Small Wars Journal

Freedom of Maneuver in the Modern World

Wed, 01/18/2012 - 6:07am

Assessing Freedom of Movement for Counterinsurgency Campaigns

by Ben Connable, Jason Campbell, Bryce Loidolt, Gail Fisher


(H/T Frank Hoffman)

Freedom of movement (FoM) is the actual or perceived degree to which individuals or groups can move from place to place within a given environment or into and out of that environment. FoM is clearly an important consideration in the development of counterinsurgency tactics, operations, and strategies, but it is addressed infrequently and inconsistently in the doctrine and literature on counterinsurgency. A consistent, comprehensive definition of FoM must take into account the range of complexities and challenges posed by the operating environment, as well as the practical reality that FoM means something different to different groups. Focusing specifically on Afghanistan, this examination considers actual and perceived FoM for civilians, coalition and Afghan security forces, government officials, nongovernmental organizations, and insurgents and profiles the factors that influence these groups and affect data reporting in potentially misleading ways. It also serves as a guide for a bottom-up approach to developing sustainable FoM assessment processes that consider the range of variables that can enable and inhibit actual freedom to move and that can affect the subsequent analysis of FoM data. A historical and global review of a sample of the FoM assessment literature and interviews with assessment experts also clarify best practices and gaps in knowledge and capability that assessment staffs could address.


The Virtual Sanctuary of Al-Qaeda and Terrorism in an Age of Globalisation
by Magnus Ranstorp

(H/T Richard Buchanan)

The fusion of globalisation and terrorism in the 21st century created a new, adaptable and complex form of ‘networked’ asymmetric adversary. For al-Qaeda and its successor affiliates
Internet has become not just a virtual sanctuary, where every dimension of the global jihad is taking place online. In many ways cyberspace has created a virtual university of jihad with
advice available anytime to any militant. It was also more than a functional tool to enhance its communication, to promote its ideology, recruit, fundraise and even train. For al-Qaeda and
its progeny, cyberspace constitutes a type of central nervous system as it remains critical to its viability in terms of structure and even more as a movement. Some have even argued that al-
Qaeda has become the “first guerrilla movement in history to migrate from physical space to cyber space.”


Outlaw 09

Thu, 01/19/2012 - 8:06pm

Just a short comment on Freedon of Movement---if one really looks long and hard at the "success" of the surge it just really dampened the ethnic cleansing and death squads and that was about it--it was all about restricting of the FoM.

The key of the surge was additional troops which allowed for more fixed checkpoints, flash checkpoints and move truck patrols something that was missing in 2005 and 2006.

In 2005, the Army was getting literally whiplashed maneuver wise to death meaning the Sunni insurgency was acting like a water balloon. If pressure was applied to them in Ramadi then they eased back to Baghdad, if pressure was applied to them in Baghdad then suddenly activity picked up in Mosul then again in Ramadi then in Baqubah. The insurgency kept the Army off guard by constantly moving their ops tempo to locations where there was minimal or limited US troop presence and when we built presence in reaction to their activities they moved their operations again.

All made possible by the lack of restrictions on the FoM-it was a clear indication of how an adaptive complex system with limited manpower can lock down a far superior armed force using a constantly moving/roaming battlefield.

Actually if one looks intently at the insurgent battle tactics they had in fact already in 2005 perfected a swarming defense/offense concept. Defensive as it protected their manpower and offensive as it kept us the counter insurgent constantly moving and unsure as to where the next operational environment would be.

NOTE: A swarming defense concept is rarely discussed even in the RAND 1996 study.

The surge troops slowed down and eventually restricted the FoM which in turn casued a shift/reaction to the restricted FoM in the Sunni insurgent battle tactics which then moved to swarm offensive attacks since the increased troop numbers also provided increased target sets especially after moving into countless new COPs which were not there in 2005 and 2006.

So FoM is extremely important in COIN/WAS-- we just did not recognize it in 2005 and 2006.

Some units in 2005 sensed that FoM was an issue but did not have the manpower to restrict the FoM---field experience:
The 3/3 HBCT in late 2005 had noticed that even with fixed and flash checkpoints there were still heavy movements of insurgents and weapons in and out of Baqubah in Diyala. So they began to "think" like the insurgents and would place a fixed checkpoint and via organic ISR would watch the "rat runs" develop around the checkpoints much as it happens currently in Afghanistan. Then move the fixed checkpoints again and watch.

Once the "rat runs" were clearly identified they would suddenly do a simulated flash checkpoint and from their hide points interdict selected vehicles that had the characteristics of being weapons carriers.

Amazingly the interdiction of weapons shipments rocketed and had caught the insurgency off guard. Then they started the cat and mouse process all over again in new locations.

This is just one example of a BCT learning to "see" and "understand" then they left Iraq and the experience was never transferred since the incoming unit did not want to listen to their experiences.

This is really a great learning opportunity. You have seriously explained everything so very well. I hope that you will continue to enlighten us so that we can understand military things a little bit better.

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Freedom of movement is <a href="">something new</a> and particularly important in the military and when we understand what the military does it makes it clearer.