Small Wars Journal

Prison Break

Prison Break: Maybe the Army's Not So Hidebound Afterall by Fred Kaplan at Slate.

On April 23, I wrote a column (Gates Celebrates Dissent) that turns out to have been mistaken—that, I've since found out, underestimated the U.S. Army's capacity to reward its creative dissidents...

I concluded the column: "[A]s long as junior officers see (as Gates put it) 'principled, creative, reform-minded leaders' like Paul Yingling assigned to lowly positions, the military will not nourish many more."

It turns out that I was wrong on two points. First, contrary to my implication, Yingling's battalion was not sent to prison-guard duty as a punishment. There isn't much demand these days for artillery fire in Iraq or Afghanistan. Still, artillery battalions have to do something...

More crucial (and here is where some good news enters the picture), "detainee operations" in Iraq have become a lot more important—and more innovative—than they used to be. With no fanfare, they have become a key element in the broader counterinsurgency campaign. If Yingling was singled out for his current job, it was in recognition—not in grudge-slinging defiance—of his talents. And, in fact, it seems that he was singled out.

This morning, I spoke with Maj. Gen. Doug Stone, commanding general of Task Force 134, which runs detainee operations in Iraq. On the speaker phone with him was his deputy commander, Paul Yingling.

About a year ago, Stone told me, he and Gen. David Petraeus realized that something had to be done about the detention centers in Iraq. There were two centers, holding a total of 26,000 detainees, and the few jihadists among them were indoctrinating a large share of the rest. "It was becoming Jihadi U. in there," Stone said.

Stone set out to apply counterinsurgency principles inside the centers' walls...

More at Slate and Abu Muqawama.

More on "counterinsurgency inside the wire" at MountainRunner.

Update: With a hat tip to David Ucko - Bloggers' Roundtable With Gen. Douglas M. Stone, Washington Post transcript.

Canadian Military Journal

Finally got around to visiting the Canadian Military Journal web page again, long overdue. Here are three articles the SWJ community should find interesting.

Political Warfare Is A Double-edged Sword: The Rise And Fall Of The French Counter-insurgency In Algeria by Pierre Pahlavi.

This article will examine how French counter-revolutionary warfare in Algeria developed, how it was implemented, and what successes it achieved. It will also focus upon how the strategy impacted the traditional practices and structures of the army, with a view to better understanding the reasons that caused the French government to begin dismantling the army in 1959. The objective here is to elaborate upon the notion of a doctrine that became a vérité devenue folle1 [truth run amok], which resulted in the Grande Muette (the army) overextending its responsibilities, establishing for itself a political conscience, and rising against a central national power suspected of trying to betray its initial mission. The purpose of examining this ideologization and its possible role in the failure of the counterinsurgency experiment is also to better grasp the principles and the perverse impacts of a strategy that would play an increasingly important role in conflicts and in international relations during the 21th Century.

Preparing for Coalition Command - The Three Ps: People, Processes, and Plans by Ian Wood.

Coalitions are always complex systems, involving frictional interaction between political and military leaders through the entire spectrum of operations spanning the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war. To that end, this article is designed to add to the body of professional knowledge on the important issue of coalition warfare command. More specifically, it will be argued that a methodology is needed that future commanders may apply during the pre-deployment period to assess the competence and capabilities of coalition force contributions. A series of factors will be provided that are intended to assist commanders in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their assigned multinational forces. This article also, hopefully, will help prepare future Canadian commanders for success in areas such as leadership preparedness, force interoperability, and unity of effort.

Assimilating Urban Battle Experience - The Canadians at Ortona by Ian Gooderson.

At Ortona, the Allies encountered, for the first time, a built-up area turned by the Germans into a defensive zone in which to fight not just a rearguard action but also a prolonged defensive battle. For what it revealed of German urban fighting techniques, Ortona was invaluable, and the experience was characterized by further significant features. Defending Ortona were some of the most combat-proficient and motivated German soldiers in the field anywhere - paratroopers of the 1st Parachute Division, whose battalions had been deployed into theatre to stiffen critical sectors of the German front in Italy. Unlike their opponents, the Canadians lacked experience of, and possessed very little training for, such a battle, but, nevertheless, they gained the upper hand in the fighting. They adjusted to an unfamiliar battle environment quickly, and they devised and employed the methods necessary to win that battle.

More at the Canadian Military Journal.

