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« ON WAR #324: O = W | Main | ON WAR #326: Finis »

12/07/2009

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Roger

This is an excellent analysis and the author's conclusions make lots of sense. However, it is highly unlikey the US military would adopt this approach. Because it does not require the purchase of massive amounts of expensive equipment that would result in the feeding of defense contractors. As Mr. Lind has noted in some of his previous columns, one of the US military's top prioritie is to make defense contractors fat, so generals and admirals will have a place to start second careers after they retire from the military.

EN

No way that "light Infantry" will ever be light or fast moving so this won't work from the get go. Anyone who even considers losing body armor or gear won't be around long.

bobechs

Where have we heard this all before? Oh, now I recall:

Bernard Fall, 1963

COUNTERINSURGENCY: THE FRENCH EXPERIENCE

(online at http://smallwarsjournal.com/documents/bfall.pdf )

"The French studied quite carefully...hierarchies paralleles.
They found that what the Communists are really doing is actually
setting up their own type of administration ...
You have government village chiefs and you have Communist
village chiefs; you have a government district chief and a
Communist district chief...
The important thing, of course, is to find out who "the man behind
the man" is at each level, but that is very difficult...
[It]operates on the following pattern:
a little man in a black peasant suit would walk in, knock at the door
and speak to the village chief. This would have been perhaps in 1957...

"Mr. Mayor, I'm the local representative of the Southern Liberation
Front. My comrades need three tons of rice. We need them
three days from now.
Of course, the village chief still being faithful to the Vietnamese
Government in Saigon, says something in Vietnamese like, "Get to
hell out of here." The little man, without a weapon, in the black
peasant suit, will say to him, "You're going to be sorry about this."
The Mayor would reply, "Get out before I call someone and have you
arrested." The little man disappears and about Wednesday night
about eight o'clock when it's'dark--it gets dark very early in Vietnam,
being close to the Equator--there again is a knock at the door and
there is the same little man, still without any weapon, but behind
him are two other little men in the same black peasant suit except
that they have submachineguns, or broad-bladed machetes...
The little mayor knows that this is not going to be a very
happy occasion,... They
may even leave a little note pinned to his body, "Thus die the traitors
to the Liberation Front. "

bobechs

@EN, I have another Vietnam quote, just for you:

"Don't get out of the boat. *Never* get out of the boat"

It's particulary effective as a force protection stategy in Afghanistan.

Matt

You know, as I read through this, I kept thinking about the Selous Scout way of warfare.

They would capture and then turn former enemy combatants, and use them in small teams to infiltrate villages and collect information on their former comrades.

For a village to be retaken, you need to either send in these undercover Afghans troops, who are either former Taliban, or are well versed on how the Taliban operate, and send them into villages to collect information. All war fighting and COIN must be intelligence driven in order to make good decisions on how to win that fight. It is that simple.

I think once that intel is collected, then it shouldn't be a problem to identify who needs to be killed or captured to retake the village.

And to take a lesson from Iraq, once we remove the leadership and supportive elements, there must be a plan in place to replace it.

That would be the other job of these undercover Afghans or Mystery Shoppers (lol, I had to), to find out who are the supporters of the government, who hate the Taliban, and who the fence sitters are. Finding a new Malik and other replacement nodes of influence would be vital.

The final portion of taking back a village should be to hold and build. This is a SysAdmin function, and I think we could actually contract out the security and rebuilding of the village. Post a military QRF within the area to back up the contractors, but for the most part, contract out the security and rebuilding of a village.

The security force for the village would be one part village locals, one part expat contractor with a competent expat site security manager to watch over. The rebuild would be the job of another site manager. If we looked at a village, much like we view FOB's or remote outposts, contractors could easily protect it. Contractors were used to protect communities in the US during the Katrina Hurricane disasters, we can be used for SysAdmin stuff in Afghanistan. The model for such a thing, could be the CMC projects that the Army Corps of Engineers put together in Iraq.

The best part about contracting it out, is that it frees up the war fighters to keep taking more villages back from the Taliban. They could also stick to being just war fighters, and not this other thing that we are trying to turn them into, and that is community watch/policemen.

Not to mention the fact that you could continue to contract the hold and build portion of a village indefinitely. Or until the government has maintained control, the village has a strong Malik and is well defended against all Taliban nodes of influence.

Contractors are not limited by deployment time or unit cycles. We are also motivated to be there, and are driven by customers satisfaction in order to keep the contract. (thats if the customer actually cares what is done with their money or about the quality of service)

Any way, good post and it was inspirational and enlightening.

BrianSJ

Someone has read Kitson. Shame he was in the Taliban.

Robcrilly.wordpress.com

Fascinating post. There are clearly similarities with the way the Shabaab operates in Somalia and I'd love to know how deep those parallels run. I've posted that question on my blog, but I suspect rather less is known about what goes on in Somalia. Thanks again for a thought-provoking piece

Red5

I knew it was you, Matt, before I even got to the bottom of the post. I like your way of thinking.

Hammer

It should be noted that large numbers of SF/Delta/Mike Force personnel in Vietnam never wore body armor, helmuts, travelled light, and carried on some of the most intense fire fights in much of same way that the article speaks about.

We have become so dominated by body armor etc. out of fear of having to explain why a solider was killed and he was not wearing body armor.

Hammer

What is interesting is that the decision making processes inside an Army BCT has reached the level of being simply decisions made by consensus---meaning there are so many meetings that have to be conducted on any given day I am surprised they can conduct COIN at all.

What happen to the need for speed and the ability of Staff Officers to make decisions without needing the buy-in from other "meetings".

It might be interesting to see the impact of the US Army's CTC system in pushing this concept of decisions by meetings as they are always linking the functioning/non-functioning of these numerous meetings to BCT manuver actions in their AARs.

Johnny Anonymus

A few years ago I spent some time in Basrah and saw for myself that the Brits have little use for the sort of over-the-top GI Joe armor that we Americans looked so lovely in. And I actually patrolled with them in a wooden truck which they called a "snatch." From what I can remember, they had better luck taking and holding that area than we had taking and holding many of ours for several years. I know they have a history there, and Basrah isn't Afpak, but there's a lot to be said for a good light infantry strategy in a 4GW. And from what I saw when I was in Afghanistan, the author of this article needs to be brevetted to three-star. At least.

Steven Marler

Most tactical conventional army unit commanders would never have the patience for what you are suggesting. The body count mentality is still there just under the surface. They measure success by what happens in the next day, week or month not years or decades. I can assure you that the Taliban commanders do not think that way. If intelligence is questionable it is probably because commanders and operations officers are asking for "fast food" intelligence. No time for the intelligence section to slowly build a picture, they want it now. Certainly SF units can use the ideas you propose but for conventional units I don't see it happening and there are not enought SF units to cover all of Afghanistan.

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