COIN: Hey, this stuff really works Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Michael J Totten has another excellent piece out about the success in Anbar province and the accomplishments to date in that area. To me the most interesting couple of paragraphs come from a battalion commander with the 3rd ID, LTC Mike Silverman. Silverman is interviewed by Totten and asked a question he has to ponder for a moment:
“What’s the most important thing you have learned in your time here?” I said.
He wasn’t sure how to answer and had to think for a while.
“Well,” he finally said thoughtfully. “I learned something here that I had heard but never believed. I expected a huge kinetic fight, and that’s what we got. I was told that you win that kind of fight not by focusing on the enemy, but by focusing on the civilians. But I didn’t believe it. It’s true, though. I know because I have seen it.”
There is nothing that reinforces doctrine like seeing that doctrine work. And that is especially true when that doctrine seems counter-intuitive as this obviously did to Silverman.
Totten goes on:
Earlier I published the somewhat counterintuitive excerpt from the counterinsurgency manual he was referring to, but here it is again:
Sometimes, the More You Protect Your Force, the Less Secure You May Be
1-149. Ultimate success in COIN [Counter-insurgency] is gained by protecting the populace, not the COIN force. If military forces remain in their compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared, and cede the initiative to the insurgents. Aggressive saturation patrolling, ambushes, and listening post operations must be conducted, risk shared with the populace, and contact maintained. . . . These practices ensure access to the intelligence needed to drive operations. Following them reinforces the connections with the populace that help establish real legitimacy.
From “Counterinsurgency/FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5
Every commander I've talked too in Iraq has listed the outcomes in that paragraph as the benefits they've enjoyed since they've implemented the COIN strategy. As MG Lynch said, this type of warfare is driven by intelligence. What this strategy has done is exponentially increased the amount of accurate and actionable human intelligence we receive. That has led to the capture or killing of AQI terrorists, weapons caches, VBIED assembly factories, IED factories, safe houses and other important finds.
And those connections developed living among the population make both sides more trusting of the other, builds confidence in the population and sees their participation in their own security increase dramatically. Not only do the soldiers like LTC Silverman have to buy into the strategy, but so does the population. Once they do, once they begin to participate in their own security, normalcy begins to return to their lives and AQI hasn't a chance in the area.
It seems obvious that we kept hoping somebody else would do it. Our first occupation strategy was to do force protection until we could hand Iraq to Chalabi and skedadle. When that became no longer opperative we went to Do Force Protection while we look for some alternative to Chalabi to whom to hand this mess. Then, do force protection while we run some elections so we’ll have somebody else to do the policing and can leave. Then we spent a good long time in the Train the Iraqi Police so they can fight the insurgents mode. After several itterations of that we tried Negroponte and his shia death squad approach throughout last year. Which brings us just about up to the current COIN push.
As I said to Mike, if the variables are the same in all Sunni-dominated areas as they are in Ramadi, there should be virtually no attacks from Sunni-dominated areas in six months.
If Sunni fighters 100% = AQI, and AQI is universally loathed, and US forces continue to have overwhelming tactical advantages and (supposedly) all the troops they need to respond everywhere at once, then... it should just be as easy as in Mike’s article (not easy for the soldiers, but stragegically easy) everywhere.
I don’t think it’s going to happen like that. I don’t think Mike Totten is so sure of it, either.
Ramadi looks to me like the best-case scenario. And attacks are up again there already since Mike’s report. (You want the cite, you can have it).