Tunneling underground is a tried and true tactic of the guerrilla fighter, one that has become especially prevalent amongst those facing Western air power which they simply cannot match. By the same token, it has also been argued that the suicide bomber is another tactic which the guerrilla, or terrorist rather, uses to a militarily superior adversary.
From Vietnam, to Israel, and now to Iraq in places like Sinjar and Mosul, tunneling presents America with difficult tactical and strategic challenges. Tunnels have to be discovered and destroyed, in a worse case scenario they have to be cleared by troops with small arms as American “tunnel rats” did in Vietnam and the Peshmerga are doing today in Mosul.
Benjamin Runkle penned a fascinating piece about how Hamas was able to outmaneuver IDF forces using tunnels, and makes some important recommendations on how the United States can better prepare itself to deal with the threat.
Amidst the myriad mistakes associated with the Iraq War, perhaps none were as costly in terms of lives of U.S. personnel as the failure to anticipate the threat posed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and, subsequently, to rapidly develop technologies capable of detecting and defeating the insurgents’ deadly innovation. Despite the extensive use of IEDs in conflicts in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, and Southern Lebanon, and the loss of U.S. personnel to IEDs in Somalia, U.S. policymakers and the military were caught unprepared for these devices that by one estimate were responsible for 64 percent of all U.S. combat deaths through 2007.