Captain Dye's Blog
Sunday, 26 June 2011
Neptune Spear and the Trident
Its been a while since that infamous scum-sucker Osama Bin Laden assumed room temperature and was consigned to sleep with the fishes. With the exception of repeated self-congratulatory references to it by a certain high-level politician running for reelection, the raid carried out by Navy SEALs and Army SOF aviators on 2 May has slipped below the media radar to be replaced by more pressing a narcissistic congressman tweeting phone-photos of his man-meat. So maybe enough time has passed for me to weigh in with relative objectivity on a few elements of Operation Neptune Spear that got short-shrift in the hoopla surrounding the long-overdue whacking of the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks and the titular head of Al Qaeda worldwide.
Looking back on all the breathless reportage immediately following the raid, what strikes me initially is the wild-eyed hyperbole involved. It's as if all the deadline-frazzled journalists in the world googled "daring, dangerous and audacious" and then shot-gunned every synonym they could find into their copy. It was all designed to make readers and viewers do a pee-pee dance, read more and keep their sweaty hands off the remote. That's the nature of the highly-competitive media beast these days, I guess, but it's also an unfair overstatement of the facts involved in the OBL mission. Neptune Spear was anything but a cobbled-together strike with high-speed, low-drag operators slapping mags into their weapons and launching off into the night with knives between their teeth and devil take the hindmost.
It was, in fact, one of the most extensively and carefully planned operations in the history of American special operations. Neptune Spear was planned in minute detail by the operators and aviators involved who asked and then answered every what-if question and then rehearsed like the cast of a major Broadway musical before opening night in a full-scale mock-up of the Abbottabad compound that resembled OBL's hideout down to the texture of the walls. These guys are calm, stolid, clear-headed professionals who crossed every t and dotted every i before the first rotor turned on the night of the raid. It was that planning that allowed them to smoothly and easily transition from Plan A to Plan B when one of the specially-modified Blackhawk helos experienced vortex ring state and crash-landed in OBL's compound. Given the skill and proper prior planning of the 160th SOAR Night Stalker aircrew, it was not much more than a Murphy's Law burble and the SEALs aboard immediately transitioned into a smooth ground assault. Insert Method Two was just as good as Insert Method One for Team 6 shooters who proceeded as if the glitch never happened.
These guys were so good and so well-prepared that while the mission was indeed daring and certainly audacious given the proximity of Pakistani military forces, it was hardly deadly...except perhaps for OBL and his armed minions who were so shocked that they barely had time to react. Those minions that did react went down hard to precisely-delivered rounds that barely made a dent in fully-loaded magazines and showed admirable fire discipline. Given what might have happened with the headquarters of a Pakistani infantry brigade nearby and one of their senior military academies in the area, Operation Neptune Spear was a relative cakewalk as cross-border special operations raids go.
The brief history of long-range American Special Operations raids has not been spectacular prior to Neptune Spear so this relatively flawless op was a genuine textbook example of capability for our special operators; particularly the high-profile SEAL teams. Prior to the successful raid that took OBL out of the Al Qaeda terrorism picture for good, we have been hit and mostly miss in similar efforts. In 1970, Operation Ivory Coast (the abortive Son Tay POW rescue in Vietnam) and Operation Tailwind (a similarly-directed mission in southern Laos) plus the 1980 debacle in the desert that was Operation Eagle Claw, designed to rescue American hostages in Tehran, most covert military operations ended up in failure or a flurry of controversial misinformation that cast a shadow on American special operations.
Neptune Spear put all of that into the deep, dark background and that's as it should be. What the media has so far ignored is that this OBL strike mission was definitive proof-of-product for our special operators. Where our operators, door-kickers and shooters of the SOF community have screwed the pooch in past operations, they have learned hard lessons and applied the knowledge to current tactics, techniques and procedures. And chief among those lessons was the extraordinary cooperation demonstrated in the OBL raid between the alphabet-soup intelligence organizations and the active forces that rely on vital, perishable information to carry off a successful clandestine operation. On Neptune Spear all the horses were pulling in the same direction and the internecine, bureaucratic walls that keep information from flowing back and forth to and from the people who need it crumbled. Those things are crucial in understanding how capable we really are in the longest, most difficult war America has ever fought.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't fire a few rounds downrange at the current administration and the voracious media that insisted with high dudgeon that they should be given every specific detail of how the raid was conducted so they could score political points, boost circulation or score audience ratings without the first thought of how all that brag and blather might affect future operations against our nation's avowed enemies. Imagine for a moment that we'd simply acknowledged that a covert operation was conducted and a high-level AQ member was killed; nothing more, and to hell with the screaming minions of the press. We might have had a real, workable chance to exploit and act on the intelligence our operators policed up within OBL's compound. And the AQ network would be sitting out there wondering what we knew and what we didn't rather than presuming that all their secrets were now compromised.
If the administration and the press had been willing to play it closer to the vest, we might have wound up hitting OBL's entire chain-of-command and eliminating much of their infrastructure before they had a chance to react, change codes and implement their own version of Plan B.
Like it or not - depending on your political and patriotic - bent  there are things that the public does not need to know. Every time we ignore that or demand full and unfettered access to any and all military information, we tip our hand to the enemy and put the lives of our special operators in jeopardy.
Politicians, pundits and press copy my last?

Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 3:06 PM in Category:General News
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