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Thread: Could the CAP concept work in Afghanistan?

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    Default Could the CAP concept work in Afghanistan?

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    This thread was created after the issue started in 2012 on a separate thread reviewing the book 'The Village': http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=14702 (Mod ends)


    As "Combat" Forces pull out by the end of 2014, do we bring the CAP back in support of SOF & ETTs?

    If so what would they look like? The Vietnam model was 15 Marines: a 13man Rifle squad w/a Navy Corpsman & a Grenadier.

    I would say the 2014 CAP Plt would have to be slightly more robust w/18 to 20 Marines.

    I'd start w/the 13man RS + 1 Corpsman. To add to that I'd pull 4 Infantryman fr/the Weapons: 1 to act Squad Designated Marksman in exchange for the old school Grenadier, 1 to act as RTO (0341 FO, LCpl-Cpl), 1 trained to handle basic Intel (C-LIC), 1 I'd send to the 3-6wk Sapper Course.

    With so much being done w/vehicles now it would be nice to have at least 1 truck to support patrols as a Fire Support Platform. W/that said it would be nice to have 1 Motor T Lance Cpl knowledgeable in 1st/2nd Echelon Field Expedient Maintenance.

    20 could be seen slightly unwieldy but 4 would be mostly post positions, but as Infantryman able to step into patrol or QRF.

    What do you think?
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-10-2012 at 12:36 PM. Reason: Add Mod's note

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Commar:

    How would you select the men? Who they are may be more important than how they are organized.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Admittedly, I only finished the village about a week ago, but I think trying to implement a CAP program at this point would be difficult.

    My impression from reading the book was that CAP seemed to be effective in controlling space but was not effective in "destroying the enemy". Its possible that displacing the Taliban from the population is all that necessary but I don't think so. With a drawdown in combat forces I think the potential for QRF support in either defense or larger offensive operations may be limited. That seemed to be an important factor in the village, re the airstrikes in the Phu Longs.

    If we had enough motivated soldiers with the language and cultural skills I believe it could have had an effect, 7 years ago. In addition to the small tactical problems, in the Vietnam example, the was some semblance of a functioning government to support. Afghanistan seems like a situation where a lack of support or continuity from the center government might lead to a "well, what now?" situation.

    - on a slightly different note, isn't the CAP program what ODAs are designed to do? Other than night raids, what have they been doing this whole time?

    Respectfully, Wyatt

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    Default Please read Corson

    Anyone who is serious about using the Marine CAP concept today must read and study The Betrayal (Hardcover) by William R Corson (Author) (used in good from $9.00 + 3.99 shipping).

    BLUF (from McBreen, linked below):

    Corson's book is especially interesting given its date of publication. Seven years before the fall of Saigon, Corson predicted a US defeat and a GVN collapse. He directly criticized US policies and leaders. His analysis was immediate and credible, without the benefit of post-war hindsight.

    Corson believed in 1968 that the US was farther away from victory than ever, and that the US goal of an independent, self-sufficient Vietnam was impossible. He justified his position by describing the debilitating effects of the totalitarian Saigon government, the ineptness of US military and civilian leaders, and the inconsistency of US government policies.
    JMM: I agree with McBreen's words here; and agreed often with Corson generally in the Jurassic Age (for what either is worth).

    Bill Corson's book was complete by March 1968, except for finishing touches into April 1968 (when the American KIA total was about 20,000). He was assigned CAP in Feb 1967. When he wrote "The Betrayal", he still could present as its last chapter, "To Stay or Not to Stay ?" as a question.

    Bill Corson was a conservative populist and free-thinker. He was somewhat given to hyperbole; but also given to internally logical solutions. However, some of them could not be effected given the real constraints imposed by factors outside of his solution's control. He was a denizen of the "Never Again but ..." school (but I, a fellow dinosaur of similar ilk, don't want to argue its merits in this thread).

