“In my zone, as everywhere in Algeria, the order was to ‘pacify.’ But exactly how? The sad truth was that, in spite of all our past experience, we had no single, oﬃcial doctrine for counterinsurgency warfare.” – David Galula
The quote above is apropos in today’s Counterinsurgency battle in Afghanistan. When one considers the many agencies developing and teaching COIN to Afghan National Security Forces or collecting Lessons Learned on behalf of Coalition Forces, with the intent of impacting positive change via what the British would refer to as a “Lesson Identified”. However, if one looks into this with any sort of idea that there will be a single source of information or reference that can be used as the sole source of COIN “How to” in Afghanistan, he would be sadly disappointed and most likely confused. We do have doctrine, as do coalition partners, and as we do collectively in the Allied Joint Publication. In my opinion, the current doctrine spans the tactical level to the operational level in its spectrum of guidance, but sadly lacks in two areas. Those two areas are the Company or Coy and below, as well as the Brigade to the Governance Level (current gaps in doctrine). This is an issue that must be resolved before the end of this conflict and we are postured as an international force to conquer such a simple task. If we do not, we will find ourselves recreating things like the Afghan Local Police, Ministerial Advisors Course, AfPak Hands Course, Village Stability Operations, etc without a doctrinal framework to lean upon. The doctrine should be expanded and collated into a series of books that spans from “Ground to Governance” that captures COIN best practice in order to enable a more expeditious process to set the conditions for security, establish a security force (both police and army), build a government (local to national Governance Advisors), link that government to the people via addressing the grievances of the population (CERP, Money as a Weapon System) and therefore addressing the prerequisites of insurgency(Stability Operations, C-H-B Ops), while building viable and sustainable institutions (Stability through Civ/Mil partnership and programming, District Stability Framework, Governance Advisors). Finally, this would end in Transition that can be defined and codified in a common language, with agreed upon metrics of success.
David Galula is also referenced as the man who put mathematical quantification to the COIN spectrum of warfare when he described it as 80% political and 20% military. However, if we look at the Coalition Force Road to Deployment training continuums of any nation, we will find that we focus most of our efforts on tactical military tasks. Additionally, each of the Coalition nations seeks to collect information, related to those tactical military tasks, via the Lessons Learned process. This is done for the purposes of enhancing that training continuum with hopes to positively influence the fight in as short of a timeframe as can be managed. Currently in Afghanistan there are multiple agencies tasked with compiling and disseminating lessons learned with the hopes that these lessons will improve a process, change a mentality or behavior, or influence training. Many of these groups have their own agendas, mandates, or orders related to their Title 10 type contractual mandates, specific DoD, or service related directives. The COIN Advise and Assist Team works directly for COMISAF, Asymmetric Warfare Group, CALL, MCCLL, are only a few of the US agencies with the same or overlapping tasks or missions. Rarely do they collaborate as a single COIN mind, or share a common set of information requirements to collect upon that are in direct line with NATO mission success as defined by COMISAF.
Further complicating the this issue is the complex nature of the Coalition Force Operating Environment related to the bureaucracy that has been created with respect to Manning, Training, and Equipping the ANSF. This is important because it is directly affected by the COIN doctrine from Ground (the strategic Cpl partner) to Governance (the Ministerial Advisor) and the lack of reference either of these positions in doctrine. There are in country educational opportunities related to COIN dependent upon the mission set of an individual. The COIN Training Center-Afghanistan (CTC-A) has the mission to:
“… reduce insurgent influence through the delivery of regionally focused, timely and relevant “best practice” counterinsurgency training and education that fosters greater unity of effort among all stakeholders IOT facilitate the development of a secure and stable Afghanistan.”
Looking at the mission statement of this single agency, if one knows of the dozens of agencies producing, teaching, and collecting COIN related information, one would quickly find discrepancies. CTC-A cannot fulfill its mission without having full access to the information and full collaboration with all COIN related agencies in order to influence the gradual shifts in its instruction that are necessary to remain regionally focused, timely and relevant and mirror the movement towards transition with its curriculum. This is not an attempt to poke a finger at any single agency, but rather an attempt to highlight the common goals of each of the “COIN” agencies in Afghanistan and to point out that we all violate one of the most simplest of military principles, Unity of Effort. Each agency has its own mandate but it also has a moral obligation to collect, share and capture the information for the future warriors of each of our nations. The fact is that we have only implemented the new COIN Strategy in Afghanistan in 2009, according to General Petraeus. One of areas General Petraeus focused on was Partnering, “Shona ba Shona”, as he would say to mixed audiences (ANSF / CF) of Counterinsurgency Leaders Course students. Yet within the Coalition Force we have agencies that refuse to partner with one another of the common goals of capturing lessons to influence changes in the following: COMISAF Mission Essential Task List, NATO Mission Specific Training Guidance, Joint Doctrine, or individual nation’s doctrinal publications. Moreover there little willingness of some countries to even participate or apply lessons learned due to national caveats or lack of resources.
One possible solution to help solve some of the presented issues is a more direct chain of command and forced collaboration trough mandated agendas with common singularly focused Training Command. If all training institutions and lessons learned agencies were under the same command structure and were mandated to share information for a common goal, efficiencies could be found that would streamline a lesson learned and the time it would take to turn it into a lesson identified where it has an impact on the training continuum or operations in the field. An example of this would be a COIN Center of Excellence, consisting of the current CTC-A instructional staff and partnered with the COIN Advise and Assist Team (CAAT). This agency would house an operational side (CAAT) and a training side (CTC-A). Operationally, the CAAT would develop COIN operational performance and effectiveness metrics to enhance objective evaluation of COIN plans and activities. CTC-A would leverage that information immediately to affect a behavior change through curriculum development either via CLC and collaboration with CONUS COIN centers, or through regional teams that could be leveraged to immediately impact change at the point of impact. This could be accomplished via local ANSF COIN courses conducted by CTC-A Regional Teams (CAAT Partnered), AFPAK hands courses, Ministerial Advisors Courses, and Governance Courses all created and housed within one COIN Center of Excellence.
This type of unity of effort would enable this triumvirate of agencies to capture the most pertinent of COIN lessons in order to affect change in doctrine, promulgate relevant and timely lessons that have immediate impact, and act as an enabler for Commanders to leverage in their bid for mission success. Additionally, having a unity of command would allow this singular command to influence both the NATO training continuums as well as the US training continuums of multiple services by being the single resource for COIN related training, education, and lessons learned in theater. The end result would be a more effective and efficient Training Command that had the ability to immediately impact the conflict from tactical level tactics, techniques, and procedures to the strategic and political level lessons that that will influence Galula’s 80% of the COIN fight. If we do not put our political agendas aside and create real change in the current structure we will miss an opportunity and inevitably repeat or reinvent some of the same mechanisms that we have had to re-create from our counterinsurgent adventures in Iraq.
“If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself. If you want to know the theory and methods of revolution, you must take part in revolution. All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience.” -Mao Zedong
The trick to success is to learn from our insurgent brothers, like Mao, and to capture all of the lessons and “how to’s” related to those lessons so that the direct experiences may be shared, have impact, and possibly save lives, money and resources in the next COIN fight.
The opinions and commentary in this article do not represent the command view of the Counterinsurgency Training Center-Afghanistan.