Friday, August 30, 2013

Cuba Libre!

    I'm moving ahead with my pseudo-, sort of modern Imagi-Nation.  My concept is the 'liberation' of the island state of Cuba by a government in exile, which then becomes a minor ally of the United States and small player on the international stage.  So first, my disclaimer:

The point of this scenario is simply to provide a launching board for quasi-realistic, semi-plausible 'modern' (post WWII) wargaming.  This is strictly apolitical, with no desire to become mired in real-world, factionalized argument or in-fighting.  While some actual names of world leaders, movements, militaries, and locations will be used, again this is no statement politically, socially, culturally, or morally, it is simply a vehicle to draw interesting wargames in interesting locales with a small bit of real-life history.

So, with all that being said (and hopefully understood and accepted), I now write a timeline of the Liberation of Cuba, from 1963 to the present, providing us a bit of ahistorical hindsight, with the overall goal being to map out my concept and wargaming plans:

1.  1961: Following the Bay of Pigs debacle, a group of displaced Cubans, including some survivors of the Bay of Pigs excursion, gathered in Miami, Florida, to regroup, reorganize, and devise a plan to continue their attempts to oust the Castro regime, replacing it with themselves.  The primary focus of this group is to unite displaced Cubans, primarily those residing in the United States, and to lobby the US government to support, assist, and otherwise back both soft and armed campaigns to supplant the Castro regime.  Through various US presidential administrations the "Free Cuba Government in Exile" (FCGE) was given malleable promises that amounted to only lip service to the FCGE's cause.

2.  1983: The US government intervened militarily on the island of Grenada to rescue US university students as well as to counter Cuban influence.  With the US military undertaking direct combat operations against the Cuban military, the leadership of the FCGE was sure the situation was ripe and that the US would support, if not conduct outright, an invasion of Cuba in order to depose the Castro regime.  However, the US government did not wish to inflame the situation with the USSR any further, and furthermore, the only 'invasion force' the FCGE was able to muster was a group of approximately 1200 volunteers who were unarmed, untrained Cuban exiles spread throughout the US and Caribbean.  At this juncture the FCGE decided US support would not be forthcoming now or in the future, and so a plan was set to act unilaterally.

The FCGE took steps to consolidate the various Cuban exiles worldwide, holding shadow 'democratic' elections which locked into place its power structure.  Various government branches were established (Ministries of Labor, Agriculture, Information, Economy, Law, etc...) to formalize the FCGE's place as the future Cuban government, as well as to serve as a means of redress for the varying concerns and agendas of the diverse exile population.  As part of this reorganization, the Cuban Liberation Army (CLA) was formed, with its strategic goal being the overthrow of the Castro regime by force of arms.

The leadership of the CLA focused solely on its strategic goal, and immediately devised a plan to essentially sub-divide the CLA into an unconventional warfare cadre to infiltrate Cuba and begin "grass-roots" operations to recruit, form, and train indigenous forces to support the second arm of the CLA, a force designed to 'break-in' and conduct conventional military operations against armed resistance by members of the Castro regime.

The CLA set about recruiting, forming, and training a professional force of soldiers for the upcoming, inevitable invasion of Cuba.  The CLA found recruitment relatively easy, as there seemed to be an ample supply of Cuban exiles desirous of taking part in a great campaign to 'free' their homeland, as well as a goodly amount of third country nationals willing to fight in Cuba for various reasons, such as hostility to oppressive regimes, being staunch anti-communists, a desire to see a normalization of US-Cuban relations, the desire to see free markets opened in Cuba (i.e., the desire for Cuba to become a new market), or simply being modern day adventurers.  For these same reasons, private financial backing was never really difficult to secure, easily sustaining the FCGE as well as satisfying a great deal of the CLA's procurement agenda.

A great deal of effort was made by the CLA to recruit exiles currently serving in other countries militaries; of course the military forces of the United States were worked very heavily, but recruits were also found in many Central and South American militaries, and some found as far away as Israel, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.  Indeed, upon insertion of Unconventional Warfare (UCW) elements into Cuba proper, a number of ordinary members of the population as well as members of the Cuban military forces were recruited and exfiltrated to the United States.  New recruits were 'encouraged' to join their nations' perspective militaries in order to gain valuable training, skill sets, and experience.  Overall, this method of recruitment resulted in a very experienced, battle tested force, though one that had not operated together.