    "The Betrayal" devotes a chapter ("The Marines' Hamlet War, or What Price Pacification"; pp.174-198) to CAP organization and mission. To decide on "transportability" of the CAP concept, one must also read and study the other chapters (devoted to the SVN political and military context in which CAP operated). The problem (to reach firm conclusions as to "transportability") is that Bill Corson's views on the SVN context was very controversial then; and, I expect, remain so today.

    As a "teaser" into Corson, here are two articles generated by USMC officers.

    Pelli, Insurgency, Counterinsurgency, And The Marines In Vietnam (1990):

    His comments on CAP are taken mostly from "The Betrayal" (his ref "3:") (p.16 pdf):

    Basically, the CAP consisted of a Marine rifle squad combined with a platoon of Popular Forces (PF), a local self-defense force. The PF came from the village in which the Marine squad operated. This Marine/PF unit, lived, trained, patrolled, and defended the village, together.

    The mission of the CAP was:

    (1) Destroy the Viet Cong infrastructure within the village or hamlet area of responsibility.

    (2) Protect public security and help maintain law and order.

    (3) Protect the friendly infrastructure.

    (4) Protect bases and communications axes within the villages and hamlets.

    (5) Organize people's intelligence nets.

    (6) Participate in civic action and conduct propaganda against the Viet Cong.

    (3:184) (JMM emphasis added).
    In essence (IMO), a Marine CAP squad was part and parcel of the hamlet Puff (PF) unit - the Puff's "spine" - whose primary mission was to kill bad guys.

    In general terms, its members had to be combat-savvy, basically educated in the culture and langange of the villagers; and per Corson ("The Betrayal" p.183):

    ... most importantly, no manifestation of xenophobia. The final factor is very important in the Other War because the actions of a "gook hater" can result in the loss of an entire hamlet to the Vietcong.
    The largest problem in SVN (besides the Communists, who were the larger problem) were the GVN and its ARVN. From Pelli (p.14 pdf):

    William R. Carson, throughout his book, The Betrayal, reinforces Krulak's perception. Corson holds nothing back in his derision of the Vietnamese government concerning their inability and lack of real desire to effectively conduct pacification. He says,"...the United States has chosen to support the GVN's grotesque pacification efforts through a massive outpouring of material assistance while ignoring the graft and corruption this assistance has produced." (3:155)

    He later says that United States programs designed to improve the lot of the people "... were clearly opposed to the interests of the very officials... we asked to conduct and support these programs." (3:159)
    And, from today's second article, McBreen, Notes on: The Betrayal (2006) (p.2 pdf):

    5. The GVN was corrupt, cowardly, and incompetent. The GVN did not want social reform. Their indifference to the population, their anti-communist reprisals, and their insatiable greed for drove their own people into popular revolt. The key difference between the north and the south was honesty. GVN officials sold American food to refugees. Million of dollars of US aid went into the pockets of GVN officials. US acquiescence helped the GVN exploit their own people.

    Corson noted the irony that "helping the people" was equated with acceptance of the GVN, even though it was universally recognized that the GVN cared little for the welfare of its own people.
    As to Afghanistan - in 2006 (p.4 pdf):

    9. Notes on Afghanistan 2006. Corson's comments on corruption, officer selection, mirror imaging, and combined operations all apply to Afghanistan today. Corrupt leadership infects and destabilizes entire institutions. This is especially relevant to the Afghan National Army (ANA). We cannot condone corruption. We need a controlling interest in officer selection and assignment. The tendency toward mirror-imaging - with US equipment, tactics, training, and procedures - needs to be balanced with local capabilities and requirements, especially for the embryonic ANA. The multiple coalition organizations in Afghanistan may be more in need of a strong combined headquarters than was needed in Vietnam in 1968.

    Corson was a critic whose career suffered because he spoke out. His sometimes strident voice reflected his frustration with US self-delusion on the effectiveness of our chosen strategy. On American hubris and refusal to accept unwelcome facts, Corson wrote, "When one assumes infallibility, it is impossible to change a course of action."
    COMMAR has asserted a positive idea. To make it very clear, I'm not in love with US force projection (other than direct actions, if essential) in South Asia in particular, nor with nation (state) building in general.

