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CAAT Special Report October 2010

C ou n te ri ns ur g en cy A dv is or y & As sis ta n ce T ea m

COIN for the Company Commander: A Few Thoughts for Those in the Fight
By LTC (FRA AR) Philippe Moreaux Interfacing with the populace and partnering are the two most powerful COIN weapons at the company level.

Remark: This document draws freely from a point paper published in July 2010 by Sean McKenna and Russ Hampsey, both members of the Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team (CAAT). It was completed and translated into French by LTC Philippe Moreaux, CAAT Liaison Team Leader, so that it can be directly used by the French units committed in Afghanistan. This English version is primarily aimed at Coalition Forces that use Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams (OMLTs) in addition to their regular units. However, most of the ideas and recommendations presented here could be a source of inspiration for any company commander, regardless his nation.

Counterinsurgency Advisory & Assistance Team – International Security Assistance Force – Kabul, Afg.

” Small Wars Journal (July 2010). Social dynamics are different in each The lack of central governance for 30 years – not to mention the traditional importance of local chiefs’ authority – has led Afghans to be suspicious of foreigners helping to support a central government. Remember. 1 Counterinsurgency Advisory & Assistance Team (CAAT) 1 . 2 These could be compared with AORs. Russell and Sean McKenna. Your capacity to handle multifaceted problems is being challenged. There is so much to learn. You need to understand why this is so: whether the gap is in leadership. Taken as a whole. basic instruction. enhance partnering with ANSF: the success of the mission depends directly on it. Do not look upon that with arrogance. training and operational status. They primarily count on themselves to find their way through. otherwise you face a mission failure. The information here aims at providing you with a few keys that might help you open a few doors somewhere.CAAT Special Report October 2010 Introduction The Afghan environment is unique. The implementation of COIN principles is your responsibility because you and your men are closest to the populace and the ANSF. Corruption. or integration into the local society. the mission seems to be impossible. corruption is also present in Western countries. “A Time for Sergeants: COIN Success at the Company and Platoon Level in Afghanistan. in Afghanistan. is part of regular daily business for Afghans. providing an natural obstacle to national synthesis and development.pdf (accessed 26 October 2010). but above all. sometime. the mission becomes more manageable. The quality and quantity of Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) units vary from one area to another with differing levels of discipline. Down here. Most of the time. The hostile Afghan terrain divides tribes and groups naturally.1 COIN strategy for Afghanistan is based upon five (5) Lines of Operation (LOOs)2: Protect the population Enable ANSF Neutralize malign influence Support governance Support development Hampsey. Use it whenever you deem it appropriate. Potential changes make them hesitant. if you take into account what you can do personally as a tactical chief in your field. Some are more obvious than others but you will act to intervene in each of the lines. Nobody knows what tomorrow is going to look like and even if there will be a day after next. http://smallwarsjournal. and each village. Your unit was tasked to overcome all those challenges and even more. survival comes first. supplies. However. as we regard it from a Western perspective. Lines of operation and COIN practices The COIN mission in Afghanistan is very tough. insurgency is local and polymorphic. each valley.

But experience shows it is not for many coalition members. For instance.In this overall strategy. the more you need them. They will make sure that your orders are being obeyed while you are having a shura with the elders of the village. You want them to understand it so that they can serve you best: the tougher the mission. no line of operation can be achieved successfully. They will explain to your men that they need not show off with their latest cell phone or extra money in front of Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers. Enabling ANSF gives the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) the time needed to reinforce governance and development. Actually. Your NCOs need to know everything about your mission. Protect the Population Protecting the populace seems like an obvious task. the ANSF units that you have empowered will make it easier for you because they will take command of the security mission. So. The main part of this mission lies at the company and platoon level. your unit can operate in a few directions only. many questions are being raised: What needs to be done in the areas mainly controlled by the Taliban? When the insurgents are within the populace. it is always tough. how can we interface with the locals? 3 The essence of partnership is your responsibility and we shall elaborate on it later on. But make no mistake: your NCOs play a primary role. They will arrange all the details when you want to patrol with an ANA platoon. And actually. 2 Counterinsurgency Advisory & Assistance Team (CAAT) . in Afghanistan. At the end of the day. without security. Here. 3 Upper echelons and specialized enablers must support you to secure your area of operation. this is the time for lieutenants and captains. It is a prerequisite. Do your very best with all the tasks you can accomplish and ask for support for the rest. enabling ANSF is not only an OMLT responsibility.

