Afghan National Army Special Forces in June 2013. Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan photo

To Recruit Afghan Troops and Police, the Taliban Turns Pro

But it might not overcome bad blood

The Taliban is depending more heavily on recruiting former Afghan police and soldiers into its ranks—while corrupting disillusioned officials. Worse for the U.S. and its allies, the Taliban’s strategy is becoming more professionalized.

The main reason for all of this is to bolster the Taliban’s muscle. But it also reflects a strategic shift. Just a few years ago the Taliban emphasized killing members of the security forces outright instead of offering amnesty.

According to Jami Forbes and Brian Dudley, two Army analysts who specialize in Afghanistan, the shift has becoming an increasing feature of the Taliban’s public statements. Neither of Forbes and Dudley’s views detailed in a recent article for CTC Sentinel, West Point’s counter-terrorism journal, reflect that of the Army.

The authors note the Taliban’s recruitment efforts are controlled by a wing called the Recruitment and Amnesty Commission. Formed in 2012, the commission has been increasingly referenced in Taliban propaganda as a means to “highlight the Taliban’s increasing strength and organizational depth.”

This followed the 2010 publication of a layeha, or code of conduct, which established rules for handling defecting soldiers and officials.

For one, officials deemed to have “snatched … money or properties while they were working with the infidels” have to pay an equivalent sum back to the Taliban. The code also established a vetting process in which the new fighters “will have to obtain approval of the provincial commander” before joining up.

The Taliban’s vetting process also serves to help prevent petty criminals from enlisting, according to a report by Thomas Johnson and Matthew DuPee of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. This has been a persistent problem for the Taliban—which tries to fashion itself as a popular movement—since 2003 when it began casting a wider net for potential fighters.

Afghan National Army special forces with village elders in Kandahar province, Afghanistan in November 2013. Combined Joint Special Operations-Afghanistan photo

The commission meanwhile serves as a form of public relations with the goal of creating an “overall narrative that portrays the Taliban’s power as steadily increasing while the government’s power weakens.”

But the Taliban has to convince its own commanders that bringing in defecting soldiers is really a good idea instead of a hazard. New members could very well be spies posing as disillusioned recruits. Physically going out and recruiting soldiers and officials is dangerous, requiring Taliban agents to potentially expose themselves to capture or attack.

The increasing formality of the Taliban’s strategy comes as a security agreement which would keep U.S. forces in the country has been approved by an Afghan grand council but held in limbo by Afghan Pres. Hamid Karzai.

That agreement would keep 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan—backed by armed drones—past 2014. But keeping troops in the country has risks of its own. “Any cultural or religious misbehavior by U.S. soldiers could have disastrous consequences for the security pact and the U.S. presence,” one senior Afghan official told The Daily Beast.

It’s also unclear how effective the Taliban actually are at flipping troops, CTC Sentinel notes. Yet in May, the British Ministry of Defense estimated about one-third of the Afghan National Security Forces quit every year and have to be replaced.

Foreign military funding cuts is expected to drop the size of the ANSF by 122,000 members after 2014 to 230,000, and Afghan troops are suffering casualties that “approach rates that we took in Vietnam,” Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan said.

Though the Taliban will still have to overcome a lot of bad blood. “On an emotional level, Taliban commanders may be personally reluctant to welcome former enemies into their ranks,” Forbes and Dudley write.

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Next Story — Reality Check — ‘American Sniper’ Is an Anti-War Film
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War is Hell. Warner Bros. capture

Reality Check — ‘American Sniper’ Is an Anti-War Film

Let’s celebrate the person who returned to help, not the mythologized character conscripted for political purposes

by MATTHEW GAULT

I knew this would happen.

Back in 2014, Bradley Cooper played Chris Kyle in the Oscar nominated film American Sniper and became a conservative hero. Two years later he attended the Democratic National Convention and American Sniper fans lost their shit on Twitter.

Cooper responded, telling James Corden that the backlash surprised him. He was eager to see Pres. Barack Obama speak, and told the crowd he thought he’d been a great president.

I think American Sniper is the best film ever made to date about the war in Iraq. Clint Eastwood is the best living American director to tackle war. His films are morally complicated, beautiful and staunchly anti-war. But that’s not how many of his fans, particularly those of American Sniper see it.

