MacArthur 2018 1st

Producing Victory:

Rethinking Conventional Forces in COIN Operations

Lieutenant Colonel Douglas A. Ollivant, U.S. Army
First Lieutenant Eric D. Chewning, U.S. Army Reserve

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Sunrise over Baghdad finds a maneuver battalion executing several missions. Two platoons are on patrol, one sweeping a main supply route for improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the other escorting “Team Trash”—a dump truck and bucket loader—through a poor Shi’a neighborhood. A third platoon is still at the brigade detention facility in-processing several insurgents captured the previous night, while a fourth escorts the battalion medical platoon for a medical outreach in one of the battalion’s assigned neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the battalion commander and a company commander prepare to attend a neighborhood council meeting; the executive officer updates the agenda for the weekly fusion-cell meeting; and the operations officer meets with the district police chief and an Iraqi Army representative to discuss security for an upcoming holiday. Shift change is taking place for both the American platoons and the Iraqi Security Forces guarding the U.S. forward operating base (FOB), and the American military liaison officer—an assistant operations officer—accompanies a squad-sized Iraqi patrol to clear the FOB’s perimeter. The headquarters company commander and the battalion logistician are negotiating a local contract for a crane to help reposition barrier materials in the neighborhood to respond to an emerging threat. The battalion intelligence officer (S2) reads the previous night’s patrol reports before meeting his Iraqi counterpart for tea at the FOB’s civil-military operations center (CMOC). Later in the day, the civil affairs team leader and a company executive officer will join the assistant S2 and a local sheik at the CMOC to discuss the merits of a proposed reconstruction project. Finally, yet another platoon prepares to conduct a precision raid against an insurgent cell after dark, based on intelligence gathered from a walk-in informant and confirmed by a local cleric’s security chief. So begins another day in Baghdad.

Our thesis is simple: The combined arms maneuver battalion, partnering with indigenous security forces and living among the population it secures, should be the basic tactical unit of counterinsurgency (COIN) warfare. Only such a battalion—a blending of infantry, armor, engineers, and other branches, each retrained and employed as needed—can integrate all arms into full-spectrum operations at the tactical level.1

Smaller conventional forces might develop excellent community relations, but they lack the robust staff and sufficient mass to fully exploit local relationships. Conversely, while brigades and divisions boast expanded analysis and control capabilities, they cannot develop the street-level rapport so critical for an effective COIN campaign. Unconventional forces are likewise no panacea because the expansion of Special Operations Command assets or the creation of stability and reconstruction or system-administration forces will not result in sustainable COIN strategies.2 Recent experience in Iraq affirms previously forgotten lessons: “Winning the Peace” requires simultaneous execution along the full spectrum of kinetic and non-kinetic operations.3 While political developments in Iraq and the United States might have moved past the point at which our suggested COIN solution would be optimal, we argue that the maneuver battalion should be the centerpiece of the Army’s future COIN campaigns. This paper examines why the maneuver battalion is the premier organization around which to build COIN doctrine, and it identifies current obstacles and future improvements to such a battalion-centric strategy.

Children in Najaf display stickers with the MNCI-New Iraqi government slogan “Progress, Iraq, Prosperity

Back to the Future

Upon returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), we began to search older works on COIN, hoping to find hints of a larger framework in which to ground our observations. The work we both (independently) found indispensable was Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, a 1964 book by David Galula. Based on his firsthand knowledge of insurgencies in China, Greece, Southeast Asia, and Algeria, Galula derives numerous lessons, several of which reflected our own experiences.

The first lesson is that successful COIN operations require assistance from the community. To earn such support, the counterinsurgent must sell the host-nation population on an idea. As Galula writes, “[O]n the eve of embarking on a major effort, the counterinsurgent faces what is probably the most difficult problem of the war: He has to arm himself with a competing cause.”4


To realize the cause—in Iraq’s case, liberal democracy and free-market capitalism—the counterinsurgent must develop the institutions responsible for its materialization. While the counterinsurgent must create, the insurgent need only destroy. Galula argues, “[T]he insurgent has really no cause at all; he is exploiting the counterinsurgent’s weakness and mistakes.”5

