Small Wars Journal

urban operations

The Role of Police and Military Special Forces in Counter-terrorism Efforts in Cities

Given the heightened terrorist threat, the police forces of global cities are beefing up their special forces units by adopting more militarised approaches in weaponry, tactics, culture, and organisation even as they increase the level of cooperation with the state’s armed forces. This civil-military integration in homeland security is present in Singapore where the police force and the army are conducting more joint patrols in public places besides key installations (KINS), and the Army is training more soldiers for peacetime operations.

About the Author(s)

What the Mosul Study Group Missed

What the Mosul Study Group Missed by Amos Fox – Modern War Institute

The US Army’s Mosul Study Group released a report—What the Battle of Mosul Teaches the Force—in September 2017, a mere month and a half after the Islamic State was ejected from the city. The report purported to provide lessons derived from the battle. However, the short time that passed between the end of the battle and the report’s publication raises questions about the report and the group’s research methods. Moreover, the “intense 45-day effort,” as the authors described their work, to study the battle and produce the report yielded a view of the battle isolated from its place within the campaign and dislocated from trends in modern war. In doing so, the report inadvertently misleads the reader on particular lessons that Mosul illuminates.

The Mosul Study Group’s report is an important work, one whose contents should be read and understood. But it also either overlooked key aspects of the battle, did not fully develop certain lessons, or did not have sufficient time to appreciate the meaning of some conclusions…

Read on.

The Marawi Crisis - Urban Conflict and Information Operations

The Marawi Crisis - Urban Conflict and Information Operations by Charles Knight and Katja Theodorakis - Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Executive Summary: The seizure of Marawi in the southern Philippines by militants linked to Islamic State (IS) and the response to it by Philippine authorities provides useful insights to Australian and other policymakers, with relevance for force structure, concepts of operations and the breadth of activity required to deal effectively with the consequences of an urban seizure. One overall insight is that the increasing urbanisation of global populations, combined with proliferating information technologies, means there’s a need to be prepared both for military operations in urban environments and for a widening of what policy/decision-makers consider to be ‘the battlefield’ to include the narrative space.

The siege showed the unpreparedness of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for an urban fight: the AFP took five months to recover the city, leaving it in ruins and sustaining a notable number of casualties. This will obviously provide a set of lessons and insights to the Philippine military and authorities, but it also can allow other governments and militaries to assess their own readiness to deal with urban operations, either as assisting partners or in their own territories. This seems especially relevant to considering capability options for supporting allies facing comparable challenges, which could reduce military and civilian casualties in future operations.

The insurgents’ seizure of Marawi was accompanied by a systematic IS propaganda campaign (online and offline) aimed at projecting an image of triumph and strength. The AFP engaged in active counter-messaging to undermine militants’ narratives, encompassing the online space as well as more traditional methods of messaging, such as leaflet drops, banners, and radio and loudspeaker broadcasts. In the tactical sphere, this was aimed at avoiding civilian casualties as well as stemming further recruitment by and popular support for the insurgents. In the longer term, the overarching goal was to morally denounce the militants and undercut their support bases.

Considering the centrality of ideology and information operations (IOs) in the future operating environment, the Marawi crisis offers an instructive case when preparing for the challenges of an evolving threat landscape. This report therefore examines both the capability aspects of kinetic hard power and the lessons from soft-power IOs, and how they intertwine in the urban environment.

There are lessons here for the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

This report makes the following observations and recommendations...

Read the entire report.

SWJED Thu, 08/08/2019 - 1:53pm

Attacks on Civilians, Infrastructure in Syria Might Be War Crimes

Attacks on Civilians, Infrastructure in Syria Might Be War Crimes

Lisa Schlein - VOA News

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Destruction is seen around the Udai hospital following airstrikes on the town of Saraqeb in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, Jan. 29, 2018.

GENEVA - The United Nations is demanding an immediate end to indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure in northwest Syria, warning the warring parties their actions might amount to war crimes.

U.N. agencies say an intense military escalation by Russian-backed Syrian forces and armed rebels in northwest Syria is having a catastrophic impact on the civilian population. Agencies confirm at least 160 civilians have been killed and hundreds more wounded in fighting over recent weeks.

They say 3 million people in Idlib need protection and 300,000 civilians who have fled their homes in the past two months are in imminent danger.

Spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Jens Laerke says civilians and civilian infrastructure are coming under daily attack by airstrikes, artillery shelling and barrel bombs.

"Since the 28th of April, there have been 25 confirmed attacks on health care in the northwest, including on 24 health facilities and one ambulance," he said. "Two of the attacked health facilities were hit more than once, and at least six health workers have been killed."

Laerke says health care facilities are fully protected under international humanitarian law, and it is illegal to target them. Few health facilities remain intact to care for the sick and wounded, he told VOA.

"Already before the recent months of escalation, the status of health care in Syria at large, and in particular in Idlib, was already appalling," he said. "Even though those facilities have not been hit, they fear that they may be hit. So, the doctors, the health care personnel are leaving, the patients are not going to those hospitals. Understandably."

