New Army Handbook Teaches Afghanistan Lessons

TheSiatonist

Designated Hoops Sniper!
Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2009
Messages
1,426
Location
Siaton, Neg. Or.
New Army Handbook Teaches Afghanistan Lessons

By THOM SHANKER
Published: August 12, 2009

WASHINGTON — More than a year has passed since an Afghan police commander turned on coalition forces and helped insurgents carry out a surprise attack that killed nine Americans, wounded more than 30 United States and Afghan troops and nearly resulted in the loss of an allied outpost in one of the deadliest engagements of the war.

Within days of the attack, Army historians and tactical analysts arrived in eastern Afghanistan to review the debacle near Wanat, interviewing soldiers who survived the intense battle, in which outnumbered Americans exchanged gunfire for more than four hours with insurgents, often at distances closer than 50 feet.

Now, that effort to harvest lessons from the firefight of July 13, 2008, has contributed to a new battlefield manual that will be delivered over coming days to Army units joining the fight in Afghanistan with the troop increase ordered by President Obama.

The handbook, “Small-Unit Operations in Afghanistan,” strikes a tone of respect for the Taliban and other insurgent groups, which are acknowledged to be extremely experienced fighters; even more, American soldiers are warned that the insurgents rapidly adapt to shifts in tactics.

In page after page, the handbook draws on lessons from Wanat and other missions, some successful and some that resulted in death and injury for American and allied forces. The manual can be read as an effort to push the nuances of the complex counterinsurgency fight now under way in Afghanistan down from the generals and colonels to newly minted privates as well as to the sergeants and junior officers who lead small units into combat.

Copies of the 123-page handbook, produced by the Center for Army Lessons Learned, are being distributed throughout the service and are available to NATO allies and other nations with troops in Afghanistan. A copy was provided in advance to The New York Times by an official involved in the distribution, who said consideration was being given to a broader public release.

The manual includes a chapter titled “Cultural Engagements,” offering guidance to small-unit leaders on building relationships with wavering village elders and trust among distrustful village residents — a process that cannot be left to senior officers who may be back at headquarters.

Implicit in the instructions is a warning that troops are at risk if they are aloof from the locals and uncaring of their needs — and of the certain dangers if intelligence sources are used incorrectly.

One lesson of Wanat was that American troops, who had set up the firebase five days before the attack, were caught unaware of collusion between the district police chief and the Taliban.

The manual describes how to train better for the defense of remote forward operating bases in harsh Afghan terrain, especially in contested areas where the loyalties of local people are uncertain. The detailed “how to” lists include instructions on such battlefield techniques as deploying mortars more effectively than soldiers did at Wanat, where they did not take into account terrain that provided cover for attackers.

In the fight now under way in Afghanistan, even small platoons may be expected to patrol areas and conduct both combat operations and civilian reconstruction missions traditionally assigned to much larger combat units.

“Every soldier or leader involved in command post operations is one less soldier or leader available to send on patrol, provide security, or staff a quick-reaction force,” the handbook says. One lesson of Wanat was that the primitive forward firebase was understaffed.

The handbook’s publication days after the first anniversary of the Wanat battle was first noted by a blog operated by the Combined Arms Center, the Army’s headquarters for advanced learning and leader development at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

The blogger, Frontier 6, said the handbook drew together lessons of successes in Afghanistan, as well as what has been gleaned from operations when Americans left the battlefield badly bloodied.

“Although the losses at Wanat were tragic, a close scrutiny of the action with an eye to lessons learned can save lives in the future,” the blogger wrote, noting that the handbook also built on analysis from an insurgent ambush of American troops this past April in the Korangal Valley, also in eastern Afghanistan.

It is perhaps one of the worst-kept secrets in the Army, but Frontier 6 is the Internet alias of Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the Fort Leavenworth commander and occasional blogger, who previously served as the top military spokesman in Iraq.

