Friday, April 14, 2006

Fundamentals of Company Level Counterinsurgency

I was perusing Michael Yon's revamped site when I came across this great little gem: Fundamentals of Company Level Counterinsurgency. I'm not sure if anyone on the mil-blog ring has discussed it at any length (I can't remember anyway), but I thought I would point to it and indicate some items I found very interesting considering other posts here and around concerning our current counterinsurgent activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the bio on the writer:

Dr. David Kilcullen served 21 years in the Australian Army, commanded an infantry company on counterinsurgency operations in East Timor, taught tactics on the Platoon Commanders Battle Course at the British School of Infantry, served on peace operations in Cyprus and Bougainville, was a military advisor to Indonesian Special Forces, and trained and led Timorese irregulars. He has worked in several Middle East countries with irregular and paramilitary police and military units, and was special adviser for Irregular Warfare to the 2005 U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review. He is currently seconded to the U.S. State Department as Chief Strategist in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, and remains a Reserve Lieutenant Colonel in the Australian Army. His doctoral dissertation is a study of Indonesian insurgent and terrorist groups and counterinsurgency methods.


I thought the opening was great considering that several deployed mil-blog officers have indicated that TE Lawrence has become a big read for the officers, recommended by their own commanders.

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.


I made that recommendation last year as a staple and noted that certain actions of the military had obviously changed and seemed to reflect TE Lawrence's 28 point Bulletin on the subject of interacting with the locals (interesting that Kilcullen makes his Fundamentals 28 points as well). Not the least of which is to stop doing things for the locals and let them do it themselves or at least make it appear like they are doing it themselves so that the local leaders can maintain face or "wasta". If you impede on that, you will get little cooperation. It works that way in Afghanistan, too (h/t Mudville).

Point 10 he says:

This demands a residential approach, living in your sector, in close proximity to the population, rather than raiding into the area from remote, secure bases. Movement on foot, sleeping in local villages, night patrolling: all these seem more dangerous than they are. They establish links with the locals, who see you as real people they can trust and do business with, not as aliens who descend from an armored box. Driving around in an armored convoy day-tripping like a tourist in hell degrades situational awareness, makes you a target and is ultimately more dangerous.


That has taken us a long time to re-establish. As with the current critiques about the conduct of the war at the beginning where many an ex-General has insisted that they knew the insurgency would occur and that the best way to keep it from happening was to have overwhelming force, the insistance on force protection and overwhelming fire power is often a hold over from post Vietnam malaise against state building. No one wanted to have to engage in state building. Everyone wants to pretend at the military level that they can fight a totally military war and would be better without the politicians and other political considerations. Which is true in a sense if you are ready just to let your military roll over an area and obliterate everything. These folks forgot the basic Clausewitz principle that war was an extension of politics and vis-a-versa, subject to political demands, expectation and will:

23 [snip]The war of a community—of whole nations and particularly of civilised nations—always starts from a political condition, and is called forth by a political motive. It is therefore a political act. Now if it was a perfect, unrestrained and absolute expression of force, as we had to deduce it from its mere conception, then the moment it is called forth by policy it would step into the place of policy, and as something quite independent of it would set it aside, and only follow its own laws, just as a mine at the moment of explosion cannot be guided into any other direction than that which has been given to it by preparatory arrangements. This is how the thing has really been viewed hitherto, whenever a want of harmony between policy and the conduct of a war has led to theoretical distinctions of the kind (ed...Shinseki, Zinni, Eaton and Newbold should re-read Clausewitz). But it is not so, and the idea is radically false. War in the real world, as we have already seen, is not an extreme thing which expends itself at one single discharge; it is the operation of powers which do not develop themselves completely in the same manner and in the same measure.[snip]

24.—War is a mere continuation of policy by other means.

We see, therefore, that war is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means. [snip]

for the political view is the object, war is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.


This was billed, not just as an attack to disarm Saddam and his regime, but a war of liberation and a war for democratic rule. You do not obliterate the entire country and cause hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. Certainly, adding 300k troops on the invasion would have created 300 times more incidents of people firing their guns in defense and 300 times more possibility of destroying all political aims inside the country and out.

Everyone has heard expressed by political leaders and serving generals alike that the war (read: insurgency) requires a political solution. Most people have accepted this on the peripheral level and thus view the formation of the government of Iraq and Afghanistan as the pivotal moment at which the insurgency will, in the words of Shakespeare, "to be or not to be". Thus, our frustration at their continued lagging in this matter. Even I have expressed some views that mirror this idea. At the same time, a large part of our population focuses on the "winning" (ie, fighting off insurgent attacks; killing or capturing leaders) and "losing" (ie, attack by IED or VBIED, kills soldiers, no enemy captured or killed) of battles, including deaths of our forces or the insurgents, as an indication of "winning" or "losing" the war.

