We note a recent report of Taliban irregulars taking (and killing) hostages and shooting up a Kabul resort hotel. This attack is reminiscent of Viet Cong Siagon embassy action toward the end of the Vietnam War, the horrible assault on the Beslan school (2004), and the hideously successful Mumbai hotel take over (2008).This is yet another textbook example of asymmetrical force where the small force strikes unexpectedly with great effect.
Actions such as these are usually carried out with specific purposes and are primarily designed to break the adversary's will to continue fighting.
Our study of such events indicates the following elements (in no particular order) are nearly always present :
1) the target is carefully studied prior to the operation, and may have insiders providing direct or indirect support to the attackers
2) the target is typically "soft" in that indigenous security is not significant to resist a well planned attack
3) an abundance of targets (civilian personnel or a special group such as vacationing military or diplomatic) is present
4) attackers will often make no distinction in "combatant" status (women and children hostages - or casualties - are just as useful as men)
5) attackers are usually highly committed individuals and in many cases do not expect to survive the operation. They do not need to be particularly well trained and are usually not professional soldiers.
6) hostage negotiations are often not productive since the attackers are not there to bargain
7) attackers typically are well armed - side arms, automatic rifles, grenades (hand or RPG) or brick explosives (C4 or SEMTEX being among the favorites) - possibly specialized detonators or fuse devices
8) the attack tempo is very rapid with the goal of overrunning any defences and wrecking as much destruction as possible before an effective response can be made
9) attackers may have radios and thus may be controlled or directed from outside the attack area
10) attackers may be equipped with body armor beneath bulky clothing or robes, and will usually carry small packs or equipment bags. They may enter the target area in disguise before commencing the attack.
11) "storming" an hotel or office building is a messy business and it is somewhat likely that in the inevitable confusion hostages can be killed by those sent to save them
12) prisoners (i.e. aggressors if they survive the counterattack by rescuing forces) are usually not taken during these assaults, and if they are, they posses little information of value since the next "operation" is already in planning within another tactical cell. Facing capture, these attackers will often commit suicide.
Though the goals of such an attack are usually strategic in nature (with political goals - see Carl von Clausewitz Von Kreig, and Sun Tzu The Art of War) , the events are tactical of themselves and usually end poorly with everyone shooting and triggering explosives. The longer attackers have to become ensconced, the better they can prepare for the inevitable assault when negotiations fail. Following such disasters, the "host" nation will typically institute additional "security". But men's memories are notoriously short and soon the relaxation sets in. The aggressor always has the advantage when it comes to slaughtering people in a recreational setting. We remind the reader that this is a dangerous world and one must always maintain situational awareness and have a basic plan to save oneself and family if a regular day goes badly wrong.
This can happen most anywhere.
From RIA Novosti: Late Thursday night a group of insurgents armed with hand-held anti-tank grenade launchers, heavy machine guns and other weapons attacked the Spozhmai Hotel at the Qargha Lake resort area just nine kilometers outside Kabul. Several dozen people were taken hostage during the siege.
From Stamford Advocate: The attack turned the normally placid hotel into a bloody scene of bodies and half-eaten food. One man with a gunshot wound to his torso was found dead under a tree. The bodies of two other men in blood-stained clothes were slumped over one another in the grass. The body of one of the attackers was lying on a blood-stained stone patio. Some of the guests escaped while others were held hostage as the attackers battled more than 100 Afghan security forces who rushed to the scene with support from some coalition troops. The forces helped rescue more than 40 guests from the hotel.
(below Afghan security forces stage for counterattack)