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Thread: The Ratio of Forces to Insurgents

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    Default The Ratio of Forces to Insurgents

    I'm new to SWJ and plan to write an article on the Afghan war. I recall seeing an article several years ago that gave the ratio of "Forces" to insurgents to have reasonable chance of winning the war (14-1?). I believe it was in reference to lessons learned from the Vietnam war but it may well have been a study of a number of small wars. I scanned previous blogs and have so far only found the ratio of Forces to civilians. Also I believe the latest estimate of insurgents is 15,000.

    Stats and sources would be much appreciated.

    Cheers,

    TJ in Ottawa

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Good luck with this. You will find many widely disparate opinions on each aspect of this study, but few "facts." All is also complicated by definitions of who is an "insurgent" and what a counterinsurgent thinks he needs to do to win and how many people he thinks he needs to accomplish those tasks.

    In other words, the more precise your findings are the less accurate they are likely to be. If you can get your arms around the bigger picture though, it could be a worthwhile bit of analysis.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    If you are looking for tenets of the COIN religion, you can never go wrong Googling John Nagl (Peace Be Upon Him).

    The first requirement for success in any counterinsurgency campaign is population security. This requires boots on the ground and plenty of them—20 to 25 counterinsurgents for every 1,000 people is the historically derived approximate ratio required for success, according to the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. That force ratio prescribes some 600,000 counterinsurgents to protect Afghanistan, a country larger and more populous than Iraq—some three times as large as the current international and Afghan force. The planned surge of 30,000 additional American forces to Afghanistan over the next year is merely a down payment on the vastly expanded force needed to protect all 30 million Afghan people.
    - via US News

    Just be advised that the ratio is misguided at best. That historically derived approximate ratio has as it's input data Soldiers who formerly did not have the ability to call in Spectre, F-16's, or Apaches, benefit from the extra set of eyes from Kiowas and UAVs, communicate securely with individuals 50 meters away or 50 km away instantly, or rely on world-class medical care where you get from the battlefield to the operating table in an hour. Soldiers included in that historically derived approximation also include guys who carried rifles more appropriate for hunting than combat, who did not need to worry about the media looking over their shoulders and cheap-shotting them, and on, and on.

    In something as complicated as war, ratios like that are not very useful.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Thumbs up You are a master of understatement...

    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    In something as complicated as war, ratios like that are not very useful.
    I'd go a step further and say they're borderline dangerous because either dumb soldiers or politicians (or both ) will glom onto them and almost certainly misuse them.

    Every war is different. Just as the nations and their populations differ...

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    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    These two are essential reading for the topic and show the danger of "common wisdom:

    http://cgsc.leavenworth.army.mil/car...rath_boots.pdf

    http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/downlo...grath_op23.pdf

    That being said, a proper ratio for a counter-insurgent is so heavily based on the terrain the campaign is being raged on and the nature of the insurgent's movement that to prescribe a number would be foolish. Even in Afghanistan, proper troops:task ratios vary from district to district.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Force ratio where? In the TAOR? In theatre? There is a huge amount of evidence to show force ratios are not a measure of performance, in the way folks imagine. Lot of good troops is better than lots of bad, and a small number of good is usually useless.
    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 MikeF's Avatar
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    Default To add to the others

    I once had a young Armor officer engage in a serious debate with me.

    "Mike, what do you think is the best reconnaissance platform in the US Army?"

    "I don't know. What do you think?"

    "The M1A2Sep."

    "Why?"

    "It can see out nearly 3 miles."

    "Dude, walk with me." I took him to the roof of my patrol base. How far can you see out here?" Our area was surrounded by thick palm groves.

    "Maybe 100 meters."

    "In my area, these scouts under my command are the best reconnaissance platforms. Tanks can't see far enough, and Apaches can't see through the palm groves."

    In the military, we call this METT-TC (Mission, Enemy, Time, Troops, Terrain, and Civilians). Academics will use bigger words like geography, economics, culture, human terrain, history, etc....

    v/r

    Mike

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    Default amen on the dangers of the easily measured.

    I vote for the exercise being dangerous cause it produces media/politician friendly numbers.

    e.g.
    what kind of environment are you positing?
    In Afghanistan COIN personnel walk around with translators in their 12 man force protection teams.
    At the other end of the spectrum, you can be demand feeding supplies and intel to self-directed home-groin COIN efforts like they had with the Shining Path in Peru.

    -peter

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ptamas View Post
    I vote for the exercise being dangerous cause it produces media/politician friendly numbers.
    LOL - I'll second that motion, Peter !

    Outside of producing media bite friendly numbers that have no inherent meaning, there are other serious problems with trying to use it in any way to look at Canada's mission in Afghanistan. First off, we aren't the government, so it isn't a COIN situation per se. This impacts on any potential use of a force ratio by reducing the effectiveness of boots on the ground since they have no direct relationship with the (supposedly) legitimate government.

    Second, establishing any such ratio in the popular mind of, say, Canadian citizens serves only as some sort of theological benchmark against which to manage expectations of effectiveness. Given that we (Canadians) aren't the Afghan government, that we are only a smallish part of a coalition operation and a whole host of other factors, such a ratio has so much "slop" in it as to be useless.

