OPSEC, Limited Force, and “Black Hawk Down”
No comments, but Clayton Chun’s look at the Battle of Mogadishu has some recurring themes for the observer of post-Cold War US discrete military operations.
First, tactical rigidity and poor operational security:
Surprise was a key element for success in the TFR raids. Unfortunately, the location of TFR, at the airport, allowed many Somali contractors and observers to witness activities that could tip off the SNA on pending operations. A potential lapse in operational security allowed SNA operatives to alert the militia throughout the city. Similarly, the repeated use of templates for planning allowed the Somalis to create countermeasures to the Americans, such as using RPGs as surface-to-air missiles against the helicopters. The reward on Aideed also telegraphed the UN’s intention to widen the conflict. TFR’s arrival confirmed this view to the Somalis, as it was the means to accomplish Aideed’s capture. TFR also used its ability to operate at night to accomplish most of its previous raids. Unfortunately, it had to respond to what the situation dictated, and the October 3 mission was launched in daylight, negating TFR’s ability to surprise the Black Sea residents and the advantages of night operations.
Second, a clear mismatch between political ends and the willingness to devote sufficient means to the task:
The Pentagon’s desire to keep the force in Somalia small, while conducting actual military operations, seemed contradictory. Under UNITAF, the United States contributed two divisions and many support forces to conduct peacekeeping operations. The only American combat forces available in October were TFR and the QRF to raid and strike against one of the most powerful clans in Somalia. Under UNITAF, the Army and Marine Corps units could intimidate the clans. The UNOSOM II forces did not have the same impact as the American UNITAF forces, which conducted continual sweeps and checkpoint security around the city. TFR and the QRF could not provide the same level of presence nor reaction to the SNA as UNITAF. Unless Washington provided overwhelming military force, TFR/QRF operations ran a greater risk of failure.