Chris Muir's Day By Day

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Snipers At War

A fine USA Today feature story.

QUANTICO, Va. – When Marine Sgt. Jonathan Charles' unit arrived in Afghanistan, the American troops faced an entrenched enemy that picked a fight with the Marines almost every time they stepped off base.

"They couldn't get outside the wire more than 50 meters before it was a barrage of fire," said Charles, a scout sniper.
The Marine battalion quickly dispersed well-camouflaged scout sniper teams throughout the Musa Qala area in southern Afghanistan, the former Taliban heartland. The teams would hide for days, holed up in crevices, among boulders or in mud-walled homes, and wait for unsuspecting militants to walk into a trap.

The result: Dozens of militants were killed by an enemy they never saw. Word of unseen killers began to spread among the "few who got away," Charles said. Within weeks, the tide had begun to turn and by the end of the unit's seven-month deployment in March 2011, the battalion's 33-man sniper platoon had 185 enemy kills.
"They quit altogether," Charles, 26, said of the Taliban. More important, with the enemy largely neutralized, the battalion could focus on building local security and developing Afghan security forces. This approach is the bedrock of counterinsurgency warfare, which is designed to allow the United States to remove most combat troops by the end of 2014.
Snipers have quietly emerged as one of the most effective but least understood weapons in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Advancements in technology and training have made them deadlier than in any previous generation. Their ability to deliver accurate shots minimizes collateral damage — a key factor in counterinsurgency — and they are often more effective than much ballyhooed drones at secretly collecting intelligence.


Click the link to read the rest. The related multimedia presentation and photos are worth visiting, too.

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