Combat Tracking

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

We track like the Taliban shoots, Michael Yon says — that is, badly:

Most of our soldiers cannot track anything short of a blood trail. Conversely, many Taliban can track, and they have killed our soldiers after tracking them down.

It does not take decades to learn how to fly a helicopter, or to shoot a rifle, nor to learn basic tracking. Just a month can make a dramatic difference. My five weeks of training left me confident that I could track the enemy nearly anywhere in southern Afghanistan. Good trackers can stay on the track of a single man, but often you are tracking ten or twenty, which for anyone with even basic tracking skills can be like tracking a herd of elephants.

Tracking ten Taliban in Southern Afghanistan should be child’s play for our soldiers, but after more than a decade of war, many still cannot do it. Every time that the Taliban ambush us, they leave fresh sign during their getaway. They might as well be dropping breadcrumbs. They are often close. Trackers can determine their cone of travel and bound ahead with helicopters. The Taliban try to bait pursuers into IED traps and lure them into area ambushes, but by bounding ahead, hunters can jump beyond the traps. After identifying a cone of travel, a commander reads the enemy and the terrain. Good commanders can identify problem areas and likely routes. Trackers used to do this on horseback.

Imagine an entire battalion — with 500 skilled infantry — all with at least that much training. Evading them would be like evading a pride of lions on foot.

The US Marines, the Dutch Marines and some other forces are forging combat hunting capability. The US Army remains stone blind, even though the Army previously considered tracking a basic skill, and Robert Rogers’ Third Rule for Rangers specifically addresses counter-tracking.

The Boy Scouts used to teach such skills.

Leave a Reply