    But, if you're going to do this, here's a positive suggestion.

    You've got an augmented squad of expert "killers" and (hopefully) basic "politicians" - which will put military spine into the local Puffs - a total force of roughly 55 people.

    I'd suggest (perhaps 5-10 people) as further augmentation (that is, in the same unit with Unity of Command, not Unity of Effort), basic "killers" and expert "politicians" (police, local justice, intelligence, public health) - which might put some political spine into the local Puffs - a total force of roughly 65 people.

    BTW: in this context (an insurgency), the "political" program must include a selective violence program.

    Regards

    Mike

  5. #5
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Everything that's old is neither new again nor necessarily better than something new.

    With regard to Viet Nam, Corson was not alone. Most Officers and NCOs knew it was a doomed effort and many had figured that out by mid-1966 -- some even a earlier. They understood that there was to be no win, that the Government of South Viet Nam did not have the backing of most of the nation (neither did the VC or the North, the bulk of the populace just wanted to be left alone...). Most also knew the Army wasn't doing it right and that US political squabbling wasn't helping...

    Nor did that knowledge remain confined to griping or bull sessions, those thoughts were officially and in-writing surfaced by many to their Bosses and up the chain until they hit the Party Line when they got buried in smoke and mirrors, can't have the Institution besmirched with dissent.

    Much as is currently the case in Afghanistan and was the case in Iraq. War is an extension of politics, in our case, that's generally US domestic politics which overrule any foreign policy considerations. There are a lot of good, honest people in the Armed Forces and they know a bum hand when they see it, they are not afraid to surface that, they did it in Korea, they did it in Viet Nam as well as in the two more current operations but the services are heirarchial institutions -- when you get to the Bishops and the Cardinals, theology outweighs common sense or concern for the parishioners; survival of the institution means more than a few lives or a bunch of money. That's harsh but it's reality.

    To return to the thread, the CAP program was a good program but it suffered from two significant limitations back in the day and neither of those problems has gone or will go away. It is not possible to routinely, uniformly and reliably aid or extricate (in itself a bad message...) the Squads / Teams or even ODAs in event of overwhelming attack. Far more importantly, there will never be enough people to use the technique in any nation or area of much size. One could, of course, rotate among areas of concern and play Whack a Mole -- we're pretty good at that.

    An added consideration on that last is that not everyone is psychologically equipped to operate in that mode among a local populace that is poorly understood and with wildly different social norms. CAP was a throwback to Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. That entailed using Marines whose standard of living back home was not far removed from that of the local people amongst whom they lived in those countries. Those days and that standard of US living for most were long gone by the time the program was instituted in VN -- they're even further behind us today...

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    Default Ken:

    Your last paragragh (esp. "... That [Haiti, etc.] entailed using Marines whose standard of living back home was not far removed from that of the local people amongst whom they lived in those countries.") is very good.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Default I think it comes down to use

    I understand all sides of Vietnam being a no-win & there were many reasons for that; Political, Cultural, Tactical, & Strategic. I also understand that many of those issues migrate to A'stan. However the CAPs had many successes in their areas of influence w/little serious support. A lot of the Major short comings came fr/things beyond their control.

    Here's the rub.
    In 2yrs all Combat Forces will.. be.. out. I hear the Negatives: The Gov't of A'stan is CORRUPT, correct. Small Units operating at Distance are vulnerable, also correct, etc. All reasons would be just as valid for leaving no US troops, But thats not an option. Left behind will be MTT, ETT, some CS, & SOF.

    There are many USMC Rifle Squads already acting in a CAP role w/relative independence; owning their own Battle-space, developing their own networks, & training their own local militia. All of this is coordinated at the top but it is the Squads & Sqd Ldrs running the show.

    Thanks to Programs like Combat Hunter (teaching Profiling, Networking, Man-Tracking, & Advanced Patrolling & Observation Techniques), Squad Fires (bringing the squad the ability to call up to Level II CAS) & DO/ECO the Rifle Squad has many more tools in his Kit than ever before.

