Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Strategic Corporals of the New Counterinsurgency

We had the most extraordinary visitor to the Kabul Military Training Center this morning. Dr. David Kilcullen is an Australian Army Special Forces Lt. Col., who is currently on loan to the U.S. Department of State as its Chief Strategist for Counter-Terrorism. He has written a piece that was published in Military Review this spring entitled "28 Articles." It is reflective of a turning of the tide in terms of shifting policy and the way that modern war is being fought. As he was in theater to meet with our ranking officer, Lt. Gen. Eikenberry, I was afforded the opportunity to bring him out to the KMTC to meet with the officers and non-coms that are leading the institutional training and mentoring of the Afghan National Army. What was initially supposed to be a briefing to a small collection of leaders became a briefing to over seventy leaders from the forces of the U.S., U.K., Canada, France and Romania. Service members from the Navy, Air Force, Marines and Army of these nations, as well as the commander of the KMTC, Afghan Brig. Gen. Wardak, listened to one of the most informative presentations any of us had ever heard.

Kilcullen's experience is hardly that of an academic, although he can lay claim to mastery in that realm as well. As a commando with expertise in leading counter-insurgency campaigns in Indonesia, his knowledge comes from direct experience and involvement with leading Timorese irregular fighters in austere conditions and under dire conditions.

His presentation, based on his "28 Articles" which, in turn draws its title from a similar piece by the famous turn of the century master or guerilla warfare, T.E. Lawrence's "27 Articles," presented so much information, I took 16 pages of notes. Revolving around his 28 priciples that he has identified for fighting and winning counter insurgency campaigns, his presentation had such paradigm shattering statements of the obvious as "Rank is nothing, talent is everything" "Start Easy" and "Remember the Global Audience" but were explained with such infinitesimal detail in terms that every soldier in the room regardless of where they were in terms of rank, experience, military service or nationality, could clearly understand. In the words of our Deputy Commander, British Colonel Paul Farrar, "I have been involved in counter-insurgency since I was a young soldier in Northern Ireland in the late seventies. I have never heard a more practical and thorough presentation on fighting counter-insurgency and don't think I shall ever hear anything that should quite compare to what you have just presented. On behalf of all of us, I would like to thank you."

Kilcullen's presentation was just part of our discussion, as it later led to a private discussion of some major shifts in an emerging joint, coalition doctrine for fighting these types of campaigns. It was one of the most intellectually stimulating discussions I have ever had revolving around the concept of modern warfare. Too often those of us that are not in uniform tend to think of warfare exclusively within the frame of it being a series of uncontrollable events that make no sense whether in terms of outcomes or methodology. But Kilcullen's knowledge and mastery of the subject (which according to the very principles of his presentation is a subject that we cannot master) showed all of us that counter-insurgency, while itself is a terrible sequence of eventswithin the scope of war, is something that we ignore at our peril.

Currently the Taliban and other Anti-Government Elements have become masters of recognizing the global stage. As we have known for some time, the center of gravity for the enemy and, indeed partially for ourselves, is the world stage as portrayed by the international media. It is ridiculous to believe that we have a totally unbiased media that are merely reporting pure events without any reflection of opinion or, as many fellow military public affairs officers dangerously refer to as "slant." But the enemy here in Afghanistan and especially in Iraq, are masters of this art that we prove ourselves to remain only novices at. They travel with embedded media teams that sometimes are not only reporters from legitimate media, but merely foot soldiers whose weapon is a Sony video camera rather than a Chinese AK-47.

