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Thread: COIN v. Conventional Capability Debate

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ratzel View Post
    What exactly is the major concern regarding the transition from COIN to HIC? If we look at the battle of Fallujah, it seems as if the Marines and Army were very capable in conducting HIC within the larger COIN environment?

    Besides Fallujah, our ground forces have conducted large scale operations in Iraq and Afghanistan which were HIC in nature?

    I've been out of the Army for about 4 years now so can someone please give an idea of what the major concern is? I would think that the military would be more "battle hardened" than it has been since Vietnam? Are units doing no HIC field exercises at home station?

    Give me a scenario in which our "worst fears" would occur.
    The major concern is that winning battles is not the key to success in counterinsurgency.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ratzel View Post
    What exactly is the major concern regarding the transition from COIN to HIC? If we look at the battle of Fallujah, it seems as if the Marines and Army were very capable in conducting HIC within the larger COIN environment?

    Besides Fallujah, our ground forces have conducted large scale operations in Iraq and Afghanistan which were HIC in nature?
    Exactly. That's why I do not like the LIC/HIC description. You may need the same operational skills to fight insurgents, as you would any other enemy. In terms of capability, Insurgents are variations on light infantry.

    The debacle in Mogadishu, in 1993, was a failure to understand the threat, and the capabilities they possessed. The type of conflict was utterly irrelevant, except that it confused people as to the capabilities required.
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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    The major concern is that winning battles is not the key to success in counterinsurgency.
    I concur. I don't see "winning battles" as accurately describing the capabilities required to defeat both insurgents and combined arms formations.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but the only reason you restrict the application of force against Insurgents is to prevent civilian casualties, because you must protect the civilians. That gives you the freedom of action to do other things - elections, build schools etc.

    If the insurgents are out in the jungle, away from civilians, you kill or capture them, like any other enemy, and making best use of resources - so capture is preferable because of exploiting intelligence.

    If the enemy has a Motor Rifle Regiment parked in a town in Texas or the Ukraine, you are still going to have to destroy all his vehicles, without killing too many civilians. If the Motor Rifle Regiment is thundering across a desert somewhere, then "nuke it from orbit" -
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    'At least for the foreseeable future, only the military that plants its flag on the enemy’s hilltop is the victor.' - Ron Tira The Limitations of Standoff Firepower-Based Operations

    So we've won in Iraq?

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    'At least for the foreseeable future, only the military that plants its flag on the enemy’s hilltop is the victor.' - Ron Tira The Limitations of Standoff Firepower-Based Operations

    So we've won in Iraq?
    As Ron said t me over lunch the other day, "he does not completely agree with his previous position!" ...and to be fair, this is taking his quote out of context.

    Actually, in terms of "victory" is believe this to be correct. In terms of "peace" it fails to be useful. Few, if any Insurgents have ever been defeated by a "military victory,". What seems to defeat them is "peace" - as in security and the denial of their ability to threaten it, so I think we may be in agreement.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Ratzel asked:

    I've been out of the Army for about 4 years now so can someone please give an idea of what the major concern is? I would think that the military would be more "battle hardened" than it has been since Vietnam? Are units doing no HIC field exercises at home station?
    The American Army (and Marines) are battle hardened after 6 years of Astan and 5 years of Iraq. No question about it; lots of hard-nosed combat experience. But it is a combat experience of a certain discrete type using certain types of discrete combat skills. We should not delude ourselves to think that just because we are good at coin and the types of combat ops that go along with it in Iraq that we are automatically prepared for other forms of higher intensity combat. I have used this example before but consider the fact that operational logistics in Iraq are node-based and carried largely by civilian contractors. What would happen if a couple of combat brigades in Iraq had to pick up, move in a certain direction and conduct a sustained land operation in the field without fixed bases for support for 3 months? You see the concern here? When was the last time in Iraq that a Division moved off of its fixed base and conducted a movement to contact? Not since I was a BCT XO in the march up in 2003. Clearly there is supreme tactical expertise at the small unit level with the combat outfits fighting in Sadr city now; but we should not confuse that expertise with the kind of expertise that it took the lead American armor divisions in the break out of St Lo. And again the Israeli experience in Lebanon is instructive here. Read Andy Exum's superb battle analysis of Hiz in that fight where they fought tenaciously as small squads of infantry and AT teams. The Israeli Army was woefully unprepared for this higher level of fighting after many years of conducting counter-terrorism ops in the Palestinian territories. These are the concerns that many of us in the American Army have today; and they are not made up and hyperbolic but real. Lastly, the British 7th Armored Division by 43 had themselves become battle-hardened after years of fighting the Germans in north Africa. But when that 7th Armored Division hit the beaches in Normandy and over the next few weeks tried to take Caen they ran into many problems due to unfamiliarity with the new terrain and a different German force. The point here is that battle experience of one type is not automatically transferable to another.

