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Towards an understanding of amphibious warfare and the battle of Misrata

It is important for human rights investigators to understand battle tactics and strategy and in this case those of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). The plan below from the NECC (October 2010) helps understand the tactics and strategy informing the US forces battle plans for expeditionary warfare.

An explanation of the various acronyms involved:

The light blue arrow marked SEABASE has CSG / MPS (F) underneath – These stand for Carrier Strike Group and Maritime Prepositioning Force. It is an important tenet of modern expeditionary warfare that seabasing is actually preferred to land basing – a lot of the hullabaloo about “boots on the ground” is pretty irrelevant to this kind of warfare, which aims to minimise the footprint of coalition forces. The arrow shows how force is projected from the SEABASE, including logistics sustainment, power projection and sealift.

The green arrrow marked MAGTF refers to Marine Air Ground Task Force. ARG means Amphibious Ready Group. LOTS refers to Logistics Over the Shore. STOM is a Ship to Objective manoevre. Forcible Entry should be self-explanatory.

The tan arrow refers to shipping traffic into a port, as was obviously the case with Misrata, with ships delivering humanitarian aid, evacuating people and bringing in fighters, journalists, weapons and ammunition.

The smaller white bubbles in the sea include (from the bottom upwards):

MESF – Maritime Expeditionary Security Force. This includes the MSRONs (Marine Expeditionary Squadrons aka as “Rons”) who use CB-90s.

SPOD Seaport of debarkation and APOD – Aerial Port of Debarkation.

The other bubbles on land (clockwise from the bottom) refer to:

ELSG / AOTS – Expeditionary Logistics Support Group, Automated Tracking System

EOD / – Explosive Ordnance Disposal

NCF – Naval Construction Force

ELSG – Expeditionary Logistics Support Group

MCAST – Marine Corp Air Station

The yellow arrow represents a logistic flow from the airport into the city

The context of this plan includes the development of SFA-capable forces. SFA is unified action to generate, employ and sustain local, host nation or regional forces in support of a legitimate authority.

Map of Misrata

Below is a google map of Misrata, showing the location of the port at the bottom, city and airport at the top middle

Google Map of Misrata

US Navy ships off the coast of Libya

The main ships from the United States Navy – ie “supporting Operation Unified Protector, off the coast of Libya” on the 14th and 15th April were attached to the Kearsarge Amphibious Group – Kearsarge (LHD-3) itself was in port in Augusta Bay, Sicily during the nights on which cluster munitions were used in Misrata.

The first ship is the USS Barry (DG-52) which is a destroyer and probably the destroyer spotted by CJ Chivers off the coast of Misrata.

Here is USS Barry earlier in the Libyan operation firing Tomahawk missiles into Libya:

Interestingly, the commanding Officer of USS Barry used to be Admiral James G Stavridis, the Admiral who is particularly keen on information wars and controlling the internet.

RHIB going from USS Ponce to Barry on 14th April

The second ship of interest is the USS Ponce (LPD-15), an Austin-class amphibious transport dock. An amphibious transport dock is a warship that embarks, transports and lands elements of a landing force for expeditionary warfare missions. This ship had something of the order of 851 enlisted servicemen and 72 officers on board.

USS Barry Personnel return from USS Ponce April 15 2011

Below we can see a landing craft docking in the well of the USS Ponce. This vessel could perhaps provide a platform for the use of indirect fire, including 120mm mortar fire.

LCU 1661 in training in Djibouti in October 2010:

Interestingly, shortly after the Misrata operation, both the skipper and executive officer of USS Ponce, Commander Etta Jones and Lt. Cmdr. Kurt Boenisch, were relieved of their commands.

The third ship, of interest, is the USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) which is a dock landing ship and travelled through the Suez canal to join the others on April 13th, the day before the cluster bombing of Misrata. A dock landing ship is a form of amphibious warship designed to support amphibious operations. These amphibious assault ships transport and launch amphibious craft and vehicles with their crews and embarked personnel. usually these forces would be marines and/or special forces.

