Special Operations Forces and Elusive Enemy Ground Targets

Special Operations Forces and Elusive Enemy Ground Targets: Lessons from Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War

WILLIAM ROSENAU
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 72
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mr1408af
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  • Book Info
    Special Operations Forces and Elusive Enemy Ground Targets
    Book Description:

    In the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf conflict, special operations forces (SOF) conducted reconnaissance operations to locate hidden targets when political and other considerations prevented the deployment of conventional ground units and air power alone was unable to locate and eliminate elusive objectives. In Vietnam, SOF teams crossed the border into Laos to search for truck parks, storage depots, and other assets along the Ho Chi Minh Trail that were obscured by jungle canopy and camouflage. In western Iraq, British and American SOF patrolled vast areas searching for mobile Scud launchers. In both cases, the nature of the terrain combined with adversary countermeasures made it extremely difficult for ground teams to achieve their objectives. There are a number of implications for future operations. Although new technology, such as mini- and micro-unmanned aerial vehicles, may make it easier to teams to reconnoiter wide areas, using SOF in this fashion is unlikely to achieve U.S. objectives. Concerns about casualties and prisoners of war are likely to limit the use of SOF to the most vital national interests. However, unattended ground sensors could play an enhanced role in future operations. Although most will be delivered by air, some will require hand emplacement in difficult enemy terrain, a mission well suited to SOF. SOF in a battle damage assessment role could help ensure that critical targets have been destroyed. Finally, SOF might disable, destroy, or recover nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-3230-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. PREFACE
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. FIGURES
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. SUMMARY
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  7. Chapter One INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-4)

    During two of the largest U.S. military conflicts of the past 50 years, U.S. leaders faced the difficult challenge of finding and destroying well-hidden adversary ground targets. During the Vietnam War, Hanoi moved men and materiel along a logistical pipeline in Laos that was heavily camouflaged. The 12,000 miles of trails, footpaths, and roads that made up the Ho Chi Minh Trail played a critical role in supplying communist forces operating in South Vietnam. For President Lyndon Johnson and his senior advisors, interdicting the logistical flow down the trail became a goal of paramount importance. However, using air power alone...

  8. Chapter Two U.S. AIR GROUND OPERATIONS AGAINST THE HO CHI MINH TRAIL, 1966–1972
    (pp. 5-28)

    During the mid-1960s, as the United States embarked on a major ground war in Southeast Asia, President Lyndon Johnson and his senior national security advisors confronted a major challenge. Since 1959, the military forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) had been employing the Truong Son Route—better known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail—to infiltrate men and materiel through Laos and into the U.S.-backed Republic of Vietnam (RVN). For the communist leadership in Hanoi, the trail was a lifeline that was essential to its military operations in South Vietnam. However, the network of paths, trails, and roads...

  9. Chapter Three COALITION SCUD-HUNTING IN IRAQ, 1991
    (pp. 29-44)

    In late January 1991, Gulf War coalition leaders faced a major challenge they had not anticipated at the beginning of the air campaign against Iraq. Saddam Hussein had succeeded in deploying Scud missiles aboard mobile launchers, and on January 18 he had initiated a series of attacks on Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. In strictly military terms, these low-accuracy, low-reliability weapons had little utility as counterforce weapons. In a broader strategic sense, however, the Scuds posed a major threat. Through his missile attacks, the Iraqi leader hoped to shatter the fragile coalition created by the United States to roll back...

  10. Chapter Four CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR FUTURE OPERATIONS
    (pp. 45-50)

    During two of the most significant U.S. military conflicts of the late twentieth century, American political and military leaders were confronted with elusive ground targets that posed strategic challenges. In Southeast Asia, the United States faced an adversary whose jungle-covered logistical pipeline was essential to the communist military campaign against a U.S.-backed regime. In western Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s mobile Scud missiles threatened to draw Israel into the Persian Gulf War and undermine the fragile coalition created to roll back aggression against Kuwait. In both cases, U.S. air power alone was not sufficient to destroy the targets deemed essential by American...

  11. Appendix: SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIALS
    (pp. 51-54)
  12. REFERENCES
    (pp. 55-60)