Herein lies a vexing problem: The Army fights and wins America’s battles through land dominance, not by establishing civic, security, and economic institutions in failed states. Such nation-building requires the strategic and operational application of national power (a subject well beyond the scope of this paper), but at the tactical level, COIN and nation-building tasks are the same: Both call for grassroots support and require Soldiers to win popular approval by solving practical problems: turning on electricity, keeping the streets safe, getting fathers and mothers to work and sons and daughters to school.6

Galula’s second lesson is that a static unit with responsibility for a specific area of responsibility (AOR) is preferable to a mobile unit moving from area to area. While military planners like to task-organize and shift boundaries, these behaviors are antithetical to effective COIN. As Galula writes, “The static units are obviously those that know best the local situation, the population, the local problems; if a mistake is made, they are the ones who will bear the consequences. It follows that when a mobile unit is sent to operate temporarily in an area, it must come under the territorial command, even if the military commander of the area is the junior officer. In the same way as the U.S. ambassador is the boss of every U.S. organization operating in the country to which he is accredited, the territorial military commander must be the boss of all military forces operating in his area.”7

Residents of Najaf celebrate the ending of the Madhi Militia uprising in Najaf, August 2004.

Galula’s third lesson is that no one approach can defeat an insurgency. To surrender any single line of operation, be it military, security, political, information, or economic, is to concede the overall fight: “[T]he expected result—final defeat of the insurgents—is not an addition but a multiplication of these various operations; they all are essential and if one is nil, the product will be zero.”8 Collectively, these operations impact each demographic in the AOR differently. Some groups require significant kinetic coercion, while others benefit from less. It is the counterinsurgent, living among the population and working with local security forces and opinion-makers, who must integrate the operations to achieve the desired effect.

The fourth lesson is that the principle of unity of command is even more important in COIN than it is in conventional warfare. To haphazardly approach an insurgency guarantees defeat. One single headquarters must, within an area, synchronize security, physical and institutional reconstruction, and the information environment. Again, quoting Galula, “[M]ore than any other kind of warfare, counterinsurgency must respect the principle of a single direction. A single boss must direct the operations from beginning until the end.”9

Finally, we saw in Galula’s work our own hard-learned experience that effective COIN requires a grid of embedded units, which we believe should be maneuver battalions. These battalions must be interlocked, must coordinate with each other—often across the boundaries of their parent brigades and divisions—and must see themselves as the ultimate authority in their respective AORs. The grid must encompass the entire nation to prevent the development of insurgent safe areas and to give the counterinsurgent a 10:1 or 20:1 ratio over the insurgent in every locality.10

Again we found ourselves relearning what Galula had discerned 40 years earlier: “The area will be divided into sectors and sub-sectors, each with its own static unit. The subdivision should be carried out down to the level of the basic unit of counterinsurgency warfare: the largest unit whose leader is in direct and continuous contact with the population. This is the most important unit in counterinsurgency operations, the level where most of the practical problems arise, and in each case where the war is won or lost.”11

With our own experiences reinforced by this COIN classic, we began to examine just what it was about the maneuver battalion that had made it, in our observation, the key headquarters for a successful COIN campaign.

Maneuver Battalion Primacy

The current manifestation of COIN warfighting is a chimera of military, intelligence, and government agencies. In Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, maneuver units, Special Operations Forces, civil affairs specialists, psychological operations detachments, international development agencies, and intelligence and advisory elements all operate simultaneously along the same lines of operation without synchronizing effects among parallel units or commands. In violation of a basic COIN principle, this independence leaves no one person or unit completely responsible for COIN operations in a given community. At the local level, only the maneuver battalion can execute across the full spectrum of COIN tasks, harmonizing disparate units toward a common effect and capturing synergies that larger commands are unable to duplicate.

With local national police and army units, a 1-5 CAV Bradley secures a traffic control point near the Imam Kadhum Mosque, March 2004.

Combat and security operations. The maneuver battalion alone is capable of providing sustained security operations within a given community. Active security patrolling provides presence that deters or reduces violence by increasing the possible costs to criminals and insurgents.

