World War IV Daily


SFS - Urban Warfare in Grozny

I'm back!

Last term, I took a class in Russian History. In one of the papers we were assigned, we could write about anything we wanted, so long as it concerned Russia. I chose the First Battle of Grozny, specifically its urban warfare components. I ended up liking the paper enough--though I love blogging, I hate writing papers like the plague--that I decided to reproduce it here in its entirety.


The First Battle of Grozny: A Study in Urban Warfare

Attack cities only when there is no alternative.

—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In December 1991, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was dissolved and the Russian Federation emerged as its successor state and the Cold War—as well as Lenin’s dream of communist socialism—was over. Nearly 100 different nationalities and ethnic groups are represented in Russia, and during the Soviet period some of them were granted their own ethnic enclaves. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of a monolithic central authority, the question of provincial autonomy became a serious issue for many regions seeking greater freedom from their ethnically dissimilar rulers in Moscow.

One of these semi-autonomous republics seeking greater freedom was the tiny oil-rich region of Chechnya, located in the Caucasus Mountains just north of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. In 1991, Chechen President Dzhokar Dudayev—a former General in the Soviet Air Force—declared Chechnya an independent nation. In the following years, Chechnya fell into chaos as Dudayev failed to maintain control of the region. Many of his political appointees and members of his teip—a Chechen tribal organization or clan—were involved in criminal activities, and Dudayev’s government soon became rife with corruption. Between 1991 and 1994, nearly 300,000 people of non-Chechen descent left the region; most of them were Russians. During this time, tens of thousands of people were murdered or kidnapped and put into Chechnya’s re-emerging slave trade. Most alarmingly, in May and July of 1994, Chechen terrorists took hostages in the Russian city of Mineralny Vody, and four people were killed. Finally, in December of the same year, Russian President Boris Yeltsin ordered the Russian military to retake Chechnya, having been convinced by his advisors that it would be a short, successful, and politically beneficial action to undertake.

The main objective of the invading Russian troops was the Chechen capital of Grozny. They began their assault on December 31st, 1994.

Urban warfare has historically been the bloodiest and the costliest form of military action ever to be undertaken, from the Peloponnesian War to the Battle of Mogadishu and beyond. It can be divided into two fields: The first is Military Operations in Urban Terrain, or MOUT, which is the strategic facet of urban warfare (i.e. the use of vehicles, conducting reconnaissance, coordinating air and indirect-fire support). The second is Close Quarters Battle, or CQB, which is the tactical aspect (i.e. how a squad of infantry should clear a building, proper use of explosives, detecting and neutralizing traps).

MOUT/CQB is usually complicated by limited fields of view and fire due to obstruction by buildings, the large amount of cover available for defenders, and the ease at which booby traps and snipers can be employed. MOUT/CQB also produces different casualties from normal military operations. In a typical combat operation, approximately 60% of the wounds are due to fragmentation. In a MOUT environment, however, 52% of the wounds are due to gunshots, which are more difficult to take care of. The following table, taken from a 1999 report published by the RAND Arroyo Research Center, details additional differences between MOUT/CQB and combat in other environments:

Some differences between Urban and other types of terrain





Number of noncombatants





Amount of valuable infrastructure





Presence of multidimensional battlespace





Restrictive rules of engagement





Detection, observation, engagement ranges





Avenues of approach





Freedom of movement – mechanized forces





Communications functionality





Logistical requirements





More than any other type of combat, MOUT/CQB has by far the greatest potential for success of asymmetrical and unconventional warfare. This is what awaited the Russian military as it launched its New Year’s Eve assault on Grozny.

By far the most egregious mistakes of the Russian forces occurred before they even entered combat. Due to the fears that other semi-autonomous regions might view events in Chechnya as an inspiration, the Russian government felt they had to act very quickly, and they did so. It was to be the first of a great number of failures.

The Russians went into Grozny with an enormous lack of intelligence on the battlefield that awaited them. Such intelligence is always necessary for successful military action, but in MOUT/CQB its importance is far greater due to irregular nature of the combat zone. Most notably, they did not have dependable maps of the city. They possessed some, but they were not detailed enough to properly plan an effective military action, especially on such short notice. To make matters worse, the Chechens re-arranged the city’s street signs, only confusing the few Russian units who did have maps. Furthermore, Russian reconnaissance satellites—which could have been used to survey the city before the attack—had been turned off to save money, and aerial photography missions were rarely conducted. Russian troops entering the city knew almost nothing about its layout and what they could expect to run into once they began their assault. The Chechens, on the other hand, had been preparing for this battle for years.

