2 years, 6 months ago
I have previously discussed the notion of offensive posture in small unit maneuver warfare in Afghanistan.
In Odd Things in Counterinsurgency after detailing a Marine unit’s all-day efforts to locate a local elder’s home in order to befriend him (when in fact neither he nor his people wanted him to be located), I observed the following:
This effort is misplaced. It would have been more effective to kill insurgents, make their presence known, meet villagers, find weapons caches, question young men, and interrogate prisoners (or potential prisoners). They have given no reason for this tribal leader to ally himself with the Marines. The Marines haven’t yet shown that they are there to win. When the Marines get the Taliban on the defensive, the tribal leader will more than likely come to the Marines rather than the Marine searching him out.
The next patrol should focus on those fighters who were setting up the ambush. Send a few Scout Snipers that direction. Flank the insurgents with a squad or fire team, and approach the area where these men are supposed to be doing their nefarious deeds. Find them, kill them. Do this enough and the Marines won’t have to search out the leaders. Then it will be time to sit down and drink tea. This is the recipe for success.
In the same province there is another example to study.
PressZoom) – NAWA, Afghanistan (Oct. 21, 2010) — The men of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, have spent enough time in Afghanistan to understand some of the workings of the Taliban presence there.
There’s no denying they’re fighting a crafty enemy. Combatants will usually engage the American and Afghan forces from a well-concealed position, and then dispose of their weapons as they flee. They don’t stay for long-drawn out battles.
They shoot and run.
And so during Operation Black Tip, Oct. 14, India Company saw much of what they’ve grown accustomed to — shooting and running. Except this time, it was a little different.
When Sgt. Bryan Brown’s squad started taking fire, they were the ones who ran. They ran toward the bullets. They ran to the enemy’s position to take away his ability to flee.
“It’s always impressive to see Marines running toward fire,” said 1st Sgt. William Pinkerton, the India Company first sergeant.
Not that the enemy didn’t try to run away, but a well-placed sniper team left them with limited escape options. The snipers suspect they killed one enemy combatant and wounded another, Pinkerton said.
The Marines are growing in their application of small unit tactics in the Helmand Province. Not long after I observed that a different approach was needed the Marines showed that they were adapting to their environment.
Tim Lynch gives us yet another great example of the efficiency and effectiveness of U.S. Marine Corps small unit maneuver warfare in Afghanistan.
The 2nd Battalion 6th Marines is currently responsible for the southern, central and some of the northern portions of Marjah which is actually a series of villages organized around a gigantic grid of canals which were built by US AID back in the 60’s. They are expanding their control block by block by spreading their Marines out into platoon and squad size outposts from which Marines foot patrol constantly. The villains still offer battle but only on their terms which means they will fire on a patrol only when they have set up IED’s between their positions and the Marines. When the Marines came back to Afghanistan in 2008 the Taliban had forgotten that they were not like other infantry. The Marines maneuver when fired upon closing with and destroying those stupid enough to take them on. After getting mauled time and again the Taliban learned to use small arms fire to augment IED blasts in an attempt to lure aggressive Marines into mine fields full of more improvised explosive devices. Now the Marines maneuver to fix and then swarm with other units coming in from a different direction or with precision fire from drones. To facilitate this they establish multiple small postions – partrol from them constantly and then push out to establish more small bases once the area they are working comes under their control.
This is outstanding reporting and analysis by Tim. He has titled his post “Healing Ulcer” (so much for General McChrystal’s stupid notion of Marjah being a bleeding ulcer). The entire Helmand Province is tough, and Sangin is especially tough right now. A year ago and two years ago it was Now Zad. But the Marines must have time and the commitment of the brass and the country – and more troops – and they will succeed and prevail. They are the best troops in the world at small unit maneuver warfare, and their efforts in Helmand prove that once again.