Laerke says aid agencies are providing food and health services through mobile clinics to people who are newly displaced in northwest Syria. In addition, many schools in the region have been attacked, he says, so catch-up classes are being provided for thousands of children who have been out of school since May.

Here’s How the Marine Corps is Dealing with the Looming Underground Combat Threat

Here’s How the Marine Corps is Dealing with the Looming Underground Combat Threat by Todd South – Marine Corps Times

… Tunnels and underground threats have faced military leaders for centuries, if not millennia. But how Marines will tackle the problem is still in its infancy.

As the Army pushes specialized trainers out to brigade combat teams to build underground battle skills, the Marine Corps has constructed its own simulated underground fighting section at its combat center and is figuring out what formations will deal with the growing subterranean threat.

Marine Corps Times embedded with soldiers with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in February as they went through a week-long training package put out by the service’s Maneuver Center of Excellence and the Asymmetric Warfare Group.

The training consisted of a lot of room clearing in blackout conditions and practice breaching and planning for limited or polluted air supply and compromised communications…

Read on.

Baghdad's Green Zone, a Barometer of War and Peace

Baghdad's Green Zone, a Barometer of War and Peace by Bassem Mroue – Associated Press

BAGHDAD — Baghdad's Green Zone has been a barometer for tension and conflict in Iraq for nearly two decades.

The 4-square mile (10-square kilometer) heavily guarded strip on the banks of the Tigris River was known as "Little America" following the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. It then became a hated symbol of the country's inequality, fueling the perception among Iraqis that their government is out of touch.

The sealed-off area, with its palm trees and monuments, is home to the gigantic U.S. Embassy in Iraq, one of the largest diplomatic missions in the world. It has also been home to successive Iraqi governments and is off limits to most Iraqis.

Various attempts and promises by the Iraqi government to open the area to traffic over the past years have failed to materialize, because of persistent security concerns.

Here's a look at the Green Zone, past and present...

Continue on for the full AP Baghdad overview.

Law of War at the Lowest Tactical Level: Marines in Nasiriyah & the Difficulty of Distinction in Hybrid War

Marines know well the significance of Nasiriyah. The bloody battle there between Task Force Tarawa and the Iraqi Fedayeen disrupted the invasion of Iraq. But Nasiriyah is notable also as a case study for the law of war. The story and background of Marines in Nasiriyah make known some lessons learned on law of war.

About the Author(s)

Every City is Different. That’s Why a One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Urban Operations Won’t Work.

Every City is Different. That’s Why a One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Urban Operations Won’t Work. By John Spencer and John Amble - Modern War Institute

If we are entering an era where military forces will increasingly be called upon to operate in cities (and we are), it follows logically that the Army should begin preparing for urban terrain. But a quick scan of the global contemporary operating environment reveals the extraordinary diversity of urban landscapes. So what types of cities should we focus on?

Over the last few years, there has been growing attention within the US military on megacities—cities with ten million or more inhabitants. In 2014, the Army conducted a yearlong research project on megacities, which concluded that it is “ill-prepared” to operate—essentially, to conduct any mission—in a megacity. Other scholars have argued that mid-sized or even smaller cities are more important, especially if they’re perceived as likely spots of future military action. But while both individuals and centers within the Army continue to write, conduct research, produce studies, and hold conferences on the problems associated with operating in major cities, too little effort has been directed toward examining which specific cities around the globe the US military should pay closest attention to.

Many senior military and national security leaders have acknowledged both the military’s need to prepare for major military operations in cities, big and small, and its current inadequate capabilities. The current commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. Stephen Townsend, believes that “we’re going to see battle in megacities and there’s little way to avoid it.” In a similar vein, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley has said, “It’s obvious you can’t predict the future with certainty, but there are certain things that I feel confident that we can articulate and we know will probably be true. . . . [The world is] rapidly urbanizing. . . . We need to man, organize, train, and equip the force for operations in urban areas, highly dense urban areas, and that’s a different construct. We’re not organized like that right now.”

But the sheer diversity among the world’s cities makes such preparation challenging. Yes, they have similarities, but each has remarkably individual qualities…

Read on.

Army’s ‘Google Earth on Steroids’ to Include Inside of Buildings

Army’s ‘Google Earth on Steroids’ to Include Inside of Buildings by Stew Magnuson - National Defense Magazine

The Army’s ambitious plan to re-create the world in fine resolution for its new training and simulation program will include the inside of buildings, a researcher working on the program said May 15.

The Synthetic Training Environment intends to train all warfighting functions as well as the human dimensions of warfare, which include interacting with locals. It will be flexible, support repetition and be available at the point of need, according to the Army. Current training and simulation systems are not interoperable, affordable or realistic enough, the Army has said. To get at the latter problem, the service wants to create One World Terrain software to duplicate complex environments including large cities.

Terrain capture and reconstruction will allow soldiers to further gather information and make more detailed simulations of their environments, said Jason Knowles, director of geospatial science and technology at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technology, an Army affiliated research center. The institute is part of a cross-functional team working on the One World Terrain project…

Read on.