Training and Staging areas were an initial conundrum for the CLA as the United States seemed the obvious choice, but its laws strictly forbade the types of things the CLA was doing and planning, and several times the CLA found itself in hardship as members were arrested and property seized after running afoul of the law, both in the US and in international waters/arms markets.  Much of this dilemma was solved when the governments of Mexico and Colombia entered into talks and agreements with the FCGE regarding the acquisition and storage of weapons, as well as the billeting and training of members of the CLA.  Ultimately these talks were successful due to a shared distaste for the Castro regime, particularly once it began supporting the sale and transfer of illegal narcotics (much like Mssr. Noriega) in the mid-1980s.

The greatest challenge facing the CLA was the fact it did not know when the upcoming invasion would occur, and a large amount of its key personnel were spread throughout the globe in ongoing military operations.

3.  February 1990: After much deliberation, in January 1989 the FCGE made the fateful decision to launch the long-awaited invasion of Cuba in January 1990.  The CLA began marshaling its forces and conducting a rigorous training schedule to prepare its forces for combat operations.  In the overall scheme of things the training could be called nothing but successful, but there were still gaping holes in key leadership positions as many of these men were still serving in their adoptive country's military, though all were able to take part in some training and exercises by taking personal leave.

The invasion was actually pushed from January 1990 to February 1990 due to the fact a significant number of key personnel were mobilized and deployed into combat operations when the US military conducted Operation Just Cause in December 1989.  Immediately following the cessation of combat operations, these men took leave and deserted the US military in order to join their comrades for the upcoming invasion (the US government later pardoned all deserters).

UCW elements had been present in Cuba for the better part of four years at this point, recruiting, conducting PsyOps missions, conducting reconnaissance and surveillance of Cuban military and government forces and facilities, establishing arms and supply caches throughout the island, forming and training "Popular Force" units comprised of members of the local population (with UCW cadres), and establishing intelligence source networks country-wide.  In the seventh months prior to the invasion (a planned six months, but one extra owing to Just Cause), the remainder of the CLA UCW were infiltrated into Cuba, where preparations for the upcoming fight were finalized.

On February 1, 1990, the invasion took place.  Airborne elements dropped in the dead of night to establish blocking positions around the beachhead, while UCW/Popular Force elements struck key units and facilities of the Cuban government and military.  Later that morning conventional forces came ashore at the (you guessed it) infamous Bay of Pigs landing site, quickly moving inland, while the fledgling CLA air force worked hurriedly to establish air superiority and deny the Cuban navy use of its coastal patrol craft.  Heavy fighting ensued, with the Castro regime putting up stiff resistance.  At one point, a Venezuelan parachute battalion dropped on the island to assist the Castro forces, led by a dashing young officer who would, upon his return to Venezuela, would take power there via military coup on a populist platform of solidarity against the Yanquis and their puppets.  This discord between Cuba and Venezuela would rear its ugly head in the not so distant future.

Though heavy fighting occurred against determined resistance, the results were never really in doubt.  The Cuban military was a shell of its former self following decades of communist corruption, over a decade of fighting in Angola, and a budget practically slashed to zero as Soviet aid dissipated (the Soviet Union had exhausted itself and was on the verge of its colossal crash and breakup).  Troops sat listlessly in their barracks, or worse, forced into labor for roads and agriculture.  Much of the Cuban military's first-line equipment had been stranded in Angola upon the Cubans' withdrawal, while the remainder sat on airstrips, slips, and vehicle parks, unused and neglected in terms of maintenance.  Due to economic hardship, two-thirds of the Cuban military's manpower was lost to desertion and budget cuts which moved a substantial portion of the Cuban soldiers out of active military units and into National Guard or Provincial units, many of which sported equipment of WWII vintage (both US and Soviet).