When I caught an early screening of the film back in 2014 in a theater outside Dallas, Kyle fans packed the house. Dozens of men and women wore T-shirts depicting Kyle’s Punisher-style skull emblem. An excited moviegoer told me all about owning a McMillan TAC-338 sniper rifle — just like Kyle.

Then the movie began, and Kyle shoots a child in the street.

That’s the first scene of the film — the hero literally kills a child. The kid is carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, true, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the supposed military uber-hero killed him. Kyle views it as a hard decision he made in a world where evil invaded the life of one unlucky Iraqi child.

The rest of the film, and characters in it, question this assessment.

People in my showing loved the movie, and — not surprisingly — outlets on both sides of the American political spectrum began to misunderstand it. Breitbart called it “a patriotic, pro-war on terror masterpiece.” Rolling Stone said it was too dumb to criticize.

American Sniper earned six Oscar nominations and took home only one. Kyle fans didn’t take it well. Twitter and Facebook exploded with excoriations of the liberal media and liberal-er Hollywood. Conservative pundit Sean Hannity called the Academy Awards “clueless.”

But Americans have wrongly mythologized Kyle, elevating a complicated human soldier full of flaws, contradictions and darkness into an unimpeachable hero or a demon, depending on which side they take.

For the die-hard Kyle fans, American Sniper is about the sacrifices a man makes to fight a good war and the moral ambiguities his enemies thrust upon him during combat. For Kyle critics, the film is a hagiography of a murderer set during a war many Americans wish we’d never started.

They’re both wrong. American Sniper is a morally complicated film about the psychological impact that modern war has on a patriotic soldier. Kyle, the character, is pro-war and the film does glamorize his achievements.

But Eastwood takes pains to contrast those glories with painful scenes of Kyle coming home to a country he doesn’t understand, and a family he has trouble connecting to. It’s an anti-war film and obviously, staunchly so.

Eastwood’s genius is that he crafted a movie that achieves its anti-war message without becoming preachy or overbearing. Unfortunately, that subtlety blew past viewers in their rush to reinforce their preconceived notions about a man who, by all accounts, killed a lot of people.

Meeting between brothers.

For me, it’s hard to imagine a film that opens with the death of a child, even one cast as an enemy combatant, as anything but anti-war.

Fortunately, Eastwood talked to students at the Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television in 2015 and made his feelings on the film’s message crystal clear. The interviewer asked Eastwood if he felt American Sniper glorifies war.

“No I don’t think it glorifies,” he said before switching track. “I think it glorifies it, sure. I mean in the first sequence he shoots down … ” he trailed off, choosing his words carefully.

“Yeah, the sniping part is. But you know then eventually as that scene indicates that he’s getting … you can see it’s starting to tell on him, and later on when he visits a psychiatrist and has to talk to him, and the psychiatrist says did you do anything along the way over there that you felt you shouldn’t have? And you could tell by the look on his face that yeah, he’s got some regrets in there.”

My favorite part of this exchange is that Eastwood is so flabbergasted that anyone would think a movie opening with the death of a child is anything but anti-war.

“I think it’s nice for veterans, because it shows what they go through, and that life — and the wives and families of veterans. It has a great indication of the stresses they are under. And I think that all adds up to kind of an anti-war [message].”

American Sniper is full of scenes that drive home that message. One takes place in Iraq when Kyle runs into his younger brother. Chris embraces the younger Kyle, worrying over the straps on his helmet with smiles and love.

Younger brother Jeff grimaces and looks away. He seems depressed and Chris asks him what’s wrong. “I’m just tired man,” he says.

“I’m proud of you,” Chris says. “Dad is too. Dad’s proud of you.”

“Fuck this place,” Jeff mutters under his breath. He backs away from Chris and says it louder. “Fuck this place,” he almost screams. The camera cuts to Chris, who looks confused, as if he can’t believe someone so close to him would feel that way.

Just two scenes later, Kyle is talking with one of his fellow soldiers about the war. “I just want to believe in what we’re doing here,” the other soldier tells a confused Kyle.

