Warfare in the 21st Century

People run from a suicide car bomb blast outside the German embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, 17 January 2009.

Reuters photo RTR23HIF by Ahmad Masood

People run from a suicide car bomb blast outside the German embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, 17 January 2009.

Force Protection and Suicide Bombers: The Necessity for Two Types of Canadian Military Red Teams

by Robert J. Bunker

Dr. Robert J. Bunker holds degrees in political science, government, behavioral science, social science, anthropology-geography, and history. He is a Counter-Narco Insurgency Program Instructor for the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (LA HIDTA), Office of the National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and Adjunct Faculty, School of Politics and Economics, Claremont Graduate University. He is also a Senior Fellow, Small Wars Journal El Centro (Founding), and a Member (Founding) of the LAPD Counter-Terrorism and Criminal Intelligence Bureau Community Police Advisory Board. 

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Introduction and Background

This article will discuss why the use of two types of red teams - analytical and physical - to identify and then simulate ‘suicide bomber threat scenarios’ is necessary for the force protection training of deploying Canadian military units. Red teaming as a discipline can be divided into two basic forms: (1) analytical red teaming, which is diegetic in nature; that is, based upon descriptive products and decision support functions and (2) physical red teaming, which is mimetic in nature; that is, derived from live-action and role playing-based training with an opposing force (OPFOR) deployed against a friendly military unit.1 These forms of red teaming are intimately linked, create synergies when utilized together, and should be fully harnessed for Canadian military force protection requirements. One of the greatest lost opportunities of utilizing red teams in the past has been the decoupling of these two very different forms of red teams from one another. 

The article will be divided into three main sections that a) provide general guidance concerning how to determine enemy intent (and capability) via analytical red teaming, b) show how to determine and prioritize the types of likely suicide bomber threat scenarios a deployed force will face, and c) show how to conduct the physical red teaming of these identified higher priority suicide bomber threat scenarios. It will conclude with some general observations concerning the value both forms of red teaming provide for the force protection requirements of deploying Canadian military units against the threat of suicide bombings.

A brief overview of the threat suicide bombings represent to military forces and the globalization of this terrorist and insurgent technique needs to be provided for context.  Contemporary suicide bombings have been taking place since the early-1980s, and have been directed at both military and civilian target sets.2 The first such bombing can be directly traced back to a military engagement that took place during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988. The celebrated action of Hossein Fahmideh, a 13-year old boy who destroyed an Iraqi tank at the Battle of Khorramshahr in 1982, was the focal event. Hossein sacrificed his own life, detonating a satchel charge underneath an Iraqi tank in a final act of desperation.3 This technique, which resonated with the cult of the martyr in Iran, quickly evolved and became an operational component of the Hizbollah organization, which was composed of former Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and was exported to Lebanon in the fight against the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). These suicide bomber attacks, specifically utilizing vehicular-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), targeted Israeli military convoys and assets. In addition, foreign military and diplomatic facilities were targeted and destroyed by Hizbollah operatives.4 The use of suicide bombings has since spread globally, and has been used in stand alone attacks, in combinations with multiple suicide bombers, or secondary avenue of approach VBIEDs, and alongside active aggressor assault and hostage-taking operations. The Tamil Tigers engaged in their first suicide bombing in 1987, Hamas in 1993, Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in 1994, Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in 1996, Al Qaeda in 1998, the Chechens in 2000, the Al –Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in 2002, and the Taliban in the 2003/2004 period.5 Since the early-1980s, well over a thousand contemporary suicide bombings have taken place, with the vast majority of incidents clustered in the Israeli area of operations, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Canadian military forces deployed overseas have not been immune to these attacks—a number of instances of Canadian fatalities and casualties have been documented in Afghanistan—and they are expected to continue sporadically into the future while Canadian forces remain deployed in that theatre of operations.

At the scene of the aftermath of a suicide bomber attack in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 27 November 2006, the Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Team Quick Response Force responded to secure the site along Highway 4.

DND Photo AR2006-M012-0052 by Captain Dave Muralt

At the scene of the aftermath of a suicide bomber attack in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 27 November 2006, the Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Team Quick Response Force responded to secure the site along Highway 4.


