Habitually Offensive Operations Against Guerrillas

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 1 month ago

From the LA Times:

BAGHDAD — Two months after a security crackdown began in the capital, U.S. military deaths appear to be rising, even as fatalities among Iraqi security forces have fallen, U.S. military sources and analysts said.

The U.S. military Tuesday revised to eight its count of American deaths in the capital on Monday, the highest daily toll in a month. In September, 74 U.S. troops died nationwide, about a third of them in Baghdad, according to the military.

U.S. officials and military experts caution that it is too soon to declare a definitive trend, but they said the recent increases could be attributable to U.S. troops’ greater exposure to combat since redeploying in early August from heavily guarded bases to Baghdad’s streets. Their mission is to stem sectarian bloodshed involving Shiite paramilitaries and Sunni Arab insurgents.

“When you’re conducting operations and you’ve doubled the number of troops doing operations in Baghdad, there is more opportunity — as there is much more activity as they go into more neighborhoods — for attacks to occur and casualties to result,” U.S. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said.

This statement about redeploying from heavily gaurded bases (a defensive strategy designed to minimize casualties) is interesting in juxtaposition with this statement from Section 2-9 of the Small Wars Manual.

Tactical operations of regular troops against guerrillas in small wars are habitually offensive.  Even though operating under a strategic defensive campaign plan, regular combatants in contact with hostile forces will emphasize the principal of the offensive to gain psychological supremacy.  Isolated forces exposed to possible attack by overwhelming numbers must be well protected in positions prepared to develop the greatest possible effect of their weapons.  Reverses, particularly at first, must be avoided at all costs.  [Bold and italics are mine]

So when did we go on the defensive in Iraq?

  • http://editcopy.blogspot.com Chris

    We definitely cut down patrols at some point. I can’t exactly pinpoint it. It was before the Samarra shrine was destroyed.

    An important aspect of counterinsurgency, according to many, is to establish the impression that the COIN force will be in the region for the long haul. We’ve certainly not been doing that.

  • http://editcopy.blogspot.com Chris

    And then there is this from June’s draft of the field manual:

    1-124. Ultimate success in COIN is gained by protecting the populace, not the COIN force. If military
    forces stay locked up in compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared, and cede
    the initiative to the insurgents. Patrols must be conducted, risk must be shared, and contact maintained.
    This ensures access to the intelligence needed to drive operations and reinforces the connections with the people that establish real legitimacy.


You are currently reading "Habitually Offensive Operations Against Guerrillas", entry #320 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Small Wars,Weapons and Tactics and was published October 4th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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