In 2009, the Ottawa Citizen’s defense reporter David Pugliese reported that the US military was about to spend $100 million to upgrade the facilities at Kandahar, Afghanistan, in order to accommodate up to 26 aircraft for a local “Task Force ODIN”. At first glance, this might seem like just another infrastructure play – unless one realizes that Task Force ODIN (Observe, Detect, Identify & Neutralize) may be the second-most underrated fusion of technology and operating tactics in America’s counter-insurgency arsenal.
Task Force ODIN was created on orders of Gen. Richard A. Cody, the US Army’s outgoing vice chief of staff. Its initial goal involved better ways of finding IED land mines, a need triggered by the limited numbers of USAF Predator UAVs in Iraq, and the consequent refusal of many Army surveillance requests. Despite its small size (about 25 aircraft and 250 personnel) and cobbled-together nature, Task Force ODIN quickly became a huge success. Operating from Camp Speicher near Tikrit, it expanded its focus to become a full surveillance/ strike effort in Iraq – one that ground commanders came to see as more precise than conventional air strikes, hence less likely to create the kind of collateral damage that would damage their campaigns. From its inception in July 2007 to June 2008, the effort reportedly killed more than 3,000 adversaries, and led to the capture of almost 150 insurgent leaders.
With Secretary of Defense Gates paying particular attention to improving ISR(Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) capabilities, replication in Afghanistan was inevitable. The coming construction at Kandahar marks the beginning of that effort.
- Drawing from the Well of Wisdom: Task Force ODIN in Iraq
- Additional Readings