Russian tactics were also unsuitable for an urban environment, especially against an enemy like the Chechen guerrilla teams who were able to move with almost complete freedom throughout the city. The Russians focused only on conventional objectives—such as the Presidential Palace, secondary government buildings, and public media facilities—which held little more than political significance as the rest of the city was still under Chechen control.

The Chechens, however, had the perfect strategy for MOUT/CQB. They fought in eight-man groups--known as Tiger Teams--each of which typically had two machine guns, two rocket-propelled-grenade (RPG) gunners, a scout/sniper, a rifleman/medic, a rifleman/ammo bearer, and a rifleman/radioman. With these small squads, the Chechens were highly mobile but still quite lethal. Usually up to three of these groups would operate together, but rarely would more than three Tiger Teams be involved in an engagement, allowing the Chechens to disengage quickly and avoid being captured by the Russians. Interestingly; the Chechens did not wear body armor. They thought that this would slow them down and prevent them from being able to fight efficiently.

The Chechens mastered the art of the ambush. They would typically funnel the Russian armored columns into kill-zones, and then the experienced Chechen RPG gunners would knock out the first and last vehicles in the line, thereby trapping the rest in the middle. At this point, the experienced Chechen gunners—of whom there were very few—would leave the scene in order that they could be preserved. Then less-experienced gunners would pick apart the rest of the Russian column, while Chechen riflemen, machine gunners, and snipers suppressed the Russian infantry. Almost useless in an urban setting, Russian tanks were unable to elevate their tank barrels high enough to engage the top floors of many buildings, or low enough to fire into the basements.

Russian training was also woefully inadequate. The entire Russian army was in fact in sharp decline during this time, and most forces received very little training in the years prior, with the exception of the ever-declining possibility of war against NATO, which was anticipated to be a tank war across the open fields of Europe, not an urban nightmare such as Grozny. Often, Russian soldiers were too afraid to leave the confines of their armored personnel carriers (APCs) and engage the enemy on foot. Many were killed when then vehicles they hid inside were destroyed by RPGs or set on fire by Molotov cocktails.

Russian soldiers also had very little experience in utilizing combined arms, and as such they brought an overwhelming amount of force to bear upon the city. As the battle progressed, the typical Russian strategy was to bombard an area mercilessly with artillery and air-strikes before an infantry assault, which would often level the neighborhood in question before the Russian troops even set foot in it. As such, the Russians were "faced with the dilemma of having to destroy Grozny in order to save it."

The psychological aspect of MOUT/CQB quickly overwhelmed the Russian soldiers. It was well-known that the Russians had tortured and killed Chechen POWs and raped and murdered non-combatants as well. The Chechens had no qualms about returning the favor. Often, the Chechens would hang the bodies of dead or wounded Russian soldiers in the windows from which they fired upon the Russian troops. In order to engage the Chechens, the Russians would have to shoot through the bodies of their comrades.

The Russian military was not simply under-trained: They went to battle without additional firepower that could have allowed them to seize the city easier, if only they would have waited. Most notably, an additional 38,000 infantry, 230 tanks and 450 armored vehicles gathered from additional Russian military units were on their way to assist in the invasion of Chechnya, yet the assault on Grozny was launched without them. Also curiously absent from the battle was the Russian special forces, the Spetsnaz. Such units were highly trained and very professional, yet they were not deployed to Grozny, possibly due to the rush to take the city.

In addition to these failures, the Russians suffered from poor leadership, especially at the non-commissioned officer (NCO) level. The NCO corps is the glue that holds together any effective army—namely by bridging the lower-ranked enlisted men and the officers—and in this the Russians were severely lacking. They also possessed ineffective night-vision equipment, thereby negating what could have been a possible advantage over the Chechens.