    EMPLOYMENT

    I wouldn't employ them in major or densely populated areas, those are Main Missions, I'd keep those for the ETTs & the ANSF. The CAPs would operate on the Margins.

    I would start in the remote areas, in the villages that would most welcome that type of presence. I'd insert them in rural territory the taliban would need to retake to operate comfortably. The Goal wouldn't be to actively hunt the taliban, leave that for SOF, just disrupt & deny. Deny, Deny, Deny.

    We can play the long game on the cheap. Let the ETT continue to build & develop ANSF. Let SOF go Kinetic, picking them off 1 raid at a time. Let the SF coordinate & build. And let the CAP Deny on the margins, denying the ability to set up his remote safe havens.

    W/a CAP Platoon in many of these remote areas the SF can disperse in much smaller numbers, spread influence, & coordinate across a larger AO. Let SF MSGTs handle the Strategic nature of these relationships. Let the CAP run the day-to-day Local/Tactical end.

    They don't need to be nor do I think they should be in the same chain of command. SF's mission is Strategic, the CAPs is Local/Tactical. However operating together (having 2-3man SF tm in the same village) will allow SF to remain fluid & centered on their Strat Goals, leaving village security to CAP, also allowing CAP Ldrs access to Sr. guidance.

    Deployment

    In 2008 2nd BN, &th Marines deployed to Farah Prov. as a Training BN, under basically the same "Non-Combat" authority as units will have in 2014. It eventually became a Combat/Training BN b/c for the most part(except for SOF) they were alone. They were successful but took a lot of casualties TF-2/7 was stretched over 10,000sq miles & at 1 pt over 16,000sqmi.

    In 2014 the USMC can Deploy a 2-3 BN CAP based Special Purpose MAGTF.

    Rough Draft: TF-2/7 deployed 70man Reinforced Rifle Platoons most at 70-100mi of dispersion. Each Squad separated to train, advise, & lead its own Police Station in the IDR FDD Programs.

    Take 2-3 Infantry BNs & develop a 5-6mth CAP based PTP, similar to the ETT (culture, language, isolation) training-cycle, fr/the squad up start with:

    • A 18-20man CAP Plt, pulling fr/Weapons Plt to fill SDM, RTO, CLIC, & Sapper slots

    • Similar to TF 2/7 reinforce the Rifle Plt HQ (Plt Cmdr, Plt Sgt, Plt Guide, RTO, Corpsman) w/support Marines & a PSD fr/Weapons Plt & or Company. Rifle Plt HQ operates freely across 3 CAPs & coordinates objectives

    • Company HQ operating on the Tenets of Distributed Ops & the BN as well. Weapons Coy is BN QRF. SPMAGTF HQ coordinates w/HHQ
    Last edited by COMMAR; 02-09-2012 at 03:42 AM. Reason: Sorry, I Bold for Main Points

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    Quote Originally Posted by COMMAR View Post
    There are many USMC Rifle Squads already acting in a CAP role w/relative independence; owning their own Battle-space, developing their own networks, & training their own local militia. All of this is coordinated at the top but it is the Squads & Sqd Ldrs running the show.
    Quote Originally Posted by COMMAR View Post
    ...The Goal wouldn't be to actively hunt the taliban, leave that for SOF, just disrupt & deny. Deny, Deny, Deny.
    Quote Originally Posted by COMMAR View Post
    ...Let SOF go Kinetic, picking them off 1 raid at a time.
    Do the squads now operating as de-facto CAPs and would your notional CAPs have real power to shape or even veto SOF raids in their areas? I can think of little worse for a CAP at a critical point in building their relationship with their community than to have a raid come in without prior coordination one night, kill several of the wrong people, then be gone in the morning leaving just the bodies behind.

    I ask because I've read that at least in the past, SOF tends to swan about on their own without much regard for local forces.

    Also, I think who is in the CAP is critical. Would you just use the people who happen to be in a unit you picked for this or specially select them?
    Last edited by carl; 02-09-2012 at 05:55 AM.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Default "Who's in Charge Here ?"

