Small Wars Journal

The 2014 Counterinsurgency Field Manual Requires Pre-Publication Review

Wed, 05/14/2014 - 3:03pm

The 2014 Counterinsurgency Field Manual Requires Pre-Publication Review

Bing West

A new field manual on counterinsurgency (COIN) is about to be published. The FM states, “Many important decisions are not made by generals.” COIN is conducted by captains, not generals. So why not let the captains decide about the merits of this FM? Ask a dozen company commanders from Afghanistan to respond to the following query:

Rate the 2014 COIN FM on a scale of one to three below:

1. This FM contains overly-optimistic advice and unachievable goals. It leads down the wrong path.

2. The FM is not worth the time it takes to read. It leaves me indifferent. It is a signpost pointing to a dozen different paths.

3. The FM clarifies the principles that must be followed in the next COIN. It must be read and followed by all at battalion level and above. It leads down the correct path.

As currently written, the 2014 FM endorses and enlarges upon the 2006 FM that declared, “Soldiers and Marines are expected to be nation-builders as well as warriors.” If doctrine collapses in practice, do not repeat it. We tried COIN as nation-building twice, and twice it failed.

“Write this down,” President George W. Bush said in 2003. “Afghanistan and Iraq will lead that part of the world to democracy. They are going to be the catalyst to change the Middle East and the world.”

After 3,000 civilians were murdered at the Twin Towers, the question was how to destroy Al Qaeda. The answer, enthusiastically endorsed by the US military, was to build two democracies in the Islamic, authoritarian Middle East. That was a non sequitur. Thus the American military hurled itself into host nation governance, economic development and politics, where it had no expertise. Disaster followed.

In Iraq, the US military, after easily destroying the Saddam regime, uttered no protest when an inexperienced American pro-counsel abolished the Sunni-centric Iraqi Army. For the next four years, we waged war against Al Qaeda, disaffected Iraqi officers and Sunni tribes. In 2006, a breakthrough came via the Anbar Awakening. In 2007, Generals Petraeus and Odierno adroitly deployed a surge force courageously ordered by President Bush. The FM claims the Sunni tribes went over to the government side. Abu Risha, however, told me they came over to the strongest tribe – the US military. They remained disdainful and deeply suspicious of the Shiite sectarian government. Nonetheless, civil war was averted. It seemed the COIN FM was confirmed.

However, the COIN FM demanded four tasks (lines of operations/effort) of our units: 1) security; 2) development; 3) establishment of good governance; and 4) rule of law. Security seemed to succeed. Development was a sinkhole. Good governance and rule of law were abject failures. We were batting one for four.

Then, according to Mr. Bush, Petraeus and Odierno agreed with him to pull out all US troops. Thus our commanders were key in making a political decision that threw away success. Maliki, a sectarian tyrant, disenfranchised the Sunnis. The tribes stood aside while Al Qaeda re-seized Fallujah. Today, Iran has more influence in Iraq than does America. The US military did not build the stable democratic nation in Iraq that was the objective of FM 3-24.

In Afghanistan, Karzai was more an opponent than ally. The urban dwellers have voted for a new president in 2014. But democracy in Afghanistan is similar to that in Russia and Pakistan: a kleptocracy where oligarchs divide the profits. Afghanistan is rated as the world’s most corrupt state. Any future president of Afghanistan will share the wealth of America among his cronies.

Hundreds of billions in aid were wasted and stolen. There was no rule of law. There were no Pashtun villagers driving out the Taliban. Because we are not colonialists, we did not fire the people in charge, even when they were corrupt, weak, inept or as antagonistic as Karzai. We did not destroy Al Qaeda, or defeat the Taliban, or create a true democracy. Our basic mistake was handing freedom as a gift and doing the fighting for others.

Our most revered generals enthusiastically embraced the effort to change the Afghan culture. They knew it would take decades to succeed in counterinsurgency defined as nation building. Yet they dribbled in their requests for more manpower and more time. The high command believed that our nineteen year-old soldiers could change the character of Islamic nations. But the Pashtun tribes never came over to our side.

Worse, our high command was unable to decide whether the Taliban were a distraction or a mortal enemy like Al Qaeda. Which was it? Were we in a death struggle with the Taliban? Or were they a legitimate force in Afghan politics, deserving to share in the political power? If so, why were we fighting and dying against them for 13 years? To this day, no US official will answer that basic question. Our military leaders lost their way by trying to do too much. The gains from defining COIIN as nation-building were not worth the costs.

Despite that track record, the 2014 COIN FM repeats the canard that COIN must be nation-building. Yes, the new FM lays out a spectrum of responses, explaining COIN is not a strategy. But it then proceeds to sanctify the four lines of operation/effort cited above. The FM is a model of opacity, offering something for all tastes and employing the subjunctive and conditional tenses of grammar in place of declarative sentences. E.G., “The U.S. could enable a host nation, that may be capable of providing civil control.” Without the conditional “may”, the FM would be three pages in length. Using one hundred words wherever ten suffice, the document bombards the reader with bromides. No tautology is overlooked. E.G., “When the U.S. directly involves itself in a counterinsurgency, stability may be essential.”

“Warfare,” according to the 2014 FM, “remains a clash of interests and will between organized groups characterized by the use of force.” That bowdlerized sentence supports General McChrystal’s philosophy while commanding in Afghanistan: “I wanted to take away any incentives that might drive commanders and their men to see killing insurgents as the primary goal.” We saw how well it worked to convert the Marine Corps into a Peace Corps.

War remains the act of killing until the enemy capitulates. “Military history must never stray from the tragic story of killing,” wrote the eminent historian Victor Davis Hanson. “To speak of war in any other fashion brings with it a sort of immorality. Euphemism in battle narrative or the omission of graphic killing altogether is a near criminal offense of the military historian.”

After five frustrating years, Secretary of Defense Gates concluded in his memoir that the US military should have focused on two objectives: bashing the Taliban and developing the Afghan army. Leave politics and economics to others. 

The 2014 FM hurtles down the wrong track. It offers no advice about resolve, cohesion, morale, ferocity, trust and victory. It offers no insights into partnering. If we cannot put our enemies six feet in the ground and infuse that same fierce, implacable, winning spirit into the host nation forces, friendly persuasion and development aid will be seen by our enemies as weakness and fecklessness.

In place of firmness, the 2014 FM endorses our Afghanistan doctrine: War will be won by gaining the support of the population and transitioning a stable situation to dedicated host nation forces and officials, while reintegrating the insurgents who have seen the errors of their ways and convincing neighboring countries to desist from aiding and sheltering the terrorists.

Question: how well did that doctrine work out? How many Islamists came over? How many village militias proved reliable? When did Pakistan cease aiding and sheltering the Taliban?

I was an adviser in Vietnam and a Marine grunt. Later I served as assistant secretary of defense for international security. During the past ten years, I’ve embedded with dozens of platoons on dozens of trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, conducting a hundred patrols. Over those years, I saw a large gap grow between how our grunts fought and what they believed, versus COIN doctrine regurgitated as catechism by the generals.

The fact is the generals did make the decisions, with little input from the grunts who had well-founded doubts about persuading Pashtun tribes to support us as the midwives, let alone to support the mendacious government in Kabul. Communications were distinctly one-way: down. The four-star command in Kabul even sent a tactical directive to all platoon leaders, many of whom had to submit power point briefs before leaving the wire. It is untruthful to claim that COIN as nation-building succeeded in destroying the Islamist terrorist organizations or their safe havens.  In the end, we pulled out of Afghanistan – leaving the Taliban intact in the Green Zone and Pakistan as duplicitous as always.

The first objective of any doctrine is: above all, do no harm The COIN FM is harmful because it teaches war as sociology. In a future ground war, the enemy will not wear uniforms and will seek shelter among civilians. Our grunts will be kicked in the teeth if they fight with a naïve doctrine. 

We need to pause to rethink. But large bureaucracies rarely halt production. This FM has been on the production line for several years. Like the tape cassette player, it will soon be among us, already obsolete.

About the Author(s)

Bing West served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the Reagan administration. A graduate of Georgetown and Princeton Universities, he served in the Marine infantry. He was a member of the Force Recon team that initiated attacks behind North Vietnamese lines.

He wrote the counterinsurgency classic, The Village, that has been on the Commandant's Reading List for 40 years. His books have won the Marine Corps Heritage Prize, the Colby Award for Military History, the VFW Media Award and the General Goodpaster Soldier-scholar Award. He has been on hundreds of patrols and operations throughout Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Bing is a member of St. Crispin's Order of the Infantry and the Council on Foreign Relations.



Thu, 06/05/2014 - 10:56am

Sorry. That was meant for a comment by Outlaw. Posted up here for some reason.

Just showing showing you the document is "doctrine" and trying to prevent any confusion. It is not a "how to" manual. That is per Doctrine 2015.

There is no cookie cooker solution in doctrine nor should there be. How a BCT would be used would be dependent on what the overall strategy and the context of their mission. You seem to want to lock doctrine down into a mental straight jacket that follows this phrased warfare dogma. Insurgency is far more diverse than that. The document tells the reader that group identity can change quickly (see chapter 1 legitimacy and control, see chapter 2, and see intrastate wars chapter 4), the importance of propaganda to an insurgency (see chapter 5), and that external actors can fuel an insurgency (see chapter 1 and 4. In the case of the Ukraine, you are telling the reader the important aspects to look for. However, how they plan and execute in that situation will be dependent on the mission given and the context of the insurgency. Doctrine is military advise in advance, not a cookie cutter.

In sum, you want your cookie cutter. Everyone wants their cookie cutter. I think the document has some areas where people got a cookie cutter. However, making it more cookie cutter and thinking it is an improvement because it is your cookie cutter is the wrong answer. At least in my view.

Moreover, doctrine is written for the Army not BCTs. In the case of the Ukraine, I doubt a BCT will be involved. However, that doesn't mean the Army isn't

Outlaw 09

Wed, 06/04/2014 - 5:19pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill---let me think about your comments as the response might be longer as you are on to something that might just in fact the reason for the West Point foreign policy speech.

Just a side comment---the Russians are appealing to the up and coming neo right in Europe for two reasons; 1) they view their political warfare in fact a war of values ie theirs as they perceive them and the values expounded by the EU which is required for all countries to adopt into their governance prior to joining the EU and 2)they view this new neo right/conservative groups to be pro Russian and "favorable" to the Russian Crimea arguments. It is in fact the "values" of the EU that drove the Ukraine "colored" revolt in the Maidan and it is this "revolt" that Putin fears will jump to the Russian population. Notice how they changed a whole series of internal laws that were focused at inhibiting anything like the Maidan from occurring in Russia.

Secondly, they are also attempting to split the EU away from the US as they "feel" then they can "control" the EU/NATO through their military strength and gas/oil weapons.

Example---from Interfax today---

18:59 U.S. tries to prevent Russia-EU rapprochement to keep its leadership - Lavrov

Also from today---
In a foreign policy speech in Moscow today, Lavrov accused the West of trying to create a buffer zone around Russia, ignoring Russia's interests, and refusing to treat it as an equal partner.

“The course on limiting Russia's opportunities is not spearheaded by the European countries but primarily by the United States,” he added.

