Archive for the 'COIN' Tag

I wrote this piece shortly after my first deployment in 2010, mainly to organize my thoughts and keep a record of my personal reflections. I captured what I considered to be the pertinent points of the experience and put the article away until I recently reopened the file for the first time in three years. There are a few parts that reflect the natural naiveté and pride of a first deployment JO, but I believe there is value in sharing the words as we continue to look back at lessons learned from various phases of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. Particularly, I hope others use the occasion to capture their own personal CAS/COIN lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan as we all return to more traditional, pre-9/11 mission sets such as counter-maritime, counter-air, etc. I haven’t made any edits to the original piece.

Carrier-based tactical close air support platforms have proven to be valuable resources for ground commanders and war planners conducting counterinsurgency campaigns

In a remote village near Herat, Western Afghanistan, a mounted convoy of Marines travels en route to conduct a Key Leader Engagement with the village elder and local leaders. The opportunity to discuss economic issues, insurgent activity, and security concerns serves as a keystone in the effort to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the community. As the convoy navigates the small, winding roads, the lead vehicle strikes an IED and insurgent gunmen open fire from behind the walls of a compound 300 meters north of the friendly position. What might have been the obvious response in prior years, an immediate strike on the enemy position executed by aircraft overhead, now requires much more consideration. Following the tenants of Counterinsurgency (COIN) Strategy, as detailed in the Counterinsurgency Field Manual, the collateral effects of the bombing, to include potential effects on civilians and major damage to infrastructure, would likely negate the hard-earned good will critical to a successful COIN strategy. Additionally, the unintended effects could harm ISAF efforts in the long term by fostering resentment and reducing the credibility of friendly forces, ultimately driving local support to insurgent fighters.

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Major Gen. Richard Mills is in demand since relinquishing command of the I Marine Expeditionary Force in Afghanistan last month. The first commander of the Regional Command-Southwest Region (RC-SW), Major General Mills was successful in taking one of the most volatile regions (the Helmand province) to a relatively peaceful one in one year. Next week, he will make several speaking engagements in Washington, including one co-hosted by the Marine Corps Association and Institute for the Study of War (ISW), at the Navy Memorial’s Burke Theater on May 2 at 3:30 p.m.

ISW, a relative newcomer to the D.C. think tank landscape, has issued a series of reports on the state of the counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan. In their most recent study released in January, author Jeffrey Dressler claims that both coalition and Afghanistan forces have made significant progress in “clearing and holding” critical districts and, in some areas, they have even begun the “build” phase of reconstruction and development. This is due in large part to the fact that the Helmand province has been the first province where comprehensive, population-centric counterinsurgency operations have been conducted with a force constituted to do so – with approximately 4,000 Marines deployed to the region since July 2009.

The report cites successes keeping the local populations secure, increasing the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), improving the counternarcotics efforts (through interdiction), strengthening local governments and even improving living conditions (according to polls conducted by the Washington Post, ABC and BBC). Many credit the leadership of Major General Mills with shifting the momentum from the insurgency to the coalition and ANSF.

Monday’s sit-down discussion with ISW founder Dr. Kimberly Kagan could prove to be a rare chance to hear firsthand (in a dialog format) from the general who was in the vanguard of COIN implementation in Afghanistan. He will discuss his approach to counterinsurgency and the challenges that remain ahead for ISAF. To attend, RSVP here.