April 24, 2008

NATO's Counterinsurgency Doctrine

Doctrine, as Colin Gray once wrote, is the skeleton upon which the sinew and flesh of armies are built. Perhaps then, with no NATO doctrine for the conduct of a war among the people, it should be no surprise that the NATO-led ISAF in Afghanistan has often appeared spineless.

NATO has recognized this problem and has commissioned the Dutch who have been operating in Uruzgan province alongside the Australians to write NATO's counterinsurgency doctrine.

This past month, a smattering of counterinsurgency thinkers to include the Counterinsurgency Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth met with the doctrine's lead writers to provide inputs. That said, the "A-team" for developing US counterinsurgency doctrine has not been called out to facilitate and assist. Kip hopes this is not indicative of the amount of emphasis that NATO is placing on the doctrine itself.

The effort is particularly important in light of the lack of a national strategy or regional strategy to defeat the insurgencies in Afghanistan. At the tactical and operational levels, units lack a common language to discuss what it is that they are trying to do and why certain actions may be productive or counter-productive. Whatever the doctrine that emerges looks like these are several of Kip's hopes for it:

1) The doctrine does not cave in to external pressures within the alliance and includes the importance of protecting the populace outside of the FOB (pressure would most likely come from the Germans in this regard)

2) The doctrine focuses on organizing for intelligence and the importance of developing intelligence products which can be shared with other Coalition members as well as Afghan Security Forces.

3) The doctrine develops standard mechanisms for the transmission and retention of lessons learned across the Alliance and ISAF Coalition.

4) The doctrine focuses on counterinsurgency as an inherently long-term commitment.

5) The doctrine focuses on the importance of providing national level guidance on information operations approved by the Alliance and then allowing local commanders freedom of maneuver within this guidance. The days of one-week or longer times between responses to events should be over.

6) The doctrine focuses on developing mechanisms for unity of command and unity of effort under Alliance-led counterinsurgency mechanisms. This should focus on the importance of deployments sans national caveats and the use of a multi-national command structure to which troops are generally subordinate.

7) The doctrine should focus heavily on the importance of host nation security force assistance and particularly on the desired competition and freedom of maneuver of Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams. It should detail their composition and the importance of living, eating, and sleeping with their host nation counterparts.

8) The doctrine develops a mechanism for human terrain analysis. Kip believes the ASCOPE analysis presented in US Civil Affairs doctrine and FM 3-24 is an excellent model.

9) The doctrine focuses on the importance of developing logistical support mechanisms that support simultaneously host nation economic development.

10) The doctrine emphasizes the importance of both warfighting skills and civil affairs capabilities. Particularly it focuses on the importance of dismounted patrolling capabilities while at the same time detailing the need for human intelligence, civil affairs, and political officer capabilities down to the battalion if not the company level.

There are many more, of course. But these are ten of immediate importance that come to mind. Kip is looking forward to learning from the subsequent discussion of this topic.