British COIN training a joke

#1
From the US Marine Corps Times:

Two speakers - Marston and David Kilcullen, who moderated the panel and is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's special adviser for counterinsurgency - were sharply critical of the British military's performance in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that the British had failed to back up their boasts of superiority in counterinsurgency and in fact had fallen behind the U.S. military.

"The British Army has the reputation of being good at counterinsurgency, and in 2003 and 2004 there was lots of fairly snide criticism of the United States by British commanders saying that Americans didn't understand counterinsurgency [and] were taking too kinetic an approach," said Kilcullen, who described the British attitude as, "'Look at us, we're on the street in our soft caps and everyone loves us.'"

Marston, who was until recently a senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst - the British Army's rough equivalent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. - said that "as an American working in the British system for the last five years" in 2003, he watched the British "act as if they were the best in [counterinsurgency] in the world."

But the British performance on Iraqi and Afghan battlefields since then has not backed up such strident talk, according to Kilcullen and Marston.

"It would be fair to say that in 2006 the British Army was defeated in the field in southern Iraq," Kilcullen said, adding that there were numerous "incidents" in Afghanistan that further undercut the British claims of superiority in counterinsurgency.

"They've been embarrassed by their performance in southern Iraq," Marston said. Meanwhile, the Taliban "almost destroyed" the British Army's 16th Air Assault Brigade in Afghanistan. In some places, he said, "they just held on."

The British military was simply unprepared for the challenges it faced in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Marston, who stressed he was not speaking in his official capacity as an employee of the British Ministry of Defence.

"There have been major problems with their predeployment training," he said. "There were a lot of problems with their education. ... The staff college had one day for counterinsurgency for majors. The RMA Sandhurst lieutenants course was a bit of a joke, bit of a video here and there."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman was not able to provide a response by press time.

Chastened British officers have gained new respect for their American counterparts, according to Marston.

"There's a lot of envy in the U.K., looking at the processes that the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps have gone through in the last few years to get to where they are," he said. "The British are open to that."

Indeed, the British Army's performance has improved recently, but only because it has embarked on a similar learning process to that which the U.S. military had already undergone, Marston said.

"We changed it from within, bottom-up, because we had platoon commanders who knew more than the generals on the ground," he said, referring to his recent work with the British. "They are catching up. I'm not saying they're going to lead anytime soon, but they are definitely catching up."

Kilcullen and Marston each referred to a controversial article by British Brig. Nigel Aylwin-Foster that the U.S. Army's professional journal, Military Review, published in late 2005. In the article, which ruffled many American feathers, Aylwin-Foster criticized the U.S. Army's approach to counterinsurgency operations in Iraq.

"Many senior British officers feel that an American needs to write an article to embarrass the Brits in some ways," Marston said.
 
#4
yank = cnut
 
#5
tired_chimp said:
bit of a snide cunt that bloke, isn't he?
That's irrelevant, what is relevant is whether he's right or not?
 
#8
no mate. just honest. didn't realise making a mass generalisation made you 12.
are you septic?
 
#9
This has been done here before. However the point was also made, which I do think is relevant.

How far did the Coalition Authority hamstring British Operations in Southern Iraq by their intransigence and inefficiency?

How far did Paul Bremners' actions go towards destabilising the British AoR?

I'm thinking in terms of the fuel riots in Basra etc. There were Arrsers there at the time , who were close to this , perhaps they could comment with some authority
 
#10
lfc2001 said:
no mate. just honest. didn't realise making a mass generalisation made you 12.
are you septic?
No I'm not a septic, but I've served with some. They were good solid blokes, and I'd stand by them again.
 
#11
Although it's difficult to swallow, the fact remains that if he does indeed make a fair point then the problems need to be addressed without falling into septic-bashing mode.

I think the point does need to made though that you actually have to fight battles in order to 'lose' them. That being the case, there are very, very few nations other than the US who are in any position to criticise Britain's performance.
 
#12
#13
MotorMan said:
Although it's difficult to swallow, the fact remains that if he does indeed make a fair point then the problems need to be addressed without falling into septic-bashing mode.

I think the point does need to made though that you actually have to fight battles in order to 'lose' them. That being the case, there are very, very few nations other than the US who are in any position to criticise Britain's performance.
True. If we have to learn some lessons, even from the septics, then so be it. As long as we learn. We got to face facts, we can't always be better than everyone else.
 
#15
I could've sworn that I sat through several days of COIN studies at JSCSC, rather than just a one-day thing for Majors.

Or, more accurately, sat through both a stage of the ACSC on the subject and a bit more than a day on COIN for ICSC(L). As I don't recall Marston being there (although he may have been), he may not quite have understood that bit, and certainly missed the rather Maoist self-criticism that occurred...
 
#16
From coming into contact with a fair number of Americans both as a soldier and as a seafarer, I think it's fair to say that apart from the usual mongs who exist on both sides of the Atlantic, they usually have quite a lot of respect for the individual British serviceman - certainly when compared to most of their other allies. It seems that it is a combination of our often shoddy equipment, differing doctrine and arrogance amongst our senior officers (real or perceived) that they are critical of - not the British soldier himself. Do any of our American cousins have a view on this?
 
#17
OLDBIGHEAD said:
MotorMan said:
Although it's difficult to swallow, the fact remains that if he does indeed make a fair point then the problems need to be addressed without falling into septic-bashing mode.

I think the point does need to made though that you actually have to fight battles in order to 'lose' them. That being the case, there are very, very few nations other than the US who are in any position to criticise Britain's performance.
True. If we have to learn some lessons, even from the septics, then so be it. As long as we learn. We got to face facts, we can't always be better than everyone else.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/wor...rplanes-bomb-wedding-party-Afghans-claim.html

Make of it what you will in regard to the Americans commendable approach to counterinsurgency.
 
#18
Individual incidents prove nothing (or at least very little). It is the over-arching strategy that matters and whether it ultimately works or not.
 
#19
what does american counter insurgency entail? why is it superior to that of the british? what are the british doing wrong?

was none the wiser after reading the article really
 
#20
Don't forget the Americans had deliberately torn up their COIN manual that had been written (the hard way) in Vietnam. That has not happened in the British Army but I believe perhaps a certain amount of complacancy in the MOD had crept in. This would not have been a problem if the political will and forethought had been there to see the mission through correctly but in essence they took the line that the British Army is the best in the world and they will be able to do the job with the resources available.

Therefore the problems faced by the British Army was not so much we had forgotton anything but that the numbers needed for the long haul just did not add up. It is all well and good saying we need to carry out x y and z but if you only have a handful of troops of which only a small number are actually teeth arms then obviously you are going to become unstuck if trouble breaks out. This trouble came quickly once it became apparent that power, water, fuel and security were not going to be restored quickly. Who exactly was responsible for that mess?

Whilst the Americans may have improved on their tactics greatly they have had to reinforce and compromise to make any headway in the Sunni triangle. We also tried to compromise but did not have the numbers to back it up. Couple that with the way the rules like to think the army should work like the Metropolitain Police and you have heavily armed militia's & insurgents who know what they can get away with and how far they could push their luck. Whilst pulling the boys out of Basra pleased people because a Challenger 2 was no longer in his parking spot it was too early as the Iraqi army did not yet have a lid on the situation.

Quantity has a quality all of its own and in my opinion we have passed a tipping point where our teeth arms are too small to be effective in the long term. Just compare the numbers of troops in southern Iraq compared to those deployed in 1972 to NI for example.

So whilst the Americans have a point the blame for any failure in the south cannot be laid at the feet of the British Army but rather those in Washington, London and Baghdad.
 

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