Determining Enemy Intent (and Capability) via Analytical Red Teaming

The value of analytical red teams that focus upon the threat of opposing force use of suicide bombers is to provide early warning of enemy intent and capability. Ideally, this early warning will be provided in the pre-deployment phase prior to a Canadian military force entering a threat environment. This function would exist at the ‘strategic early warning’ level with the analysis focusing upon general historical suicide bombing threats through current theatre of operations I&W (indications and warnings), and actual suicide bombing incidents targeting allied military forces. Once a Canadian military force has been deployed into a foreign theatre, ‘operational early warning’ should then be concentrated upon. This type of analysis will concern itself with current theatre of operations I&W pertaining to Canadian military forces, and actual incidents targeting those forces and their in-theatre allies.

For example, at the ‘strategic early warning’ level of analysis, the various terrorist and insurgent groups that engage in suicide bombings have signatures which betray the patterns and techniques that they utilize when engaging in such operations. In 2003, this author was able to determine the general patterns of suicide bomber delivery modes and target sets by the major groups involved in these activities. These patterns can be viewed in Table 1 and Table 2.6


Major Groups by “Suicide Bomber” Delivery Mode
Group Personnel (Human) Vehicular Aircraft Vessel
al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Yes No No No
Al Qaeda Yes Yes Yes Yes
Chechens Yes Yes No No
Hamas Yes Yes No No
Hezbollah Yes Yes No No
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) Yes No No No
Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Yes Yes No Yes
Tamil Tigers (LTTE) Yes Yes No Yes

Table 1 Source: Counter-OPFOR Program. NLECTC-West©2003

Major Groups by “Suicide Bomber” Target Set
Group Civilian
VIP Transit Aircraft Vessel



al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes
Al Qaeda Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Chechens Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes
Hamas Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes
Hezbollah Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes
Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Yes Yes No Yes No Yes Yes
Tamil Tigers (LTTE) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Table 2 Source: Counter-OPFOR Program. NLECTC-West©2003

These tables were derived from a multi-year study related to the historical analysis of terrorist and insurgent group suicide bombing incidents. Such incidents, when tracked over time, readily provide data points concerning the range of casualties (minimums and maximums) of successful operations and other important information including the time of day, type of attack, number of perpetrators, and so on. Hamas, for example, became very adept at utilizing suicide anti-personnel devices on public buses in Israel while the PKK in Turkey went through a pattern of utilizing women suicide bombers, some of whom feigned pregnancy, in order to appear non- threatening to targeted police forces. Additionally, prior to US deployment of military forces into Iraq in March 2003, this author and a colleague meeting at the County Emergency Operations Center (CEOC) in Los Angeles, California, came across initial I&W concerning threatened suicide bombing use against American forces. This prompted them to begin data collection in December 2002 on this potential threat and, as a result, to be able to accurately project that such opposing force operations would be take place during Operation Iraqi Freedom.7 One outcome of this red team analysis was that this author was able to provide training at a Force Protection Conference for the I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) in Camp Pendleton, California, in November 2003, regarding this threat. He specifically focused upon the historical Hizbollah use of VBIEDs ramming and detonating in the middle of Israeli conveys in Southern Lebanon in the early-1980s as one of his major areas of concern for Marine units deployed in Iraq 20 years later.

After Canadian forces are deployed into a theatre of operations, such as Afghanistan, the ‘operational early warning’ level of analysis should then become dominant. At this level, opposing force tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) should be included in the operational early warning being conducted. For Canadian military force protection needs, this red team analysis should include I&W and the Canadian operational experience in that theater of operations and/or against that specific opposing force, such as Al Qaeda elements, if Canadian forces have engaged them in earlier deployments. Canadian operational experience is gained through opposing force suicide bombing plots, both failed attempts, and successful attacks that result in casualties and fatalities inflicted upon its military forces. These operational level lessons learned should be broadened to include opposing force suicide bombing operations targeted against allied and coalition forces alongside which Canadian military forces are deployed. A basic example of this red team analysis pertaining to successful Al Qaeda and Taliban suicide bombing operations that resulted in Canadian military fatalities has been highlighted.