Also from today----
Russian state broadcaster Voice Of Russia has published an interview with Sergei Lavrov in which he appears to want it both ways. The Russian foreign minister simultaneously accuses the United States of "trying to prevent the unification of the potentials of Russia and the EU" while suggesting those same "Western partners promoted [their] own agenda ignoring the interests of Russia, enlarged NATO and generally ran things to bring the geopolitical space they control to the very Russian borders."

He suggests Washington and "EU members extremely loyal to the U.S." initiated the Eastern Partnership in order to create "a new 'cordon sanitaire between the EU and our country."

China just in the last few days at an international security council stated that they did not accept the results as they stood in 1945.

Russia has stated they did not like the crash of the Soviet Union.

Sounds like both in fact want "roll backs".

Bill C.

Wed, 06/04/2014 - 2:59pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


I think you are dead-on correct, that for the FM to have any value, it must be developed from and exercised within our contemporary setting/environment; which is, in fact, one in which we and our opponents have essentially reversed roles.

Today it is Russia, China and others that seek to "contain" and "roll back" (via "political warfare" as you note) the West.

How do these opponents intend to do this?

In much the same way that we did during the Cold War: By appealing to the conservative elements, conservative heartstrings and conservative traditions of various states, societies and populations worldwide.

So, what might a COIN training exercise look like in this contemporary scenario?

The overall setting would be one in which the West had coerced, convinced or compelled local governments/governors -- around the world -- to transform their states and societies more along modern political, economic and social lines.

In doing so, the West had enraged and alienated the conservative elements of numerous states, societies and populations. Thus, providing:

1. A huge and vastly appealing narrative for our opponents to work with (in containing/rolling back the West). And

2. A huge and ready-made group of potential insurgents (the conservative elements of populations) -- for our opponents to utilize in containing/rolling back the West.

Re: Political Warfare:

"The ultimate goal of political warfare is to alter an opponent's opinions and actions in favour of one state's interests (example: containment of the West) without utilizing military power... Thus, political warfare also involves "the art of heartening friends and disheartening enemies, of gaining help for one's cause and causing the abandonment of the enemies'."

So: How are we to win this political warfare battle between the West and its opponents?

One way would be to abandon our goal of transforming states and societies more along modern western political, economic and social lines. Thus, robbing our opponents of (1) such a fantastic narrative and (2) such an excellent source of potential insurgents.

Question: Is this (denying our opponents the narrative and personnel they need to pursue "political warfare" against us), in fact, what our new "non-interventionist" foreign policy is actually all about?

Now the necessary, and seemingly obvious, follow-on questions:

a. In causing us to abandon our goal of transforming outlying states and societies more along modern western lines, have our opponents, in fact, successfully "contained" us? ("Roll-back" to follow.)

b. What would COIN actually look like -- in such a non-interventionist setting ??????

Outlaw 09

Wed, 06/04/2014 - 7:12am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill ---To answer your question--- yes the new FM should be covering but is not "radicalization" and "revolutionary populations".

The reason for my not to subtle critique of the FM is---COIN is not where the world events have centered around in the last few years and I seriously doubt we will ever deploy again boots on the ground in a COIN event.

The problem is the Army uses the training scenario DATE to exercise COIN events but nothing is exercised reflecting the new Russian doctrine of UW in support of political warfare. It is this new Russian doctrine that is to a degree also reflected in the Chinese new doctrine--- and both are definitely not covered in the FM.

This comment from a close friend who is still deep in the scenario training business kind of sums it up.

"USMC plans are expeditionary; they are going back to their amphibious roots. Their footprint is small and can only hold for a short period of time as a MEF/MEU. Then it's up to the Army to take over the mission - it shifts from; 'clear and hold' campaign; to 'build and sustain' forces - JFCOM/TRANSCOM. The Army is the only duck quacking DATE. The other services are hedging their bets anticipating smaller skirmishes and training missions not one and done actions."

Bill C.

Tue, 06/03/2014 - 1:42pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


But should we -- and indeed FM 3-24 -- not address and discuss government's exact and specific failures, which are, as seen through the eyes of various populations:

a. The abandonment of the state and societies' traditional (conservative) values, attitudes and beliefs -- and the adoption of values, attitudes and beliefs which are foreign and, indeed, often profane.

b. The abandonment of the state and societies' traditional way of life and traditional way of governance -- and the adoption of foreign ways of life and foreign ways of governance.

c. The abandonment of the state and societies' traditional alliances with like-minded (and often related) peoples and countries -- and the attempt to formally align the country with peoples and countries (from the other side of the world) with which these populations have little or nothing in common.

This, it would seem, is the exact way in which the governments -- of various states and societies -- are seen to be failing their populations.

Viewed in this very specific "failure of government" manner, might the seemingly different cases of Nicaragua (see my comment above), Afghanistan and the Ukraine, for example, actually be seen in the exact same light?

Outlaw 09

Tue, 06/03/2014 - 11:50am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill---you bring up an interesting issue that is to a large degree at the heart of any "racialization" of a population and yes Robert is right when he states populations do not fail a government it is vice versa.

By the way even the US is not "immune" from "radicalization" which we are currently seeing in our own politics and I will go really far out and state---our own government is failing to a degree our own population not vice versa.

That said if one looks the current hotspots of the world, Iraq, AFG, even Iran, Turkey, yes even say Mexico, and the Ukraine ---their populations as a whole are basically "conservative in nature" why---a large majority of those populations live in rural areas---check just how many Americans reside in rural areas of the US vs say in large cities.

Some say large cities tend to be aggressive, hectic, turbulent, and anonymous but there the middle class which develops tends to be more moderate to liberal/progressive in their thinking.

But getting back to Robert's ideas---what do all families really want from their governments---good governance meaning they do not fear voting and see voting as not being simply "bought" but something that looks out for them, they want security and good policing not corrupt and or bribed state security and or local police, they want economical development that at least allows them to feed a family, dress their families, have a roof over their heads they can afford, and give their kids at least a good start in life with a chance to advance more than say their parents.

And if religion is a big driver then religious tolerance within their populations.

All of the above stated wants are usually "voiced" within a given population---when though the above stated "wants/desires/dreams" start going negative meaning corruption, bribery, poor governance, oligarchs, poor to no existence of police/state security, fear for your life and family, poor to no economic development, a widening gap between say the poor and middle class and especially between the middle class and upper classes then the "conservative values" start to take center stage and as Robert would say "the underlying trigger is there" and it is just waiting for an igniting event.

Now if one ties all of the population wants and desires from their government up and then wraps in language, culture, and ethnicity into the mix then it gets explosive and it only takes one single event to "radicalize" the population and shift it into a "revolutionary" population.

If one looks at the old GDR/DDR there were areas in the GDR ie Dresden, Leipzig, Cottbus that were "media" black holes meaning they did not receive any media information from/about the West such as did East Berlin and the areas around West Berlin and along the East/West German border.

Think about it---it was not the Wall coming down in Berlin that signaled the demise of the GDR it was the growth of a "peace movement" that developed in Leipzig and Dresden---that drove the final stake in the heart of the SED/GDR with large "peace" demonstrations that stunned the SED leadership---when they occurred in such large numbers of participants it was a subtle signal to the SED governance that the population "no longer believed" in their government and had no longer "fear" of their government---this was months before the Wall. When a population loses "fear" of their governance run for cover.

The same thing occurred in south-east Ukraine, but there it was driven by the drum beat of mis/dis information of Russian media 24X7 in Russian.

Example of "drum beat";…

By the way the single greatest support to the Ukraine from the "West" would be an equally strong media campaign pushback on this "drum beat"---but nothing is occurring outside of Ukrainian efforts and few bloggers.

By the way this "drum beat" is a critical element of the new Russian UW strategy (phases one, two, and four of their new doctrine) which supports their political war with the Ukraine.

The ethnic Russian population basically conservative in nature and a long way from the Maidan had no earthly idea what was going on in Kiev and was "feed" a really big meal (and still is being feed that meal) of the Maidan being "fascist, neo Nazi, Right Sector, junta-ists, radical right wingers and on and on and then the Kiev government made the single greatest mistake that I think they are regretting---"taking away" the perceived protection of the Russian language---this was the trigger that "radicalized" the population.

Russia has played this "trigger" to the max and still does.

I could flip this scenario and even walk one through the "radicalization" of the Sunni's in say Iraq and or Syria---it works virtually in any country with any population.

I spent once over three weeks talking with a 52 year old Iraqi business man who owned a shoe factory which used machines from the 50s and who had deeply supported AQI---he had been captured by JSOC, he was intelligent, had solid business experience, a large family, was well versed in Islam, had money, had survived Saddam---who spent the first week complaining to me about "globalization" ie the import of Chinese sandals selling a 1.50 USD were "killing" his business and he was being forced to lay off Iraqi workers since his sandals he produced cost 2.50 USD just to produce---and why were we Americans allowing that to happen---why could we not stop the Chinese imports?

Think about it---discussing "globalization" in Iraq in 2006 with an active AQI supporter/funder.

All of the above is not by the way even talked about in the new COIN FM.

Regarding grievances and the radicalization of populations -- being discussed below by Outlaw and RantCorp.

Consider this from Linda Robinson's 1991 New York Times book review of Stephen Kinzer's "Blood of Brothers:"

"Early on, Mr. Kinzer saw that Sandinista policies were alienating ordinary Nicaraguans ... in trying to transform (the political, economic and social order of Nicaragua) ... so completely and so suddenly, they (the Sandinistas) were underestimating the deeply ingrained conservatism of the Nicaraguan peasants." (Items in parenthesis here are mine.)

Has the United States today, in its similar zeal to "transform" other states and societies (in our case, along modern western political, economic and social lines), likewise underestimated the deeply ingrained conservatism of, for example, the Afghans, the Pakistanis, etc.; thereby, jeopardizing our mission to establish a new political, economic and social order throughout the less-developed and less-integrated world?

This being the very specific grievance, and the very specific cause for radicalization, which we are having to deal with today?

Bill C.

Sun, 06/01/2014 - 7:18pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw 09, et al:

Hopefully reasonable, intelligent and appropriate questions:


a. "the respect shown to him by his cell leaders and the individual fighters..." and, one would guess,

b. This individual's ability to recruit and field large numbers of such leaders and fighters,

What then was the long-standing grievance that caused the individual referenced below (and those of his ilk) to become radicalized?

To wit: The "Ansar al Sunnah Emir in late 2005 in Baqubah who was 26, an University of Baghdad educated veterinarian who spoke a great English and a beautiful Arabic and yet he had been both their battlefield leader and their Islamic religious leader and had been fighting us since our arrival in 2003 first on Baghdad ... "

What was this man's long-standing grievance?

What caused him to become radicalized?

Herein, what I am attempting to determine is what motivates -- not the average Joe that RantCorp seems to always be talking about -- but, rather, what aggrieves and radicalizes the much more critical and much more important element, to wit: the societal leadership; the elite.

Thus, and as other examples:

a. Not what motivated the barefoot soldiers that followed Washington to Valley Forge and beyond. But what motivated Washington -- and his contemporaries.

b. Not what motivated the rebel soldiers that followed Robert E. Lee. But what motivated Lee and his contemporaries. And

c. Not what motivated the average Indian who fought the white man but, rather, what motivated Sitting Bull and those of his stature?

Thus, what is the (common?) condition (the threat to their way of life?), that was imposed on them by a government, that caused these more prominent members of the community -- and societal and religious leaders -- to become radicalized and rebel?

Should THIS be what FM 3-24, etc., should be discussing and focusing on?

