Operating in Beirut: Part 2
By: Georges Tabet
Upon my group’s first meeting with our client it became quite obvious that a number of issues needed to be both addressed and resolved. During the initial meeting with our client he stated to me, “I need you to guarantee me that I will not be killed”. This is not the first time I have heard this statement and most likely it will not be the last.
In reality, while I honestly wish that I could give someone that definitive answer of “Yes, I can guarantee you that you will not be killed”, the truth of the matter is that you cannot make that promise. I have known many fine protective operators with an experienced team that ended up getting ambushed by a small arms contact or blown up by an IED. It was not because of anything they did, it was just their time, and in this business as most of you working in a hostile environment know, you can only cheat the undertaker so many times before your number comes up. I’m a realist and like any good operator, I know my limitations.
After explaining this to the client, I was able to make one guarantee to him. I assured him that whoever was trying to kill him would have an extremely difficult time of succeeding. In addition, I ensured the client that my current team was a top notch group of protective specialists. My team currently consists of Lebanese, British, and American operators who are talented, experienced and creative when putting together operational plans and then executing them.
One of the first concerns both my team and I had was the fact of movement options. Our client lived in the Beirut suburb of Jounieh and needed to get to his office daily in the area of Ina Ramaine. Our concern was that we would be forced to travel the Jounieh highway daily to get from point A to point B.
For those of you who have never traveled this route, it is utter and complete mayhem. I guess the best comparison I can provide to you is driving in LA during rush hour traffic; the only difference is that the Lebanese have a bad habit of not following any type of traffic rules and doing whatever they want. I could just imagine traveling this route with our client, getting bogged down, unable to move, and then getting hit hard by an attacker.
My team began to conduct advanced work immediately in the attempt to identify various routes. My team used olds maps, google earth, and various other sources to identify the routes. Once the “map recon” had been completed the team went out to drive and time these routes. Shortly after the team went out they were back at our base of operations with bad news. All the pre-selected routes were a big fat no-go! The team had been unable to identify the planned routes to the client’s office.
“Tony,” one of my Lebanese team members explained that the routes we had chosen would not work because the roads were no longer there, had large holes in them, or had cement barriers or military checkpoints with M-113 APC’s blocking them. Many of the roads in Lebanon are still in a state of disrepair, or are still severely damaged from the 2006 aerial bombings during the war with Israel. Things were not looking good.
I have learned in the past that when things don’t look good and don’t work out as first planned it is often best, if the situation dictates, to take a step back, relax, have a good meal and a good glass of wine and then come back to the problem at hand from another direction.
After a short break, our team met for a late night brainstorm session and came up with a creative solution to our problem. Why not transport the client by speedboat from one of the many ports and private docks in the area? Then move the client by various low profile vehicle movements? Suddenly things started to come together and an operational plan was developed and put into play.
Our plan was pretty simple; we would rent various midsize speedboats (never utilizing the same rental agency for security reasons) and would identify pick-up and drop-off points for our client.
Our client would be picked up daily, shuttled to one of the pre-designated beach or dock pick-up points and then shuttled to pre-set drop off points where our team would then pick him up and he would be brought to his office by vehicle.
The plan was a good one because we had up to 20 various pick up and drop off points around Jounieh and Beirut. The plan also worked well because if our client were being watched by an advisory they would be unable to plan a specific route to place a bomb or ambush us, hence, the boat had provided us with what we needed to succeed, the freedom of movement.
In conjunction with the boat, our team used a number of low profile vehicles to facilitate the ground movement of our client to the boat pick-up points. Our team used an up armored Taxicab, a fruit truck, repair truck, and even a refuse truck.
To throw off ‘would-be’ attackers, we would often run “Trojan Horse” missions hours before the client left his office, where the PSD team would show up and make it appear that the client was being moved when in truth he was not.
Next Month: Operating in Beirut Part 3: The Final Solution