A British soldier watches security personnel standing in front of vehicles destroyed in Kabul, Afghanistan by a suicide attack, 15 November 2005.

Reuters photo RTR1B0GS by Ahmad Masood

A British soldier watches security personnel standing in front of vehicles destroyed in Kabul, Afghanistan by a suicide attack, 15 November 2005.

Twelve fatalities have been identified via various modes of suicide bombings (individual, bicycle, and VBIED) directed at Canadian military forces while deployed in Afghanistan since early- 2002. This represents just under eight percent of the total Canadian military fatalities that have taken place in Afghanistan, with the vast majority of these fatalities attributed to IEDs, both simple pressure and command-detonated devices. The following list documents these suicide bomber inflicted fatalities on Canadian military forces (quoted from news sources):8

  • A suicide bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan, killed one Canadian soldier [Corporal Jamie Brendan Murphy] and wounded three others, officials said [January 27, 2004]. Nine civilians were hurt. Ali Jan Askaryar, head of police in the western district of Kabul, where the blast occurred, said the Canadians were part of a three-vehicle patrol and “a terrorist jumped on one of the vehicles and blew himself up.”9

  • On July 22, 2006, Corporal Jason Patrick Warren and Corporal Francisco Gomez were killed by a suicide car bomb in Kandahar…. 40 minutes after the first bomb - a second suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of the crowd that had gathered, inflicting fatal injuries on Qodus [a member of the production crew filming the aftermath of the first suicide bombing] and four other civilians and injuring many others.10

  • On August 8, 2006, Corporal Andrew James Eykelenboom, 1st Field Ambulance, was killed by a suicide car bomb at Kandahar Airfield.11

  • On August 22, 2006, Corporal David Braun, 2ndBattalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, was killed by a suicide bomber in Khandar.12

  • A suicide bomber on a bicycle detonated near NATO troops in southern Afghanistan Monday morning [September 18, 2006] as they handed out gifts to children, killing four Canadian soldiers [Corporal Keith Morely, Corporal Shane Keating, Private David Byers, and Corporal Glen Arnold] and wounding dozens of others, including civilians, according to the Canadian military and NATO… The Canadian soldiers— part of NATO's International Security Assistance Forces— were patrolling the Panjwayi District of Kandahar Province when the attack took place at 9:30 a.m. local time, according to ISAF.13

  • Two Canadian soldiers [Corporal Albert Storm and Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard] were killed on November 27 [2006] at approximately 8:35 am (Kandahar time) when their Bison Light Armoured Vehicle was attacked by a suicide bomber driving a car laden with explosives. The incident occurred on Highway 4 between Kandahar Airfield and Kandahar City. There were no other Canadian casualties.14

  • Colonel Geoff Parker became the highest ranking Canadian to die in Afghanistan since Ottawa first committed troops here in 2002 when he was killed Tuesday [May 18, 2010] in a suicide bombing on the eastern outskirts of Kabul. Colonel Parker, of the Royal Canadian Regiment, was traveling with US troops at about 8 a.m. local time when a suicide bomber driving a mini-van with nearly a ton of explosives packed inside swerved into their convoy of three armoured SUVs, killing five Americans and at least 12 Afghan civilians who were passengers in a nearby bus.15

This list - in effect, very basic database entries - can be further developed along with Canadian military wounding incidents and failed suicide bombing attempts that resulted in no Canadian casualties.  This compilation provides some insights into the types of suicide bombing incidents to which deployed Canadian forces have been subjected in Afghanistan.

Royal Air Force Senior Aircraftsman Katie Price (centre) plays the role of an insurgent detonating a suicide bomb during Exercise Desert Eagle at the Nevada Test and Training Range, 16 March 2011.

DefenseImagery.mil photo 110316-F-KX404-071 by Senior Airman Brett

Royal Air Force Senior Aircraftsman Katie Price (centre) plays the role of an insurgent detonating a suicide bomb during Exercise Desert Eagle at the Nevada Test and Training Range, 16 March 2011.

