URBAN OPERATIONS: Meeting the Challenge

Article excerpt

The face of war has evolved since man took up arms to defend his home and family, his possessions, and his way of life. Cities have been the battlegrounds as armies have sought to defend on familiar, complex terrain and adversaries have fought to dislodge them. Until the turn of the last century, largescale combat in urban areas was the exception rather than the rule because the tactics of the time relied on open terrain in which leaders could observe and maneuver their forces. Today, the face of war is in many ways the city streets. The terrorist is in urban areas, and we are going after him in cities, towns, and villages.

World War I saw heavy fighting in built-up areas across France and Flanders, and World War Il included heavy fighting in cities and towns in the Far East; in the Pacific Theater; and in Europe from France and the Low Countries, across Germany, in Italy, and deep within the Soviet Union. It was in the block-by-block, building-by-building fight that the Infantry sustained its heaviest losses. U.S. Soldiers and Marines have fought the urban fight in Korea, in Vietnam and in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Grenada, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, steadily adding lessons learned to our growing knowledge of the many ways to operate in built-up areas. Today's urban operations can range from room clearing combat to securing polling places and seating a local government. They are three-dimensional and encompass many nontraditional drills, tasks, and missions.

Today we are a nation at war, and the theme of this issue of Infantry is urban operations. We have selected articles that specifically address both combat and noncombat issues relevant to urban operations and which offer experience from leaders who have operated in the urban environment and who understand its complexity and the training necessary to win. Today's tactical urban fight is one of squad and platoon actions as we relentlessly search for terrorists, their logistical support, and their weapons, and our Soldiers live, breathe, and work every day in the urban setting.

Human intelligence (HUMINT) is absolutely critical in the contemporary operating environment. Our enemy has chosen to immerse himself in the civilian population and his time is running out. He has lost much of the support of those he had sought to intimidate, and citizens are providing even more invaluable HUMINT to our forces. …