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Old 09-07-2007   #1
SWJED
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Default US Army's Strategy in Afghanistan: Better Anthropology

7 September Christian Science Monitor - US Army's Strategy in Afghanistan: Better Anthropology by Scott Peterson.

Quote:
Evidence of how far the US Army's counterinsurgency strategy has evolved can be found in the work of a uniformed anthropologist toting a gun in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Part of a Human Terrain Team (HHT) the first ever deployed she speaks to hundreds of Afghan men and women to learn how they think and what they need.

One discovery that may help limit Taliban recruits in this rough-hewn valley: The area has a preponderance of widows and their sons, who have to provide care, are forced to stay closer to home, where few jobs can be found. Now, the HHT is identifying ways to tap the textiles and blankets traded through here to create jobs for the women and free their sons to get work themselves.

"In most circumstances, I am 'third' gender," says Tracy, who can give only her first name. She says that she is not seen as either an Afghan woman or a Western one because of her uniform. "It has enhanced any ability to talk to [Afghans]. There is a curiosity."

Such insight is the grist of what US forces here see as a smarter counterisurgency. "We're not here just to kill the enemy we are so far past the kinetic fight," says Lt. Col. Dave Woods, commander of the 4th Squadron 73rd Cavalry. "It is the nonkinetic piece [that matters], to identify their problems, to seed the future here." Nearly six years after US troops toppled the Taliban, the battle is for a presence that will elicit confidence in the Afghan government and its growing security forces. "Operation Khyber," which started Aug. 22, aims for a more effective counterinsurgency using fewer bullets and more local empowerment.

US commanders have doubled US troop strength in eastern Afghanistan in the past year. They are also fielding the HHT a "graduate-level counterinsurgency" unit, as one officer puts it to fine-tune aid and to undermine the intimidating grip of militants in the region...
Much more at the link...
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Old 09-07-2007   #2
Beelzebubalicious
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This point has probably already been made, but I find the use of "counterinsurgency" as an umbrella term for all these efforts is confusing. From what I understand, there are efforts to weaken/destroy/counter the insurgents, but the core of this seems to be about "winning the hearts and minds" of the general populace so that insurgents can't make footholds in the community. The former is opposition, the latter is more partnernship. Given that it's often difficult to know who is friend and foe, the whole matter is confused.

Is the equation counterinsurgency (including win hearts and minds/build and hold) or is it counterinsurgency + win hearts and minds/build and hold? Perhaps I just miss the point, but I would be interested in hearing what SWJ folks have to say about this....
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Old 09-07-2007   #3
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Originally Posted by Beelzebubalicious View Post
Is the equation counterinsurgency (including win hearts and minds/build and hold) or is it counterinsurgency + win hearts and minds/build and hold? Perhaps I just miss the point, but I would be interested in hearing what SWJ folks have to say about this....
My humble amateur opinion. The mission is to separate the insurgents from the population. Once they are out in the open we can use our superior firepower/training etc. to kill them.

Hearts& minds, build hold, etc. are all tactics. Like any tactics, you need to be proficient at them all and use whatever combination works to complete your mission. Like any enemy the insurgents can adapt. Just like they can reinfiltrate captured territory they can reinfiltrate "cleared" populations. To make things even harder, insurgents can become civilians and stay civilians before changing back to insurgents. Anything that turns them into civilians, or prevents civilians from becoming insurgents, is a highly effective tactic. If you can use an anthropologist to prevent civilians from becoming insurgents, do it.

Tactical success is supposed to lead to a political end to the insurgency. The key words being "supposed to." The strategy, and the ability to achieve the ultimate objective, is in the hands of diplomats.

For the trigger puller, it's not that much different from traditional combat. You just complete the mission: take the hill. Someone at HQ worries about what's happening on all the surrounding hills and will tell you if you have a new mission. For the boots on the ground, COIN just means learning and deploying new tactics.

