View Full Version : Counterinsurgency, by the Book

08-07-2006, 08:52 AM
7 August New York Times commentary - Counterinsurgency, by the Book (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/07/opinion/07shultz.html) by Richard Schultz Jr. and Andrea Dew.

... The Pentagon is just starting to catch up with these changes. It is in the midst of a strategic overhaul aimed at coming up with new ways to fight new wars. This was first signaled in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, which described the “long war” America is now engaged in as “a war that is irregular in its nature” against adversaries that “are not conventional military forces.”

More recently, two of the Pentagon’s smartest and most experienced generals, David Petraeus of the Army and Jim Mattis of the Marines, have overseen the production of a new counterinsurgency manual — called the FM 3-24/FMFM 3-24 (http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm3-24fd.pdf) in Pentagon-speak — for fighting these irregular wars. This blueprint declares that it is primarily for “leaders and planners at the battalion level and above” who are “involved in counterinsurgency operations regardless of where these operations may occur.”

The current draft of this counterinsurgency manual, which has been shown to civilian experts and been posted on the Internet by the Federation of American Scientists, provides an encyclopedic 241-page review of insurgencies that took place in the 20th century and an alphabetical list of the tools of counterinsurgency. The manual, which is still a work in progress, amounts to an introductory course in the history of insurgency and counterinsurgency.

But to be of practical use to American troops in fierce battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, the final draft of the handbook must be more than a Counterinsurgency 101 exercise. It must, at a minimum, accurately identify the types of armed groups American troops will have to fight, which include more than traditional insurgents. It must also provide a framework for profiling the organization and operational tendencies of these armed groups, to learn their strengths and weaknesses. And it has to map out an intelligence model that will dig out actionable intelligence that can be used to find and defeat armed groups.

On all these critical requirements, the current draft of the manual comes up short. Based on our research and the lessons learned from centuries of counterinsurgency efforts, we recommend three major revisions for those drafting the final version.

First, you must know your enemy. In today’s internal wars several different types of armed groups — not just traditional insurgents bent on changing a national regime — engage in unconventional combat. Iraq is illustrative. Those fighting American forces include a complex mix of Sunni tribal militias, former regime members, foreign and domestic jihadists, Shiite militias and criminal gangs. Each has different motivations and ways of fighting. Tackling them requires customized strategies...

The Pentagon’s new counterinsurgency manual suffers from similar flaws. It focuses almost exclusively on combating cohesive groups of insurgents who share the same goals. Yes, there are traditional insurgent groups in Iraq, like cells of former Baathists. But the foreign terrorists, religious militias and criminal organizations operate from very different playbooks. We have to learn to read them the way other nations faced with insurgencies have...

Second, the final manual must provide our troops with a systematic way of “profiling” each specific armed group. As it stands, the guide is a laundry list of the generic elements of insurgency movements — leadership, organization and networks, popular support, ideology, activities and foreign support...

The third problem with the manual is that it actually overstresses winning “hearts and minds” — the political, economic, civic and other “soft power” tactics aimed at winning popular support. Yes, such steps are keys to victory; they played a central part in counterinsurgency victories in the 1950’s by the Philippine government of Ramón Magsaysay and by the British in Malaya. In both places, the government invested heavily in education, local economies, public works and social welfare programs to wean their populations away from the insurgents.

But soft power tactics are not the only keys to victory. An insurgency is still war, and the key is finding and capturing or killing terrorist and militia leaders. It is an intelligence-led struggle. The Pentagon manual rightly insists that “intelligence drives operations” and that “without good intelligence, a counterinsurgent is like a blind boxer.” Yet the document provides no organizational blueprint for collecting such intelligence...

Much more at the link. Also see SWC thread U.S. Army / Marine COIN Doctrine (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=993).

08-28-2006, 08:49 AM
There are a number of additional considerations that I do not believe the reviewers evaluated before they made their recommendations.

1. FM 3-24 is a strategic COIN manual, written by both the Marine Corps and Army, with the Army taking the lead. This was circulated in draft form and reviewed by those conducting (successfully) COIN in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not meant to be your squad leader's COIN manual.

2. So long as we're going to call COIN operations a company commander and below war, it would so follow that the meat and potatoes of COIN are in the Small Unit Leader's Guide. As COIN is primarily a bottom-up undertaking, particularly in the intelligence department, a good deal of information is contained in what is being called teh Tactical COIN manual that the Marines put out in June. As early as page 3 one can see questions that would make excellent CCIR (a couple, even, that I used last year in northwestern Ninewah Province).

3. I'm not sure that focusing a field manual on the current threat is the way to go, as they authors make in their first point. We, as a military, have often been accused of fighting for the previous war. I'm afraid their suggestion would even accentuate that proposition. The point is to make agile and adaptive leaders. By writing a manual that speaks to one facet of the possibilities may trap the inexperienced into a very linear was of thinking in a very non-linear subject matter area.

4. I disagree with the last point altogether. I don't think it stresses hearts and minds as much as it stresses the point that you don't have to get the population to like you. You just need to get them to respect you. Hearts and minds are only mentioned on three occassions in the book - once in chapter 3, once in Annex A and once in Annex B. Respect, however, is mentioned 20 times.

Lastly, I don't think you can properly evaluate the new COIN doctrine unless you evaluate it as a set. Considering what are doctrine consisted of less than a year ago, the miltary has made a vast improvement. We need to continual improve our fighting positions, however, and give candid feedback and insight back to Carlisle, Leavenenworth, and Quantico. This doctrine is our doctrine, and we need to take ownership of it.