Arguably the Chechens’ greatest strength, however, was their sense of determination to defeat the invading Russians. The Chechens possessed a deep-seated cultural hatred of their invaders going back to Russian expansion in the 17th century. In 1865, the Russians had deported nearly 700,000 Chechens in order to quell a Chechen rebellion. In 1944, Stalin deported nearly 60 percent of all of Chechnya’s inhabitants, nearly obliterating the Chechen nation in the process. These events eventually led up to the First Battle of Grozny, when the Chechens finally dealt the Russians a serious blow on their own terms. It is said that determination wins fights, and the enraged Chechen snipers and RPG gunners surely possessed a far greater amount of resolve than the typical Russian soldier cowering in his APC.

The Russians eventually secured the presidential palace on January 19th, but the battle raged on around them, taking a number of weeks to finally die out in the city. The Russians continued to battle for control of Chechnya but were eventually unsuccessful. Though a Russian missile-strike killed Chechen President Dudayev in April 1996, the Chechens reclaimed their capital in the Second Battle of Grozny and the Russians were forced to sign a ceasefire agreement in August of the same year, a humiliating acknowledgement of defeat.

Over 25,000 civilians were killed in the First Battle of Grozny, and tens of thousands more died throughout Chechnya. The Russians lost several thousand soldiers in the assault on Grozny. They returned in 1999 for the Third Battle of Grozny, again subjecting the city to heavy bombardment and killing numerous civilians. This time, the Russians seized the city in far more cautious and deliberate fashion. Combat in Grozny and throughout Chechnya continues as of this writing.

There are a number of lessons to be learned from the Russian failures in Grozny: First, Russian operations there can provide important insights into Russian capabilities, tactics, and its ability to learn from military experience. For the United States, this provides a valuable look at another nation’s military capabilities without having to test them first-hand. Second, Grozny pitted a somewhat-modern military against an insurgency force on the latter's home turf. As such, the United States was able to observe the inherent difficulties of operating in a particular theater and reshape its doctrine accordingly, much like the lessons learned from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that were successfully applied to US military action there in 2001. The current war in Iraq not-withstanding, it is inevitable that the US military will be engaged in MOUT/CQB in the future. It is estimated that by the year 2010, seventy-five percent of the world's population will live in urban areas. Futhermore, cities are the centers of commerce, politics, and culture for all nations, and are thus strategically important. Finally, urban areas are by far the hardest to assault and the easiest to defend, and the enemies of the United States surely know this. We would do well to study the lessons of Grozny in order to better prepare for future conflicts.


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I have been unable to find time in the past few days to resume posting, and I am going to be out of the country for the next few days, so look for posting to resume next Saturday, probably. Hopefully from then on I can continue posting without interruptions.

Happy St. Pat's, everybody!


No, I Haven't Died. Yet.

I'm still breathing and I'm still keeping track of the world and its crazy happenings, but I've been a little busy with school and being sick doesn't make things any better. (I'll let you know if I've got the bird flu; that might be a fun way to become famous...)

I'll probably post again soon, but no guarantees. I've discovered that trying to post everyday--the blog's called World War IV DAILY, for crying out loud--is a little too much like actual work, which I'm not a big fan of, so I'll be taking things a little more easily in order to preserve the quality of the blog as well as my sanity. Variety is the spice of life.

Thanks for continuing to stop by; you guys are excellent guests, and are welcome here anytime.

>>> Jesse


IOTW - Cindy Sheehan (sort of)

I had orginally planned to eviscerate Cindy Sheehan for her planned protest near Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. (For those unfamiliar with the base, Landstuhl is the primary hospital facility where injured soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan are treated once they are evacuated.) Sheehan has long been shooting her mouth off and running protests/media orgies around the US and Europe, but the planned Landstuhl protest went beyond the pale. She certainly has the right to protest, but wounded servicemembers should be off-limits. Those men and women touched the face of death in war; let them move on towards life in peace.

However, she has since changed her mind.

Interesting. For once, this woman has grown up and shown our American service members the slightest amount of respect, something that until now was completely alien to her. I am as thankful as I am surprised.

As such, I no longer have a post to write. Sure, Cindy's a moron and she'll most likely continue to be, but I can't bring myself to excoriate her after such stunningly mature behavior from such an embarrassing human being. Bummer.

Of course, there's always next week.


