Doctrine, its use in practice and learning from history

Discussion in 'Staff College and Staff Officers' started by Jan_van_Riebeek, Oct 30, 2008.

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  1. I am not a staff officer, in fact I not even an officer, however I am in the British Army and an amatuer historian, plus I have done a few papers on doctrine/strategy during my years.

    I am just wondering whether anyone knows whether all the lessons that were learnt during the Bush War in southern Africa are considered in British Army thinking. I just cant help but feel that the way things are in Afghanistan could be helped by adopting certain concepts we used 25 years ago. Yes we lost Rhodesia, SWA etc, but this was all down to poor strategic direction from the very top (in the case of Rhodesia), a lack of political will, international political pressure etc. Very little of what happened was down to the tactics employed on the ground.

    For example, in SWA (where there are a multitude of tribes) we recruited auxillaries from the loyal tribes, these bushmen could run 100km a day whilst tracking SWAPO. From what I understand, our trouble now is bringing the talis to contact, and they are using classic insurgent tactics of laying mines/IED's and then hiding in the local populace. By having locals recruited into the fold back home, we were able to spot when someone didnt fit in for some obscure cultural reason, something small which us whitey's wouldnt notice.

    We would chase insurgents and force them into a contact, and if the ground force felt they couldnt handle the situation, fireforce type elements could be called in to block, close in and eliminate the enemy. This involved helicopters, gunships and paratroopers.

    I know you may say that SWAPO cadres are very different to talis who have been fighting for years (even though towards the end there were some very well trained and disciplined cadres who were taught in China, Russia, Easy Germany, Cuba, Zambia etc), and unlike Rhodesia & SWA we didnt have members of our security forces that were intimate with the land (the British Army is very definitely fighting on foreign fields).

    However, even with all the differences I still feel that we could employ tactics that worked well then. This might lead to more military success, and backed up with political will and international support, Afghanistan could be a success story and not another Vietnam etc.

    Jan
     
  2. The Fire Force is just a cool name for a QRF, which is obviously already employed, as for recruiting local fighters, well thats the ANP and ANA, theres not many tactical lessons unlearnt from the bush wars, though you have put your finger on the true key to operational/strategic success-convincing the locals we have sufficient political will to see it through to the end, if the locals are convinced we're not going to do one and let the taliban take revenge on them for helping us, we'll have much more intelligence and tip-offs from the local civpop, which is the key to beating the IED/bomb threat...
     
  3. Thing is about the Rhodesians and the SADF, is that whilst they had tactical sucesses, both were complete strategic failures, Rhodesia is now Zimbabwe and South Africa now has majority rule, as Sun-Tzu said 'Tactics without Strategy is just noise before defeat'...
     
  4. I am afraid I disagree with the first part. I think of a QRF as being a reactive force which is used when things have hit the fan and we need to bail people out of a mess. The Fireforce concept was designed to hunt down groups and force them into contact, much more proactive. There are similarities but a subtle distinction I believe. One implies taking the fight to the enemy, the other limiting damage being inflicted upon us by the enemy.

    In terms of the ANA & ANP, I am aware of them. What I was more referring to was native Afghans being almost embedded into the British forces. I know this is unfeasible with all the laws that probably prohibit it, but it is the same as was done during the glory days of empire (e.g.
    recruiting locals to fight in the Indian Army), and to a certain extent is done today with the Ghurkas. You want locals to be part of your fighting force at the sharp end, under your command and there willingly. Unlikely but I would help IMHO.

    I wont discuss the success that both those countries have been since they swopped over, thats for another forum. But yes the Bush War was "lost" and as I said there was a strategic failure, however the point I was making was whether any tactical or operational knowledge could be used in what I feel is a similar environment to improve efficiency and save friendly forces lives.

    Jan
     
  5. Read Apache by Ed macy, it has a good description of an operation of that ilk has taken place in Afghanistan, ground patrols in vehicles moving up to the edge of or through Taliban held areas to draw enemy contacts on to them, then using Apache, fast air and Heliborne QRFs to destroy the enemy, the problem being they've grown wise to it ,hence the change over to more IED/bomb based tactics...
     
  6. Jan, don't get me wrong, I'm not being a pointless naysayer or unfairly denigrating the experience of these armies, I just think you're preaching to the converted, using mobile offensive tactics is part of NATO doctrine, but beating the Taliban force on force isn't the problem, its draining the swamp of support amongst the local population. Just out of Interest do you ever read Small Wars Journal? I lurk but don't post as they're all very, very clever, but its well worth a look if you're interested in these matters!

    http://smallwarsjournal.com/
     
  7. Bradstyley, no I have not heard of that and will peruse that, thanks for the link.

    I havent been to theatre, so can only go on from what I pick up from friends or read online and in books etc. However this is normally out of date by the time I get it, as it is evolving quite fast out there. I just wanted to find out whether people have incorporated our ideas/findings, or whether we are seen as those stupid whiteys from the Southern Hemisphere that had a wee war some time ago and lost to the commies :)

    Jan
     
  8. I don't think anyone regards them as inferior, both the Rhodesians and SADF were highly effective tactically, I just don't think that our problem in AFG is primarily tactical, but operational and strategic! I think a fair few ex-rhodesians joined the British Army after the end of the war, certainly theres been plenty of time to study their experience. I also applaud your zeal for killing communists!
     
  9. :)

    sometime has to, they are the comeback kids at the moment and no-one seems to be taking to much notice :O

    EDIT* True, I have met plenty of "When-we's" during my time in the army, quite a few are majors for some reason :)
     
  10. i love this subject, it is all consuming though be careful.
    having been in theatre earlier this year i found that the tactic of pursuing a a contact was as has been stated, a brief fad, the major problem Nato forces have is predictablitly, "the whole KNow you enemy as you know yourself and you'll win a thousand wars" is what we are fighting against , the taliban know that if they fight conventionally they will lose, so using a good amount of wisdom they are going the way of the insurgents in Iraq with IED's and IDF the main part of there tactics. the big question is how do we fight someone who doesnt want to fight? something im very intrested in and im currently researching alot into how T.E. lawrence went about his tasks with the Arabs, he has seen (and written alot about) the other side of guerilla warfare.
    standby im about stick my neck out
    , i think the Nato forces need to adopt a more sparse and mist like tactically and strategic approach to afghan specifically. this involves alot more risk which i believe is one of the major factors when commanders are deciding on long term strategies. we need to not shy away from casualties but look at the cause, and if needed change our doctrine. i believe we have reached the point where a radical change is needed away from inksport doctrines more towards a mist like approach.
    i love it .