Human Terrain Team Member Killed in Afghanistan

From the Human Terrain System,

It is with deep sorrow that we must inform you of the tragic death of Michael Bhatia, our social scientist team member assigned to the Afghanistan Human Terrain Team #1, in support of Task Force Currahee based at FOB SALERNO, Khowst Province.

Michael was killed on May 7 when the Humvee he was riding in was struck by an IED. Michael was traveling in a convoy of four vehicles, which were en route to a remote sector of Khowst province. For many years, this part of Khowst had been plagued by a violent inter-tribal conflict concerning land rights. Michael had identified this tribal dispute as a research priority, and was excited to finally be able to visit this area. This trip was the brigade's initial mission into the area, and it was their intention to initiate a negotiation process between the tribes.

Michael was in the lead vehicle with four other soldiers. Initial forensics indicate that the IED was triggered by a command detonated wire. Michael died immediately in the explosion. Two Army soldiers from Task Force Currahee were also killed in the attack, and two were critically injured.

During the course of his seven-month tour, Michael's work saved the lives of both US soldiers and Afghan civilians. His former brigade commander, COL Marty Schweitzer testified before Congress on 24 April that the Human Terrain Team of which Michael was a member helped the brigade reduce its lethal operations by 60 to 70%, increase the number of districts supporting the Afghan government from 15 to 83, and reduce Afghan civilian deaths from over 70 during the previous brigade's tour to 11 during the 4-82's tour.

A copy of Colonel Schweitzer's comments can be found at the Human Terrain System web page.

We will remember Michael for his personal courage, his willingness to endure danger and hardship, his incisive intelligence, his playful sense of humor, his confidence, his devoted character, and his powerful inner light. While his life has ended, he has not disappeared without a trace. He left a powerful effect behind, which will be felt by his friends and colleagues and by the people of Afghanistan for many years to come.

Steve Fondacaro

Program Manager

Montgomery McFate

Senior Social Science Advisor

Human Terrain System


"The program has a real chance of reducing both the Afghan and American lives lost, as well as ensuring that the US/NATO/ISAF strategy becomes better attuned to the population's concerns, views, criticisms, and interests and better supports the Government of Afghanistan."

--Michael Vinay Bhatia, November 2007

FORT MONROE, Va. (TRADOC News Service, May 9, 2008) -- Michael Vinay Bhatia was killed Tuesday by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) strike in the vicinity of Sabari District in the Khowst Province of Afghanistan. He was a civilian contractor employed by BAE Systems, assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division in Afghanistan and working as a social scientist supporting the U.S. Army's Human Terrain System (HTS) program.

While assigned to the 4th BCT, Bhatia brought a critical skill and wealth of knowledge to his support of the mission in Afghanistan. He developed this knowledge, not only as an academic, but also as a humanitarian and researcher in areas such as East Timor, Kosovo and the Sahrawi refugee camps of western Algeria.

HTS is a program run by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). Its purpose is to improve brigade and division commanders' level of understanding of the highly complex local socio-cultural environment in areas where U.S. Army troops are deployed.

"Our deepest sympathy and heartfelt prayers go out to Michael Bhatia's family and friends," said Gen. William S. Wallace, TRADOC's commanding general. "Michael is a hero. The Army didn't go looking for him to ask him for his service -- he came looking for us because he was committed to make things better. Our nation is better, as are the people of Afghanistan, because of his devotion and brilliance. He will not be forgotten."

Bhatia was a leading academic and lecturer in conflict and international relations who realized that his vast experience and cultural knowledge could be a critical asset to the Army in operations surrounding Afghan villages and provinces. A 1999 doctoral candidate in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford and a George C. Marshall Scholarship recipient in 2001, his hope was providing assistance in creating a better quality of life for the local population while decreasing the level of lethal operations within the 4th BCT area of responsibility.

"Michael Bhatia's efforts empowered the achievement of peace and stability among local populations without a reliance on force alone as the principle means," said Steve Fondacaro, HTS project manager. "He didn't merely write about it or talk about it, he just did it. And there are very many Soldiers and civilians who are alive today and together with their families because of it."

As a civilian and as an academic, Bhatia lived the Army values of personal courage, loyalty, duty and respect. His accomplishments and contributions will be felt for many years to come.