Outlaw 09

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 10:40am

In reply to by RantCorp

RC----even Robert might like the following link which shows in graphic detail the interlinked Russian mis/dis-information campaign being used to both "radicalize" south and east Ukrainian population, but at the same time to "influence/direct" western thinking and to inhibit western decision making and drive splits in that decision making process.

Right now Russian TV has gained a huge amount of new viewers globally and a Berlin based Russian news agency Ruptly is providing a large amount of negative Ukrainian Russian leaning videos---they have actually now exceeded even CNN as the worldwide supplier of news videos.

Interesting is Ruptly as they were only founded one year ago and now dominate.

Example---there is a heavy fight ongoing at a Ukrainian border crossing point over the last 11 hours---here is the first local proUkrainian reporting coming out of the area--then sit back and read the various media reporting coming from say Interfax, TASS or RIA and then watch the Russian TV reporting. Then explain to me that this is not "radicalization" aimed at both the ethnic Russian Ukrainians as well as Russians themselves.

Just a side note---got chastised on the SWC side for pointing this out when a Russian "blogger" was using SWC as a test bed and calling a spade a spade.

This is a real concept, is being implemented with great skill and a lot of money and is the core cornerstone to the new Russian UW strategy phases one, two and four and it goes to the core of what population "radicalization" is all about.

We in the West are simply just asleep at the wheel and cannot even imagine anything of this complexity---but hey we DoD reorganized and took the SF pyswar abilities away and made then for the GPF "information operations".

What was attempted in Iraq by say the Lincoln Group was small time novice style when compared to this ongoing Ukrainian/Crimea mis/dis-information campaign.

Where is now the national level organized and driven "information operations" which if one is using "soft power" as revealed at West Point should be the top effort.

Bill M.

Mon, 06/09/2014 - 3:07am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Do you have a copy of Russia's new U.S. doctrine you can send me? Also I started a thread in the council on a new Russian strategy to counter our alleged meddling in other countries.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 06/09/2014 - 2:45am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M---what is a tad disturbing is that it took the Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence so long to finally in a Foreign Policy comment under Tom Ricks to "admit" this last week that now in the south-east Ukraine there is in a unconventional war taking place.

That senior civilian leaders take so long to acknowledge what others have been saying since the beginning of Maidan and the Russian response to the Maidan via the Crimea and eastern Ukraine and in the face of the recently released Russian UW strategy as a cornerstone of their political doctrine--is somewhat "scary".

We can have all the "doctrine" and FMs in the world, but if senior leaders are out in space for a period of time that is where the problems begin such as they were in Iraq and AFG.

A national strategy begins and ends at the senior civilian leadership level and is needed before the military can act on anything.

I guess coming late to the party is better that not coming at all.

Bill M.

Sun, 06/08/2014 - 10:12pm

In reply to by RantCorp


There are grains of truth in your rant, but a lot of it is also misleading. First off you state a FM can't win or lose a war, which I think most would agree with. However, interpretation of that FM that leads to group think and misrepresentation of reality can certainty lead to a less than optimum outcome. Fallacies such as the terrorists and insurgents (funny how we always conflate the two) are poor and uneducated, when actual terrorists for the most part are middle, or upper middle class and well educated. That led to the misconception that if we just gave the people jobs they would stop fighting, and somehow we forgot the requirement to convince the adversary his tactics wouldn't work by suppressing him until we started the surge in 2007. Any military victory achieved was relatively short lived due to the inability to establish a sustainable political situation. Afghanistan isn't Iraq, but to state Islam doesn't play a role is misrepresenting the role of ideology which plays a key role with most terrorist groups, along with group identity, and frankly enjoying the power of being a militant. More militants will opt to become thugs after the conflict than turn their guns into plows.

You wrote:
"The point I’m trying to make is that IMO the AF/PAK conflict has very little to do with fighters driven by Islamic ideology in much the same way as the VN War had very little to do with fighters driven by communist ideology."

You're half right in both cases, but the narrative that Islam and Communism provided explained why people should mobilize. Both narratives exploited poor political and economic conditions. First people need an interest in the movement, then they need to identify with it, at that point they're receptive to indoctrination (radicalization) and finally mobilization (I3M). The ideology is crucial, but it wouldn't work on its own, there needs to be other drivers. The drivers in Afghanistan are multiple, but they fight us because we're occupiers.

"IMO the supposed desire of our current opponents to establish an Islamic Caliphate in Afghanistan with a design it will spread across the globe has as much substance as Vietnam wanting to be the first domino to fall in China’s quest to spread communism across Asia."

First off it wasn't China's support to Vietnam that was decisive, it was the USSR's. We're the ones that came up with the domino theory, not the communists, and frankly two other countries did fall (Laos and Cambodia), while Thailand was successful in defeating their communist insurgency. No doubt individuals, individual countries, tribes, etc. all pursue their own interests, but are often wittingly or unwittingly led by those who have larger agendas. There are leaders in the "global" jihad movement who still espouse the caliphate, and if you look at where the principle conflicts are it is clear they're sincere.

None of this is black and white, it isn't one thing or the other, it is multiple factors interacting in multiple ways that creates opportunities for our adversaries and us to exploit to pursue strategic ends. At the end of the day the COIN FM offers little for solving our most pressing security challenges. We need to relook this situation anew by dismissing what we think we're certain about and embrace the uncertainty which will result in a condition of curiosity, instead of the mindless group think that tends to drive our thinking on war, conflict, and confrontation currently.

Bill C.

Sun, 06/08/2014 - 8:11pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I propose that the term "western aggression/western interference" would, most likely, fill the bill re: motivation of various populations, such as those in Vietnam, Afghanistan and in the Ukraine.

When these populations see their local governments being installed by or getting into bed with these western aggressors -- and pursuing a western agenda (often at these people's expense) -- then we are off to the races.

Thus, the FM's difficulty.

It (the FM), if it is to be accurate and somewhat useful, must identify "western aggression/western interference" as -- very often -- the primary cause of the insurgency.

(As an alternative to the above term "western aggression/western interference," one might go more generic and say "foreign aggression/foreign interference.")

RantCorp above states:

"It appears to me we have failed the ‘first and foremost task’ and don’t even know what type of war we are in. If you are spending two million dollars every day for every dime the enemy spends, and still you are failing, then I suggests you have fundamentally failed to address what it is that drives the fight - among no end of other ‘lesser’ problems."

What drives the fight, I suggest, is "western aggression/western interference."

Thus, we are the cause of the problem that we seek to rectify.

This explaining why we cannot fix the problem -- even with two million dollars every day.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 06/08/2014 - 2:16pm

In reply to by RantCorp

RC---some of what you are saying goes to what Robert Jones has been writing about here for a long number of months.

The idea or concept of how a population becomes "radicalized" and flips to become a "revolutionary" population. He is also right that the "triggering" event for that flip sits in the population for years until it is "triggered" usually by the government.

If one looks at most of the whole world again Robert is correct it is about rule of law and good governance whether in Iraq, AFG VN or now in the Ukraine.

The FM does not address this concept of "radicalization" and "revolutionary" populations. Currently we are getting a great case study scenario in the Ukraine of how a population via the Maidan flips and the triggers were bad governance and poor to no rule of law in their eyes.

We now have in the south-east an equally "radicalized" population ---"radicalized" as part of a UW strategy supporting political warfare.

Two sets of populations "radicalized" in different ways and for different reasons.

Now to your comments---you are correct if we do not understand what drives the population into a revolutionary mindset and what the triggers are/were and what the "radicalization" process is and was--failure results.

Reference the diary---I have a copy of the handwritten journal (2003-2006) from the leader of the Islamic Army of Iraq (IAI) which began a phase two guerrilla war against us just three weeks after we arrived in Baghdad---to this day the journal has never been fully translated and what has gives a massive insight into the Sunni Salafist fight which was engaging first Saddam and then the US.

No one inside DoD, the IC, or any Army senior leader has stopped and asked the simple question since 2003--- "Just how was it possible that three weeks after we arrived in Baghdad we were in a Mao defined phase two guerrilla war?"

It took Mao himself over five years to get to that stage in China.


Sun, 06/08/2014 - 12:09pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


I am at something of a loss as to how a FM is supposed to redeem our habit of losing wars. In the current 14 year-old shambles our $600 billion a year military has failed to overcome an opposing force that compares relatively modestly with the opposition from conflicts past. It is my contention that we have a problem that is beyond the capability of any institutionally inspired publication or Staff planning tool regardless whether these documents or Staff metrics are judged to be good, bad or indifferent.

It appears to me we have failed the ‘first and foremost task’ and don’t even know what type of war we are in. If you are spending two million dollars every day for every dime the enemy spends, and still you are failing, then I suggests you have fundamentally failed to address what it is that drives the fight - among no end of other ‘lesser’ problems.

In the AF/PAK theater this shortcoming has so grossly distorted our approach that tactically we are not merely barking up the wrong tree but after 14 years our GPFs have finally stumbled out of the wrong operational forest in such disarray that 14 years of effort could very easily plunge straight over a strategic cliff like it did in Iraq.

Sun Tzu is alleged to have said ‘Strategy without tactics is the slowest road to victory’ but I dare suggest he didn't bother to reflect upon those who choose to fight an opponent whom they fail to ascertain what motivates them at the tactical, operational and strategic level. An unholy trinity if ever there was one. The hope that a publication as institutionally rooted as a FM can somehow reform the very institution from which it came is IMHO complete bullshit.

From my own experience no FM, doctrine or Staff planning tool could have altered my initial mistaken conviction that fighters in the AF/PAK region where primarily motivated by their Islamic beliefs. To me this was a slam-dunk no-brainer.

The daily prayers, the apparent reverence towards mosques, Korans, holy men etc. all painted a picture of a fighter who was driven by a deep sense of obligation to fight ‘Holy War’ against the infidel. The clothing, burial rituals, the numerous Islamic references punctuating conversation, greetings, oaths, battle cries, business, relationships, customs etc. cemented in my Westernized mind-set that Islam was overwhelmingly the primary motivator for the ‘holy’ warrior.

The fighters habit of becoming undisciplined and hysterical under fire was somewhat at odds with declarations of the desire for martyrdom and paradise but the terrifying lethality of mechanized weapons systems upon light infantry blind-sided me to the possibility that the actions of these ‘Warriors of God’ was not as religiously grounded as I had hitherto believed them to be.

It took me the best part of two years to come to terms with the magnitude of the chasm between what I had led myself to believe, my groupthink stubbornness to let go of my mistakes and the profound implications of the reality. Needless to say there were many brave and fearless acts, and no end of dead and wounded, but these were owing to features of human nature and circumstance and had virtually no basis in religious conviction. In fact many fighters resented the somewhat hollow religiously induced battle cry and privately had nothing but contempt for the REMF Mullahs/Hajis/Amirs who constantly sallied them forth with ‘rousing’ Arabic dogma delivered from the rear areas – the ‘air-conditioned Jihadi’ as they were called.

Like other paradigm shifts in perception, after the truth had sunk in, numerous events/occurrences that had been evident (but suppressed by groupthink) from the very beginning of my first tour began to slot neatly into the logic of the reality. Much of it had been staring me in the face. Perhaps the biggest red flag was the reality that 99% of the entire AF/PAK population cannot read a single paragraph from the Jihadi FM – the Koran.

