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Thread: ISAF Campaign Plan Summary

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default ISAF Campaign Plan Summary

    ISAF Campaign Plan Summary - John Nagl, Small Wars Journal Blog

    I was struck during my recent visit to Afghanistan by an impressive understanding of counterinsurgency principles in the International Security Assistance Force and at subordinate headquarters (See In Afghanistan, 'New Spirit' To Confront The Taliban at NPR).

    At the request of the small group of think-tankers I was travelling with, General David McKiernan's headquarters has agreed to release an unclassified version of the ISAF Campaign plan specifically for posting on Small Wars Journal. Things I find particularly interesting in this plan include the upfront acknowledgement that this is a counterinsurgency (vice peacekeeping) campaign (obvious to us, but hugely important in the NATO context); the addition of "Shaping Operations" to the classic "Clear, Hold, Build" COIN methodology; an acknowledgment that in this still critically under-resourced theater, ISAF cannot be strong everywhere and must therefore prioritize areas to clear and hold (a point Dave Kilcullen made well on Sunday with Fareed Zakaria); and the overt emphasis on buildling Afghan governance capability and capacity as the objective of all of our operations.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Shape, in order to clear in order to hold and build.


    Can anyone explain to me what this actually means. Particularly why the word "Shape" is used.
    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.
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    You know, shape.

    Like a square, triangle, pentagon, octagon.

    "Speak English! said the Eaglet. "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and what's more, I don't believe you do either!"

    The Eaglet from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

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    Council Member Anthony Hoh's Avatar
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    Default Could be way off, but that has never stopped me before!

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post

    Can anyone explain to me what this actually means. Particularly why the word "Shape" is used.
    Wilfo,
    Shape in my mind is doing things like reforming the local police, and holding shuras to inform the populace of our intent before we go in searching houses and ticking people off. I submit that shaping (I would prefer "condition setting") up front pays dividends in the long run. Lining up the PRT, NGO's (a mission in and of itself) identifying issues through ASCOPE (particularly through SWEAT-MS), selecting short term projects that quickly make security gains or good will projects pays big during the clear, hold and build. I hate to sound like a jargon monkey but that is the quickest way I can explain what it means to me.Although you can clearly argue that reforming local officials, conducting projects can/should be done during hold/build. I think shaping the envirmoent through a competent police force or estasblishing good relations with the populace first is best. Use build for long term capacity type stuff. My only complaint with this current campaign plan is a lack of mechanisms to ensure we are synched with the ANSF. We have been here for a few minutes, I truly see nothing new in our approach to how we will synchronize efforts with the ANA/ANP.
    Last edited by Anthony Hoh; 11-20-2008 at 01:04 PM. Reason: Felt my initial offering was missing my usual trademark sarcasm

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Just for grins, I looked it up in the dictionary.

    Tons of definitions as a noun and as a verb; since its use, militarily ( ? ) is as a verb, here's the one I think most appropriate:

    "To embody in a definite form: shaped a folk legend into a full-scale opera."

    I particularly liked the example...

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anthony Hoh View Post
    Wilfo,
    Shape in my mind is doing things like reforming the local police, and holding shuras to inform the populace of our intent before we go in searching houses and ticking people off. I submit that shaping (I would prefer "condition setting") up front pays dividends in the long run. Lining up the PRT, NGO's (a mission in and of itself) identifying issues through ASCOPE (particularly through SWEAT-MS), selecting short term projects that quickly make security gains or good will projects pays big during the clear, hold and build.
    Many thanks.

    So if I said "Preparatory activity to help achieve the campaign objectives" it would mean the same thing?
    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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    Can't say I'm too impressed with the campaign plan, but it is rather sparse on anything but vague generalities. It doesn't look much different what what's be tried at various points in the past. I see from Kilcullen's recent statments and this that governance is back in vogue. I hope the authors and the folks at ISAF have closely examined all the earlier failed efforts at improving governance and learned from the experience.

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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post

    Can anyone explain to me what this actually means. Particularly why the word "Shape" is used.
    We used to talk about shaping the battlefield and meant by that what we could do to force our opponent to operate in certain ways that were beneficial to what we planned to do--for example, use a barrier plan to direct enemy movement along a certain avenue of approach, perhaps use MILDEC to get the enemy to think that he needed to position his reserve in one place when if fact that was exactly the wrong point to counter our intended main effort.

