View Full Version : Was the Karbala Kidnapping a Cover to Steal a Military Laptop?

Chris Albon
01-28-2007, 09:17 PM
On January 20th, five GMC SUVs carrying English speaking gunman with American uniforms and weapons conducted “perhaps the boldest and most sophisticated attack in four years of warfare” (AP), abducting four US soldiers. Later the SUVs were found with the Americans executed inside.

Insurgencies certainly evolve, but this latest attack is light years beyond anything previously conducted. The operation required a nine to twelve English speaking fighters, five disposable SUVs (approx $200,000+), American uniforms, American firearms, and reliable intelligence on the exact location of the American targets. Furthermore, the logistics and planning the operation by any measure outweigh the strategic-value of abducting of 4 American, especially since the unknown gunman executed the US GIs only hours later. If the goal of attack was to kidnap the Americans, why did the attackers kill the US servicemen so soon? A logical answer is that kidnapping Americans was the not goal of the raid. So what was?

On January 27th, an Associated Press Report included a curious sentence in an overview of the attack:

"The attackers captured four soldiers and fled with them and the computer east toward Mahawil in Babil province, crossing the Euphrates River, the U.S. military officials said." (AP)

No mention of a computer appears anywhere else in the article, yet the article appears to have been written as if it was. While all the media outlets have been describing the attack as a kidnapping, the AP article hints at another possible reason for the raid, a military laptop. Elusive, well financed, supported, and trained attackers took four Americans and a laptop, within hours they killed the Americans. Was the computer the real target? Were the American soldiers kidnapped to provide the password and then killed?

The article does not mention if the computer was found in the car, but even if it was the data it contained could have been downloaded off the device. I do not presume to know what was on the computer but the fact that the attackers stole two things (GIs and a Computer) and killed the GIs lends to the possibility that the computer was the real reason for the attack.

AP Article: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/01/27/ap/world/mainD8MTJD980.shtml
My Original Posting: http://chrisalbon.com/was-the-karbala-kidnapping-a-cover-to-steal-a-military-laptop

01-28-2007, 09:22 PM
Interesting analysis...I'm inclined to believe that the kidnappers had other intentions for their captives, but the plan simply fell apart at some point.

It certainly highlights the need to maintain elevated awareness when outside the wire.

01-28-2007, 09:30 PM
That's very interesting. I am embarassed to say the thought never crossed my mind. It does seem kind of like Mission Impossible that they knew there was something so important on that drive to go to those lengths when less obtrusive methods usually exist to obtain networked digital data.

Chris Albon
01-28-2007, 09:44 PM
It only crossed my mind when the AP article mentioned "the laptop" like I had already read about it.

I am no expert at insurgencies, but the attacks in Iraq all seem to be describable as "utterly simple but extremely effective" yet if this Karbala attack was just a failed kidnapping then it was "extremely expensive but utterly ineffective" at achieving its goals.

01-28-2007, 10:02 PM
Unfortunately, it is all too easy for the bad guys to get their hands on a US military laptop - and much, much easier for them to obtain jump drives with highly sensitive and even classified info.

The Karbala op was obviously preceded by extensive surveillance, planning and prep. If it was launched for a specific lap-top, it would only be if they had solid intel regarding very specific details of what was loaded on a specific lap-top. On top of that, they would have to know the precise location of that exact laptop at the intended time of execution in order to justify the commitment of the assets used in the attack. I find all of that to be unlikely and regard the laptop as an opportunity snatch. I agree with JC's assessment that the bad guys had other intentions for their captives that they were forced to abandon due to circumstances beyond their control.

01-28-2007, 10:57 PM
I agree. But, even if the main mission failed they did reinforce a sense of fear and culture of reluctance to venture outside FOBs. As long as the suspects are "at-large" they succeded in at least a minor way. It's very unfortunate.