    Wilf said:

    That's why I do not like the LIC/HIC description. You may need the same operational skills to fight insurgents, as you would any other enemy. In terms of capability, Insurgents are variations on light infantry.
    Agree, sort of. At the very small unit level of say infantry squads the skill set for hic/lic is similar. i mean in coin in Iraq do we really think that a private rifleman or cav scout is meeting with the nac chairman or imam? Of course not, he is doing basic stuff like providing security, shooting, kicking in a door, zip cuffing, observing and reporting, etc. But take things a number of levels up from there and that is the point where you start to run into problems and where it is important to distinguish between hic/lic so as to see where certain skills have atrophied.

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    As Ron said t me over lunch the other day, "he does not completely agree with his previous position!" ...and to be fair, this is taking his quote out of context.

    Actually, in terms of "victory" is believe this to be correct. In terms of "peace" it fails to be useful. Few, if any Insurgents have ever been defeated by a "military victory,". What seems to defeat them is "peace" - as in security and the denial of their ability to threaten it, so I think we may be in agreement.

    Fair enough!

    I need to come up with some more pithy epithets that people use in their signature line. But that's not easy for me: I'm often described as pith poor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    The American Army (and Marines) are battle hardened after 6 years of Astan and 5 years of Iraq. No question about it; lots of hard-nosed combat experience. But it is a combat experience of a certain discrete type using certain types of discrete combat skills. We should not delude ourselves to think that just because we are good at coin and the types of combat ops that go along with it in Iraq that we are automatically prepared for other forms of higher intensity combat.
    (SNIP)
    At the very small unit level of say infantry squads the skill set for hic/lic is similar. i mean in coin in Iraq do we really think that a private rifleman or cav scout is meeting with the nac chairman or imam? Of course not, he is doing basic stuff like providing security, shooting, kicking in a door, zip cuffing, observing and reporting, etc. But take things a number of levels up from there and that is the point where you start to run into problems and where it is important to distinguish between hic/lic so as to see where certain skills have atrophied.
    As an another instance of the points Gian is making, I recommend a read of When the Odds Were Even, a discussion of 7th Army ops against the Germans in the Vosges during WWII. I cannot guarantee the historical accuracy of the the author's claim that this is about the only campaign where US and German forces fought at technical and strength parity. However, he concludes that the US was able to win handily because of better organization and interoperability at higher levels of organization. He points out that while the individual German soldiers were potentially as effective fighters as their American counterparts, they did not have the organizational "comraderie" required to be an effective combined arms fighting force. The bottom line argument in the book is that a signficant force multiplier for US forces in ETO WWII operations was that they had trained together for a year or more as a Division prior to deployment for combat. BTW, Rommel noted that he could have been even more successful in both 1940 in Belgium/France and 1941/42 N. Africa had he had more time to have his formations train together at Division level and above.)

    I submit that something like this may be the real issue in the current "broken" Army debate. Ken may well be right that individual troopers will be able to find the well of personal resources they need to make it happen at their level. However, integrating all of what we used to call the BOS/battlefield operating systems (I think they now are called warfighting functions--WFFs --reflect on baseball, and think of what else is called a wiff ) takes a lot of practice that I have a hard time believing is actually occuring either down range or back at home station train ups at much above the company level. I suspect that a root cause analysis would disclose that the current organizational structuring that Transformation has yielded is a significant source of the problem.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    What would happen if a couple of combat brigades in Iraq had to pick up, move in a certain direction and conduct a sustained land operation in the field without fixed bases for support for 3 months?
    Excellent point - so it's not hard to identify the areas of deficiency? What you seem to be talking about is Formation level manoeuvre. Am I correct?

    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Fair enough!
    I need to come up with some more pithy epithets that people use in their signature line. But that's not easy for me: I'm often described as pith poor.
    ...and that Sir, is why you are both a scholar and a Gentleman.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Default I'm just sayin' ...

    We addressed this subject with Col. Robert Abrams on a Bloggers Roundtable back in November. Here is the transcript:
    http://www.defenselink.mil/dodcmssha...transcript.pdf

    According to him and others I've spoken with the gist of it is we must train for the fight we're in with an eye toward the future so there are no plans to quit combined arms training, but our deficiency today is in COIN. We'll be doing both now, but as soon as we get better at COIN we'll see more balance.