The famed sniper tells him that they’re battling evil. “There’s evil everywhere,” his fellow soldier replies.

Kyle feeds him a line about fighting them over there so they don’t have to fight them back home. The soldier backs off but he’s clearly unconvinced.

“Do you want to die?”

In the film, Kyle struggles to reconcile his personal quest against the forces of evil with civilian life. His wife anchors him reality, but only barely. After the funeral of a fellow soldier, Kyle and his wife bicker in a car on the ride home.

Eastwood shot the scene as if it were war footage, highlighting Kyle’s inability to leave Iraq behind.

“The biggest anti-war statement any film can make is to show the fact of what [war] does to the family and the people who have to go back into civilian life like Chris Kyle did,” Eastwood said during a Producers Guild breakfast.

And yeah, the movie does glorify the action of war, but it does so to contrast the excitement of Kyle’s life in Iraq with his personal battles at home. “I’ve done war movies because they’re always loaded with drama and conflict,” Eastwood explained when talking to the Loyola students.

“But as far as actual participation … it’s one of those things that should be done with a lot of thought, if it needs to be done. Self-protection is a very important thing for nations, but I just don’t like to see it. I was not a big fan of going to war in Iraq or Afghanistan … several practical reasons.

“Iraq, I know, was a different deal, because there was a lot of intelligence that told us that bad things could happen there … I tend to err on the side of less is best.”

Nearly two decades of perpetual war have done something to America which isn’t pretty, and we won’t understand the full ramifications of it for generations.

Our friends and neighbors call for the return of torture, advocate the destruction of Islamic State-held cities — civilians be damned — and cheer a film hero whose first act on screen is to kill a child.

And they’ve conscripted into their battles a beautiful movie about a patriotic American forced into awful situations by an unjustified war. Every character in the film slows Kyle down and asks him if he’s really doing the right thing, and if his actions are justified.

Kyle’s journey in American Sniper leads him through Hell to show him the importance of the civilian life he is defending, and how his actions almost tore that life apart. And his death occurred while trying to help a fellow veteran.

We should celebrate the guy who came home to help, not the soldier who stayed too long in the desert killing those he called “savages.”

Next Story — The U.S. Navy Is Growing More Concerned About Russian and Chinese Submarines
Currently Reading - The U.S. Navy Is Growing More Concerned About Russian and Chinese Submarines

The ‘Seawolf’-class submarine USS ‘Connecticut’ in the Pacific on Nov. 17, 2009. U.S. Navy photo

The U.S. Navy Is Growing More Concerned About Russian and Chinese Submarines

There’s a lot more competition to control the space beneath the waves

by DAVE MAJUMDAR

Enemy submarines remain the single most dangerous threat to the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers and its surface fleet at large. However the service is working on improving its anti-submarine warfare capabilities as the once-dormant Russian undersea force reemerges and China grows its fleet.

While anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles often capture the lion’s share of the attention, submarines armed with Russian-made 533-millimeter and 650-millimeter waking-homing torpedoes are among the only threats that can actually sink an aircraft carrier.

“A torpedo properly placed under the right part of the keel is one of the few things that can actually flatout sink an aircraft carrier,” retired U.S. Navy Capt. Jerry Hendrix, director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security told The National Interest.

The U.S. Navy’s top leadership agrees — submarines remain the single greatest threat to the carrier and the surface fleet.

“That’s not new news,” Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, told The National Interest on Aug. 25 during an interview in his office in the Pentagon. “The submarine is a very asymmetric weapon.”

“By virtue of its continued ability to stay hidden … it’s immune from a lot of those detection systems, which is the first step in any kind of a weapon engagement — you got to detect.”

Sailors aboard the attack submarine USS ‘Santa Fe’ scanning through periscopes in January 2010. U.S. Navy photo

Richardson said that the U.S. Navy is focusing more on ASW with a combination of air, sea and undersea forces. One way to ensure the safety of the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet is to ensure that the service’s attack submarine force remains dominant in the undersea realm.

“We spend a lot of time on that dynamic,” said Richardson, who spent most of his long naval career onboard nuclear-powered submarines.