The FCGE and CLA also found themselves beneficiaries of the vast majority of popular support, despite the Castro regime's attempts to paint them as Yanqui puppets.  CLA PsyOps and Information Operations were very successful in countering Castro's claims (pointing at CLA aircraft and exclaiming "there are no stars on those wings!  Cuba for Cubans!" soon became a battlecry), and this coupled nicely with a population still able to remember life before Castro and willing to contrast that experience with the current situation.  This support swelled the ranks of the CLA's Popular Forces and provided a steady stream of intelligence on the Castro regime's movements and intentions.

I am not putting in a date for the successful resolution/end of fighting as I don't know when that will be, it will depend on what happens on the tabletop.  All I know is that it will (must?) be successful and won't last past January 1991, because...

4.  January 1991: The new Cuban government consolidates power, establishes itself as an interim government and holds elections not long after, with little change as the leadership is largely held as heroes owing to its success in casting off the Castro regime.  It is quickly recognized by most nations (the Western nations in particular) and the UN, and becomes a close ally of the United States.  The most significant issue to hand for the international community was Saddam Hussein's August 1990 invasion of the oil-rich nation of Kuwait and the US preparing an international coalition to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait.  Cuba, desiring to become a player on the international stage, quickly organized to provide a force to take part in Operation Desert Storm.

The Cuban military quickly reorganized itself.  The majority of the military was subdivided into two parts: the vast majority formed the Cuban National Defense Forces, which, as the name suggests, concerned itself solely with defense of the homeland.  The remainder, formed largely from former members of the CLA, was organized into the Cuban Expeditionary Force (I do not intend to have any further fighting in Cuba, so the remainder of my wargaming will concern itself only with the CEF).  The vast majority of the CEF was quickly dispatched to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where it formed, refit, and trained to participate in Desert Storm.

As a relatively small force, and, due to the large expanse of desert to be covered and crossed, the United States agreed to provide heavy equipment the CEF.  A number of M1A1 Abrams, AAV7 amphibious armored vehicles, LAV-25 armored cars, and HMMWVs were provided to allow the CEF contingent to perform as a mechanized Cavalry Brigade.  The US also supplied a detachment of AV-8 Harriers and UH-60 Blackhawks, which the CEF combined with a Command Element and Combat Service Support Element to form an Air-Ground Task Force ("Task Force Cordova") on the USMC MAGTF model.  Additionally, highly-trained operators of the CEF were provided rotary assets and placed under the command of US special operations forces to conduct Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) missions on Gulf shipping as well as raids on Gas and Oil platforms in the Gulf.

Task Force Cordova was charged with being a lead element to conduct reconnaissance for initial breach of Iraqi defenses on the Saudi-Kuwait border, then to perform classic screening operations during the advance through the open desert to Kuwait City, then to screen the city while coalition allies took the city.  In the event, fighting was extraordinarily heavy (ahistorically, but remember the casualty projections?) at the berm and through the Iraqi defense in depth, with TF Cordova facing particularly heavy opposition when leading the advance and becoming encircled when coalition allies proved less than enthusiastic/aggressive.  TF Cordova then served as a 'fire brigade' in the fighting through the initial defensive line, screened during the advance to Kuwait City, and then once again became a fire brigade during the intense fighting in the city.  Their toughness and tenacity drew accolades from General Schwartzkopf and international renown for Cuba's martial prowess.

Meanwhile, the CEF Special Operations unit took part in a number of successful actions in the Gulf, earning the respect of their peers.  However, near the end of combat operations a VBSS was made on what was thought to be an Iraqi ship but turned out to be an Iranian ship.  Much of the details are still murky, but the incident developed into a fierce fight between members of the IRGC and the CEF Spec Ops, with the Iranian ship ultimately being sunk.  This incident became a source of acrimony between Cuba and Iran, which flared into armed conflict between the two nations (usually by proxy) numerous times over the years.

5.  1992-Present: Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia entered into a formal alliance to fight the explosion of illegal narcotics and the Drug Cartels.  These operations were largely conducted by CEF Special Operations forces and riverine elements throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean.

6.  1992-1993: The CEF sent a contingent to Somalia as part of the UN-element sent to restore peace.  Largely a dull routine, several times heavy fighting was witnessed in Mogadishu and its surrounding areas.

