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Desilusionada
 
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Bangui fiasco

28 March 2013, 18:12

The SANDF combatants during the so-called Battle of Bangui in the CAR incurred a 20% casualty rate. This statement by itself does not really inform much, unless one can make a comparison against other incidents of armed aggression, which then poses some questions in return.

Battle doctrine has certainly changed since Cain took the cudgel against Abel, but in some aspects the principles of armed fighting and projection/multiplication of power are still relevant. May one suggest elements such as support and control, training, morale, having equipment and technological advantages, terrain, superiority in numbers, defending or attacking a fixed position, fallback position, speed of casevac/medevac and many more. 

Wars since 1865 have killed fewer soldiers as a percentage of the deployed combat force than was the case in previous wars. Except for the Napoleonic wars, which utilized the tactical field formation of the packed marching column, every war since +/-1600 has resulted in fewer and fewer casualties as a percentage of the committed forces for both the victor and defeated.

Total casualty rates mirror this in some manner with battleground hygiene, record keeping rules, medical care and technology also influencing these percentages. For more information about deaths and wounded and population numbers, our friend would gladly supply at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties.

The 1991 Gulf War demonstrated what well trained, equipped and led American troops could do. During that five day campaign, there were 12 American casualties a day per division. Their division being maybe 17-20 000 members.

More germane perhaps could be the Battle of Mirbat which took place on 19 July 1972. 9 SAS soldiers, 30-40 Omani soldiers, gendarmes, and militia and 3 light attack jets were in battle against +/-300 Adoo guerrillas. It must be noted that the Adoo were advancing over rather open ground with little vegetation and the Omani and SAS were in a fixed position. It is not known how much open ground there were at Bangui.

More relevant is the fact that the SAS/Omani fired at the Adoo with L1A1 SLR battle rifles, with one man firing a Browning M2HB heavy machine gun, with a further two men operating and firing an infantry mortar. As the SLRs would not be of full use until the Adoo were closer than the weapon's range of 800 metres, a 25 Pounder Artillery Piece was deployed, albeit only at the rate of 1 round a minute. The 3 Strikemaster jets arrived later, and began strafing the Adoo. A low cloud base made for low altitude attack runs, thus only machine-guns and light rockets were used. 

The eventual casualty rate was 3 killed, 1 wounded, i.e. approximately 9%. The Adoo suffered a +/-26% fatality.

Media reports would it have that the SANDF soldiers were constantly borrowing equipment from the French. Certainly it is therefore not unreasonable that we the taxpayer who funded the SA contingent and the parents and loved ones who suffered emotional distress, to ask Why this was so? Where were the forward air support during the battle? Why is it reported that the SANDF used soft skinned vehicles (Prado) instead of having armoured vehicles?

Why is it reported that there was a shortage of medical personnel, and no immediate casualty evacuation back to South Africa? How could these rebels just take, loot and plunder the administrative soldiers barracks? Who did, how regular and how accurate were threat assessments done?

When a soldier signs up, it is to be a soldier; which by definition means that you could go to war. In war people get killed and wounded. That is what soldiers do, They accept this  and they project and execute the political decisions of the government.

They do however represent a financial investment by the taxpayer. In the event of the soldier becoming a casualty, the taxpayer is expected to rehabilitate or bury the soldier, and the taxpayer is asked in some manner to look after the soldier’s relatives.

The soldier is also a citizen and deserves the best that the government can supply in equipment and training. The soldier is also a human being that deserves to be treated as one by the government; as much as it is acknowledged that the same government could send him into harm’s way.

Our Government is keen to proclaim how hard they are battling against the legacy of apartheid and use every opportunity to distance them of any failures to achieve what the citizenry asks for. It would be interesting how this one will be blamed on the usual and when, (not if), the race card will be pulled from the sleeve.

Unfortunately whatever spin they try put on this fiasco, there can be no hiding the truth that the SANDF may have been heroes as individuals, but the image of the Republic did not emerge as all that shiny, nor our credibility as a peacekeeping force with a balanced view of the World in general and Africa in particular.

Not when we endeavour and fail to prop up a dictator who achieved power by coup. 

Who has subsequently fled....

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