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Rank amateur
10-25-2007, 02:47 AM
This is the first I've heard that Petraeus is going against some of his own advice. Is the data presented here accurate?

Slate Article (http://www.slate.com/id/2176464/)


The U.S. Army's field manual on counterinsurgency, which Gen. Petraeus supervised shortly before he returned to Iraq, makes the point explicitly:

An air strike can cause collateral damage that turns people against the host-nation government and provides insurgents with a major propaganda victory. Even when justified under the law of war, bombings that result in civilian casualties can bring media coverage that works to the insurgents' benefits. For these reasons, commanders should consider the use of air strikes carefully during [counterinsurgency] operations, neither disregarding them outright nor employing them excessively.

Yet since the surge began and Gen. Petraeus shifted the strategy to counterinsurgency, the number of U.S. airstrikes has soared.

Cavguy
10-25-2007, 03:19 AM
This discussion kind of relates to something that has been bugging me for awhile - both here and other sites. We tend to get into absolutes - i.e. "dropping bombs=bad", "tanks=bad", "kinetics=bad."

All these weapons are first and foremost tools that have varying effects. The issue with firepower and COIN isn't whether you use a particular tool, but whether you use it "smart". Dropping bombs on small arms contact in dense areas is often foolish. Dropping the "right" bomb in a specific place to acheive a specific effect, with consideration to the 2nd and 3d order effects (such as impact on perception and infrastructure) is "smart."

We have all heard the phrase "You kill one insurgent and you make five others." The counter to that is (and stolen from a slideshow I viewed recently) "not if you kill the right ones".

I have written before about how 1/1 AD used tanks, bradleys, artillery, and airstrikes as part of its Ramadi campaign to establish company outposts that enabled the "flip" of Anbar. The flip would not have been possible without the application of focused, deliberate firepower to fix and attrit the AQIZ forces in that area through security stations and human terrain analysis. Non-kinetics were applied in conjunction with the kinetic campaign to win the population and enable an "Anbar Awakening". Was using firepower wrong, as some absolutists would say? I offer a sound "no" to that. The platform and tool. 3ACR did a very similar heavily kinetic campaign in Tal Afar in conjunction with a non-kinetic campaign as well, and executed more than a few airstrikes doing it.

It's not the tool, it's how you plan and use it. And I still offer the observation that it still takes a very high level of approval to drop a bomb, and is usually an option only exercised after analyzing the effects - kinetic and non kinetic, of the weapon.

So while it may seem the tenants of 3-24 are being violated, the spirit is being executed through more focused and considered application of effects nested in a proper campaign plan.

Ken White
10-25-2007, 03:23 AM
Petraeus, 'strategy' and the guys on the ground at a given point in time are three different things. While the troops are aware of their guidelines, they're also conscious of getting the job done with minimum casualties to all in the area, sometimes even a bad air strike does less damage to everyone than a long firefight.

Kaplan has been for five years a nay sayer and a critic. His prerogative and I don't object but it bears consideration. He knows about 1/3 as much as he thinks he knows. That's just my opinion but I believe a reasonably objective perusal of some of his columns will make my point. I put little stock in him and this column is one reason why. That's because he's correct but it's also an irrelevant point. Those figures can all change in both directions in a matter of hours. Our fascination with numbers trips up many. In war, most numbers are meaningless except as broad indicators over time.

There are two practical things that might impact, one I'd rather not say in an open forum and the other -- and most likely -- is that the Air Force has been searching for meaningful entry into the COIN war. They've been running a lot of surveillance missions with their pods but were getting frustrated at the lack of actual explosive or cannon missions. I'll bet money they've flooded the zone with JTACs, sent in a lot more controllers and are telling them to 'sell' airpower. Dunlap gets his wish; looks like they're getting a foot in the door... :D

RTK
10-25-2007, 08:52 AM
3ACR did a very similar heavily kinetic campaign in Tal Afar in conjunction with a non-kinetic campaign as well, and executed more than a few airstrikes doing it.


Not to mention the first GMLRS strike in history. That was cool. :cool:

Totally agree with Cavguy. When the right badguy dies, everyone is happy, including the populace that doesn't have to be terrorized by that jack-hole anymore.

