Special Operations: The Tunisian Revelations


April 27, 2016: Tunisia recently revealed some details of the counter-terrorism assistance it was receiving from the United States. The example given was an operation in March 2015 that resulted in the death of a much wanted Islamic terrorist leader (Khaled Chaib) and eight of his followers. This operation was widely praised by the Tunisian government and an example of how the security forces could hunt down and kill the Islamic terrorists who were launching more and more attacks, including an earlier one that had killed twenty foreign tourists and put a lot of Tunisians out of work because of the immediate decline in tourist visits. Since the operation that killed Khaled Chaib the security forces carried many other successful counter-terrorism missions and greatly reduced the Islamic terrorist threat in Tunisia.

Tunisia revealed how American Special Forces and intelligence specialists played a key role in making the Tunisian military and police so much more effective. U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) and the CIA would not comment on these revelations but the Tunisian “leak” was probably done with the consent of the United States because it made clear to other African countries what kind of assistance was available and how effective it could be.

The operation to take down Khaled Chaib began with American military intelligence aircraft using radio intercepts to locate Khaled Chaib and gather enough information to discover that he and his associates would be driving down a certain rural road at night on a certain date. Meanwhile the U.S. Special Forces, which had been training Tunisian troops in counter-terror techniques and selected a group of Tunisian soldiers they felt could handle the ambush. That would include quietly and unobtrusively travelling to the rural area where the ambush would take place and getting into positions, at night, from which they would use night vision gear and infantry weapons they had been trained to use effectively. The Tunisian officer in charge was in radio contact with a Special Forces team further away that was in receiving video from a UAV overhead that tracked Khaled Chaib’s vehicle as it approached the ambush. One further complication was to avoid killing the driver of one of the vehicles because that man had acted as a police informant but did not know he was driving into an ambush. The informant was there because Khaled Chaib needed someone who knew these back roads. The Tunisian soldiers had to be accurate enough to kill or disable the nine Islamic terrorists and not kill the informant. When the firing stopped the informant was wounded in the shoulder but recovered from that. The nine Islamic terrorists were all dead. The operation was obviously as success and the Tunisian soldiers involved kept quiet about the involvement of the Americans.

It was no longer possible to keep such American involvement secret because it has been used for years all over Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Afghanistan. Iraqis and Afghans complain openly, and apparently in more and more detail, about why they want the Americans back. The Tunisians were willing to reveal the American role, especially since that ambush was merely the first of many similar successful operations in the past year. The U.S. still prefers to keep quiet about details because there are often failures, some because combat is an uncertain operation no matter how well planned and occasionally there are American casualties. Sometimes the local troops screw up and the Americans don’t want to embarrass them because it is believed even failure is instructive and with more training and combat experience there will be fewer failures. These revelations also make it clear that the local troops have to be carefully selected, undergo a lot of training and be willing to follow instructions. In the Khaled Chaib operation the American Special Forces advisors not only planned the ambush but rehearsed it several times elsewhere so the Tunisian troops became comfortable about what they were going to do. That built confidence among the Tunisian soldiers and now they knew how to go about training other Tunisians to do the same.


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