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Primer on Urban Operations

Primer on Urban Operations Welcome Information

Primer on Urban Operations

Today, just over one-half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. That percentage is expected to increase to 66 percent by 2050.1 In 1990, there were ten “megacities” of more than ten million inhabitants. By 2014, it rose to twenty-eight. And, by 2040, that number is expected to increase to forty-one.

With this ongoing and dramatic urbanization of the world’s population, the U.S. Army is highly likely to find itself continuing to operate in cities. It is imperative that we study and understand the dynamics of operating in urban terrain. We must take the time now to analyze and test the lessons learned from different urban operations to ensure our soldiers and leaders are prepared for the future.

As a starting point, Army Press has compiled a selection of articles from Military Review, publications from the Combat Studies Institute, monographs from students at the Command and General Staff College, and other publications. This primer on urban operations should not be viewed as the textbook on the subject, but rather as a starting point for renewed study and conversation.

[1]. All stats come from the United Nations’ World Urbanization Prospects report, accessed 17 November 2016, http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html.

Recent Articles | Military Review Articles | Combat Studies Institute Publications | Related CSI Sources | Command and General Staff College Monographs | Other Notable Publications


Panel: New Army Capabilities Needed for Future Fight in Megacities

Panel: New Army Capabilities Needed for Future Fight in Megacities

By Jason Sherman

The Army needs to take action to bolster capabilities to fight in megacities and should lobby Pentagon leaders to adopt defense planning scenarios that include dense-urban area operations as an initial step toward laying the groundwork for potential weapon system programs needed for these missions. This is one of many recommendations in an Army Science Board study briefed this summer to senior leaders. The panel was commissioned in February to study the difficult operational challenge of fighting in cities and...

Published October 12, 2017 by Inside Defense.


Goldfein: Air Force Must Prepare for Battle in Urban Environments

Goldfein: Air Force Must Prepare for Battle in Urban Environments

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

Over the next three decades, the global population is expected to move largely to cities, which will provide the U.S. Air Force with unique challenges, said the service’s chief of staff Sept. 19.

Published September 19, 2017 by National Defense Magazine.


A Better Approach to Urban Operations: Treat Cities like Human Bodies

A Better Approach to Urban Operations: Treat Cities like Human Bodies

By John Spencer and John Amble

From Hue to Fallujah, the US military has ample evidence that we need to improve the way we operate in cities. But before we can do that, we need to figure out a better way to think about cities. With their complexity, their dynamism, their individual quirks, and their vulnerabilities, the analogy to the human body is too obvious to ignore.

Published September 13, 2017 by Modern War Institute.


Why America Is Destroying Iraqi Cities to Save Them

Why America Is Destroying Iraqi Cities to Save Them

By John Spencer and John Amble

Mosul is destroyed. Many of the estimated 875,000 residents displaced by the fighting can’t return home because their houses are among the piles of rubble left behind. Mosul joins cities like Stalingrad, Hue, Grozny, and more recently, Aleppo and Raqqa—all destroyed by violent combat.

Published August 23, 2017 by The National Interest.


MWI Podcast: The Future Urban Battlefield, with Dr. Russell Glenn

MWI Podcast: The Future Urban Battlefield

with Dr. Russell Glenn

By John Amble

In this episode of the Modern War Institute podcast, MWI editorial director John Amble speaks to Dr. Russell Glenn, a senior adviser for plans and policy to the deputy chief of staff, G-2, of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. Dr. Glenn has spent nearly twenty-five years studying the city as a battlefield.

Published August 16, 2017 by Modern War Institute.


So You Think the Army Can Avoid Fighting in Megacities

So You Think the Army Can Avoid Fighting in Megacities

By John Amble and John Spencer

Over the past few months, MWI has published several articles exploring combat in megacities and examining the Army’s preparation for such an operating environment. The response these articles have produced has brought into the open a debate—ongoing and almost shockingly intense—not about whether the Army is prepared for the unique complexities of dense, urban terrain, but about whether there would ever be a reason for the Army to even consider entering a megacity

Published on August 16, 2017 by the Modern War Institute.


Burnt house Mosul

Urban Warfare, Then and Now

From Hue to Mosul, the mechanics of fighting in cities remain much the same.

By Bing West

Bing West is a former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine. He has written several books about the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Published in the June 30, 2017 by The Atlantic.



Military Review Articles

Iraqi special operations forces move through the Old City section of Mosul, Iraq

Adaptation and Innovation with an Urban Twist

Changes to Suicide Tactics in the Battle for Mosul

By Lt. Col. Craig Whiteside, U.S. Army, Retired
Vera Mironova

The authors provide a valuable examination of the basic evolution of whom executes Islamic State suicide bombings, its targeting methodology, and the diverse supply chain that sustains such a prolific bombing campaign.