Developing Suicide Bomber Threat Scenarios

While still the domain of analytical red teaming, the development of the suicide bomber threat scenarios also requires that a few physical red teaming specialists are involved. This should be considered an A-Red Team (Analytical) and P-Red Team (Physical) approach. It should be noted that very few individuals are able to effectively fulfill both the role of a red team analyst and a red team operator. When such individuals are identified, they should be considered a valuable commodity and allowed to serve as members of both red teams for continuity, and to ensure that ‘analytical intent’ is being followed at the physical training level.

Derived from the historical lessons learned, the threat scenarios themselves should then begin to be identified for Canadian military deployments. One approach is to first create a basic historical threat matrix (See Table 3). The various activities of a deployed military force are listed and then cross-referenced with basic suicide bomber threat categories. The one created in Table 3 provides low, medium, and high levels of concern, based upon the author’s analysis of which threat scenarios are more likely to take place than others, as derived from datasets of global suicide bombing incidents.16 This initial analysis, however, is notional in nature and should only provide a starting point. This basic matrix would then be modified with the seven suicide bombing incidents that took place against Canadian military forces in Afghanistan (listed earlier) as in-theatre data points. Additionally, wounding only incidents and failed attacks (in which Canadian military forces suffered no casualties) can be added, along with suicide bomber attacks on allied forces. Some form of basic weighted values approach could be taken, where incidents with deaths are given a basic weighted number, and wounding and failed attacks being given a lower weighted value. Additionally, the columns representing the activities of the deployed military forces is subject to modification, with some activities being removed and others being added. Further, the activities themselves could be weighted, with a large amount of Canadian soldiers barracked at a specific location given a much higher weighted value, due to what the human and political loss would represent to the deployment in Afghanistan. This is not an exact science—far from it—the intent is to determine what the threat has been to Canadian forces, and which activities of those forces are more of a concern (valued) than others, so that the threat scenarios of importance can be identified for red teaming and force protection training purposes.


  Simple Suicide Bomber
(Individual suicide bomber with vest bomb)
Complex Suicide Bomber(Multiple individual suicide bombers with vest bombs/variant with active assault element) Simple VBIED
(Lone VBIED with
single driver)
Complex VBIED
(Multiple VBIEDS/variant with active assault element)
Encamped/Barracked (static) Low Low Medium *Highest
Checkpoint; Road/Building (static) *Highest Medium Low Low
Field Deployed (dynamic) Medium *Highest Low Low
On Patrol (dynamic) Medium *Highest Low Low
In Convoy (dynamic) Low Low *Highest Medium

Table 3 - Suicide Bomber Threat Scenarios vs. Activities of a Deployed Military Force  

Enemy intent, projected capability, I&W events, and incident trending over time must also be considered. The analytical red team, with the addition of some physical red team members, must address the issue of reactive vs. proactive analysis in providing its early warning and decision-support functions. This will have a significant impact upon the development of suicide bomber threat scenarios for training purposes. A reactive approach would focus upon only what types of suicide bombings have been conducted historically—the benefit is that it focuses limited monetary resources and red team analytical thinking with respect to known threats. A proactive approach attempts to project opposing force suicide bombing operational patterns into the future—the benefit here is that a deployed military force will not be as likely to get ‘blindsided’ by evolving opposing force suicide bombing tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) and other innovations. The downside to being proactive is chasing ‘what if scenarios’ and squandering analysis and subsequent training time to the detriment of preparing against known operational threats. As a rule, new Canadian military analytical red teams should focus upon reactive analysis and master that discipline before ever attempting to take a more proactive approach.17

For the sake of simply showing how the process might work, in this instance we will go with the priority suicide bomber threat scenarios identified in Table 3. Those scenarios with the highest rankings are as follows, and they represent the best candidates for physical red teaming:

  1. Simple suicide bomber targeting military force at a checkpoint.
  2. Complex suicide bomber targeting field deployed and on patrol military forces.
  3. Simple VBIED targeting in convoy military forces.
  4. Complex VBIED targeting encamped/barracked military forces.
US Army soldiers evaluate casualties after a ‘suicide bomber’ detonated a bomb in a crowd of local citizens/soldiers during a training mission at Fort Stewart, Georgia, 28 February 2007.

