View Full Version : Counterinsurgency Strategy: Staying Put

06-07-2006, 01:37 AM
7 June Christian Science Monitor - Counterinsurgency Strategy: Staying Put (http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0607/p06s01-woiq.html) by Charles Crain.

Last fall, US Marines swept through Qaim, a cluster of towns and villages along the Euphrates River, and wrested control from foreign jihadists.

Over the years and throughout Iraq, the Americans have followed up similar successes by returning to large bases miles from the nearest major town.

That distance allowed insurgents to return and regroup.

But in this region of about 80,000 people near the Syrian border, the marines have stayed. Under the command of Lt. Col. Julian Alford, they followed up Operation Steel Curtain by spreading out over a dozen small bases inside towns and along major roads. Lt. Col. Nick Marano and his marines took over in Qaim earlier this year and are using the strategy to push into towns and villages that are seeing an American presence for the first time.

That presence has helped the Americans prevent insurgents from reestablishing a large-scale presence in the area. This spring, marines are building more new bases in the rural areas east of the major towns here...

06-29-2006, 04:22 AM
It amazes me that we are just now deciding to utilize this tactic for building security. I don't know if in the past it was due to lack of troops (most likely excuse) or due to concerns for force protection (most likely in reality) that the U.S. military placed such emphasis on building large bases from which to operate. Looking at successful counterinsurgencies a trend is the need to do two things:

1) Utilize local forces to assist and eventually carry the burden of security
2) Operate based on intelligence - intelligence which can best be gathered by daily interaction with the population

This is not a post to discuss the first trend. Regarding the second trend though I believe from open source reporting that the U.S. is experiencing some success in those areas that we are now employing small bases allowing units to have more regular contact with the local population.

Establishing smaller bases throughout large areas has a number of advantages versus building larger bases consolidating U.S. forces. Building smaller bases increases the opportunities and frequency of contact between U.S. units and local nationals. Smaller bases allow a unit to be located directly in its area of operations, thus helping them to better understand and influence the environment. Smaller bases reduce the "commute" to a units AO and thus can reduce their vulnerability to establishing patterns of transit into an AO. Finally establishing a large number of smaller bases is similar to building multiple police stations in an area - it can generate increased security for the local populace by the near presence of security forces.

Drawbacks to smaller bases include increased force protection bills, an increased number of targets for threat forces, and increased vulnerability for logistics assets which now have to maintain these smaller bases. However, the short term increased risks are offset by the long term improvement in intelligence and security for the local populace. Even more so today when we can employ ever greater numbers of local security forces in addition to U.S. forces.

SSG Rock
06-29-2006, 03:29 PM
I made this call three years ago. As I monitored the progress of our run up country the thing that jumped out at me was that we were bypassing key terrain and towns. I mean, do you have to be a SAMS graduate to know that the enemy will slip in behind you?

I guess I never gave much thought to the fact that we didn't deploy enough troops in the outset to be able to control key terrain and towns. The day that the looting broke out in Baghdad, well, that was my epiphony for sure. We didn't have the troops in quantity to control anything.

Here we are almost FIVE years later and this is being put forward as a "new" tactic? Maybe new in the sense that we are using it as a new tactic in OIF. But I learned this as an NCO very early in my career that you attack, and occupy the objective.

Simply amazing.

06-29-2006, 04:43 PM
I'm not a military man, but it seems to me that attacking with more troops simply wasn't possible. The road net up from Kuwait could barely support the troops we did have in there - the pause for that big sand storm helped the supply situation a lot.

Moreover, based on the rule of thumb that you have 1 soldier for every 50 people in the population, we'd have to have quadrupled our forces. Even if we could have squeezed in another division or two, there's no way that you'd pack in enough soldiers coming in from Kuwait.

The only way to attack with enough troops was to come at the country from multiple axes - ideally from Saudi Arabia, which has good access and a lot of infrastructure built up from years of hosting US forces. Operating from Jordan or Syria would have provided more immediate access to Sunni controlled areas where we should have expected trouble from the start, anyhow. Those areas wouldn't support nearly as many troops. The same problem applies to Turkey.

Ultimately, this war plan was flawed by political realities, not military ones. There was no way to attack with overwhelming force - and no way to make the attack look particularly good to the locals, either. There was also no way to back down once we'd pushed so hard to get it off the ground.

SSG Rock
06-29-2006, 08:00 PM
Not attack with more troops, but to have had troops in sufficient number (in echelon) to move in to towns and releive attacking forces in place. This can be time consuming granted.

06-29-2006, 10:26 PM
The vast majority of arguments concerning troop numbers for OIF / Telic were (and are) that additional troops were needed for SASO duties in rear areas (particularly urban areas and along LOCs) and for Phase IV (post-combat operations).

Comparisons of recent previous operations that used a population vs. peacekeeping force ratio and the 1003 plan that CENTCOM had war gamed suggested that the OIF ground force should have been as high as 500,000 with most estimates in the 300,000 - 400,000 range. If I remember correctly 380,000 was an estimate that came out of a briefing prepared by a Marine Major that floated around the Pentagon during the planning stages of OIF.

The one exception to using previous operations as a benchmark was OEF in Afghanistan. Even that operation is subject to debate as Afghanistan's urban population was (and is) significantly less than those other countries.

SSG Rock
06-30-2006, 01:36 PM
SWJED, those are the numbers I have read as well. It seems that General Frank's original campaign plan called for around 380,000 troops. It also called for a lengthy air campaign prior to the ground offensive, ala Desert Storm. According to Bob Woodward in "Plan of Attack" Rumsfeld sent Franks back to adjust the plan multiple times. Lets face it, Rumsfeld knew what he wanted from the outset. And IMO, he used OIF as a proving ground to validate his vision of how the Army should fight, to show the generals that his way would work. I better stop before I get completely off topic.