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Thread: Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency

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    Default Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency

    This article has been making the rounds among the USMC leadership - comes highly recommended!

    Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency by David Kilcullen.

    Introduction

    Your company has just been warned for deployment on counterinsurgency operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. You have read David Galula, T.E. Lawrence and Robert Thompson. You have studied FM 3-24 and now understand the history, philosophy and theory of counterinsurgency.

    You watched Black Hawk Down and The Battle of Algiers, and you know this will be the most difficult challenge of your life.

    But what does all the theory mean, at the company level? How do the principles translate into action - at night, with the GPS down, the media criticizing you, the locals complaining in a language you don't understand, and an unseen enemy killing your people by ones and twos? How does counterinsurgency actually happen?

    There are no universal answers, and insurgents are among the most adaptive opponents you will ever face. Countering them will demand every ounce of your intellect. But be comforted: you are not the first to feel this way. There are tactical fundamentals you can apply, to link the theory with the techniques and procedures you already know.

    What is counterinsurgency?

    If you have not studied counterinsurgency theory, here it is in a nutshell: this is a competition with the insurgent for the right and the ability to win the hearts, minds and acquiescence of the population. You are being sent in because the insurgents, at their strongest, can defeat anything weaker than you. But you have more combat power than you can or should use in most situations. Injudicious use of firepower creates blood feuds, homeless people and societal disruption that fuels and perpetuates the insurgency. The most beneficial actions are often local politics, civic action, and beat-cop behaviors. For your side to win, the people do not have to like you but they must respect you, accept that your actions benefit them, and trust your integrity and ability to deliver on promises, particularly regarding their security. In this battlefield popular perceptions and rumor are more influential than the facts and more powerful than a hundred tanks.

    Within this context, what follows are observations from collective experience: the distilled essence of what those who went before you learned. They are expressed as commandments, for clarity - but are really more like folklore. Apply them judiciously and skeptically.

    Preparation

    1. Know your turf...

    2. Diagnose the problem...

    3. Organize for intelligence...

    4. Organize for interagency operations...

    5. Travel light and harden your CSS...

    6. Find a political / cultural adviser...

    7. Train the squad leaders - then trust them...

    8. Rank is nothing, talent is everything...

    9. Have a game plan...

    The Golden Hour...

    10. Be there...

    11. Avoid knee jerk responses to first impressions

    12. Prepare for handover from Day One...

    13. Build trusted networks...

    14. Start easy...

    15. Seek early victories...

    16. Practice deterrent patrolling...

    17. Be prepared for setbacks...

    18. Remember the global audience...

    19. Engage the women, beware the children...

    20. Take stock regularly...

    Groundhog Day...

    21. Exploit a "single narrative"...

    22. Local forces should mirror the enemy, not ourselves...

    23. Practice armed civil affairs...

    24. Small is beautiful...

    25. Fight the enemy's strategy, not his forces...

    26. Build your own solution - only attack the enemy when he gets in the way...

    Getting Short...

    27. Keep your extraction plan secret...

    Four "What Ifs"...

    Conclusion...

    28. Whatever else you do, keep the initiative...
    Open the link above for the full article and an explanation on each of the 28 articles of company-level COIN.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    I saw it too. It is quite a good piece of work.

    I especially like
    22. Local forces should mirror the enemy, not ourselves...
    Best

    Tom

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    Default Local forces should mirror the enemy

    Tom,

    I focused on this one also, but don't completely buy it hook, line, and sinker. I don't think trying to create symmetry is necessarily the right answer, because that puts us more in a react mode than an offensive (or taking the initiative) mode. Note insurgents do not have to model us to defeat us, they use their strenghts effectively, and we need to do the same. None the less the author's intent is well taken.

    Furthermore I have seen many of our FID efforts produce limited results because we heap technology, weapons, and tactics, techniques, and procedures that are relevant to our culture and our military culture, but not the developing nation we're attempting to assist. FM 7-8 works for us (within limits), but not for armies without a NCO corps. Technology without robust maintenance systems or educated forces to employ them will soon be gathering rust, and we simply wasted millions of tax dollars. How many times have you seen our donated weapons, vehicles, etc. in category four condition throughout Africa during your tours?

