08 June 2012

Rearranging US Forces Away From COIN

How is the US going to re-orient away from COIN? And what will that future look like? StratFor offers some thoughts:

Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that the U.S. military is not very good at counterinsurgency. One could argue that the United States should improve its counterinsurgency capabilities, but there is little evidence that it could master such capabilities. There is, however, another form of light infantry warfare to consider, and it is a form of warfare the United States is good at. The alternative does not seek to win over the population but is designed to achieve very definable military objectives, from the destruction of facilities to harassing, engaging and possibly destroying enemy forces, including insurgents.

Special Operations Forces are highly useful for meeting these objectives, but we should also include other types of forces. The U.S. Marine Corps is one such example. Rather than occupying territory, and certainly rather than trying to change public opinion, these forces have a conventional mission carried out in relatively small unit operations. Their goal is to assert military force in highly defined if limited missions designed to bypass the population and strike at the opposition's capabilities. This is exemplified best in counterterrorist operations or the assault on specific facilities. These operations are cheap and do not require occupation. More important, these operations are designed to terminate without incurring political cost -- the bane of prolonged counterinsurgency operations. The alternative to counterinsurgency is to avoid occupational warfare by rigorously defining more limited missions.

To illustrate these operations, consider what we regard as a major emerging threat: Non-state actors potentially acquiring land-based anti-ship missiles. Globalism brings with it intensified maritime trade. Meanwhile, we have seen the dissemination of many weapons to non-state actors. It is easy to imagine that the next stage of diffusion would be mobile, land-based anti-ship missiles. A guerrilla group or insurgency, armed with such weapons, could take advantage of land cover for mobility but strike at naval vessels. In fact, we have already seen several instances where groups employ this strategy. Hezbollah did so in operations against Israel in 2006. Pirates off the coast of Africa are a non-state threat to maritime shipping, though they have yet to use such weapons. Likewise, we see this potential in suicide boat bombs launched from the coast of Yemen.

By: Brant

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