"New" US COIN Strategy in Afghanistan

#1
Outside View: Afghanistan’s strategic company command posts

Published: Aug. 28, 2009 at 9:15 AM
By LAWRENCE SELLIN, UPI Outside View Commentator


WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- According to numerous recent news reports, it is widely expected that U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, will recommend a shift in the operational culture to one requiring greater interaction with the Afghan civilian population.

Although such an approach, at least initially, carries an inherent risk of greater military casualties, it also provides a better way to understand the human terrain, the tribal leaders and the social networks, which could go far toward defeating the Taliban.

The enemy operates within and around non-combatant population centers and presents itself as a large number of dispersed, ever-changing threats to create insecurity and undermine governance efforts and development by local and national officials. The new strategy represents a move away from primarily tracking and attacking Taliban strongholds to one focused on increasing security in more highly populated civilian areas.

The change in focus, together with a significant increase in the number of trained Afghan soldiers and police, is expected to create a web of strong points meant to disrupt the natural lines of operation, supply and support of the Taliban insurgency.

Network Centric Warfare
has been one of the latest iterations in attempts by the Department of Defense to devise a coherent framework to transform its military forces and address present and future threats. Largely based on traditional conventional warfare scenarios, it has proved less well-suited to the distributed or diffuse nature of the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a counterinsurgency, the value of Network Centric Warfare resides more in an ability to respond quickly to enemy action with effective countermeasures than in providing a senior commander with better information faster as a decision-making tool.

In his 2002 analysis of special operations in Afghanistan, Air Force Col. John Jogerst has correctly noted that a battle against small, independent and mobile forces like the Taliban may change too rapidly to permit detailed central control at higher echelons. He concluded that, with clear mission orders and appropriate technology, each tactical element can become a command, control and execution node, greatly shortening reaction time while still allowing the passing of tactical information to higher levels for operational and strategic analysis.

The McChrystal plan as envisioned implies that conventional forces will establish small unit operations, often in conjunction with host country forces, thereby requiring infantry companies to assume duties previously only seen at the battalion level or higher. Individual and team insights and observations, derived from daily small unit operations, are vital ingredients of the capacity to protect the local population, defeat the enemy and establish rule of law, thereby permitting the creation of effective governmental institutions and economic development. As is the case for Special Operations units, there is a greater need to focus efforts on enhancing the command and control capabilities at the conventional company and platoon level.

The traditional military vertically integrated paradigm allows only the slow movement of information up and down the individual stovepipes but rarely between them. It tends to inhibit quick reaction to actionable intelligence or the ability to adapt easily to new conditions on the battlefield.

Although not yet sanctioned by military doctrine, the company command post concept represents the new center of gravity for the conventional Army's counterinsurgency efforts. These new "staffed" company command posts contain their own intelligence support teams sharing information horizontally at the lowest echelons as well as vertically via the normal chain of command. The aim is to leverage the power of information and reduce vertical stovepipes that slow or diminish the ability to share best practices rapidly. It is designed to provide timely knowledge to the soldier to save lives and defeat the Taliban by getting inside the enemy's own decision cycle.

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency has taken a big step in supporting the warfighter at the company level and below. Project manager Mari Maeda said the Tactical Ground Reporting system allows military personnel at the company level and below to collect and share information to improve situational awareness and to facilitate collaboration and information analysis among junior officers. In this regard, TIGR is particularly suited to counterinsurgency operations and enables collection and dissemination of fine-grained intelligence on people, places and insurgent activity.

Unfortunately, TIGR isn't fully interoperable with command-and-control systems at the battalion level and above. Nevertheless, it represents an effort to bring the capabilities and technological edge of Network Centric Warfare from its lofty heights down to where the battle is being waged.

(Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D., is a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq.)

http://www.upi.com/Emerging_Threats...gic-company-command-posts/UPI-11591251465350/
 
#2
I tell you what though JJR.... the Yanks are nothing without their sterilised, jingoistic sound bytes :D

Who the fcuk came up with Network Centric Warfare?

Here's some COIN strategy for you though, my personnal fave TBH.





