Small Wars Journal

urban operations

Attacks on Civilians, Infrastructure in Syria Might Be War Crimes

Attacks on Civilians, Infrastructure in Syria Might Be War Crimes

Lisa Schlein - VOA News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue on for the full AP Baghdad overview.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read on.

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

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

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

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

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

Read on.

Philippine Forces Cleared this City of Islamist Militants in 2017. It’s Still a Ghost Town.

Philippine Forces Cleared this City of Islamist Militants in 2017. It’s Still a Ghost Town. Story by Shibani Mahtani and Regine Cabato, Photos by Hannah Reyes Morales, Video by Jason Aldag – Washington Post

At the edge of a bridge leading into the heart of the devastation from a 2017 siege against Islamic State-linked militants, an electric-blue billboard stands apart from the ruins.

“Marawi will rise again! Soon . . .” it proudly declares in rainbow-colored letters.

 

So far, it sounds like an empty promise.

 

More than a year since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city liberated, Marawi looks almost as it did when the bombs and bullets stopped flying in October 2017, following five months of urban combat.

 

Not a single new structure has been built. Almost none of the debris has been cleared. Snakes and mosquitoes infest the bright-green canopy of weeds engulfing the ruins. The odd stray dog has taken refuge inside battle-ravaged buildings.

 

About 100,000 people displaced from the Marawi violence are unable to return home, living with relatives or in camps across the southern island of Mindanao. This predominantly Muslim region has seen clashes for decades between Philippine security forces and various groups of insurgents and militants, including the Abu Sayyaf.

 

Marawi, however, stands apart…

Read on.

New SWJ Book - Blood and Concrete: 21st Century Conflict in Urban Centers and Megacities

Just released - "Blood and Concrete: 21st Century Conflict in Urban Centers and Megacities" provides a foundation for understanding urban operations and sustaining urban warfare research. This "Small Wars Journal" (SWJ) Anthology documents over a decade of writings on urban conflict.

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