“One is for our own submarines, we want to make sure they can get into those really influential places and stay there — and part of staying there is being stealthy enough to remain hidden and keep that undersea superiority we have.”

But increasingly, for the first time since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy finds itself challenged under the waves.

“There is an awful lot of competition for that space,” Richardson said.

“So we can’t get complacent, we can’t rest on our laurels for one minute, otherwise that window will close and we’ll find — that they’ve achieved parity undersea. So we’ve got to continue to push and also to develop our own anti-submarine warfare systems — which is an area of really big emphasis.”

The U.S. Navy currently has around 52 attack submarines in its fleet against a requirement for 48 boats. However, even with 52 boats, the service is struggling to meet the demands of combatant commanders in the North Atlantic and the Pacific as the Russian and Chinese fleets ramp up their activities.

But the problem is that the SSN force is set to shrink to 41 by 2029.

While the threat posed by the Russian and Chinese fleets is real, it is not a crisis per se.

“It’s not an insurmountable problem by any means,” Richardson said. “But having said that, we need to be cautious. The Russians have always built very sophisticated submarines and they’re a very creative people; their engineering is getting better.”

“So I am always cautioning my team about writing anybody off too soon. In terms of the complexity of the threat, the Russians are setting the pace.”

China poses more of a threat just in terms of the sheer number of submarines Beijing has at its disposal.

“In terms of just a capacity challenge, the Chinese are building a lot of submarines,” Richardson said. “Some of them — at least from a quietness standpoint, it’s going to take some time to find them — they’re diesels, they’re AIP — those sorts of things. They’re just inherently quiet … it’s just something that’s going to take a while to achieve because you have to find them and get to them.”

“And then quantity has a quality of its own.”

Given the threat, the Navy is reviewing its 48-boat requirement because it was set at a time before the reemergence of the Russian fleet and before China became a factor beneath the waves. Thus, given those factors, the Navy’s current 48-boat requirement is likely set too low.

“We have to validate what’s the right number and then what can we do to mitigate that risk,” Richardson said.

A Chinese ‘Kilo’-class submarine. Photo via Wikipedia

But exactly how the U.S. Navy will mitigate those risks has yet to be determined. “We’re doing a force-structure assessment this summer to get at some of those questions,” Richardson said.

The Navy is trying to find a balancing point between the number of submarines it needs versus the available resources.

“Even unlimited resources don’t mean you buy unlimited amounts of submarines or ships or aircraft carriers or whatever. There is an adequate amount that gets you to a point where you have addressed all of your risks,” Richardson said.

Even if the Navy did set the requirement for the number of SSNs at a higher level, it is not clear what the service can do to address the shortfall.

Richardson said, for example, the service could look at further extending the lives of some of its improved Los Angeles-class submarines and building an additional Virginia-class boat in fiscal year 2021 onwards so that production remains at two SSNs per year.

“We’re looking at every trick we’ve got,” Richardson said.

Ultimately, the Navy will need to increase submarine production if it wants to make up for the submarine deficit, but that will mean that Congress will have to increase the service’s shipbuilding budget.

“We reach a minimum of about 40 to 41 in the late ’20s, early ’30s before we start climbing back up out of that,” Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, the Navy’s program executive officer for submarines, told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on July 8.

“This is not something we can we fix at this point — it’s the result of decisions made long ago.”

This article originally appeared at The National Interest.

Next Story — The Baltic States Keep Buying Unreliable German Rifles
Currently Reading - The Baltic States Keep Buying Unreliable German Rifles

A Lithuanian mechanized infantry soldier exits an M-113 armored personnel carrier in 2015. He carries a G36 rifle. U.S. Army photo

The Baltic States Keep Buying Unreliable German Rifles

The G36 still has customers despite a scandal and revelation of overheating problems

by ROBERT BECKHUSEN

The German army will begin replacing its G36 battle rifles — entirely — in 2019 because of reliability problems. But it hasn’t discouraged the Baltic States from buying them. In fact, Latvia and Lithuania are buying more as a resurgent Russia poses a major security threat.

Recently, the Lithuanian military announced it will buy $14 million worth of G36s updated with new butt-stocks, handguards and sight rails — and attachable 40-millimeter grenade launchers all for delivery in 2017.