01-28-2007, 11:40 PM
The Karbala attack and the IRGC (http://billroggio.com/archives/2007/01/the_karbala_attack_a.php)

The American Forces Information Service provides the details of the attack in Karbala. Based on the sophisticated nature of the raid, as well as the response, or cryptic non-responses, from multiple military and intelligence sources, this raid appears to have been directed and executed by the Qods Force branch of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps. My sources agreed this is far to sophisticated an operation for the Mahdi Army or Badr Corps, while al-Qaeda in Iraq would have a difficult time mounting such an operation in the Shia south. "The Karbala Government Center raid the other day was a little too professional for JAM [Jaish al-Mahdi, or the Mahdi Army]," according to a military source.


The Karbala raid makes sense in light of the U.S. raids on the Iranian diplomatic missions in Baghdad and Irbil, where Iranian Qods Force agents were captured, along with documentation that divulged Iran's involvement with and support of Shia death squads, the Sunni insurgent, and al-Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunnah. Five Iranians from the Irbil raid are still in U.S. custody, and captured U.S. soldiers would provide for excellent bargaining chips

An implied task of every military operation is to gain intelligence. I am willing to bet the decision to take the laptop (If one was taken) and the captives was made by the raid leader on the ground. However, when the raid party got to its rally point, a more senior leader was present and he gave the order to keep the laptop and leave the Soldiers.

I doubt a laptop was the sole target of this attack. I think the raid was undertaken because the occupants inside were being effective in their AO. Additionally, part of the "clear and hold" plan is to create Joint Security Stations (JSS) that are significantly smaller than many FOBs that currently exist in Iraq. This attack may have been a "proof of concept" for future attacks on the JSSes. Finally, this was also a considerable propaganda victory for the attackers.

01-28-2007, 11:48 PM
Finally, this was also a considerable propaganda victory for the attackers.

...And when coupled with reports of large forces trying to seize holy sites in Najaf, gets my spidey senses tingling that the bad guys are going into overdrive.

I suspect that we'll see a shrine/mosque bombed within the next 30 days, while the surge is debated over and over. We've telegraphed the "surge" so poorly that I fear our right hook will be a whiff and leave us with nothing more than a dislocated shoulder.

01-29-2007, 12:12 AM
...it's really entertaining the way which Roggio continually presents supposition as fact :rolleyes:

01-29-2007, 02:00 AM
One wonders why this would be beyond the capabilities of, say, Badr. Badr was trained by the IRGC and many of its members have now received U.S. training as well (see the old Interior Ministry Wolf Brigades, etc.)

03-23-2007, 01:44 PM
The U.S. military said Thursday it had captured the leaders of a Shiite insurgent network responsible for one of the boldest and most sophisticated attacks on American troops since the Iraq conflict began four years ago.

The statement said the arrests took place over the past three days in the cities of Basra and Hillah south of Baghdad. The military said the network was led by Qais Khazaali and his brother Laith Khazaali. Several other members of the network also were captured.

The network was "directly connected" to the killing in January of five American soldiers in the holy city of Karbala, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad, the military said.


07-02-2007, 12:18 AM
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A top special operations officer from Lebanon's Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah has been captured in Iraq, where U.S. officials say he played a key role in a January attack that killed five Americans... (http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/07/01/iraq.hezbollah/index.html)

This could get interesting. The U.S. has, to a large extent, left Hezbollah alone. Are we seeing the emergence of a violent, trans-ethnic Shiite axis? If so, does that undercut our policy of supporting the existing government of Iraq?

07-02-2007, 12:43 AM
Poole's Tactics of the Crescent Moon and Terrorist Trail have made similar claims for a while now. Not sure if the claims are true. I operated in Karbala for quite some time. Lots of Mahdi Army influence and propaganda a few years ago. Nothing on Hezbollah, at least nothing on the surface. I'm very interested to see how this all plays out.

