View Full Version : Army's Iraq Work Assailed by Briton

01-11-2006, 08:01 AM
11 Jan. Washington Post - Army's Iraq Work Assailed by Briton (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/10/AR2006011001456.html) by Tom Ricks.

A senior British officer has written a scathing critique of the U.S. Army and its performance in Iraq, accusing it of cultural ignorance, moralistic self-righteousness, unproductive micromanagement and unwarranted optimism there.

His publisher: the U.S. Army.

In an article published this week in the Army magazine Military Review, British Brig. Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was deputy commander of a program to train the Iraqi military, said American officers in Iraq displayed such "cultural insensitivity" that it "arguably amounted to institutional racism" and may have spurred the growth of the insurgency. The Army has been slow to adapt its tactics, he argues, and its approach during the early stages of the occupation "exacerbated the task it now faces by alienating significant sections of the population."

The decision by the Army magazine to publish the essay -- which already has provoked an intense reaction among American officers -- is part of a broader self-examination occurring in many parts of the Army as it approaches the end of its third year of fighting in Iraq.

Military Review, which is based here along with many of the Army's educational institutions, has been part of that examination, becoming increasingly influential and pointed under the editorship of Col. William M. Darley. In the past two years, his magazine has run articles that have sharply criticized U.S. military operations in Iraq. A piece last summer by then-Maj. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli about how to better counter the insurgency has become required reading for officers deploying to Iraq -- especially since Chiarelli was recently selected to become the No. 2 American officer there.

The SWJ recieved a copy of this article via e-mail in November. Because the e-mail did not source the article's origin (publisher) and we could not track down the author we did not post it to the site at that time. Here is the original article by Brigadier Nigel Alwyn-Foster, Britsh Army:

Operation Iraq Freedom Phase IV: The Watershed the U.S. Army Still Needs to Recognise? (http://www.smallwarsjournal.com/documents/alwynfoster.doc)

Here is the article as published by Military Review:

Changing the Army for Counterinsurgency Operations (http://usacac.leavenworth.army.mil/CAC/milreview/download/English/NovDec05/aylwin.pdf)

Few could fail to be impressed by the speed and style of the US dominated Coalition victory over Saddam’s forces in Spring 2003. At the time, it appeared, to sceptics and supporters alike, that the most ambitious military action in the post Cold War era had paid off, and there was an air of heady expectation of things to come. Much of the credit lies rightly with the US Army, which seemed entirely attuned morally, conceptually and physically to the political intent it served.

In contrast, 2 years later, notwithstanding ostensible campaign successes such as the elections of January 2005, Iraq is in the grip of a vicious and tenacious insurgency. Few would suggest Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) has followed the path intended by the US President when he committed US forces. Pentagon and other Administration staff acknowledge that a moment of opportunity was missed immediately after the toppling of Saddam’s regime: that fleeting chance to restore law and order, maintain the momentum, nurture popular support and thus extinguish the inevitable seeds of insurgency sown amongst the ousted ruling elite. Today, the Coalition is resented by many Iraqis, whilst analysis of attack trends since mid 2003 shows that Coalition forces formed the bulk of the insurgents’ target set throughout 2004. In short, despite political and military leaders’ justifiable claims of achievement against tough odds, others claim, justifiably on the face of it, that the Coalition has failed to capitalise on initial success.