The charade might be described as a macabre pantomime of histrionics, heroics and villainy obscured by bluff, bluster, guilt, fear, smoke, noise and simple illiteracy. The shallowness of the veneer is something I found embarrassingly obvious during my third and fourth tour.

Perhaps VN may offer an example of how the simple written word from left field may offer a means to appreciate the ‘foremost duty’ and the paramount importance to understand ‘the kind of war on which we are embarking’. Like the leadership in our current malaise I doubt whether Johnson,McNamara Westmoreland, Nixon, Kissinger, would have benefited from a revised FM, Doctrine Redux or a better Staff.

If on the other hand they had read the diary of the Viet Cong doctor Dang Thuy Tram (published in the book-form as ‘Last Night I Dreamed of Peace’) the simple insightfulness of her testimony might have put flesh on the bones of their grave misgivings (Westy aside). Her honest testimony might have spared many of the 2 million people who perished and the countless millions more whose lives were turned inside-out.

After Ia Drang (Nov 1965) McNamara and Johnson realized we were toast. McNamara by the inescapable reality imposed by the numbers of the dead and Johnson by a mixture of the same numbers and his own political instincts ( By 1968 he could not stomach the sheer futility of the war and quit leadership altogether). Unfortunately neither man was able to articulate publicly the reality that the PAVN was not driven by the empty ideology of communism but by a desire for Vietnamese Independence.

Obviously Tram’s musings and observations are purely tactical but her daily record of the coming and going thru her battlefield hospital of the peasantry and personnel from all arms of the PAVN was so detailed and so compelling that it wouldn’t have taken much operational understanding to align the actions and circumstances she described and Ho and Giap’s strategy for victory.

The insights she provided (She had been in a battlefield hospital for 3 years without relief before she was killed and her final diary captured) encapsulate the tactical mind-set of what kind of soldier it takes to win a ‘Small War’ or a ‘war among the people’ and the importance of understanding what motivates such people.

Ironically after she was killed by a US unit on foot-patrol the US gained sole possession of her diaries but it was 35 years before a Vet (Fred Whitehurst) managed to have them published. Tram’s diary is full of nationalistic desire for independence and wistful longings for peace. On many occasions she records a melancholy for the communist party cadres’ Machiavellian intrigues (revelations that could have gotten her shot as a bourgeois sympathizer) and a simple desire to return home to Hanoi and work in an eye hospital.

Before she became embittered towards the US & ARVN by the Search & Destroy tactics that killed most of her friends and comrades she was somewhat baffled by how it was that men from the ‘Land of the Free’ were so determined to deny her country Independence.

The point I’m trying to make is that IMO the AF/PAK conflict has very little to do with fighters driven by Islamic ideology in much the same way as the VN War had very little to do with fighters driven by communist ideology. IMO the supposed desire of our current opponents to establish an Islamic Caliphate in Afghanistan with a design it will spread across the globe has as much substance as Vietnam wanting to be the first domino to fall in China’s quest to spread communism across Asia.


Outlaw 09

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 2:41am

In reply to by RantCorp

RC---while your comments are to a degree correct this is where I and I do not speak for Robert come from---what you speak about is a tactical level vs what I call the strategic level.

Many followers and that would speak to what you say are not "motivated" by say in the Islamic world the exact verses in the Koran word for word--but he or she does fully understand the meanings---does it mean he or she is a fanatic---not always but can be.

Humans are humans---what concerns me is the quiet ones, the comitted ones, the true believers---the UBL's, the Zarwaqi's, the Madhid's and more importantly the Putin's. They are the true believers and they carry out their beliefs whether we like it or not. This true belief can be of a religious, political, economical nature and say in the case of Putin---historical/political one coupled with ethnic nationalism the "trigger".

But what Robert is talking about is "radicalization of a population"--and you are right it is all about grievances in the end either perceived or actual and they can be a long term grievance or a short term one---in the case of say the south east Ukraine---it is rather perceived as their language was in fact "protected" and in fact a large majority of Ukrainians speak as a first language Russian so that "trigger" argument is a fake one in this case but it does not stop Russia from using is as a "radicalization tool".

What they have though is a perceived and an actual series of issues with poor governance, lack of security meaning the cops and state security was and is corrupt---by the way no different in Russia, globalization and industrial modernization has left them by the side, high unemployment etc.

Now Robert would kick in---it is the government that in the end fails the population as the population as a whole always has their personal hopes and desires.

Then an outsider comes into play and pushes a "trigger" in this case the perceived discrimination of ethnic Russians based on culture, language and history.

At this point the "radicalization" triggers the game is on both from an insurgent and a counter insurgent perspective.

This exact process as occurred in Iraq/AFG and in multiple other points in this world---and the COIN FM does not cover this aspect which is the core of what has to be understood before any foreign policy move is made or before a single boot on the ground moves to the door.

I was able to get before leaving Iraq a copy of a handwritten daily journal of the leader of the Islamic Army in Iraq which started as we entered Iraq to the first half of 2006---it is an eye opener into this world of "radicalization" and the triggers.


Sun, 06/01/2014 - 7:27pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


I'm sticking my neck out here by suggesting RCJ is a white man. He has the virtues of my parents. He mirrors all that I believe to be just and fair. I know it as a fact that throughout Asia many folks who are not white, well-educated, wealthy,Christian or healthy have the exact beliefs, aspirations and fears of RCJ.

Unfortunately the world we currently inhabit does not allow the grace of so much diverse commonality to live in peace. Humanity desperately wants it but a few assholes conspire to deny the differing flowers of universal human virtue to blossom.

RCJ understands we need to recognize the nature of so much unnatural discourse. I differ somewhat in what I understand to be the nature of the immediate conflict. As he suggests, given time, these things will eventually work themselves out and I wholeheartedly agree with that.

My problem is that I'm not willing to except a Wahhabi fruitcake setting off a stolen Pakistani bomb in NY as one of the stones on the path of redemption. Many folks consider this to be hyperbolic hubris but unlike me they've never had a serious conversation with Ayman al-Zawahiri on this very subject.

He is a very cool customer as one would expect from a surgeon. He is a political animal. He is not a 'Allah ul Akbar' person. He is driven, but contemptuous of the OBL Messiah circus. Unlike OBL, he chooses not to debase his religious beliefs with the soiling of mere worldly matters.

He is extremely dangerous.

Angry young men living in Islamic society really dig this type of chilled out 'Doctor AaZ: How I learned to stop worrying and learned to love the Bomb" shit.

Compared to AaZ's plans the suicide gig is so last year.


Outlaw 09

Sun, 06/01/2014 - 5:10pm

In reply to by RantCorp

RC--here is a comment recently written by Robert Jones that has a interesting take on the "radicalization concept".

"As to radicalization, however, and this may just be a nuance of terms, but I believe the population you describe in the Ukraine was already radicalized by their own governance. Creating what I call "conditions of insurgency." Such conditions can lay latent for years or even generations for a wide range of reasons - fear of government retribution, or what we call "COIN" - being a primary one. But at some point there is invariably either some catalytic event (a merchant immolates himself in Tunis, for example) or some internal or external individual or organization takes action to leverage this latent insurgent energy to advance their own purposes. If internal, this is classic revolutionary insurgency. If external one has a UW actor in addition to internal revolutionary insurgency. These external UW actors often bring in foreign fighters (all with their own unique motivations for wanting participate)."

He also wrote--"it is not a population that fails a government it is the government that fails a population".

This is where "radicalization" fits in and it is not in the old FM 3-24 and the new manual as well.

This "radicalization" is exactly what underlines the new Russian UW strategy and what we see daily in the Ukraine and in the recent WH foreign policy statement at WP "soft power" using dialogue and leadership can never block and or answer this "radicalization" process.

By the way "messaging" ie mis-information/dis-information is also "used" to protect governments as well and it is as well interesting that history has a way of "forgetting". Notice how many times the Russian media and Putin media uses the words "fascist, Nazi's junta, Right Sector, radical nationalists" when talking about the Ukraine but then runs from the Hitler-Stalin Pact with the two secret amendments. Or "claims" to having nothing to do with the illegal exit from Russia into the Ukraine of fascist irregular fighters who are Russian citizens and carry Russian passports.

From an article written recently by a Ukrainian intellect.

"I must say that Putin has not invented anything new. This scheme was used by Stalin in Spain, when the Soviet government took Spanish golden reserves out of the country and never gave it back saying that the gold is confiscated for damages incurred by the USSR during the Spanish civil war, in particular – for supply of arms to republicans.

It is useful to know history. My advice to the new Ukrainian government to build on the lessons of history. After the occupation of Bessarabia by Romania in 1918, the Soviet government arrested Romanian gold reserves, which were kept in Russia, 92 tons of gold, which Romania exported to Russia for storage in 1916-1917. In 1940 Bessarabia (with Northern Bukovina to boot) were occupied by the Red Army and attached to the USSR under Stalin-Hitler agreement. Stalin refused to return Romanian golden reserves saying that he confiscated it as a payment of exploitation of Bessarabia in 1918-1940."


Sun, 06/01/2014 - 4:42pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw wrote:

‘This "radicalization process" is by the way no means only limited towards Muslims---it applies as well to the ethnic Russian population in south-east Ukraine. Heck it applies to any population with perceived grievances that can be exploited.’

Good man, you hit the nail on the head! IMHO it is the ‘radicalization process’ that shapes the motivational triggers of our opponents - rather than what says the asshole with the widest mouth,the fattest wallet, the shinest Koran or the oldest Bible.

Whether it be the current ski-masked Cossack, the more familiar left-wing Red Brigade brat, Catholic IRA hood, Mujahedeen worker, Taliban proxy or ALQ fruitcake the crass banners they wave in our faces – boldly proclaiming the supposed cause - are mere characteristics designed to throw us off the scent. We obsess over these 5 metre targets and chase their red/green/black/tri-color flags down no end of Alice in Wonderland ideological rabbit holes.

I have pursued many of them to the end only to find the individual at the bottom nothing like I had imagined him to be. What I learned was that first and foremost many of these young men were poor, disillusioned and disenfranchised. Their so-called cause was the 'brothers’ offer of getting laid in Bangkok for the first time along with an the opportunity to do something radical, something famous, something 'pure' - something to make an impact. If perhaps they do something really special (ie. kill US military personnel) the ‘brothers’ will make sure that the folks back home can buy the farm!

Yay! Hello Barbie let’s go the Jihadi!

If more gentle folk find it difficult to imagine this motivational mind-set I suggest you drive downtown in any US city and hang out on any street corner after dark. What you will find is the exact same burning desire “to be a contender – to be somebody.”

Long before 9/11 those who wish us great harm have understood how to exploit the potential for young men to inflict violence that is beyond reason.

How I wish their strategy was shaped by simple religious ideology or some other like-minded trivia. Needless to say that would make our task so much easier.

Unfortunately it is from within the propensity for violence ingrained in the nature of angry young men that they choose to sow the seeds of our destruction.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 06/01/2014 - 11:04am

In reply to by RantCorp

RC----Bill M is correct in his comments---example---we rolled up with his entire 61 man group an Ansar al Sunnah Emir in late 2005 in Baqubah who was 26, an University of Baghdad educated veterinarian who spoke a great English and a beautiful Arabic and yet he had be both their battlefield leader and their Islamic religious leader and had been fighting us since our arrival in 2003 first on Baghdad where he proved himself and then he was sent to Baqubah in 2004 after Zarqawi called for the Islamic revolution on the steps of the Green Dome in 2004 in Baqubah.