teachers. Patrolling You will protect no one if you remain in your COP.) in order to detect fire points of origin and to be able to react aggressively. patrol patterns need to be varied: day. remember to use ANSF to enhance relationships with the populace. Interfacing with the most hostile populace is very difficult It would be a mistake to believe that on your own you can turn a hostile populace controlled by the insurgents. disrupting the insurgents in their habits and inhibiting their freedom of action among the populace. The Afghans. mission. This impression is probably true. night vision capabilities. Experience shows that a few dozen expressions can make a positive difference with a sceptical population. Remember: even people living in the next village are foreigners.5 Interface with the inhabitants Learn some local linguistic expressions. here are a few key questions you may ask: How are you? What has changed since last time we saw each other? Who do you rely on to ensure your own security and the security of your family? What is the most important thing that needs to change so that your life will be better? 4 5 US term for CIMIC is Civil Affairs (CA) Hampsey and McKenna. Your first job is to establish the security bubble needed to bring in those specialized teams so they can interface with the inhabitants or their representatives. and unpredictable. Using your interpreter. 3. The more the patrols are numerous. contacts with the population are based upon several principles: Being accepted by a favorable or neutral populace is your priority You may have the feeling that you are not initially accepted by the population. regroup. In this case. So. To do this. live remotely in their village and feel that the instability that has been ongoing for 30 years is the fault of foreigners. the more they contribute to the goal of disrupting the insurgents. Talk to the local authorities. night. Those same inhabitants who suffered under the Taliban yoke are ready to accept another government’s message. etc. especially those that live out of the cities. Second. your ability to directly act is more than limited. consistent economic development initiatives and empowerment of local GIRoA representatives must also happen. On patrol. This is a mission that needs specialized teams (psychological operations [PSYOPS]. doctors. varied. and attack you if you move quickly to out maneuver them.Indeed. technical or human intelligence. human intelligence [HUMINT]. and anyone who is cognizant of what is going on in the area. They cannot threaten the populace. strength. routes. 3 Counterinsurgency Advisory & Assistance Team (CAAT) . Patrols have two goals: First. Therefore. the presence of Western soldiers is even stranger to them. Civil-Military Cooperation [CIMIC]4). additional measures need to be implemented (temporary observation posts. etc. gain contact with shopkeepers. as long as you show respect to the inhabitants and their customs.

what are your responsibilities? First. In this general framework. do not think that partnership is an OMLT job and that this task is not yours. Do not over-promise and under-deliver. 4. Who are the chiefs? The mullahs? Who represents and protects the shopkeepers? Where do they live? Are there land disputes? Answers to those questions will enable you to understand the human environment. and show you are interested in the concerns of the locals. Give that information to your S2 so he can cross-check your findings. If you cannot be the one to interact with the populace.Be empathetic. one of your subordinates probably has this capacity to create a climate of trust. Occasionally. It must be the same with you. 4 Counterinsurgency Advisory & Assistance Team (CAAT) . for instance. 6 Hampsey and McKenna. In the French system. be authentic. Understanding the human environment should be your priority. 6 Information and Intelligence Elaborate on the data provided by your Battalion/Company S2 on your valley and/or your village. Ask him for some essential Elements of Information (EEI) when you plan your next visit. Trust Confidence will develop through keeping promises and returning for follow-up visits. you will discover information regarding the insurgents. be aware that the promise of an Afghan is a commitment of himself and his honor. Enabling ANSF Partnership is the cornerstone of COIN strategy. Also. OMLTs/POMLTs are present as well as French combat units.

