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Thread: Harsh Lessons: Iraq, Afghanistan and the Changing Character of War

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Harsh Lessons: Iraq, Afghanistan and the Changing Character of War

    Ben Barry of IISS has published a book on the utility of force; it is on my bookshelf awaiting attention and is recommended by H.R. McMaster cited below.

    There is a full explanation of the book on:http://www.iiss.org/en/publications/...h-lessons-b53e

    There is a sub-title which helps:
    ....examines the military evolution of the US-led interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and their implications for the future character of war
    Well what did HR write?
    What Western nations learn from their experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq may prove to be as important as the outcomes of those long, ongoing wars. Ben Barry has produced an invaluable study which should serve as a starting point for those charged with understanding recent experience as the foundation for thinking about future armed conflict and how best to advance national and international security.
    There is a YouTube episode on Ben Barry's talk in January 2017 (63 mins):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjLiwKtLS3Y
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-21-2018 at 03:19 PM. Reason: 13,499v. 16,001v
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    Default Changing Character of War

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Ben Barry of IISS has published a book on the utility of force; it is on my bookshelf awaiting attention and is recommended by H.R. McMaster cited below.

    The U.S. military’s paradigm for operations is a six-phase planning construct that consists of six stages--phase 0 (shape), phase I (deter), phase II (seize initiative), phase III (dominate), phase IV (stabilize), and phase V (enable civil authority). The first three are a linear progression of conflict through the culminating phase (phase III) of major combat operations, and then a “post-conflict” period of stabilization and transition. No one would deny that they US military leads the world in its ability to dominate the battle space for most if not all wars such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria from phase 0 through phase III but we are weak in the area of "post-conflict" operations in Phase IV and V.

    When we fight, Air Superiority is achieved in the first 24-48 hours, sea superiority is achieved in 72 hours and ground superiority is achieved in the first 100 hours of operations but that is insufficient to win because we simply are not trained in the seminal phases of post-conflict that is, in the stabilization and transitioning phases of warfare. If you ask a war-fighter what is their mission they will say to "Close with and Destroy" the enemy but that might win the battle "space" but not the war. When I asked a senior leader about the purpose of our military he said exactly that, we must use our weapons to beat the enemy and when I asked about transitioning, he said that was not our job, it was that of the State Department, host nation government, community leaders, NGOs and others. It is not because our military leaders do not have the manpower, equipment or the tools it is because an insurgency cannot be defeated.

    Our Civil Affairs teams who once were pivotal in building HN capacity are broken, maybe beyond repair--they are truly clueless as to what must be done to build host nation capacity including governance, utilities--water, wastewater, electric, communications, roads and bridges, O&M plans, refuge collection, medical, education, rule of law, environmental and all of the "Essential Services for Life." It's not our job is commonly espoused , our war-fighters are trained to break things and our leaders are simply not trained to fight an insurgency war. It is important to note that one does not defeat an insurgency--it simply goes away when the local cause to live for becomes greater then "their" cause to die. And that cause begins with a transition plan to rebuild that nation's infrastructure brick by brick, block by block and village by village using only "local" labor. During this transition the "New" government must hire as many locals as they can manage and train. In essence every war must end with a "Marshall Plan" financed from within and from other nations around the globe in exchange for regional stability and resources...

    We spend about $640 billion on DOD activities home and abroad on equipment, installations, and war-fighting but only a pittance on transition skills training.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 12-18-2018 at 10:16 AM. Reason: Fix quote and 18,752v today

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    Quote Originally Posted by GPaulus View Post
    The U.S. military’s paradigm for operations is a six-phase planning construct that consists of six stages--phase 0 (shape), phase I (deter), phase II (seize initiative), phase III (dominate), phase IV (stabilize), and phase V (enable civil authority). The first three are a linear progression of conflict through the culminating phase (phase III) of major combat operations, and then a “post-conflict” period of stabilization and transition. No one would deny that they US military leads the world in its ability to dominate the battle space for most if not all wars such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria from phase 0 through phase III but we are weak in the area of "post-conflict" operations in Phase IV and V.