Published in the November-December 2017 Edition of Military Review, p 78.

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Military Operations in Megacities A Linguistic Perspective

Military Operations in Megacities

A Linguistic Perspective

By Jeff R. Watson, PhD

The author discusses the dynamic linguistic characteristics of megacities and how an appreciation of this linguistic landscape can help military leaders plan future military operations and better understand the megacity environment.

Published in the January-Febuary 2016 Edition of Military Review, p108.

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Future Megacity Operations – Lessons from Sadr City

Future Megacity Operations

Lessons from Sadr City

By Maj. Christopher O. Bowers, U.S. Army

A veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom opines that what the Army saw in Sadr City, Iraq, offers a glimpse into what it might encounter in future megacities. The author provides lessons from Army operations in Sadr City and applies them to potential future urban operational environments.

Published in the May-June 2015 Edition of Military Review, p8.

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The Urban Individual: Unassailable Source of Power in Twenty-First Century Armed Conflicts

The Urban Individual

Unassailable Source of Power in Twenty-First Century Armed Conflicts

By Lt. Col. Erik A. Claessen, Belgian Army

Winner of the 2015 Gen. William E. DePuy Combined Arms Center writing competition. The author shows that popular support may be a greater source of power than military might in urban conflicts.

Published in the November-December 2015 Edition of Military Review, p8.

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Urban Warfare: A Soldier's View

Urban Warfare

A Soldier's View

By Major General Robert R Scales, U.S. Army, Retired

If you believe events in Afghanistan and Iraq are anomalies that, once ended, are unlikely to be repeated, then today's defense priorities are about right. If; however, you believe the military faces decades of intense conflict against active, adaptive, and fanatical enemies who consider killing soldiers a viable strategic end, then you must agree a rebalancing of defense priorities is of utmost importance.

Published in the January-February 2005 Edition of Military Review, p9.

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Urban Operations: Future War

Urban Operations

Future War

By Lieutenant Colonel T. R. Milton Jr., US Army

The U.S. military will fight in cities and towns. This article captures the significant differences between urban warfare and classic maneuver warfare that every military leader must understand and overcome.

Published in the February 1994 Edition of Military Review, p37.

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MOUT: The Quiet Imperative

MOUT

The Quiet Imperative

By John J. Mahan

Chances are good that, in future conflicts, Army units will be called upon to fight in urban areas. Steps have been taken in recent years to upgrade abilities for this task, but there is much more that needs to be done.

Published in the July 1984 Edition of Military Review, p42.

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The German Debacle of Stalingrad

The German Debacle of Stalingrad

By Colonel Herbert Selle, German Army, Retired

Translated and adapted by Karl T. Marx

Many myths, legends, and opinions surround the various versions of the bitter World War Il battle for Stalingrad, which culminated in the destruction of the once proud and powerful Sixth German (Stalingrad) Army. Colonel Selle witnessed the slow, painful unfolding of the debacle.

Published in the September 1957 Edition of Military Review, p3.

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Combat Studies Institute Publications

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Block by Block - The Challenges of Urban Operations

Block by Block

The Challenges of Urban Operations

William G. Robertson, general editor

Lawrence A. Yates, managing editor

405 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2000.

This anthology entails ten case studies of urban operations in World War II and ends with the more recent Russian attempts to subdue Chechen fighters in Grozny and the Serbian siege of Sarajevo.

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Sharp Corners - Urban Operations at Century’s End

Sharp Corners

Urban Operations at Century’s End

By Roger J. Spiller

146 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2000.

This extended essay investigates the nature and conduct of modern urban operations through the prism of historical study.

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Breaking the Mold Tanks in the Cities

Breaking the Mold

Tanks in the Cities

By Kendall D. Gott

132 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2006.

These case studies study high-intensity battles and conflicts ranging from limited interventions to major combat operations.

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Back to Basics - A Study of the Second Lebanon War and Operation CAST LEAD

Back to Basics

A Study of the Second Lebanon War and Operation CAST LEAD

Lieutenant Colonel Scott C. Farquhar, general editor

157 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2009.

This is a study of the operations of the Israeli Defense Force against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It examines what the IDF did to prepare for that operation in light of its harsh experience and provides possible lessons for the U.S. Army.

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Back to Basics - A Study of the Second Lebanon War and Operation CAST LEAD

The US Army in Kirkuk

Governance Operations on the Fault Lines of Iraqi Society, 2003-2009

By Peter W. Connors

129 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2011.

This work chronicles the challenging task of bringing stability and representative government to the Iraqi city of Kirkuk after the fall of the Baathist regime.

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Traditions, Changes, and Challenges Military Operations and the Middle Eastern City

Traditions, Changes, and Challenges

Military Operations and the Middle Eastern City

By Lieutenant Colonel Louis A. DiMarco, US Army

71 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2004.