Aircraft.... above the moral high ground :D
 
#3
chocolate_frog said:
I tell you what though JJR.... the Yanks are nothing without their sterilised, jingoistic sound bytes :D

Who the fcuk came up with Network Centric Warfare?

Here's some COIN strategy for you though, my personnal fave TBH.





Aircraft.... above the moral high ground :D
No disagreement from me on that. "Pentagonspeak" I call it.
 
#4
"New" ?
The quotation marks imply there is nothing really new in this "strategy", refer to "strategic hamlets" of historical campaigns, it also worked quite well when introduced to the urban environments of Iraq lately.

In the difficult terrain of rural Afgh, it requires a large number of troops to be able to spread out to even the more populated of the more important towns and villages. I read somewhere there are more than 42 000 villages in Afgh, that requires a lot of companies.
(And the more populated, the larger the requirement for troops...)

For the big army, organised in hierarchical units and subunits where resources tend to be centralised for economy of effort and efficiency reasons, there are a number of challenges to such an operating concept.

Let's look at that of reserves: If a batallion spreads itself over 3 or 4 company posts, where are reserves held? If at bn, there is one village less it's able to cover. If at company, the reserves do not really hold significant fighting power. Should the enemy show up in company strength, who does the coy cdr turn to? (Air support? Not by the new rules of McC)

Intel analysts, how many are available to operate at coy level?

logistics, and all the other combat support and CSS that would need to be devolved to coy level...

This variety of the ink-spot tactic will soak up a lot of ink!
 
#5
Sun_Too said:
"New" ?
The quotation marks imply there is nothing really new in this "strategy", refer to "strategic hamlets" of historical campaigns, it also worked quite well when introduced to the urban environments of Iraq lately.

In the difficult terrain of rural Afgh, it requires a large number of troops to be able to spread out to even the more populated of the more important towns and villages. I read somewhere there are more than 42 000 villages in Afgh, that requires a lot of companies.
(And the more populated, the larger the requirement for troops...)

For the big army, organised in hierarchical units and subunits where resources tend to be centralised for economy of effort and efficiency reasons, there are a number of challenges to such an operating concept.

Let's look at that of reserves: If a batallion spreads itself over 3 or 4 company posts, where are reserves held? If at bn, there is one village less it's able to cover. If at company, the reserves do not really hold significant fighting power. Should the enemy show up in company strength, who does the coy cdr turn to? (Air support? Not by the new rules of McC)

Intel analysts, how many are available to operate at coy level?

logistics, and all the other combat support and CSS that would need to be devolved to coy level...

This variety of the ink-spot tactic will soak up a lot of ink!
Good analysis--my original post was not to indicate agreement. Of course there coul well be more to it that the article has not covered. I sure hope so.
 
#6
Sun_Too said:
...
This variety of the ink-spot tactic will soak up a lot of ink!
Col Lang was coming to similar conclusions in "Rough Terrain" by Vanessa Genzer

"That started him thinking: What if soldiers provided real, dependable security to even one Afghan village? If the village were actually safe, development and jobs could follow.

In counterinsurgency circles, this is called the "oil spot" strategy. The term was coined by the French soldier and administrator Louis Hubert Lyautey, who was sent to colonial Morocco and Indochina in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Hanoi, he watched as soldiers set up a network of military posts to protect villagers and keep out insurgents, and armed locals to defend themselves. With "pacification a great band of civilization advances like a spot of oil," Lyautey wrote.

In the months before Karl's deployment, his enthusiasm for this approach had grown so noticeable that Banger and others had taken to calling him Oil Spot Spock. Karl envisioned soldiers securing a single village or area -- the first spot of oil -- and using its success to spread safety and development drop by drop. Areas outside the chosen villages would be treated as battle zones, where soldiers would know unequivocally that they were at war. If the conflict were divided into hot and cool zones, Karl thought, soldiers could focus their humanitarian aid and development efforts in friendly areas and fight in unfriendly ones. They might have a better chance of avoiding an explosion such as the one in the bazaar. " Vanessa Gezen

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

The "Human Terrain System" (HTS) is a program for which I have a great personal regard. I helped to train some of these people. They are very good people. In an odd way, the program serves to recreate much of the work that I helped with in the Mid-20th Century. "The more things change..." In another odd coincidence, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment was my first unit in the Regular Army. We have a silver cup that was a present from the battalion's officers on the occasion of our marriage.