Kilcullen explains through this educational piece for officers on counterinsurgency what are the real indicators of success. They are not through decisive battles with cadres, large or small, of the opposing force nor at the high level national political level. The real indicators are at the company level, in areas of operation and are determined by the action or inaction of the company level operators.

13. Build trusted networks. Once you have settled into your sector, your next task is to build trusted networks. This is the true meaning of the phrase "hearts and minds", which comprises two separate components. "Hearts" means persuading people their best interests are served by your success; "Minds" means convincing them that you can protect them, and that resisting you is pointless. Note that neither concept has to do with whether people like you. Calculated self-interest, not emotion, is what counts. Over time, if you successfully build networks of trust, these will grow like roots into the population, displacing the enemy's networks,


He goes on to detail exactly what is required to do this and then states:

[snip] build common interests and mobilize popular support. This is your true main effort: everything else is secondary. Actions that help build trusted networks serve your cause. Actions even killing high-profile targets that undermine trust or disrupt your networks help the enemy.


This is why those forces who do build schools, clinics, local government and community structures and action groups have a legitimate reason to complain about the lack of coverage in the media. IEDs or other bloody attacks along with body counts do not represent the true nature or status of this war. The insurgency will not be resolved by national politics of Iraq. It will be resolved one block, hamlet, village, town, city at a time and it will largely be resolved through non-violent means.

He also comments on those officers who have not learned the lesson and believe that they will go to an area of operation, patrol in such a manner that in provokes confrontation and kill or capture insurgents, thus "winning" the war. While he is polite as he is hoping to convince officers to take his advice, his point is that these officers and companies will fail in pacifying their areas. In short, if any soldier (officer, NCO or enlisted) currently serving does not understand that his primary mission is to make friendly with the locals, but insists that they should be finding, fixing and killing the enemy, his command has failed to prepare him for this war.

It is also why such ingenuous commentary Eaton, Newbold, Shinseki or Zinni on the size and make up of deployed forces is non-sensical. It is not the war we are fighting. It is the previous wars: state on state; or, at least, the wars they want to fight because their experiences in Vietnam have convinced them that low level insurgencies, applying economy of force, cannot be won. This includes commentary on the use of such forces as artillery or MP as civil affairs units (and the like); commentary that insists that a larger infantry force, with rifle companies and such, would negate the necessity of using these forces outside of their MOS. It simply is not effective, neither at the brigade, division or "army" level nor at the company level as Kilcullen explains here:

3. Organize for intelligence. In counterinsurgency, killing the enemy is easy. Finding him is often nearly impossible. Intelligence and operations are complementary. Your operations will be intelligence driven, but intelligence will come mostly from your own operations, not as a “product” prepared and served up by higher headquarters. So you must organize for intelligence. You will need a company S2 and intelligence section –including analysts. You may need platoon S2s and S3s, and you will need a reconnaissance and surveillance element. You will not have enough linguists – you never do – but consider carefully where best to employ them. Linguists are a battle-winning asset: but like any other scarce resource you must have a prioritized “bump plan” in case you lose them. Often during pre-deployment the best use of linguists is to train your command in basic language. You will probably not get augmentation for all this: but you must still do it. Put the smartest soldiers in the S2 section and the R&S squad. You will have one less rifle squad: but the intelligence section will pay for itself in lives and effort saved.[snip]

4. Organize for inter-agency operations. Almost everything in counterinsurgency is interagency. And everything important – from policing to intelligence to civil-military operations to trash collection – will involve your company working with civilian actors and local indigenous partners you cannot control, but whose success is essential for yours. Train the company in inter-agency operations – get a briefing from the State Department, aid agencies and the local Police or Fire Brigade. Train point-men in each squad to deal with the inter-agency.

23. Practise armed civil affairs. Counterinsurgency is armed social work; an attempt to redress basic social and political problems while being shot at. This makes civil affairs a central counterinsurgency activity, not an afterthought.


In otherwords, whether you are a rifle company, infantry, a mortar platoon, artillery, mechanic, mess or adminstration, in an insurgency, you are Civil Affairs first. It just so happens that your company is well armed and can shoot back IF necessary. Complaints or insistence otherwise means that you have not accepted that you are fighting an insurgency and your commanders have not conveyed that to you effectively or not accepted it themselves. This is a fact that the American civilian populace, politicians and apparently many military officers, serving and retired, have refused to accept or cannot comprehend.

While it would be nice to have many more civil affairs units that specialize in this activity and an interesting theory that such a make up would allow other forces to maintain their specialty (MOS), there is no way that any army can create and maintain the number of Civil Affairs units and the number of combat only forces needed to provide security to conduct a counterinsurgency in this manner.