The kinetic COIN fight mostly plays out at the squad and platoon levels. But COIN does not guarantee low intensity. As combat operations in Najaf and Fallujah in 2004 (inter alia) showed, counterinsurgent forces need to be able to transition to high-intensity conflict.12 This show of force is the fundamental key in the information operation that sets the baseline for the maneuver battalion’s success. By being the provider of security or, conversely, the implementer of targeted violence, and by being able to surge or reduce presence in various neighborhoods or around various structures, the maneuver commander begins with a certain core of political power in his AOR that no other force can duplicate.13

As Galula suggests, “[U]nits must be deployed where the population actually lives and not on positions deemed to possess a military value.”14 For the local people to feel secure and provide intelligence, they must have 24-hour access to the counterinsurgent force. Units with control over an AOR should live in that neighborhood; indeed, every part of an insurgent-plagued country needs to fall under a battalion’s control. Having a fortress mentality simply isolates the counterinsurgent from the fight.

Soldiers of 1-5 CAV prepare to clear the Najaf Cemetery of Madhi Militia and weapons caches, August 2004.

Ideally, the maneuver battalion operates from a self-sustaining battalion-sized patrol base co-located with a local security-force headquarters. Such forward basing creates several positive outcomes. First, the counterinsurgent force projects power through its proximity to the community. Integration with the community creates obvious benefits for intelligence collection, information operations, reconstruction, and community outreach. Second, spreading units out creates fewer troop concentrations, thereby reducing the “Mega-FOB” rocket or mortar magnet. Third, several smaller, integrated battalion-sized bases reduce the outside-force footprint and enhance community relations. And lastly, a maneuver battalion joined to a local police station or an indigenous army post not only visually and physically reinforces the counterinsurgent’s intent to assist the local government, but also aids his ability to shape new security organs and coordinate actions.

Training local forces. Traditionally, the training of indigenous security forces is a Special Forces mission. But when the operational scale jumps from providing support to a host country to rebuilding a host nation’s entire military, the conventional Army must get involved. Our security commitment to Iraq, for example, requires the creation of 10 light infantry divisions of some 160,000 Soldiers. Only the “big Army” has the resources to accomplish such an undertaking. As a result, maneuver battalions are tasked to conduct training. Involving more than just putting an Iraqi face on task-force missions, the animation of new security institutions is critical to the Iraqi Government’s success and a U.S. exit strategy.

As seen in Iraq and Vietnam, new local security forces fight better when accompanied by their U.S. counterparts.15 Knowing they have the resources and experience of the U.S. Army right behind them, in a battalion they share space with, instills better morale, confidence, and discipline in newly organized forces. It also allows U.S. maneuver leaders to be better mentors and to identify local leaders willing to get the job done. Ultimately, local security forces make real and irreplaceable contributions.16 Indigenous troops act as de facto covert information collectors and subject-matter experts on local culture. They also are able to undertake sensitive site exploitation, like mosque raids, and act as a bridge between the counterinsurgent force and the community even as they set the conditions for an eventual exit strategy.

Economy and reconstruction. The United Nations Office of Project Services and International Labor Organization recommends the implementation of a local economic development (LED) approach for economic stimulation in conflict areas. This bottom-up method is preferred to centralized, top-down strategies because “the best knowledge regarding local problems, local needs, local resources, local development potential, as well as local motivation for promoting change, exists on the local level [and] it is of fundamental importance that the local community sees its place in the future.”17

Also stressing the importance of local economic actors, a World Bank report notes that “support for micro and small businesses is an appropriate early step in a post-conflict situation because these businesses are resilient and nimble, adapting quickly to new circumstances.”18

Looking out for the small businessman, a 1-5 CAV patrol checks in on a local propane distributor.

The maneuver battalion plays a central role in LED strategy during COIN operations. Optimally, not only does the battalion have its own reconstruction monies, but it also facilitates international development agency access to small businesses, trade unions, local governments, and entrepreneurs. The counterinsurgent, the community, and aid agencies all benefit from local coordination of the economic, political, and security dimensions of reconstruction.

Even with the support of Army combat engineers and outside construction firms, reconstruction work must still leverage the support of local contractors. Through daily interaction with the population, the battalion is able to gauge the real impact of ongoing reconstruction and better allocate resources. If the campaign has yet to reach this level of sophistication, the battalion remains the only element able to provide sustained security for reconstruction projects. Such development should focus on employing military-age males, enfranchising repressed minorities, stimulating the local economy, and co-opting local leaders. All of these are critical parts of a successful COIN strategy.

