Academic journal article Military Review

Testing Galula in Ameriyah: The People Are the Key

Academic journal article Military Review

Testing Galula in Ameriyah: The People Are the Key

Article excerpt


CRITICS OF THE ARMY'S FOCUS on counterinsurgency operations (COIN) have argued recently that the Army has developed a dogmatic approach to COIN. In particular, they question the assertion in Field Manual (FM) 3-24, Counterinsurgency, that the insurgents' ability to sustain popular support [for their cause] or at least acquiescence [to it]" is essential for an effective insurgency in the long term and is usually one of the insurgent's centers of gravity. (1) However, based on 14 months of COIN operations in northwest Baghdad, including in the Sunni neighborhood of Ameriyah, I think the authors of FM 3-24 got it right. While some have argued that the Army is approaching COIN in a dogmatic fashion, I disagree. I, for one, had not completely read the new FM, since it came out after we deployed. However, based on my previous study of COIN, I saw that gaining the trust of the local populace was essential to our operations. At least for our unit, it worked.

When we returned stateside, I had time to reflect and further study COIN, this time with a level of personal experience. Recently, I read David Galula's Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice for the first time and found that, while his essay focuses on communist and colonial insurgencies, much is relevant to our current fight in Iraq. Like the authors of FM 3-24, Galula sees the support of the population as essential to defeating an insurgency. He sets forth four laws for conducting a counterinsurgency campaign:

* The support of the population is as necessary for the counterinsurgent as for the insurgent.

* Support is gained through an active minority.

* Support from the population is conditional.

* Intensity of effort and vastness of means are essential. (2)

First Battalion, 5th Cavalry, deployed to Iraq in October 2006 and assumed responsibility for the neighborhoods of Khadra and Ameriyah and the Airport Road from 8th Squadron, 10th Cavalry in late November. Shortly after the transfer of authority, our area of operations expanded to three times its original size to encompass the entire Mansour Security District, from Camp Liberty to the International Zone. We fell under the command of Colonel J.B. Burton and the Dagger Brigade Combat Team, 2d Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. Our task organization included only two mechanized infantry company teams. We had detached two tank platoons and company headquarters to serve as a military transition team (MiTT), and one tank company team was attached to another battalion. Our parent brigade, 2d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, also retained our engineer company. Burton provided us the brigade reconnaissance troop (BRT) with one platoon and a troop headquarters to help us with manpower challenges.


During the deployment, we faced the challenges of trying to moderate the sectarian violence permeating our operating environment. We benefitted from the increase in troops provided by the surge. Along with the other subordinate units of the Dagger Brigade, we pushed out into sector, establishing several combat outposts and joint security stations. We saw dramatic improvements in security when we changed our focus to establishing conditions to secure the population rather than transitioning responsibility to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). (Working closely with the Iraqi Army in continuing this focus will make the transition to full Iraqi control easier in the future.)


Se curing the population and gaining their trust was critical. It required disciplined Soldiers and leaders down to the squad level who had a basic understanding of COIN. We did not necessarily focus on winning the locals' hearts and minds. We just wanted them to trust us, the Iraqi Army, and the Iraqi government more than they trusted the insurgents, which in our area were dominated by Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). …

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