    COMMAR:

    Carl asked a similar question, but re: SOF. Mine is directed to control of the local police and local militia.

    Lt.Col. McBreen's Notes (pt. 7, p.3 pdf; my emphasis):

    Each Marine was a combined leader. Marine riflemen were team leaders, Marine fire team leaders were squad leaders. The Marine squad leader commanded the CAP in combat. Westmoreland's order prohibiting US leaders from commanding Vietnamese troops was ignored.
    How do you address the command structure re: the local security forces ?

    Regards

    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Do the squads now operating as de-facto CAPs and would your notional CAPs have real power to shape or even veto SOF raids in their areas? I can think of little worse for a CAP at a critical point in building their relationship with their community than to have a raid come in without prior coordination one night, kill several of the wrong people, then be gone in the morning leaving just the bodies behind. I ask because I've read that at least in the past, SOF tends to swan about on their own without much regard for local forces.
    I got out before Marines redeployed to A'stan but in Iraq several SOF missions occurred in areas we were developing and as far as I understood it the de-conflicting of missions happened much farther up the chain than the Plt or Coy level. Plt Cmdr would get word fr/the CO & it was usually, "accommodate these Gentlemen"; I doubt much is any different now.

    CAP authority should fall along the same lines as other ISAF Training teams like the ETT. Not clear on ETT's exact chain, x-many teams fall in y-training command's AO. Not being in the same chain means SOF & ISAF-Training AO's overlap, conflicting interests occur & CAP would follow the same guidelines as the ETT. To me thats a good thing b/c they have different missions (the Tactical& the Strategic) working towards the same goal.

    No team's an Island. As I said, I would deploy CAP w/in an existing INF-BN w/out gutting it. With TF-2/7 each Squad led its own Police District the P-Cmdr &/or Plt-Sgt traveled between them every few days Coordinating, Facilitating, & given Cmd Guidance. The Coys had Plts operating 70-100mi fr/the Coy HQ. A CAP enabled BN would be no different than BN-2/7, the SPMAGTF-HQ would report to ISAF Training Cmd.

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Also, I think who is in the CAP is critical. Would you just use the people who happen to be in a unit you picked for this or specially select them?
    When you look at the Al Anbar Sons of Iraq militias, the neighborhood security forces, Police Districts in Ramadi who were lived, trained, fought for by single squads for whole deployments w/out being specifically trained for that type of mission. Many present day Marine RS spend months in 1 Squad-level outpost attached to ANSF patrolling the same neighborhood, building relationships in virtual isolation.

    For the CAP, w/the influx of Marines fr/Weapons I would shift the 1st-timers &potential hard-cases to the Rifle Plt HQ, but that hasn't shown as a problem w/current RS.

    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    COMMAR: Carl asked a similar question, but re: SOF. Mine is directed to control of the local police and local militia. How do you address the command structure re: the local security forces?
    I really don't think you need to look further than what Marine RS are already doing w/local Police/Militia, but to say 'Command' would be tricky better to say Lead. In remote Squad Outposts Every Marine is a Leader to the ANSF, but Mentoring is usually done along the lines that McBreen wrote.

    What I've understood about CAP is their Main Objective was to Deny the use of x-villages to the enemy. By building & developing local Defense to the point of self-sufficiency then turn them over.

    To that end they controlled the area around their village like a tiny AO, they:
    • Developed their own Intel Networks
    • Lead "Advised" their own Combat Patrols
    • Destroyed enemy Infrastructure
    • Lead community enhancement, build projects
    • Arranged Medical & Humanitarian Aid


    This doesn't replace SOF. Marine Inf-Coys are doing these very things right now & SOF teams are working in conjunction in the same communities. Having CAP focus on building & protecting the immediate area of remote villages allows SOF to work within the same villages with freedom to pursue their broader objective, this has/is already being done in Population-Centers at the Coy-level.