“Our decision is based on the test data we have obtained and our allies have shared with us, as well as on our wish to have one type of main rifleman gun in the Lithuanian armed forces,” Defense Minister Jouzas Olekas said.

In March, the Latvian government announced it will continue arming its soldiers with G36s, too.

But the G36, a 5.56-millimeter assault rifle manufactured by Heckler & Koch, is not fully battle-worthy. Lightweight and frail because of shoddy plastic parts, its components can distort when subjected to high temperatures, throwing off the rifle’s accuracy.

If you fire a round from a G36, you won’t have any problems. But when you fire a lot — as soldiers often do in firefights — you will create a lot of pressure and heat. The rifle’s accuracy problems become worse, and can extend to total failure, in hot enough conditions.

Lithuanian troops with G36 rifles train with U.S. soldiers in April 2016. U.S. Army photo

It’s even worse environments such as Afghanistan in the summer, where German troops discovered the G36’s notorious penchant for overheating.

During a 2010 Good Friday ambush in Afghanistan, 32 paratroopers came under Taliban attack in the most intense battle involving German troops since World War II. During the fighting, the paratroopers’ rifles overheated and three soldiers died in combat.

The fallout turned into a major scandal for the German government and resulted in the Bundeswehr ditching the guns for good. But the Baltic States may not be inclined to abandon the G36s to hunt for a new rifle so soon after adopting them into service.

And there’s something of a time crunch here.

Lithuania and Latvia share borders with Russia and the heavily-militarized Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Russian forces could overrun both countries within days if the Kremlin ordered it — a realistic concern after the Russian invasion of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

Aerial intercepts between NATO and Russian fighters over the Baltic Sea are now a frequent occurrence. And the Western alliance has bolstered its military presence by staging large military exercises and rushing thousands of troops into the area.

Yet leaving aside the urgency of needing rifles, there’s still skepticism in the Baltic States that the G36 would hold up in the event of a real war — instead of just training for one.

In 2015, the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union, a state-sponsored militia, adopted HK416 and HK417 rifles — similar to the U.S. M-4 carbine — instead of the G36. These are fine rifles, and the German Defense Ministry are also ordering them as interim replacements for the G36s among deployed forces.

Latvia and Lithuania adopted the G36 in 2006 and 2007, respectively, to replace the Swedish-made AK-4. Estonia keeps a small number of G36s for its commandos but relies on the Israeli-made IMI Galil for most of its infantry.

But there’s at least one upside to using the G36. The Baltic region is a cooler — much cooler — environment compared to summer in Afghanistan.

Hence why the new shipment feature new butt-stocks. “Only minor technical problems [with the G36] have been reported,” the Latvian military blog Sargs reported. The main issue is “plastic butt-stock defects after using the assault rifle in cold weather.”

Next Story — Parece ser que el ISIS utilizó un nuevo tipo de IED en Karrada
Currently Reading - Parece ser que el ISIS utilizó un nuevo tipo de IED en Karrada

Consecuencias del atentado de Karrada. Foto de Wikipedia

Parece ser que el ISIS utilizó un nuevo tipo de IED en Karrada

La tremenda explosión mató de una forma poco habitual

por ANDRES PEREZ

El 3 de julio de 2016 el Estado Islámico llevó a cabo su ataque más mortífero hasta ahora en el que utilizó un artefacto explosivo improvisado en vehículo, un VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device), contra una multitud de personas que se encontraban en una calle muy transitada de Karrada, Irak.

El ataque acabó con la vida de 324 civiles inocentes, muchos de ellos niños. A los muertos se suman más de 200 civiles que resultaron heridos en el atentado.

El 28 de julio la BBC publicó un artículo que resumía algunos de los aspectos clave del atentado de Karrada, los cuales la diferencian de otros atentados con IED llevados a cabo por el ISIS hasta el momento. Parece ser que los terroristas utilizaron un nuevo tipo de IED.

Hay que tener en cuenta que no hubo un cráter visible en la base de la explosión. La explosión no provocó daños estructurales graves en los edificios más cercanos. Muchos testigos declaran haber sentido un calor muy fuerte tras la explosión. Y varios expertos estiman que la explosión inicial mató a entre 20 y 30 personas, mientras que los 300 muertos restantes fallecieron a consecuencia de los fuegos secundarios.

