The Bayonet

Wednesday, Jul. 31, 2013

MCoE playing role in COIN doctrine revision

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Throughout the course of the War on Terror, one of the constant themes has been the need for the American military to conduct counterinsurgency operations in environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Maneuver Center of Excellence’s Directorate of Training and Doctrine has been updating Army Field Manual 3-24.2, which deals with tactics used during counterinsurgency operations.

The effort to revise FM 3-24.2 coincides with plans to revise the Army’s overall counterinsurgency field manual, FM 3-24, which is set for publication later this year.

Capt. Jeffrey Johnson, a foreign area officer and counterinsurgency subject matter expert, said the main goal of a revision such as this one is to ensure that experiences gained during the last 12 years of combat are being applied to doctrine.

“We have to make sure our doctrine is both effective and timely by incorporating our lessons learned, our observations and our insights as an operating force that has been doing this for the last 12 years, coupled with those lessons learned, observations and insights from our allied partners,” he said.

During the effort to revise FM 3-24.2, which will be published in 2015 as an Army techniques publication, Johnson has spent time developing a common language for counterinsurgency instruction that he hopes to see implemented across the MCoE.

Johnson collaborated with training specialists to develop a relevant program of instruction, lesson plan and teaching support package for a potential updated counterinsurgency instruction program for the NCO Academy.

Johnson presented his proposed revision to NCO Academy instructors during a four-hour session in June.

“We observed the training that was there, which was good training, but what we wanted to do was give it more robust counterinsurgent information,” Johnson said. “We’re widening the aperture on counterinsurgency.”

He said that the major difference between the newly developed POI and the previous one is that it focuses not just on the insurgencies themselves, but rather the conditions that allow insurgencies to operate in a given environment.

“It’s one thing to understand an insurgent’s strategies or dynamics, but it’s also very important to understand what allows an insurgency to occur,” he said. “That’s what this does.”

Johnson said one of the issues that Soldiers often have in relation to counterinsurgency is an inability to agree on what constitutes an insurgency.

“We’ve identified that everybody has his or her own concept of what counterinsurgency is or of what insurgency is,” he said. “Sometimes individuals mistake terrorism for insurgency or criminal organizations for insurgencies.”

For the purposes of doctrine, an insurgency is defined as an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict.

“The part of that definition that says ‘aimed’ is very important,” Johnson said. “It’s almost more important than the insurgency itself because if an organized movement that is nefarious in nature is trying to overthrow an established government, it’s not only important that you just look at the insurgency and the government. What’s also important is trying to figure out how they’re aiming to do that and what gives them freedom of movement.

“That’s what we want to do and we are doing with revised, renewed counterinsurgency doctrine. We’re trying to show the Soldier why an insurgent has the ability to conduct operations and why the insurgent organization garners, uses and maintains freedom of movement in the same operational environment we’re conducting operations in.”

Part of the need to revise counterinsurgency doctrine and instruction stems from a shift in the Army’s approach to counterinsurgency operations, Johnson said.

“What we’ve developed in counterinsurgency is this thing we used to call ‘clear, hold, build,’ but what we’re moving to and what we’re understanding more is that it’s not just ‘clear, hold, build,’” Johnson said. “I don’t just go and clear the threat away because if I do that, I haven’t identified the vulnerabilities that allowed that threat to exist in the first place. Then, the threat continues to repopulate, re-emerge and regenerate to exploit those vulnerabilities.

“We’ve moved from ‘clear, hold, build’ to ‘shape, clear, hold, build, transition. ... What shape allows the commander to do is to try and understand that environment and either shape the current existing conditions through planning or allow that environment to adjust, modify and create a level of flexibility with planned operations before executing.”

While the Army’s future as an active player in Afghanistan is uncertain, Johnson said there will continue to be a need for counterinsurgency doctrine and instruction to be as up to date as possible.

“In my mind’s eye, counterinsurgency is not going to go away,” he said. “I think there’s always going to be a level of traditional warfare, a level of irregular warfare, but more importantly it’s going to be trying to identify the crossover between the two and how to effectively leverage our assets to win a particular objective. Our doctrine has to support the most effective way of understanding that and showing how to employ the host of assets we have available to us in order to consolidate the gains achieved along a particular line of effort in what are very complex environments.”

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