    A friend of mine currently downrange had this to say in our discussion on this very subject yesterday:

    "I just finished nearly 18 months of TRADOC schools at Fort Benning last year and the cadre were adamant about not teaching or facilitating COIN in the curriculum. They went out of their way to avoid delving in COIN discussions it seemed to focus basic skills and knowledge development in the core functional areas of conventional war fighting and military decision making. The reasons my instructors would give were of two sorts. First, they would indicate that the Tradoc command intent was to prepare for the battles and wars in the future, not the current ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. The second explanation was that as soon as we left our safe structured environ in Tradoc and joined a unit, we would mobilize and attend a COIN train-up giving us the latest TTPs and CALL experiences, delving into the COE in Iraq. They were right, much of my training to deploy this round was COIN centric. Although, much to my dismay, I am using NONE of it!"

    Frontier 6 also has had much to say on this. I'm sure we can search around and find his comments, which I believe will probably bring us back to Col. Abrams take on it.

    My point - we must first take out the 25 meter target.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    Ratzel asked:



    The American Army (and Marines) are battle hardened after 6 years of Astan and 5 years of Iraq. No question about it; lots of hard-nosed combat experience. But it is a combat experience of a certain discrete type using certain types of discrete combat skills. We should not delude ourselves to think that just because we are good at coin and the types of combat ops that go along with it in Iraq that we are automatically prepared for other forms of higher intensity combat. I have used this example before but consider the fact that operational logistics in Iraq are node-based and carried largely by civilian contractors. What would happen if a couple of combat brigades in Iraq had to pick up, move in a certain direction and conduct a sustained land operation in the field without fixed bases for support for 3 months? You see the concern here? When was the last time in Iraq that a Division moved off of its fixed base and conducted a movement to contact? Not since I was a BCT XO in the march up in 2003. Clearly there is supreme tactical expertise at the small unit level with the combat outfits fighting in Sadr city now; but we should not confuse that expertise with the kind of expertise that it took the lead American armor divisions in the break out of St Lo. And again the Israeli experience in Lebanon is instructive here. Read Andy Exum's superb battle analysis of Hiz in that fight where they fought tenaciously as small squads of infantry and AT teams. The Israeli Army was woefully unprepared for this higher level of fighting after many years of conducting counter-terrorism ops in the Palestinian territories. These are the concerns that many of us in the American Army have today; and they are not made up and hyperbolic but real. Lastly, the British 7th Armored Division by 43 had themselves become battle-hardened after years of fighting the Germans in north Africa. But when that 7th Armored Division hit the beaches in Normandy and over the next few weeks tried to take Caen they ran into many problems due to unfamiliarity with the new terrain and a different German force. The point here is that battle experience of one type is not automatically transferable to another.

    I guess there's two levels to think about then? It would seem as if you're talking more about the Battalion level and above when talking about your scenario. I'm not very familiar with that level of planning.

    From the company and below, the soldiers are used to working in a stressful environment and have most likely gotten down the little things like "actions at the objective" or clearing a building. The company medevac and skills like calling for fire or even familiararity with equipment should be much improved. These skills work the same wherever one goes (except for issues of terrain of course).

    The higher level is something I know little about. I'll take your word for it that nodal based logistics are less complicated than a long logistics train, (like the one up to Baghdad). I took part in the invasion as well, and am uncertain of why we would "loose" this ability though? I don't remember seeing many contractors on the way to Baghdad either (I'm not saying there weren't any I just didn't see any)?

    My final point is this: If I had to choose between the current military after 5 years of combat with less HIC training compared to the military that existed before 911 that had loads of HIC training; I would choose the former any day. That's not to say we should be overconfident of course.

    I will check out the reading your suggested, thank you.
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Gian correctly cites a major problem

    He noted:
    "...consider the fact that operational logistics in Iraq are node-based and carried largely by civilian contractors. What would happen if a couple of combat brigades in Iraq had to pick up, move in a certain direction and conduct a sustained land operation in the field without fixed bases for support for 3 months? You see the concern here? When was the last time in Iraq that a Division moved off of its fixed base and conducted a movement to contact?"
    That's of far more concern to me than is our ability to crash train and reorient units and people if required. Over reliance on contractors for logistic support is something that the Army cannot control for. My suspicion is that factor has not been adequately addressed in planning for any type of future operation; hopefully, I'm wrong...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    He noted:That's of far more concern to me than is our ability to crash train and reorient units and people if required. Over reliance on contractors for logistic support is something that the Army cannot control for. My suspicion is that factor has not been adequately addressed in planning for any type of future operation; hopefully, I'm wrong...