Fostering political institutions. For Galula, “the counterinsurgent reaches a position of strength when his power is embodied in a political organization issuing from, and firmly supported by, the population.”19 Political decapitation, as the initial stages of Operation Enduring Freedom and OIF proved, is a relatively simple matter for a superpower such as the United States. But a regime is far more than just a few high-ranking officials; rather, a regime consists of all who benefit from the current political arrangement. Even those not in formal offices profit from the distribution of political power and must therefore be considered, at least peripherally, as part of the regime. Additionally, any consideration of the regime must account for the existing “modes and orders”—family ties, religious commitments, financial interests, and the like—that will set the stage for the installation or reshaping of the new government.

The ultimate goal of COIN warfare is to “build (or rebuild) a political machine from the population upward.”20 Initially, the counterinsurgent must empower, through elections or appointment, local provisional leaders.21 The battalion provides security, trains local security forces, and drives economic development, so a certain measure of paternalism is unavoidable. Nonetheless, the legitimacy of local leaders rests on their ability to solve their constituents’ problems. The counterinsurgent is a political operative, offering responsibility and resources to those leaders who prove capable, allowing them to build a base of popular support. As the work proceeds, tested leaders will emerge in each locality. These proven leaders become the nucleus of national and regional parties. The formation of national-level parties can only progress after their development at the local level.22 As representatives of the emerging government, the local leaders, with the critical assistance of the maneuver battalion and indigenous security forces, must exert hegemony over hostile tribes, militias, religious movements, and the remnants of the pre-existing regime in order to pave the way for a new political order.

A 1-5 CAV soldier serving as a liaison/mentor to the battalion’s attached Iraqi Army company joins them on the firing line, October 2004.

Tactical Synergies

The scale and scope of the maneuver battalion can generate tactical synergies that no other unit can duplicate during COIN operations.23 Underlying this observation are two key points. First, as an organization’s modified table of organization and equipment expands, it can undertake a wider range of missions over a larger battlespace, but this increase in size makes it harder for decisionmakers to understand the population intimately, and it makes the organization less adaptive. Generally, the larger a military echelon, the less often (if ever) its commander is in direct contact with the average man on the street. While recent transformation empowers the brigade as the Army’s primary unit of action, COIN operations require an even greater powering down of assets. As Galula recommends, the basic unit of COIN warfare is the largest unit whose leader is in direct and continuous contact with the population.24 This basic unit is the maneuver battalion. Brigades, divisions, and other higher headquarters must establish objectives, coordinate actions, apportion terrain, and allocate national resources among subordinate units. These higher commands are responsible for establishing the channels and means that allow locally embedded maneuver battalions to engage in decisive, practical problem-solving.

The other point is that COIN operations require leaders to be pentathletes. Staffs and troop commanders must be able to juggle the simultaneous outcomes of small-unit actions, humanitarian assistance missions, and intelligence collection. Successful COIN campaigns are the product of multiple lines of operations. As such, synergies develop when a unit is able to execute along several of these lines. These synergies benefit both the counterinsurgent force and the community.

For the counterinsurgent, a Soldier who trains local security forces will understand the culture better, which should aid him when he conducts combat patrols. A commander who attends city council meetings to promote reconstruction projects shapes the battlefield for security operations. For the community, the local counterinsurgent force responsible for combat operations is also the unit able to compensate for property damage and provide information about detained individuals. The unit responsible for coordinating with the local security forces also manages their recruiting and training. Conducting security operations, promoting economic development, training indigenous security forces, and fostering political institutions work together collectively to deny the insurgent access to the population.

The counterinsurgent force must be large enough to conduct an array of focused activities simultaneously, thereby capturing the synergies from their collective employment. At the same time, however, it must be small enough and flexible enough to bond with the local population and adapt to changing circumstances. The maneuver battalion meets both these criteria.

Other Implications

A battalion-focused COIN strategy offers many benefits, but perhaps the two greatest have to do with civil-military operations (CMO) and intelligence collection.