This change in fortune has been attributed to many factors. The Iraq undertaking was, in any case, ‘forbiddingly difficult’ and might not have seemed as appealing had the US forces not recently achieved a sudden and decisive victory over Taleban forces in Afghanistan. Inadequate attention was paid to planning for OIF Phase 4, including Security Sector Reform (SSR), arising in part, according to at least one source, from frictions in the Administration. The CPA decisions to disband the senior levels of the Baath Party and the entire old Iraqi Army, thus effectively disenfranchising those most likely to resent the new order, have also attracted much criticism. Some argue, however, that the Coalition military, particularly the US Army, were partly to blame, citing aspects of their performance since the cessation of formal hostilities and commencement of Phase 4 of the operation. Indeed, some serving US Army and DOD personnel acknowledge that whilst the Army is indisputably the master of conventional warfighting, it is notably less proficient in the Phase 4 type of role, or what the US defence community commonly calls Operations Other Than War (OOTW). The crux of the debate is whether the performance and approach of the US Army have indeed been contributory factors in the deepening crisis in OIF Phase 4, and, if so, what that means for the future development of the Army, particularly given that it has already embarked on a process of transformation. OIF is a joint venture, and dedicated, courageous Americans from all 4 Services and the civil sector risk their lives daily throughout Iraq, but the Army is the pivotal, supported force, and thus the most germane to the issue.

My motivation to study this has arisen from my experience serving with the US Forces in Iraq throughout 2004. There can be few acts more galling than a soldier from one country publicly assessing the performance of those from another. However, this is not an arrogant exercise in national comparisons: there is no other Army in the world that could even have attempted such a venture. It is, rather, an attempt to understand and rationalise the apparently paradoxical currents of strength and weakness witnessed at close hand over the course of a year. Ultimately, the intent is to be helpful to an institution I greatly respect...

01-11-2006, 02:21 PM
How much of this is due to the fact that we have the "C" Team conducting training of the Iraqi military? Is it a shock to anyone that the National Guard or Marine Reservists thrown together who have never conducted this type of training would not perform well?

Mike Spight
01-12-2006, 09:21 PM
The Brigadier's assessment is, in my view, about 95-98% on target. I take it as it was intended; constructive criticism.

The only place where I really have heartburn is his comment regarding Fallujah. In my opinion, the city was infested with every type of Islamic facist and terrorist imaginable; if the "good" people had not left or already been killed by the jihadists, too bad. Fallujah needed to be crushed, pure and simple, and it was. Sometimes the direct approach with a blunt instrument is needed, and this was clearly the case.

The US Army does not do a good job at training IPIs on how to plan, synch and execute a COIN campaign...the USG does not do a good job at Stability and Reconstruction operations. In short, our interagency process is lacking; DOS should have the lead on S&RO with DOD in support, and we ain't there yet gentlemen.

Merv Benson
01-12-2006, 11:04 PM
I agree with Mike on Fallujah. It is unlikely that the head choppers would have closed down their butcher videos with out the use of force. As successful as the operation was, we did not have sufficient force to do the same thing along the rat lines back into Syria until the last few months when the trained Iraqi forces came on line.

I note there have been posts suggesting their training is inadequate. Others have suggested that Gen. Petraeus did a terrific job. Roggio's reports from Western Anbar last month suggested some of the units did a pretty good job while others lacked discipline. I would be interested in any first hand reports on the status of their training and ability. I do recall that the units that worked the Tall Afar operation also good marks.

In theory I understand using the State Department in setting up a new government, I just question the bureaucrats dedication to the mission. There just seem to be more leaks attempting to undercut the mission coming out of State and hardly any out of DOD.

01-13-2006, 10:47 AM

Christian Science Monitor - British Officer Slams U.S. Military Tactics, Attitudes in Iraq (http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0112/dailyUpdate.html)

BBC - U.K. Officer Slams U.S. Iraq Tactics (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4603136.stm)

London Times - Officer Accuses U.S. of Racism (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7374-1981557,00.html)

Associated Press - Brit’s Scathing Critique Causes ‘Fuss’ (http://www.armytimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-1462850.php)

CNN - U.K. Officer's Criticism Draws Heated Response (http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/01/12/us.uk.army.ap/)

Time Magazine - Who are the British to Talk? (http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1148722,00.html)

Google - News Search (http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&q=Aylwin-Foster&ie=UTF-8&scoring=d)

01-14-2006, 07:28 PM
12 Jan. Officers' Club Blog - Let’s Talk About Institutional Racism (http://officersclub.blogspot.com/2006/01/lets-talk-about-institutional-racism.html).