    It would be great if we could develop an officer corp in our military that could adapt to their environment instead of the dogmatic doctrinal officer corp we have now. We're still producing the same officers we produced out of West Point in the Civil War, and unfortunately more Westmorelands.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore
    It would be great if we could develop an officer corp in our military that could adapt to their environment instead of the dogmatic doctrinal officer corp we have now.
    Do you know how to do that? Or rather, how would you go about doing that? Serious question, no pun.

    Martin

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    What struck me about this was the necessity to understand the strengths of the forces you are working with and then accentuate them. I have been in too many countries where one of 2 things happens (or sometimes both) in assistance programs (civil and military).

    a. we try to build them into a Mini-me look alike. the absolute worst assistance effort I ever saw was not a USAID initiative but was a US Senator directed through USAID program to "give" slightly used Wisconsin dairy cattle (meaning give them the cows but deduct the costs from available monies) to the Egyptians. There were 50 cows and they lasted less than a year (the bill was 6 figure as I recall). The Egyptians were less than pleased; the USAID mission was less than pleased; but the Senator's home state dairy association was overjoyed and wanted to do it again. We do this militarily. We gave the Sudanese 10 M60A3 tanks in the mid80s; the first thing they did was drive one through the wall of their tank shed. A Major whom I respect stopped them from opening all the tool kits, spare parts, etc in the middle of a sandpile only by threatening to cut off future assistance. To this day, I do not understand why we would sell 10 tanks to Sudan; the country had a huge parking lot of Soviet equipment that had been passed down to them from the Egyptians.

    b. They want to be a Mini-me; demands for high tech equipment are fueled by a sense of status. The classic for this was Zaire (now DR Congo) and PR Congo(CongoBrazza). The Soviets backed Congo-Brazza and we backed Zaire. The French and the PRC backed both. Billions of dollars went into this effort and produced nothing. I met a Zairian Fighter Jock whose sole claim to fame was that he had pranged 2 fighters and lived though the second crash resulted in some nasty burns. There was an Italian Macchi ground attack bird out at NDjili airfield and one day I noticed it was being pushed from the military side to the civilian side. There it was refueled and then pushed back. I asked my "Maverick" what that was all about. I only knew of one A/C in the Zairian Air Farce that was still flying, a Puma that tended to wag its tail like a dog. He told me not to worry; the jet was inop due to lack of oxygen, charges on the ejection seat, and other faults. The "ground crew" would push it over every few weeks, gas it up, and then push it back so they could then sell the fuel.

    c. is of course where we try to clone ourselves and our clones like it. then you can really get into Alice in Wonderland bizarreness.

    Our saving grace in the Cold War was that the Soviets did the same damn thing. I would recommend 2 books about this:

    Andrew Buckoke, Fishing in Africa, a Guide to War and Corruption and
    Mohammed Heikal, The Sphinx and the Commissar, the Rise and Fall of Soviet Influence in the Middle East

    I guess that is what I found so refreshing about the RPA in Rwanda. They valued training over all else but they wanted to make sure it fit their needs. They were realistic in their approach to technology and they were frugal. One of my SF guys told me one night at the Embassy bar, "Sir they can't do push ups for Sh@#. They can't do situps worth a damn either and they don't like to run. But they can walk up the side of a mountain like it's not even there..."

    And therein is the real lesson of Lawrence: use the strengths and the proclivities of the locals to suit your ends...

    Then again Lawrence was not very popular until he was both out of the British Army and dead.

    Best
    Tom

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    Default Tom and Martin

    Martin,

    I'll attempt a stab at your question to get the debate started within our group. However, I want to take some time to formulate some concepts first.

    Tom,

    You would do our government a service if you would write a book on your experiences. After being retired a few years I'm sure you have reflected on your experiences and have much to share with us. Stability and stability like operations will remain a key component of our national security strategy. Unfortunately we tend to wait until it is a crisis until we decide to address it, by then it may be too late. You had a unique role where you were created effects [just because you hate the concept :-)] behind the scenes with limited resources.