This study focuses on military aspects of urban areas in the Middle East and includes discussion on cultural awareness and understanding the intricacies of city design and function in this critical region.

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Related CSI Sources

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On Point - The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom

On Point

The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom

By Col. Gregroy Fontenot, U.S. Army, Retired, Lt. Col. E.J. Degen, U.S. Army, and Lt. Col. David Tohn, U.S. Army

598 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2004.

This book is a thorough review that examines the U.S. Army’s performance, assesses the role it played in the joint and coalition team, and captures the strategic, operational, and tactical lessons that should be disseminated and applied in future fights. Includes narrative of the operations inside Baghdad, Nasiriyah and other Iraqi cities.

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On Point II - Transition to the New Campaign: The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom, May 2003-January 2005

On Point II

Transition to the New Campaign: The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom, May 2003-January 2005

By Dr. Donald P. Wright and Col. Timothy R. Reese, U.S. Army

720 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2005.

This is a comprehensive study of OIF based on primary sources including hundreds of interviews with the participants. Includes analysis of operations in Fallujah, Sadr City, Samarra, and other Iraqi cities.

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Eyewitness to War, Volume I The US Army in Operation AL FAJR ― An Oral History

Eyewitness to War, Volume I

The US Army in Operation AL FAJR ― An Oral History

Kendall D. Gott, general editor

319 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2006.

This volume is a collection of historical interviews of the participants of the fight in Fallujah, including senior leaders.

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Eyewitness to War, Volume II The US Army in Operation AL FAJR ― An Oral History

Eyewitness to War, Volume II

The US Army in Operation AL FAJR ― An Oral History

Kendall D. Gott, general editor

321 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2006.

The second volume in the collection of historical interviews of the participants of the fight in Fallujah, including senior leaders.

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In Contact! Case Studies from the Long War Volume I

In Contact! Case Studies from the Long War

Volume I

Dr. William G. Robertson, general editor

158 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2006.

These case studies include lethal and nonlethal missions performed by US Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The events span the spectrum of participants from officers to noncommissioned officers and from combat units to support personnel, all in contact with an unforgiving enemy.
• American Advisor in Action, Mosul, 13 November 2004
• Operation TRAFFIC STOP: 1-64 Armor in Baghdad, 13 July 2005.

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My Clan Against the World - US and Coalition Forces in Somalia, 1992-1994

My Clan Against the World

US and Coalition Forces in Somalia, 1992-1994

Robert Baumann, Lawrence Yates Versalle F. Washington

219 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2004.

This book analyzes each phase of the U.S. military and coalition involvement in Somalia, including the battle of Mogadishu.

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16 Cases in Mission Command

16 Cases in Mission Command

This collection of historical vignettes seeks to sharpen understanding of mission command philosophy and practice by providing examples from the past in which mission command principles played a decisive role. Each historical account is complemented by an annotated explanation of how the six mission command principles shaped the action. Chapters that address urban operations include:
• Chapter 9. Thunder Run in Baghdad, 2003
• Chapter 13. The Bridge at Mayenne, France 1944
An interactive book on this book is found on iTunes.

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Mission Command in the 21st Century - Empowering to Win in a Complex World

Mission Command in the 21st Century

Empowering to Win in a Complex World

Foreword by Lt. Gen. Robert B. Brown

Lt. Gen. Robert B. Brown, the commanding general of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, has overseen the publication of a collection of vignettes and articles that sharpen the understanding of mission command. They offer an expanded view of the practice of mission command in widely varied settings. Chapter that addresses urban operations include:

• Chapter 16. Thunder Run in Baghdad, 2003.

Download the PDF

Download the iBook

Download the EPUB


Through the Lens of Cultural Awareness - A Primer for U.S. Armed Forces Deploying to Arab or Middle Eastern Countries

Through the Lens of Cultural Awareness

A Primer for U.S. Armed Forces Deploying to Arab or Middle Eastern Countries

By William D. Wunderle

136 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2006.

This book focuses on cultural conditions and provides a method for assisting military units to engage in post-conflict stability operations in urban settings.

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Through the Lens of Cultural Awareness - A Primer for U.S. Armed Forces Deploying to Arab or Middle Eastern Countries

Operation AL FAJR

A Study in Army and Marine Corps Joint Operations

By Matt M. Matthews

86 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2006.

This study tells how, in November 2004, a combined Marine Corps, US Army, and Iraqi Army offensive succeeded in eliminating enemy insurgents in Fallujah. An interactive version titled “The Liberation of Fallujah: November 2004” is found on iTunes.

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Through the Lens of Cultural Awareness - A Primer for U.S. Armed Forces Deploying to Arab or Middle Eastern Countries

Thunder Run

A Case Study in Mission Command, Baghdad 2003 (iBook)

By Anthony Carlson

20 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 2003.