Medway Scholar Killed in Afghanistan Combat - Boston Herald

Afghan Bomb Kills Scholar from Mass. - Boston Globe

Brown Grad Killed in Afghanistan - Providence Journal

Medway Native Killed in Afghanistan - Daily News Tribune

Michael Bhatia - The QWU Blog

Meet Michael Bhatia - Foward Movement

In Memory of Michael Vinay Bhatia '99 - Brown University

The Cost of Being There - Complex Terrain Laboratory

Michael Bhatia Killed in Khost - Ghosts of Alexander

Social Scientist Killed in Afghanistan - Kings of War

'Human Terrain' Social Scientist Killed in Afghanistan - Danger Room

Fallen American - Forward Movement

In Memory of Michael Bhatia - Coming Back to Kabul

Human Terrain Team Member Killed - Historicus

Leaving the Green Zone

Leaving the Green Zone

By Sam Brannen

In the middle of Baghdad sits one of the United States' greatest strategic liabilities in the Iraq war: a four square-mile swath of territory called the Green Zone (the "International Zone" when in polite company). Still crowded with the gaudy war memorials and palaces of Saddam's regime that are too big to tear down, it is for many Iraqis the icon of U.S. occupation and a telling window into a post-surge security environment that looks more likely to loop back than move forward. The onetime seat of Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Green Zone is now shared by the sprawling Embassy Baghdad, the core of Iraq's central government, and thousands of international contractors, including the infamous Blackwater security details. Green Zone denizens live in trailers, sometimes stacked one on top of the other, accustomed to the blare of the incoming round siren and ducking for cover in evenly spaced cement bunkers that are a bizarre juxtaposition to swimming pools, palm trees, and marble buildings.

Outside the Green Zone, American troops are fighting pitched battles in the high-density urban slums of Sadr City. Their objective is to reduce the mortar and rocket fire that has lately rained down on the Green Zone. By installing a massive cement wall to cut Sadr City in half, U.S. forces are attempting to corral militiamen and mortar teams out of range. As soldiers build the Sadr City wall, they fight for every inch in a slow grind that recalls trench warfare, taking casualties and under constant fire.

It is worth asking whether the Green Zone would be attacked absent such a pronounced U.S. presence tucked behind elaborate security checkpoints and layered defenses. Rather than destroy entire Baghdad neighborhoods in the search for small groups of insurgent indirect fire teams, it seems the simpler, more humane, and ultimately more strategic answer is to simply leave the Green Zone for either the more remote airport complex or elsewhere outside the city. In the U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Field Manual (FM 3-24) it is written, "Ultimate success in COIN [counterinsurgency] is gained by protecting the populace, not the COIN force. If military forces remain in their compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared, and cede the initiative to the insurgents." The same could be said for the diplomatic forces walled up in the Green Zone and faced with the constant threat of death or injury at the hands of an unseen foe. The psychological toll of life as a sitting duck is clear: at least 40 percent of State Department Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) who have served in danger zones return to the United States with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One would imagine numbers are even higher for FSOs returning form Iraq. Why not reduce some of that stress by moving to a safer spot?

Leaving the Green Zone, however, does not appear to be on the minds of decision makers. Word was out this week of long-term plans including $1 billion in neighboring development—in military speak, a "zone of influence"— to surround the brand new 27-building, 104-acre U.S. embassy in the Green Zone (the largest U.S. embassy in the world). Developers are honestly mulling over the risk of building a Marriott Hotel, a shopping district, and other niceties. (For the record, Marriott has already built a five-star hotel next to the U.S. Embassy Kabul's version of a green zone—but it is a far safer area.)

Last summer, the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, chaired by General James L. Jones (USMC, ret.), wrote in its report to Congress that by early 2008, Coalition forces could shift to a "strategic overwatch" position in Iraq. The Commission wrote, "Such a strategy would include placing increasing responsibilities for the internal security of the nation on the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces], especially in the urban areas." The Commission further noted that the massive Coalition military footprint in and around the Baghdad region gave Iraqis the impression of "permanence, an occupying force...." The Commission recommended quickly moving out of population centers and immediately turning over to the Iraqi government the palaces of the Ba'athist regime that it has occupied since 2003.

America should send the right message to the Iraqi people. This can begin by abandoning the Green Zone and donating the monstrous embassy just completed. U.S. taxpayers may not like turning over a $1 billion structure or other costs of relocating, but considering the immeasurable loss of an American soldier, and the cost of a single day of occupation of Iraq at $720 million, why not try something different? Leave the Green Zone.

Sam Brannen is a fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies International Security Program, where he works on projects related to defense strategy and policy, Middle East security (especially U.S.-Turkey and U.S.-Turkey-Iraq issues), and U.S. national security reform. He is a frequent media commentator and has appeared on CNN, Fox News, Al Jazeera, and NPR. During the summer of 2007, he served as a staff member for the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, chaired by General (Ret.) James L. Jones.

