Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Command on the Somme vs. COIN in Afghanistan

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Command on the Somme vs. COIN in Afghanistan

    Interesting posts on foreignpolicy.com about the difficulties of COIN and how it compares to conventional war.

    From Waziristan (V): It can even tell us a bit about our current COIN debate:

    Roe in his book on Waziristan notes that the British in the 1930s had their own debate, similar to the one inside our military now, about whether they were too focused on small wars. As one officer wrote in 1932,
    Surely no one wants an army trained on North-West Frontier lines only... Any tendency towards specialization for mountain warfare operations on the North-West Frontier must be resisted. These are a very small part of the Army's possible commitments, and specialization means a waste of part of our already very small army.
    and

    On the other hand, in support of those who say that counterinsurgency is more difficult than conventional warfare is the testimony of an officer who fought in Gallipoli and France during World War I and then against Pashtuns in Waziristan: "I soon came to the conclusion that commanding a Company in Waziristan was far more difficult than commanding a Battalion in France."
    And a counterpoint is included in a follow-up post, COIN and the Somme:

    Oh please, commented Army Col. Gian Gentile in last week's robust discussion of the institutional Army and counterinsurgency. Don't go on, he chided, about how counterinsurgency is harder than high-intensity conflict. He begins with the Somme: "But coin, Ramadi, now that is the graduate level of war. You sound like Bob Cassidy in his outlandish claim that Counterinsurgency is more 'difficult' than conventional warfare. come on, get real."

  • #2
    I wrote a fairly detailed answer to this and then lost it but let's try again!

    I genuinely don't think you can say one is harder than the other, it's like comparing American football and rugby, they both have their own challenges. On a very basic level conventional warfare is simpler, you know who the enemy are, roughly where they are and if you kill enough of them (or indeed a few of the right people) you win. In coin, aside from all the normal logistical and strategic considerations of conventional warfare you have a myriad of other factors to do with public perception in the AO, the causes of the insurgency, local squabbles and any number of other things you may not face in a conventional conflict. Hence on a strategic lever, well COIN is clearly more complex.

    From a junior commanders point of view though, there are certainly different stresses. In conventional warfare you tend to have to contend with air and IDF threats, not so much in coin. On the other hand it is generally possible to have relatively 'safe' areas in conventional warfare whilst in many areas of Afghanistan you need to be on the lookout for IEDs as soon as you leave the gate. Plus of course there is the difficulty associated with treating locals well when you know full well they might well be the enemy (we accidentally had a local Taliban commander to tea, less funny at the time than it seems now, since we had 'closure' on the matter.

    On a very personal level, there is something fundamentally terrifying about patrolling knowing that each step could mean your last one on two legs (name that song) but how different is that to my grandfathers in ww1 and ww2? On the other hand my grandfather was fighting nearly constantly for 4 years, my great grandfather was buried alive in Flanders mud on a regular basis, I'm lieing in bed surfing the net and planning for when I get home in a couple of months. I'm under no delusions about which of us has had the easier ride!
    "Little pigs, little pigs, I've come to nick your tele!"

    Comment


    • #3
      (name that song)
      I Was Only 19 by Redgum?

      Comment


      • #4
        Well done, your prize is... er... In the post...
        "Little pigs, little pigs, I've come to nick your tele!"

        Comment


        • #5
          In 1919, an Indian battalion was almost overun by the Mehsuds (stiill the leading nuisance in the area), and suffered Westrn Front scale losses. It was described as the worst defeatt he British ever suffered on the NW Frontier.

          Naturally there was an inquiry. One of their main findings was that the battalion was adequately trained for the W Front but not for the rigours of Frontier Warfare. Subsequently, throughout the 1930s, the British took to rotating Brit units through the NW Frontier, most regarded it as entirely beneficial.

          Comment


          • #6
            The name of the game, especially for smaller forces like the British Army, US Army, USMC, is operational and tactical flexibility. These days the same rifle company can be conducting mounted patrols through the hills, valleys, and villages of Kandahar province, a few weeks later knocking on doors and chasing al Qaeda associates throught the streets of Fallujah, and a few weeks later handing out HUMRATS to Indian Ocean tsunami survivors, or establishing a hospital for Haiti earthquake victims -- and they still have to be prepared for hitting beaches in Shanghai or Inchon! The modern British or American soldier has to be not only a jack of all trades, but he has to be a master of them, as well. Our countries' choice of weapons reflects this: the M16/M4 and the British L85 leave a lot to be disired as rifles, and they leave a lot to be desired as automatic weapons, but they do enough things well enough that they're tolerated by our leaderships. Upon the shoulders of the private soldier that might seem a heavy load, but upon his officers and political leaders, the responsibility rests for budgeting and arranging all kinds of practical training. Even with today's punishing operational tempo, training for various environments and missions cannot be be skimped-on: as cliché as it sounds, no one ever knows what tomorrow may bring.
            I was married for two ******* years! Hell would be like Club Med! - Sam Kinison

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by slick_miester View Post
              The name of the game, especially for smaller forces like the British Army, US Army, USMC, is operational and tactical flexibility. These days the same rifle company can be conducting mounted patrols through the hills, valleys, and villages of Kandahar province, a few weeks later knocking on doors and chasing al Qaeda associates throught the streets of Fallujah, and a few weeks later handing out HUMRATS to Indian Ocean tsunami survivors, or establishing a hospital for Haiti earthquake victims -- and they still have to be prepared for hitting beaches in Shanghai or Inchon! The modern British or American soldier has to be not only a jack of all trades, but he has to be a master of them, as well. Our countries' choice of weapons reflects this: the M16/M4 and the British L85 leave a lot to be disired as rifles, and they leave a lot to be desired as automatic weapons, but they do enough things well enough that they're tolerated by our leaderships. Upon the shoulders of the private soldier that might seem a heavy load, but upon his officers and political leaders, the responsibility rests for budgeting and arranging all kinds of practical training. Even with today's punishing operational tempo, training for various environments and missions cannot be be skimped-on: as cliché as it sounds, no one ever knows what tomorrow may bring.
              Speaking of the M16/M4, the old debate about the 5.56 NATO round has popped up again as a result of the fighting in Afghanistan. From the Times Online is the following article
              Americans outgunned by Taleban’s AK47s:

              The future of the standard issue infantry rifle used by American troops in Afghanistan is under review amid concerns that it is the wrong weapon for the job.

              With its light bullets the M4 rifle lacks sufficient velocity and killing power in long-range firefights, leaving US troops outgunned by the Taleban and their AK47 Kalashnikovs and the old Russian SVD sniper rifle.

              British Forces face the same dilemma but the Ministry of Defence said yesterday that there was no plan to review the SA80A2 rifle, which fires the same Nato 5.56mm calibre rounds as its US counterpart. “We constantly review all of our capabilities,” a spokesman said.
              The rest of the article is linked above.

              Comment

              Latest Topics

              Collapse

              Working...
              X