Counterinsurgency - Seizing the Initiative

By Wojdakowski, Walter | Infantry, July/August 2008 | Go to article overview

Counterinsurgency - Seizing the Initiative


Wojdakowski, Walter, Infantry


As we continue to aggressively prosecute the global war on terrorism (GWOT) we must remember that we execute tasks to standard, not to time, and that counterinsurgency (COIN) is no exception. Conducting COIN operations takes a great deal of tactical patience, and every operation sets the conditions for future success or missed opportunities. In this Commandant's Note I want to share some thoughts on COIN operations in the contemporary operational environment (COE). Some of the key points are the importance of conducting and sharing the results of intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB), and defining lines of operation in purpose driven operations, and the importance of understanding the needs of the civilian population.

In the COIN fight, intelligence truly drives maneuver. Delayed analysis and exploitation can prevent units from getting inside the insurgents' decision cycle, so rapid analysis and exploitation of time sensitive information is critical. Nearly eighty percent of the intelligence derived in COIN is bottom fed and highly perishable; targets and enemy materiel can quickly disappear. Once we complete exploitation of the target, we must quickly disseminate information back to the people who need it. Combining this information and documenting lethal and non-lethal priority intelligence requirements are critical to success, yet we often do not push it back down to the Soldiers on the ground in a timely manner. Innovative methods to capture, record, and disseminate information up and down the chain of command and across boundaries are key competencies in COIN.

Our success in combat is a function of how quickly we mass units and fires. It starts with commanders articulating their strategy to achieve desired outcomes and end states. FM 3-0 clearly delineates between lines of operation and lines of effort and clearly explains how the application of these processes allows commanders to describe how they envision their operations toward achieving the end state. Using such models allows staffs to synchronize warfighting functions and lethal and non-lethal operations to achieve operational objectives. The problem with such conceptual planning and thinking is that we cannot always easily convert the intent into definable and understood mission orders. Brigade combat team, battalion, and company-level commanders share the ownership in translating operational and strategic goals into tactical level operations. They affirm this process by continuous, organized backbriefs and rehearsals for all operations. Our Soldiers need to know why they are conducting non-lethal operations and how their efforts are tied to the bigger picture. Soldiers need to recognize that their daily activities are well-thought out, purpose-driven operations that are part of a greater plan. …

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Counterinsurgency - Seizing the Initiative
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