Photo: Chuck Holton via US Army
When over 1,000 Marines arrived to Afghanistan in 2010 facing daily rounds of attacks from entrenched insurgents, they couldn’t get more than 50 yards from base before hitting a storm of incoming fire.Jim Michaels at USA Today reports that changed quickly once the battalion deployed a handful of sniper teams to prowl the area waiting for insurgents to fall into their sights.
The two man teams had a devastating affect, not only on the 185 men they killed over seven months, but on every single enemy who wondered if they were next.
From USA Today:
“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.
In the past nine years alone the number of students at the Army’s Ft. Benning Sniper School has jumped from 163 to 570 soldiers.
Today’s military snipers are equipped with handheld devices that factor various atmospheric conditions affecting a bullets flight, into deadly pinpoint accuracy. Coupled with precision scopes and advanced rifle design, snipers are more than deadly, they’re devastating.
A good sniper can hit a human target from more than a mile away, a half-mile at night; and the psychological impact of those shots lives on and on among the enemies ranks.
Michaels mentions 2004 negotiations with insurgents whose first request was that the Marines withdraw their snipers.
“They weren’t concerned with the tanks or the battalions in there,” Marine Col. Tim Armstrong says, “They wanted the snipers removed.”
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