When I dealt with him some of it was handled through Arabic Koranic sayings and verses and some of it in straight forward good old American English.

The respect shown to him by his cell leaders and the individual fighters is something most Americans could and or cannot fully understand.

As someone who had a female Sudanese CAT 3 interpreter who worked with me through a lot of the various Koranic verses and sayings just to hold my own in conversations with Salafists/Takfirists---there is far more to the "Islamic" pull of the Koran than we westerners are willing to admit.

It goes to the heart of the "radicalization" process we westerners are so shy about engaging in discussions about---- even here at SWJ.

This "radicalization process" is by the way no means only limited towards Muslims---it applies as well to the ethnic Russian population in south-east Ukraine. Heck it applies to any population with perceived grievances that can be exploited.

With the right "messaging" any affected population will respond and become either "radicalized" or a revolutionary population.

This is something Robert Jones talks a lot about here.


Sat, 05/31/2014 - 8:53pm

In reply to by RantCorp

I agree that 'transforming Islamic culture" is perhaps not well framed: for one thing "Islamic culture" is too broad a term to be useful, for another, the US has had no better luch at transforming non-Islamic cultures.

I would agree with those who point out that "nation-building" and "installing democracy" were not and are not realistic goals, particularly if they are to be achieved by military force. There are few better illustrations of the old adage about trying to drive a screw with a hammer. Removing Saddam Hussein from power was a clear, practical and realistic goal that was suitable for achievement with military force, and it was expeditiously achieved. Once the goal shifted to "transform Iraq into a western-style democracy", things very predictably fell apart. It all starts with the goal. If your goal is to ride a unicycle up Mt Everest, you don't need a better unicycle, you need a more sensible goal.

Victory is achieving your goals. If we want victory, the best way to start is with goals that are clear, practical, and realistic, and by protecting those goals from "mission creep". There are few more certain routes to failure than beginning with goals that are nebulous, ephemeral, unrealistic, and poorly suited to the means available for pursuing them.

Bill M.

Sat, 05/31/2014 - 8:27pm

In reply to by RantCorp

And I wonder why you miss the obvious. AQism continues spread and resonate around many parts of the Islamic world. We did make public statements about transforming the Middle East as a policy objective which of course upset some people who had a different vision for the Middle East and their projected Caliphate. Your interpretation is void of any discernible logic on why AQism still resonates. UBL not firing a shot doesn't indicate squat other than the raid achieved the desired effect of inducing shock which is what raids are supposed to do (surprise, speed, violence of action) to enable the raiding force to be successful. At 0 dark thirty he was still trying to pull his head out of hindquarters, and fortunately for a ll a few 5.56 rounds killed him with head up you know what. Living with his family makes him a non-Muslim? If people start buying propaganda like you're trying to push, we should be able to win this war quite easily.

As for the Afghans, they have generally despised, yet tolerated, Arabs and other foreigners in their country, but the Talebs were and are thoroughly radicalized via religion. So we'll leave it at we're both wondering about each other's logic.


Sat, 05/31/2014 - 8:19pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M wrote:

‘That failure was due to unrealistic policy ends developed by the Bush Administration focused on transforming the Middle East, and while not specifically stated that implies transforming Islamic Culture.’

This ‘transformer’ sentiment is straight out of a ALQ/Muslim Brotherhood/ Wahhabi fruitcake diatribe. I have been on the receiving end of this line of Wahhabi inspired crap close enough for their spittle to land on my face. Long ago, in more genteel times, I thought individuals who barked this philosophy had possessed a genuine belief that the attack on their faith was real and as such felt compelled to reassure them that it was not the intention of the infidel/s in their midst. For a brief period, through word and deed, I attempted to demonstrate that nothing could be further from the truth. However I was soon put straight by the natives that this was a stupid misunderstanding on my behalf and that they took it as a personal insult that there existed a genuine need to address this crap in their OE.

In my experience folks from the AF/PAK region have a special contempt for foreigners who drag the Islamic faith into what many of them consider to be simple ‘farm-laboring with guns’. In other words fighting was something they did to put a roof over their family’s head and food on the table. If an individual attempted to drag the teachings of the Prophet into the ‘Jihad’ business then that individual had best make sure to pick their words, as well as the time and place, very carefully. If they failed to do so they could find themselves dead in a ditch beside the road.

Screeching hysteria from seemingly demented Arabs ( who regularly reminded the natives of their lack of ‘piety’ at not speaking the ‘holy language’) was a habit that caused much deep resentment. Add to that the abundance of petro-dollars thrown around the whole ‘anti-crusader’ argument was made particularly galling for the native fighters. Far from soothing the hurt the fact you took '30 pieces of silver' from an asshole acted like a blow-torch to the wound of one’s rather obvious Koranic illiteracy.

I find it difficult to emphasize the strength of the irrelevance of the religious aspect when attempting to ascertain the real reason for political violence within Islamic countries. However, in my view, the washout from the Abbottabad raid on OBL provides an insight into the lack of religious motivators driving the opposition's leadership in particular and the broader conflict in general.

At the end OBL surrounded himself with women and children and not the bad-ass suicide squad he was forever purporting would be at his Alamo, he didn’t fire a shot as the SEALs slowly made their way up to him over the bodies of those who chose to die fighting, he had money sewn into his clothes in order to run away, he watched porn, he dyed his hair out of vanity etc. etc.

These indicators reveal a complete hollowness to OBL’s Islamic convictions and came as no surprise to anyone who had met him or recognized yet another ten-a-penny deluded Messiahs that frequent every religious landmark, train station, bus depot, city square, soap-box etc. that are common-place throughout the Islamic world.

After 13 years I am at a complete loss why so many non-Muslims fail to recognize the charade.


Bill M.

Sat, 05/31/2014 - 8:36pm

In reply to by carl

So in Afghanistan were failing because we failed to deal with the issue in Pakistan. I agree, so back to you, is that the military's fault?

As for Iraq, you wrote: "In Iraq the core explanation is the President deferred far too much to the military and the Pentagon, neither of which was interested in prevailing, just getting out. So argues Peter Monsoor and it is a persuasive argument. When the President finally got around to cracking heads together and commanding, things improved greatly. Then we got a new President who wasn't much interested in anything but getting out and we blew the endgame."

OSD, read DOD civilians, were heavily involved from the start and they elbowed State and others out of the way and had their idea future candidate for running Iraq with no back up plan when that failed. You're right the military was focused on getting out after they the Iraqi army collapsed and that created substantial opportunity for a lot of badness to grow unimpeded. If went in with more troops, and if we established a military government, and if we sent a strong message to Syria, Saudi, and Iran to control to their borders, and if we actually had a plan for the morning the after, and if we didn't disband the Army, maybe things would have been different. The military certainly owns some of the blame, but the decisive failure in my opinion was due to civilian leadership who wanted to go in light and get out. The military did what they were told. Maybe more generals should have stood up and resigned instead of executing a stupid plan, but I think some them actually believed in the "shock and awe" acts being decisive and that the people would welcome us after the fight. By the time the COIN doctrine was rewritten in 2006 (again it wasn't new) the fight was already lost without a massive investment in resources.

I rarely agree with Bill C's view on this, so don't conflate my comments with his. He does make good points about what some of our policy makers think, and President Obama sort of, kind of, reinforced the view that we'll continue to transform the world through our leadership. Just not sure that is the real issue here.

Ned McDonnell III

Sat, 05/31/2014 - 8:56pm

In reply to by carl

Hear, here! (Not sure I spelled that right.) Moral equivalence of AQ and the American revolutionaries is ridiculous and insulting not to Americans but to anyone who wants more freedom and a better life. I know that I am naive and ill-informed much of the time. I believe President Bush made a moral decision when he invaded Iraq. People were starving the place had become a dying zone under the sanctions. It was also time to kick off the Arab Spring, but not to transform Islamic culture.

President Bush said within days of 9-11, and in the presence of U.S. muslim leaders, that terrorism was not an element of Islam. To counter the turmoil emanating from the Middle East, it was necessary to transform the region away from dictatorships, some of which supported (religious) extremists and suicidal sociopaths. President Bush's premises were that liberty exists in every human breast and that democracies (or, at least, authoritarian governments that permit everyday liberties) generally do not go to war.

These are sentiments that guide a vision. They are as hard to affirm as they are to refute. One either buys in to something like this idea, as President Bush did, or does not. I do. Most do not, at least these days. In other respects, hat's off (again not sure how to spell that) to you for an interesting, thoughtful analysis. We won in Iraq and this President, the civilian leadership and much of the military leadership squandered that victory by not pushing back when P.M. al-Maliki under-sut the democratic process in 2008.


Fri, 05/30/2014 - 3:24pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C:

If somebody starts equating the American Revolution with AQ and the packs of takfiri killers my head starts to spin, my ears start to ring and I faint dead away. So I can't comment on it since I can't stay conscious long enough to read it.

In the movie, Jeremiah Johnson killed all that came after him 'till they stopped coming and left him alone. That's all I know.

Bill C.

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 2:06pm

In reply to by carl


Thus, the struggle is like our American Revolution, wherein, our patriots had to contend with both the British and the Loyalists?

But our patriots did not see this, I believe, as two different struggles.

Rather they saw it, I would suggest, as (1) a single fight having (2) two components/opponents (to wit: a "far enemy" and a "near enemy").

And this, I believe, is the way that AQ sees the matter also.

To run America the way they wanted to, our patriots understood that they had to overcome both the far enemy (the British) and the near enemy (the Loyalists).

To run the Islamic World the way they want to, AQ understands that it must, likewise, overcome both the far enemy (the Western world) and the near enemy (those elements within the Islamic world that have become heavily influenced by and/or are actually in bed with the Western world).

Given the similarities noted here, do you think that we -- and/or the British -- would have been better served by characterizing the American Revolution as, essentially, a "conflict within and between the American colonists?"

Our history books did not, when I was young, present the matter from this angle. Rather we were taught that this was a battle fought between the British and the American colonists. (Loyalists? There might have been a few :-)

In a Jeremiah Johnson analogy, presented along the lines I have outlined above, would it not be Jeremiah Johnson -- and all of his ilk -- who got killed by the most radical and determined Indian leaders; who, working together, sought to overcome both a near enemy (weak-kneed Indians) and a far enemy (Western interlopers/desecrators) in what was, in essence, (1) a singular battle for (2) a preferred way of life and a preferred way of governance?


Fri, 05/30/2014 - 12:42am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C:

I don't think your givens are so given, at least in a sense that counts in a scrape. In an absolute sense you are right, but in the sense of conflict between humans it doesn't make any difference. The basics still count for the most as they have in most all our conflicts with peoples possessing radically different attitudes, values and beliefs, like Imperial Japan, the Moros, probably all the American iIndian tribes, the Red Chinese, the Bolsheviks, slave holding Southerners, damned Yankees and on and on.

Don't make light of the 'convert or die' boys in order to score a point. Those guys are serious and have proven their capacity for very great evil. They mean it. They can pursue any "way of life" they please as long as they don't fly airliners into occupied buildings or harbor those who do, or cut throats or kill Ahmadis, Christians, Shia, etc. If they insist upon "their way of life" encompassing those activities, we got a problem. And judging by the number of Afghan to include Pathan throats Taliban & Co have had to slit in trying to get their way, I'd be careful about broad brushing with phrases like "way of life".

