Tunnel bombs are not a bad-guy epiphany, but a natural manifestation of the battlefield. Yet as many tactics are eventually exported in attacks on the West; should we be looking underground for the next massive attack? Yes.
Another historical replay, labeled “new” by people who only reference history in a ‘today’ context has been underway throughout Iraq and Syria. As militants and terrorist alike look for new ways to break through hardened defensive fortifications and obstacle belts – they’ve opted for the road less traveled, underground.
The onset is not some breakthrough in guerrilla warfare. In fact, the concept is as old as siege warfare, when the Sappers of yesteryear, in Roman and Medieval times, would tunnel underneath castle and fortification walls to denote a charge, or remove the supporting earth to force a breach and/or destabilize the walls for an effective artillery or catapult fire breakthrough. In more modern times, tunnel warfare, along with the deployment of hill mines that ripped the soil and lives from the stagnant lines of World War One. In Vietnam, tunnel warfare was rampant and manifested into a uniquely vicious form of killing. Throughout the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars; deep buried improvised explosive devices were favored amongst insurgents who sought to challenge heavily armored allied vehicles.
The tunnel bomb is not something new, and is clearly not outdated. Yet the reemergence of tunnel bomb tactics on today’s international battlefields across the Middle East should raise concern and merit a plan of deterrence from intelligence and security agencies.
The threat is real,
Reflecting upon the roots of tactics employed by terrorists on targets in the West – as well as the attacks that were deterred, we find the tried and true from over there, showing up here. Beyond the headline-grabbing knife and gunman attacks are the bombers, and a fact that’s often brushed over is the various explosive devices in the possession of these terrorist whom were killed in the act, or deterred before they were able to detonate their devices.
Western security services are typically not inept when it comes to counter-explosive identification and mitigation. If anything we’re overly paranoid about bomb threats and run extensive overkill procedures on even the slightly suspected device. These are dangerous times to be an unattended backpack . . . I’ve often wondered if leaving your backpack, that had your incomplete homework in; was destroyed in a controlled detonation by the local bomb squad, could be a reasonable cause to turn in a late university assignment.
Nevertheless, our vigilance is only skin deep. The security theater folks of the TSA keep us waiting around to remind us that our government is keeping us safe. State-of-the-art systems surveillance systems monitor everyone on the streets, and online. Increased patrols, kitted-out police, tactical vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, perimeter detection devices, and so on, and so on – we’re perceptibility safe within the visible line of sight of the man.
Yet in this goldfish attention span state-of-the-world, along with the most peculiar ‘not my problem’ culture that we live in; out of sight – out of mind is the perfect realm for creating chaos. Just as the drug addled homeless veterans I encountered a few months ago, where indulgence and deprivation ran unchecked in abandoned factories and under interstates bridges.
Adjacent to that class, but also underground, are the countless smuggling tunnels creating by the varying narcotics cartels along the Mexican border. And while these tunnels are often sought out, their discovery is not immediate and for every tunnel shut down, more are already operating to continue the flow of illicit goods and illegal aliens. Israel faces a similar – yet direct terror threat from its belligerent and simple-minded neighbors, who continue to tunnel into the defiant nation. Hamas, Hezbollah, and similar bands of misguided youth led by loudmouth old cowards, continue to use terror in an attempt to impose unrealistic and nonsensical demands on Israel. We could learn from and continue to jointly improve our skills by continuing joint-collaboration with Israel; who interestingly enough, is also on target in a counteroffensive against narco-subs.
As these elements remain within the out of sight, out of mind threshold and are difficult to detect, while known, and often concentrated in groupings around the same known areas. Nevertheless, neither American located example are terrorists in the sense of targeting cultural, government, public, and social targets to push an ideology. Yet, the Israeli example is terror. Despite this, the relevant focus of this threat is on the bombers, be they from al-Qaeda, Daesh ‘ISIS’, foreign intelligence agencies, the Army of God, or a host of many other goat-blowing, bad guys.
Realistically, these are the forces that have attacked and/or bombed Americans in America and are most likely to do so again. And while these collections of turds may be monitored or deterred from line-of-sight approaches by barricades, electronic surveillance, guards, watch lists, or all else under the sun. It’s where the sun doesn’t shine, that concerns me.
Take me down, six underground,
Reviewing this threat with a closed mind is the dangerous standpoint as tunnel bombs are often dismissed as too difficult to construct in the West without notice and that existing underground manmade works would obstruct any attempt. Sure, I guess, if you’re a linear-minded jack-ass.
Regardless, most targets selected by the above-mentioned subversive sheep-shaggers are within cities, fortified military installations, and other urban infrastructure that is supported by underground civic, public, and private works.
We’re not discussing downtown Aleppo, Syria or even Hill 60 of Ypres, Belgium. In fact, those places would be considered the worst-case scenarios. Asides from the hazards of combat from above ground, where bombardment could force a tunnel collapse or over-pressure from a direct strike could concuss or kill the tunnelers. In these places, underground, where you could encounter an enemy force digging their way toward you, and then be forced into some very dark and ugly close quarters combat. Another likely danger in these locals, is that the exit may have been captured by enemy forces while a team was forward digging. These dangers do not discount the invisible hazardous natural dangers of gas pockets, which could ignite with a poorly timed pickax strike or suffocate the team before they realize the threat.
