26 March LA Times commentary - Fighting the Next War by Gary Anderson.
Gary Anderson (Colonel USMC ret.) was the Marine Corps' first director of the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities and the director of war-gaming. He designed the first of the type of games described in this art.It all started four years ago with a quote from Lt. Gen. William Wallace, then the Army's ground commander in Iraq. "The enemy we're fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against because of these paramilitary forces," he said about a week into the 2003 invasion. "We knew they were here, but we did not know how they would fight."
Strategic war games used to be simple. Soldiers, defense consultants and others divvied up into Blue (allied) and Red (enemy) teams and then faced off in a series of moves roughly resembling chess. The point wasn't to predict the outcomes of future battles — though that sometimes happened — but to sort out how policies, tactics and weapons might perform in combat. A roll of the dice set a team's odds. Complicated mathematical formulas determined the outcome. And that worked pretty well up through the Cold War.
Today, dice seldom get rolled. In the wake of 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq, war games have had to evolve to remain relevant. Instead of a monolithic enemy, there are often several Red teams, fighting against each other as well as the Blue team. This complicates things for Red team players like me, but frankly, it's a fascinating way to make a living.
It's not just the Red teams that are changing; so is the definition of victory.
The outcome of many games is determined by a new addition, the Green team. Green represents the civilian population, the media and the international community — once bystanders, now the ultimate arbitrators. If Red or Blue kills civilians in a manner considered unnecessary in the process of winning a battle, for instance, it may lose Green team support, thus losing the war or at least the campaign...
The latest from Dave Kilcullen in Baghdad on the Small Wars Journal blog - From the Advisors -- Bombs in Baghdad.
It has been an interesting few weeks here in Baghdad. Myself and the other advisors felt that a comment on recent developments might be in order. It is still early days for Fardh al-Qanoon (a.k.a the “Baghdad Security Plan”) and thus too soon to tell for sure how things will play out. But, though the challenges remain extremely severe, early trends are quite positive. Counter-intuitively, the latest series of car bombings includes some encouraging signs...
30 March Army Times - Readiness of Ousted Spec Ops Unit Questioned by Gidget Fuentes.
Continued at the link...The recent expulsion from Afghanistan of the Marine Corps’ first special operations company did more than just put the relatively new leatherneck command in the spotlight. It has made many question whether the company was up to the task in the first place.
The removal of Marine Special Operations Company-Fox came sometime after a March 4 suicide attack and ambush on the Marines’ convoy in Afghanistan left at least eight Afghans dead and another 34 wounded along a highway, about a month after the company had arrived in the country.
The Marines’ response on that day is under scrutiny by at least one major investigation. The region’s top commander, Army Maj. Gen. Frank Kearney — head of U.S. Special Operations Command-Central Command — ordered the expulsion, citing concerns about the unit’s ability to conduct counterinsurgency in the area, a spokesman for Kearney said March 23.
The Army-led investigation into the incident is continuing, and officials were mum on details of the incident. A Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command spokesman said the company would rejoin the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit — with whom it deployed from the East Coast in January — and take on other spec-ops missions in the region as needed.
But conversations in some Marine circles — both active and retired — and on the Internet since the expulsion have stirred speculation about the company’s reassignment, and the Corps’ future in the world of spec ops...
8 April Washington Post - Tom Ricks's Inbox by Tom Ricks.
More at the link...This comment from the April issue of the Marine Corps Gazette is one of the best explanations I've seen of how the U.S. military is trying to operate differently and more effectively in Iraq these days under Gen. David H. Petraeus. The most important aspect of the "surge" isn't troop numbers but how the troops are used -- most notably, getting them off big, isolated "forward operating bases" (FOBs) and instead having them live on small outposts among the people.
This observation was made by Lt. Col. Dale Alford, who commanded the 3rd Battalion of the 6th Marines in Afghanistan in 2004 and in Iraq in 2005-06...
M-NF - I Senior COIN Advisor Dave Kilcullen's latest at the SWJ Blog - The Urban Tourniquet – “Gated Communities” in Baghdad.
Gated communities in counterinsurgency are like tourniquets in surgery. They can stem a life-threatening hemorrhage, but they must be applied sparingly, released as often and as soon as possible, and they have side-effects that have to be taken into account. They are never a first choice. But, given the dire current situation in Baghdad, the “urban tourniquet” is the lesser of several evils, because it breaks the cycle of sectarian violence that has caused so much damage and human suffering in Iraq...
At the Small Wars Journal blog - Iraq Trip Report: 2 – 29 April 2007 - by Bing West.
