By Walter Pincus
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
President Obama declared on March 27 that "we are not in Afghanistan to control that country," yet "establish civil control" is high on the list of seven major tasks contained in a new U.S. Army field manual titled "Tactics in Counterinsurgency."
The 300-page manual, reviewed last week by The Washington Post, describes in detail what U.S. commanders at the battalion and company levels should do in counterinsurgencies such as the one in Afghanistan. The manual says establishing civil control requires plans to "secure the populations and areas that remain loyal; reclaim the populations and areas that support the insurgency; and eliminate the insurgency, politically, militarily and philosophically."
The other six tasks detailed in the manual, referred to as "lines of effort," include "support host nation forces, support governance, restore essential services, support economic and infrastructure development and conduct information engagement."
While the manual is subject to the final approval of Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey, it "captures the best things that are going on right now," said one officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the volume has not been officially released. The manual had been available on the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center's Web site. But after The Post raised questions about its contents last week, it was taken down.
Within the Army, such manuals are considered tool kits for potential courses of action that have worked in similar situations, in this case in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to several officers who are familiar with its contents. The manual calls counterinsurgency "an armed struggle for the support of the population" that can require operations that range "from killing or capturing an insurgent cell known to emplace IEDs [improvised explosive devices], to solving unemployment in an area, to publicizing the opening of a water treatment facility."
In establishing "civil security" -- the Army differentiates it from "civil control" and lists it the No. 1 task -- the manual reflects the Obama administration's rationale for adding 17,000 U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan in the coming months. The manual lists the next step as establishing civil control, which it says "channels the population's activities to allow provision of security and essential services while coexisting with a military force conducting operations."
The "targeting insurgents" section of the manual makes clear that in counterinsurgency planning, commanders should focus not just on the bad guys but also on the host nation's political, tribal and military leaders. "Lethal assets are normally employed against targets with operations to capture or kill," the manual says, specifying insurgent leaders, guerrillas and underground members.
"Non-lethal assets," according to the manual, include use of propaganda, negotiations, or political, economic or social programs to be used in dealing with "targets" identified as community leaders, insurgents who can be turned moderate and "corrupt host-nation leaders who may have to be replaced."
One tactic discussed is "search and attack," an effort used when intelligence locates insurgents or enemy units and a commander believes he can use combat units to destroy them. Another tactic, "cordon and search," is more standard and is used to seal off an area in order to search for people, arms or intelligence.
Often, two 360-degree cordons are used. An outer one keeps disruptive people from entering the overall area while the inner one prevents people from leaving or communicating with others outside the search area. The basic search team consists of two or more people who conduct the actual search and others who provide security for them.
The manual describes two basic methods: "cordon and knock" and "cordon and enter." Key factors in considering which to use are "the enemy threat, the local populace support, the level of intelligence available, and the capabilities of the host nation security force." Both methods require speed and surprise.
When the local people are friendly or neutral, and the goal is to cause less of a disruption, the knock approach is taken. In this case, occupants can be asked to leave the building before the search takes place. But, the manual states, "if the occupants refuse to exit, or if the ground commander believes that the potential exists for an insurgent encounter, he may escalate to cordon and enter."
The latter, intrusive approach could be either a soldier opening a door without permission, surreptitiously opening a door lock or blowing it open in order to allow "units to maintain the initiative over a potentially unknown insurgent force," the manual states. Host-nation personnel are not required since approval to enter is not sought.
Members of the recommended search team would include intelligence and psychological warfare personnel along with law enforcement specialists and female searchers, because, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, "few cultures tolerate males searching females." Local-language broadcasters could be used in the "cordon and knock" situation where loudspeakers "can help inform and control the population."