Gian P Gentile
10-25-2007, 10:23 AM
Kaplan has in fact over the past few months been generally supportive of Gen Petreaus and the Surge.

I thought this specific piece was important and raises points that need to be considered. His ending paragraph is also very, very important because he raises the question of how these increased "air-kinetic" operations are being perceived by the Iraqis.

At some point perhaps some of you should cast a bit more critical eye on Counterinsurgency operations and doctrine and not be so quick on the draw to condemn any one who questions the efficacy and perceived effects of current American Coin ops and doctrine in Iraq.

Having said that I think one can actually point to a level of success of the current Surge in the numbers of tips from LNs (even those these LNs are our former enemy and have killed americans themselves) that has in fact given us specific intel to target them from the air. Drawback of course is that it is very difficult to prevent civilian casualties in such attacks. This is a tough one for a commander who has had a very rough year in terms of American casualties and is now seeing a drastic reduction in them, and happily. When you get a good tip on the location of the enemy (in various forms in Civil War Iraq) do you use airpower to take them out with the knowledge that you will probably kill civilians or do you send in an infantry or cavalry squad to take them out but in so doing know that while you have a better chance of preventing civilian casualties you raise the risk of your own?

Lastly, Kaplan raises the question about perceived causation in Coin. Too many like the pundits from AEI immediately assume that any good thing that has happened in Iraq has occurred as direct result from the Surge. My experience as a tactical battalion commander in West-Baghdad in 2006 showed that some times that effects that are produced have nothing to do with the military force (in all of its coin varieties) applied. I wrote an oped piece, A Soldier in Iraq, on this a few weeks ago in the International Herald Tribune if any of you are interested (http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/09/27/news/edgentile.php).

gentile

Cavguy
10-25-2007, 01:23 PM
Kaplan has in fact over the past few months been generally supportive of Gen Petreaus and the Surge.


At some point perhaps some of you should cast a bit more critical eye on Counterinsurgency operations and doctrine and not be so quick on the draw to condemn any one who questions the efficacy and perceived effects of current American Coin ops and doctrine in Iraq.

gentile

Sir,

You emphasized my and RTK's points pretty well. We both commanded companies in Iraq and worked as staff officers in our tours. I generally am a fan of Kaplan's articles, but if you search I have been a voice in more than a few threads against the idea that non-kinetics is the answer. Like you, I've lost a number of soldiers in the units I served in (My BDE lost almost 90 in my last tour alone). You made a valid point that kinetics is necessary and can be good in COIN for a number of reasons outlined in your article. (even if I disagree on a number of things on the margin - ;))

I am certainly not of the Dunlap/Andress "Peace through bombing" persuasion either. Like you, my Iraq experience brought the conclusion that emplying force is necessary, but needs to be better thought through.

Where we part ways is in two areas - I don't believe you have to go kinetic to maintain morale (although we both know soldiers love to fight), and that FM 3-24 somehow criticizes the use of force. I haven't read it that way, and I don't see any risk that soldiers are going to get trigger shy due to the new doctrine, which is long overdue. You will be happy to know a FM 3-24.2 - Counterinsurgency Tactics, is in the works which addresses tactical and operational considerations. Finally, having read the criticism, what is your recommendation?

Cavguy
10-25-2007, 01:31 PM
Not to mention the first GMLRS strike in history. That was cool. :cool:



I think I hold the record for most GMLRS strikes coordinated by one person in theater - 22. :) (I may have been surpassed since February) It was my favorite tool for indirect support of troops in contact - accurate as hell, 60lb warhead which would crush the enemy with low collateral, and long range. Only drawback was the time of flight, so your target had to be stationary. However, I'm not sure that it's a proper thing to brag about the number of indirect strikes done, but Ramadi was a very bad place.

Great round. Can't wait for Excalibur and the other GPS artillery rounds. I didn't get a chance to use the new USAF Small Diameter Munition (JDAM 250lb) which also had reduced CDE properties.

