Mar 10, 2008

Woes of GWOT: Wailing and Wishes

Soon to retire Lt. Col. John A. Nagl, commander of the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor, at Fort Riley, Kansas and co-author of The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual weighs in on the woes of GWOT at WaPo. The Lt. Col. fields a wish list of tweaks & remedies for GWOT. One, maybe two, of his suggestions might come to be enacted upon. The rest will in all likelihood remain the unheeded wisdom & wailing of weathered elder. Our skewing excerpts below:

The hard lesson of this tragedy is clear: Foreign forces cannot win a counterinsurgency campaign on their own.


[L]ast year's military successes in Iraq came at a very high price. The "surge" of five brigades and the extension of Army combat tours in Iraq from 12 to 15 months has strained the Army to the breaking point. Neither the Army nor the Marine Corps has a reserve of ground troops to handle other crises. Meanwhile, the Taliban is regaining strength in Afghanistan and the lawless border regions of Pakistan, and the opium production that funds their insurgency hit record highs last year.


For starters, we must shore up Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recently committed 3,000 more desperately needed Marines to Afghanistan, beginning next month. But it would take an increase of more than 100,000 soldiers and Marines to give NATO commanders in Afghanistan the force ratios that Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has enjoyed. We don't have the troops.

The best short-term solution is rapidly expanding the Iraqi and Afghan security forces to hold towns cleared by U.S. forces. Local forces, stiffened by foreign advisers, have historically been the keys to success in counterinsurgency warfare. As such, I've been among the serving officers and veterans who've urged the U.S. Army to create a standing Adviser Corps.

But even greatly expanding and institutionalizing the role of advisers cannot win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Insurgencies are ultimately inspired by ideas, and defeating the Iraqi insurgency will require a counter-narrative -- backed up by robust economic development, a solid and committed government in Baghdad, and providing the Iraqi people with basic services such as water, electricity and (above all) security. As such, the single most important step the United States could take toward victory is re-creating an information agency to discredit our enemies' narratives and amplify those of our allies. For starters, we should let the Muslim world know about atrocities committed by our foes[.]


The Army and Marine Corps are exhausted and desperately need time and money to rebuild. That's not likely; keeping up the security the United States purchased at such a high price in Iraq last year will require committing tens of thousands of U.S. ground forces for several more years at least -- and maintaining a significant presence in Iraq for a decade or more. Achieving a similar success in Afghanistan will mean deploying tens of thousands more troops (and not just from our NATO allies) for similarly long hauls.


[T]he United States is engaged in a war on many fronts for which it is not properly mobilized. Iraq and Afghanistan don't just need more advisers from the Army and the Marine Corps; they need more help from the State Department and the Justice Department, too.

Above all, we soldiers need the American people to understand that counterinsurgency is slow, painstaking work that requires serious patience. (...) These will be long wars.

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