CMO. Civil-military operations are green-tab issues. Reconstruction, economic development, and community relations are not phases in war planning; they are principles of COIN. As such, the commander responsible for the security of a specific area must also be able to determine reconstruction priorities and control assets responsible for their implementation. An increased Army-level emphasis on CMO does not necessarily mean (and, in our opinion, should not mean) more civil affairs Soldiers or the creation of special reconstruction and security forces. Instead, we must acknowledge that money is the power behind CMO. Many vital non-kinetic actions—reconstruction, community outreach, information operations, and intelligence collection—are not possible without putting targeted cash into the local economy.

Higher headquarters must resource maneuver commanders with dedicated reconstruction budgets and operational funds.25 A process through which requests are sent up for laborious and uncertain review inhibits the commander by not allowing him to quickly or confidently commit resources to a fight.26 Reconstruction funds are combat power. It would be foolish for a commander to enter a conventional fight not knowing how many tanks or infantrymen he could commit, and it is just as unwise to send him into a negotiation with a local leader not knowing what money he has been budgeted to allocate within his AOR. The successful maneuver commander uses civic reconstruction or initial construction to contour his area of operations. He can use money to reinforce his presence in the area or to mitigate risk in areas where he is practicing economy of force in terms of security patrols. The commander employs projects to co-opt community leaders or to create new opinion-makers by funneling money through them.

Civil affairs units assist maneuver commanders by working with civil authorities and civilian populations in the commander’s AOR to lessen the impact of military operations. In certain small-scale or domestic operations, civil affairs Soldiers should retain their independence. But the objective of COIN operations is for the maneuver commander to shape the conditions under which a civilian population lives. As a result, civil affairs Soldiers should be attached to the maneuver commander, acting more as staff proponents and subject-matter experts than as primary actors.

In this environment, separate reporting channels and rating schemes that dilute and confuse the chain of command are also counterproductive. As the institutional Army gradually recognizes the importance of full-spectrum operations, maneuver commanders will realize the need to integrate kinetic and non-kinetic targeting. Community relations are the main effort of the entire counterinsurgent force, not just a specialized unit.

Tactical intelligence collection. Other than the tactical Raven unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and a scout platoon, the maneuver battalion does not own dedicated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets. Experience from Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrates that human intelligence (HUMINT) is by far the most valuable intelligence source for commanders engaged in COIN warfare.27 While the Military Intelligence School has belatedly tried to implement an “every Soldier a collector” mindset, internal policies stand in the way of effective HUMINT collection. For example, suppose a local national comes to a checkpoint and tells Soldiers that his neighbor conducts attacks against U.S. forces. None of the Soldiers in the battalion, the S2 included, are allowed to task the informant to provide additional information that would make the target actionable (for example, a ten-digit grid and/or a guide to a house, a means to positively identify the target, and sufficient legal evidence to detain the target if captured). To ask the informant to return with this information would cross a legal line and subject the well-intentioned troopers to possible action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The Soldiers must instead defer to a tactical HUMINT team (THT) to run the source. THTs, however, seldom operate under battalion control (unlike Marine human exploitation teams), leaving maneuver commanders in the undesirable position of outsourcing their most valuable collection platform.

Tactical HUMINT collection would benefit from a closer relationship between THTs and maneuver units. THTs are in short supply and on their own can be ineffective, because the information they gather loses value unless it is acted on quickly by the maneuver unit owning the ground. Additionally, because the maneuver commander maintains order and controls funding in his AOR, significant personalities will want to speak to him. The THT can be useful for interrogating detainees, but it is folly to believe that a prominent sheik, imam, or businessman would want to speak with a sergeant E-5. Indigenous populations understand our rank structure and have definite ideas about who their social peers are. Any potential source with truly significant influence will likely want to be handled by someone who can provide incentives, both tangible and intangible. To prevent information fratricide and to leverage local leaders’ spheres of influence, the maneuver commander should be the one who manages all the key relationships in the battalion AOR. This again reflects Galula’s call for a “single direction.”

Acknowledging that source operations require specialized training, these missions should be managed by the battalion S2 and executed by one of the battalion’s intelligence officers or by a THT under the S2’s direct control. Such an arrangement would also facilitate field interrogations and on-site document exploitation. The interrogators would benefit from participating in the targeting process from the onset. Understanding the battalion’s reasons for targeting a suspect and how the suspect fits into the S2’s view of the enemy situation would assist the interrogator in gleaning actionable information.