This is indispensable because.Second. Counterinsurgency Advisory & Assistance Team (CAAT) 5 7 .) Your Afghan partners will probably not be used to this method of communication. 8 Hampsey and McKenna. Thanks to partnership. small objects for units. they alone will ensure the security of the country. Ethnic origins and social positions can impact on the local leadership: you need to understand how it works.7 During the mission. - - - More generally. Regard your Afghan counterpart as a peer and define together the aim and content of the mission. Don’t hesitate to conduct night operations. it is your responsibility as long as conditions permit. the OMLT needs to explain to them. on the other hand. Take also into account that ANSF units eat fresh food and will probably avoid the MREs you offer them. Most ISAF soldiers are used to being inundated with information through electronic stimulation ((TV. you bring to the ANA unit a critical added value: you provide them with a feeling of pride. This phase is essential because it enables you to capitalize on success and correct mistakes and gaps. In summertime. radio. Remember this during training: the problem of limited attention for a class could be improved by something as simple as a chow break. 4. You and your ANA partners have the lead with the OMLT providing support. you need to recall the following points. Do it directly. thus the junior officers need to do more. etc. but take into account the fact that most ANSF personnel will only eat and drink at night. During the Ramadan period.. Prepare to adjust your training to the Afghan’s learning style. and grease pens on glass are far more effective in transferring knowledge to your ANSF counterpart than fancy Power Point presentations. do not think that you need to go through the OMLT to contact the ANA unit you partner with.9 - Or After Action Reviews (AARs). When you plan a mission. Some soldiers speak only Dari or Pashto. especially during planning and debriefing phases. is to work with them. cell phones. avoid activities in the afternoon. presentations using physical maps. at the end of the day. Working hours are influenced by the sun cycle and religious constraints (prayers and Ramadan). Your interpreter needs to inform you about that because it effects internal communication. During the planning phase. often. 5. there is no issue if you want to organize marksmanship training with your sister-platoon at 0500. Internet. These are some general characteristics of your Afghan counterparts you should keep in mind:8 Nutrition: Afghans tend to eat and drink less than we do. in the framework of your relationship with the partnered unit. plan it together with the ANA. 9 Ibid. be aware that the practice of leadership is different in the ANSF for several reasons: The NCO system is in its infancy. newspapers. Your mission. If your counterpart does not get it all. The essential role of the OMLT is to train the ANA.

personal objects. Take advantage of this specific relationship to empower all your men. the ANA can seem to decline engagement at times. expect to walk prior to running. With the Afghans. Do not be frustrated. but be persistent. Salaries. actively incorporating them into all operational phases. Even if the OMLTs have had an effective impact on the ANA unit’s level of capability. From their perspective. we will walk a lot before running. It is not necessary to mix everything. and even attrition can develop in the ANA ranks if you do not communicate with them. and sections of the partnered unit. encourage competition between the various squads. The ground truth is that you do not know each other well.A few pieces of advice: See your counterparts daily. Without real partnership. they run less quickly but march together farther and longer. Partnering is collective work. When units live. Your men will be enriched by the experience and you will learn a lot about them. check their competencies before going on operations because that is what you did with your own unit during pre-deployment training in your home country. misperception by the ANA and CF soldiers can damage trust and hamper the mission. badges. understand. you learn how to walk first and then run. During common training phases. Misunderstanding. Give them awards (letters of commendation made by you. Counterinsurgency Advisory & Assistance Team (CAAT) 6 . Learn to speak a bit of their language. If something is not working immediately. Some CF soldiers get frustrated or even frustrate the Afghans. etc. Create those opportunities and train with them.) during ceremonies. tolerate it and do not give up: come back to it. the outcome of the mission is uncertain. the Afghan unit believe that their partnered Westerners can be overly aggressive and only increase the level of violence in the district. it is preferable for each unit to keep a proper intimacy: in other words. you will share even more. task organized coalition/ANSF laydowns demand more refined coordination measures but limit the risk that ANA and CF units misunderstand each other’s intentions. train and fight together. Develop camaraderie with them. If not. As a result. it is even better. see how you can work with them as regularly as possible. feelings of uselessness and isolation. and sleeping habits are different. If you live on the same COP. If they are reluctant at first. share your meals but not your rooms. During combat operations. Afghans often have a competitive spirit. As we put it above. However. If you live on the same COP. - - - - - - - The absence of partnership leads to mistrust. From the CF perspective. When you train. depending on their capacities.