Their isn't one struggle in this, there are two. The one within Islam between the killers and the let live'rs, and the one between us and the killers when they come after us. We can only influence the one but in order to do that we have to well fight the other. We haven't been. Tim Furnish over at Mahdi Watch says we are in the position of Jeremiah Johnson in the movie. He had to keep on killing the Crow warriors until the tribe stopped sending them. The tribe had to make the decision to stop dispatching the warriors but their decision was helped along because none who went out came back.

Bill C.

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 8:22pm

In reply to by carl


a. The very different political, economic and social orientation of these states and their societies -- and the correspondingly different values, attitudes and beliefs upon which these are based.

b. And our determination (as evidenced by our actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere) to use all of our instruments of power (convert or die?) to transform (along modern western lines) the way of life and way of governance of these populations.

Should we not, therefore, see "the contest" -- and our actions and those of AQ also -- more along the "us" versus "them" lines that Bill M. describes. And not, as you suggest, in terms of an "internal struggle within Islam?"


Thu, 05/29/2014 - 3:25pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M:

I think your explanation of disappointing results of our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan is one with one of the preferred rationalizations for failure that seems to be out there, the 'task was so big, nobody could do it' rationalization. Your twist on it is to define the impossible task as "transforming Islamic Culture".

Our failures in both countries are much more simply explained I think. In Iraq the core explanation is the President deferred far too much to the military and the Pentagon, neither of which was interested in prevailing, just getting out. So argues Peter Monsoor and it is a persuasive argument. When the President finally got around to cracking heads together and commanding, things improved greatly. Then we got a new President who wasn't much interested in anything but getting out and we blew the endgame.

In Afghanistan the civil and military leadership never could fully convince themselves that the primary problem was the Pak Army/ISI and so never really tried to do anything about them. Our current President compounded that mistake by setting arbitrary deadlines, the latest one just days ago, and announcing them to the world including the enemy.

Neither of those cases had anything to do with "transforming Islamic Culture." They had to do with basic things like command, recognizing who the enemy is and not doing boneheaded things like telling the enemy how long they are must hang on before we give up. Besides which "Islamic Culture" are you talking about? The one in Morocco? Java? Bangladesh? Turkey? Or the Sufis? The Ahmadis? The Wahabbis? The Alawites? Which one? To use that phrase is just a distraction from our true failures which can be laid at the feet of our high leaders both civil and military.

You are very right about the danger of our intentionally forgetting all that we have learned at great cost about small war fighting in the last 13 years. We will have the need to put that knowledge to use again and if it is forgotten just to cover the failures of the suits and multi-stars it will be the worst kind of cynical immorality.

AQ doesn't spread its influence. It is a result of something that is going on within Islam itself. Notice I didn't say "Islamic Culture". That term covers far too much to be useful as other than a rhetorical flourish. I said within Islam itself. It seems to me there is a struggle going on within that religion between two sides, the live and let live side (more or less) and the convert or die side (more or less). AQ is on the convert or die side as are many other groups. This struggle will be played out within the religion. There may not be a lot we can do about the contest between the beliefs. But to the extent we can influence it we can do so by getting the basic things like command and figuring out who the real enemy is when we get into scrapes in Muslim countries. Our screwing up the basics does not help the live and let live side.

Bing West claims that the new FM is pretty the same as the old one. For the most part I agree with his critique of the manual, but disagree that the FM, even as flawed as it is, is the principle reason we failed in Iraq and could fail in Afghanistan. That failure was due to unrealistic policy ends developed by the Bush Administration focused on transforming the Middle East, and while not specifically stated that implies transforming Islamic Culture. That is a huge task, and even the communists in their hey day with their robust methods (read unrestricted) of population control and re-education camps would find this task beyond their means.

Bing writes, "We need to pause to rethink. But large bureaucracies rarely halt production. This FM has been on the production line for several years. Like the tape cassette player, it will soon be among us, already obsolete."

I agree we need to rethink our entire policy on counterterrorism, I'm not so sure I agree that the current COIN manual even with it warts is completely obsolete. There are a few gems in the book, and if we could just cull away 75% of the book which echos trite statements from OIF and OEF-A that are over declarative and instead focus on providing a broad framework for planners and operators it would still serve a useful purpose.

When we conflate COIN with OIF and OEF-A our leaders will be dissuaded from supporting COIN even when it is in our interest, because the assumption will be we'll have to conduct large scale stability operations and re-build weak nations, when in fact all we may need to do is defend the friendly government (far short of defeating the insurgency), or put enough military pressure on the insurgency to bring them to the negotiating table. The current manual reinforces the current approach in Iraq and Afghanistan to transform societies, it needs to do the exact opposite in my opinion.

Bing made a point about the Taliban that needs to be answered. He wrote, "Worse, our high command was unable to decide whether the Taliban were a distraction or a mortal enemy like Al Qaeda. Which was it? Were we in a death struggle with the Taliban? Or were they a legitimate force in Afghan politics, deserving to share in the political power? If so, why were we fighting and dying against them for 13 years? To this day, no US official will answer that basic question."

Perhaps because our leaders realize that the Taliban are going to endure and that will be difficult to explain to the American people. We ended up getting bogged down and sacrificed hundreds of lives fighting the Taliban while Al-Qaeda spread its influence throughout the Middle East, South Asia, and much of Africa. This has little to do with COIN doctrine and everything to do with policy objectives and our lack of understanding.

To achieve our national interests, 9 out of 10 times we don't have to nation-build. We need to relearn that a powerful nation that wields its strength carelessly will deplete that strength and leave it vulnerable where it has more critical interests. COIN doctrine should emphasize that OIF and OEF-A are not models we should copy in the future, but models we should avoid and provide a wide range of other options for planners to explore during their mission analysis.


Sat, 05/24/2014 - 3:47pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

What your are essentially arguing is that the US has no options that will work or have any chance of working in Ukraine. The FM doesn't describe "COIN" as anything other than a diverse set of capabilities. As for the Ukraine, I think we have many capabilities that could enable the Ukrainian government at various levels of cost and risk.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/26/2014 - 2:08pm

In reply to by Move Forward

MF---I truly hope you are not stating for the record that US Forces established "stability, tranquility, rule of law and good governance via COIN" in Iraq before they left and we have established the same COIN successes in AFG where if we had achieved those successes-- then why the need for 10K plus troops still inside AFG after 2014?

Which if one takes the current positive comments from the new COIN FM must have been achieved by someone other than the US Army because I even in 2010/2011 did not see "COIN stability, tranquility, rule of law and good governance" anywhere other than in the "Green Zone next to the pool and Burger King" or where those pundits writing about Malaki already going anti Sunni and ignoring US COIN advice in 2011--- writing about another Iraq we were not in?

And what about those long COIN training sessions with the Iraqi Army officers from 2008 to 2011---were they sleeping during class because something is amiss with the type of COIN operations they are currently running in Falluja and Ramadi.

I also would not claim a victor over a "near peer" in a force on force engagement suffices for "victory" in COIN nor a "victory" in the common sense definition of force on force warfare--"near peer is near peer not an equal".

If North Korea fell apart tomorrow it will be force on force with a very massive dose of UW/IW or have you forgotten about the true size of the NKA SOF which is larger than anything we currently can field. Before NK goes under it will attempt to take the South with it bottom line. Even the Chinese are shying away from directly "telling" the NKs what to do ie their recent comments on a nuclear test were less than convincing---and the Russians will stay out due to the US commitments to defend SK could and would trigger if necessary a nuclear response if things got out of hand.

MF---if we the US had not decided to release all Iraqi military into total unemployment and denied them their pensions and due salaries and placed all Baathists on an employment ban when we needed them for the rebuilding of what we had destroyed I argue that in fact SOF on a UW/IW mission could have controlled the by Mao definition phase two guerrilla war by the actual Iraqi Salafists which had been fighting Saddam since 1991. We simply with those decisions created a ready made guerrilla army wanting to do us harm and they did ---if one looks at the IED weapon system which beat us up severely.

Remember AQI and Zarqawi did not call for the creation of the Islamic State of Iraq until late into 2004 on the steps of the Green Dome in Baqubah---so who was fighting against us in a structured guerrilla fashion and which was a 100% Iraqi Sunni group---the Islamic Army in Iraq or IAI which is still even larger today in Iraq than the ISIL which initially fought together with Ansar al Sunnah a Sunni/Kurdish Iraqi group from the north and they had additional support from the 1920 Brigades also Sunni not AQI.

JSOC virtually destroyed the AQI and Zarqawi networks but left the IAI and other Sunni insurgent groups up to the BCTs which failed in their efforts to rein them in and get them under control.

If we had fully understood that existence of the IAI when we rolled in and fully understood the initial attacks against us were in fact UW/IW and if in fact the Iraqi military had been left intact--- yes SOF could have controlled the situation much as they had initially done in AFG before we simply hung them out to dry and decided Iraq was more important.

So my question back is if we had fully understood that we were in fact engaged starting three weeks after arriving in Baghdad in a phase two guerrilla war why would we have needed COIN?

Better yet just why did we not recognize that we were in a guerrilla war?

Even better yet why did we not understand even Saddam had an ongoing war with them---what happen to the three letter agencies?

Move Forward

Sun, 05/25/2014 - 12:21pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

<blockquote>Let's see---massive pys-war being delivered 24X7 by Russian speaking radio and TV stations aimed directly at the ethnic Russian population, irregular forces hired as private contractors, torture being used as well as executions against non ethnic Russians, hired Russian military trained reservist snipers being paid $1000 per killed Ukrainian officer, Ukrainian intelligence service completely undermined by the Russian FSB, Ukrainian police, security service and army personnel being bribed to walk away, Russian "journalists" of military age "leading" irregular fighters on actual firefights and then claiming their rights as "journalist's" are being violated if they were captured, ambushes constantly being carried out, massive use of criminal elements in the recon and attacks, use of unarmed civilians shielding armed fighters and shielding captured admin buildings, and criminals used to force submission of the ethnic population if one is of another viewpoint, economic chaos by stopping functioning governance, "fake elections", economic blockade of Ukrainian produced products, the use of natural gas as a weapon system, the use of smuggled MANPADs and new Russian anti-tank weapon systems, the use of a 50K man invasion force as a strong arm political leverage point, the active use of Russian special forces and GRU intel officers in civilian clothes and the list can go on literally forever.</blockquote>


This is an impressive list as are your comments that are some of the best...and most pointless...that I have ever read from you. Tell me how any of this drives a need for training most U.S. Soldiers/Marines that have no business being in any area where Russian (or Chinese)-leaning or Russian (or Chinese)-controlled peoples live? Tell me how the Chinese three warfare strategy seizes and <strong>holds</strong> Taiwan. How would any of this work in NATO countries or west Ukrainian areas <strong>not</strong> controlled by Russian-leaning separatists. What do you suppose the election results will show, a Pro-Russian or Pro-Ukraine decision?

Now suppose Russia succeeded (using heavy armor mind you) to take the rest of non Russian-favoring Ukraine? Who commences the insurgency then? Ukrainians with U.S. and NATO backing from sanctuary across the borders. All those pipelines to the rest of Europe start blowing up. The sniping and ambushes commence against Russians and MANPADS shoot down Russian aircraft as in 80's Afghanistan. The Russian psychological warfare does nothing to halt Maidan-style demonstrations by the majority without any Russian connection. Harsh Russian suppression of demonstrations increases Ukrainian resistance. No civilians are shielding Russian forces in west Ukraine. Economic sanctions against Russia increase sending the Russian economy further into a tailspin. New sources of natural gas start being financed to permanently remove any dependence on Russia. With such external sourcing, the price of gas falls and Russia is hurting even more.

