomb hidden in their video camera, which went off when the Arab "cameraman" turned the camera on. On the 11th, the Northern Alliance had still not confirmed that Masood was dead (he was), but the Taliban, led by a brigade of non-Afghan assault troops (supplied by al Qaeda) were leading a new assault on Northern Alliance positions. It looked like the end for the Northern Alliance. But two months later, thanks to U.S. Army Special Forces and Air Force and Navy bombers, the Taliban and al Qaeda were on the run. Who knew? But two years later, the Taliban are still up in the hills, and continue to snipe at 9,000 American troops who are still in Afghanistan. 

Also on that September 11, we covered Sudan (where the war is still going on), Angola (where the war has ended), Central African Republic (where a civil war flared and quickly died) and Algeria (where the war continues, but the Islamic rebels are fading away.) 

On the military side, we reported on Iraqi built UAVs, and how they might be used to deliver chemical weapons attacks on Israel. The Iraqis were openly working on UAVs. But when U.S. weapons inspectors got to see the UAVs up close, after Iraq was conquered, it was obvious that the UAVs were too small to carry any weapons. These UAVs were built just for reconnaissance. In fact, these UAVs were confused with earlier attempts to convert L-29 Czech built jet trainers to UAVs. That didn't work, and the current UAV design work was building a small aircraft from scratch. U.S. Air Force intelligence analysts suspected the truth, but they were ignored in the rush to "enhance" the vision of Iraq as building and preparing to use chemical weapons. 

We reported on the many friendly fire incidents among Russian troops in Chechnya. The Russians have gotten better at fighting the Chechens, but the war down there goes on. We also reported on Russian efforts to keep development of their T-90 tank going. The end of the Cold War wiped out funding for such projects, but the tank manufacturers managed to hang on, barely. The big news was a deal to sell India 300 T-90s. Actually, mainly components were being sold, as well as technical assistance to assemble the tanks in India. But tests of T-90s during the Summer of 2003, revealed problems (mainly with the fire control system) while operating under desert conditions.

We reported on the low casualty, but high stress, peacekeeping duty in Kosovo. We pointed out that suicide was killing more peacekeepers than confrontations with hostile locals. Speaking of attrition, we also reported on the problems of deciding who to keep, and who to "fire" in today's American volunteer armed forces. That ability, and willingness, to get rid of troops who aren't up to the job was a factor in the success of American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq over the next two years.


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