Albeit, a tunneling terror cell in the West would not have to concern themselves with many, if any of these threats. Under most Western targets, an existing maze of facility, service, sewage, subway, and waterways trace an outline along the roadways – jutting off to building annexes, centers, and relays. No terrorist would really need to dig, the tunnels are already in place.
Under any circumstances, let’s say they have to dig, and how difficult that would not be in the West. For one point, we’re dealing with terrorists, not criminals on a bank heist. For terrorists when the job is over, they’re already set to die and have been successfully operating under fraudulent credentials – they’re also, typically financed in one form or another. As they consolidate their means and set their target; what exactly is stopping them from going down to the local tool rental shop, or purchasing equipment to simplify their digging on Craigslist? While they’re on Craigslist they’re also going to be able to find more than one nearby site that is asking for fill dirt, and the terrorists may even be paid for the dirt they’ve unearthed.
That is, if they need to dig, but they really will not need to. I’ll cite myself here, on my experience as a city kid, and man-child, who refuses to conform to society’s lame-ass ‘adult’ rules. Around here, in my city, there are not only a massive network of overlapping abandoned speakeasy and prohibition brewing tunnels, the many abandoned factory tunnels, half completed city works, forgotten civil defense bunkers, and an incomplete subway system all runs from the outskirts around, and into the heart of the city. Adjacent, are the modern works, many of them are large interoffice, utility services, and rainwater tunnels that allow for anyone not at optimal basketball player height to easily navigate the tunnels – the new as well as the old.
Crossing over in-between these tunnels is not exceptionally difficult and the highest level of security is often a padlock. In any case, many padlocked or even walled doors can be easily bypassed with a little ingenuity and some climbing or crawling. There is no underground security force, and despite this, any security guards or utilities workers are not going to go chasing through the tunnels after anyone. Sometimes utilities workers are encountered and we all just pass each other eerily with a nod, or a, ‘Sup,’ as we move along. In any event, per say the one in fifty eventualities that the police are alerted to your underground shenanigans . . . Because having a paintball war with tiki torches, throughout the larger tunnels was, and remains, a good idea. To the contrary of acting a fool with the law on you, is that in all likelihood they are not even going to bother to respond to idiots fucking off in the tunnels. As this is a city and there’s way more important crime to be attended to above ground. Also, if they do bother with you, it’s to shine a light in the tunnels and tell you to get out. You can wait them out, or simply leave from any of the dozens, if not hundreds of exits throughout the underground network. Though this does not include the many current, interoffice tunnels, and in an understanding of terrorism – it would not be above any terrorist to force their way into the interoffice tunnels at gunpoint.
Judging, and based on the often knee-jerk and short-sighted, yet violent actions of terrorists. There is a distinct likelihood that terrorists would opt for an occupied interoffice tunnel in lieu of any covert tunneling actions. They’re a bunch of drama queens after all.
Howbeit, that’s thinking for the continents of the Americas, and as for the ancient cities of Africa, Asia, and Europe, which have stood the test of time, often building on top their past. There, the underground is already in use by a literal boatload of criminals, smugglers, and terrorists who use the old cities and tunnels to move narcotics, migrants, and weapons or in the extreme-known case, such as the underground criminal empire under the streets of Bucharest, Romania. There, the underground networks of the many criminal and terrorist organizations are ripe for the picking, yet those tunnels supply a mainline of cash revenue and are mostly to remain intact – for now. The tunnel bomb threat is something that realistically threatens North and South American targets, while the cities of old will continue to be exploited as transport, welfare checks, narcotics dumps, arms pickup points, and recruitment farms. Good luck imploding, Europe.
Calculations of the Relative Effectiveness,
Moving on, and under the assumption that many likely targets are protected in one way or another. I’m going to use this assumption in this examination. For this approach, I will also use what the man and 90% of any military hate to use – thinking like the bad guys.
Games and theory for the opposing force point of view are how to best draw up you countermeasures and defense. It’s not always best to think about how you would attack, but how they would attack given what you know about their circumstance, restrictions, and supplies – no less than times two on these numbers. Nevertheless, it’s healthy to run scenarios to keep your mind active and on tunnels, I’ve often reflected on them since the first time I watched the original ‘Red Dawn‘.
In Red Dawn, Americans are the insurgents in America, against a massive Russian-allied invasion force. From that movie, I thought; how I would defend my city? I don’t have the Colorado Rocky Mountains to my advantage, as did the Wolverines. Still, I had the underground, and as I grew more experienced, so did my counter-Russian invasion, insurgency plans.
From the under the city, and with some well-placed explosives, one could bring an occupying army to their knees. A sewer lid could be properly primed to become an excellent platter charge to assassinate an enemy commander or destroy a key piece of equipment; a tactic rumored to be proven by a few Latin American, School of the Americas graduates, who used it to remove their El Presidente. Similarly, a coordinated tunnel bomb could drop the entire city into the earth, or target a key facility.