Estas características son únicas, dado que parecen indicar que el ISIS no utilizó exclusivamente explosivos convencionales en la carga principal del VBIED de Karrada.

El antes y el después de la explosión. Fotos de Wikipedia

Explosivos convencionales versus la bomba de Karrada

Los explosivos convencionales tienden a generar la mayor parte de sus efectos a partir de una explosión potente pero corta e intensa. Por lo tanto, cuando se utilizan explosivos convencionales en un gran VBIED, la explosión suele dejar un cráter delator y provoca daños estructurales de consideración en los edificios cercanos. Las imágenes del lugar de la explosión de los atentados con VBIED del edificio público Alfred P. Murrah en Estados Unidos y de las Torres Khobar en Arabia Saudita constituyen buenas referencias.

Sin embargo, según expertos en seguridad e imágenes de drones (aviones no tripulados), no parece que la explosión de Karrada haya creado ningún cráter o provocado daños estructurales significativos en los edificios cercanos.

Por otra parte, de forma inusual en estos casos, los supervivientes sintieron los efectos de la explosión inicial durante el tiempo suficiente como para recordarla como un calor intenso y abrasador. Estos hechos parecen indicar que se trató de una explosión de mayor duración y más ondulante de lo habitual. Además, menos del 10 por ciento de las víctimas parecen haber fallecido a causa de la explosión inicial, mientras que el 90 por ciento restante parece haber fallecido por fuegos secundarios de importancia.

En consecuencia, al analizar el tipo de arma utilizada por el ISIS en Karrada, las evidencias parecen apuntar a una potente explosión incendiaria de larga duración.

Las armas por explosión de aire-combustible, o FAE [fuel air explosion], fueron diseñadas para superar las limitaciones de los explosivos convencionales y se caracterizan por sus tremendos efectos incendiarios, así como por la ausencia de un gran cráter por la explosión. Por lo general se componen de un gel o lechada rica en combustible y de una “carga de dispersión” que, tras su detonación, dispersa el componente combustible en forma de nube de aerosol y acto seguido lo prende o lo detona.

La combustión continua de la capa exterior de moléculas de combustible a medida que entran en contacto con el aire genera un calor adicional que mantiene la temperatura en el interior de la bola de fuego y, por consiguiente, prolonga la detonación. En otras palabras, las armas FAE generan una gran bola de fuego relativamente de larga duración.

En un principio, a juzgar por tales características, parece factible la teoría de que se hayan utilizado armas FAE en el tipo de IED utilizado en Karrada. Pero por otra parte las armas FAE presentan una característica que no se ajusta demasiado bien a las circunstancias del atentado de Karrada, y es que sus efectos pueden resultar entre 12 y 16 veces más destructivos sobre los edificios cercanos que en el caso de los explosivos convencionales.

Por tanto, en condiciones normales un arma FAE habría ocasionado en Karrada muchos más daños estructurales sobre los edificios adyacentes de los que parece ser el caso.

Homenaje en recuerdo de las víctimas de la explosión. Foto de Flickr

Armas incendiarias

Las armas incendiarias están diseñadas para propagar fuegos de combustión lenta que generan un calor muy intenso. Si bien en las armas incendiarias se emplean sustancias tales como termita, polvo de magnesio y fósforo blanco, posiblemente la sustancia utilizada más habitualmente y más fácil de fabricar, incluso de forma casera, sea el napalm.

El napalm consiste en una mezcla de un agente gelificante y un combustible, normalmente gasolina, que se adhiere a la piel y provoca graves quemaduras en cuanto prende.

Es más, el napalm tiene la capacidad de propagarse por trincheras, búnkeres y otras fortificaciones, lo cual lo convierte en un arma muy eficaz contra personal enemigo atrincherado. Asimismo, el napalm resulta tremendamente fácil de fabricar y en Internet se pueden encontrar sin problema recetas para prepararlo en casa.

No obstante, hay que puntualizar que las sustancias inflamables como el napalm no son explosivas. Así que, en el contexto de las armas incendiarias tradicionales, sus propiedades inflamables se utilizan simplemente para mejorar los efectos de las bombas convencionales.

