Small Wars Journal

Army Mulls Train & Advise Brigades

Army Mulls Train & Advise Brigades by Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., Breaking Defense

After 15 years of ad hoc solutions, the Army may build specialized battalions and brigades to train and advise foreign forces, the service’s chief of staff says. Gen. Mark Milley made clear that advisor units are just a proposal under study, a study that only started “a couple of months ago.” But even studying the idea is a remarkable reversal for the Army, which thoroughly rejected the idea in years past.

“Better late than never,” said Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, who wrote a 2008 study lambasting the Army’s performance training and advising Iraqi and Afghan forces…

Read on.


Dave Maxwell

Wed, 12/16/2015 - 1:04pm

In reply to by Thomas Doherty

Actually Thomas we have some better historical examples with 8th SAF in Panama and SAFASIA in Okinawa. See these two previous SWJ articles.… and…

See also our 1963 COIN doctrine: There is not much new under the sun or what is old is new again.


Part Two - Responsibilities and Organization

Chapter 3 - U.S. and Indigenous Counterinsurgency Forces

Section I.

20. Purpose

This chapter delineates Army responsibilities and describes the organization and functions of elements of the U.S. Army for counterinsurgency operations. It includes an explanation of the relationships of U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Forces to MAAG's/Missions and other joint or unified commands and the indigenous forces being supported.

21. Army Organization

a. The counterinsurgency role assigned the U.S. Army by the Joint Chiefs of Staff includes the following:

(1) Organize, equip, and provide army forces for joint counterinsurgency operations and for support of country counterinsurgency programs.

(2) Develop, in coordination with the other services, the doctrine, tactics, procedures, techniques, and equipment employed by the Army and the Marine Corps ground forces in counterinsurgency operations. The Army shall have primary interest in the development of counterinsurgency doctrine, procedures, tactics, techniques, and equipment which are employed by the Army and the Marine Corps, but excluding related doctrines, tactics, techniques, and equipment as are employed primarily by landing forces, in amphibious operations for counterinsurgency purposes, for which the Marine Corps shall have primary interest.

(3) Develop language trained and area oriented United States Army forces as necessary for possible employment in training, or providing operational ad- vice or operational support to indigenous security forces.

b. Structurally, the U.S. Army has three tiers of forces upon which the commanders of unified commands, the chief^ of MAAG's/Missions, or in some cases the army attaches, as appropriate, may draw to support or conduct counterinsurgency operations. In the majority of cases, the U.S. elements described below will be employed in an advisory/training role to indigenous forces.

(1) The first tier consists of U.S. Army Special Action Forces (SAF) developed by the Army to support commanders of unified commands. These forces, strategically located, can be provided with trained replacements from a Base Special Action Force in the Continental United States (CONUS).

(2) The second tier is composed of over-seas general purpose TOE units, to include brigade-size backup forces consisting of infantry, armor, armored cavalry, artillery, engineer, psychological warfare, signal, civil affairs, intelligence, military police, aviation, Army Security Agency, medical, and essential support units, which have been designated as back- up forces for the SAF's. Area-oriented, partially language and fully counterinsurgency trained, these backup forces-provide mobile training teams and operational units of sizes and capabilities consistent with mission requirements. Generally, their elements are committed when the capabilities of the MAAG/Mission and/or the SAF are exceeded by the requirements of the country concerned.

(3) The third tier consists of CONUS-based U.S. Army forces, including the base SAF which serves as a rotational base for deployed elements. In consonance with contingency planning, area-oriented and counterinsurgency trained brigade-size backup forces are designated for employment in specific areas as required to assist in pre- venting or defeating insurgency. The third tier satisfies requirements that exceed those of the first and second tiers.

Section II. The Special Action Force (SAF)

22. General

The SAF is a specially trained, area-oriented, partially language-qualified, ready force, avail- able to the commander of a unified command for the support of cold, limited and general war operations. SAF organizations may vary in size and capabilities according to theater requirements.

23. Organization

A SAF consists of a special forces group and selected detachments, which may include civil affairs, psychological warfare, engineer, medical, intelligence, military police, and Army Security Agency detachments. Within the SAF, most of the capabilities of the army as a whole are represented on a small scale in a form specifically designed for counterinsurgency operations. Elements of the SAF are deployed as an advisory/training task 'force to a host country in accordance with requirements stated in the country internal defense plan or to meet the exigencies of an escalading insurgency situation.

24. Command/Control

The organization of the special forces (SF) group is provided with a flexible command and control system which facilitates administration, logistical support and, as required, operations of all elements in the SAF. The SF group headquarters, and the SF operational detachments B and C, each possessing a unit staff, plan and conduct operations as directed within their capabilities. The SAF is commanded by the SF group commander who in turn may be regarded by the commander of the unified command or army component command as his senior counterinsurgency specialist. The SAF augmentation elements, when employed in support of SAF activities, will be either in the SAF chain of command or directly under the MAAG. The establishment of a Special Forces Operational Base (SFOB) with its attendant communications center facilitates operational control of the widely dispersed subordinate elements of the SAF.