I read the article closely. We have been there... done that... All of it. I think that Karl is completely correct in thinking that the "oil spots," (les taches de huile) can be made to "connect" with the "grease spots" overlapping until there is not room between them for the agents of a competing vision.

The key to making that work has always been the permanency of the security offered to the people living within the "oil spots." Without effective protection, the attempt to make Karl's hope work simply makes the villagers better and more concentrated targets.

There will never be enough coalition troops to provide security for an expanding pattern of "oil spots." What has always been needed in this kind of effort is a "pyramid" of security forces beginning with village self defense groups, district forces, province forces and national forces standing in reserve to come to the rescue. In the end,coalition forces can start the process and act as a mobile reserve but the Afghans really have to do the rest themselves once they have been shown how.

I heard Jim Webb say the other day that "Vietnam and Afghanistan (were) completely different situations." Well, they are and they aren't. There are no full time VC combat units to supplement the guerrilla bands, units like the one that had destroyed the village in which I met Edward Kennedy. There is not an equivalent to the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) with its highly trained, disciplined and equipped troops. No NVA artillery, tanks, etc. Thank God. There will never be anything like that. On the other hand, there was an effective government in Vietnam. You may not like that government but it was a lot more effective than many wish to think. There is very little government in Afghanistan, very little to work with.

The biggest similarity in the two situations is we Americans. We are the same, for good or ill.

All of this adds up to an immense task, a generational task. pl


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082101926.html
We may come to recognize in time there is a rough equivalent to the NVA: the million strong Pak Army. It also may not be an advantage that policy makers cling to the delusion that these chaps are allies.

While unlikely ever to be cheeky enough to roll a T-72 through the US Embassy gates in Kabul the Pak Officer Corps are patient men with geographical advantages, nuclear weapons and Allah on their side.

This isn't like Qom's insidious position in Iraq. The Iranians may be actively subverting the new government and be up to much mischief but at least share the goal of installing a workable new state run by their chums. This is more like Riyadh's long game. Islamabad is just as implacably opposed to our efforts at nation building as it was to the Soviet misadventure in Afghanistan. They are merely waiting for our departure before re-installing their assets in Kabul.

Their Viet Cong appears puny but has a formidable supply of man power endlessly renewed in Saudi funded Deobandi Maddrassas. There will be no hasty bungled Tet, just a grinding war of the flea. When broken the Taliban will seek refuge South of the Durand as those who fought the Red Army did. This is a recipe for a very long and costly low intensity war. I doubt if even the US has the stamina for it.

The ISI also has a generational mission and they won't ever be going home, it's their backyard. No amount of network centric doodads is liable to change that. What's needed is fundamental changes in Islamabad. That too is a tall order. The root of all this is Pakistan's existential strategic dilemma with India. Tricky blighter that one.
 
#7
"New" Strategy?

As it turns out, the first question should rather be: "New Goals?"

Currently, mulling over Gen McC's 60 days assessment, the US Pres appears to be considering two distinct choices, if not three (where the third is to just up sticks and leave), where one can either go for a broader COIN campaign with positive goals along the lines of building a functioning state [with standards above those of Somalia, but not necessarily above those of Bangladesh, as one writer put it in WaPo], OR, a narrower approach of Counter terrorism where the negative aim would be to hurt them back if they try to hurt "us" again. [Leave a small contingent of intelgatherers and SOF "terminators" at Bagram who would strike hard at any threats to the world OUTSIDE AfPak, nevermind what "they" do to themselves inside their box!]

As previously discussed, the efforts required in bodies and treasure means our hearts and collective stomachs must be really FOR this, as an underresourced COIN campaign where there is no commonality of purpose and effort would be selfdefeating.