It's really the HQ guys who need a new mindset. Militarily, they need to get used to managing tactical missions. If they want strategic progress, they need to become diplomats.
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Old 09-07-2007   #4
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For the trigger puller, it's not that much different from traditional combat. You just complete the mission: take the hill. Someone at HQ worries about what's happening on all the surrounding hills and will tell you if you have a new mission. For the boots on the ground, COIN just means learning and deploying new tactics.
That simply is not true and therein lies the complexity of COIN. The Soldier on the ground is strategic in his effects. The mission is not take a hill; it maybe search a house. It may be escort a VIP to a meeting. It may be simply patrolling with a purpose. The greatest source of information in COIN is the small units and the tactical HUMINT teams out there on the ground. They--not the headquarters--know better than anyone what is happening on the ground.

Keeping those same Soldiers motovated in such a war is a leadership challenge; it is easy to allow the troops --and oneself--to slip into the "just another mission" mode. Then the troops get careless.

Best,

Tom
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Old 09-07-2007   #5
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LTC Gian Gentile wrote about this dichotomy in AFJ, an article I looked up after reading his comments on SWJ's Blog.

Eating Soup With a Spoon - LTC Gian P. Gentile, Armed Forces Journal.

Quote:
The natural instinct for a combat soldier when attacked is to protect himself and his buddies. Yet the paradox that "the more you protect yourself, the less secure you are" becomes counterintuitive to the soldier. It does not make sense because he experiences the essence of war fighting almost every day. So the paradox creates cognitive dissonance in the mind of a combat soldier in Iraq because it essentially tells him to do something that is unnatural to him and his environment — to not fight.
A blog I read a month or so ago makes clear that many soldiers believe that concern for civilian casualties gets soldiers killed:

http://armyofdude.blogspot.com/2007/...ect-world.html

Quote:
You might have heard about the six soldiers and one Russian reporter that died when their Stryker hit one such bomb. They were on their way to investigate the actual site before it blew. They knew it was there. Beforehand, an Apache helicopter identified several men digging a hole in the road, putting something large in the hole, and running away. The pilot asked for clearance to shoot a Hellfire missile at them. It was the best catch a pilot can hope for: killing Al Qaeda and taking out a bomb at the same time. Once again however, our rules and tactics became a bigger enemy than any terrorist could. They were denied permission to fire repeatedly because of the possibility of collateral damage. In the sagacious words of Hurley from the TV show Lost, we looked in the face of the enemy and said ‘whatever man!’

...

I don’t think I have to go into details about what came next. A whole squad, save the driver, was no more. They didn’t die for Iraqi liberty or American freedom. They died for trial and error. They died because an officer somewhere didn’t want to fill out paperwork because some dude’s car might have been damaged in a missile strike.
Also:

Quote:
American soldiers are breaking their backs to be the good guys in this war, to represent our leaders and the public we serve. We’re trying to remove the shame of Abu Ghraib and soldiers who raped and murdered Iraqi girls. When clearing blocks, we cut locks and if necessary, kick doors off hinges to search for weapon caches. If the people are home, we give them a number to call so they can collect money for their damaged property. In WWII, troops cleared houses by throwing in grenades without checking to see if a family is huddled in the corner. A terrible thing could happen, but it’s a war after all. We now have paintball guns and non-lethal shotgun rounds. Do you think the enemy carries the same? Who is this really helping?

...

Minutes after the firefight, all of us noticed a black sedan making the same rounds through alleys and side streets. ...

This car was using textbook actions in a moving sniper platform. Immediately my team leader called up to my squad leader, who too became suspicious. We all wanted to take a shot, at least in the trunk of the car to scare the driver off, who was more than 300 meters away.

...

It came back down the chain: don’t take the shot. It became a political decision; what if we were wrong? That's a lot of paperwork. We all cursed whoever kicked it back ...

We watched the car leave, only to round the corner one more time and stop. He backs up, once again exposing his rear right window in a perfect line of sight to our rooftop.

Once again the request to open fire was denied.

The window comes down.

Children in the alleyway scatter in all directions.

A flash of light fills the open window.

PSSSSSHEW.

...

Kill or no kill, the sniper made it back to his family that night. He used against us our most honorable and foolhardy trait: our adherence to the rules. And we, the most powerful force the earth has known, have been effectively neutered ...

Last edited by tequila; 09-07-2007 at 03:19 PM.
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