This SWJ update is an overview of my trip to Iraq, where I had last visited in February of 2007. The April visit - about my 13th time since 2003 - was my typical month-long trip, focused on the company-level. I accompanied twelve Iraqi and American units in Anbar (Habbineah, Haditha, Ramadi, Saqwaniyah, the Zidon, etc.) and Baghdad (Rusafa, Sadr City, Azamiyiah, Khalidiah, Gaziliah).
While I spoke with senior officers -- General Petraeus, LtGen Odierno and MajGen Gaskin run an open organization that goes out of its way to let a journalist accompany any unit -- they were happy to have me go out and take a look for myself. Appended is a list of those who so generously shared their views.
Below are some observations, with my conclusions under point #18. In a nutshell, for the US to achieve the goal of relative stability in Iraq, by the end of 2007 three battlefield conditions must be met. First, Iraq's predominantly Shiite army must demonstrate a strategy and a momentum against a resumption of Shiite ethnic cleansing in and around Baghdad. Second, in Anbar the Iraqi army and the predominantly Sunni police must sustain the momentum for eradicating al Qaeda in Iraq. Third, in the rest of the Sunni Triangle, the Iraqi Army must prevent al Qaeda from developing sanctuaries...
From the SWJ Blog - The Strategic Corporal vs. The Strategic Cameraman by Josh Manchester.
Consider for a moment the differences in informational-warfare responsbilities of junior leaders in the Marine Corps -- corporals -- and the propagandists in insurgent and terror cells -- cameramen.
Infantry squad leaders -- often, corporals -- know (or should) that the behavior of their Marines sends signals to those always watching them in an insurgency: the people and the insurgents. When the Marines are comfortable with their weapons; seemingly unafraid to interact with the locals; understanding of native customs and mores; and treat the populace with dignity and respect, then the sum of all of these attitudes conveys a certain perception to both the people and terrorists who watch them: it hastens cooperation from the populace and hard-targets them from insurgent attacks. This is the basic informational component of a strategic corporal in Iraq.
Consider now a strategic cameraman. Numerous attacks in Iraq and elsewhere are filmed for propaganda purposes. The classic case is that of the IED or VBIED. Numerous IED videos circulate throughout cyberspace for recruiting or fundraising purposes.
From an informational standpoint, the area immediately affected by a corporal with a squad of Marines is local and physically located. The area immediately affected by a cameraman posting attack videos online is global and virtual.
If our enemies can manage to squeeze virtual and global effects out of tactical and local actions, why can't we?...
From the SWJ Blog - FM 3-24 Available in Hard Copy by John Nagl.
FM 3-24, the new Army/Marine Corps Field Manual, was released on December 15th. It was downloaded more than 1.5 million times in the first month after its posting to the Fort Leavenworth and Marine Corps websites and was widely reviewed, including by several Jihadi websites; copies have been found in Taliban training camps in Pakistan.
It is now for the first time available in hard copy from the University of Chicago Press. This version includes a short new Foreword by an undistinguished member of the writing team and a brilliant introduction by Sarah Sewall of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard University, which sponsored the now-famous vetting conference at Leavenworth in February 2006. Released with a cover price of $15, it is heavily discounted on the web. Best of all, the University of Chicago Press donates a portion of the proceeds from this book to the Fisher House Foundation, a private-public partnership that supports America's military families.
As General Petraeus said, “Surely a manual that’s on the bedside table of the president, vice president, secretary of defense, 21 of 25 members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and many others deserves a place at your bedside too!”
SWJ Blog - HQ M-NC-I Counterinsurgency Guidance
Counterinsurgency Guidance that Headquarters, Multi-National Corps – Iraq will be releasing later today. It is signed by Lieutenant General Ray Odierno. The prior link is the two-fer Arabic & English version. Here's Arabic only and English only...
Dave Kilcullen's latest at the SWJ Blog - Understanding Current Operations in Iraq.
I’ve spent much of the last six weeks out on the ground, working with Iraqi and U.S. combat units, civilian reconstruction teams, Iraqi administrators and tribal and community leaders. I’ve been away from e-mail a lot, so unable to post here at SWJ: but I’d like to make up for that now by providing colleagues with a basic understanding of what’s happening, right now, in Iraq.
This post is not about whether current ops are “working” — for us, here on the ground, time will tell, though some observers elsewhere seem to have already made up their minds (on the basis of what evidence, I’m not really sure). But for professional counterinsurgency operators such as our SWJ community, the thing to understand at this point is the intention and concept behind current ops in Iraq: if you grasp this, you can tell for yourself how the operations are going, without relying on armchair pundits. So in the interests of self-education (and cutting out the commentariat middlemen—sorry, guys) here is a field perspective on current operations...