    Or try moving a BCT Headquarters...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Or try moving a BCT Headquarters...
    To build on Tom's statement; or a Division Headquarters. This gets at another area of concern; command and control at battalion level and higher. Company and below the C2 skillks that we have from Iraq and Astan now I think are pretty easily transferable to a higher intensity fight. But battalion and higher it becomes on the mild side problematic and on the worse very worriesome.

    gian

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    To build on Tom's statement; or a Division Headquarters. This gets at another area of concern; command and control at battalion level and higher. Company and below the C2 skillks that we have from Iraq and Astan now I think are pretty easily transferable to a higher intensity fight. But battalion and higher it becomes on the mild side problematic and on the worse very worriesome.

    gian
    As far as C2 goes, it may not be as bad as we think. I do not see much value currently being added by HQs at Division level and higher anyway.

    I wonder how many more BCTs we could field with the manpower and payroll savings from eliminating/streamlining those bloated organizations.
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    Default Agree with both of you. My solution

    to moving the Div Hq is to abolish it * -- but I know that's not likely to fly...

    The biggest detriment to shifting to major combat from or in any even moderately long COIN op is the static location of BCT and higher hq and the stasis that builds in mindsets and outlooks. Given a campaign ala Korea where in the early days the shift was from one form of warfare to the other in short time spans, that was not a problem. In Viet Nam with the slight exception of a couple of 'fire brigade' units, it was a problem.

    * Only partly tongue in cheek, I know we aren't able to do that on several levels but once we get the log piece adjusted, I do believe a TF Hq setup that is truly attuned to accepting a mixed set of subordinates would be better; the current Div has a tie that is ephemeral and psychological to its subordinates (and vice versa) which inhibits fully flexible plug and play. As an aside, CentCom's ideas on that score are not particularly helpful...
    Last edited by Ken White; 05-07-2008 at 05:32 PM. Reason: add '

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    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    As far as C2 goes, it may not be as bad as we think. I do not see much value currently being added by HQs at Division level and higher anyway.

    I wonder how many more BCTs we could field with the manpower and payroll savings from eliminating/streamlining those bloated organizations.
    While I would agree with your latter points about no value added, the trend is just the opposite. All that "flattened" structure just like bread dough is starting to rise vertically once again.

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    While I would agree with your latter points about no value added, the trend is just the opposite. All that "flattened" structure just like bread dough is starting to rise vertically once again.

    Tom
    I suspect that at least a small portion of this centers on what many "flattened" civilian organizations are discovering....what do you do with people when you promote them?

    With "up or out" chugging along, people in the military get promoted. And then you have to find something for them to do (or at least a chair to sit in)...and that breeds higher headquarters.

    Sorry for the simplistic analysis/comments, but I'm on the fly here and this just occurred to me. I've worked in "flattened" civilian organizations, and morale tends to suck because there's no place to go within the organization. If the military flattens, then they have to find places to put all those O4s, O5s, and so on. Staffs tend to make good hiding places.

    Just a random thought. YMMV, as always.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    I suspect that at least a small portion of this centers on what many "flattened" civilian organizations are discovering....what do you do with people when you promote them?

    With "up or out" chugging along, people in the military get promoted. And then you have to find something for them to do (or at least a chair to sit in)...and that breeds higher headquarters.

    Sorry for the simplistic analysis/comments, but I'm on the fly here and this just occurred to me. I've worked in "flattened" civilian organizations, and morale tends to suck because there's no place to go within the organization. If the military flattens, then they have to find places to put all those O4s, O5s, and so on. Staffs tend to make good hiding places.

    Just a random thought. YMMV, as always.
    Oh by all means you are on target. Much of what has sprung up are the very structures that were flattened and pushed down to BCTs. It left quite a gap in targets for battalion and brigade command in the various CS and CSS categories. And of course, really getting rid of 3-star corps commands whenh we were calling them UeXs etc was unlikely at best.

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Oh by all means you are on target. Much of what has sprung up are the very structures that were flattened and pushed down to BCTs. It left quite a gap in targets for battalion and brigade command in the various CS and CSS categories. And of course, really getting rid of 3-star corps commands whenh we were calling them UeXs etc was unlikely at best.

    Tom
    I am just waiting to see the MTOE changes that make all the BCT commanders one-star billets--shouldn't be too long
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