On Executive Agent Authority for IW

According to Inside Defense (subscription required) U.S Special Operations Command is calling for a new executive agent for Irregular Warfare (IW) as part of its version of the fiscal year 2009 defense authorization bill.

Members of the House Armed Services terrorism, unconventional threats and capabilities subcommittee unanimously adopted the establishment of an executive agent of irregular warfare into their version of the FY-09 defense authorization bill.

While the legislative language is vague, subpanel Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) noted that whatever action the department decides to take on the executive agent authority, the Pentagon needs to ensure that approach will have an interagency aspect. "There are a lot of different people that have concerns" with irregular warfare operations, Smith said, adding an interagency approach would ensure those concerns would be heard.

As far as which organization should be granted the executive-agent authority, subcommittee member Jim Marshall (D-GA) noted that of the two likely candidates for the job - the Army or U.S. Special Operations Command - the Army would benefit the most.

Arguing that the majority of future, full-scale conflicts the United States may be involved in will likely be conducted as irregular-warfare campaigns, Marshall said the Army had better become adept in waging that kind of war. "Big Army is going to have to be able to do [irregular warfare] and do it well," he said, adding that executive-agent authority for irregular-warfare would be a step toward that goal.

More at Inside Defense to include funding of USSOCOM's unfunded mandates.

Abu Ayyub al-Masri Captured (Or Not - Updated)

UPDATE: Via Voice of America and Associated Press - US military officials in Iraq say the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq has not been captured. They denied reports from an Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf, who told Iraqi state television on Thursday that Abu Ayyub al-Masri had been detained in a raid in the city of Mosul.

"Neither coalition forces nor Iraqi security forces detained or killed Abu Ayyub al-Masri. This guy had a similar name," said Maj. Peggy Kageleiry, a US military spokeswoman in northern Iraq. She said no additional details were being immediately provided.

Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said the confusion arose because the commander of Iraqi forces in northern Ninevah province was convinced that he had arrested al-Masri — also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.


The London Times, Associated Press and Reuters are reporting that al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri has been captured by Iraqi troops in Mosul. The capture was also reported on Iraqi television though there has been no official denial or confirmation from Multi-National Forces-Iraq or the Pentagon. Al-Masri took over al-Qaida in Iraq after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed 7 June 2006 in a US airstrike northeast of Baghdad. From the reports:

"The leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, has been arrested, the Arabic television station al-Arabiya reported on Friday, quoting the Iraqi Defense Ministry."

"Arabiya said Muhajir had been detained in a joint Iraqi-U.S. operation in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The US military said it had no information on the reports at this stage..."

"US officials said al-Masri joined an extremist group led by al-Qaida's No.2 official. He later joined al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan in 1999 and trained as a car bombing expert before traveling to Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003."

James Joyner at Outside the Beltway probably has it right as to the significance of al-Masri's capture:

I doubt this will make any terrific difference. We've captured or "otherwise dealt with" more number twos and number threes than you can shake a stick at over the years and buried this guy's predecessor under a ton of rubble. Still, if true, it at least means the Iraqi security forces are getting better.

News Links

Man Held is Not Leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq - Freeman and Sabah, Washington Post

US Military Denies Iraq Report of al-Qaida Arrest - Associated Press

Leader of al-Qaida in Iraq Has Not Been Captured - Voice of America

Iraq al-Qaeda Chief Not Captured - BBC News

Al-Qaeda in Iraq Leader Arrested In Mosul - Freeman and Sabah, Washington Post

Al-Qaeda in Iraq Leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri Captured - James Hider, London Times

Iraqis Report Capture of al Qaeda in Iraq Leader - CNN News

Iraqi Army Says Iraqi al-Qaida Leader Arrested - Associated Press

Al Qaeda's Leader in Iraq Arrested - Reuters

Al-Qaeda Iraq Leader 'Arrested' - BBC News

Blog Links

US Military Denies al Masri in Custody - Bill Roggio, The Long War Journal

Abu Ayyub al-Masri Arrested - James Joyner, Outside the Beltway

Al-Masri the Egyptian Falls - Richard Fernandez, The Belmont Club

Favorable Indicators - Jules Crittenden, Forward Movement

Abu Ayyub al Masri Reported Captured - Bill Roggio, The Long War Journal

AQI # 1 Busted - Dr. iRack, Abu Muqawama

UK Troops and US Marines Join Forces

UK Troops and US Marines Join Forces to Tackle the Taliban in Garmsir

By MoD Defence News via British Defence Staff - United States (BDS-US)

UK troops working as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in southern Afghanistan have been taking part in a joint operation with US Marines aimed at disrupting Taliban activity in the volatile Garmsir area of Helmand province.