    A new CAP would continue these Micro-AO missions feeding Intel up the chain executing Ops down the Chain. Missions involving SOF w/local CAP would happen no different then they do now w/Coys, they're usually handed down fr/the top w/Missions of Opportunity discussed locally.
    Last edited by COMMAR; 02-10-2012 at 01:18 AM.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Will CAP be welcome to the locals in Afg.?

    If the CAP concept is suitable today or after 2013-2014 for Afghanistan, surely the areas for deployment are the non-Pashtun areas, where at least there maybe more of a welcome? Notably in the north, centre and west.

    In the Pashtun-majority areas the time for CAP has evaporated. It is easy to speculate that a CAP in a "platoon house" will become a target for the Taliban and allies. The first "house" and CAP that is overwhelmed will lead to a political re-appraisal, since the CAP is only likely to American, I simply cannot see it being sustainable politically at home.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Could the CAP concept work in Afghanistan?

    Moderator at work

    This thread was created after the issue started in 2012 on a separate thread reviewing the book 'The Village': http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=14702

    The 2012 posts have been moved here and so will come before this explanation.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-10-2012 at 12:35 PM.
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    Default CAP manpower

    Could CAP work in Afghanistan? Maybe, but basic math says it will be, at best, too little too late. According to estimates from several study groups and Afghan government ministries, there are at least 30,000 villages in Afghanistan. Even if you only put CAP teams (as described by COMMAR) in 5% of those villages, that's an investment of 30,000 troops. Add in the needed support personnel and some 'main force' combat elements which will be required to prevent Taliban concentration against small CAP teams, and suddenly the village war requires more boots on the ground than we are likely to commit.

    Also, it has been decades since I read The Village, but I recall that casualties among the featured CAP team was around 50%.

    CAP is not a cheap alternative to other forms of counterinsurgency. It might have worked in 2003 - but I can't see it being tried as we are pulling out.

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    Default A "Transistional Concept"

    As I "perceive" COMMAR's concept, it's intended as being transitional, since a 100% immediate withdrawal is not feasible (and in any event, is not intended as a universal prescription throughout Afghanistan). Nor, does it seem to be intended to provide for "pacification" (if that is even possible, except in the abstract) - or a "How to Win in Afghanistan" theory.

    As such, it appears to focus more on the major strength of the VN CAPs as seen by Col. (then Maj.) Phil Ridderhof, COMBINED ACTION AND U.S. MARINE EXPERIENCES IN VIETNAM 1965-71:

    The Marines originally meant for Combined Action to provide them with rear area security. The idea of using CAPs for pacification did not really take hold until 1967.[293] CAPs were placed so as to fulfill a security mission. They only took hold in areas that had already been under U.S. military control. They were not placed out in areas that didn't have large units operating.[294] Most of the CAPs were placed on lines of communication in the I CTZ. This included such locations as Route 1, the main north-south artery in Vietnam, also known as the Street without Joy. This placement allowed for easier access and resupply to the CAP's. It also meant that the CAPs were providing security for these important supply routes.[295] Col. Solak, commenting on Combined Action, felt that they provided good rear area security and credible intelligence for Marine units. They did not, however, succeed as pacification. Their main success with the people was to provide a grassroots link with the Marines.[296] Security was the main benefit of Combined Action.
    ...
    What Combined Action seemed to be best at was providing area control and security. Much of this accomplishment came about because of the aggressive military operations run by the CAPs. Body counts aren't a good indicator of pacification, but a favorable count can point to successful military operations.[303] In 1966 the kill ratio for CAP's was 14 VC KIA, confirmed, for every CAP Marine or Pr killed.[304] This even looked good to the military men favoring the big unit attrition strategy. One of the main arguments against Combined Action was the fact that the US didn't have enough troops to cover the area needed. To counter that, combined Action proponents gave statistics such as the fact that in 1968, CAP Marines comprised 1.5% of total Marine strength in Vietnam, yet they accounted for 7.6% of VC kills.[305]
    The rest of the Ridderhof thesis is also a realistic ex post hoc look at VN CAP.

    Maybe my perception is wrong; but that's how I take COMMAR's proposal.

    Regards

    Mike

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