February 08, 2008

Skeptics Central

A Michael Gordon article in the NY Times today discusses the Army's new FM 3-0 Operations.

Supposedly the manual gives equal weight to maneuver operations and stability operations.


Even as they welcomed it, other Army officers said there were inconsistencies between the newly minted doctrine on how to wage war and current practice. Army brigades in Iraq have too few combat engineers to support civil programs, they said. Also, they added, the Army does not promote officers who advise the Iraqi and Afghan security forces as readily as battalion staff officers and needs to improve their training.

This is a severe understatement. The Army as a whole remains woefully unprepared psychologically and structurally for COIN. Structurally we remain unprepared for intelligence and reconstruction efforts in particular. Our information operations, psychological operations, and civil affairs continue to be under-utilized and staffed with the wrong people. Moreover, I have yet to work with a competent PAO (public affairs officer) in either Afghanistan or Iraq, ensuring that the fight at home remains at least as difficult as the fight abroad--I apologize if you are a competent PAO reading this...I look forward to meeting you one day. Bottom line, in the field of dominating perception, we remain woefully behind our enemies.

Psychologically, commanders, particularly from the rank of colonel on up, still don't understand that a comprehensive approach to defeating insurgency and unrest is not a fad that will pass with time. In Afghanistan in particular, the focus remains force protection rather than population protection (sometimes commanders look to killing the enemy too, but it depends where and on how their national command is feeling that day). In terms of information operations, nothing can be released at the battalion level or below in Afghanistan without explicit authorization from higher.

And, let's follow the money...how much money are we spending on patrolling skills, language training, IO training, psychological operations, and human intelligence skills development, and how much money are we spending on new capabilities re-branded as "COIN necessary?"

And while LT General Caldwell (who I deeply respect, by the way) does see the new focus on stability and COIN operations as the “blueprint to operate over the next 10 to 15 years” then maybe he could begin by getting stabilization and COIN weighted equally and explicitly in the ILE curriculum for our field grade officers.