Steve Blair
10-25-2007, 01:38 PM
Once again I'm amazed that so many people want to make this an "either/or" question (and that's not directed at anyone in this thread...just a general observation). I'm beginning to think this is the modern American pathology...;)

There's always a time and a place TO use fire support (precision and otherwise), just like there's a time and place to NOT use fire support. The trick is being able to learn when and when not to use kenetic methods. The thrust of most COIN writing I've seen (barring the extremes on both ends) is more warning against relying on firepower (be it artillery or airstrikes...and H&I fire practices in Vietnam typically come in for at least as much critical commentary as airstrikes in that conflict), but it's not ruled out as an option or tool if the situation warrants it. I don't think I've seen any sane writer on the subject advocate removing precision fires from the toolkit. Even the old Small Wars Manual contained sections on this sort of thing.

I also agree with Ken in the suspicion that the American fascination with numbers and metrics has a hand in some of this. Along with that "either/or" switch, we want a box score. In Vietnam it became sorties, not results of those sorties. Depending on the mindset, here it could be PGMs delivered OR goodwill packets handed out. Does either metric really reflect results? Not necessarily, but no one ever sticks around long enough to find out.

Rank amateur
10-25-2007, 02:45 PM
"not if you kill the right ones".


The article claims that's the theory, but not the practice. That, on the ground, civilian casualties are acceptable if it saves US lives. The article isn't saying it's an either/or situation. The article is saying that the line has moved, that what would be considered excessive in most of our discussions, is now considered the preferred methodology on the ground.

My take on Kaplan is he usually gets his facts right, even if you don't agree with his interpretations. (Plus, he showed LT. COL. NAGL lots of love in a recent article, so he can't be too biased.)

I've long said that increasing public support for OIF is simple: bring fatalities down to almost zero. When I read about the recent airstrike in Sadr City, it sounded to me like the exact opposite of what is considered "the right way" here.

It would certainly be understandable if the strategy was putting more emphasis on reducing US causalities, and probably some validation for Mr. Gentile. I guess what I'm really wondering if anyone has heard from Iraq that the line has indeed shifted, and what are the implications if the line has shifted.

MikeF
10-26-2007, 04:58 PM
Gentlemen,

I just returned from my last tour as a troop commander in Diyala Province. Currently, I'm studying at the Naval Postgraduate School. I'm To my knowledge, my squadron (5-73 CAV) employed the most ordinance of any unit last year in Iraq. We operated primarily in insurgent (mostly AQIZ) safehavens tasked with reclearing areas previously unpatrolled by CF/ISF. The areas (Turki Village and Diyala River Valley) were literally owned by the Islamic State of Iraq. They established their own government, judicial system, essential services, recruiting grounds, and training camps. Both areas were severely restricted by the terrain.

As in Ramadi, we used the increased kinetic activity as a means to establish a foothold. Prior to our deliberate attacks, we employed heavy reconnaissance efforts to identify our target sets (training areas, enemy caches, C2 nodes). Once positively identified, we executed violently.

Once cleared, we established patrol bases and transitioned to securing the populace. In the DRV, half the populace had been displaced b/c of sect or tribe. Within a 100m of my patrol base, AQI conducted public beheadings three months prior to my arrival.

Through an aggressive security plan, CT effort, and reconstruction, we were able to control the area by repatriating the displaced shias, establishing a police force, working through tribal peace negotiations, and mentoring our IA counterparts.

The effort proved highly successful. The point is, we used the airstrikes as a means of establishing the foothold. Yes, we were violent, but the situation on the ground called for it. I will probably conduct a critical evaluation of our efforts as part of my thesis, but I believe that we effectively employed COIN theory given the environment that we operated in.

With that, I will stand by for your thoughts/critiques.

Mike

Ken White
10-26-2007, 06:15 PM
subsequent column. In both cases, he may have his facts correct but I doubt that his conclusions are.


The article claims that's the theory, but not the practice. That, on the ground, civilian casualties are acceptable if it saves US lives. The article isn't saying it's an either/or situation. The article is saying that the line has moved, that what would be considered excessive in most of our discussions, is now considered the preferred methodology on the ground.

Considered excessive by whom? I see no evidence of that nor do I see any proof that it is the preferred methodology, merely evidence that the use of tac air has increased, not the same thing.