More importantly, please provide me any realistic alternative to COIN, and in specific stability operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan following our initial victories there. I'm sure you will claim that SF/SOF and a counterterror campaign would have sufficed. Instead, chaos would have ensued as the Taliban and Baathist insurgencies commenced without any trained host nation security forces to stop them. Iraq oil never would have returned to supplying the world making oil-based sanctions against <strong>Iran</strong> impossible. Again, I fall back on my recurring argument about Texas. Why does peaceful, prosperous Texas still rely on 70,000 law enforcement officers instead of just 150 Texas Rangers. Which is the more realistic means of securing wide areas?

Now look at someplace like North Korea. Were it to fall apart tomorrow would you wager that some form of COIN operations would be required with continued offense/defense/stability operations by Soldiers/Marines, both ours and ROK? Would Russia and China bow out and not want any role in North Korea? Explain to me how SF/SOF alone and counterterror drones and airpower stabilize North and South Korea in the face of likely former DPRK-Soldier insurgent activity. How do SF/SOF alone or airpower and naval forces alone preclude China and/or Russia from seizing all of the former North Korea?

Outlaw 09

Thu, 06/05/2014 - 4:10am

In reply to by Bwilliams

Bwilliams---the theory behind TRADOC 2015 was to get the overused word "doctrine" to the field users quicker/faster that previously was the case. When the Army rolled into Iraq in 2003 they were using FMs from the late 90s early 2000 timeframes to rely on.

Originally the Army would use FMs as the be all end all and claim the FMs were "doctrine"---but it was taking sometimes up to 5-7 years to update and or make serious changes to many of the FMs.

I could point to a particular FM that has not be changed and or updated since 1996 that is critical to a intel driven staff operation---and based on Army concept is still a "valid" FM since it has not been revoked.

ADP is an "Army Doctrinal Publication" which was to set the "strategic" side" explanation of the overused word "doctrine". Then it was envisioned that the ADRPs were to explain in more detail the overused word "doctrine" (operational level)for whose that did not fully understand the "strategic thinking" contained in the ADP.

Then came FM and ATTPs which are the "how to do it or how to "implement" the overused word "doctrine". IE the FMS/ATTPs are the "tactical level".

Why 2015---it was envisioned by TRADOC to have all necessary ADPs 1-10 done, the ADRPs done and FMs updated and ATTPs done by 2015.

Will be happy to provide a copy of the TRADOC 2015 slide deck that was released to the field by TRADOC in mid to late 2012 explaining the concept---which by the way the "field" did not even fully understand still by say August 2013 that is how little individuals were paying attention to TRADOC. By the way many BCT Commanders as late as Sept 2013 did not fully realize the concept.

It was never envisioned by TRADOC in the 2015 concept that a FM was to be used to state/define the overused word "doctrine" as the FM was not envisioned to ever be a "strategic" document.

My deep complaint is that the FM should have been "coupled" to one of the core ADPs and it was not thus everyone "assumes" that an standalone FM "implies" that it is "doctrine" and the writers of the new FM overused the term "doctrine" repeatedly in the FM to the tune of over a hundred or more times thus embedding the "idea" in the readers mind that it is indeed "doctrine" not simply what it was intended for "a how to do something guide".

Outlaw 09

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 9:43am

In reply to by Bwilliams

Bwilliams---never did get to this one comment---ADPs/ADRPs are the published "doctrine---FMs are the how to do it and the TTPs and that is per TRADOC 2015 guidance. ADPs/ADRPs were to be the TRADOC answer to the field complaints that "doctrine" was not being updated in an orderly and timely fashion. ADPs/ADRPs allow TRADOC to shift doctrine quicker and get it to the troops far quicker than in the past---so in fact ADPs/ADRPs can rapidly change but it is not envisioned to change the FM and ATTPs as fast as the how to does not need that quick of an update.

Secondly, you had previously in the other thread on the FM topic asked the question concerning phases of the new Russian UW strategy and what is being seen in the Ukraine.

Check phase four of the new Russian doctrine and then notice this Interfax press release from today--notice the words and then notice what is written in phase four---"no fly zone" and tell me we are not seeing a well thought though UW strategy where there are no Russian troops on the ground being used as in the Crimea---it is now an irregular fight.

06/02 15:53 Zyuganov calls for no-fly zone over Donbas, Luhansk region

Again this form of strategic UW strategy tied to political warfare is not even considered in the new FM as the FM does nothing to address the "radicalization" or perceptions and polarizations of a given population---yes one can stretch paras to make the FM fit but again it does not directly answer the Ukrainian example.


Mon, 05/26/2014 - 11:01am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

The FM is absolutely doctrine, along with ADPs, ADRPs and ATPs. Doctrine 2015 did a number of things, but making FMs not doctrine is not one of them.

And my question still remains, beyond recognizing the importance of external powers fueling an insurgency (which it does in several places), what other content should be there that isn't?

The military has involvement in several insurgencies currently and will continue to have involvement. What in this FM suggests the only answer is an operation like Iraq and Afghanistan?

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/26/2014 - 8:14am

In reply to by Bwilliams

Bwilliams---you bring up an interesting dynamic that is called the LOE and many here might not like to hear the following comment---just as COIN somehow got us into the checklist mentality and micromanagement it got us into the concept of "non movement/development of LOEs" and as well into the concept of "fragos vs conops".

If you deployed a number of times as a staff officer at any level you would have noticed that in fact the LOEs might not have chanced from one deployment to the next deployment----if in fact LOEs are for planning purposes then why did they are seem to "stay the same" from year to year?

Answer from many practicing COIN---"well things go slower in COIN so there is not an anticipated need for changing the LOEs"----everyone here who has deployed as a staff officer would recognize that sentence.

Secondly, COIN having gotten us into a "checklist" mentality also contributed to the definitely non doctrinal shift away from "conops" and to simply doing everything in "frago modes"---anyone here can remember that in some cases the frago numbering system was in the hundreds---with each new operation one simply did a frago---WHY the standard answer was "nothing changes that fast in COIN" so we out of simplicity sake just do fragos. Was in fact the shift to "fragos" based on doctrinal decisions and a FM or based on a ADP?---No not really.

There was a really good SWJ article condemning that simplicity concept here that is worth a read.

The COIN debate has taken us away from a number of doctrinal processes we were once good at but are no longer good at---another critique of mine in referencing this FM.

What is missing from a number of commenters is the simple statement---this FM is not doctrine nor can it be under TRADOC 2015----it is simply a "how to do it if one needs to conduct COIN"---it is as simple as that but again somehow FMs have the "look and feel" of doctrine but again under TRADOC's 2015 a FM is not doctrine.

Again my critique and I have read all the 3-24 versions---it does not answer what we are seeing in the Ukraine which at least for the European environment is what will be with us for the coming years.

My next comment would be--based on the perceived failures of the Army in AFG and Iraq by the American population as a whole just where does the US Army feel they will be again asked to place boots on the ground in a COIN environment?

Nowhere is the answer.

Where will SOF be asked to place boots on the ground in a future UW/IW environment--can think of at least 12.


Sun, 05/25/2014 - 11:13am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Before one used a planning tool, one would need to understand the context of an insurgency and how one intends to counter it. You want one answer when each situation is unique and may require a different set of capabilities that the United States can integrate. At the operational level, this requires any number of LOEs. LOEs are a tool to help arrange tactical tasks in time and space. They aren't a cookie cutter set things you do in counterinsurgency. See paragraph 7-23 to 7-30.

Given that is how the FM describes a LOE, how is it not applicable to any insurgency as a planning tool?

Outlaw 09

Sun, 05/25/2014 - 4:42am

In reply to by Bwilliams

Bwilliams--then indicate to me just how does a BCT Commander and his Staff and the BN Commander and his Staff "translate doctrinal guidance" and by the way this FM is not doctrinal guidance---it is a how to do it guide based on the TRADOC 2015 guidance for doctrinal publications and yet many here commenting seem to treat this FM as if it is doctrinal guidance.

The BCT/BN and yes even higher Commanders take the COIN Campaign Plan and then "translate" it into subordinate Line of Efforts (LOEs) and even down to Lines of Action (LOAs) tailored to their specific AORs but still tied to the higher commanders LOEs.

We can debate BCT Commanders and their Staffs and how they "translate" the FM and the doctrinal COIN guidance from the ADPs all day long but having provided "advice" to those Commanders and Staffs in over 41 BCT rotations from 2006 to 2010 at the NTC I feel confident I "understand" just how they "translate" COIN guidance---and having written a number of the COIN NTC scenarios I really do "understand" COIN as well has having deployed to a COIN environment in 2005 and 2006 when no one fully "understood" they were in a full fledged Mao defined Phase Two guerrilla war that even this new COIN FM does not address.

I probably have more physical "desert time" (six long years of day in and day out) as an advising civilian on the ground than a large number of officers who deployed two or three times to Iraq or AFG. So just how BCTs "tick" is an art not a science and many times the FMs play absolutely no role. That though is a totally different debate---mission command how commanders "tick" vs the failure now of mission command.

What is interesting about this COIN "debate" is that it took a COG COL and two civilians one which was in fact a Kurdish Canadian to "change" the entire training scenarios in use at the NTC and then the JRTC to even come close to what was being "seen" on the ground in Iraq---sometime "change" to a culture comes in strange ways. Only then did we see "improvement" in the deploying BCTS and it had nothing to do with "COIN". It had to do with how we "fight". Based on this shift of focus we today cannot as an Army "fight" our way out of a paper bag called "force on force" or even fire artillery in support to the "force on force" fight.

By the way even today the Army does not want to nor does it ask the question---"just how did we get to a phase two guerrilla war in just under four weeks after we arrived in Baghdad"--that being in 2003 not in 2007 with the surge troops or did I miss that debate here at SWJ?

Ned McDonnell III

Mon, 05/26/2014 - 12:55am

In reply to by Bwilliams

I am not referring to the frustrated effort to sign a status of forces agreement. I agree with you; looking back, that was a long shot.

What I am discussing is the failure to use the leverage of 50-75,000 troops still in-country (admittedly playing a very low profile per the 2008 agreement) at the time of the election. Slime Minister al-Maliki tampered with the electoral process by forcing through a judicial endorsement of questionable tactics after the election to maintain his power and subvert a peaceful transition of administrations.

At that point, when Prime Sinister al-Maliki was probably still consolidating power. The U.S. could have pressured him, threatening regime change (as a bluff) and if that did not bring him to the table, to announce a termination of the agreement in place and withdrawal the troops over the following year.

If Prime Minister al-Malady had not yet consolidated his way to soft tyranny, then that prospect -- of losing his protection -- might well have brought him around. President Obama, in a pattern we have seen repeated subsequently when the stake have been higher, retreated from a messy situation and let regime recidivism take place in Iraq.


Sun, 05/25/2014 - 11:01am

In reply to by Ned McDonnell III

The result would have been the same on the status of forces agreement in Iraq whoever was President. Afghanistan isn't a failure. After the election, tHe BSA will get signed and we will carry on the missions that are in our national interests. That will also allow the Afghan government space.