Abu Buckwheat
07-02-2007, 06:50 AM
Poole's Tactics of the Crescent Moon and Terrorist Trail have made similar claims for a while now. Not sure if the claims are true. I operated in Karbala for quite some time. Lots of Mahdi Army influence and propaganda a few years ago. Nothing on Hezbollah, at least nothing on the surface. I'm very interested to see how this all plays out.

Ugh, Poole ... how would he know? IMHO his books are horrible. Just personal political screeds with no basis of knowledge in real enemy TTPs (hate the art work too!). There has been a group calling itself Hezbollah Iraq since late 2003. I have one of their first poster calling people to join seen on a street in Karbala near the Shrine. Hezbollah Lebanon in 1983 was modeled on the Iranian group with the same name (Hizballah) - they create political and charitable support structures and then buff up into a covert paramilitary force. I believe that the Mahdi Militia is angling to remake itself into the Iraqi version of Hezbollah, a separate military and political entity versus the central government, and a cooperative effort with its senior Lebanese brothers is not unbelievable. Thats all we would need a new Jihad thats is professionalizing the terrible skills of the MM.

There is presently no way that the US Army can take on the Mahdi Militia and the Sunni insurgency again ... it will be March 2004 all over again and the local politicians would stop he fighting if it entered Najaf and Karbala again ... the Mahdi has to be defeated by the Iraqi Army and the (Badr Brigade run) Police. This is coming down to a Sistani versus al-Sadr-war-for-the-future and the Iranians appear to have selected Al-Sadr.

07-02-2007, 11:51 PM
"Our intelligence reveals that the senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity," Bergner told a Baghdad news conference. He said it would be "hard to imagine" that Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei did not know about the activity.

U.S. Implicates Iran in January Attack, 02Jul07, Lee Keath, Baghdad (AP) (http://apnews.myway.com//article/20070702/D8Q4OEKO0.html)

So, will Iran back out or will they gamble with their future. Surely, Iranian leaders are taking into consideration that the U.S. has shown how they can topple leadership and send an entire nation into chaos. Or maybe not. I don't know. Somebody tell me what you think about this situation. I think it seems very serious.

07-03-2007, 11:35 AM
3 July Washington Post - Iran's Elite Force Is Said to Use Hezbollah as 'Proxy' in Iraq (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/02/AR2007070200174.html) by Joshua Partlow.

An American general said on Monday that Iraqi Shiite militiamen are being trained by Iranian security forces in cooperation with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement, offering the most specific accusations to date of Iranian involvement in specific attacks against U.S. forces.

Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, a U.S. military spokesman, asserted that Iran's elite al-Quds Force, a wing of the Revolutionary Guard, was providing armor-piercing weapons to extremist groups in Iraq, funneling them up to $3 million a month and training Iraqi militiamen at three camps near Tehran...

07-03-2007, 11:44 AM
3 July NY Times - U.S. Says Iran Helped Iraqis Kill Five G.I.’s (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/03/world/middleeast/03iraq.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin) by John Burns and Michael Gordon.

Agents of Iran helped plan a January raid in Shiite holy city of Karbala in Iraq in which five American soldiers were killed by Islamic militants, an American military spokesman said Monday. The charge was the most specific allegation of Iranian involvement in an attack that killed American troops, at a time of rising tensions with Iran over its role in Iraq and its nuclear program.

Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, the military spokesman here, said an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, a force under the control of Iran’s most powerful religious leaders, had used veterans of the Lebanese Islamic militia group Hezbollah as a “proxy” to train, arm and plan attacks by an array of Shiite militant cells in Iraq.

One high-ranking Hezbollah commander from Lebanon was captured in Basra in March, and after weeks of pretending that he could not hear or speak, he gave American interrogators details of the Iranian role, the general said...

02-05-2018, 05:44 PM
Started reading this article and a good chunk is about this incident, so thread re-opened.

The lawyer is pursuing HSBC, a UK bank with US subsidiaries, for its involvement in the funding of Iranian activity in Iraq.