SFS - The University of Oklahoma Suicide Bombing

In my last SFS, I wrote about the domestic terrorist establishments of Jamaat ul-Fuqra within the United States. I mentioned that the story carried a great deal of personal significance with me as it broke just days after I first began this blog, and I was able to follow it from its beginnings to the present day. I still feel privileged to have 'been there' for that. Especially as a new blogger, it was an enormous incentive to continue posting. However, there was another event that had a similar effect.

On October 1st, 2005--the very day I began this blog--a young man named Joel Henry Hinrichs III (pictured left) was killed in an explosion at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK. He was 21 years old. The story sat for a hours, and a terse report from World Net Daily was one of the few initial news reports on the issue. It was known only that an OU student was killed by an explosion outside a stadium filled with 84,000+ people. Nothing was concrete until the details started to emerge. Then all hell broke loose.

The next day, the Northeast Intelligence Network--whose entire collection of reports on this issue can be viewed here--revealed that it had been a suicide bombing, at least in the extremely literal sense of the term. Hinrichs was sitting on a bench when an unknown quantity of explosives that he had been carrying detonated for unknown reasons. Authorities searched Hinrichs' on-campus apartment and discovered a "significant amount" of radical Islamic literature, some of it concerning how to construct bomb vests. An unknown quantity of the material was written in Arabic, which Hinrichs was unable to read. In addition to the Jihadist literature, the police and FBI seized an enormous cache of explosive material from his apartment.
The NIN was the first to report that Hinrichs had used the explosive TATP--this was later confirmed--to make his bomb. TATP is an extremely unstable explosive compound that is popular with terrorists due to the ease of which it can be created. It was used most famously by unsuccessful shoe-bomber Richard Reid in 2001 and for the London bombings of July 2005.

A number of individuals soon came forward with additional information: Hinrichs MAY have attempted to enter the stadium, but ran away when gate security asked to search his backpack. (Video report here, courtesy of Oklahoma City News 9.) Also, Hinrichs had attempted to purchase ammonium nitrate, the primary ingredient of the explosives used in the infamous 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. An off-duty Norman police officer was at the store at the time and, like the store owner, became suspicious and called Hinrichs' license plate into his superiors. No further steps were taken. This occurred three days before the explosion that killed Hinrichs. (Video here.)

Soon questions arose about the involvement of additional individuals as well as the Islamic connection. It was learned that Hinrichs had possibly been visiting a local mosque--visited by Zacharias Moussaoui when he lived in Norman (see below)--and that his roommate--Fazal M. Cheema, a Pakistani--and three other Muslim students were detained and later released. There are still a number of questions surrounding additional involvement as well as a plane ticket to Algeria that Cheema had purchased. (Video here.)
Both the police and the FBI were quick to discount any terrorist involvement. University of Oklahoma President David Boren stated that Hinrichs had "emotional difficulties" and that this was an isolated event. He further advised against a rush towards judgment (link in PDF format). Gates of Vienna questioned the rush to declare this an 'all clear', and the NIN wasn't happy either.

Some background on OU President David Boren is in order: A Yale graduate, he served as the governor of Oklahoma from 1975 to 1979 and as a US Senator (D-OK) from 1979 to 1994. He served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and in fact was its longest-serving chairman. As such he has very close ties to the intelligence community, and is widely regarded as the mentor of former DCI George Tenet.

Boren's intelligence connections become even more interesting when the history of Norman, Oklahoma is considered:

>>> In July 2000, 9/11 hijackers Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi visited Airman Flight School in Norman. In September of the same year, Zacharias Moussaoui contacted the same flight school via e-mail. In February 2001, Moussaoui opened a bank account in Norman in which he deposited roughly $32,000 in cash. From then until May, he attend Airman Flight School in Norman. (Source)

>>> On a bus trip to OU, Moussaoui was on the same bus as Nick Berg, the American man beheaded in Iraq in 2004. During the trip, Moussaoui asked Berg if he could use Berg's laptop computer. Berg gave Moussaoui his password. (Source)

>>> There is a Jamaat ul-Fuqra compound about 50 miles east of Norman in Talihina, OK. (Source)

>>> It has been REPORTED--I cannot stress that enough--that 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah purchased his ticket from a computer terminal in the OU library. I have not found any information that would conclusively prove this, but the rumor is out there and I wanted to address it as such rather than leave it out completely. Again, this is UNCONFIRMED. Do not take my presentation of this information to mean anything otherwise.

