Troops Want a Return to COIN in Afghanistan
Some of the recent criticism of the Stryker in Afghanistan, that hearkens back to the original complaints of the entire LAV concept, is now becoming clearer. Recall that the initial controversy was that the Stryker wasn’t a tank, or a heavily armed and armored tracked IFV, which could ride in with guns a blazing, destroying all in its path. Stryker was more of a mindset that a concept. Instead of being a platform centric force you depend more on your infantry.
The conventional mindset would use its vulnerable infantry to go after the enemy, in so-called “counter-guerrilla” operations. This is OK if your enemy is clearly defined as on a conventional battlefield. For the counter-insurgent, it is not so simple, sending them Somme-like against such an elusive but well armed foe. Most likely if you use tanks and IFVs in such a situation, you would still need infantry to defend yourself, end up facing anti-tank weapons like missiles and mines, or otherwise blow everything up including civilians and insurgents.
Bringing us to this important post from Army Times, that the boots on the ground in the Afghan are evidently taking casualties not for their lack of certain vehicles, but because their commanders insist on chasing the enemy in the traditional Army manner, instead of protecting the population in a proper COIN strategy. Here is Sean D. Naylor’s report:
The vicious struggle in and around the Arghandab since the battalion’s arrival has killed 21 1/17 soldiers and more than 50 insurgents, led to a popular company commander’s controversial replacement and raised questions about the best role for Stryker units in Afghanistan.
It has also caused the soldiers at the tip of the spear that the United States hurled into the Arghandab to accuse their battalion and brigade commanders of not following the guidance of senior coalition commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal to adopt a “population-centric” counterinsurgency approach.
Much of the training the 1/17 learned the hard way in Iraq failed them in the Afghan theater:
“We trained [in] urban fighting in Iraq and then they give us Afghanistan,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Hughes, Weapons Squad leader in 1st Platoon, Charlie Company. “The principles are the same but the details are day-and-night different, and we’ve learned that the hard way over the last almost five months.”
Though the higher ups insist they have taken the lessons of counter-insurgency to heart, the casualties and the troops themselves speak otherwise:
1/17 soldiers said that a major factor behind the battalion’s difficulties in the Arghandab was the failure of their battalion and brigade commanders to adhere to McChrystal’s published counterinsurgency guidance, which states up front: “Protecting the people is the mission. The conflict will not be won by destroying the enemy.”
I would be the first to admit the Stryker is obsolete when its time comes. So far I see no evidence of that, while there is clearly evidence that massive indiscriminate firepower is no longer the answer on the battlefield. To survive on the modern battlefield, we must accept and adapt to the new ways of warfare, instead of trying to fit our 3rd and even 2nd Generation Warfare plans into the COIN concept.