I suspect to most commanders in any armed force anywhere that civilian casualties in preference to own force casualties will always be a delicate trade-off but I believe he's taking some raw numbers and ascribing to them a rationale for decisions that are rarely as simple as numbers can imply and he shows no basis for his inference other than number -- and numbers in war are generally misleading.


I've long said that increasing public support for OIF is simple: bring fatalities down to almost zero. When I read about the recent airstrike in Sadr City, it sounded to me like the exact opposite of what is considered "the right way" here.

Considered "the right way" by whom?

Not even mentioning the fact that "the right way" on paper or in theory frequently sputters to a sloppy, slithering halt when rounds start cracking overhead... :cool:

Armchairguy
10-26-2007, 08:57 PM
Killing civilians is unwanted, but some of the increase in air strikes might be coming from better intel on where the enemy is. Supposedly more people are coming forward with information. Perhaps we are just capitalizing on it.

skiguy
10-26-2007, 09:28 PM
Gentlemen,

With that, I will stand by for your thoughts/critiques.

Mike
I'll leave the critiquing, if any, to the experts here, but as for any thoughts, THANK YOU is the first thing that comes to mind. You guys are really awe inspring in more ways than you probably realize. Great job! Keep up the good work.
Sincerely,
Ken

Rank amateur
10-26-2007, 09:37 PM
Considered excessive by whom? I see no evidence of that nor do I see any proof that it is the preferred methodology

That's why I'm asking people who have served in the Shiite areas; there's got to be some on the council. And Kaplan isn't talking about smacking around AQI: though personally I agree that was appropriate, necessary and successful. He's saying that a deliberate strategic decision has been made to inflict more civilians casualties in the Shiite areas - because it reduces American causalities - and claims that his statistics prove his assertion. True? False? Not a big deal one way or the other? I'm surprised that more people don't have comments.


Considered "the right way" by whom?

Tell I'm out to lunch if I misread the general consensus, but I thought most agreed with CavGuy. Killing the right guys: good. Killing the wrong guys: counterproductive and should be avoided if at all possible.

RTK has said that American causalities is the worst possible metric. (I like disagreeing with RTK, because anyone who has been pictured with the Stanley Cup can obviously drop the gloves and then shake hands afterwards. Plus I learn a lot from him, but I think the average civilian disagrees.) Kaplan claims that the powers that be in Iraq are siding with the average civilian. If true, I think that's a) significant, b) a change.


Not even mentioning the fact that "the right way" on paper or in theory frequently sputters to a sloppy, slithering halt when rounds start cracking overhead... :cool:

Agreed, but at the risk of being irritating, Kaplan is suggesting that the TTPs have been changed to: bomb before the rounds start crackling overhead. I'm not saying that's wrong. I'm just saying that if it's true, it is contrary what I think I've heard a lot of council members say. If true, it suggest to this amateur that maybe Mr. Gentile was correct in the very spirited, and probably much remembered:

Eating Soup With A Spoon (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=3942&highlight=Gentile).

Ken White
10-27-2007, 01:34 AM
not being very clear...


... He's saying that a deliberate strategic decision has been made to inflict more civilians casualties in the Shiite areas - because it reduces American causalities - and claims that his statistics prove his assertion. True? False? Not a big deal one way or the other? I'm surprised that more people don't have comments. {/quote]

I'm not sure any one can answer that definitively on several levels. However, I thought I said that I doubted that was the case and that he was using numbers and little else to justify his statement . IMO, those numbers do not do that. They show an -- but not every -- effect and he appears to me to stating his conjecture as 'fact.' Others who've been there recently may be able to shed more light.

{quote]Tell I'm out to lunch if I misread the general consensus, but I thought most agreed with CavGuy. Killing the right guys: good. Killing the wrong guys: counterproductive and should be avoided if at all possible.

That's not out to lunch. However, to get to the point where you raised the issue, one has to assume that Kaplan's assumption is correct in that someone somewhere has made a decision to use air strike rather promiscuously in an effort to avoid US casualties and that the use of Tac air is a guarantee of civilian casualties.