Like the Jamaat ul-Fuqra story, there was no major media attention paid to this event except for local news reporting, which gradually died down. The story was mainly carried by the blogosphere, but after a few weeks they too moved on. There were a few sporadic updates afterwards, but not many:
The search warrant for Hinrichs' apartment was initially sealed, but in late November it was revealed. In addition to the TATP discovered in Hinrichs' apartment, authorities discovered mixing bowls, a slow-cooker, a thermometer, plastic containers, a hobby fuse, a circuit board, rolls of tape, and chemicals used to make the TATP. The FBI discovered that Hinrichs had downloaded "numerous text and image files" concerning explosives, including TATP. A suicide note was also found.

Aside from that report in November 2005 by the NIN, no additional information was disclosed until just recently.

Fast forward to February 28th, 2006. Police Sergeant George Mauldin, head of the Norman bomb disposal unit, revealed that the OU explosion was likely an accident:

"I believe he accidentally blew himself up."

When asked about Hinrichs' possible intentions to enter the stadium with the explosives, Mauldin responded:

"I don't believe he intended for an explosion to occur at that spot. Someone saw him fiddling with [the backpack] shortly before the explosion occurred. I think he got cocky, and it went off."

The Northeast Intelligence Network, again leading the way with coverage of this story, reveals that one law enforcement official, "disgusted that the truth is being withheld from the public", has confidentially admitted that there is far more to the story than what officials are saying. In light of absolute proof, however, I am forced to take the NIN's report with a grain of salt. I do not disbelieve or intend to discredit what they are saying--they have an absolutely stellar track record of accurate investigation--but I am committed to including the supporting information of absolutely everything that I publish on this blog. I do not rule out rumors, speculation, and hear-say, but I always label it as such.

indeed, the tricky part about this story is that while there is much that we do know for certain, a large amount of information remains speculative.
For instance, there continues to be some confusion as to whether Hinrichs added shrapnel to his bomb, a popular tactic among suicide bombers for inflicting greater casualties. There were reports of numerous holes in a tree near the site of the blast, but nothing conclusive. Considering the lack of any significant proof of Hinrichs adding shrapnel to his bomb, I would settle on a more innocent--so to speak--explanation: One of the most lethal components of a suicide bomber is the bomber themselves. When the blast goes off, they are literally transformed into a human fragmentation grenade. The human body--especially bones and teeth--becomes a collection of shrapnel moving at tens of thousands of feet per second, much faster than even a high-powered rifle bullet. Such fragments are easily capable of killing a human being or perforating a large tree. With Hinrichs' bomb in his backpack--directly behind his rib cage--there would have been a large number of fragments thrown in one direction, similar to the detonation of a Claymore mine. Other items have the potential of becoming lethal projectiles as well, such as jewelry, loose change, or even a zipper on the backpack itself. (Think this photo, but thousands of times more powerful. Basically the difference between 150 mph hurricane winds and a 17,000 fps--that's over 11,000 mph!--detonation of TATP.)

But by no means is all the information in on this story. There are still a great many questions that need to be answered, such as:

>>> The status of Hinrichs' Pakistani roommate, Fazal Cheema. It would have been impossible for Hinrichs to run a bomb-making operation in his apartment without his roommate being aware of it. Not only does the procedure take a great deal of room to conduct--university apartments are not known to be very spacious--but the smell would be quite noticeable, if not overpowering. Sgt. Mauldin downplayed Cheema's potential involvement, yet he had this to say of the apartment:

"It smelled strongly of peroxide. [Hinrichs] was not really a very good housekeeper, which kind of hindered our search."

>>> There still exists a cover-up of sorts surrounding Hinrichs, specifically the Jihadist literature discovered in his apartment and his connection to a local mosque. Again, Mauldin denied the connection to the mosque, but did not produce additional information. Also, there was a rush to paint the entire situation as an individual suicide both by law enforcement officials and OU President David Boren. Such a description is acceptable--if it is truthful, of course--once ample time has been given to investigating the incident. Doing so just 48 hours afterwards may keep the public calm, but it is pre-mature and dishonest. Maybe 'cover-up' isn't the right terminology, but 'information vacuum' certainly is.