Only the local forces can potentially change this. Counterinsurgency Advisory & Assistance Team (CAAT) 7 . the insurgents always know more about the local environment than the foreign troops. Nobody expects you to provide all of the tactical details of the operation well in advance. etc. The other aspects of Malign Influencers (inadequate governance. some of them can provide the insurgents with information on CF operations. In a COIN conflict. if real. The idea behind this document is to present a few principles dealing with the methods of handling insurgents in your area. This risk. If you do not talk to your ANA counterparts. - - - Neutralize Malign Influence This is not a tactical field manual. the OMLTs will have to do it. The ANA unit can also bring you much information on the enemy. needs to be mitigated: In dangerous areas.Compromising operational security (OPSEC) because of the ANA Although ANA soldiers come from various provinces. the insurgents are ever present and have such a hold on the populace that the secrecy of your operation will be discovered no matter what you do. The risk of compromise is still the same. You will not learn this information otherwise. corruption. but is not being mitigated by the above mentioned elements. abuse of power.) linked with this LOO will not be covered.

reactivity. The recurrent image in a COIN environment is the following: conventional forces control more or less the terrain during daylight and the insurgents take hold of the inhabitants the rest of the time. security is a primary factor. How can we be credible in the eyes of the populace when we tell them we want to ensure their security while we would not ensure ours? - The level of aggression can start sometimes at a low level. day after day. As a summary. etc. While this was well intended to prevent civilian casualties (CIVCAS). be it in Afghanistan or in Africa. This is not your responsibility. On the other hand. You cannot reassure the people if you remain passive toward the insurgents. there were unfortunate consequences that resulted because CF soldiers appeared unwilling to use force readily: Passivity of our forces increases the perception of a culture of impunity among the insurgents. The populace perfectly understands and approves as long as everything is done so as to avoid CIVCAS. and going to bed at the same time. proactivity The first objective of the populace is to survive. In other words. Plan some rest for the men while avoiding a predictable routine that would enhance the freedom of action of the insurgents. the insurgents exert strong pressure on the inhabitants to prevent them from voting. On that note. One solution is to stop the vehicles. As already mentioned. be aggressive against the enemy and create insecurity in their ranks. to prevent girls from going to school. You need to be aware of this and adjust your battle rhythm accordingly. In 2009-2010. step down with an interpreter and discuss the issue with the local authorities so that the kids can be told what not to do. but you need to know the messages that will be disseminated to the population. from enlisting in the ANA or the ANP. In this framework. aggressive IO needs to be conducted. when you are far away from your homeland – living in a completely new destabilizing environment – you want to re-establish some of your home habits: waking up at regular times. In Afghanistan. This is not a universally accepted method but it works. you need to show your presence. Counterinsurgency Advisory & Assistance Team (CAAT) 8 . you want to train and organize your unit to be proactive and aggressive toward the insurgents. or passive defence measures. day and night in order to take an active stance to protect the force. because the response would not be proportional. the response to rising threats cannot only be additional men. Quite obviously. equipment. the insurgents are naturally aware of the habits and “working hours” of the company.Aggressiveness. when villagers throw stones at ISAF vehicles. Another trend that needs to be avoided is increasing Force Protection (FORPRO) measures without compensation. you want to avoid peacetime routine. numerous and varied patrols need to be organized. So be it! As a consequence. For instance. having meals. convoys face more problems and constantly increasing danger. On the one hand. some convoy leaders feel frustrated and powerless: we will not open fire on those kids who throw stones with slingshots. a prevalent idea operationalized throughout the country was to minimize the use of force unless essential to mission accomplishment. A few weeks after your arrival at the COP. The combination of two courses of action enables us to counter the insurgency.

