10 years ago
Jihadists and their supporters are reading and mocking the Pentagon’s new counterinsurgency field manual, which was released publicly and posted on several Department of Defense Web sites Friday even though it addresses such sensitive topics as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting.
One Arabic-language jihadist Web site linking to the Pentagon’s 282-page counterinsurgency manual is Tajdeed.net, which routinely calls for the killing of U.S. and British forces in Iraq; praises bin Laden, al Qaeda, and the 9/11 attacks; and whose sponsor, Mohamed al Massari, has called for the assassination of George Bush and Tony Blair.
Al Massari, an expatriate Saudi dissident, and his jihadist Web site are based in Britain, where he lives despite calls by some British leaders for Al Massari’s deportation or arrest.
On the same Tajdeed Web page providing a link to the Pentagon’s new counterinsurgency manual (linked from a related Reuters story posted on the site), there is a gruesome photo of the body of a U.S. Air Force pilot whose parachute is still strapped to his back (apparently Major Troy Gilbert, whose plane went down north of Baghdad in late November).
Next to that photo is a computer-generated smiley face with these words in Arabic: “This one won’t be reading the manual.”
The Arabic-language Tajdeed message board posting is headed: “The American occupation publishes a booklet containing directives to its soldiers on facing the mujahadeen.”
Notable Arabic-language comments from readers of the Tajdeed posting include “Bless you, you who have broken the U.S. and its military and made it resort to booklets.” Also: “The Pentagon is distributing the booklet to save whatever is left of it!,” referring to the U.S. military.
As of 0015et (0815 Iraq time) Monday, 363 people had read the Arabic-language message board containing the link to the manual and the photo of the dead U.S. airman.
The Tajdeed Web site also showcases gory videos of attacks against western targets in Iraq, provides de facto insurgent training manuals, and provides tips for jihadis on how to sneak into Iraq.
Initial reaction to the Pentagon’s global, unrestricted distribution of the counterinsurgency field manual was one of disbelief.
One British private security contractor with employees in Iraq said: “Only in the land of the free could (such) a handbook be produced and issued to the enemy.” The contractor spoke on the condition of anonymity because his company works with the U.S. military.
I have been critical of the COIN manual. In War, Counterinsurgency and Prolonged Operations, I contrasted FM 3-24 with both Sun Tzu (The Art of War) and the Small Wars Manual, regarding the understanding of both of the later of the effect of prolonged operations on the morale of the warrior, and the reticence of the former on the same subject. In Snipers Having Tragic Success Against U.S. Troops (still a well-visited post), I made the observation that while snipers were one of two main prongs of insurgent success in Iraq (IEDs being the other), FM 3-24 did not contain one instance of the use of the word sniper (at the time I assessed the draft manual, but the longer, final version suffers the same flaw).
The manual is written more on a doctrinal than tactical level. It contains broad, sweeping prose on strategical approach, devolving into platitudinous ramblings in places. Frankly, it is difficult for me to see the advantage that the insurgent might gain by knowing its content. Body armor improvements and, on the tactical level, things such as satellite patrols, are much more important to the soldier or marine in the field than what FM 3-24 says or doesn’t say.
It would be more detrimental for the Small Wars Manual to fall into the hands of the enemy, if we had followed its counsel (e.g., increasing force size to match the threat, disarming the public, etc.), but of course, it is too late to recall it from the public domain.
In the end, it is true that the openness of the American culture has hindered the war effort. But the lesson of this story is not that FM 3-24 should have been OPSEC. It was released into the public domain for a reason. However, the fact that the British will not deport the individual responsible for this web site points to the robust existence of a pre-9/11 fantasy in which, to the Brits, the blogger is apparently just some boyish amateur rather than a part of jihadism and therefore a mortal danger to the survival of the west.
I am more concerned about the blogger than FM 3-24 or what happens to it.