In a HUMINT-rich environment, battalions need an organic collection capability. Most information requirements will never be satisfied by driving a tactical vehicle past a suspect’s house or by flying a UAV overhead. Such overt collection often warns the target and may compromise a promising lead. Recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan bears out what Galula saw in previous COIN campaigns. Everyone, not just the specialists, must participate in HUMINT collection. Therefore, the bureaucracy surrounding intelligence collection must be constructed with moderation and restraint.28

Final Thoughts

Our Army must plan for the COIN fight. Not only are we currently engaged in such a battle on strategic terrain, but our difficulties have surely not gone unnoticed by potential adversaries. We must expect this kind of fight again.

We have argued that the combined arms maneuver battalion should be the basic unit in COIN operations. Not only do we believe in the battalion’s inherent abilities to conduct tactical full-spectrum operations, but we believe that other alternatives are impractical or carry a significant downside. The creation of pure nation-building, stability and reconstruction units, or system-administration forces, would divert Department of Defense dollars to forces that could not fight when (not if) we are again called on to engage in mid- to high-intensity conflict. Beyond this inefficiency, it is difficult to see these forces ever coming into existence. For all the talk of joint interagency task forces, it would be a monumental victory were we even able to embed representatives from the Departments of State, Commerce, and Justice in each divisional headquarters. Were we serious about truly implementing such interagency task forces in 2015, we would have seen platoons of diplomatic, economic, and legal trainees entering the system last year. We did not—and therefore the Department of Defense must plan to have its personnel continue to be the primary implementers of all aspects of reconstruction for the foreseeable future.

This responsibility will require a quantum shift in mindset for Army leaders. While Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster may have overstated the problem in a recent critique of U.S. Phase IV operations in Military Review, the problems regarding organizational culture that he brings to light certainly ring true to these authors.29 The stateside and garrison Army, in particular, has been especially reluctant to transform, because transformation implies that many of the systems and modes of proceeding that the Army used to redefine itself as it recovered from the “hollow Army” of the 1970s may have outlived their usefulness. It will be difficult to abandon mental models, systems, and institutions that have become central to the Army’s self-conception.

And in a final caveat, proposing the maneuver battalion as the decisive headquarters is handicapped by a stubborn fact. Due to the Army’s generational cohort system, much of the current senior leadership of these battalions—commanders, executive officers, and operations officers—have never before served at the tactical level in a counterinsurgency. It will require an exceptional level of flexibility—and even humility—for these leaders to rely on, and perhaps defer to, their more expert company-grade officers, many of whom have had two or three tours in Southwest Asia. However, if these leaders embrace Lieutenant General David Petraeus’s key observation that “a leader’s most important task is to set the right tone” and embrace the themes of COIN even if they do not fully understand them, then their lower-level leaders can drive the fight.30

These ifs notwithstanding, we maintain that the battalion ought to be the primary unit in COIN. While we cannot transform our hierarchical Army into a fully networked organization overnight, powering down to the lowest practical level will enable the most adaptive commanders to implement a Galula-like solution. The war in Iraq may now have moved beyond this possible solution; with the ceding of battlespace control to Iraqi Security Forces, U.S. units will be required to take a subtler, more indirect approach. But when we fight the next counterinsurgency—by engaging along all lines of operations through a nationwide grid of locally embedded maneuver battalions—we can bring American strengths into play against the insurgents and demonstrate that we have learned and recovered from our stumbling start in Iraq.


