Taliban rockets of choice fired from Pakistan

C.J. Chivers:
Traveling at Mach 1.1, a 107-millimeter rocket gives little time for those along its path to react. Even if a counterbattery radar picks up an incoming rocket in flight, the warning might sound only a moment before the arrival of the rocket itself, barely allowing time to flinch. By then the rocket has either passed by or it has struck, delivering its warhead’s explosive blast.
This year American and Afghan soldiers along one part of Afghanistan’s uncertain border with Pakistan have become expert at these sounds and familiar with their perils. The rate and the severity of rocket attacks against outposts in eastern Paktika Province have spiked since midspring, making 107-millimeter rocket attacks, once again part of the familiar fabric of the Afghan border war. Rockets had been fired at American outposts near the border for years, but during 2010 the attacks all but stopped. They spiked again this year.The data speaks for itself: During a roughly six-month period, May to October, in 2010, there were two rocket attacks from within Pakistan on three outposts near the border with Waziristan. This year, during the same months, there were 59. And there have been more than 100 attacks against the same base from rocket firing positions in Afghanistan but within a short distance of the border, compared with 13 such attacks in the same period last year.
 Of course this is a political story; it is nearly impossible not to examine the data in light of the deterioration in American-Pakistani relations. But it is also possible to go deeper, past the sparks, to look at some of the fuel. The escalated attacks provide a fresh chance to examine modern war through the weapons that fighters choose, and they illuminate how so much of the war as we understand it in Afghanistan takes its shape from the combination of the vast stocks of munitions ordered into production during the cold war and the adaptability of local fighters in both acquiring them and adapting them to updated use. Add in the particular tactical restrictions influencing the fight along the border between Paktika Province and Waziristan, which favors the guerrillas by limiting the American and Afghan forces’ ability to stop the arms flow and the rules for firing back, and the insurgents’ reinvigorated 107-millimeter rocket campaign offers a case study in how a relatively lightly equipped force can harass, in what amounts to tactical perpetuity, the army of a superpower.
First, some national perspective. The rockets, for all of the menace and the mix of tactical and political problems they pose, are not everywhere. And this fits an old pattern: In Afghanistan, the factors that propel the unending violence have roots reaching around the world, but the texture of many fights assumes local shapes. Those who take up arms against the American and Afghan government forces scattered about the country often do so in their own ways. Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades are standard tools, visible from one end of the country to the other and carried by both sides. Suicide bombers, while acting on a far smaller scale than gunmen, can strike most anywhere. After that, the list of weapons can shift as you go down the road. Thus, in one area, a particular Taliban mortar team can harass an outpost for months, shaping the experience of the war for those behind the blast walls. In other places, mortar fire is rare, or even, in practical terms, nonexistent. There are sections of Helmand Province where snipers (we use the term loosely) are a menace, whereas in much of the country there are no snipers at all. Here and there Taliban fighters possess an SPG-9 tube (think: bazooka, post-World War II variety), and use it to try to destroy government trucks or guard towers. But most soldiers go a tour without even hearing of that weapon, much less having one of its heavy rounds slam in nearby.
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There is much more including a history of the weapon developed in 1963 by the Chicoms.

I suspect that the weapons are more harassing than effective, because you rarely hear casualty reports from their use.   What is not clear from the report is whether the enemy can shoot and scoot before we can bring counter battery fire to their location.  If the enemy is worried about that, they can hardly order a "fire for effect" barrage on an American position.

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