HIGHLY SECRET, HI -TECH TACTICS AND TECHNOLOGY DEFEATED MUQTADA AL-SADR'S MILITIA FIGHTERS IN THE BATTLE FOR SADR CITY -- "60 MINUTES"
The U.S. Military Gives Rare Access to 60 MINUTES in Discussing
Aerial Footage and Weaponry
Weaponry so advanced that it spots the enemy and destroys it from nearly two miles above the battlefield made the difference in the fight for Sadr City last spring, the battle's U.S. commander tells Lesley Stahl. The high-tech, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were so effective against Muqtada al Sadr's militia and special group fighters that it helped reduce the overall level of violence in Iraq, reports Stahl in a 60 MINUTES segment that shows rare footage of the weaponry in action. Stahl's report will be broadcast Sunday, Oct. 12 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Today's UAVs are much more sophisticated - and deadly - than they were when the war in Iraq began in 2003. Now cameras on UAVs called "Shadows" are so sensitive they can see the enemy even at night, through clouds and gun smoke, and can distinguish what kind of weapons they're carrying. Once sighted, the enemy is attacked by armed UAVs called "Predators." Watch an excerpt. These were particularly effective in eliminating rocket teams firing on Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone. "[Rocket teams] went from 20- to 30-man groups, down to five, four and, in some cases, only one or two," says Col. John Hort, the brigade commander who led the eight-week battle for Sadr City. "The Predator and the Shadow were just phenomenal in their ability to see the enemy, particularly after they shot a rocket," he tells Stahl.
Within 30 seconds of a team firing its rocket, the militia fighters were sighted and tracked. The U.S. ground commanders could also observe the enemy and plot their tactics by peering down on them with the Shadow for longer periods of time. In some instances, they shadowed several rocket teams until they congregated together in large groups with their leaders at a particular site where they then could be attacked en masse. "So once they got to that site, that's when we could do the engagement," Hort explains. "Sometimes that took six, eight, 10 hours...that's what Predator allowed us to do. It truly preyed on the enemy."
60 MINUTES has also learned from other sources that several of the enemy's leaders were targeted and killed by a special operations unit called Task Force 17, which used a combination of aerial surveillance, eavesdropping and undercover Iraqi operatives. Hort says an estimated 700 militia fighters and leaders were killed. Six Americans died.
Some of the militia leaders did manage to escape - mostly to Iran and Syria. But for the first time since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, U.S. and Iraqi Army soldiers control ground in Muqtada al-Sadr's stronghold of Sadr City. Gen. Ray Odierno, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, hopes to create a more prosperous Sadr City that won't take the militia back. "You eliminate their safe haven and now we can start to rebuild," he tells Stahl. But, he cautions, it takes time and the peace in Sadr City remains fragile.