UK troops are working as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in southern Afghanistan.

Troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade joined the Marines, from the US 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), as they pushed south of Garmsir where currently, but for a few border security police, neither ISAF nor the Afghan Security Forces have a presence. The purpose of the operation was to extend security authority further south towards the Pakistan border.

Although British framework operations are currently focused further north, in the areas of Lashkar Gar, Sangin, Gereshk and Musa Qaleh, the British Task Force has had an important role to play facilitating the move of the MEU down through the province.

This type of operation, known as a Forward Passage of Lines, is generally believed to be one of the most complex, involving as it does the initial movement of large amounts of men and equipment long distances across potentially hostile ground and then passage through the positions of the force already deployed on the ground, in this case C Company.

Large convoys are extremely vulnerable and the slightest delay or mishap can have serious repercussions. Thorough planning is essential, particularly in a multi-national context. The Royal Regiment of Scotland, largely responsible for executing the passage on the ground, had neither trained nor operated with the Marines before.

Led by the Task Force Headquarters under 16 Air Assault Brigade, every piece of detail was picked over by British and American commanders and staff officers, shuttling between Helmand and Kandahar to ensure the operation went smoothly. When the time came the Marines, in an initial move, drove south and assembled at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Dwyer, ready to conduct their passage through British lines and across the Helmand River.

So, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, 30 April 2008, the operation began, with a narrow and precarious bridge crossing over the Helmand River, the first obstacle. With their knowledge of the ground and expertise in marking a safe route, the UK troops played a vital part in proceedings.

Other elements of the Task Force also played a significant part: soldiers of 7 Royal Horse Artillery, as well as being prepared to provide artillery support, have taken the lead de-conflicting different parts of the battle space to avoid any possibility of friendly fire; and British engineers from 23 Regiment also stood by to assist with clearing the route of roadside bombs or to lay bridges over the Helmand River if required. Back at Camp Bastion, the British Field Hospital and, in particular the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT), supporting the Marines' own medical capability, stood by to evacuate any casualties.

UK military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Robin Matthews, explained the UK involvement in this latest operation:

"We had people up at Kandahar air base integrated into their (24 MEU) planning, helping to shape the operation. We've got two years of experience of Helmand, knowledge of the people and the terrain, which was a vital part of the planning process. All of this was fed into the planning to help them identify how to conduct the operation to best effect.

"The Brigade also contributed a lot in terms of intelligence and knowledge in advance. We were using our Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to give surveillance intelligence, and then cover for the route. We also used the intelligence we gathered from patrols around FOB Dwyer near Garmsir to get an understanding of the local atmosphere.

"For the actual operation, the US Marines travelled from Bastion down to FOB Dwyer and then to FOB Delhi under their own steam. From there 5 Scots under the Command of 2 Scots Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Nick Borton provided route planning and marking.

"23 Regiment Royal Engineers provided Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams. They were also on standby for engineering support where needed, including being ready to put in a new bridge if required. We also provided vehicle recovery teams and a medical team in case things got difficult.

"The convoy travelled from Bastion to Dwyer to Delhi, and a great deal of planning went into sorting out how to accommodate and support them as they went. Convoy logistics patrols went ahead to Delhi to make sure there were supplies in place, although mostly the Marines had to be reasonably self-sufficient.

"The Marines left FOB Delhi under darkness to traverse the last part of the route where the UK gave support, down into Garmsir. They had to traverse a narrow and vulnerable bridge, and the fact that they got all their vehicles across without mishap is a testament to the good planning of Task Force Helmand and the MEU."

Colonel Pete Petrozio, Commanding Officer of 24 MEU, added:

"This is what alliances are all about, professionals coming together to achieve the right effect.

FSI PRT Course

Are you deploying to an Iraq Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) or embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team (ePRT)? If so, then the State Department's Foreign Service Institute has a course you should take. The Iraq PRT Orientation course provides members of Iraq Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and associated personnel, with critical skills needed to function in an interagency organization in a combat environment. The Small Wars Journal has posted a course brochure received earlier today via e-mail. The brochure contains a course outline, dates for the 5-day course (yes only 5 days, but better than no days we guess) and contact information. The FSI web page contains information on additional courses you may be interested in.