    Ciao, Bill

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Bill,

    Thank you. The book is written and you can read one chapter here in SWJ magazine, thanks to the SWJ crew, at: http://www.smallwarsjournal.com/docu...om_journey.htm

    Best
    Tom

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    I'll take a stab at Martin's question.

    You develop a flexible, non-dogmatic officer corps by continually exposing officers of all ranks to realistic simulations against live, reacting enemies in a free play environment. The army already does this for maneuver warfare out in the desert. The essential requirement now is to extend this attitude to other types of missions, cultures and environments. Especially helpful would be joint missions, where third party forces ally with and oppose US units. Failing that, Special Operations forces might supply a realistic alternative. This doesn't always require a full blown simulation - terrain walks or map exercises can invoke the same principles.

    When the results of an exercise hang on whether you grok your ally's cultural and military attitudes, officers of all ranks will break out of their molds real quick.

    You fight how you train. Right now, the great bulk of the army trains to do one job (firepower intensive maneuver war) and they do it well. This is because we have devised (through decades of effort) realistic ways of simulating a maneuver war against a thinking, freely acting enemy. If we want the army to succeed at other tasks, we must train for them with the same ingenuity and intensity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jones_RE
    I'll take a stab at Martin's question.

    You develop a flexible, non-dogmatic officer corps by continually exposing officers of all ranks to realistic simulations against live, reacting enemies in a free play environment.

    [...]

    This is because we have devised (through decades of effort) realistic ways of simulating a maneuver war against a thinking, freely acting enemy. If we want the army to succeed at other tasks, we must train for them with the same ingenuity and intensity.
    What do you think is missing then? According to what you say above, the objective should have been reached. Or do you mean that the training currently performed simply needs to be taken to the other tasks?

    Although it doesn't say how you would do it, I think parts of the why's can be found in leadership and command and control. How to do it, however, is a little bit more complex.

    Eager for Moore's thinking...

    Martin

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    I think that within the field of maneuver warfare, the current generation of officers is not dogmatic and inflexible. When it comes to a mechanized shootout in a desert somewhere they're quick thinking, creative and downright devious. There is no other way to win those simulations, because if you follow some scripted playbook the "red team" will hand you your head. There's nothing like that for COIN, Stability Operations, Peace Enforcement, etc. So there's room to just settle in and turn off the brain - dogmatism requires a certain degree of complacency in order to thrive. You can't be complacent against a thinking, breathing opponent who wants to win, because that opponent will come up with a way to beat the pants off you. When that starts showing up in your fitness reports it starts impacting careers and that gets noticed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jones_RE
    I think that within the field of maneuver warfare, the current generation of officers is not dogmatic and inflexible. When it comes to a mechanized shootout in a desert somewhere they're quick thinking, creative and downright devious. There is no other way to win those simulations, because if you follow some scripted playbook the "red team" will hand you your head. There's nothing like that for COIN, Stability Operations, Peace Enforcement, etc. So there's room to just settle in and turn off the brain - dogmatism requires a certain degree of complacency in order to thrive. You can't be complacent against a thinking, breathing opponent who wants to win, because that opponent will come up with a way to beat the pants off you. When that starts showing up in your fitness reports it starts impacting careers and that gets noticed.
    Interesting point to make... Do conventional forces have a good way of measuring and recording real world progress in COIN? How would you go about doing that?

    Martin

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    Thumbs up

    If you have not studied counterinsurgency theory, here it is in a nutshell: this is a competition with the insurgent for the right and the ability to win the hearts, minds and acquiescence of the population. You are being sent in because the insurgents, at their strongest, can defeat anything weaker than you. But you have more combat power than you can or should use in most situations. Injudicious use of firepower creates blood feuds, homeless people and societal disruption that fuels and perpetuates the insurgency. The most beneficial actions are often local politics, civic action, and beat-cop behaviors.
    Dumbasses need to realize this is counterinsurgency and not another Tom Clancy computer game You do not get cool points for firing at anything approaching your convoy nor firing .50 indescriminately at a village

    8. Rank is nothing, talent is everything...
    Talent isn't based on political position within the unit either.
    Last edited by GorTex6; 04-14-2006 at 09:42 PM.