-------

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
 
#8
My reading of McC is slightly different. I think that he is - in an incredibly subtle way - telling POTUS that this is unwinnable.
 
#9
Not to say I agree with his overall thrust, but just to give another perspective of the new COIN strategy and associated ROE restrictions,

New York Post, September 24, 2009

The Rules Murdering Our Troops

By Ralph Peters

When enemy action kills our troops, it's unfortunate. When our own moral fecklessness murders those in uniform, it's unforgivable.

In Afghanistan, our leaders are complicit in the death of each soldier, Marine or Navy corpsman who falls because politically correct rules of engagement shield our enemies.

Mission-focused, but morally oblivious, Gen. Stan McChrystal conformed to the Obama Way of War by imposing rules of engagement that could have been concocted by Code Pink:

*Unless our troops in combat are absolutely certain that no civilians are present, they're denied artillery or air support.

*If any civilians appear where we meet the Taliban, our troops are to "break contact" -- to retreat.

These ROE are a cave-in to the Taliban's shameless propaganda campaign that claimed innocents were massacred every time our aircraft appeared overhead. (Afghan President Mohammed Karzai and our establishment media backed the terrorists.)

The Taliban's goal was to level the playing field -- to deny our troops their technological edge. Our enemies more than succeeded.

And what has our concern for the lives of Taliban sympathizers accomplished? The Taliban now make damned sure that civilians are present whenever they conduct an ambush or operation.

So they attack -- and we quit the fight, lugging our dead and wounded back to base.

We've been through this b.s. before. In Iraq, we wanted to show respect to our enemies, so the generals announced early on that we wouldn't enter mosques. The result? Hundreds of mosques became terrorist safe houses, bomb factories and weapons caches.

Why is this so hard to figure out? We tell our enemies we won't attack X. So they exploit X. Who wouldn't?

It isn't just that war is hell. It's that war must be hell, otherwise why would the enemy ever quit?

This week's rumblings from the White House suggest that we may, at last, see a revised strategy that concentrates on killing our deadliest enemies -- but I'll believe it when I see the rounds go down-range.

Meanwhile, our troops die because our leaders are moral cowards.

Over the decades, political correctness insinuated itself into the ranks of our "Washington player" generals and admirals. We now have four-stars who believe that improving our enemies' self-esteem is a crucial wartime goal.

And the Army published its disastrous Counterinsurgency Manual a few years back -- doctrine written by military intellectuals who, instead of listening to Infantry squad leaders, made a show of consulting "peace advocates" and "humanitarian workers."

The result was a manual based on a few heavily edited case studies "proving" that the key to success in fighting terrorists is to hand out soccer balls to worm-eaten children. The doctrine ignored the brutal lessons of 3,000 years of history -- because history isn't politically correct (it shows, relentlessly, that the only effective way to fight faith-fueled insurgents is with fire and sword).

The New York Times lavished praise on the manual. What does that tell you?

A few senior officers continue to push me to "lay off" the Counterinsurgency Manual. Sorry, but I'm more concerned about supporting the youngest private on patrol than I am with the reputation of any general.

As a real general put it a century ago, "The purpose of an Army is to fight." And the purpose of going to war is to win (that dirty word). It's not to sacrifice our own troops to make sad-sack do-gooders back home feel good.

We need to recognize that true morality lies in backing our troops, not in letting them die for whacko theories.

The next time you read about the death of a soldier or Marine in Afghanistan, don't just blame the Taliban. Blame the generals and politicians who sent them to war, then took away their weapons.
 
#10
So..., should we try and find a middle ground between not causing unwanted harm to the population that we're trying to win over on the one hand and not inflicting wanted harm on the enemy on the other?

Refer to this and other interesting questions after some almost 4 weeks back, when the Germans up near M-e-S managed to discontinue around 100 people, a good mix of Taliban and locals who'd either hijacked two fuel tankers or were in the process of hepling the T unload the fuel. When finally the Germans have learned to use lethal force against the enemy, they get all sorts of flak - including from McC. G
 

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