25. Characteristics of SAF

a. The SAF is specially trained and specifically available for special warfare missions including unconventional warfare, psychological and counterinsurgency operations. It is area- oriented and partially language trained.

b. It is maintained in a state of operational readiness.

c. Its members are prepared, from the standpoint of training and psychology, to work in remote areas with foreign personnel, including primitive groups, under conditions of relative hardship and danger.

d. It provides a pool of resources from which training assistance and operating teams and forces can be combined on a task force basis to meet the widely varying requirements of counterinsurgency operations.

e. It represents a regional repository of experience in counterinsurgency operations.
f. See FM 31-22A.

Thomas Doherty

Wed, 12/16/2015 - 11:37am

We have these already they are called a "Group" [i.e. 7th SF Group (A)] instead of a "Brigade". The next step is getting rid of the micromanagement and then to stop trying to make the host nation look like us with all the same capabilities.

Edited and added to a little bit:

Here is a proposed foundation for understanding the need for "train and advise" brigades:

The U./S./the West has moved away from what we might call its highly unrealistic "downhill" premise; a premise which suggested that everyone, everywhere, in the non-western world, desperately wanted to, and in fact immediately could, make the transition to a western way of life, a western way of governance and to western values, attitudes and beliefs. This, if we would only liberate these "pinning for westernization" populations from their oppressive (think resisting-westernization) rulers and regimes.

This such "downhill" premise suggested that (a) while the "resisting westernization" rulers and regimes might be our enemy (b) the populations (who were all pinning for westernization) were our friends.

Having recently been educated, chastised and disciplined as to the failure of this thesis -- in such places as Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Syria, etc. -- the U.S./the West has now been forced to acknowledge and adopt a more-realistic "uphill" premise/thesis; one which suggests that transforming outlying states and societies, more along modern western political, economic and social lines, will be more of a long, hard uphill slog.

This "uphill" premise/thesis acknowledging that the populations (who we now know will often be resisting "westernization" -- much like rulers/regimes resisting same) will also have to be dealt with.

It is in acknowledging this "the populations are resisting westernization also" fact/context, I suggest, that the U.S./the West has been forced to realize that it must (a) help cooperative/pro-westernizing rulers and regimes (b) deal with "resisting westernization" populations and regimes.

This, by helping (via "advise and assist") these cooperative/pro-westernizing rulers/regimes:

a. Build and sustain their military, police and intelligence forces, to wit:

b. Those very forces that are normally needed to -- and employed for -- the enforcement of unpopular, and contested, radical and fundamental state and societal "change" requirements.

Thus, and in sum, when you hear such leaders as our GEN Votel say that we must "get to the left" of such problems, then I suggest that we understand what he is saying is that:

a. Prior to introducing radical change to an area/country -- governed by a pro-westernizing ruler/regime -- we must, logically, and first and foremost,

b. Have the pro-westernizing area/country's own standing military, police and intelligence forces brought up to size, capability and "speed;" this, so that "they" -- rather than "we" -- might

c. Effectively deal with the now-acknowledged resistance of certain populations and certain regimes; both of whom will, in their own view, be negatively impacted/affected by such radical, alien (and, in their eyes, often profane) state and societal changes as we require.

Thus, to see "advise and assist" as just the exercise of good old common sense.

This, as we, thus, get the "horse" (the traditional/classic military, police and intelligence "enforcement" and "protection" mechanisms) before the "cart" (of our now-acknowledged unpopular and/or contested state and societal "change" requirements).

Note: Here is the GEN Votel quote that I am referring to above, and the link to where this quote can be found:

“What I think the Gray Zone offers to us, is the ability to get out there to shape, or detour, or influence things before they become catastrophes. That’s kind of the big idea, we want to get left of problems, and not just show up and try to deal with a bad situation.”…

For context, note here how GEN Votel points to the "westernization" of Somalia; this, by emphasizing that:

" ... today, they’ve got an elected president. They’ve got a parliament. They’ve got a constitution. ... "

As to rulers/regimes that appear to be opposed to/standing in the way of/feel threatened by the further advance of "westernization," consider GEN Votel's reference to such nations as Russia and the "resisting/obstructing further westernization" actions they have taken of late. "Advice and assist" to provide that our neighboring pro-westernizing rulers and regimes have the military, police and intelligence forces available to help us, and them, deal with these "anti-further-westernization" opponents also.


Tue, 12/15/2015 - 8:51am

I think that we can translate "mulls" as "searches for any scrap of quasi-intellectual justification not to form". This makes such obvious sense, and if it ever happens, the Army will do it with much kicking, screaming, gnashing of teeth, and renting of garments, and then do it as poorly as possible to justify a return to outright combined arms maneuver.