Next COIN manual tries to take commanders beyond Iraq and Afghanistan

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Andrew Crisp, right, of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment interviews an Afghan man during Operation Grizzly in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on July 18, 2013. Lessons learned from counterinsurgency operations like this are being added to the new Army and Marine Corps COIN manual, which is due to be released in May 2014.


By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 18, 2014

Lessons learned the hard way in Afghanistan and Iraq are part of a new U.S. Army and Marine Corps’ counterinsurgency field manual that emphasizes how to prevent insurgencies as well as fight them.

Due for release next month, the document updates a 2006 version of the manual developed by David Petraeus, retired Army general and former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unlike the old manual, which laid out the tactics that Petraeus implemented with some success in Iraq, the new one will give soldiers COIN tools that can be used anywhere in the world, according to Clint Ancker, director of the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

“The previous manual had a lot about tribal politics,” he said. “This takes a much broader approach.”

The new manual is focused on future insurgencies, Ancker said.

“One of our real challenges as we go back to regain some of our atrophied combat capabilities (as troops withdraw from Afghanistan) is not to lose these counterinsurgency capabilities we have gained in the past decade,” he said.

The Army and Marine Corps are refocusing on the skills they’d need to defeat a conventional force armed with advanced weapons such as tanks and artillery rather than the lightly armed guerilla fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new manual provides a broad overview of COIN. Six follow-up publications will explain specific techniques that can be used by troops in the field, he said.

The manual stresses the importance of understanding the strategic context, the local culture and the operational environment associated with an insurgency.

In addition to lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, it draws on experiences — British forces battling communists in Malaya in the 1950s and Americans in Vietnam and Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s — that were a feature of the “Petraeus” manual, he said.

The new manual deals with “clear and hold” operations, such as those used in Iraq and Afghanistan to remove insurgents and win the support of the people for the government, but it also looks at approaches designed to forestall insurgencies, Ancker said.

For example, it talks about “generational engagement” — targeting local young people to try to understand their needs to forestall an insurgency, he said.

That’s the sort of thing that U.S. personnel are likely to pass on to foreign troops during exercises with America’s friends and allies. Post-Afghanistan, U.S. troops will spend more time in other countries where there is the potential for insurgencies, he said.

“Regionally aligned brigades will build capacity of partner nations both to deal with insurgencies but also to prevent them from occurring,” Ancker said. “We would expect them to be looking at this manual when they are deploying.”

The new manual will help U.S. troops teach foreign soldiers to counter insurgent threats, defeat improvised explosive devices and mitigate civilian casualties during an insurgency, he said.

Topics, such as logistics and ethics, which were covered in the old manual, are left out of the new version, Ancker said.

Some of that information is covered by other new manuals, and ethics has been the subject of an Army campaign following questionable behavior by a large group of high-ranking officers, including Petraeus, who resigned from his post as Central Intelligence Agency director in 2012 after an extramarital affair.

The Army and Marine Corps won’t train leaders to be experts in every sort of operation. Instead, they will make information about things such as COIN available and let leaders know how to get it, he said.

“We are probably not going to train people specifically on counter insurgency on a large scale,” he said. “Certainly not at the level that we did in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The manual will be released, subject to Marine and Army commanders’ approval, late next month and made available to the public at apd.army.mil.

However, David Johnson, a former Army lieutenant colonel who is executive director of the Center for Advanced Defense Studies in Washington, said there’s debate over whether a counter-insurgency manual has any place in the thought process of a non-empire or colony-holding power.

“A more useful military manual might be one that addresses ‘Counter-Unconventional Warfare,’” he said. “This would focus legitimate efforts to stop a foreign-sponsored insurgency in a friendly nation.”

COIN in other countries isn’t America’s job, said Johnson, who warned that U.S. support for a government engaged in such a conflict might undermine its standing in the eyes of its people.

“If a … government refuses to address the legitimate concerns of their people … there may be nothing a U.S. effort can or should do to ensure the survival of the government.”

Twitter: @SethRobson1

Sgt. Michael Trevino, personal security detail, non-comissioned officer, 172nd Infantry Brigade, utilizes a foot bridge to cross a swollen river outside of the village of Marzak while locals wash clothing on the far bank. Marzak has historically been a stronghold for the insurgency over the past decade until the Afghan and U.S forces took advantage of the winter months to establish a local police force at the request of the elders and secure the village from foreign fighters who transit the area during the fighting season.