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    Default Fantastic article

    A pity he was never seconded to Abizaid as an adviser. Sort of an Aussie Charles Murphy role.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jones_RE
    I think that within the field of maneuver warfare, the current generation of officers is not dogmatic and inflexible. When it comes to a mechanized shootout in a desert somewhere they're quick thinking, creative and downright devious. There is no other way to win those simulations, because if you follow some scripted playbook the "red team" will hand you your head. There's nothing like that for COIN, Stability Operations, Peace Enforcement, etc. So there's room to just settle in and turn off the brain - dogmatism requires a certain degree of complacency in order to thrive. You can't be complacent against a thinking, breathing opponent who wants to win, because that opponent will come up with a way to beat the pants off you. When that starts showing up in your fitness reports it starts impacting careers and that gets noticed.
    that is exactly the role of the JRTC where COIN, stability ops, and peace enforcement along with CONOPs and other tasks have been and still are trained against a thinking breathing opponent

    Tom

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    Default What next?

    A pity he was never seconded to Abizaid as an adviser. Sort of an Aussie Charles Murphy role
    I disagree, as that is not the level where his influence needs to be felt.

    I don't buy off on everything he has written, but good on him for organizing his thoughts and common sense in the best fashion I've seen in a long time. I read it and thought, this is like a memory jogger that I could see finding a home next to the AO/sector map in the CO CP!

    Perhaps his services could be better employed, say, at the JRTC, or the Marine Corps Mojave Viper program. This is all good stuff, but it's only as good as its implementation. If a battalion commander directs all of his junior officers to read the text, that's a first step. The shortfall is that with a read of the material, one can only gain the knowledge. The desired endstate is "understanding", and that certainly takes more time, effort, and resources.

    I've often held subtle disagreement with the training methodologies typically employed in the military. A case in point is the JRTC/NTC/CAX paradigm. Some units treat them as they are designed, as training events, while others use them as a "graduation exercise" of sorts, and "train to deploy and train". Our doctrine/training commands can be cumbersome at times, and with the issues that the LtCol so poignantly addresses, I don't think one (read: company staff/troops) could gain understanding from a day with him in the bleacher seating at a MOUT town, or an extract of his writing stuffed in the appendices of a period of instruction on COIN.

    Perhaps we need a new paradigm, where units shift from sending an officer/SNCO to a formal school for 3-4 weeks, and send their best and brightest to week-long (or longer) seminars where they have the opportunity to sit and truly listen, question, and debate. Designed to deliver further training back to the unit, this training needs to follow something like a sensei-to-pupil model, not Billy Banks and Tae-Bo.

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    I would think, possibly because I have no expertise in military tactics, that having the Iraqi army mirror the insurgency would be exactly what is needed. If the Iraqi army and the insurgency are facing (literally) each other and neither are in a full-out retreat, when the insurgency moves to the right the Iraqi army needs to mirror that movement by moving to its left.
    When the Iraqi army moves to the left, in a move to mirror the enemy, before the insurgency does, that's called getting into your enemy's decision making loop and is an offensive movement. To expect the Iraqi Army to do more, without a robust Iraqi civilian/military support mechanisms, would seem to me to be to be unreasonable.
    If I was leading a company into battle in Iraq, I would want the 28 articles tattooed inside my eye lids so I could read them every night (or day) before I went to sleep, but are they really complete? While reading the recommended literature should tie everyone reading the articles together, couldn't the articles summarize more about what they are really about, leading?

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    Default mirroring the enemy

    I don't think it's a good idea to exactly mirror the insurgency, but I'm hard pressed to think of the counter insurgent movement that succeeded without adopting at least some of the tactics of its opponents. E.g. the US Cavalry picking up Indian scouts for help with tracking, lightening some combat loads, etc. in order to keep up with fast moving Indian opponents.

    That said, the Iraqi Army has some advantages the insurgents never will, and they'd be fools to ignore them: funding to pay recruits, training in small arms and tactics from US soldiers, access to sophisticated electronic and aerial intelligence, a certain degree of air and armored support, etc.