    When we fight, Air Superiority is achieved in the first 24-48 hours, sea superiority is achieved in 72 hours and ground superiority is achieved in the first 100 hours of operations but that is insufficient to win because we simply are not trained in the seminal phases of post-conflict that is, in the stabilization and transitioning phases of warfare. If you ask a war-fighter what is their mission they will say to "Close with and Destroy" the enemy but that might win the battle "space" but not the war. When I asked a senior leader about the purpose of our military he said exactly that, we must use our weapons to beat the enemy and when I asked about transitioning, he said that was not our job, it was that of the State Department, host nation government, community leaders, NGOs and others. It is not because our military leaders do not have the manpower, equipment or the tools it is because an insurgency cannot be defeated.

    Our Civil Affairs teams who once were pivotal in building HN capacity are broken, maybe beyond repair--they are truly clueless as to what must be done to build host nation capacity including governance, utilities--water, wastewater, electric, communications, roads and bridges, O&M plans, refuge collection, medical, education, rule of law, environmental and all of the "Essential Services for Life." It's not our job is commonly espoused , our war-fighters are trained to break things and our leaders are simply not trained to fight an insurgency war. It is important to note that one does not defeat an insurgency--it simply goes away when the local cause to live for becomes greater then "their" cause to die. And that cause begins with a transition plan to rebuild that nation's infrastructure brick by brick, block by block and village by village using only "local" labor. During this transition the "New" government must hire as many locals as they can manage and train. In essence every war must end with a "Marshall Plan" financed from within and from other nations around the globe in exchange for regional stability and resources...

    We spend about $640 billion on DOD activities home and abroad on equipment, installations, and war-fighting but only a pittance on transition skills training.
    You got a few things right, and quite a few wrong. Joint Doctrine no longer mandates the six phase paradigm, it was foolish to do so to begin with. Commanders and their staff should design phases appropriate to achieving the political object, not follow a cookie cutter approach. The principle role of the infantry in "combat" is to close with and destroy the enemy, outside of combat roles vary. The principle role of the military is to employ the military in concert with the rest the government agencies, allies, and partner nations to achieve the political object. Sometimes stability is a requirement, other times is not. In DESERT STORM we had no mandate to stabilize Iraq, but we did provide substantial support to the Kurds.

    Clearly our approach to so-called stability operations, or more accurately economic development has been a failure in Afghanistan and Iraq. We spent billions under the false assumption that if we gave the people economic incentives they would quit fighting. If the Chinese invaded America, and after a tough fight started providing economic incentives would everyone quit fighting, or do they continue to resist for deeper reasons? The people we fight have their own world views, and we can't impose ours upon them with economic incentives or infrastructure enhancements. Furthermore, infrastructure development will not stabilize an area if the enemy has not been purged from that area, but the enemy will benefit from the development, because they'll tax those spending the money. The Taliban has repeatedly praised our USAID efforts because they go a long way towards contributing funds to their effort, along with selling drugs to the population of the nations that send forces to fight the Taliban (the U.S. and throughout Europe).

    You're right that spend very little training time on stability operations, but more importantly we even spend less on developing critical thinking skills that enable our people to draw conclusions from what is happening on the ground instead of simply following a cookbook based on false assumptions. Separating stability operations from small wars, by bigger concern is another conventional war where we facilitate a rapid regime change and have no plan, funding, or capacity after the high end fight to consolidate our victory. Once the insurgency starts it may too late as Iraq demonstrated. Libya demonstrated the cost of not doing anything. Every case is different, planning is the hardest thing the military does if they do it right. It requires a lot of knowledge not only about war fighting, but about culture, and clear understanding of what we are trying to obtain through the application of military force. Plans that follow doctrinal processes will likely fail, that includes the assumption that developing infrastructure is necessary in all cases.

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