DefenseImagery.mil photo 070228-A-CX109-070 by Staff Sergeant Alfred Johnson

US Army soldiers evaluate casualties after a ‘suicide bomber’ detonated a bomb in a crowd of local citizens/soldiers during a training mission at Fort Stewart, Georgia, 28 February 2007.

The Physical Red Teaming of Suicide Bomber Threat Scenarios 

At this point, the red teaming form shifts over to the physical and role-playing world of red team operators. Either cross-trained individuals who are in both the analytical and physical red teaming cells will be involved for the sake of analytical continuity, or a few analytical red team advisors/observers will monitor the training to ensure the threat scenarios identified are appropriately followed. Two levels of training would then take place; a) Canadian military personnel undertake physical red team training and engage in suicide bombing operations against Canadian (blue) military units, and b) the friendly Canadian (blue) military unit in a force protection mission going up against the physical red team.

Unfortunately, it is still very common for US military forces to engage in only “B” level training, wherein the friendly forces go up against an ad hoc red team thrown together without any in-depth adversarial knowledge. This is typically seen in domestic base force protection training, but deploying US military units have also found themselves in this situation. A commitment should be made by the Canadian military to create actual physical red teams, and arguments have even been made, with much merit, that as many deploying troops as possible should take at least a week of physical red teaming training to better ‘know thine enemy’ before deploying overseas to Afghanistan. Pioneering red team training offered for such deploying forces was provided by the Terrorism Research Center (later purchased by Blackwater) under the Mirror Image program that began in June 2002, and provided over 100 training courses to US, Canadian, and allied military, law enforcement, and governmental personnel.18 With the disruptive business and ownership changes to Blackwater (later Xe), the original training team, in 2010, reconstituted itself under the Aeneas Group International, LLC (AGI) banner, and is now offering this training under the Terrorism 360 program.19

No other private entity offers red team training of this calibre. However, US military programs have been stood up such as the comprehensive 18 week Red Team Leader’s Course which began in 2006 and is provided by the US Army’s University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies (UFMCS) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. That course draws heavily upon anthropology and regional studies in addition to unconventional military theory, doctrine, and historical instances of red teaming. Other shorter and more specialized red teaming courses are now also being offered by UFMCS. The intent is to create course graduates with more refined critical thinking skills and to develop alternative points of view for Army battle staffs deployed overseas in such theatres as Iraq and Afghanistan.20 While the UFMCS courses will prepare Canadian students to fulfill analytical red team roles, it is unknown to what extent physical red team training skills, including ideological immersion and role playing, are taught.

Two US Army sergeants search the home of a suspected insurgent in Owesat, Iraq, 18 December 2007, after finding a grenade and other electronic items in response to a suicide bomber attack.

DefenseImagery.mil photo 071218-F-DT527-214 by Technical Sergeant Adrian Cadiz

Two US Army sergeants search the home of a suspected insurgent in Owesat, Iraq, 18 December 2007, after finding a grenade and other electronic items in response to a suicide bomber attack.

Another option to help develop physical red teaming skill sets is to engage in basic research and to undertake a literature review of what has been written on this training. The Red Team Journal website <http://redteamjournal.com/> provides predominately analytical red teaming information - such as the “reciprocal net assessment” (RNA) approach, however, links and information exist to some physical resources. Additionally, US military and intelligence agency red cells and law enforcement affiliated entities, such as the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) Project Red, can be contacted for subject matter expert support. The guide Red Teams and Counterterrorism Training, written by Stephen Sloan and this author, published in 2011 by University of Oklahoma Press, for example focuses upon how to simulate active-aggressor forces, including those that may utilize suicide bombers.   