Now, flipping this mentality over to today’s terrorists operating on American soil, and under the known open source intelligence that tunnel bombing forays have been successful in Iraq and Syria, and by multiple factions. Then why exactly would they not completely bypass all of the barricades, checkpoints, fancy security theater, line-of-sight surveillance, and presence patrols?
Perhaps a tunnel bomb may be deployed at the ineptly managed Olympics in Brazil and not in the United States of America. The Olympics would offer a target that is also a global event, or possibly in America at a political rally, a sporting event, or a government facility.
Despite where they strike, the point of danger and to ask for deterrence. Albeit, the terrorists may not necessarily need to tunnel directly underneath the target structure, because a tunnel bomb can easily cause catastrophic damage if placed next to the normal-known radius for above ground explosive threats.
The means to pull such a feat off from a distance is just a little bit of gravity, mixed with physics, and explosives.
If the bomber was really good and had a vocabulary larger than ‘allah akbar,’ (which they never do), one could speculate that any surrounding structure(s) could be felled in the direction of the target building for a domino effect.
Although, I can’t give them that much credit, especially for any forward deployed team of suicidal, religious nut-jobs. They will have a plan laid out for them, in Barney Math, written in crayon with big letters, and small words.
Their plan will most likely call for them to gain entry underneath the target building. They will accomplish this by digging, and then navigating the existing underground, or by force through new and active tunnels; trust me, there’s a lot going on under your feet.
Now, thinking as they would, and of course finding those plans to be busy, and calling ‘inshallah,’ to the labor intensive work of digging. Also remember that this is not a professional military strike team. We’re dealing with a group of turd-burglars who’s training was centered around climbing monkey bars, jumping through fire, being an advanced sadist, firing an AK like a moron, reading the Quran like the Westboro Baptist Church reads the Bible, and using social media to create the illusion of a being backwater asshole as something appealing to other like-minded Darwin Award candidates. These lazy fuckers are not going to go out of their way, especially without leadership present, to hover a scimitar over their heads all day for results.
They will make a move, and it won’t be for the sake of critical thinking or science, even though the principles of physics will work on their side. Underground they and as noted above for the sake of argument, cannot gain access directly underneath their intended target, but they’re close, and under the street at the neighboring building.
A neighboring building and nearly anything on the same ground near a heavy structure will affect it. A recent example comes from the reinforced “earthquake proof” Millennium Tower in San Francisco, California that is now sinking due to neighboring construction. Just use your imagination as to where intent could take a building.
Beyond gravitational cause and effect, deploying an explosive underground can create some very unique results. One effect is confinement, which of course, is formed by surrounding material and location geometry that will greatly influence the formation of the blast; and in this case, say from a tunnel with a large directionalized explosive device – the blast won’t matter above ground, yet the deformation to the ground and foundation will ripple, sink, and destabilize surrounding structures.
The confinement will also be influenced by, of course, the type, body confinement, jet velocity gradient, and shape of the charge, and how it is directionalized. Yet, a key to the underground principle for explosive-confinement-linear reaction is quite figuratively, the explosive would be over-archingly tamped. If the explosive is further tamped after it is placed, and is what I suspect has been happening in the many tunnel bomb videos I reviewed prior to writing this article; a tamped explosive creates a localized high-pressure effect, a pinnacle act in the art of dropping above ground structures with an underground explosive.
How real can it get?
Very real, and for now it appears that anyone can move an explosive device on target, as long as the bad guys are moving underground. We could be looking at an attack as devastating, if not more than 9/11, while bypassing all security measures. The relative output of an underground detonation, on heavy above ground structures, would be calamitous; especially in a population center. After all, the basic principles of explosives and demolitions are not difficult to grasp for anyone who paid attention in seventh-grade science. Think of it as placing the barrel of a shotgun the dirt, and then squeezing the trigger. All of that heat, the velocity, the energy is going to be seeking out a place to escape and disburse to, and the planet is not going to shift. Albeit the surrounding ground will crack and kick up, as the barrel of the shotgun will burst around the seams of structural weakness on the barrel; one shotgun shell has broken the weapon and dug into the ground.
For instance, think of when Bugs Bunny would put his fingers in Elmer Fudd’s shotgun. Elmer would, of course, pull the trigger and the shotgun would explode onto Elmer. That’s because explosive sources are based on their shockwave, the point of ignition that created the chemical reaction – the trigger squeeze that releases the pin to strike the primer. Then and there is the chemical reaction after the primer ignites, and a similar event is taking place within an explosive charge. This chemical reaction turned shock wave, or detonation wave is heat and pressure – thermochemical equilibrium. All of the force is erupting, and seeking out the path of least resistance in a 360-degree pattern, while moving faster against nothing; objects with density will only slow and dissipate the destructive force into the earth and works. Thus it ensures disruption and ruin within its wake as it shakes the mud and crud off of steel and concrete.
Featured Image – Terrorists receive no credit, mention, usage rights, or privileges.