  1. The current heavy combined arms battalion includes two mechanized infantry companies, two armor companies, a company of combat engineers, and a forward support company. Depending on the tactical environment these forces trade M2A3s (Bradley) and M1A2s (Abrams tank) for M1114s (up-armored HMMWVs). Experience has shown that other types of battalions (engineer, artillery, air defense artillery) can serve quite admirably in lieu of combat arms battalions, and our use of “combined arms battalion” should in no way be viewed as a slight to their performance. However, terrain permitting, we believe that optimally this maneuver force should be equipped with at least a company-size element of armored vehicles, with the M2A3 Bradley being the currently optimal solution. See also, Major (now Lieutenant) General Peter W. Chiarelli, Major Patrick R. Michaelis, and Major Geoffrey A. Norman, “Armor in Urban Terrain: The Critical Enabler,” Armor, March-April 2005, 7-12.
  2. For a discussion of stability and reconstruction forces, see Transforming for Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations, ed. Hans Binnendijk and Stuart Johnson (Washington, DC: National Defense University, 2004). For a discussion of “system administration” forces, see Thomas P.M. Barnett, Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2005), especially xix.
  3. See also LTG (then MG) Peter Chiarelli and Major Patrick Michaelis, “Winning the Peace: The Requirements for Full-Spectrum Operations,” Military Review (July-August 2005).
  4. David Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1964, reprinted 2005), 101.
  5. Ibid., 101.
  6. Ibid., 95.
  7. Ibid., 93.
  8. Ibid., 87.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid., 32.
  11. Ibid., 110-111.
  12. The authors were members of 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, during its participation in the Battle of Najaf Cemetery in August 2004 and the Second Battle of Fallujah in November 2004.
  13. See also Ralph Peters, “A Grave New World,” Armed Forces Journal (April 2005): 34. Peters touches upon several ideas also articulated here. He argues for the importance of presence but also the need to reform military intelligence to emphasize tactical human intelligence for maneuver commanders. Peters also contends that money is a vital component of non-kinetic combat power.
  14. Galula, 111.
  15. See also John A. Nagl, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 156-158.
  16. See also Robert M. Cassidy, “Back to the Street Without Joy: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Vietnam and other Small Wars,” Parameters 34 (Summer 2004): 73-83. Cassidy points to the success of the Marine Corps’ Combined Action Program and argues that this strategy led to greatly improved tactical intelligence collection by greatly enhancing security for the local population.
  17. United Nations Office of Project Services and International Labor Organization, Economic Rights and Opportunities-Rehabilitation and Social Sustainability, UNOPS/ILO, 19 October 2000, <>.
  18. The World Bank, Middle East Department, Report No. 27602, Interim Strategy Note of the World Bank Group for Iraq, 14 January 2004, < Interim Strategy.pdf>, access restricted.
  19. Galula, 79.
  20. Ibid., 136.
  21. Ibid., 127-133. Here Galula outlines the establishment of local political institutions and their relationship to the counterinsurgent.
  22. Ibid., 133. Galula contends that national parties can only emerge after they have been vetted locally by the counterinsurgent.
  23. Counterinsurgent operations, like commercial manufacturing, derive efficiencies from their respective economies of scale and scope. In economic terms, economies of scale refer to a firm’s efficiencies associated with increasing or decreasing the quantity of production, whereas economies of scope are synergies associated with increasing or decreasing the types of products produced. In counterinsurgent operations, economies of scale apply to the echelon of command responsible for controlling daily operations, while economies of scope refer to efficiencies associated with increasing or decreasing the number of lines of operations that unit executes.
  24. Galula, 110-111.
  25. See also Max Boot, “The Struggle to Transform the Military,” Foreign Affairs (March-April 2005): 113. Boot speaks to the limitations of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) used in Iraq and the need to reduce the considerable bureaucracy associated with the use of money at the tactical level.
  26. Galula, 131.
  27. See also Jeremiah Pray, “Kinetic Targeting in Iraq at the Battalion Task Force Level: From Target to Detainee,” Infantry (July-August 2005): 30-33.
  28. Galula, 119-120.
  29. Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, “Changing the Army for Counterinsurgency Operations,” Military Review (November-December 2005): 2-15.
  30. Lieutenant General David A. Petraeus, “Learning Counterinsurgency: Observations from Soldiering in Iraq,” Military Review (January-February 2006): 9.


First Lieutenant Eric D. Chewning is a graduate student in business administration at the University of Virginia and an Army Reservist serving at the National Ground Intelligence Center. He previously served as the tactical intelligence officer for the 1stBattalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment. He is a former investment banking analyst and holds a Masters in international relations from the University of Chicago.

Lieutenant Colonel Douglas A. Ollivant is the chief of plans of the 1st Cavalry Division and previously served as the operations officer for the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment in Baghdad, Najaf, Fallujah, and North Babil. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Indiana University and is a graduate of the U.S. Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies.


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July-August 2006