Once a bona fide physical red team is created, or under some circumstances, a private military red team is contracted, the priority suicide bomber threat scenarios identified can be simulated. ‘Simunitions’ should be utilized. This allows for real weapons to be put into service, however, with barrel conversions made so that marking rounds are fired. Simulated explosive devices - from inert suicide vests through VBIEDs, also have to be obtained or created. The intent is for the Canadian military forces to undergo as realistic training as possible, and thus ‘train as they fight.’ Pyrotechnics, smoke, and other elements can also be brought into play. The creation of wounding make up applied to victims, and even recreating the sights and smells of an engagement - for example, the dumping of animal blood and entrails on a victim requiring medical attention - should also be considered as options during the simulated suicide bombing attacks against friendly forces. Like all forms of military training, the various protocols are determined and logically thought through, the hardware and necessary supplies procured, and the training venues are either selected or created. Training can take place at a central military facility, or a mobile training team approach can be taken. It is important to note that simple training should always take place before more complex training, thus the less involved suicide bomber incident scenarios should be conducted first. In addition, the skill set level exhibited by the red team vis-à-vis those being trained should be initially determined. Sometimes below zone training (the red team initially performs below the capabilities of the friendly force) may be required as much as in zone training (red team parity with the friendly force) and above zone training (red team superiority over the friendly force), to allow training objectives to be met. Training is always dynamic, and scripting should be followed as little as possible, with basic training intent, derived from analytical red team guidance, promoted within an atmosphere of free play and improvisation.

After the physical red team is created and equipped, the training scenarios are developed, the referees and other contingencies are sorted out, and the means by which the training will be delivered is determined, the military personnel and units taking the training can be focused upon. In this instance, Canadian military forces being deploying overseas where opposing forces have engaged in suicide bombings would be given the highest training priority. These forces can either be trained following current Canadian force protection doctrine, or the training of this doctrine can become a component of the simulated force protection mission when the friendly unit is pitted against the physical red team. More competitive unit commanders will likely engage in their own force protection training even if such doctrinal training is provided when the unit is up against the red team.2121 While this training is not meant to be a ‘win or lose’ proposition for the friendly forces -since often failure teaches us far more about personnel and unit readiness than success - some form of competition is always a good training motivator for the forces being trained. After action ‘hot washes’ and ‘lessons learned’ sessions are also imperative, with candid criticisms of individual and unit performance in the form of constructive feedback utilized to promote learning and training takeaways.  

International peacekeepers investigate the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, 28 January 2004.

Reuters photo RTRBC5D by Ahmad Masood

International peacekeepers investigate the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, 28 January 2004.


This article has demonstrated that the synergistic use of analytical and physical red teams together is extremely useful for the force protection training needs of deploying Canadian military units overseas in environments such as Afghanistan, where the ongoing threat of suicide bombings exist. While both forms of red teams may have in the past been utilized as ‘stand alone’ options by some military forces with success—this is especially true of the US armed services— the benefits of utilizing both forms together provide a far greater spectrum of force protection competency:

The benefits of analytical red teams include:

  • Identify I&W Events, Anomalies, and Suicide Bombing Trends
  • Early Warning (defensive; pre-attack alerts)
  • Futures (offensive; battlespace shaping)
  • Determining Enemy Intent/Capability
  • Decision-Support
  • Reactive and Proactive Strategy Options
  • Identifying Highest Priority Suicide Bomber Threat Scenarios
  • Analytical Intent Guiding Physical Training

The benefits of physical red teams include:

  • Increasing Force Protection Training Proficiency
  • Improved Survivability of the Forces Trained
  • Identifying Training and Equipment Deficiencies
  • Determining Force Protection Doctrinal Shortcomings
  • Limiting Incidents of Tactical Surprise
  • Red Team Members Gaining Insights into Opposing Force Behaviors

Typically, analytical red teaming does not suffer from being de-coupled from physical red teaming because it provides command decision support and intelligence early warning functions. The training provided by the physical red team, however, is greatly enhanced by the analytical rigour of the more intelligence and command-focused red team. The analytical red team will also benefit from its association and links to the physical red team because of the feedback that it provides concerning the severity of the threat when simulated under field training conditions. 

