"New" US COIN Strategy in Afghanistan

Discussion in 'Staff College and Staff Officers' started by jumpinjarhead, Aug 28, 2009.

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  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.)

  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. 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. 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. Col Lang was coming to similar conclusions in "Rough Terrain" by Vanessa Genzer

    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