The Russian Counterinsurgency Operation in Chechnya Part 1: Winning the Battle, Losing the War, 1994 – 1996

Introduction

Between 1994 and 1999, Russia’s campaigns in Chechnya, labeled a counterinsurgency conflict by the Russian government, caused an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 civilian casualties with as many as 300,000 refugees in a nation of under a million.[1] In a nation the size of New Jersey, roughly one out of every two inhabitants had been killed or displaced in the decade following 1994.

At the end of this decade of war and death, the Russian response maintains that the counterinsurgency operations were successful, and that the insurgency movement has been largely crushed and relegated to occasional fringe attacks. This article aims to analyze the operation conducted in Chechnya and the North Caucasus by the Russian military between 1994 and 2004. In both the First (1994 – 1996) and Second Chechen Wars (1999 – 2004), the Russian Federal forces enjoyed overwhelming superiority in all aspects of conventional war, and yet were forced into a premature cease-fire in 1996 and suffered immense casualties. By utilizing unconventional and guerilla tactics, the Chechen insurgents adapted to the needs of urban and hit-and-run combat much more quickly and efficiently than their adversaries. While the Russian military entered the second war much more sure of themselves and their abilities to combat the insurgents, their success was marred by their inability to engage the insurgents in pitched battle, by the continued effectiveness of the insurgents, and most crucially, in their failure in the parapolitical struggle for legitimacy in the population.

The Russian forces’ overconfidence in regards to the Chechens’ organizational effectiveness in conducting guerilla warfare was directly proportional to their inability to react with any amount of speed and efficiency in changing their tactics to meet new threats. Perhaps the greatest mistake the Russians made was in approaching the conflict with an enemy-centric, conventional mindset, sharply divergent from their own rhetoric of counterinsurgency and population-centric benevolency.

Mired in the political culture of post-Soviet secessionism, the wars between Russia and Chechnya seemed set to fit the mold of so many other post-colonial conflicts between a recalcitrant and self-realizing satellite and its reeling and unstable metropole. Yet the inability of Russia to recognize this, and the resultant rhetoric underscored the desire of Russia to paint the war in terms of a counter-terrorist fight which precluded them from the moral obligations present when confronting an insurgent force within a civilian population. The inherent similarities in Russia's war with Chechnya with the current United States nation building/counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan highlight the importance of critically analyzing what exactly went wrong when Russia won the battles, but lost the war for Chechnya.

Background

Between August and December of 1991, all Union republics in the Soviet Union had declared independence, including Chechnya. In November of 1990, the National Congress of the Chechen People (OKChN) formally elected former Soviet Air Force General Dzokar Dudaev as leader of the Chechen nation.[2] In his quest to create a stronger national identity. The development of Chechnya into a modern nation occurred alongside other national movements throughout the Soviet Union in the 1980s and was a reaction to perestroika and the call to nationhood being heard throughout the developing world.

In 1994, the Russian Federation, under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin, invaded Chechnya to end the separatist movement and bring Chechnya back into the Federation. Much has been written on the Russian decision to invade, though for the considerations of time and space, little analysis is given to this critical debate in the current project.[3] Suffice it to say that a likely reason for the decision to invade lay in the need for Russia to reassert itself in the international arena. The economic woes of a struggling nation came as a distressing reality check to a country that had once rivaled the United States in military prowess. The need for Russia to prove to itself and the to world that it continued to be a viable superpower went hand-in-hand with the need to end the fragmentation of the Federation which had begun with the declaration of independence of Lithuania in 1990. Russia’s international military prowess may have been temporarily in doubt, but no one thought the war in Chechnya would be anything but a short and reassuring show of power.

The First Chechen War

In December of 1994, ground forces moved into Chechnya and the capital city of Grozny was nearly completely leveled by air and ground artillery. In the greatest shelling since World War II, Grozny and the surrounding towns were reduced to rubble in a siege that lasted until early March and cleared the way for the heavily armored Russian troops.[4]

Yet from the beginning, it was clear that this would not be a conventional war between two standing armies. Impatience, arrogance, and incompetence on the part of the Russian troops led them to march headlong into the city center of Grozny, ill-equipped for urban warfare and undereducated on the tactical resourcefulness of the Chechen fighters. Much like in Prague in 1968, the Russians marched into the city in a show of force, hoping the presence of tanks and an organized and impressive army would deter further bloodshed—especially after their awesome display of aerial and fixed position artillery bombardment of the country. In direct contravention of tactics learned during World War II’s urban and unconventional theaters of war, the Russians entered the rubble strewn city with a column of tanks, followed by mounted infantry in APCs and jeeps, followed then by dismounted infantry.[5] The result was a military catastrophe. The Chechens were able to paradoxically overwhelm the far numerically greater foes through the superior use of small arms tactics and front-on ‘swarm’ attacks which simply overran the Russian troops within the city of Grozny.

RPG and sniper fire focused on the exposed Russian troops, small groups of 10-20 Chechen fighters moved in and out of buildings and the surrounding mountains to engage the heavily armed and armored Russian troops. The Chechen teams would attack in shifts, some attacking while the others rested, so that a force of no more than 50 often held entire battalions at bay, bottle-necked in the narrow streets of the cities, or the treacherous defiles of the mountains.[6]

The Chechen utilization of information and space, and their highly sophisticated networking allowed them a tremendous advantage in terms of physical combat, and an even more important advantage in terms of the psychological impact upon their enemy. Rather than a group of ragtag insurgent fighters fueled by hatred and national fanaticism, the Chechen fighters were highly trained, disciplined, well-equipped and knowledgeable of the terrain.[7] From the individual up through army level, the Chechens held the advantage in all but airpower and fire support. The Chechen fighters proved better trained, equipped, technically skilled and fed, and demonstrated remarkably higher morale and motivation, in addition to an intimate knowledge of the hazardous terrain.[8]

Throughout the First Chechen War, Chechen fighters – many of them former Soviet soldiers with combat experience in Afghanistan – dug into the hills and fought a defensive and fierce war of attrition with the Russian troops not unlike their former Afghani counterparts.[9] Although both sides engaged in acts of brutality to weaken the enemy’s resolve to fight, Chechen fighters far outdid their Russian counterparts in these ‘grisly psychological tactics’:

They hung Russian wounded and dead upside down in the windows of defensive positions, for example, forcing the Russians to fire at their comrades in order to engage the rebels… Both Russian and Chechen dead were routinely booby-trapped by the Chechens, who showed sophisticated insight into the likely actions and reactions of the average Russian soldier.[10]

 

In addition, Chechen fighters used dirty tactics collectively learned from dozens of asymmetrical guerilla conflicts before, such as instructing snipers to aim for the legs of Russian troops, injuring, but not incapacitating them; and then shooting free-range at the subsequent rescue parties that were sure to come. Some snipers aimed specifically at the groin, dealing a crippling and humiliating wound that resulted in a slow and painful death.[11] Chechens routinely dressed in Russian uniforms to gain access to bases, and used these opportunities to launch surprise attacks from behind enemy lines.[12] Each Chechen took seriously the notion that the center of gravity in war was no longer the enemy’s army, but rather the enemy’s people.[13] Tactics were devised to attack the psyche of the Russians, aimed at creating a ‘constant, high level of psychological stress on [Russian] servicemen and to undermine their morale.’[14] Hardened by a united sense of purpose in driving out the invader, the Chechen troops terrified and terrorized the Russian troops, slowly bleeding out their morale and willingness to fight.

The Russian troops, many still in their teens, were woefully underprepared and undertrained in comparison. In a study of 1,312 Russian soldiers involved in the war, 72% showed signs of psychological illness, such as depression, lethargy, insomnia, hypochondria and panic attacks.[15] The result of such a disparity in morale and military expectations had tragic consequences. According to one Russian participant, ‘the men on the ground, shaken and angered by their losses, were just taking it out on anyone they found.  There was revenge in the air for those comrades who had been killed.’[16] Without recourse to set-piece conventional battle, the Chechen insurgents had arguably achieved ‘the acme of skill’ by subduing their enemy largely before the fighting began. Utilizing B. H. Liddell Hart’s ‘indirect approach’ in choosing the time, place, and method of fighting, the Russian soldiers were defeated often without ever seeing the enemy.[17] At the same time, the Russians, with their vast superiority in military firepower, failed to use it to tactical and strategic advantage. By employing ‘air and space power thoughtlessly or unimaginatively, [the Russians’ power was] less effective or even disastrously impotent.’[18]

The war escalated quickly, and Russian public support continued to plummet as journalist reports continued to highlight to the Russia public the reality of war. Under the aegis of the Soviet media, the success of the troops was a given, and the heavy censorship of all media would have ensured that anything contrary to the official party line be treated with hostility and suspicion. Not so in the new Russian media. With woefully little public support for an increasingly unpopular and embarrassing war, the Kremlin was faced with a crippling hostage crisis in the southern Russian city of Budyonnovsk. Led by Chechen warlord Shamil Besaev, about a hundred Chechen terrorists seized some 1,500 civilians at gun-point and barricaded themselves in a hospital.

After three failed attempts by MVD and special forces (spetsnaz) troops to storm the building, dozens of civilians lay dead. Hundreds more were wounded. Yeltsin finally agreed to the terrorists demands and signed the ceasefire.  The Russian public had not responded well to the Kremlin’s propaganda campaign, and now harshly criticized the Russian security forces’ inability to secure peace more than they criticized the tactics of the Chechen terrorists. The Chechen fighters came out the victors, hailed as heroes within Chechnya and seen as saviors of the battered country. The Russians, who for once should have held the moral high-ground, had failed to protect the Russian citizenry from the overspill of an already unpopular war. Through ‘incompetence and heavy handedness,’ more people were killed by the Russians’ attempts to storm the building than in the original attack on the city.[19]

While the war continued for several months more, the political will of the Russian people had evaporated. According to one survey, 3% of respondents answered favorably towards questions concerning maintaining military operations in Chechnya near the end of the war, while 70% opposed it from the beginning.[20] During the initial 1994 invasion of Chechnya, most early observers would be hard-pressed to give favorable odds to a Chechen victory, yet at war’s end the Chechens could only be seen as ‘the overwhelming victors,’ and the Russians were forced into a shameful cease-fire. [21] After a dismal failure against a fomer Soviet Republic, Russian President Yeltsin began negotiations, and signed the Khasavyurt Accord, ending the war.[22]

The Interwar  Struggle

From 1996 to 1999, a tenuous peace hung heavy over Chechnya. The emergent state was torn by the secular post-colonial crises familiar to many emerging post-communist fringe states. Lawlessness, warlordism, rampant criminality and chaotic violence marred the interwar period and the government struggled to maintain its legitimacy. A lack of centralized funds, the inability of the government to rebuild the state’s infrastructure and the inability or unwillingness to control the militarized groups of First War fighters was only exacerbated by the economic blockade by Russia, resulting in an state remarkably similar to interwar Berlin: ripe for a political takeover. The fragmentation of Chechen national identity went hand-in-hand with the largely unwelcome intrusion of Wahabbite influences as rival factions fought for control of the state. The economic crisis brought about by the war, combined with Chechnya’s high unemployment rate and general lack of upward social mobility for opportunity of advancement gave limited choices to the Chechen people, encouraging large-scale organized crime, gang warfare, bank robbery, kidnapping, and in some instances terrorism.[23]

The culmination came in 1999, when Shamil Besaev led a Wahabbi incursion into neighboring Ingushetia in an act of war intended to unite the North Caucasus into a greater Islamic Republic under strict shari’a law. Russia invaded to stem the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, and the Second Chechen War began.


[1] See “Human Rights Violations in Chechnya”, organized by the ‘Society of the Russian-Chechen Friendship; and Human Rights Group Memorial. Accessed 2/27/2012.

[2] Siren and Fowkes, ‘An Outline Chronology,’ 170.

[3] A number of works address the identity crisis of Russia after the dissolution of the USSR and have speculated as to the reasons why Yeltsin made the decision to invade, and when to invade. For more see King, Extreme Politics; Peimani, Failed Transition, Bleak Future?; Tolz, Russia.; Trenin and Malashenko, Russia's Restless Frontier; Zurcher, The Post-Soviet Wars.

