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‘LEARNING AND ADAPTING: COUNTERINSURGENCY IN AFGHANISTAN’. Dr Daniel Marston SDSC ANU.
Dr Daniel Marston
‘Once a unit is warned off for operations, it should be taken off any other taskings and left to use the limited time training and preparing for operations.’
‘Prior to deployment, opportunities must be made to conduct training for COIN rather than traditional warfighting.’
‘Lack of knowledge of the incoming troops in regard to TTPs and theatre specific issues.’
‘Have a team commander per multiple deploy earlier to embed with outgoing BG/COY to deepen the understanding of TTPs and theatre specific issues.’
“I think you have got to recognise that if you took the attacks on the Coalition out of the equation, what you are left with is actually a very low level of residual violence within Iraqi society compared to anywhere else across Iraq. . . .This is not a war zone. This is nothing like you are seeing on the streets of Baghdad and here you have got to ask the question what is the most appropriate force or capability to deal with this problem and I would argue that a foreign army is particularly ill suited to resolving those kinds of societal problems.”
‘Your points relating to rotation of commands through the 6 month tour structure is at the root of most of our problems from Basra and also now in Afghanistan. Not only does it work against our accumulation of knowledge and understanding of the situation, but it also ultimately undermines our reputation in the face of our US allies who think it's a joke that we scuttle back home after only 6 months in theatre. The extension to 9 months for Staff officers is an improvement but still doesn't compare to the American system. Collation of intelligence was dire when I was out there. It was clear that intelligence from the previous BG's in Maysaan had either been thrown away or never collected in the first place. We started on a blank canvas. My patrol reports were always praised for their level of detail, but there was never any follow-up, never any pursuit of some significant leads I uncovered when in lengthy dialogue with the local Sheikhs. I think this was inherent throughout the chain of command.’
COIN is a strategy not a tactic—CT is not the message anylonger
Protect and partner with the people
Conduct a comprehensive campaign
Understand the Environment
Ensure values underpin our effort
Listen closely—speak clearly
Act as one team
Act with courage and resolve
At the time [beginning of 2003] the US military had not published COIN doctrine since Vietnam, and units had relatively little training in COIN before their arrival in country. There was much learning by doing and even disagreement as to whether the fight in Afghanistan was a COIN fight at all. In fact unit commanders were forbidden to from using the word COIN in describing their missions—they were executing a CT mission in keeping with US strategic guidance and an operational focus on the enemy.’—COIN narrative in Australia?
Continual turnover of US senior leaders has made continuity of effort a recurrent challenge in this very complex fight… [S]ince mid-2005, the comprehensive US led [counterinsurgency] strategy…has been significantly altered by subsequent military and civilian leaders who held differing views. With the advent of NATO military leadership, there is today no single comprehensive strategy to guide the US, NATO, or international effort. Unity of purpose – both interagency and international – has suffered; unity of command is more fragmented.
‘Additionally as in previous counter-insurgency campaigns, WARFIGHTING is an element of COIN. . . . Many of the lessons learned from the BG’s resulting experiences are not new. Common themes from previous UK COIN campaigns and conflicts were all evident in operations conducted in HELMAND Province. The key lesson is that we ignore previous experience of such campaigns, and those of our allies, at our peril.’
‘TASK FORCE FURY were highly experienced, having been in Afghanistan at that point for 12 months; and they were a very capable force. It was illuminating to see their approach to COIN and the extent that it had become a part of them. They were equipped for it, had the training and doctrine behind them, really understood it. . . You sensed in them the extent the US Armed Forces have transformed since it looked over the Iraqi precipice and did something about it. What, to my mind, is all the more remarkable is how they have undergone that transformation, the momentum that has been generated and the commitment and attention to detail that has left no stone unturned in seeking out better solutions.’
‘The Marines and sailors leveraged Pashtunwali to our advantage when able. We sought to establish relationships, which incurs obligations of reciprocation for deeds and respect. This pulled some Afghan tribes and villagers to us. Understanding and use of Pashtunwali assisted in our understanding of the environment, maintaining the neutral to the positive outlook of our operations and presence, and countered Taliban information ops and resurgence. . . In general, people fight based upon the norms of their cultural, historical, economic and political influences that exist in their environment. Connect the critical cultural thinking and understanding in our training and education program. Do not make the assumption that it is too complicated for the junior Marines. They understand these concepts and will care about this if the leadership cares .’
‘We have seen that it is only by a close combination of civil and military measures that insurgency can be fought, so it is logical to expect soldiers whose business it is to know how to fight, to know also how to use civil measures in this way. Not only should the army officers know about the subject, they must also be prepared to pass on their knowledge to politicians, civil servants, economists, members of the local government and policemen where necessary. The educational function of the army at these critical moments is most important. Amongst senior officers in particular, ignorance or excessive diffidence in passing along such knowledge on can be disastrous.’
Kitson, Bunch of Five