Thursday, March 1, 2007

The air wars, Feb. 27

The underreported air wars in Afghanistan and Iraq keep plugging along. Or bombing, shooting and rocketing along might be the more appropriate metaphor.

This is one aspect of both wars where the propaganda Web site of the service involved, in this case the Air Force News Web site, actually provides more information than you normally see in the independent press. I'm guessing that without interservice rivalry considerations that makes Air Force leaders want to get credit for contributing to the counterinsurgency wars, they wouldn't be telling us as much as they do.

Feb. 28 airpower: Tankers provide air bridge, which in the manner of these stories actually reports on Feb. 27 activity, despite the title. According to this report:
In total, 34 close-air-support missions were flown [in the Afghanistan War] in support of the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, and Afghan troops, reconstruction activities and route patrols. ...

In total, coalition aircraft flew 47 close-air-support missions for Operation Iraqi Freedom. These missions included support to coalition troops, infrastructure protection, reconstruction activities and operations to deter and disrupt terrorist activities.
Presumably this one is considered "support to coalition troops" rather than "infrastructure protection":
In Iraq, Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs provided close-air support to troops engaged in enemy contact near Baqubah. Coalition forces were receiving small-arms fire from a ground floor, sniper fire from a rooftop and RPG fire from the middle floors of a multi-story building. The A-10s dropped GBU-12 laser guided bombs on the building directly hitting it with good effects as described by the JTAC. (my emphasis)
These Air Force press releases routinely say that specific attacks like the one described there occur "near" some city or town. I don't recall ever seeing one say the strike was "in" the city.

In this case, presumably this "multi-story building" wasn't just standing in a field all by itself "near Baqubah". It's quite possible it was part of a neighborhood "near Baqubah". The article provides no information on whether the attackers in the building were definitely killed or whether than might have made a few shots and gone elsewhere. No count of "terrorist" bodies found afterward. No count of collateral damage to noncombatant in this multi-story building "near Baqubah". No speculation on how blowing up whole buildings like this may affect the willingness of people in this presumed neighborhood "near Baqubah" to cooperate with the Americans.

But this is part of how the US is fighting counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

How big a part? We don't really know. This Air Force press release, as quoted above, records nearly three dozen air strikes in Afghanistan and nearly four dozen in Iraq just on Tuesday of this week. The latter are reported in that article to include several actions "near" Baghdad and one "near Hawijah". Odd that in a primarily urban war so many of these actions occure "near" a city rather than "in" them.

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