[4] Schaefer, The Insurgency in Chechnya, 129

[5] Oliker, Russia's Chechen Wars, 5

[6] Combat Films and Research, Immortal Fortress.

[7] McIntosh, Thumping the Hive, 16.

[8] Safranchuk, Chechnya: Russia's Experience.

[9] Arquilla and Karasik, ‘Chechnya: A Glimpse,’ 211.

[10] Ibid., 218.

[11] Kramer, ‘Guerrilla Warfare, Counterinsurgency,’ 240.

[12] McIntosh, 28.

[13] Ibid., 11.

[14] Kramer, 222.

[15] McIntosh, 29.

[16] Ibid., 28.

[17] For a short overview of both Sun Tzu and B.H. Liddell Hart’s philosophy of war, see Bartholomees, ‘A Survey of the Theory’, 20-23.

[18] Szafranski, ‘Neocortical Warfare?’ 395.

[19] Gall and de Waal, Chechnya: Calamity, 275.

[20] See Pain, ‘The Second Chechen War’, 59-69; and Souleimanov and Ditrych, ‘The Internationalisation of the Russian-Chechen Conflict, 1202.

[21] Arquilla, and Karasik, 223.

[22] Schaefer, 142.

[23] Rigi, ‘The War in Chechnya’, 37.

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Comments

Hi, I'm not aware of an invasion by Shamil Bashayev into Ingushetia. Into Dagestan, yes, but was unaware of one into Ingushetia, as this very good article mentions. Please let me know if anyone can provide some background for it, or lead me in the right direction. thanks.

You're absolutely right - I'm not sure what happened during my editing process here, the second war was begun because of the incursion into DAGESTAN with the eventual attention of an Islamic Caliphate combining Chechnya and Ingushetia. I must have switched them up there. Thank you for the close reading, and my apologies.

I agree, can't wait for pt 2.

Concise and clearly written article. Good read. Look forward to pt. 2

An excellent article. So what is article giving us, that countless others have as well, that no one in the leadership seems to be able to pick up on? (Actually I think they do, but in doing so they come to realize that they (meaning middle and senior leadership) would be less important). That decentralazation is the wave of the future... It has also been the wave of the past. But for whatever reason, we just cannot seem to get it together. Sure our SOF understand it. But in order for the US to use the concept, you gotta be SOF... Plenty of other countries use light infantry assets to excellent effect (as did the Chechens)in this manner. Why are we not emolating this concept? Especially given our technology. Independant infantry squads and platoons can wreak havoc, proven time and again. All you have do is think back to anytime you were opfor and given a free hand...

Now give that infantry squad topnotch commo, a small tool box of weapons, more demo training and some other specialized training, that would be useful (mountain climbing etc) and turn them loose. They would run them to the ground.

Need to move them faster? Put them on 4 wheelers... They could carry more, move faster, move on ground denied to MRAPs etc. You can't mine everything.

Even specialised 4 wheelers with IR lights, extra quiet mufflers systems etc, etc. would not cost 10 grand a peice. However lets say they did. You could mount 1 infantry squad for $90,000... a platoon for under $400,000... So now you have an entire platoon ready to move for less than half the price of one MRAP.

With good commo, they could call for and adjust fires, keep higher informed etc.

We need to get with the program or learn to speak Arabic or Chinese. Yes we will contine to have large set peice battles in the future... But not near as many. No one really wants to fight us on plains, deserts etc. We are going to have to get into the jungles, cities, swamps and mountains... Areas that historically have been the perview of small units.

We should be able to see the tactical logic and soundness of this, why havent we?

Hammer, I think you overestimate the ability of a light infantry battalion. The average age is, was and will always be 19. A platoon leader will have less than 3 years experience. Only one member, the plt sgt, will have on average more than 8 or 9 years experience. Team leaders and squad leaders primary advantage is having done battle drill 1A enough times to know how to put the privates in the right order. The turn around from pvt's and spc's leaving and being replaced is so high (naturally) that its difficult enough to keep the platoon up to par with something as simple as a live fire maneuver or a cordon and search, let alone something as complex as an asymmetric warfare or counterinsurgency campaign.
Fighting Counterinsurgency requires maturity that ONLY comes with experience and age. These two things are, unfortunately, rare in a light infantry battalion.

Hawkeye, I disagree, I think you under estimate the ability of a good light infantry BN. I think you'll see some even better units if the Army sticks to its proposed plan for promotions... We gotta slow them down. I agree that every BN might not be able to do it. If it is training they lack, is that their fault or that of the leadership? We both know the answer. We are talking about small unit actions of squad and platoon size. My feeling is that if those rag bag Chechens could do it, we aught to be able to do it, and do it alot better. I am not talking about anything that radical. I have trained and lead platoons that operated at this level. I don't doubt that maturity comes with experiance... Couldn't agree more. Age sometimes means something and sometimes it dosn't. And though I didnt say it attacking the enemy using 1A as an automatic battledrill, would be my last choice. Even still they could use battle drill as is just fine. And as for fighting asymmetric warfare or counterinsurgency campaign mature or not, they are being sent to do that job. I am sure we don't have the information, but I am willing to bet that the average NVA or Chechen wasn't much, if any older. If the insurgents can do it with a weeks worth of training, we should twenty times as good at it.

I believe my assessment to be accurate.
As I already mentioned, with the natural rotation of most soldiers cycling through their 3 year contracts it is nearly impossible to train a rifle platoon beyond 3-21.8. Hopefully the PL and some of the NCO's will have an understanding of SH 21-76. The senior NCO's and Officers across the battalion should have an understanding of 3-24 and 3-24.2. Thats the best your can expect, and its what is generally deployed right now.

The NVA was an army that operated with regiments, battalions, companies and platoons. They used the jungle to conceal small unit tactics. Very similar to what comes of of SH 21-76. They weren't insurgents. They were the North Vietnamese Army. We constantly beat the NVA during engagements. We didn't lose militarily to the NVA.

