For more than a quarter century, counterinsurgency was relegated to the backwater of Army missions—a backwater populated only by a few individuals wearing green berets. Suddenly, COIN sprang to the forefront in 2003 in Iraq with fighting around Nasiriyah and Najaf and the killing of four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah in March 2004. In response to a recognition that the US Army had no current COIN doctrine, the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth produced an interim field manual, FM(I) 3-07.22 Counterinsurgency Operations by September of that year with the final manual FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency being published in December 2006.
Doctrine has no value unless it can be promulgated and units can be trained in its precepts. As a result of new interest in an old form of warfare, organizations to collect and examine lessons learned came into being. The National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center revamped their scenarios from a Soviet-type threat to counterinsurgency. Army educational institutions began to incorporate COIN instruction into their curricula. General George Casey created the Counterinsurgency Center for Excellence in Iraq and Lieutenants General David Petraeus and James Mattis established the Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center at Fort Leavenworth.
Despite the resurgence of COIN within the Army, guidance to inform training for that resurgence was lacking. The only guidance that addressed areas where COIN-specific training might be required was not published until 2008 and that was from the US commander in Iraq, GEN Petraeus. In Afghanistan GEN Stanley McChrystal’s 10 November 2009 COIN training guidance had a significant impact on Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Six months later, referencing that guidance, he directed that “all military and civilian personnel deploying to Afghanistan [be] trained to joint theater-specific COIN qualification standards….” The difficulty was that no such qualification standards existed. In that 24 May 2010 memorandum, Gates directed the Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance (JCISFA) at Fort Leavenworth to establish those standards. JCISFA officers briefed GEN Petraeus in August; he approved nine standards with 52 sub-tasks; and, on 23 November 2010, Secretary Gates “directed the Service Secretaries to fully implement these standards in predeployment training programs….”
The nine standards are: (1) Receive basic individual Afghan-specific COIN education; (2) Understand the operational environment; (3) Conduct relief in place; (4) Conduct decentralized operations; (5) Partner with Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF); (6) Conduct information operations; (7) Create conditions for stability; (8) Conduct detainee operations; and (9) Develop a learning organization. A sample of the 52 sub-tasks associated with those tasks are: Explain COIN fundamentals, Understand governance at the local level; Avoid civilian casualties; Train ANSF partner; and Conduct key leader engagements.
The Army is now developing a strategy to provide instruction and training on the approved standards to all deploying units. Forces Command is determining where training on many of these standards should occur—home station, Joint Readiness Training Center, National Training Center. Several years ago Training and Doctrine Command had directed the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth to provide a COIN seminar to every brigade combat team deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. A variant of that mission has been performed through the Battle Command Training Program at Leavenworth, but, beginning in May 2011, the Counterinsurgency Center will assume the mission. Although still evolving, the latest draft program of instruction for the seminars will address 27 of the 52 sub-tasks.
In an interview with Defense News, COL Dan Roper, director of the Army COIN Center, summarized the effects of the standards. “What this document does is, in one place, it gives a unit preparing to deploy these specific tasks and subtasks that [Petraeus] felt were important enough both for him to approve and for him to send it to the Secretary of Defense,” Roper said. “That’s not insignificant.”
The nine tasks will focus the commanders of deploying units on those mission essential tasks that their units must accomplish in a COIN operational environment. The COIN Center has proposed that the seminar be conducted during the earliest phase of the pre-deployment schedule to enable commanders to tailor their training to incorporate COIN theory, doctrine, and best practices. Conducting the seminar at the earliest possible point will also allow commanders to issue and refine their planning guidance as they develop their campaign plan. An additional benefit of the seminar is that the commanders and staff will be exposed to other organizations and individuals who will be present in the unit’s area of operations. Deploying commanders can then contact those organizations for additional training and instruction on an “as needed” basis.
Unlike the era from the early 1960s through the early 2000s, COIN is now a mission that the entire Army, not just the Special Operations Forces, must master. The importance of that mastery has been clearly stated by Secretary Gates: “Units and individuals (both military and civilian) preparing to serve in Afghanistan must understand COIN and routinely assess the effectiveness of these standards in actual operational conditions.” It is the mission of the Army Counterinsurgency Center to assist those deploying soldiers and civilians to do just that.
By Richard. L. Kiper, Ph.D., Booz Allen Hamilton, under contract to U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Center. This statement is my own and does not constitute an endorsement by or opinion of the Department of Defense.