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Mission 20 -Detail
Freedom's Heroes: Rangers Lead the Way

 Friendly Forces

A Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment

American soldiers first employed Ranger tactics in 1670, but it wasnít until the French and Indian War in the mid-1700s that Ranger techniques and methods of operations became the basis of a permanent, organized fighting force. For 300 years the Army Rangers, the toughest, most elite fighting unit, have been employed to handle some of the most difficult and deadly operations of all time from the Revolutionary war to the War on Terror.

Part of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), the 75th Ranger Regiment has 30,000 Special Force operators and is the US Armyís premiere airfield seizure and raid unit. Rangers are known for their superiority in all light infantry skills and specialized mission tactics: movement to contact, ambush, reconnaissance, air assaults, and rapid defense. Rangers penetrate hostile ground by land, sea, or air with lightning-quick speed and unparalleled talent.

One Ranger Battalion is on Ready Reaction Force (RRF), continuous alert, whereby its men are prepared to mobilize and fight in any location around the globe within 18 hours. The battalion, command, and control of one Ranger rifle company are deployable in as few as 9 hours. All three battalions specialize in clandestine operations such as raids, "snatch" operations, hostage rescue, and enemy incapacitation. Back to top

 Enemy Forces

Afghanistan has never had much of a national army. Lack of resources and tribal society never allowed it. But individual factions could operate extremely well, and with a good knowledge of the lay of the land, these mountain fighters have repeatedly outmaneuvered invading forces. In the late 19th century against the British, and in the late 20th century against the Soviets, the Afghans fought off dominant empires by retreating before their invading armies and then launching protracted, highly effective, and eventually successful guerilla wars. The Taliban's army is a coalition of militias with varying degrees of skill and loyalty to their cause. Many have a history of switching sides before coming under the command of the Taliban. They have good mobility but canít penetrate defenses or hold positions. In major battles, they have a tendency to rush into the front lines and leave their rear weakly defended and vulnerable to counterattack.

The Taliban are variously led by tribesmen, seasonal conscripts, and foreign volunteers. Many are from Pakistan, America's nominal ally in the war on terror. Some elite units exist, with troops recruited from religious madrasa and led by the mujahedeen of earlier wars. The number changes, but there is a core of about 25,000 troops. Their cavalry units, if they can be called that, use pickup trucks for combat and support missions. Some units have armored vehicles and artillery and even a few tanks, but the Kalashnikov assault rifle is their mainstay. Back to top

Formed around 1988 by Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda helped finance, recruit, transport, and train thousands of fighters from dozens of countries as part of the Afghan resistance against the Soviet Union. The resulting group turned into an international terrorist network after the war. In February 1998, it issued a statement declaring war on all US citizens and allies everywhere they could be found. Its strength further increased in June 2001 when it merged with an Egyptian terrorist group headed by Ayman al-Zawahiri.

al Qaeda has sophisticated tactics for assassination, bombing, hijacking, and kidnapping, with good operational security and long-range planning. Many reports and statements from bin Laden himself indicate that the group is determined to build or steal biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. Their targets tend to be prominent symbols and public, high-profile buildings. According to former CIA head George Tenet, the organization has increasingly focused on developing puppet groups to carry out attacks in which bin Laden's fingerprints are not detected.

With a global financial network, dozens of affiliated groups, and several thousand recruits, the organization has provided training and support for terrorists fighting in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia, Chechnya, Eritrea, Kosovo, the Philippines, Somalia, Tajikistan, Yemen, Kosovo, as well as North and South America. Back to top

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