Ukraine doesn't look like a great "win" for Russia. They come away with Crimea and economic damage.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/26/2014 - 3:05pm

In reply to by Ned McDonnell III

Ned---does this sound like a Russia/Putin that has stopped "meddling" in Ukrainian affairs. He stills wants to take the east and southern Ukraine that is a given.

Crimes against civilians in Ukraine must be probed under intl control - Russia
MOSCOW. May 26 (Interfax) - Russia wants an effective, transparent and unbiased probe launched into human rights abuses and crimes against civilians in Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

On May 26, the Foreign Ministry's Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law Konstantin Dolgov met in Moscow with chairman of the Group of the Unified European Left in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Tiny Kox.

"The Russian side reaffirmed its advocacy of an effective, transparent and unbiased investigation under international control with the participation of the Council of Europe, into the crude violations of human rights and crimes against civilians committed in Ukraine, including the tragedy in Odesa on May 2," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website.

It said, "those guilty must be punished."

Dolgov drew Kox's attention to an "acute humanitarian rights situation in Ukraine in the context of the Russian Foreign Ministry's White Paper of violations of human rights and of the principle of rule of law in that country," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Ned McDonnell III

Sat, 05/31/2014 - 9:18pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


Finally just back from sales training. How long would it take for the U.S. and N.A.T.O. to get up to speed in U.W./I.W.? Interesting video. What a bunch of thugs. Thanks for your insights, as always.


Outlaw 09

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 5:26am

In reply to by Ned McDonnell III

Ned--what the Ukraine shows us is that in fact if a country at the senior leadership level has a national UW and counter UW strategy it can be effectively tied to both foreign policy as well as to military decisions and actually as well to internal population focused decisions.

This problem though requires a super thorough understanding of this new form of UW coupled with IW in support of political warfare ---kind of a blending of the 19th century with the 21st century.

If one understands the current Russian UW strategy in all of it's phases one can actually "see" and "understand" every move Putin has been making in his support to Iran and Syria and for that matter the decades old move by Russia towards China.

Note: For those that do believe that this new FM on COIN covers the current Ukrainian UW fight just take a long and thorough review of this video link and the last link in this response concerning "proxy fighters".…

All the while we at the US leadership level "assume" we need Russian support in this two specific areas---which by the way in fact hems in US abilities at developing their own policies for their own reasons not Russian reasons. After reading Obama's new foreign policy concepts I am not so sure he "gets" it either.

Reference the use of proxies---while Putin "seems" to have "moderated" his tone against the Ukraine---all done to prevent Merkel from pulling the economic trigger because Putin was undermining the election he has just shifts gears and is using another phase of his own national UW strategy ie proxies. He still wants though his "win" in the Ukraine and from that view he is not coming off of---he is simply "calming" the West and using other means to achieve the same end state. He pulled troops back? come on 20K are still sitting their---namely their peacekeeping BDEs, airborne units and fast armor plus GRU troops.

The Russian media and Putin have long argued there are no "Russians" fighting in the Crimea or eastern/southern Ukraine but with eight dead Russia citizen bodies laying in a Donetsk morgue that media argument disappeared---with Chechen fighters carrying AK105s arriving in new KAMAZ Russia trucks and answering to a nationalist Chechen fanatic supporter of Putin--I hardly doubt they are "volunteers---but more accurately "voluntold" personnel.

At the end is a link to photos taken from a dead Chechen fighters cell phone which go a long way to dispel that they are simply "volunteers".

With todays/yesterdays shooting down of a Russian military drone over the Donetsk region around the airport one can hardly say the Russian military was not involved.

Back to the COIN FM which does not answer in any way any of the Ukrainian events---this was a quote taken from a Moscow Times article concerning Russian propaganda another topic where the West has poorly performed in countering.

"Indeed, as research in social psychology tells us, when peoples' misconceptions are challenged by factual evidence, they do not just see the light and change their beliefs, but rather they double-down and believe even more in their misconceptions even more strongly."

These photos are extremely interesting in what they reveal about "proxy" fighters or what we called in Iraq "foreign fighters".…

Ned McDonnell III

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 1:35am

In reply to by Outlaw 09


In general, what you say makes sense to me from my outside perspective. There are some specifics that I have to clarify. Is this Chechnian battalion fighting as a proxy-force of President Putin's regime? That seems hard to believe. If true, I am worried that one of the last elements internally to temper the Putineer in Russia has allied with him.

The idea of proxies as a 'caucasian' volunteer force is unsurprising and frightening, very frightening. Putin publicly stated that he was counting on the West to prevent a civil war in Ukraine; he threw down a gauntlet and the West just ignored it. By your account, which I believe, the Putinista is fomenting that civil as a pretext to move.

And then he'll blame the West, and of course the Ukrainians by presenting dead Russians (actually Ukrainians garbed in Russian active duty or hooligan gear). And poor old Secretary Kerry will be driven to his grave with increasingly vacuous statements of toughness in an effort -- futile thus far -- to get his boss to do something, anything.

As Carl points out persuasively and soberly, we have another three years of this sheiße to put up with. To those apologists who do not back the measures called for by you and COL Maxwell et al. and say, in effect, "hey, not our job", I can only ask: do you all think this ends in Ukraine or that Russian meddling is the biggest problem? Nope. Look ahead.

For years, I have believed that the two really big tinder-box threats to world peace, perhaps human existence, are:
1] a general Persian-Arab War started in Iraq and dragging the rest of the region in and then the great powers (like WW-I); and,
2] Pashtun radicals overwhelming governments in Pakistan and Afghanistan and quickly turning their deadly beliefs and even more deadly nukes on Kashmir creating the spasm of blood drunk turmoil of the second World War.

The first scenario is taking place in Syria, though at a simmering level; I am more hopeful that my #1 was inaccurate. The second is at least partly contingent on what the Taliban observes as U.S. behavior and unwillingness to "nip conflicts in the bud" in Syria and Ukraine. We can wash our hands and say it is not our job.

All I do is shake my head and shudder to think of what our job -- and that of other basically peaceful but powerful nations -- will be after three more years of this hyper-ventilation. We will be kicking ourselves, saying, "Why didn't we do something back then, when we could have?" Remorse, I am afraid, will then give way to just the kind of war we have worked so hard to avoid for more than half a century.


Mon, 05/26/2014 - 9:30pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

What is the current US strategy and what might the US military be called to perform? I highly doubt the US would opt to move forces directly into Luhansk and Donetsk to directly counter the insurgency. I imagine we would integrate some combination of training, foreign military sales, and intel capabilities and help to enable the Ukrainians in controlling Luhansk and Donetsk. That would be the most aggressive option I could currently see. I doubt a BCT would be used, unless it was used in an SFA role.

With that, how are LOEs not a decent planning construct for whatever headquarters element might be called on to plan and control those various activities? Doctrine is not just written for BCTs. See FM 3-94 at

Move Forward

Mon, 05/26/2014 - 12:23pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

<blockquote>A question to those commenters that think this FM applies say to the current Ukraine events---just how would one then build a coherent COIN Campaign Plan complete with say BCT Lines of Efforts? How would then a BCT implement those LOE plans using the new COIN FM--difficult if not impossible especially if the environment is changing drastically hour to hour.</blockquote>What you may correctly be pointing out is that the title of the FM is somewhat deceptive. I thought perhaps the manual was going to address that the U.S. should <strong>support</strong> insurgency in some cases as it did in the 80's Afghanistan and in Central America. Support of an insurgency in Ukraine could be an option at some point if all or large parts of Ukraine were seized by Russia.

However, that sounds like a FID mission for SF/SOF alone that would have somewhat unique SF/SOF doctrine. Placing large general purpose forces adjacent to Ukraine would be deterrence in support of SF/SOF-led insurgency and to stop a heavy armor response by Russia into NATO states. The newly elected Ukrainian leader certainly does not appear Pro-Russian. Actions by the Ukrainian military on TV to retake an airport in a Russian-separatist area illustrate that whatever Russian IW/UW that is transpiring is unlikely to seize all or major parts of Ukraine unless Russian heavy armor also gets involved.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/26/2014 - 11:46am

In reply to by Ned McDonnell III

Ned---if one watches but the "independent" provinces in the east and the steps they are taking over the last two days which mirror exactly what occurred in the Crimea down to using the Putin term New Russia coupled with the mayor who looks like he is winning in Odessa---a Communist party member and has deep ties to the Russian/Ukrainian mafia one might in fact come to the realization that regardless of what Kyiv is doing the eastern and southern provinces are moving in lock step to defect regardless to Russia ---with Russia constantly all the while "trying" to sound statesmen like and want to appear willing to talk---but again all words and no actions ---like Putin going on national Russia TV and demanding they give up their weapons which he could do if so inclined.

It seems like the Ukrainian military just is not getting a handle on the separatists which Moscow now calls "federalists" which is interesting--but slowly but surely the SBU their national security force is rounding up group for group but the core is not being touched---there is now even a "Chechnyian BN" fighter group that has arrived in Donetsk.

What is interesting that while some bodies of killed Russians are being carried nightly back to Russia which I think are in fact Russian security/military personnel--- those killed "war tourists" are simply tossed into forests and barely buried--photos of them have shown up in the last couple of days all carrying the tattoos of the Russian prisoner system and several neo Nazi groups within Russia.

What is concerning is that the Russians appear to be using "news reporters/journalists" as fire team leaders who both produce live streaming attack videos via satellite back to Russia but at the same time give commands to the fighters when they are attacking and when captured the Russian government screams "freedom of the press" and yet no media in the US is reporting on this tactic.

Actually no US media seems to be interested at all in reporting just how the Russians are badly misusing media in their efforts to radicalize the eastern Ukraine--especially when there have been some really glaring mistakes on the part of the Russian mis-information efforts.

Currently watching some reports that have drifted in today of a really well armed professionally led and commanded "Caucasian" force taking over a complete city in the Donetsk area. The term "Caucasian" is very interesting as it could mean Russian military personnel from the St. Petersburg area have arrived in the east which would mean Putin has decided to force the ground fight and claim it is an internal "civil war" which Russia has no input into nor control over.

This single report is extremely worth watching has it has a complete different "look and feel" than that of the common criminals that have been running around killing and looting, along with the Cossacks and the Chechnyians who are just a ragtag irregular force but are "shooters" and "ambushers".

As the Russian Foreign Minister keeps saying over and over would happen if the Ukrainian military does not pull back and talks do not start over their version of "federalization" which is far different than what the West thinks "federalization" is.

Regardless of the election outcome---Putin has not given up on acquiring the complete southern half of the Ukraine effectively cutting the Ukraine in half---he is just adapting to the current events just as his UW strategy allows him to do---that strategy has given him a massive range of options.

This use of a national strategy built on UW is something a number of writers here ie Robert Jones and David Maxwell have written about and complained that the US needs to have but does not currently have due to the infighting on the DoD side and the lack of senior civilian leadership understanding of UW.

Again back to the FM---none of these types of daily events in the Ukraine come close to being handled in the FM which is "a TTP manual on how to do COIN"--and it does not reflect a heavy UW/IW/political warfare environment.

A question to those commenters that think this FM applies say to the current Ukraine events---just how would one then build a coherent COIN Campaign Plan complete with say BCT Lines of Efforts? How would then a BCT implement those LOE plans using the new COIN FM--difficult if not impossible especially if the environment is changing drastically hour to hour.