7.  1993-Present: Ongoing Counter-Terrorist Operations against Iran and Hezbollah.  Iran, eager to get revenge on Cuba for the sinking of its vessel during Desert Storm, commissions Hezbollah to act on its behalf.  In early 1993 Hezbollah operatives place a truck bomb at the Cuban Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,  The subsequent detonation demolishes the small building, killing 34 Cuban nationals and staff.  Following this incident the Cuban military takes every opportunity to strike back at Hezbollah and Iran, wherever they may be found.

8.  1993: Not long after the embassy bombing, Israel finds itself drawn into southern Lebanon, fighting to in a failed attempt to exterminate Hezbollah.  Cuba is quick to show its support of the Israelis right to aggressively defend themselves by sending a CEF contingent straight into Lebanon.  This incursion meets with mixed results at best, and the CEF contingent is withdrawn before the year is out.

9.  1995-1995: The CEF sent contingents to Rwanda and Liberia, evacuating diplomatic staff and their families as well as engaging in peace-keeping operations.  At times, very heavy fighting broke out between CEF elements and local warlords.

10.  1995-1999: The CEF sent a contingent to Bosnia, with conventional forces conducting peace-keeping operations that several times deteriorated into heavy fighting.  CEF Special Operations forces also took part in the 'war criminal hunts.'

11.  1995-1996: Traditional border disputes, as well as the Counter-Narcotics pact and being seen as Yanqui puppets led to war between Colombia and Venezuela.  The CN pact as well as Cuba's desire for retribution regarding Venezuela's interference in their fight for liberation sees the largest CEF contingent yet deployed sent to Colombia to take part in large-scale, conventional military operations.  Heavy fighting is experienced on a regular basis, and the war ultimately ends with Venezuela withdrawing and suing for peace.

12.  1999-2001: Acrimony between South Africa on the one hand and Namibia and Angola on the other develops into open hostility and then outright combat.  Former ally Angola, seeing Cuba's renewed vigor in international military events, extends a request to Cuba for military assistance.  Cuba, of course, is now its own exact opposite ideologically, refuses the request out of hand.  Following the Cuban withdrawal from Angola in the late 1980's, a great many Cuban military personnel decided to remain in Angola, as well as a large number of medical personnel and diplomatic personnel and their families.  Following Cuba's denial of military assistance in the current conflict with South Africa, the Angolan government set upon a campaign of terror against Cuban expatriots and their families.  Cuba, unable to stand by while its citizens are being mistreated, and so it sends a large contingent of the CEF to South Africa.  There the CEF takes part in particularly vicious fighting on a large scale, before ultimately Angola and Namibia are dissuaded of their expansionist agendas.

13.  2001-Present: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).  Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, members of CEF Special Operations are side by side with their US counterparts on entry into Afghanistan.  Due to its history with the country, CEF elements volunteer to deploy to and focus their efforts on the border with Iran, in order to minimize its influence in the rebuilding of Afghanistan by ISAF.  Additionally, as part of the overall OEF, CEF forces are also active in CT operations in the southern Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Pakistan, though by the end of 2005 CEF forces are largely operating only in Afghanistan in support of OEF.

14.  2003-2009: Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).  CEF mechanized forces are on-hand for the blitzkrieg to Baghdad, taking part in heavy, conventional fighting.  While much of the CEF is redeployed at the conclusion of combat operations, a CEF contingent remains in Iraq until 2009, taking part in counterinsurgency operations and the surge, though much of its time is again spent on the border with Iran to minimize its influence in the rebuilding of Iraq.

15.  2006: When the Israelis launch Operation Cast Lead in southern Lebanon, once again the CEF launches a contingent to strike back at Hezbollah.

16.  2008: A small force of the CEF is conducting joint training exercises with the Georgian military when Russia intervenes in that country regarding the South Ossetia issue.  The Cubans want no part of a war with Russia, but the CEF contingent finds itself fighting for its life just to depart the area.

17.  2010-2011: As part of coalition forces' campaign to depose Muammar Khaddafi, the CEF deploys members of its Special Operations and UCW forces to assist.

