A Tactical Guide for Personality Targeting

By Elliott, Brian L.; Ryan, John C. | Infantry, November/December 2007 | Go to article overview

A Tactical Guide for Personality Targeting


Elliott, Brian L., Ryan, John C., Infantry


A Familiar Scenario

An improvised explosive device (IED) has just hit a Bradley fighting vehicle on one of the most-traveled routes in your battalion's area of operations. No one has been hurt badly, but the BFV has been damaged beyond repair. The battalion tactical operations center (TOC) spins into action. Immediately, close air support (CAS) and attack aviation are requested. The quick reaction force (QRF) platoon is pushed out to the site with a recovery section. A platoon operating nearby is sent to the site of the IED strike to search the palm groves and low-lying areas for triggermen. A quick plan to search the homes in the surrounding area for high value targets (HVT) is thrown together and within minutes locals are being roused by the crash of combat boot against gate and door. Eight hours later the mission comes to a close. The rollup follows: 1 M2A3 destroyed, 2 anti-Iraq force (AIF) members detained for testing positive for nitrates on the ExSpray kit. The "insurgents" are released the next day for lack of evidence and the probability that the nitrate was just soil.

The scenario may be all too familiar for units participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Despite operating in the area for several weeks or months, some Soldiers on the ground know very little about what or who they're looking for. Why? Fruitless intelligence gathering and failed raids have not led most units to revise their targeting processes, but, rather, to continue applying event-oriented, terrainbased conventional methods of targeting that are insufficient in the contemporary operating environment (COE) in which we find ourselves.

Where Is the Tactical Level COIN Doctrine?

The Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNFI) Counterinsurgency Center for Excellence recently produced a COIN "Junior Leader Aide-Memoire," the most recent work in the litany of COIN doctrine that has been disseminated since OIF began in the spring of 2003. The aid is helpful, but, like its predecessors, is more a grab bag of tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) and tips than an organized and fully developed field manual. The United States military has been fighting insurgencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere for more than a decade. So where's the beef?

FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency, Dr. David Kilcullen's article "28 Articles: Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency" (Military Review, MayJune 2006), the USMCs Small Wars Manual, and others have attempted to address the need for rethinking operations. FM 3-24 specifically discusses the "concentration on elimination of insurgents, not terrain objectives" as an effective tactic against an insurgency. While correctly recognizing the need to focus on people, not terrain, the model is too broad to be effectively used by tactical units and is weighed down with conventional theory that is not effective against an insurgency.

The "Junior Leader Aide-Memoire" calls for COIN warriors to possess law enforcement tools, intelligence skills, humanitarian skills, peacekeeping skills, and warfighting skills. Not every Soldier in one's formation can be a skilled humanitarian or a brilliant intelligence analyst. Hope lies in the likelihood that a leader will have such individual talents within his platoon and company. The task then becomes building teams within the organization that incorporate each of these skills.

In his article, Dr. Kilcullen advises that company-level leaders "organize for intelligence" and asserts that "rank is nothing; talent is everything." This is where leaders bridge the gap between "what we need" and "what we have." Platoons, squads, teams, and Soldiers must be individually charged with task and purpose for every mission. The tasks in which the COIN warrior must be proficient span the kinetic/non-kinetic spectrum. Who are your warfighters? Who are your humanitarians? Who are your intelligence collectors and analysts? Rank and position take a backseat to functionality. …

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