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UK Officer Slams US Iraq Tactics

Fri Jan 13, 2006 12:23 am

I am not sure if this is old news or not.

Link to the full article in the Military Review

Once on the website go to '2 Changing the Army for Counterinsurgency Operations'

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RE: UK Officer Slams US Iraq Tactics

Fri Jan 13, 2006 12:46 am

While the army is "indisputably the master of conventional war fighting, it is notably less proficient in... what the US defence community often calls Operations Other Than War," the officer wrote.

This has always been known, as far as I know. Armies are trained to capture territory, not hold hands once they get there.

It doesn't excuse that we didn't plan for what we were going to do once we got there, however, and I don't see that as a focus of the article.
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RE: UK Officer Slams US Iraq Tactics

Fri Jan 13, 2006 4:22 am

This Officer is only repeating what a lot of officers and even a Prime Minister has alluded to (apparently to GWB in private).

Note he praises many of the US Army's very great strengths.

But, many in the UK military ARE shocked that jet fighters, heavy artillery etc, is used in a Counter Insurgency op.
When, inevitably, there are many civilians around.
A smart bomb still has 500 or 1000lb of high explosive, used in a built up area it will devastating.

Now, many will say "yeah, but the Brits had it relatively easy in their area, they don't have a Sunni Triangle".
Fair comment, but in Summer 2004 in Basra, when Al-Sadar's barmy army attempted an uprising, UK forces expended more bullets in a month than they have since the large scale, all arms, Korean War, 1950-53.

This is where that guy got his Victoria Cross, you don't get them in anything but a major engagement.
But, no use of strike aircraft, no use of heavy artillery, only limited use, in open areas, of 81mm mortars.
Very sparing use of the Warrior APC's 30mm cannon.
Al-Sadar's boys were duly suppressed.

A few Challenger tanks are still in theatre, but more of a deliberate, intimidating presence.

Long experience in limited/counter insurgency efforts, from Malaya to the Radfan, from Borneo to Oman, from Cyprus to Northern Ireland, have convinced the UK forces that more often than not, less is more, that intel is vital, or you are sunk.
Hence 'Hearts and Minds', often derided as 'soft', yet from that comes the vital intel.

UK forces in Iraq, when possible, do not wear soft hats/regimental berets, not have sunglasses, for the fun of it, (Arab culture requires looking into the eyes at those you are talking to).
Even the youngest Privates are taught some Arabic words, usually greetings, certain cultural issues during searches, avoid going in mob handed when possible.

The British fear, and there is evidence to bear this out (while the worst, deadliest attacks are from a small number of foreign fanatics, the majority are from disgruntled Iraqis), that heavy handed tactics have created much more resentment, thus meaning an increasingly hostile population, no decent intel, plenty of recruitment for the insurgents.

But, the 50 odd years of these sorts of ops have given the UK an advantage, a unique perspective, unrivalled experience, which the US forces just have not had, through no real fault of their own.
So many of the perceived errors are maybe understandable, or were in 2003 at least.

It's hard to do, in many ways all out conventional warfare IS easier, even with all that experience, the UK forces had to re-learn much of it in the early stages of Northern Ireland.
However, they also proved that being adept at limited/counter insurgency ops, is not a barrier to retaining skills in more conventional battles, Korea, Falklands, Desert Storm 1991, Iraq 2003, proved this.

It is to be hoped that the US forces will take this article as it was intended, not to mock, not to score points, but as friendly advice.
Because like it or not, these sorts of operations will always be more common place, as well as much more likely, than full on conventional battles, for everyone.
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RE: UK Officer Slams US Iraq Tactics

Fri Jan 13, 2006 4:46 am

Quoting AeroWesty (Reply 1):
Armies are trained to capture territory

that's the censored explanation... more fundamentally, they're trained to kill people and break sh!t.
Faire du ciel le plus bel endroit de la terre c'est impossible sans Concorde!
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RE: UK Officer Slams US Iraq Tactics

Fri Jan 13, 2006 4:58 am

Quoting ConcordeBoy (Reply 3):
that's the censored explanation... more fundamentally, they're trained to kill people and break sh!t.

That is exactly the weakness of the current US military: "We don't do nation building!" was a supremely stupid strategic decision by the political leadership, dutifully executed down to the ranks.

The result: Battles are won almost without exception, but most of the rest (including the wars) are lost.

European armies are generally more ready to deal with the aftermath and with the more complicated aspects of a military engagement or an occupation (as in the balkan states).

Just exclusively "killing people and breaking things" will not get you anywhere where you want to be.
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RE: UK Officer Slams US Iraq Tactics

Fri Jan 13, 2006 5:32 am

As stated, the UK is 'lucky', if you can call conflicts that, from post war, often 'De-colonization' experience.
Ever heard of Malaya 1950-60? Borneo 1964-66? Oman 1970-75?
These were to be textbook counter insurgency operations, that they are not well known is part of their success.

Modern armies need to be very flexible, conflict today is not only a TV war, but an internet war too.
Mistakes don't get hidden.

Certain Pentagon people managed to keep the infamous Mai-Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1968, during a media heavy 'TV war' under wraps for a year.
(I am reminded of this by recently reading an obituary of the brave US Army helicopter pilot who was largely responsible for ending it), today a recurrence would be known about, very soon.

Want to know the biggest ever IRA 'victory'?
Not the attempt on Thatcher's life, not huge bomb blasts.
It was 'Bloody Sunday' in 1972, when Paras shot dead 13 protestors/rioters, even if recent evidence indicates they thought they were under fire, that IRA men were in the area, that another Regiment, The Royal Anglians, had their snipers engage suspected IRA gunmen nearby, still does not excuse what happened.

Too many Paras let off too many very high velocity rounds, in a situation that included a crowded demo.
They were there to provide 'snatch squads' to aggressively arrest persistent petrol, acid and blast bomb throwing rioters.
To use the rubber bullet dispensers if needed, (which as the demo turned nasty, they did).
IRA support, funding, recruitment soared as a result.

It took years to recover from that cock up.

Something similar happened in June 2003, when an angry crowd gathered at a US base, manned by 101st Airborne.
14 of the crowd died, guess where it was?

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