18.  2012-2013: As part of its efforts to counter Iran at every turn, following Iran's deployment of IRGC forces to Syria, the CEF sends a small contingent to Syria to assist in the overthrow of Assad's regime.

Well, whaddaya think?  Pretty ambitious, eh?  I have no time frame in which I seek to accomplish all this, this is just a framework to get some interesting wargames in.  Again, I want to repeat that: this is just a framework to play wargames with, and I sincerely hope I haven't offended/pissed off anyone with my planned timeline.  I did my best to stay away from politics, but a certain amount of that couldn't be avoided in order to provide some reason to why what's happening is happening (war as an extension of politics?).

To be honest, I'm pretty happy with everything up until about 2010; I'm not all that hot about Libya/Syria, but my creative juices have kind of dried up in terms of places my Cubans go to war with/for.  If anyone has actually been able to stick it out and read all this, I'd love to here some scenarios (locale and semi-plausible justification) for 2010 to near future.

For everything I 'screwed up' historically in my timeline, please cut me some slack.  I'm sure I made some mistakes in terms of what actually occurred, but in a lot of places I purposefully messed things around a little bit to make it easier (or better) to wargame.  The best example is the (real) Cuban military in 1990; I made the stuff up about leaving gear in Angola, the cutting of Soviet aid (that early), and the military being reduced.  Some of that stuff happened a little bit (the Cuban military was reorganized as an anti-corruption measure), and certainly the loss of Soviet aid has had a significant impact (the Cuban military is now largely seen only as a defensive force), but they still have a boatload of halfway modern gear and way, way, way too many troops for me to fight out at skirmish/platoon level.  So I knocked the overall quality of their gear down as well as I reduced the number of their troops to about a sixth of what it really is so that I can have some wargames without getting my butt kicked (by sheer numbers and overwhelming firepower).  If this bothers you, you should probably stop following as you're probably going to flip when you see I'm using Pendraken Falklands Brits for most of my CEF and Pendraken Falklands Argentinians for Cubans, Venezuelans, Angolans, and Iraqis.  Pendraken NVA will serve as a lot of Popular Forces and militia/National Guard types, and the Pendraken Falkands SAS and Argie SF will be dressed up as civilians for terrorists and drug cartel members.  I'm just warning you...

One last thought; I've been toying with the idea of not even playing all these in order.  I don't want to mess with the storyline (I'll be following the exploits of certain, key individuals and wouldn't want to have him distinguish himself for gallantry in 2001 but then play a game set in 1999 where he gets killed in action!), but I suspect this would help keep things fresh (i.e., I don't feel like playing the 'next' scenario, I want to have a fight over here between these guys and those guys, not the boring old guys I've been beating up on).  Any ideas on how to overcome this obstacle, or do I just have to go in chronological order (keep in mind, I don't want to play a campaign where the 'cool' guys can never get killed, I want there to be a risk to it)?

Well, I've got to get to painting (got a bunch of Pendraken and some plastic palm trees).



  1. Interesting and detailed alternate history there with lots of gaming opportunities!

  2. Why not go to the Pacific? Right now the PRC is pushing asian powers around in the South China Sea and one of those powers is a former Spanish sister colony: The Philippines. I could see a CEF, together with a few surface ships and modern jets, heading off to help a fellow "Latino" nation defend itself against a "communist" nation.

    In the South China Sea you could have aerial combats, surface ship clashes, and even landings/counter landings over some of the small rocks in that region. The US could foot the bill because the US is a close trading partner with China, so it doesn't want to strain those ties any more than it needs to, but the US also needs to counterbalance China and help the Philippines... so enter the CEF. I think French miniatures would fit the bill for Chinese troops if you don't have any in 10mm.

    Shapeways has the cheap Chinese warships for the naval skirmishes. I could see fighting over little specks of land in the South China Sea being rather fun and even easy to model in your scale. I do 15mm myself so I have to wait a bit longer for my Chinese vehicles. You might get away with using French troops and gear for the PRC as they are somewhat similar.

  3. Randall,

    Thanks, that's a great idea. Real life has a funny way of providing us current gaming opportunities ;) My only problem is time; I haven't even started this project (in terms of fights on the table) yet! Someday...