Special Operations: Task Force Black


September 4,2008:  One important component of the U.S. "Surge Offensive" in Iraq last year was actually a three year old, generally discreet, commando operation. This was Task Force Black (TFB). Composed of only a few hundred troops, the core of this force was operators from the British SAS and the U.S. Delta Force. Task Force Black was assigned to go after the Islamic terrorists who were actually planning and carrying out the suicide bombings that were killing thousands of Iraqi civilians a month until last year.

TFB tactics were bold and dangerous, as they went after terrorists who were on their way to an operation (either on foot with explosive belts, or suicide car bombers.) These attacks were are the most carefully planned and executed terrorist operations, and the objective of TFB was to take down the attackers before they could detonate their explosives. This is easier to do if you catch them before they are close to their target, because the bombers are not poised to set off their explosives on short notice.

Some suicide bomber teams do not rig their detonators to work until they are close to the target. They have good reason for this, for there have been accidental detonations, which kill the support staff as well as the suicide bomber. This is not good for the morale of the escorts, security detail and bomb technicians that make all the preparations for these attacks. The bombers themselves only do it once, and are not as highly trained and difficult to replace. Without the support people, who are harder to recruit than suicide bombers, these attacks are much less effective. When Israel began going after the support staff five years ago, the Palestinian suicide attacks on Israel greatly diminished, and there were more accidents from poorly made bombs, and more bombers were caught before they could reach their targets. TFB often brought along American and Iraqi troops to make a follow up sweep to grab as many of the support staff as possible.

TFB used all available intelligence resources to find terrorist gangs that were making the suicide attacks. Most of these terrorists worked for "al Qaeda in Iraq," but some were run by various Sunni Arab groups trying to get a civil war going between Sunni and Shia Arabs. The terrorists believed that such a conflict would result in a Sunni Arab victory. Three years ago, realizing that an outcome like that was highly unlikely, some of the terrorist gangs began shutting down, and there was a decline on terrorist attacks because of it. But the attacks continued, and in 2006, they increased as Shia death squads proliferated.

TFB had a rough time of it for over a year, as Shia terrorists now began setting off bombs in Sunni Arab neighborhoods. But throughout that period, the intelligence picture kept getting better. The TFB operators spent much of their time among Iraqis, so when the Surge Offensive kicked off in early 2007, there was an opportunity to hit many of the suicide bomber support groups hard. By the time the Surge Offensive wound down earlier this year, TFB had taken down (killed or captured) nearly 4,000 Islamic terrorists. Most of them were the hard to replace support staff. This was reflected in the sharp decline in the number of terror bombs going off. From a peak of over a hundred bombs a month going off in Baghdad, to as little as two. TFB suffered about 20 percent casualties through all this.

After the Surge Offensive, many surviving terrorists fled north, to Mosul and surrounding areas. The terrorists still being hunted there, mostly by Iraqis soldiers and police.


Article Archive

Special Operations: Current 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004



Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close