The Road to Good Intentions: British Nation-building in Aden
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The weathered, ancient heart of the Middle Eastern city had been a center of trade, bazaars, and merchant activity for centuries. Throughout its history, this urban district had witnessed countless influences from traders from across the Middle East region, bringing with them unique cultural and social contributions to a vibrant, cosmopolitan crossroads of religions, empires, and cultures. But on this day, the neighborhood would be the scene of a violent clash between insurgents, western troops, and local police authorities, who, though trained and nominally allied with the western forces, turned their weapons on their supposed allies. Starting with an ambush of a supply convoy, this battle would evolve into a violent episode of urban conflict, punctuated by sniper fire, grenade barrages, and machine gun exchanges. Unable to differentiate friendly forces from enemies, the foreign troops were surrounded by a lethal enemy that blended in with the civilian population that used schools, homes, and mosques as cover. Many of the western forces were killed by some of the very security forces they had spent years training, mobilizing, and equipping. By the evening of the battle, insurgent forces had taken control of the heart of the city, violently expelling the western presence amid the disorienting alleys and courtyards of the district. But while this story may seem to have come from recent headlines in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is instead a glimpse into an event known as the “Battle of Crater,” fought between British and Aden insurgents in June 1967.
Case Study No. 12, Complex Operations Case Studies Series
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