In a recent article in The Weekly Standard, Michael Yon brilliantly addresses some of these challenges. In his article, this U.S. Special Forces veteran turned embedded photojournalist / milblogger extraordinaire (updated regularly at http://www.michaelyon-online.com), exposes how little our strategic focus emphasizes Kilcullen's "Remember the Global Audience" advice. Linked at: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/844nigml.asp
his article exposes that, as of last week, we have a total of nine embedded reporters in Iraq, only two of whom were from what we call "Traditional U.S. Media". Although, I no longer attend regular public affairs briefings, I know that a similar number of media are deployed across this theatre. It is a sad state of affairs when so many are paying attention and indeed demanding to be informed about what the few are doing on their behalf. With the extraordinary amount of treasure that is being poured into these campaigns, it seems strange to those of us on the ground that more citizens aren't demanding to know more about the state of affairs from the ground be asking their local and national media to provide more coverage of what is happening.

It is comforting to get emails from readers that enjoy the perspective of those of us on the ground, but this is a fight that is going to go on for some time and it is going to take a sustained effort to keep the global audience aware of the great work that the soldiers and citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan are conducting every day. I would encourage you to take the time to demand from your leadership more access to what is happening here on every front. We need to hear of your support and less of the war fatigue that comes from the comfort of a living room.

Thank you Lt. Col. Kilcullen for inspriing all of us that hear your evolving message of hope. We will win with leaders like you to help guide our strategy!


-out here


Blogger Spc. Chris Erickson said...

Greetings Sir.

I found your site today listed on milblogging.com.

I'm a part of Central Command Public Affairs, on a team that exists to engage the blogosphere. Basically, we email bloggers, try and build both dialogue and relationships, and get information from CENTCOM's AoR out to the blogosphere.

Sometimes we get our products (press releases, CENTCOM News, Coalition Bulletin) out to the blogosphere before mass media picks up on it. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes bloggers just come to use with questions about the validity of some mass media stories.

We're also trying to get access to deployed service members to any bloggers willing to do an interview, via a "virtual embed." These interviews can be done through email or over the phone. This provides us one more way to get the military story out to the people.

I thought this might be relevant to you based on a last portion of this post of yours talking about sustaining the effort to keep the global audience aware of our military's efforts.

Sir, that said, how would you feel about being interviewed by other folks in the blogosphere? This is a fairly safe process that you would go through. If you like the idea, let me know.

Spc. Chris Erickson
Electronic Media Engagement Team
U.S. Central Command


6:48 AM  
Blogger Houston White said...

Sir, I want to thank you personally for your service to our beloved country! Your description of the presentation was wonderful. T.E Lawrence's strategic vision contained in his 26 points really impressed me when I first read it. How wonderful to hear that we are sharing our best techiques widely.
I was born in 1955, I learned very early that you must do your own research, consider many sources. I believe there are more Americans than you may think who understand what is happening in Irag. Many of us realize that FOX is avoiding coverage. But, CNN, BBC, MSNBC and even the NYtimes is giving great coverage. People my age, like you recognized that they were multiple insugencies: religious based fanatics, secular fanatics, clans, terrorist and criminal enterprises that are all trying to get an advantage. This was always from the beginning another Bosnia/Serbia where centuries old conflicts/hatered prevent nation building. If we implement democracy in Iraq and 60% of the popoulation is Shia. What did Bush expect to happen? Afganistan is where our focus should have remained , not IRAQ.
But, all that stuff aside, I love you for the struggles and deeds you have done for us at home. You are a hero and all of the men and women in your comand are hero's too. We will support you. We will vote to make sure your service is not dismissed by Bush 43. The USA is a great country, we have the resources to build a bigger army and repair the one Bush has abused.We will vote to make sure the injuried of this war will get medical care. We have to help Afganistan and Iraq may be too late to repair without innovative new strategies.
I will keep you in my prayers. When you are tried, worn out and down, know that we believe in you. The truth always comes out. Think of me, an american patriot who is unemployed and would like to help. It just frustrates me that the supper rich have not given back their tax cuts as a sign of their patriotism and support for our troops. Instead, the corporations fire the 50 yr olds who can be replaced with less expensive workers and there are no pensions.
Maybe, I should study Pastun, would you take a 51 year old translator?

7:57 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home