    What, specifically, should the Iraqi army (and perhaps the US army) attempt to copy from the insurgents? I'll throw out a few ideas, perhaps some people here can come up with others.

    1) Camouflage. The insurgents virtually never reveal themselves until they strike. Select Iraqi soldiers should definitely be out and about in their patrol areas in plainclothes or unmarked civilian vehicles. Sufficient issue of concealed weapons would be a good idea. A better idea would be meticulous record keeping and debriefs to make sure these soldiers aren't sidelining as death squads or criminals. Perhaps digital cameras or GPS devices could be issued to provide some evidence of that.

    2) The rumor mill. Iraqi society receives much of its information by word of mouth. Simply being aware of the latest urban legends could be a great asset, even if you don't debunk them or start your own.

    3) Internet age communications. The insurgents make a big deal out of their websites and so forth. Individual units, officers and soldiers with their own blogs, sites and so forth could start to counteract the other side's dominance in the Information War.

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    Default mirroring

    Quote Originally Posted by Jones_RE
    I don't think it's a good idea to exactly mirror the insurgency, but I'm hard pressed to think of the counter insurgent movement that succeeded without adopting at least some of the tactics of its opponents.
    What, specifically, should the Iraqi army (and perhaps the US army) attempt to copy from the insurgents?
    Mirroring is not copying your opponents tactics. Mirroring is a strategy. To accomplish this strategy takes information of the implicit nature of your enemy. Once you know your enemy, you can train in his tactics and counter them. If you are good enough, you can counter before your enemy acts, this is called offensive maneuvers.
    I at first thought the Iraqi Army could, if anyone could, mirror the insurgency. This was because of the fact they know, implicitly, the insurgency. However, the problem with this idea, one of must be many, is that a mirroring strategy takes two players. The Iraqi Army may know the insurgency well enough to participate, however, they don't know themselves well enough. The Iraqi Army's implicit rules (what they feel inside) are too divided. I don't think it would be possible to mirror your enemy when part of what you feel belongs to the enemy.
    So the statement in the 28 articles should be amended. It should read instead: the Iraqi Army should follow the explicit orders of the US military until such time that the Iraqi Army develops an identity of itself. It should be the strategy of the US military to promote an Iraqi Army's self-identity through training and support. While this creates a big Catch-22, I am sure this is something the US military is quite able to handle, given time.

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    Default Examples in history

    Mirroring one's enemy happened in a way during the Rhodesian conflict. A read of the texts describing pseudo-operations, conducted by the Selous Scouts, describes the path the Rhodesian Security Forces took to "turn" terrorists for the purpose of gaining tactical intelligence about the enemy. In several cases, "turned" terrorists were integrated into the Scouts' formations and employed in the field to allow them to get within hands-reach of the small terrorist gangs.

    The tactics came at a price though, and allegations were laid against the Scouts that they used questionable tactics and torture to accomplish the mission. Media hype and Marxist rhetoric only inflamed matters, and the secretive unit could do little to defend itself in the open.

    "Mirroring", if not employed in accordance with the precepts of the Law of War, poses significant risks. Could the Iraqi Security Forces become the death squads of the M.E.? Would their actions put a stink on the coalition forces that trained and outfitted them?

    I agree that the ISF needs to understand all aspects of the insurgency, especially those quirks that an outsider would never understand, but employing those tactics could quickly blur the line between opponents, and only excacerbate the civil war tinderbox.

    Just my $.02

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    There was an excellent book out there on the Selous Scouts, under that title. I once had a copy that I bought in Zimbabwe in '84; I gave it to an Zimbabwean captain I as a CGSC faculty member sponsored in '85. He was of course a former guerrilla and he told me that of all the Rhodesian security forces, the Scouts were considered the number one threat.

    I believe this is the same book and will order it and see. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/062...76012?n=283155


    The Brits used the same tactic againt the Mau Mau in Kenya. I have a good book on that:Robert B. Edgerton, Mau Mau, An African Crucible. This is a critical history of the British COIN campaign against the Mau Mau in Kenya. Listed on Amazon at:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/034...ance&n=283155.


    best

    Tom

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