Communications procedures need to be respected. advanced technology allows the observers (Infantry. reflex) or collectively (fires discipline). Abrogation of responsibility is not an alternative. Proportional response to the attack and understanding of Escalation of Force (EOF) procedures. you need to go immediately to the spot. The main measures that enable our forces to avoid CIVCAS are as follows: During the planning phase. who represent the center of gravity of the conflict. In a COIN environment. the Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment (IPOE) needs to concentrate on the human environment. distance. The lack of control increases CIVCAS risks.CIVCAS Avoiding CIVCAS is not new. either individually (accuracy. as soon as combat conditions permit. etc. Use clear and precise terms. take photos. Counterinsurgency Advisory & Assistance Team (CAAT) 9 . This technological reliance should not exclude control of automatic data through traditional modes (map.. report the incident as soon as possible (the report needs to reach the divisional level within two hours). Positive identification of the enemy. binoculars). Partnership with ANA and ANP: in particular. grid coordinates. compass. sketch. Regular and dynamic weapons training in a realistic environment. - - - In the specific example of a Company being supported by Artillery (mortars and guns). The upper echelon will then take on the responsibility at their level. and make contact with the locals. you need to count on those who have a thorough knowledge of the AO. Army Aviation or Artillery) and the Fire Direction Cell to rely exclusively on calculators (bearing. CIVCAS is not only illegal and illegitimate. In the case of a CIVCAS event. This responsibility is shared between the Company and the supporting arms assets. Cavalry. but it also negatively effects the population.

you could negatively impact governance and development. you need to understand the role of the various actors at the battalion level. Public Affairs inform the target audience of the truth. Lastly. which proposes to the commander all the messages that our leaders and troops need to disseminate among the targets (nominated through the Joint Prioritized Target List). To that aim. A Few Common Sense Rules In terms of local projects. You need to abide by some common sense rules because otherwise. IO). Military Information Support Operations (PSYOPS). and behaviour of the targeted audience. do not over-promise to the populace and then underdeliver. CIMIC teams get significant pieces of information from their contacts out on the field and can disseminate some INFO OPS messages as well. PSYOPS uses these messages to influence perceptions. However. - Counterinsurgency Advisory & Assistance Team (CAAT) 10 . Public Affairs. attitudes. human intelligence HUMINT can use manipulation techniques targeting specific persons. Adapt your language vis-à-vis the locals with respect to the IO messages. In this framework. INFO OPS chief runs a working group. Main actors at the Battalion level The main actors at the Battalion level include Information Operations (INFO OPS. and a few others.Governance and Development The good news with these two lines of operation is that you do not have the lead. Always report to the CIMIC (CA) teams. INFO OPS ensures that our forces acquire information superiority in the AOO.

Conclusions 1. avoid close contact with him until this can be determined. they have a personal stake in choosing the “right” side. local inhabitants must be considered as full actors. pushing down permanently at the companyleve INTEL. As a consequence. Whenever possible. 2. 10 To do so. They would be considered fence sitters. The populace could charge you with collusion if they are victims of corrupt chiefs that you are associated with. IJC. expanding their horizons as they spend part of their time at the subordinate levels. First. if each layer of command could provide the immediately lower level with half of their experts. That idea is partially wrong. and CIMIC assets could be considered. Often. PSYOPS. NTM-A).- If you do not know the degree of corruption of an official living in your area. Starting with the central echelons (HQ ISAF. the population is regarded as passive and awaiting a tangible outcome of the conflict between CF/ANSF and the various insurgent groups. When the villagers start to commit themselves. 3. Then. In a COIN environment. two lines of effort could be developed. That is why COIN principles are so essential at this level. they need to be incorporated into the security of the village and other local projects. then the opportunities to defeat the insurgency and conduct transition in good conditions would be reinforced. the population is the key to success or failure. The outcome of the conflict will be settled at the strategic level unless we lose the war at the tactical level. Counterinsurgency Advisory & Assistance Team (CAAT) 11 10 . all experts at the staff level would appreciate the demands of COIN in the village and on the countryside. The complexity of the conflict is such that our captains and lieutenants must get the full support they deserve. the focus of the entire chain of command and all the expert enablers involved must be directed to the battalion and even more to the company level.