Additionally, the utilization of analytical and physical red teams is extremely cost effective and should be considered a direct ‘force multiplier’ that enhances the survivability of deployed forces by making them less vulnerable to suicide bomber attacks. Rather than spending limited resources on expensive military hardware, the red teaming approach invests in the human capital of the Canadian military forces themselves by means of enhancing their analytical skills, sharpening their understanding of the opposing forces they are facing, and ‘raising the bar’ for individual soldier and unit force protection training proficiency.   

Residents gather at the site of a bomb attack at Mwafaqija village in Mosul, Iraq, 10 August 2012.

Reuters photo RTR36MEG by Khaleed al-Mousuly

Residents gather at the site of a bomb attack at Mwafaqija village in Mosul, Iraq, 10 August 2012.



  1. The Government of Canada “Red Teaming, Red Cells and Analytical Decision Support” project statement of work (SOW) [11-0234; Q0046BH234] provided background that describes two elementary forms of red teaming - mimetic red teaming and diegetic red teaming. The author has decided to utilize more common terminology for these forms of red teaming in this article. For a basic introduction to red teaming informational resources, see Robert J. Bunker, Subject Bibliography: Red Teaming (Quantico, VA: FBI Academy Library, December 2008).

  2. For information on the earlier use of suicide bombings and other forms of suicide operations in the Second World War against opposing military forces, see Richard O’Neill, Suicide Squads ( Sydney: Lansdowne Press, 1981).

  3. See May Rivers Films, The Cult of the Suicide Bomber (New York, NY: The Disinformation Company, Ltd., 2006), DVD, 96 mins. Narrated by Robert Baer.

  4. These included Hizbollah front and allied groups, such as Amal. Surprisingly, one of these groups may have engaged in a December 1981 vehicular suicide bombing in Lebanon against the Iraqi embassy that would have predated the celebrated martyrdom of Hossein Fahmideh. See the RAND Terrorism Chronology (1968-1997).

  5. Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, Suicide Bombings in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Land Warfare Paper 46W (Arlington, VA: Institute of Land Warfare, Association of the US Army, September 2004), p. 4.

  6. Ibid, p. 5.

  7. Ibid, pp. 1-22.

  8. These incidents focus on Canadian military fatalities. Numerous incidents of the wounding of Canadian soldiers also exist in the various news sources reviewed. Per one listing of Canadian fatalities “154 Canadian soldiers, one Canadian reporter, one diplomat and two aid workers have been killed since the Canadian military deployed to Afghanistan in early 2002.” See “Timeline: Canadian deaths in Afghanistan.” Canada.com. 25 February 2011 at <http://www.canada.com/news/Timeline+Canadian+deaths+Afghanistan/1037437/story.html>, accessed 2 March 2011. Names of the Canadian military fatalities attributed to suicide bombings have been validated via iCasualties.org. See

    “Coalition Deaths By Nationality; Canada; Operation Enduring Freedom.” iCasualties.org at <http://icasualties.org/oef/Nationality.aspx?hndQry=Canada>, accessed 2 March 2011.

  9. Times Wire Reports, “Suicide Bomber Kills Canadian Soldier,” in the Los Angeles Times, 27 January  2004, at <http://articles.latimes.com/2004/jan/27/world/fg-briefs27>, accessed 2 March 2011. A variation  on this attack suggests that the suicide bomber was carrying an artillery shell and detonated next to the vehicle. See Ron Synovitz, “Afghanistan: Two Suicide Bombings In Kabul Raise Questions About Motives, Repercussions,” in Radio Free Europe: Radio Liberty. 29 January  2004, at <http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1051370.html>, accessed 2 March 2011.

  10. Coalition Deaths By Nationality; Canada; Operation Enduring Freedom,” in iCasualties.org, at <http://icasualties.org/oef/Nationality.aspx?hndQry=Canada>, accessed 2 March 2011; and “Suicide bomber kills TV employee covering death of two Canadian soldiers,.” IFEX, 24 July 2006, at <http://www.ifex.org/afghanistan/2006/07/24/suicide_bomber_kills_tv_employee/>, accessed 2 March 2011. The date is listed wrong in this source.

