Monday, August 20, 2007

Who knows COIN?

Bellow is a response to the opinion piece by some NCO's from the 82nd Abn Div that was published in the NY Times. I posted it as a reply to Uncle Jimbo's article over at BlackFive but, since this place has been rather quiet lately, I'm posting it here too.

Let me begin by saying that these men are doing a terrific job and are performing to the best of their abilities. Their article is written from their perspective which is as a ground pounder facing the mean streets every day. They are the men we send into the rough neighborhoods to face the insurgents. Their perspective would be no different than from a vice cop who thought the world was being over-run by dysfunctional drug and prostitution rings. These men fight on these streets and, before they can see the results of their efforts, we move them on to another dangerous assignment.

These men were trained to face a known and easily identifiable enemy and eliminate them. They are some of the best the world has at this task. Their biggest problem right now is that they are working outside of their expertise. They have adapted quite well to their unconventional environment but they have not received the training necessary to conduct strategic COIN operations. The large error in their article is their limited tactical observations were applied as a strategic observation.

Within the U.S. Army exists a sub culture of men commonly considered misfits with attitudes by the more conventional officers. You may have heard the phrase, “There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Army Way;” these guys don’t do it the Army Way. Jimbo, Matt, and I are part of this culture. We have had the extensive training in Insurgency and Counter Insurgency warfare. It’s what we do/did for a living. We live with and work with the locals. Every tactical operation is weighed carefully to comprehend its strategic effect. We work in one area for the entire deployment and make progress happen. We do it by helping the Iraqi’s understand that the best for Iraq may not be loyalty to the state but at least an acknowledgement that inter-tribal/sectarian relations are essential to local security.

The criticism of these soldiers is far from their dedication to duty but rather from the mistakes made by many soldier from PVT Snuffy to GEN Schwarzkopf. That is the mistake of thinking that conventional soldiers can conduct unconventional operations. I have seen it repeated many times in my career; officers amazed at our results after they thought their troops could do our job. All this is contrary to two of the SOF Truths: “Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced,” and “Competent Special Operations Forces cannot be created after emergencies occur.”

Accept the article for what it is; written by some intelligent soldiers tired of a long war and published by an organization that wants to crush our will to fight. Please accept my assessment of the fight based on 20 years in the Special Forces community conducting unconventional and COIN ops in many nations. COIN warfare frequently takes a generation or more. It is a protracted process of overcoming long held fears and hatreds. Since I know what to look for, I am amazed at the progress made over the past few months.

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