    Cheers,

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Parameters, Winter 09/10: A Historical Basis for Force Requirements in Counterinsurgency
    Over the last eight years, one question has repeatedly come up in regard to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: How many soldiers are enough? The question was first raised before the Iraq war started, with highly publicized disagreements between senior military leaders regarding the number of forces needed to secure Iraq after the invasion. The debate reached another peak when the “surge” strategy was announced. It has once again become the subject of national discussion, this time with respect to Afghanistan. Despite years of debate, our understanding of force requirements for counterinsurgency has advanced little since 1995, when James Quinlivan of RAND published a seminal article on the subject. The current article describes work done by the Center for Army Analysis (CAA) to better inform the discussion by examining historical data related to counterinsurgencies. The intent is not to make any policy recommendations. Nor should this analysis be interpreted to suggest that force levels alone are the key to victory in counterinsurgency. Having enough military forces is a necessary, but by no means sufficient, condition for success.....

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    Default Thank you everyone

    Thank you to all those that have responded to my request and especially to “Infanteer” for the source on Forces to Population ratio and to “Jedburgh” who led me to the “Tie down ratio”:

    Much nonsense is heard on the subject of tie-down ratios in guerrilla warfare--that 10 to 12 government troops are needed to tie down a single guerrilla, for instance. This is a dangerous illusion, arising from a disregard of the facts.[4]
    I understand completely that it is a crude measure to use in arguing that troop deployment is inadequate in Afghanistan. I was planning on using a few different measures to get a handle on what the number should be versus what a politician may or may not want to defend.

    Another crude measure is the forces the Soviet Union had available only to loose. But my main focus on the article I intend to write is “Lessons learned from Vietnam” and in particular McNamara’s lessons list:
    1. We misjudged then — and we have since — the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries … and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions.
    2. We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience … We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.
    3. We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for their beliefs and values.
    4. Our judgments of friend and foe, alike, reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders.
    5. We failed then — and have since — to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment, forces, and doctrine.
    6. We failed, as well, to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.
    7. We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale military involvement … before we initiated the action.
    8. After the action got under way, and unanticipated events forced us off our planned course … we did not fully explain what was happening, and why we were doing what we did.
    9. We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Our judgment of what is in another people's or country's best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose.
    10. We did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action … should be carried out only in conjunction with multinational forces supported fully (and not merely cosmetically) by the international community.
    I would argue that almost every single item on his list is once more being forgotten in Afghanistan, the main item being “winning the hearts and minds”. In our quest to kill the insurgent leaders we destroy villages and kill the locals. So just like Vietnam we win all the battles but lose the war. It boggles my mind that we are once again being driven by politicians who have no clue about winning the war and feed us propaganda on how we are apparently winning “the just cause”.

    The picture of the world's greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring 1,000 noncombatants a week, while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one.
    Memo from Robert McNamara to US President Lyndon Johnson, May 1967[/I]

    Don’t get me wrong, I think we should be in Afghanistan. That said, we shouldn’t be there if we don’t try really hard to actually win it. That requires a different strategy than trying a technology fix (e.g. sending predators into Pakistan), troop surges and propping up a corrupt government.

    Why aren’t we using some of the lessons learned in previous wars? Why are we not living with the locals in their communities (like a model from the Vietnam war)? Why are we trying to shove our version of “Democracy” on them when it just doesn’t resonate. Why are we expecting the local police and militia to work for less money than the Taliban offers? And on and on…

    TJ
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-03-2010 at 09:50 PM. Reason: Quote marks replaced use of italics. PM to author with advice.

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    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    You may want to check your facts before jumping to some of the big conclusions you make.

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    Default New RFI

    This old, closed thread has been re-opened after a request from 'Red Rat' who cannot currently access SWJ / SWC.

    His RFI:
    We are citing the (below) paper as best practice and using the maths, but I am less confident. I have yet to delve into the weeds, but my understanding is that the science (the maths) was soft at best in this area. I have not seen any more recent thinking/doctrine with regards to force ratios for security forces in a COIN scenario.
    He has found a 2008 SAMS paper 'Boots on the Ground: A Historical and Contemporary Analysis of Force Levels for Counterinsurgency Operations' by Major Glenn E Kozelka:http://www.cgsc.edu/sams/media/monog...ag-21may09.pdf

    From the Abstract:
    To determine a historical gauge for planning force levels in a COIN environment, this study provides a quantitative and qualitative analysis of two successful COIN case studies, the British-led Malaya Emergency and the US-led Operation in Iraq. Quantitative analysis of the case studies is used to compare the security force size employed to the population size. The qualitative analysis of the case studies is used to identify and assess the implications of specific operational environment factors on the force density used. Through applying a holistic approach of both quantitative and qualitative analysis, planners can more accurately determine the force density to meet the needs of a specific situation.
    I cannot find any previous reference to this paper or the author. This thread appears to fit!

    Anyone got any thoughts please?
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 06-25-2016 at 10:25 PM. Reason: 3,404v
    davidbfpo

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    The Iraq War was a success?

    As for force ratios, I recall the Russians had 1 soldier for every 6 Chechens during the 1994-1996 war.

    Historically, higher force ratios have led to defeat. Remember South Armagh, where some 40 PIRA members killed 4X their number of security forces.

    Yet special forces/intelligence operations in Northern Ireland (SAS, MRF, MI5, etc.), Vietnam (Operation Phoenix) and Malaya were highly successful.
    Last edited by Azor; 06-26-2016 at 01:42 AM.

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