British Solders Understanding of Counterinsurgency - Yon

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by huddy, Sep 7, 2009.

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  1. And I quote:
    "The average British soldier has practically no understanding of counterinsurgency"
    Michael Yon, New York Daily Time 06 SEP 09–-but-we-still-can-t-afford-to-lose.htm

    I'm not altogether sure that I agree that solders' understanding of counter insurgency is approaching zero across the board. I know that a lot of effort goes into getting principles across but that we might even be [shock] behind the yanks in this. That said, Yon tends to know what he's talking about so this has made me sit up and listen.

  2. i dont think we are "behind" the yanks. if you read his burma reports you will know he raves about it. its just we dont do it on a large enough scale for the "average" soldier to gain from the knowledge the army as a whole has.

    he made a similar complaint about US forces and the skills that are there but not reaching the wider audience it needs.
  3. I would suggest that the average British soldier has practically no understanding of the manouevrist approach, effects based operations, STRATCOM or any other area of doctrine, but that doesn't stop him doing his job. Being respectful and polite to the locals may well be completely sufficient - and that is a skill that should not be sneered at, when it is impossible to differentiate between the locals and the enemy.

    I rather doubt that other nationalities are much different.
  4. Michael Yon is pretty much spot on...our lads aren't invovled in a COIN op. Look at the campaign plan, look at the Lines of Ops, look for an Info Ops campaign, will search long and hard before you come up empty-handed.

    Our lads are fighting for survival, just getting through a combat tour alive is the overriding goal. If we are really the world-class COIN army...where is the proof right now?

    From 10 Downing, from Whitehall, from PJHQ, from LAND, from Def Acad, where is the junction for theory and practise? Where is the Comprehensive Approach? Where is the doctrine, where is the Unifying Objective?

    It was once said the US in Viet Nam fought a 10 year war, one year at a time...what are we doing in Afghnaistan? Fighting a very long war, 6 months at a time?

    Whilst our Army is fighting, here at home we should be re-doubling our efforts to rebuild, rearm, and re-equip, retrain and reeducate from what we have learned...based upon the notion we have learned something. Have we?
  5. Well, given that 2 MEB has directly copied certain tactical aspects of the Comprehensive Approach, I think we probably have learned something. I really don't think, however, that comparing ourselves to the US, whether favourably or unfavourably, is much more than navel gazing. Whether we are better or worse than other nations at COIN is not the point - what matters is whether we are better or worse than the insurgents.

    There is no quick doctrinal fix to this (although some very good stuff is being written). No golden bullet. No magical TTP or technological innovation. There are plenty of easy ways to lose this conflict through alienating the population, but no easy way to win it.
  6. If you have lots of troops on the ground they will become knowledgeable about and understand what they are being asked to do, because numbers give flexibility, not only to apply minimum to maximum force effectively but also to sit and reflect awhile on how things are being done and how they might be done better.

    The absence of sufficient troops means the ones that are there are always playing catch up, to the point that, as the Americans say “When you are up your arse in alligators, it’s damn difficult to remember that the reason you are there in the first place, is to drain the lake”.
  7. Middle ranking officers, specifically major, reportedly received only one day's COIN pre-deployment training before the first detachments, such was the emphasis placed on counter insurgency. Subsequently it has also been reported that some NCOs now, have more experience and knowledge of counter insurgency than their very senior commanding officers.

    British Army top brass have received criticism recently for being arrogant and refusing to countenance criticism or to learn from mistakes. One thing is for sure, the Americans are learning and learning fast.
  8. I think a lot of the problem stems from our relatively short tour times compared to the Americans. The US get more than double the time to learn their areas, learn who the key players are and build up those relationships that are key to a counter-insurgency campaign.

    We on the other hand - 1 month learning the ground, 2 months working, 2 weeks R&R, 2 months working, pack up and go home.

    The effect of this is a lot deeper than many people appreciate. I think that tours should be 12 months long with 2 R&R periods. This would also reduce the huge pre-tour training burden that is responsible for so many nights away from home.

    This would have to be mitigated by having in effect 2 Bdes deployed to allow out of area rest, training, BCR and low-level ops, rather than the current model of spending 6 solid months in contact with ever decreasing personnel.

    The level of psychological casualties would probably be reduced due to the lower stress levels, but the key thing would be to guard against the fatalism that overly long tours can generate.
  9. Fair enough but remember the US Marines do 7-month tours, it is the US Army who do 12 months.
  10. Key command posts are being increased in duration, reportedly at the request of the US, though this has been denied.

    It is a major criticism by the US that key Brit personnel come and go.

    US policy changed massively in Iraq. Finishing with a strategy of occupying the ground and sharing the risk with the local populace. Our policy was to strike deals with militias one that failed miserably.

    Whatever has gone before, there has to be real hope now that the US have brought their lessons and manpower with them from Iraq. As for Brit mil doctrine, perhaps it would be polite to say a bit of catch up is due?
  11. From what I've read there does seem to be some contempt from the Americans who do a 12 months tour against other nations who send their troops for a considerably shorter time . I was under the impression that 6 months is probably the optimum time for a tour in COIN op . This was down to the British success in Malaya and the American failure in 'Nam

    Of course the septics do seem to be under the impression they're fighting a COIN where as every week a British government comes on and says we there to " rebuild the country / fight the drug trade/ battle Islamic insurgents / protect the civilian population during elections / etc etc "

    Can anyone see what the problem might be ?
  12. The biggest mistake UK Govt made was to NOT describe the Helmand Deployment as counter insurgency. John Reid will probably go to his grave regretting that comment about no bullets being fired. UK Govt has been on the defensive ever since. That the intelligence on the ground was scant and inaccurate is openly admitted at the highest levels. That said one can't help but believe that politics was at the heart of the pretence that this was simply nation building or peace keeping.
  13. My bold.

    I wish that to be true. Somehow I doubt that Reid or any of his colleagues 'regret' anything at all....
  14. BLACK DOG: Reid's bullet gaffe gets a silencer...
    Last updated at 10:07 PM on 22nd August 2009
    Comments (0)
    Add to My Stories

    John Reid is hypersensitive about Afghanistan coverage which mockingly quotes his 2006 remark that UK forces would be happy to leave the country 'without firing one shot'.
    Twelve million bullets have since been fired by British troops.
    The ex-Defence Secretary keeps moaning, and now BBC news supremo Helen Boaden has sent out a long memo to her correspondents warning them off.

    British troops in Afghanistan: John Reid said back in 2006 they would be happy to leave 'without firing a bullet'
    One says: 'They are effectively telling us to erase the remark from history. It is Stalinist.'

    I suspect it bothers him more than you might expect.