Now, insurgents are a different story. Its easy to be an insurgent. You don't need to be that good to stand up to a superior force. Thats the beauty of being an insurgent. A rag tag bunch of Chechen's can do it, so can Iraqi's or Afgani's. Its not hard to be an insurgent. Don't be fooled into being impressed with the insurgents inherent ability to wage a successful insurgency, especially against a foreign occupying force.

What takes great skill, maturity, and training is the counter-insurgent. The training required to operate proficiently at that level is beyond what you can give to a light infantry battalion with and average age of 19 and an average time in the army of less than 3 years.

Hawkeye, farther off the mark, your assessment could not be.

I really am trying not sound flip, but I may a bit.

What light infantry could do, if allowed vs. what they are allowed to do currently, are two entirely seperate things. Yes Soldiers do rotate, they do in ALL units. Back in the days of yore, they were WIA, KIA, NBI deserted etc. Troop turnover is always a consideration. Even our top units are not manned by bulletproof troops. The other side has turnover as well. Turnover is nothing more than change. Even the most elite units have to go back and retrain, get new or more training etc. If training past 3-21.8 is the problem then that lies with leadership failing to do it's job and organizational structure for training (both of which are a big, big problems), or crazy amounts of wasted opportunities for training at formal schools etc. Not to mention the plethora of stupid requirements to do ANYTHING. It takes less paperwork to purchase a class 3 firearm, than it does to take a four day pass, WTH??? The Army has found tons of ways to waste time and money that could be better spent training. Whether you or I like it, those guys you think cannot handle it, are being and have been deployed to "handle it". All I am saying is we can make better use of them. You are correct about the NVA... I should have said VC... And I know you will come back and say "we destroyed them" and we did... But at what cost? Billions spent trying to kill a few thousand... Yes I know we killed (or estimate we did) millions but 99% those were not VC.

I am not "impressed" by the insurgents. However decentralzation, allows them flexability and the oportunity for initative, that our micromanaged forces don't have. I am suggesting that we get back to small units and small unit tactics. We can "out G the G". If a lower ranking individual has a plan, idea etc that could work, it is shot down, out of hand, by 99.9% of the leadership, because, what could he possibly know or contribute? If the same exact idea or plan is spoken by a General, middle management "Ohs" & "Ahs" and tells everyone they know how General or COL so and so, etc has revolutionized whatever it is and is the smartest, most innovative thinker they have ever met.

What I am getting from you is that we are barely able to operate in company and battalion size units, because no one is smart enough, mature enough or trained enough to do it at any lower level. Sorry I am not buying that hogwash... Anymore than I do COIN, the BOSS program or any of the other crapola the brass loves to spew. An PFC ranked infantrymen is better trained than most insurgents. He has a brain and is far smarter than you give him credit for. I have said it before and I will say it again, squad sized ambushes and smart employment of snipers would finish the insurgents in Afghanistan in short order.

As for the 19 year old light infantrymen, they are led... By more experianced leaders. Sure they could use more training, what unit couldn't?

If I had my way I would do some revamping in the way light infantry is trained.

But if you are suggesting that they are not mature enough, smart enough or skilled enough, maybe we aught to leave it to SOF to handle. I have no problem with this... But if we do, they don't get to pick and choose what they want to do, they get to do it all. SF are the premier trainers of foreign troops, so no DA and CT missions (we have plenty of other SOF units for that), no more 3-4 maybe 6 month deployments. Conventional infantry units will no longer train the Afghan Army, sorry not our job.

I am assumming you feel that the SOF guys are better suited to this type of warfare... Maybe they are... But that dosn't mean light infantry could not contribute to the fight. I love my SOF brothers and don't mean to offend, but I bet the number of bad guys in Afghanistan is only 5 to 10 percent the number of personnel in SOCOM...

Here is another idea that might appeal to you. Have the Generals(we have enough of them)be, platoon leaders, have COLs as squad leaders, LTCs as team leaders and MAJs will have to fill out as rifleman, sawgunners and grenadiers. How could we possibly fail then, right?

No three or four years is not a long time. So how long should they be in to master this??? Whether we fight them as conventional light infantry or decentralize them, 95% of what they need to know would remain the same. And if their time was better utilized they could master quite a bit in that amount of time. Certainly more than enough to handle the yokels they will be going after. Like anyone else they would certainly get better the more time they put in.

I would like to point out that it was mature, skilled, trained and educated, experianced guys in charge, spending billions that have failed to squash a few thousand clowns in Afghanistan. The same thing with Iraq. We have not won anything decisively since WWII... Ok, I take that back, we won Gulf 1 (100hours), Grenada (12 hours) and Panama (two weeks or so). If it last longer than that, our elite, "culturally aware" over-educated, politically savy, don't fart at parties, experts in all facets of warfare, "all knowing" leadership have not yet figured out a way to win it.

We did not win in Iraq (though I hear plenty of dillusional leadership who seem to think so). And we won't in Afghanistan unless we change. The mature experts have had twelve years to try... It is time to try something else.

What I am saying is light infantry can and should be better used. All our resourses can be. It takes 4 helo's to move one General... Waste of resourses. Given good commo and sure some more training never hurts, and the Commander's intent, a squad can operate independently or semi independantly and hunt down the bad guys.

You stated "Being an insurgerent is easy"... Ok... Then you make the argument that only mature, experianced units lead by the few genious leaders have any hope of at all of engaging these guys? Are they super human? In my mind they are not. Counter-guerilla, irreguler warfare, LIC, whatever you want to call it, is harder than fighting a conventional, uniformed enemy. But it isn't impossible or even close to impossible. And unless we rethink things, except some risk and get out of politics and stop with the "Nation Building" etc. we will soon arrive at yet another end-state that dosn't serve us.

We are about to be led to an another loss in Afghanistan, (yet again) by the dottering old fools at the top, not staying in their "lane" (Can someone tell me why GENERALS are deciding uniform levels, like what levels, items of armor are going to be worn??? WTH do we have 1SG and company commanders for??? Plenty more on this). This loss will be accomplished at the hands of a bunch of third world clowns who could not read the menu at McDonald's, who have not attended an academy, were not trained to the level of ST6, SFOD or any of the other tier 1 units, or even the level of that light infantry guy, and are not much if any older than an he is.

