The Bayonet

Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2014

Official: Urban warfare will continue to grow

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Maneuver Captains Career Course students got a glimpse at the emerging trends in congested area and urban warfare Thursday during the latest edition of the Combat Leader Speaker Program.

David Johnson, the director and chief of staff of the Army Strategic Studies Group, was the featured speaker.

He said future Army leaders must be prepared to conduct urban operations in new ways.

"The urban challenge ... is growing, and the way we've approached it in the past is not going to work, in my view," Johnson said. "We're going to show up in places where we expect to see one thing and another thing is going to be there."

During his lecture, he used examples such as the 2006 Lebanon War and the efforts by U.S. troops in Sadr City, a section of Baghdad, to illustrate how congested areas and urban warfare has become more and more prevalent.

He said those experiences have shown the Army must focus more on the capabilities of the enemy and how to counter them, rather than developing new capabilities for itself.

"People know what our capabilities are," he said. "They know that if they are seen, they will be killed. They're going to try and hide among the people in congested terrain and urban areas. These future challenges will require a level of jointness that we haven't experienced or talked about in a long time. We need to be thinking about the adversary, not about us.

"You have to understand the adversary, think through what his capabilities are and figure out how you're going to counter with your capabilities. It is not a homogenous problem."

In addition, Johnson said it is important Army leaders continue to seek enhanced situational awareness and continue to prepare for each conflict individually.

"I think what we tend to do in our own doctrine and how we prepare ourselves, we think about ourselves," he said.

"We think we're going to go shape the battlefield. The battlefield is going to shape you. What's on that battlefield that will shape you is the adversary."

While Johnson said urban operations will become more frequent in the future, he said there is no way to form a standard solution to conducting operations in megacities, which are cities of more than 10 million people.

"They share some characteristics, but every one of those places is radically different," he said. "You can't have a system approach where you think if you understand certain things about a megacity, everything's great."

He also said while some military leaders have a desire to see conflicts transition to largely air- and sea-based offensive tactics, ground forces are vital to the success of urban operations.

"Ground maneuver is indispensable," Johnson said.

"It forces the enemy to do something and become visible. Infantry is fundamental, but Armor forces are absolutely quintessentially important. I can't stress that enough."

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