Esto significa que si el ISIS fabricó un IED de napalm para utilizarlo en Karrada como un arma incendiaria normal, posiblemente necesitaría una carga principal a base de explosivos convencionales que habría dejado un cráter delator en el suelo.

En consecuencia, las características de un arma incendiaria normal tampoco se ajustan exactamente a las circunstancias del atentado de Karrada.

Homenaje en recuerdo de las víctimas de la explosión. Foto de Flickr

Deflagración versus detonación

La respuesta al misterio que rodea al IED de Karrada puede encontrarse en la diferencia entre deflagración y detonación.

Cuando se prende una mezcla de aire y gas inflamable, puede pasarse rápidamente de un tipo de combustión en forma de deflagración, fuego con llamas, a un tipo de combustión en forma de detonación, la cual genera una explosión con la correspondiente onda de choque.

Las armas FAE se basan en esa transición de deflagración a detonación para generar las devastadoras ondas de choque que las caracterizan.

No obstante, no siempre se produce tal transición cuando quiera que se utilizan FAEs. Según un estudio realizado en 1993 por el Centro de Inteligencia de las Fuerzas Armadas estadounidenses [Defense Intelligence Agency] sobre las armas FAE, “si el combustible deflagra pero no detona, sus víctimas sufrirán graves quemaduras y probablemente también inhalarán el combustible ardiendo”.

Teniendo en cuenta los hechos expuestos anteriormente, resulta bastante razonable la posibilidad de que el ISIS empleara un VBIED con un arma FAE a base de napalm, la cual deflagró pero no detonó. Esta teoría parece explicar cada una de las características particulares del atentado que se describían en el artículo de la BBC del 28 de julio.

Como ya se mencionó anteriormente, las armas FAE no suelen dejar un cráter en el suelo. Un arma FAE que sólo deflagre resulta incluso aún menos probable que deje un cráter en el suelo porque la única onda de choque que se genera en el foco de la explosión sería la producida por la pequeña carga “de dispersión”. Es más, la ausencia de detonación dentro de la nube de combustible podría explicar que no se produjeran daños estructurales de consideración en los edificios cercanos.

Para más inri, si en Karrada se utilizó un arma FAE que únicamente llegó a deflagrar su nube inflamable, se tuvo que producir una enorme bola de fuego que explicaría el calor extremo que se sintió tras la explosión. Este sería concretamente el caso si se utilizó napalm como mezcla incendiaria porque arde a más de 5.000 grados Fahrenheit, unos 2.760 grados Celsius.

Probablemente el ISIS haya utilizado napalm porque resulta barato, fácil de fabricar y muy letal.

Por otra parte, la intensa y duradera bola de fuego generada por la deflagración de una gran nube de napalm en forma de aerosol ocasionaría numerosas víctimas en la concurrida calle comercial de Karrada.

Y una vez que se disipara la bola de fuego, la gran cantidad de paredes de espuma de poliestireno, pancartas, telas y perfumes que se extendían por toda la calle mantendrían el fuego vivo, lo que provocaría más muertos. Esto vendría a explicar por qué aproximadamente el 90 por ciento de las víctimas de Karrada murieron a consecuencia del fuego.

El ISIS utiliza IEDs como su principal arma, y tiene una gran habilidad para fabricar una amplia y sofisticada variedad de estos artefactos. Aunque el ISIS se apoya en diseños sobradamente probados en la mayoría de sus operaciones, también suele experimentar con diseños nuevos para mejorar y ocultar estos artefactos.

En julio de 2015, por ejemplo, el grupo terrorista utilizó armas químicas de fabricación casera que consistían en proyectiles de mortero ​​que prepararon para rellenarlos con gas de cloro. Fuentes confidenciales sostienen que el ISIS ha preparado y utilizado otras variantes de armas químicas igualmente caseras.

En consecuencia, resulta muy probable que el ISIS disponga de la voluntad y capacidad para fabricar un VBIED con un arma FAE.

Traducido por Jorge Tierno Rey, autor de El Blog de Tiro Táctico.

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