    In the context of "shape in order to clear in order to hold in order to build", shape here seems to follow that usage. Along the barrier plan motif, we might seek to isolate an area prior to starting to clear its insurgent population (and keep others from coming in to reinforce the existing insurgents) or establish certain "exit" points through which our clearing ops would allow the insurgents to escape--perhaps only to be rounded up and imprisoned. We might also have an LN Security/LE force prepositioned and ready to insert into a geographic location to maintain security after our force does the initial clearing. We might have a development team (again preferrably LN heavy) to do the hold and build work rather than try to grow it locally after clearing has occurred. We might even do Psypos work in aneffort to get the populace in the intended AO ready to "play nice" with our clearing force once it crosses the LD. Many other possibilities exist, but they all seem to relate to actions one would take prior to starting operations in an area that facilitate the likelihood of suceeding in those operations.
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
    The greatest educational dogma is also its greatest fallacy: the belief that what must be learned can necessarily be taught. ó Sydney J. Harris

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    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Default Hmmm....

    Entropy I would have to agree since all that I got was a one page summary after clicking the link....

    I think, in all fairness, that the plan/strategy itself has far more detail... This is nothing more than boiler plate planner pixie dust...

    I remember characterizing (a long time ago) that neither Afghanistant nor Iraq had to smell like a bed of roses, it just couldn't smell like a a steaming pile left by the horses after a parade...

    Not sure why it matters that ISAF included COIN... that implies that EU governments would feel compelled to act in accord with the stated military strategy... I see no evidence of that in Europe or N. America...

    It would be great to actually get a crack at the plan itself, as Ulyses S. McGill once said, "A third of a gopher (OPLAN Summary) would only serve to arouse my appetite without bedding it back down."

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    I was in ISAF 2006-2007, and a planner for the NATO corps that took over ISAF under McKiernan's predecessor LTG David Richards. Nothing is new in the referenced document beyond the acknowledgement that this is a counterinsurgency operation and the call for "greater effort on the narcotics-insurgency nexus." Note the latter is carefully phrased so as not to commit NATO to counter-narcotic operations.

    Just a couple of further observations:

    1. The NATO mission was a peacekeeping operation intially. It didn't exactly fail, but it expanded to take over regions where the US had allowed an insurgency to establish itself.
    2. ISAF is not a strategic headquarters, it is an operational headquarters. While they have every right to design campaign plans, it is not in McKiernan's power (as ISAF commander) to alter strategy.
    3. I would be curious to know if the document (or the concepts contained therein) was approved by ISAF's higher headquarters.
    4. Familiarity with counterinsurgency doctrine has never been a problem with the NATO officers. My planners (Spanish, Portugese, Dutch, German, and English) were at least as current as the Americans I worked with in Bagram and typically had as much or more practical experience.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    We used to talk about shaping the battlefield and meant by that what we could do to force our opponent to operate in certain ways that were beneficial to what we planned to do--for example, use a barrier plan to direct enemy movement along a certain avenue of approach, perhaps use MILDEC to get the enemy to think that he needed to position his reserve in one place when if fact that was exactly the wrong point to counter our intended main effort.
    OK, but that is FIXING the enemy to allow you to more effectively STRIKE him.

    To me "Shaping Fires" were a strange way of saying "Interdiction" or "Suppression", so I assumed there may be some other/yet another meaning.
    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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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Agree with Hacksaw and Eden

    Re: the one pager, there's no 'there' there. I always get worried after I read "the latest revelation" and know less than before reading it...

    Europe doesn't care what we say and the strategy comes from the politicians and CentCom (but only to the extent the former allows the latter to dictate a bit ).

    I'm totally unsure what purpose that Unclas document serves other than to mystify an already ignorant media.

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default Banal and underwhelming

    They really must have changed what they teach at SAMS and the Advanced Warfighting course if that is what now passes as a Campaign Plan summary.

    I would like to think that it is really a case of some Escort Officer or PAO had a good idea and thought that they could impress JN and or his travelling companion(s) with an 'exclusive'. One would imagine that the actual, classified, plan would need to be substantively different IOT be of any practical use.

    The document begs the 'so what' questions about the various generalities and motherhood statements offered about matters 'governance' and the like WRT 'ways' and 'means' . Such as how exactly does a multinational military corps build civil governance in a culturally fractious developing nation with no significant history or culture of the same? If governance is truly the answer (and it is probably part of it) then ISAF is surely the wrong tool for the right job.