I don't think his assumption is correct, other than as I said, the Air Force pushing their use, a distinct possibility. I think the decisions are being made by Commanders on the ground to use the best means to accomplish the mission with proper regard for that mission, their troops and the nearby civilians in that order. As I also said, sometimes an air strike will do less overall damage than an hours long firefight. Kaplan said that increased civilian casualties as a result of an air strike are near certain. Not so, depends much on the ordnance selected and on many parameters.

CavGuy is of course correct in that killing bad guys is good and killing good guys is bad. Two points on that; first, notice the number of times in Afghanistan and Iraq where "Women and children were killed..." -- where were the men? The opposition is very prone to fudge on that score in an effort to get people to complain; the better we're doing, the more they will fudge. That is not to say that all such cases are exploitations, just that some are. Secondly, I'm sure there are some who'd blow away some civilians before they'd lose a man if possible -- I'm equally sure the number who would do that is pretty small. We have taken steps in both those nations to avoid civilian casualties at the expense of more casualties of our own


RTK has said that American causalities is the worst possible metric. (I like disagreeing with RTK, because anyone who has been pictured with the Stanley Cup can obviously drop the gloves and then shake hands afterwards. Plus I learn a lot from him, but I think the average civilian disagrees.) Kaplan claims that the powers that be in Iraq are siding with the average civilian. If true, I think that's a) significant, b) a change.

Heh, you and RTK fight the Stanley cup battle -- but I have to agree with him on the "metric" (I HATE that word...). It has little validity as an indicator in this kind of war.

If you and Kaplan believe the powers in Iraq are siding with the average American civilian in the sense that said AAC wants few or no casualties, I think both of you misjudge the majority of your fellow Americans. No question there are some who are concerned about US casualties but most Americans don't care, they just want the job done quickly and close to right. Casualties are not a big issue. Some Army leaders are concerned about US casualties in the worrying way (and thus, to them, if Kaplan did happen to be correct, it would be no change), almost all are concerned about their troops but I seriously doubt that that such concern has become a guiding principle. Someone who's there or just left illuminate that.


Agreed, but at the risk of being irritating, Kaplan is suggesting that the TTPs have been changed to: bomb before the rounds start crackling overhead. I'm not saying that's wrong. I'm just saying that if it's true, it is contrary what I think I've heard a lot of council members say. If true, it suggest to this amateur that maybe Mr. Gentile was correct in the very spirited, and probably much remembered:

Eating Soup With A Spoon (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=3942&highlight=Gentile).

Yes, Kaplan is but I for one don't think he makes the case to prove his suggestion and as, I again said, when one is there, what is ideal may not be able to be done. Without being aware of the tactical situation in each case of air usage, it's very difficult to judge the "why" or the correctness of the decision to use it. Kaplan has made a determination based, as nearly as I can tell, solely on numbers and the numbers do not tell you enough to make that determination. That's why I said the use of numbers in war can lead one astray...

That's an awful long way of saying Kaplan has made a standing broad jump at what I suspect is a wrong conclusion and that in the absence of more information we can only speculate.

Someone there may provide more info, may not. We'll see.

Rob Thornton
10-27-2007, 02:07 AM
Someone who's there or just left illuminate that.

Well - I'm 6 months dated now - but I never heard nobody say "ya'll be careful out there cuz if'n you was to get blowed up Mr. Kaplan and the folks back home might not like it" It just doesn't happen that way at the tactical level.

Our casualties are less because we have taken the initiative - you don't get that by hanging out in the FOB and occasionally calling in a MK 82 from inside the perimeter. We've taken the initiative by getting out and denying the enemy freedom of mobility and running him into the ground, interacting with the populace to demonstrate resolve and create/foster relationships, and occasionally by the thought out and judicious use of firepower where required to kill the guys who refuse to give up violence against civilians, ISF and U.S. forces - that means picking the right tool for the right job - sometimes that might be an air strike, sometimes it might be a sniper team, sometimes its something in between - let the tool fit the problem.

Hope that clears a few things up - you're just not all that concerned what the crowd at the mall thinks about casualties when you are on mission - maybe when you get some down time you might catch the news, or check out the WWW - but generally you unwind and prep for the next mission.

Best, Rob