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by Captain Timothy Hsia, Small Wars Journal
The construction of Combat Outposts (COPs) by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq has been almost unanimously described in positive terms by defense analysts and military officers as a means through which to carry out its counterinsurgency efforts. Despite the existence of hundreds of COPs on today's battlefields, the term Combat Outpost is not even doctrinally defined in any military field manual. Soldiers in today's battlefields routinely reference COPs as anything from a patrol base to anything smaller then a Forward Operating Base. Doctrine notwithstanding, countless Soldiers and Marines today currently operate out of COPs.
No two COPs are alike. The most significant difference between any two COPs is its relation to an urban center. Urban COPs require much greater security requirements and oftentimes less infrastructure development, whereas COPs established in rural locations often have better natural defensive measures (stand off distance) while requiring more logistical and engineering support in order to sustain forces occupying the COP. COPs do not materialize overnight and this paper seeks to cover several aspects of COP building and establishment.