Given enough time, the amateurs have a good record defeating the professionals... Americans vs British in the Revolution, Vietnamese vs. The US in Vietnam, Afghans vs Russians in Afghanistan, Chechens vs Russians, the list is long...

If all one does to wage COIN is drive around on 4 wheelers with great commo and hunt down bad guys, your probably not going to be successful.

19 yr olds can't sit in at a village shura. It would be an insult, neither would a 22 or 23 yr old team leader. So out of a whole platoon, only a few are even old enough not to insult a village elder by taking part in such an important function, let alone have the ability to bring something to the table.

Infantry platoons aren't geared towards training foreign armies. what can some PFC teach? Sure, he may know how to dissemble, reassemble, perform functions check, load fire and preform misfire procedures on s M-249, but who is going to take some pimple faced teenager seriously? you end up with a couple of NCO's and one officer doing everything. Thats reality.

The army does waste time. But it still only takes a couple minutes to fill out a leave/pass form and then the T.R.I.P.s safety thing and print it out staple it to the pass form and its done. Maybe if you didn't complain about the paperwork and just did it, it wouldn't seem to take so long.

You are wrong in assuming that I think generals should be squad leaders. Our army is certainly capable to operating at the platoon and squad level. Raids and patrols are jobs for the infantry, which they excel at. COIN is MUCH more than that. Its not just letting soldiers loose to "hunt down the bad guys"

"I would like to point out that it was mature, skilled, trained and educated, experienced guys in charge, spending billions that have failed to squash a few thousand clowns in Afghanistan."

If you think our enemy is a bunch of clowns, then I don't know what to tell you. If you think being "Culturally aware" means not farting at parties...you probably don't belong sitting in a shura. Oh, and BTW, farting in the presence of an Afghan is a pretty big insult.

I never said thats what the entire Army should be doing, driving around on four wheelers etc. I said thats what infantry Squads and Platoons should be doing. Thats what they should be doing... Setting up ambushes, making contact, overwatching IED sites etc. This crap about sitting in the Shura is just that, crap. Leadership needs to be going to the Shura and not platoon leadership either... Someone who has the power to make decisions... Which the PL and PSG do not. Thats higher level leadership business ie. Key Leader.

I am aware of the purpose of the infantry platoon... And you are correct, training foreign armys isn't it, but we seem to get stuck with it, so that arguement dosn't hold water.

If you think thats all that goes in the pass/leave packet these days one of two things is happening. 1. Someone else is doing it for you and you don't know it or 2. No one is making you do the whole thing correctly... Maybe instead of thinking its just complaining, you should see the entire packeted filled out correctly. Then I tell you what, try having one computer for the platoon and one printer for the entrie company, to do the entire leave packets for an full infantry platoon with all correct supporting documentation. It takes more than a couple minutes I assure you. Oh and you, half the time get the privilidge of paying for the paper, so you can send your boys on leave.

You are correct there is much more than raids and patrolling in COIN. All I ever said was that light infantry could be more effectively used, without a huge expense, years of training etc. I did not suggest we turn them lose in disorganized bands to roam the land killing everything they see.

As for them being clowns, they are... (Read "On Killing" by LTC David Grossman, he covers dehumanizing the enemy better than I can in this post) I just do not understimate them. Or over estimate our side. If we cannot with the billions spent and 12 years used, take out the limited amount of enemy in Afghanistan or put a hurting on them so bad, that they have no will to continue, then we have got to look at what we are doing. Pesonally I think that the Senior leadership should be ashamed of losing to them, but hey thats politics...

I did not mean culturally aware as in not farting at parties... I mean culturally aware as we spend too much time worrying talking about it, worring about it etc... I will worry about it when they do. Whether they like it or not, we are the big dogs on the block. They understand that far better than we do. And they play to it. Starting riots and killing people over the burning of the Koran??? Sorry but if they tore up my bible, it wouldn't make the BN newsletter... They have learned to play the system, just like the communists used to. They behead someone and we say "well their terrorists"... We make a cartoon of Mohammad and it time to kill anyone they can... And we rush to apoligize, practicaly tripping over ourselves to do it. Of course we will make sure that the offender is made to pay, even though you are are enemy, we don;t want to offend you. Sorry that dog don't hunt. As for not farting at parties, that had nothing to do with a Shura... And you are right I don't need or want to go to one anyway, but will if the mission requires I do so. Did we spend any time on this in WWII with the Japanese... No we just kept killing them, until they gave up.

From this response, I have gathered that you were unable to grasp the meaning of my original post. Which was simply that with some changes, light infantry could by changing they way we employ them have a bigger impact.

As for COIN as I have said in other posts... It only works when the enemy and the population agree to it. If what we were selling with COIN worked so well the population should have turned over or pointed out every Taliban and Al Qauda guy or pointed to there hiding areas long, long ago. They didn't. Why didn't they? 1. Because we will not do what it takes to bag all the enemy. 2. They are opportunists looking to get, by any method possible whatever they can out of us. They don't care about or want what it is we are selling.

And lastly the point I was trying to get at in my initial post was that decentalized units, with empowered leadership, the correct tools and training (and this would be easy for light infantry to do) make for a better force than the "top down" model we use. If put the guy on the ground in charge, leadership need not waste time with micromanagement etc. With all camerea's etc we have got now and more are coming, we can expect the TOC to try to do even more of our thinking and even more quarterbacking... My point, I don't care how good you camera is, who don;t know the situation as well as the guy on the ground. Yeah the Predator feed allows you to see behind that mountain, building etc, that the guy on the ground might not be able to see, but that does not mean you are in a better position to run the show...

Hammer,

Lets use, for example, the 75th Ranger Regiment. They have some luxuries that most infantry units don't have. They have the funds for all sorts of cool guy gear and training opportunities. Most importantly, they have a selection process and once your in, you can be fired. Get a DUI? Your out of regiment. Beat your wife? gone. Hell, buy 3 cars and can't pay your debts? Gone. So its arguably staffed with talented, motivated, and mature (as can be) guys.

This allows them to deploy at the company level. But even they don't operated as squads and fire teams. They go out (at the minimum) in platoon strength. Squads and teams are never further than LOS FM comms.