    Another concern was the lack of an obvious, compelling central theme that can be used in narratives within theatre - and regionally and internationally. The 'idea' that this is worth doing simply because we think we can or should is highly unlikely to become a dominant counter -narrative against the rebellious elements and amongst the populations they use and target. Why an IO type line of operations given a degree of centrality and greater specifity? Major error.

    Of the many other questions that arise, these three are perhaps worth considering in some detail:

    - 'Development' to what level, and for what specific purpose?
    - Given the need for prioritisation of 'pacification', what are the risk treatments envisaged for the areas unattended to ?
    - What 'governance' and for whom? - The 'central' and 'sovereign' government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or the current diffuse regional and provincial seats of power (aka war lordism). These would appear to be mutually exclusive and equally problematic politically, socially and culturally.

    The campaign plan must provide guidance on these sort of issues rather than platitudes.
    Last edited by Mark O'Neill; 11-20-2008 at 11:53 PM. Reason: spelling

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default for some reason I cannot edit my previous post

    The line about the IO / Narrative campaign LLO should read 'Why isn't there one?'

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    Council Member Anthony Hoh's Avatar
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    Default I defer to the more learn'ed but in a word yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Many thanks.

    So if I said "Preparatory activity to help achieve the campaign objectives" it would mean the same thing?
    Yes, But other Council members are correct, I gave examples of shape as it will more than likely be used in the context of this campaign plan. But as you know we can use Fires, IO, Checkpoints, etc, to shape the battlefield of the terrain or populaceÖ

    Also as I have read the Campaign Plan, I do not disagree with Eden that most of these guys know their stuff (they are not on the staff at ISAF by accident)
    I feel Mark's comment about platitudes is dead on. I realize that you dont hammer out details at the theater level inside of a campaign plan. However I dont see subordinate staff's in the regions as even having a jump off point for refinement, to make the dream come true.


    Tony

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    Default At least we now have something to dissect!

    I am not sure how much real insight anyone expected to get from a 5-line mission statement and 13 bullet points that summarizes a joint and combined operational level campaign plan. I for one was rather heartened by Johnís post and the tiny insight it offered, so my hyper-tension is under control. I am not sure how many of have seen a summary of the OIF Joint Campaign Plan. It would not say a great deal more than we have been offereded in the ISAF summary: lines of operation (political (Main Effort), security, diplomatic, and economic) and the supporting activities (information, intelligence, engagement and logistics). Linda Robinson provides a really good open source summary in [I]Tell Me How This Ends[/I.

    The interesting omission from the ISAF summary is any mention of diplomatic activity to support the plan. Arenít the regional context and the role neighbours can play to support or undermine the plan pretty important considerations when it comes to developing a theater plan? While the summary mentions Interdict and disrupt insurgent movement to and from sanctuaries in the border region, shaping the diplomatic environment in a wider sense than the effects strike operations have is a crucial, but as yet unstated task that has to be met.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Not much and that's the point...

    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Alderson View Post
    I am not sure how much real insight anyone expected to get from a 5-line mission statement and 13 bullet points that summarizes a joint and combined operational level campaign plan.
    It doesn't pass the "so what" test. That's to say it serves no useful purpose, so why bother -- except as a platitude for the media and punditocracy / civilian strategist crowd.

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Unhappy Thank you so much Mr White

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    It doesn't pass the "so what" test. That's to say it serves no useful purpose, so why bother -- except as a platitude for the media and punditocracy / civilian strategist crowd.
    For once again bursting the bubble for those of us who like to at least pretend someone actually might care what we have to say
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default We all have our talents. I'll thank you to know

    that several Commanders who have said things like "You could rain on a Medal of Honor ceremony" were not correct. I'm good but I'm not that good...

    (Your comment also applies to my deathless prose. )

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    Default Wait 'til the GAO gets involved

    While the sketchy ISAF campaign plan summary has created more itches than it scratched, it's interesting that at least a glimpse of what may be in store has been offered. And who knows, the authors might be avid readers of Small Wars Journal and might take account of some of the concerns raised. For me, the interesting thing is to compare this vorspeisen with the way the 280 page Petraeus/Crocker Joint Campaign Plan (and all its 14 annexes) was kept on a very tight hold for a long time. True, plenty of visitors to Baghdad were briefed on the plan and the method, but very little was said publicly. Indeed, a rather amusing game of cat and mouse developed between those in Baghdad and the GAO (see http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d081021t.pdf) over the very issue of public statements of intent.

    Ken justified to ask 'What's the point?' If it is to stimulate a bit of discussion among those who are interested and care, and to get a different take, beyond tell us more, John's post has worked.

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