Marine Forces

Embarked on these ships were units, including the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) (26MEU) and Naval Beach Group Two (NBG2), TACRON 21, Assault Craft Unit Four (ACU-4) and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron TWO TWO (HSC-22).

The commander of the task force was Captain Dan Shaffer – who doubled up as Commander Task Force 65 (CTF-65) and Commander Destroyer Squadron 60 (DESRON60).

Kearsarge ARG was relieved on 27 April by Bataan ARG.

The Bataan ARG includes PHIBRON-6, with detachments from Naval Beach Group Two (CNBG) 2, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 21, Fleet Surgical Team Six (FST) 8, Helicopter Squadron Twenty Two (HSC) 28, Beach Master Unit (BMU) 2, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2 and ACU-4. ARG ships include the Norfolk-based Bataan, the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), and the dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41).

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit is a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) comprised of the Command Element, Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, and Combat Logistics Battalion 22.

Overall commander is Admiral Stavridis.

Admiral James Stavridis and Misrata

Admiral James G Stavridis, NATO Supreme Commander Europe, tops the military command structure with regard to the coalition operation in Misrata.

As we have stated before his job encompasses the war on the land, air, on the sea and also the ‘information war’ and in his words:

“We sail in a cyber-sea and it is a rebel sea, and we must learn how to govern, how to sail in that sea.”

Because of the sheer weight of evidence that the USA cluster bombed Misrata the spotlight is now back on him.

Admiral James Stavridis and Special Operations

We find that Admiral James Stavridis is deeply involved in US Special Operations (including the operation which killed Bin Laden):

As the Telegraph’s Toby Harnden put it::

But here’s what the legendarily verbose and loose-lipped Vice President Joe Biden said at a dinner at Washington’s Ritz Carlton Hotel last night to mark the 50th anniversary of the Atlantic Council:

Let me briefly acknowledge tonight’s distinguished honorees.  Admiral James Stavridis is a, is the real deal.  He can tell you more about and understands the incredible, the phenomenal, the just almost unbelievable capacity of his Navy SEALs and what they did last Sunday.

And:

Folks, I’d be remiss also if I didn’t say an extra word about the incredible events, extraordinary events of this past Sunday.  As Vice President of the United States, as an American, I was in absolute awe of the capacity and dedication of the entire team, both the intelligence community, the CIA, the SEALs.  It just was extraordinary.

Admiral Stavridis and the information war

On 21/07/2010 Admiral Stavridis picked this question out of the many sent to him on his social networks:

“What’s the best advice you can give to operational commanders to help with the information war, that is so critical in today’s environment?”

His answer was telling and indicates the importance given to this aspect of warfare and perhaps why the coalition propaganda has been so effective in the case of Libya. It also indicates a danger to democracy, with free speech being undermined by a new network of dedicated, military-trained bloggers and information specialists:

“People. Its investing in our young people who already have intuitively so many of the information age skill-sets. What we need to do is gather them up in their 20s, get them the right training and education and create a cadre within the military who are specialised in this kind of information war and frankly if we look today at the kind of environment we’re in, its pretty easy to project a future in which the information aspects of conflict are going to be quite significant.”

So we can assume that there is a cadre of covert information specialists out there who are working full-time at shaping the public discussion over the war in Libya – and there likely will be such a cadre in all future wars.

Admiral Stavridis and humanitarian organisations

Another major concern of Admiral Stavridis is “government-civilian” connections and specifically working with humanitarian operations – and we can now see the fruits of his labours as certain humanitarian organisations (along with most of the mainstream media) actively embrace pro-war propaganda.

NATO Supreme Commander Europe (SACEUR) is Admiral James E Stavridis. His job encompasses the war on the land, air, on the sea and also the ‘information war.’ Admiral Stavridis is the first Navy man to hold this position.

On 21/07/2010 Admiral Stavridis picked this question out of the many sent to him on his social networks:

“What’s the best advice you can give to operational commanders to help with the information war, that is so critical in today’s environment?”

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