The ARMY Magazine Hooah Guide to COUNTERINSURGENCY COIN

By Steele, Dennis | Army, July 2007 | Go to article overview

The ARMY Magazine Hooah Guide to COUNTERINSURGENCY COIN


Steele, Dennis, Army


A Short Course on a Big Mission:

U.S. involvement in counterinsurgency (COIN) operations and now the American character programmed itself for doing good in bad situations, along with an abbreviated version of the new Field Manual 3-24 Counterinsurgency and the startling shifts insurgency is making-dimensions of warfare heretofore unimaginable and still largely unfathomed.

The First Global Counterinsurgency-The Army's Counterinsurgency Test

The U.S. Army is engaged in counter-insurgency (COIN) operations on a scale previously unimaginable. Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan are massive counterinsurgency campaigns individually, but they are joined by U.S. Army elements fighting either direct counterinsurgency/counterterrorism operations or advising or supporting allies on nearly every continent and in some of the most uninviting corners of the world.

Only the Roman legions fought more simultaneous counterinsurgencies, and only from the view that most of Roman history can be classified as a constant counterinsurgency. The experienced British army has fought a higher total number of counterinsurgencies during its long military history-including opposing a singular revolution in its North American colonies. This is the first global counter-insurgency campaign. The extent and focus resulted in the first complete overhaul of Army counterinsurgency doctrine in two decades, resulting in Field Manual (FM) 3-24 Counterinsurgency, which was published last December. The doctrine faced an Immediate test under fire.

Within weeks, Gen. David H. Petraeus, architect of the new FM, arrived in Baghdad to take command of Multi-National Force-Iraq and the counterinsurgency campaign there. The Iraqi capital and much of the country was reeling under raging Sunni-Shia sectarian violence, and U.S. troops faced brutal insurgent attacks from both sects. There has never been a more complex counterinsurgency: insurgents represent at least eight major factions, which at any time might be working with or against each other, but most are working against Coalition forces all of the time. Large portions of the host-nation government and security forces are split along sectarian lines, working against each other and, ultimately, against U.S. soldiers fighting and dying to help them. There has been a sharp spike in U.S. casualties which does not show signs of relenting soon and which leaders warned would be expected in a campaign with increased activity and exposure to protect the populace.

Elements of the new U.S. counterinsurgency plan are in place with deployment of additional U.S. Army combat brigades to Baghdad. U.S. soldiers have established dozens of combat outposts and joint security stations to provide better security to the population under a major precept of counterinsurgency: protect the people. Other U.S. soldiers have emplaced concentric rings of security on the outskirts of the city to replicate border security (a major counterinsurgency precept missing in Iraq) and stem the flow of outside support to the Insurgents from Iran and Syria. Training and supervision of the Iraqi security forces has increased. Attempts to resuscitate anemic reconstruction programs have been started.

All the best practices of counterinsurgency are being employed by U.S. forces, but it remains to be seen whether best practices can overcome the worst natures of those who could benefit most.

And all the while, the U.S. domestic political clock ticks.

History: COIN of the Realms-Prelude and Cootemporary Practice

Thousands of what today can be termed insurgencies have occurred over the course of history, and everything from extermination to existentialism has been employed to stop them. Historical counterinsurgency (COIN) study lays out a smorgasbord of strategies and tactics, and COIN doctrines of today largely are adaptations and variations of methods tried in the past ana determined to be best practices. …

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