... OK, trust me on this, the Army is not “institutionally racist.” I think we should, however, be open to criticisms by coalition members on our handling of the situation. It seems to me, however, that just levelling the claim of RACIST! Does not move the discussion forward. Yes, we don’t all know Arabic. That, by itself apparently, suffices for “cultural insensitivity.” On the other hand, discussions like these probably need to be held.

The important factor here should be that we are constantly taking the advice of ground commanders, and updating our tactics, techniques, and procedures. Read the report for yourself- I think most of it is honest criticism. In summation, this has an upside and a downside, Al Jazeera will certainly blast the US ARMY RACIST SAYS BRIT GENERAL headline, but we will continue to adapt and adjust our tactics for victory.

01-14-2006, 07:33 PM
11 Jan. Big Lizards Blog - "Softly Softly" Accuses U.S. of "Harshly Harshly" (http://biglizards.net/blog/archives/2006/01/softly_softly_a.html).

...The British "softly, softly" policy -- which is just chock-full of cultural sensitivity, brimming over with European pessimism (sorry, "realism"), and predisposed to humbly apologize for any use of force against the enemy -- has been by and large a disaster. They allowed Iranian controlled militias and actual Iranian agents to infiltrate Iraq all the way from Basra to Sadr City; they were next to useless in dealing with Muqtada Sadr; and they wasted a lot of time and squandered moral clarity by complaining that American troops were "insensitive" by, e.g., wearing helmets instead of berets.

I have heard from many sources that the ordinary British soldiers and the junior to mid-level officers are terribly frustrated by their weak posture and wish that their own brigadiers had as much spine as ours... or even as much as their own majors and colonels...

01-14-2006, 07:46 PM
11 Jan. Outside the Beltway Blog - British General Critical of U.S. Army in Iraq (http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/13248).

... First, it should be noted that the disclaimer above appears at the bottom of the table of contents of every issue and applies to all articles. It is there because, in fact, the articles represent the views of their authors, not their institutions. Since it is an official publication of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, that's an important distinction to make.

Second, it should be noted that Military Review and its cousins Parameters, Sea Power, Proceedings, Naval War College Review, Joint Forces Quarterly, Marine Corps Gazette, and Air & Space Power Journal are academic journals designed to further the professional military education of our officers. Open debate has long been a part of their tradition. For example, I first became aware of Ralph Peters, now an iconoclastic columnist and book author, through his numerous articles in Parameters over the years. He published those as a major and lieutenant colonel in the Army's Military Intelligence branch.

The current issue of Military Review contains sixteen articles. Its appears to be packaged as a special issue with lessons learned from foreign militaries...

01-15-2006, 04:12 PM
I thought this comment on the Officers' Club (http://officersclub.blogspot.com/2006/01/lets-talk-about-institutional-racism.html#c113711277227247103) Blog summed up the bru-ha-ha quite nicely...

If some people had bothered to READ the article they would have noted that many senior US ARMY officers provided the evidence for the paper! The main point was NOT that the US Army are racist but that some units do not have as much cultural awareness training and this causes problems on the ground. The mere PRESENCE of the coalition also causes problems not their actions.

We have articles from US Army/foreign officers in almost every issue of the British Army Review which sometimes do exactly the same thing- provide a launching pad for self criticism about aspects of our war fighting methods etc which need improving.

The media as always pick one tiny part and blow it up – wonder why the BBC for example did that? Hmm? Nothing to do with their anti Americanism? The WaPO? Nothing to do with their anti Bush attitudes? Hmm?

In all this was a good article and the rebuttal rom Colonel Benson (who himself called Brig A-F a British snob, thus proving the alleged point of the anti American media Brigade...doh!) may answer some of the Brigadier’s charges but I bet the discussion will go on for a while!