The Cipher Brief Threefer on Urban Conflict, Trends & Environment

The Cipher Brief Threefer on Urban Conflict, Trends & Environment

Street Sense: The Urban Battlefields of the Future by Levi Maxey

As ISIS’s hold of its capital of Raqqa disintegrates, and the rubble of a razed Aleppo settles, a trend is beginning to emerge – war is becoming increasingly urbanized.

Conflict follows humanity wherever it goes, and the world’s population is increasingly living in cities. Waning are the days of the Maoist blueprint of rural insurgents pillaging small peripheral villages and seeking refuge in the hard terrain of mountainous caverns, dense forests, or expansive deserts. Soon terrorist and insurgent groups will mount operations from crowded slums and ritzy skyscrapers – not just in a dense urban landscape, but in coastal megacities that pose a unique challenge for which the U.S. military largely remains unprepared…

Civilian Deaths in City Fights Embolden Insurgencies by Vanda Felbab-Brown

Urban environments pose special challenges for counterinsurgency efforts as well as for complex operations against criminal gangs and drug trafficking operations. In Brazil, for example, the counter-crime operations have come to resemble counterinsurgency operations.

Efforts to oust insurgents from urban spaces come with particularly complex difficulties…

Urban Combat: ‘Cities Are Sponges That Soak Up Troops’ by David Kilcullen

In October 2017 – as Iraqi forces mop up in Mosul, fighting rages round Raqqa and Deir Ezzour in Syria, the United States resumes bombing ISIS strongholds near the Libyan city of Sirte, and combat continues in Avdiivka, a frontline town near the city of Donetsk in Ukraine – it’s obvious that conflict is becoming increasingly urbanized. The battle of Mosul alone, with 1.2 million civilians in the city during the fighting, and over 100,000 combatants engaged, was not just the biggest urban battle since the World War II, but the largest of any kind, worldwide, since the start of the century. Even the war in Afghanistan, which for much of the past 15 years has been largely rural, has become increasingly urbanized in recent years. And if conflict in Korea kicks off, nuclear or not, the heaviest destruction will almost certainly fall on the 26 million people of the Seoul-Incheon metropolitan area.

At one level, this is a trivial observation: wars happen where people live…

At another level, though, the increasingly urban nature of conflict is generating dilemmas for the world’s armed forces, most of which prefer to avoid city fighting whenever possible…

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