Combat commanders acknowledge how much they rely on the analysis and lessons-learned manuals sent from headquarters back in the United States. “The education of our force is the best weapon we have,” said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the new commander in Afghanistan. “Counterinsurgency is complex, nuanced and ever-changing, and success is dependent on a fighting force that can recognize these changes and adapt to them.”

In distilling lessons into practical advice for the troops, General Caldwell is building on an effort brought to popular attention by a predecessor, Gen. David H. Petraeus, now commander of American forces in the Middle East.

Under General Petraeus’s leadership at Fort Leavenworth, the military released a counterinsurgency field manual credited with helping turn around the war in Iraq and ending the armed services’ focus on heavily armored conventional warfare.

With that manual’s release, the American military was forced to embrace the messy irregular warfare that had been the core competency solely of a small specialty branch in the armed services — the Army Special Forces, known as Green Berets.

Source ...
 

Rabid Badger

Special Forces
Verified SOF
Joined
May 20, 2007
Messages
3,173
Location
The 'Ville
Thom Shanker said:
The handbook, “Small-Unit Operations in Afghanistan,” strikes a tone of respect for the Taliban and other insurgent groups, which are acknowledged to be extremely experienced fighters; even more, American soldiers are warned that the insurgents rapidly adapt to shifts in tactics.

and they adapt to our tactics because the NYT posts a whole bunch of open source shit that they shouldn't so that the bad guys can readily read to adapt....fukn wankers.....


With that manual’s release, the American military was forced to embrace the messy irregular warfare that had been the core competency solely of a small specialty branch in the armed services — the Army Special Forces, known as Green Berets.

.......who try to keep their job skill set and tactics off the open source network.....fucksake. :cool:
 
7

7point62

Guest
"...the American military was forced to embrace the messy irregular warfare that had been the core competency solely of a small specialty branch in the armed services — the Army Special Forces, known as Green Berets..."

(And certain specialized Marine units, like the Combined Action Groups to which I belonged and that were unfortunately disbanded)

I would think a manual like this is long overdue. We've been in Afghanistan eight years, and while the terrain, politics and cultures change from war to war, the basic premises and doctrines of COIN, AGW, SUT, combined arms operations and civic action remain largely static. Treachery, complicated district/tribal politics, a confusing (to Americans) labyrinth of alliances, enemies, 2nd cousins, ideologies, black market skullduggery are pretty common elements of this kind of warfare. Why does it seem to me that the Army command is always late to heed the advice and learn from it's own experienced SF/SOF units?
 

AWP

Formerly Known as Freefalling
SOF Support
Joined
Sep 8, 2006
Messages
16,015
Location
Not Afghanistan
Why does it seem to me that the Army command is always late to heed the advice and learn from it's own experienced SF/SOF units?

Because they hate and distrust them. SOF is everything that they are not and never will be, and they despise them for it.
 
7

7point62

Guest
Because they hate and distrust them. SOF is everything that they are not and never will be, and they despise them for it.


Wow.

That's my serious response to your two sentences. I had no idea the animosity ran that deep; if so, then a lot of good people have probably died as a result of it.
 

AWP

Formerly Known as Freefalling
SOF Support
Joined
Sep 8, 2006
Messages
16,015
Location
Not Afghanistan
That's my take on it, not an SF soldier's. My support guy's looking in view and having sat in on meetings as a contractor, SF support NCO and SF support O leads me to believe that at a minimum the conventional Army is wary of SF. At the outer extremes are senior NCOs and O's that didn't get a shot or got a shot and blew it or maybe even made it into a SOF unit and failed.

At best, Big Army doesn't know what to do with SF and at worst there are those that outright hate it (Schwarzkopf comes to mind).
 

Viper1

Special Forces
Verified SOF
Joined
Apr 9, 2008
Messages
2,458
Location
Cajun Land
You want to talk about overdue? The war's been going on since 2001 and in the Captain's Career Course at Benning my class is the FIRST to do a problem set on Afghanistan....seriously something wrong with that picture... :doh:
 
Top