That regiment has the freedom to try new things and alter they way they operate. However, they, for some strange reason, stick to the "top down" method. Ranger privates are shooters who don't drive off spread out on 4 wheelers. They have their team leaders up their ass because even though they are Airborne Rangers, they are still know nothing privates who do what they are told.

Making every light infantry battalion capable of operating even in that manner is never going to happen, let alone operate at a level beyond that.

Regular infantry do DA all the time. Its called a raid. Its in 3-24.8 as well as SH 21-76. I've seen rifle platoons do Cordon and Search operations (DA) all over Afghanistan and Iraq.

What is a CT mission anyway? Which army manual describes Counter Terrorism?

An SFODA is able to plan and conduct their own operations in large part because they have an 18F on every team. Its a senior E-7. He had an MOS in the regular army before coming SF, then he was either the 18B, C, D, or E. After a few years he gets a goes to the 18F course, 16 weeks, and graduates as a Special Forces Intelligence Sergeant.

His experience and training coupled with the 18A (An experienced 0-3), the 18z (an experienced E-8) and the 180 (W-1 or 2) allow them to fill all the rolls that exist up at an infantry battalion headquarters (S3 and S6) which plans and executes operations. Every other member of the team is an NCO. No 19 yr old privates in sight.

Thats why they are capable of it and rifle platoons aren't. Bottom line dude.

Hawkeye,
I am familer with Regiment. And you are correct they don't operate that way. But look at the mission set they have, why would they? They are the only SOF force that can take and hold ground. They are also the SOF unit of choice for large objectives. They support other higher level SOF forces. You are not going to find them endless roaming the Hindu Kush looking to make contact, like a standard light infantry unit. They are going to have a pretty good reason for being there, based on intel.

You are correct, do something stupid, get hurt, etc and you are out. However this happens in ALL units... Yeah certainly more when the unit is comprised of joes.

I suggested for 4 wheelers (any similer small platform could work) for a four reasons. 1. Mobility: We have to improve mobility. Up armor humvees and MRAP's just don't cut it in the mobility area. Neither do Strikers once they have slab and uparmor packages added and even if they don't they are still restricted due to terrain. One of the strengths Light Infantry has is the ability to move over restrictive terrain. By mounting them on a 4 wheeler we can give them the speed they lack while dismounted and yet take advantage of being able to go places no MRAP, Striker or humvee is ever going to go. The second reason is the enemy cannot mine everything and getting them an off road capability would improve troop safety. It would also improve security as routes that are currently denied, due to no or poor roads could be utilized to move to and from objectives. If you are worried about privates speeding, a $10 resticter plate could be installed limiting the speed to whatever you are comfortable with as long as it is faster than the fastest man alive can run by 5 MPH. We are so road bound currently, the enemy dosn't even need to conduct anyalsis as to where we are going to be coming from. Another reason is though helo's are an excellent choice (and depending on where you are sometimes about the only one) weather, crew rest restrictions and limited available blade time, restrict their use, even for a unit like the 101st. And getting helos for a single platoon or even a company is problematic. Lastly cost: per each vehicle: a Up Armored Humvee costs roughly $140,000+... An MRAP roughly costs $500,000+... The Striker costs $4.9 million... The enemy is able to kill all of these for less than $1000. Additionaly they are pretty restricted on areas they can go. Even at a cost of $10,000 each you can mount a squad for less than the cost of a humvee... And to get 9 dismounts you are going to need three humvees. You can mount a platoon for less than the cost of an MRAP... And you are going to need three of four to to move that platoon of 4 squads. Once at the ORP the platoon can leave a fire team (or ideally be beefed up with one) with a couple MG's etc to protect their wheels.

I never suggested that we send a rifle squad on its own 180km out. But they can depending on the mission operate semi independantly. The squads can mass as needed. And the entire time the PL is in control. Take for example an ambush. I have seen several blown because instead of task organizing based on the terrain and enemy situation, PL just took everybody... and then tried to put them all in one assualt line. Better to have split the platoon (decentralized) into several smaller ambushes, an an area ambush. This would have increased the chances of successufully hitting the enemy. Why wasn't it done? Well the PL could be everywhere to micromanage so he elected to consolidate his micromanagement. I would not have that rifleman be anywhere but up his teamleaders ass... He isn't an operator... But we don't have to be nut to butt anywhere that I can think of except during MOUT and the jungle at night. Normal tactical dispersion is used so one IED/mine or arty/mortar round dosn't take out the entire squad/fire team. Once they reach the ORP, make contact etc, they dismount and move into standard battledrills, movement formations etc.

As for making every light infantry BN operate like this I suggest that you take a look at author H. John Poole (USMC-RET) books on the subject. I cannot speak for them, but alot of USMC BN's and SOF units (as well as a few conventional Army units) have received his training on this subject. Whether it has been put to use or not I cannot say.

I am aware the infantry does DA. My last time in a sandy area the SOF guys were doing DA (and they were calling it CT) that could have just as easily been handle by an infantry unit... These guys were not going after OBL. They were going after low level IED emplacers etc. All I stated was that the IN should have taken these on and freed up the SF guys to do the training of the army, they are after all the premier trainers for foreign forces that we have. Instead, the conventional Army renames its BDEs AABs and does a mission that it is not trained for.

As for a CT manual, I am not familer with one, maybe there is, but if so, like number of other ones it ain't on NIPR!!... However it is a term constantly thrown about. I see it as a target type and nothing more.

I did not suggest that an light infantry squad has or needs the same capabities as an SFODA... They don't the depth or experience for mission planning like an SFODA does. Squads would continue to receive missions exactly as they do now. No change. They arn't going to plan their own missions. And though it wouldn't hurt morale one bit, they have no requirement for MFF, Combat Diver etc. either. However more training in mountain climbing, small boat use, SPIES/FRIES would improve employment options.

That being said I think it would be a good idea to send infantry PSG to the Fox course to assist the PL's with intel and mission planning.

Nothing I have suggested falls outside of FM 3-21.8. or SH 21-76. Some portions of FM 7-85 could be added to enhance capability without to much work.