Kilcullen has many other specifics about how to build and use a localized network against an insurgency, how to build or train forces and use available resources. He also gives pointers to those officers whose commanders have not yet accepted that fact either and demand other action (such as body counts and arrests):

What if higher headquarters doesn’t “get” counterinsurgency? Higher headquarters is telling you the mission is to “kill terrorist”, or pushing for high-speed armored patrols and a base-camp mentality. They just do not seem to understand counterinsurgency. This is not uncommon, since company-grade officers today often have more combat experience than senior officers. In this case, just do what you can. Try not to create expectations that higher headquarters will not let you meet. Apply the adage “first do no harm”. Over time, you will find ways to do what you have to do. But never lie to higher headquarters about your locations or activities: they own the indirect fires.


This war will not be won at the point of a gun. Adding American forces will not win this war. Adding Iraqi security forces is only a tool, not the solution. The war will not be won at the national ballot box nor in the Iraqi assembly. This war will not be won by generals with brilliant strategies for deploying tanks, artillery and large combat formations. This war will be won by Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants and men (or women) named Specialist Smith who will have learned to do effective counterinsurgency long before we stop debating how many troops or types of weapons we should've, could've, would've deployed.

This war will be won over a cup of chai in a mud hut in a village with a name no one can pronounce.






Also posted at the Castle

Victor Hanson: Dead End Debates

Mil-blogs and Posts that support this document and post are below the fold in the "Read More" section:

Major K
Haifa Street
Honest Broker
The TV Guy
The First Report Is Always Wrong (disregarding Hurricane Katrina commentary)
I was the Intelligence Officer for an Infantry Battalion in one of the most violent sections of Baghdad as many of you know. One of the things that my section tried to promote throughout the Battalion was what we called "tactical patience." Tactical patience is giving a situation enough time to develop and unfold before trying to determine its meaning, significance and how to react to it. Tactical patience can sometimes require only a few seconds and sometimes require many hours. [SNIP]

As the intelligence adviser, the commander would come to me and ask me for my analysis of the situation and if it indicated a pattern or a new development. Many times, my first answer was that we didn't know enough yet. "We just got the initial report in, Sir, and the first report is always wrong." On several occasions, what was thought to be a rocket impact based upon hearing a nearby explosion and seeing the resulting plume of smoke, turned out to be merely a controlled detonation of captured explosives by the EOD team. This is why tactical patience is so important - so that we don't overreact to what we think something is.


Fighting God's Will
Lost in Translation
On Misbehavior (The public eye is on you in your AO and abroad. You need to minimize these incidents because they can set you back, in your AO as well as the entire war effort if it's big enough, Abu Graihb comes to mind, amongst others.)
Also Bad Apples
Dry Holes (Have your own intelligence section; do not wait for prepared info from headquarters to plan operations; they are always behind and do not know your area like you do)
Victory Disregarded (Do many small patrols at the same time, not one or two big patrols; your enemy cannot attack all patrols or know where they are; you can quickly bring around another patrol to support patrols under fire; small patrols are small targets)
Chasing Abu (Cultural Issues and building intelligence; also note comment regarding mentality about performing intelligence duties in a unit that believes it is a combat unit that should be kicking in doors)
Getting the Hang of the Democracy Thing (More "war will be won over a cup of chai" and, according to this post a lot of sweat and cigarette smoke)
Infighting (Local politics determine how you function in your area; you must be aware and step carefully, use tactical patience. Some reports of "terrorists" are people settling scores or tribal disputes.)
Quiet (putting a local face on operations)
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back (self explanatory if you read the PDF)
We Got'em (If you think you are infantry and should be kicking down doors instead of Civil Affairs or Intel, think again)
CSI Baghdad
Arhabi (Mirror the enemy, fight the enemy's strategy, whatever he does wrong you must do right)
March 18, 2005 (Be There; foot patrols, know the locals and the area)
Assisted Suicide (Fight the enemy's strategy; you want people to believe you will be there for them and protect them so they should help you; the enemy will do acts that tell the people that you will not be there, they will kill at will so the people should support them to avoid this death)
Signs Are Everywhere (Know the locals, build networks, replace the insurgents in the hearts and minds)
Sick of Being Sick
Day Tripping Tourists In Hell (as well as non-violent tactics)
The Three Ps (You are Civil Affairs that can shoot)

From Mudville Dawn Patrols
Tea with the Turks
Everything Has Been Busy (If the enemy comes out in force to attack you, it is not a set back; it means that you have been doing your job and he is very anxious about your ability to replace his network and influence)
Taliban PR Disaster
Solatia (Know the local customs; do foot patrols; interact with the people; winning hearts and minds)
Public Scrutiny

Iraq Pictures
Foot Patrols 1
Foot Patrols 2
Foot Patrols 3
You are Civil Affairs
You are Civil Affairs
You are Civil Affairs

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