>>> The greater connection of Norman, OK with Islamic terrorism. The paths of too many known terrorists have crossed in Norman, enough that coincidence is safely out of the question.

As with any spectacular event, a lot of the speculation surrounding this case has turned out to be false or exaggerated, but the fact that enough substantial points have been corroborated warrants further investigation.

Finally, as to the authorities' assertion that the bombing was not an act of terrorism? Just because someone had no connections with a terrorist organization doesn't mean they don't have the potential to carry out a terrorist attack. In fact, Sgt. Mauldin summed it up the best:

"As far as anybody can tell, there is absolutely no indication that this guy was tied to any known terrorist organization. Doesn't mean that he wasn't a terrorist."




Why al-Qaeda Is At Home in Pakistan >>> Presented in chronological order with the appropriate amount of name-dropping, this is an excellent resource for understanding the present state of al-Qaeda and its shift from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

The Bloody Borders Project >>> Baron Bodissey from long-time WWIV Daily favorite Gates of Vienna has put together a site to geographically chart every act of Islamic terrorism since 9/11, dubbed the Bloody Borders Project.
It's worth taking a serious look at, and I've added it to the NGO Resources section on the right. Oh yeah, and apparently the whole project was a honey-do of sorts for Dymphna, the Baron's wife. (Gates of Vienna is a husband-wife duo if you didn't know.) As she says, "The things we do for love..."

The Head of the Snake >>> This is Michael J. Totten's new post. Just read it.

How Not To Be Offensive >>> This one made me laugh. (Hat Tip: Murdoc)



al-Qaeda Strikes in Pakistan >>> al-Qaeda once again shows that it is no amateur when it comes to pulling off high-profile terror attacks with a hefty psychological impact. Four people were killed--including a US diplomat--and fifty-two people were wounded in a massive car bomb attack in Pakistan timed to coincide with President Bush's visit to that country. Roggio has a number of links that are worth following--especially this ABC News story--and he correctly notes the significance of Pakistan in connection with al-Qaeda. He also has a couple maps of the site where the attack took place for the tactically-minded to examine.

OU Suicide Bombing: The Truth Comes Out? >>> It's been a LONG time since anything new came out on the OU suicide bombing--refresh your memory here--but finally there has been some confirmation of what many of us were saying all along: It was a failed terrorist attack. I hope to cover this in additional detail in this weekend's SFS.

Jamaat ul-Fuqra in the Spotlight >>> The interesting thing about the York, South Carolina compound is that it seems to be tailored for a public relations role, where as the other JF compounds--like Red House, VA or Hancock, NY--are more of the paramilitary persuasion, with firing ranges, armed sentries, and boot-camp style obstacle courses. I have very little confidence that the news media will be able to reveal anything significant about these compounds or even Jamaat ul-Fuqra as a whole, but what they CAN do is attract the attention of certain people with both the capabilities and interest in doing so. Perhaps the US government?



Counterinsurgency in Iraq >>> This is one of the best articles I've seen on Iraq in a long time. It covers everything from the three general phases of the war--from 2003 to present--to the nature of the Iraqi insurgency and everything in between. There's even a great Hobbesian reference! If you read just one thing today, this should be it.

Foiled Suicide Attack in Jordan >>> This kind of stuff is always good to hear. Terrorism Unveiled has more.

Shop and Awe >>> Kris Alexander brings up the economic front of World War IV, an aspect of this conflict that so far has been largely ignored.

Marine Snipers Infiltrate Fallujah Factory >>> It's not often that I come across a story that details a specific operation, but today I found one about a Marine Corps sniper team tasked with supporting Operation Industrial Revolution--what's next? Operation Protestant Reformation?--in Fallujah. Great stuff.

Zogby Poll >>> Murdoc smells something fishy about this poll and wants to know more. The Officers' Club addresses it here and here.

How Not to Write A News Story >>> Journalism students, pay attention.

Frank Advice on Port Security
>>> I thought this was worth linking to, so I linked to it. (Imagine that, eh?) Enjoy.