Monday, December 14, 2009

Afghanistan Surge (3)

Lt. Col. Gian Gentile in A Strategy of Tactics: Population-centric COIN and the Army Parameters Autumn 2009 (US Army War College) gives a good analysis of the problem with that version of The Great Surge of 2007:

The triumph narrative associated with the Surge can best be summarized as follows. Prior to the Surge, the conventionally minded Army under General George Casey, when he was commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq, had allowed the insurgency to grow and by the end of 2006 had withdrawn from the rural regions and hunkered down on Forward Operating Bases while the Iraq civil war raged. But with the Surge, the new commander, General David Petraeus, armed his army with the new COIN doctrine in the form of FM 3-24 and deployed American combat forces into major population areas. Once in these locations, the US Army in Iraq began executing population-centric COIN correctly; they were able to secure the population, win the hearts and minds, and from this new position of power the deals cut with the Sons of Iraq, Moqtada al Sadr’s retreat, and all the other successes flowed from the population-centric actions of the American Army.

Consider these historical analogies that appear to perfectly support such a narrative. In Malaya, the failing Briggs to the successful Templer; in Vietnam, the anachronistic, conventionally minded [Gen. William] Westmoreland to the enlightened, counterinsurgency-minded [Gen. Creighton] Abrams; and in Iraq, the Fulda Gap, big-battle strategy of Casey to the new way of population-centric counterinsurgency of Petraeus. More recently in Afghanistan, the change between General David McKiernan and General Stanley McChrystal, with the former being cast as the general who did not necessarily comprehend America’s new way of war and was viewed as being a member of the “old school” Army.

Quite possibly, the will of the Sunni insurgency broke long before the Surge went into full effect in the summer of 2007. A combination of brutal attacks by Shia militia in conjunction with the actions of the Iraqi Shia government and the continuing persecution by al Qaeda against the Sunni community convinced the insurgents that they could no longer counter all these forces and it was to their advantage to ut a deal with the Americans. To be sure, the reduction in violence that began in the summer of 2007 in Iraq had multiple causes, and the Surge did contribute. But to think that the reduction of violence was primarily the result of American military action is hubris run amuck. [my emphasis]
Gentile's criticism of The Surge is part of a broader criticism of prevailing Army counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine, which he has also articulated in:

The Limits of the Surge: An Interview with Gian Gentile by Judah Grunstein World Politics Review 04/11/08

A (Slightly) Better War: A Narrative and Its Defects World Affairs Summer 2008

Our COIN doctrine removes the enemy from the essence of war Armed Forces Journal 11/12/09


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