Bottom line is Light Infantry employment should change to make it more effective. It can and should be able when needed to operate semi-independantly. It may not have been done by us, but it's has been done before. If you didn't understand what I was getting at, that is my lack of writing ability, Bud.

I don't want to butt in on this great discussion, but I think both of you have very valid points, in that the war is being fought in the wrong way by the wrong people. I think by conflating light infantry with SOF, and SOF with light infantry, we do all the wrongs things and strip each of their respective power and ability to do their jobs well.

I do not think small units on humvees hunting out the enemy is the right strategy, but nor do I think the tactic of hiding out on FOBs and waiting until something happens before blowing up a mountain is correct either.

To be an insurgent is easy. Yes, sort of. Now, I am far from an expert on contemporary Afghanistan, and do correct me if I'm off the mark, but I do know that in Chechnya, in Afghanistan of the 80s, and in Palestine, it was/is easy to be an insurgent because there was simply no recourse. Your house has been destroyed, your family deported or killed, or your dear friends' families deported and killed, and your role models are religious martyrs which proclaim in this world of pain and suffering, a higher power welcomes you after death. It's very difficult to defeat that sort of logic unless we circumvent it and intercept those insurgents before we give them cause to adopt radical mentalities.

It's MUCH more difficult for an Afghan shepherd boy to become a radicalized insurgent and risk life and limb for a cause he doesn't fully understand, which stands behind a book he doesn't know how to read, while his father, mother and sisters are safe and unmolested and live peacefully among their larger clan. I think that through whatever manner works best - I'm not a policy expert - we need to combine the shura with the light infantry. Protect the civilians, convince them that we are there to protect them from the foreign al Qaeda oppressors, let them maintain their tribal laws and customs, let them marry their daughters off at age 16, we're not in Afghanistan (or, at least I firmly believe, SHOULD NOT be) to change their lifestyles. We're there to root out those who want to kill us, and bring them to justice.

The mistakes the Russians made in Chechnya, I believe, were that they had no strategy aside from 'win' when they went in the first time, and their strategy the second time they went in was 'kill anything that moves,' which only increased the resistance 10fold. Had they used a more culturally amicable approach to the civilians, they may have found public support for insurgent fighters quickly evaporated.

Janeczko,

I want to note a couple of things.

There is a school in almost every village, but literacy is only around 10% across the country. The word school translates into madrassa. However, one doesn't learn reading, writing and arithmetic at a madrassa, one learns the Koran. If one can't read the Koran, then one learns the village Mullah's interpretation of the Koran which leads to my second point.

If you travel 10 miles outside of Kabul or Herat, every woman is in a burka. They are property of their father, then their husband. Life has little meaning outside of praying 5 times a day and farming your plot of land.

From the perspective of a Westerner, the population of Afghanistan is already radicalized. We think its normal for girls to go to school, and woman to vote. That life has meaning outside of the submission of Gods Will.

When the Taliban provide the narrative that ISAF is in Afghanistan to conquer the people, erode their values and ultimately destroy Islam and replace it with Judeo Christian Values, people receive that message and believe it.

If one believes that he is fighting to save his past and future, he will fight. Which is why its not difficult to an Afghan shepherd boy to take up arms against ISAF and the 'puppet' government in Kabul.

We are not in Afghanistan to root out those who want to kill us and bring them to justice, but to deny Al-Qaeda and other assimilated groups the ability to have a base of operations in which they have a free hand in planning, training, and conducting spectacular attacks against Western targets.

Nation building, to an extent, is a necessary evil to achieve this. Its a time consuming process, and ISAF had to fill the security gaps that existed while the Afghan security forces were being built. ISAF hasn't done it very well for a host of reasons, but its almost moot. Afghan National Security Forces will sooner than later be provided Afghan solutions to Afghan problems.

mnjaneczko,

Excellent article. Your not butting in. Hawkeye and I do see things differently, but is that not the point to spark discussion? Hawk and I got a little sidetracked.

This was not the first article I have read on the Chechens fighting the Russians. Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy your article and am looking forward to the your second part. What really stood out to me is how soundly the Russians were defeated initially by small units utilizing a decentralized command model. I think this is the way forward for us... It has to be. What I was trying to illistrate was that light infantry units could make this move relatively easy... For equipment and training... Obviously changing the culture of the Army is going to take work. Nor was I trying to say that Light Infantry was SOF. They compliment each other. I also think it isn't to far a stretch to make Light Infantry, special operaions capable... Now this would require more training, better equipment etc. This would not make them the equivelent of SF, SFOD, ST6 etc. However there are a number of missions that they could do that have traditional fallen to those type units. Light Infantry is capable of preforming DA and lower level CT missions (as well as some others). My point was that this would free up SOF forces for higher priority missions. We are not trainers of foreign forces, though we have been tasked to do it. You are correct, patrolling in Humvees, MRAPs etc is not a good idea. Which is why I suggested 4 wheelers (well dispersed) as a means of transport. Better situational awareness etc. Nor is moving in large units (however dispersed unit could quickly mass to take advantage of the tactical situation.)

As for the shepard boy becoming radicalized and that being harder, I don't know. I think you have to look at how information is transmitted and received. If he is from a small village, and has no or limited access to information he is going to do what children do... Only he is going to do it longer because that is how the tribal culture works. What is he going to do? Just like a little kid even here in the US, he is going to listen to his dad, his family, village and tribal elders. There is also the "macho factor" to consider. He is going to want to be seen as a man as soon as he can. Afghanistan has always had a warrior culture so to speak. So if his tribe has no problems with another tribe, and he has access to a foreign infidels, who better to fire up and prove that he is a tough guy? In a way it is kind of like a school yard mentality.

In reality the Shura is or may be important... But that is senior leader business and not the job of infantry squads and platoons.

I think that you have got to remember that not all but certainly more than a few of the enemy are looked upon as folk heroes and men to be idolized, just as kids in this country have music, sports idols etc.

I think you are spot on with the Russians first and second pushes. The Russians may have done better with a more culturally amicable approuch... But if you think its hard to get volenteers to do something, it has got to be 20x harder to get conscripts who don't want to be there in the first place. There is no doubt about it, that kind of fighting is extremely hard and is going to be messy. However I also think that we tend to do what the Russians did to an extent, go in with no better plan than to "win".

