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With some notable lower- level exceptions, the military did not adapt to these conditions until it was perilously close to losing these wars. Many of these early ad-hoc approaches to counterinsurgency failed to protect the population from insurgent attacks and alienated the people through the excessive use of force. The price for those decisions is now coming due.

Preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a sanctuary for terrorists with global reach or serving as the catalyst for a broader regional security meltdown are the key objectives of the campaign there. Securing these objectives requires helping the Afghans to build a sustainable system of governance that can adequately ensure security for the Afghan people— the keystone upon which a successful exit strategy depends. We should instead aim for a sustainable system of governance that can effectively combat the insurgency, and in doing so prevent a re-emergence of transnational terrorist safe havens.

Achieving these goals will require more military forces, but also a much greater commitment to good governance and to providing for the needs of the Afghan people where they live. The coalition will need to use its considerable leverage to counter Afghan government corruption at every level. While an expanded international commitment of security and development forces can assist in achieving these goals in the short term, ultimately Afghans must ensure stability and security in their own country. Building a state that is able to provide a modicum of security and governance to its people is the American exit strategy from Afghanistan.

The successful implementation of a better-resourced effort to build Iraqi security forces, after years of floundering, is now enabling the drawdown of U.

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As a result, U. As in the early years of the Iraq war, U.

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While the new U. Secondly, while considerable focus is now on the direct counterinsurgency role of U. More U. If the first requirement for success in a counterinsurgency campaign is the ability to secure the population, the counterinsurgent requires boots on the ground and plenty of them. The long-term answer is an expanded Afghan National Army and effective police forces.


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Currently the Afghan Army, is at 70, and projected to grow to ,, and is perhaps the most effective institution in the country. It must be substantially expanded, and mirrored by sizable local police forces, to provide the security that will prevent Taliban insurgent infiltration of the population. Building Afghan security forces will be a long-term effort that will require U. There is also, unfortunately, no viable alternative to the international community underwriting most of the Afghan security forces, although it is worth remembering that more than fifty Afghan soldiers can be fielded for the cost of one deployed American soldier.

Insurgencies can be won or lost at the local level because securing the support of the population requires understanding the specific issues that cause it to sympathize with one side or another. The Taliban is an amalgam of local fighters and mercenary and criminal elements around a hard core of committed jihadists.

However, local communities are unlikely to turn in favor of ISAF and the Afghan government until these institutions demonstrate that they are fully willing and able to drive out the Taliban and provide some level of lasting security and competent governance. A close look at the historical record reveals that the United States engages in ambiguous counterinsurgency and nation-building missions far more often than it faces full-scale war.

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Trends such as the youth bulge and urbanization in underdeveloped states, as well as the proliferation of more lethal weaponry, point to a future dominated by chaotic local insecurity and conflict rather than confrontations between the armies and navies of nation-states. Doctrine now emphasizes their strategic importance, but also focuses on the importance of tactical actions, e. Furthermore, the services are developing technological solutions for these challenges. In recent tabletop exercises, this group wargamed some 48 different experimental future technologies in different urban scenarios.

Nevertheless, all of these ongoing discussions take it as a given that the U. And most of these discussions focus on irregular adversaries.

This is not surprising, given that the experiential basis for much of the U. Indeed, these types of operations against irregular adversaries are certainly possible.

But, so are others. If we take as truth that the U. In short, what is the mission?

Counter-Insurgency: Is there a Strategy that Works, Really?

I believe that the historical record shows that there are two basic offensive missions in urban combat. A city is a military objective that must be taken and cleared of either enemy military forces or terrorists. The enemy is a cancer that must be removed. Nevertheless, there are examples when the going into the city was not required to deal with the mission of defeating the adversary.

These include the Battle of Sadr City and Israeli operations in Gaza where defeating enemy fighters without entering the city was the mission. Finally, given the fact that the National Defense Strategy discusses the use of blunting forces as part of a competition and deterrence posture, defending cities might be the mission. This is a combat operation that U. Vith in late This is particularly instructive from the perspective of past U.

The last time the U. Most of the World War II urban battles in which the United States was involved were against adversaries who were no longer peers, because they could not gain air superiority. Indeed, they were generally forces left behind to slow the Allied advance across Europe towards Germany or deny key assets like a port, as during the battles for Cherbourg and Antwerp, or to inflict casualties as in the bloody fight for Manila.

The battles in Seoul during the Korean War, Hue during the Vietnam War, and all the urban battles in Iraq, were all against non-peer adversaries who could only contest the land domain. This will likely not be the case in future conflicts against peer competitors. Russia and China have formidable capabilities that will contest U. Thus, many of the technologies the Army and Marine Corps are pursuing, while very useful against irregular adversaries, may be less useful against peers.

It is also important to think about where offensive urban combat operations might occur. A good place to start is with an assessment of the priority countries identified in the National Defense Strategy — China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. It is difficult to imagine offensive ground operations in Chinese or Russian cities, given their escalation options including nuclear. In a Korean conflict, potential missions for U.

Indeed, the combined population of the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania at approximately 6 million is less than the 10 million mark for a megacity.

The urbanisation of insurgency: The potential challenge to US army operations - Semantic Scholar

Thus, in the area where U. One further issue that needs to be understood in peer warfare: the conflict is not principally about protecting the population, but about killing or capturing the enemy. This is not to say efforts are not made to evacuate populations at risk or to protect noncombatants. They are. This is the right thing to do in these kinds of wars but may not always be possible in urban combat when the enemy chooses to fight to the death.

The fighting in Fallujah in and more recently Mosul demonstrated that firepower is often needed to defeat determined irregular adversaries. The Law of Armed Conflict is much less restrictive than the rules of engagement that U. S forces have employed for decades. It is reasonable to assume that combat in cities against competent, well-armed state adversaries will be deadly and highly destructive. As Gen.

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William T. Sherman stated during the U. There are important questions that should be asked and answered as the U. First, in what kinds of urban operations will the U.