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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 13, 2006

Video by insurgents useful to U.S. forces

By JOHN DIAMOND
USA Today

WASHINGTON Videotapes of insurgent attacks in Iraq have become a potent propaganda tool for militant Islamists but also a handy training aid for U.S. forces, according to Army briefing documents being given to officers deploying for duty in Iraq.

Insurgents routinely videotape their attacks and sometimes post the footage on the Internet as propaganda to show tactical victories against U.S. convoys or helicopters.

A briefing report prepared by the intelligence division of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command shows how the Army is mining the insurgent tapes for ways to avoid casualties.

"Insurgent videos have grown complex and sophisticated, with detailed graphics, English subtitles, English narrators, Jihadist 'humor,' and insults directed at the coalition to weaken (coalition forces') resolve and popular support," the report says. The document warns U.S. soldiers that "any non-media or not-CF (coalition forces) personnel with a camera should be considered suspicious."

The briefing is presented in the form of PowerPoint slides that have also been shown to soldiers deployed in Iraq. It offers insights into insurgent tactics with the help of videos and photos taken by the insurgents.

One, taken Aug. 10, shows an Army supply truck passing a homemade road sign that concealed a bomb. Then the tractor-trailer is obscured by a fiery blast. The briefing warns that some roadside bombs are "victim-activated" meaning that the motion of a passing vehicle sets off the explosive.

The thrust of the report is to show Army officers how and where Americans are dying.

The briefing report says 55 percent of U.S. military deaths in Iraq are attributed to roadside bombs and small-arms attacks. It says 59 percent of U.S. military deaths occurred in Baghdad and Sunni-dominated Anbar province, which runs from just west of Baghdad to the Syrian border.

Designed to help soldiers know what to expect and how to counter insurgent tactics, the briefing also warns that Iranian-backed Shiite militants as well as Iraqi Sunnis and foreign Sunni fighters are regularly mounting attacks.

Maj. Mark VanHout of the Training and Doctrine Command, based at Fort Monroe, Va., confirmed the authenticity of the report, which is unclassified but not released publicly.

Training commanders had asked for the report to give officers "a statistical analysis of what enemy tactics, techniques and procedures kill most soldiers," according to Gary Phillips, a threats specialist at the command's intelligence branch at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Phillips, a retired Army colonel who travels to military bases around the country preparing officers for duty in Iraq, says the roadside bombs are the most worrisome threat.

"They continue to move forward in how they're emplaced, how they're configured and how they're used," Phillips says.

His son, Army Capt. Dustin Phillips, deploys to Iraq later this month to train Iraqi police. The father told his son: "Don't let complacency set in. Don't think everything's copacetic. There is no safe spot."

The briefing characterizes insurgents as difficult to find, let alone defeat, and able to change their tactics.