As for cultural awareness, the Army isn't going to give enough of it to make the average Soldier good enough to deal with the locals in a Shura etc. What I suggest is putting the Light guys to hunting down the enemy, the leadership to conducting the Shuras, the SF guys to training the Army.

The bottom line is that the past 12 years have not gotten the job done and we need to do something else.

Now on a lot of my posts you will see that I believe we have got to hammer the AQ and Taliban and don't stop... We want that shepard boy to say to himself "those US guys don't play and I need to stay out of it if I want a life".

I also am a beleiver in crushing the enemy first. I think that this is neccessary before anything else meaningful can take place. The way I see it right now is that we are trying to rebuild the house, while it's still on fire... You just are not going to improve your house that way.

As for senior leadership, there a few good ones. The problem is the culture at the top. When is the last time a GO said "here is my plan and how I want to do this operation" and when it is shot down, he says "Sir, here is my resignation"? They are too worried about politics, next promotion, next job etc. For the most part they are carbon copies of the last guy and he wasn't memorable either...

"" We want that shepard boy to say to himself "those US guys don't play and I need to stay out of it if I want a life" ""

I think that's an excellent point, Hammer, and I think that is the core of our problem in Afghanistan, and across the world really. And I think you and I would agree that the answer to that is a combination of superior firepower quickly and efficiently employed, the ability to quickly and deeply insert personnel into 'enemy' territory to shut out violent resistance, and the good faith that will communicate our willingness to cooperate with locals who want to cooperate with us. The first I think we do very well. There's little doubt who wins when an F-16 or M1 Abrams encounters an AQ with an AK. Camel or no camel. The second we have capabilities in, except that intel is often shoddy and we have a dilemma of which troops are best suited for that type of action.

If the US portrays to a particular tribe that we can be a bigger and better friend than the Taliban, we'll have fewer problems as a result. On the same token, Hawkeye, I don't mind the fact that much of rural Afghanistan is arguably 'radical' in their cultural dissonance from the 'western' way of life. I think you put our reasons for being in Afghanistan more eloquently than I, which I agree with - to deny al Qaeda and other radically anti-western a viable ground to operate - but I do not believe changing the fabric of Afghan culture is our mission, and nor should it be. Let them keep their religious schools, let them maintain their tribal customs, their 'adat', and keep their women just the way they are.

Hammer, I also think you are spot-on with reassessing the priorities of Light Infantry and SOF, and I think that USSOCOM needs to really evaluate what it is that SOF SHOULD be doing. Training foreign troops? Conducting isolated direct-action missions? Conducting large-scale direct-action missions? Basically, pick a lane. Rangers should not be doing Army SF duties, and Army SF should not be doing what the Rangers and SEALs do. I agree with you on the need for improved light infantry capabilities so long as there is a distinct difference. It continues to puzzle me to see SOF portrayed as conventional elite forces. We should have conventional troops, elite conventional troops (Rangers, perhaps expand into more than just the 75th) and unconventional troops (SOF).

mnjaneczko,

In my opinion we get that shepard boy to think that way by finding the bodies of the enemy we have killed in his pastures. If I was running the show and I am not, Squad ambushes, max use of snipers and platoon raids would be the order of the day, everyday for light infantry. SOF isn't big enough to do it all.

I think we have the superior fire power peice down, resonably well... Though it does seem to take an act of God to get IDF. What I have really been trying to get at is efficient employment. I don't know about the SOF guys and if they are or are not. But I know that with a little change we could be making much, much more out of our conventional light infantry (Light, Airborne, AASLT and Mountain). They are not SOF and we don't need them to be. But with some training, some equipment and some changes, they could be employed to do light infantry stuff far better than we currently do. Additionaly this would make them more lethal, because they would be better able to get to where the enemy is, confirm where the enemy isn't etc. No they don't need the ability to lock out of a sub, swim ashore and conduct a mission 300 miles behind enemy lines. Basically all we need to do is give them mobility, improve their commo etc. How they are led, who gives the orders plans the missions, etc dosn't change from how they currently operate. What I propose isn't radical.

We can use them in all areas. Saving SOF for HVT missions that require specialized skill sets etc. Do we want to put SEALS, SF or Rangers out doing movement to contact when we don't have a target worth their time and maybe no target at all? I would say no.

Some of my argument with Hawkeye is that light infantry (and most of the rest of the conventional Army) does not have the cultural training neccessary to do what we have often been asked to. We don't send Soldiers to the defense language school to really learn the the languges of the AO. And at the squad and platoon level, we don't have the authority to make decisions at Shuras etc. So why not put them to better use? So instead of conducting movement to explosion, lets employ them better.

You are correct, let them do it their way. If they do something we would find offensive, we have to just shut up and let it go. We are not trying to turn them in Americans. No matter how jacked up and backward we find their culture, there more than likely is not a little American inside an Afghan, trying to get out.

I think SOCOM probably does a pretty good job selecting and managing forces. With one glaring exception. SF. These guys are the regional experts, speak the languges, know the customs. They have the training of foreign forces as core part of their mission set. It isn't cool, sexy or fun, but it is part of the job. How the conventional Army got passed the buck on this remains a mistery to me. The Rangers need to keep doing what they are doing. The have the equipment, training etc and are excellent at their jobs. Nor do I think we need to create another Ranger type force. We use what we have, give them a little more training, a little better commo and this will improve our options for employment. When it gets down to gunfighting they will operate pretty much as they do now. The conventional Force doesn't have the check book to pick up the tab for anything and everything SOCOM doesn't want to do. But the conventional leadership is as much to blame, because hey, they let them do it.

Your statement: We should have conventional troops, elite conventional troops (Rangers, perhaps expand into more than just the 75th) and unconventional troops (SOF). Doing what I propose will give us that.
In WWII the 82nd, 10th Mountain and 101st were all elite units. Now thay are standard units who can jump, have more helos and from time to time climb a mountain. What I have been saying all along is that we need to get back to that, for all light units. As I have said before a number of other countries do consider their light forces to be either elite or low level SOF.