  11. “Coalition Deaths By Nationality; Canada; Operation Enduring Freedom,” in iCasualties.org, at <http://icasualties.org/oef/Nationality.aspx?hndQry=Canada >, (accessed 2 March 2011).

  12. Ibid.

  13. “Bike bomb kills 4 Canadian troops, ” in CNN World, at < http://articles.cnn.com/2006-09-18/world/afghanistan_1_canadian-soldiers-panjwayi-district-suicide-bomber?_s=PM:WORLD>, accessed 2 March 2011.

  14. “Two Canadian soldiers killed by suicide bomber.” News Release. CEFCOM/COMFEC NR–06.032 – 28 November 2006, at <http://www.cefcom.forces.gc.ca/pa-ap/nr-sp/doc-eng.asp?id=2150>, accessed 2 March 2011.

  15. Matthew Fisher, “Canadian colonel dies in attack on NATO convoy in Kabul,” in the National Post, Tuesday, 18 May  2010, at <http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=3041858>, accessed 2 March 2011.

  16. These datasets include Appendix: Chronology of Suicide Bombings in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Robert J.Bunker and John P. Sullivan, Suicide Bombings in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Land Warfare Paper No. 46W (Arlington, VA: The Institute of Land Warfare, Association of the United States Army, September 2004), pp. 15-19; Palestinian Suicide Bombings since 1993,Mohammed M Hafez,. Manufacturing Human Bombs: The Making of Palestinian Suicide Bombers (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2006), pp.79-86; Appendix 1: Suicide Terrorist Campaigns, 1980-2003. Robert A. Pape, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (New York, NY: Random House, 2005), pp. 253-264; RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents (RDWTI), at< http://www.rand.org/nsrd/projects/terrorism-incidents.html>; SATP Suicide Attacks by the LTTE, at< http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/shrilanka/database/data_suicide_killings.htm>; START Global Terrorism Database (GTD). http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/; Table 1: Successful Suicide Bombers and Table 2: Unsuccessful Suicide Bombers. Debra D. Zedalis,  Female Suicide Bombers. Carlisle Papers in Security Strategy (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, June 2004), pp.3-6; Appendix One: Chronology of Attacks at < http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/2002/isrl-pa/ISRAELPA1002-08.htm#P1290_377952>; Erased in a Moment: Suicide Bombing Attacks Against Israeli Civilians (New York, NY: Human Rights Watch, 2002). 

  17. The author had been involved in a multi-year strategic level projection of Al Qaeda use of body cavity suicide bombs against high value targets. Al Qaeda utilized such a device in Saudi Arabia in August 2009 in a failed assassination attempt against the Saudi Prince who was head of the Kingdom’s counter-terrorism operations. It takes years of analytical training to become competent in proactive analytical red teaming activities.

  18. The author took this physical red teaming training in 2005. It was innovative and extremely useful in nature. For a video overview of this training - which took place while the author was in attendance -  see “Mirror Image Training on CNN, ” in Devost.net. 20 May 2005, at < http://www.devost.net/2005/05/20/mirror-image-on-cnn/>, (accessed 10 March 2011). Mirror Image statistics provided by Betty O’Hearn on 10 March 2011 during a telephone conversation.

  19. The AGI website is at <http://www.agi3.com/>. Disclosure: The author has been contacted by AGI in the recent past concerning providing consulting services for Mexican cartel immersion training and other professional activities.

  20. See “Chapter 6: The Red Team: Developing an Adversarial Perspective,” Stephen Sloan and Robert J. Bunker, Red Teams and Counterterrorism Training (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011).

  21. This insight comes from lessons learned from the National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, California, when unit commander’s rotated against the Krasnovian (OPFOR) armoured forces sought to defeat them on their own turf.

Northern Lights

DefenseImagery.mil photo 050617-F-MN103-007 by Staff Sergeant Suzanne M. Day.

A USAF EOD team and US Army soldiers inspect a suicide bomber’s detonated vehicle in Tuz, Iraq, on 17 June 2005, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.