This case study interprets the events of the “Thunder Run,” the operation designed to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime by striking deep into the city of Baghdad in 2003. An interactive book found on iTunes.

Download the iBook


CSI Battlebook - The Battle of Metz

CSI Battlebook

The Battle of Metz

Prepared by Staff Group 13a

84 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 1984.

This dated publication provides a good overview of the Battle of Metz, September to December 1944.

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CSI Battlebook - The Battle of Aachen

CSI Battlebook

The Battle of Aachen

Prepared by Staff Group 13c

150 Pages

Published by Combat Studies Institute in 1984.

This dated publication provides a good overview of the Battle of Aachen in October 1944.

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Command and General Staff College Monographs

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Regionally Aligned Forces and Megacities

Regionally Aligned Forces and Megacities

John D. Thomason

School of Advanced Military Studies Monographs

61 Pages / Published May 2015

Regionally aligned forces, while providing useful tactical capabilities like cultural and language familiarity, are inadequate for developing comprehensive information about megacity environments. Further, when megacities are considered as complex, adaptive systems, the limitations of comprehensive knowledge reveal themselves. Emergent events that have significant impact on the operational environment are plain only in hindsight, causally linked to the interactions between interdependent agents and populations in the city.

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In Order to Win, Learn How to Fight - The US Army in Urban Operations

In Order to Win, Learn How to Fight

The US Army in Urban Operations

Maj. Christopher S. Forbes, U.S. Army

School of Advanced Military Studies Monograph

87 Pages / Published: May 2002

The urgent requirement for U.S. Army preparedness in conducting urban operations is very real. As global urbanization continues to increase, the contemporary threat environment makes operations in cities impossible to avoid. The past decade has demonstrated through the American experiences in Mogadishu and Russian experiences in Grozny that less capable forces will attempt to use urban terrain asymmetrically to even the balance of power against technologically superior military forces.

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Building a Better Trojan Horse - Emerging Army Roles in Joint Urban Operations

Building a Better Trojan Horse

Emerging Army Roles in Joint Urban Operations

Maj. Christopher H. Beckert, U.S. Army

School of Advanced Military Studies Monographs

56 Pages / Published: May 2001

Joint urban operations have grown in importance since the early 1990’s, with doctrine on the verge of production. This paper captures the joint urban warfare phenomenon of the past decade, its emergence in the field of military art, and the directions that it will likely take. Developing alongside joint urban warfare doctrine is the transformation of the U.S. Army.

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The United States Army and Large Cities Prior to the Global War on Terror

The United States Army and Large Cities Prior to the Global War on Terror

Maj. Samuel T. Fuller

School of Advanced Military Studies Monographs

59 Pages / Published: May 2001

The U.S. Army has relied on a variety of doctrinal manuals for urban operations over the past seventy years. During this period, it conducted operations in Manila, Berlin, Tokyo, Seoul, Saigon, and Panama City, among other cities. While U.S. Army keystone doctrine changed many times to reflect new strategic contexts, urban doctrine remained relatively static. In particular, U.S. Army urban doctrine has never addressed effectively the unique requirements and characteristics of operations in large cities (those with a population over 750,000).

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Search CARL Library for additional urban operations monographs at http://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/.


Other Notable Publications

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CALL 17-24: Mosul Study Group What the Battle for Mosul Teaches the Force

CALL 17-24: Mosul Study Group

What the Battle for Mosul Teaches the Force

This study provides a snapshot of Operation EAGLE STRIKE to the broader U.S. Army. The observations are designed to provide immediate feedback to the U.S. Army in order to inform how it approaches current and future conflicts. It also suggests areas that require further study in order to better prepare the U.S. Army for combat. The overarching observations discussed above and the specific observations contained in the appendices will help U.S. Army leaders establish priorities to field the force needed to meet the demands of today’s multi-domain battlefields.


Armor Magazine

This March-April 2006 issue of Armor magazine contains several articles on urban operations. Of note is a key article by then-Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli about armor in urban terrain.

The United States Army and Large Cities Prior to the Global War on Terror

Armor in Urban Terrain

The Critical Enabler

Maj. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli

Maj. Patrick R. Michaelis

Maj. Geoffrey A. Norman

March-April 2006, p6

Task Force Baghdad’s adaptation to fighting in the urban canyons of Al Tharwa (Sadr City) and the cemeteries of An Najaf has been both remarkable and significant. It has proven the reality of urban combat — we can win and we can win decisively.

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Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin

Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin

Intelligence Support to Dense Urban Areas

This July-September 2016 issue of MIPB contains several articles on urban operations. The lead article discusses Megacities and the Intelligence Community. Dense urban areas (DUAs) are interactively complex operating environments that resemble the Army Operating Concept’s “complex, unknowable, and constantly changing” ideas. (16MB file size may take a few seconds to download)

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Military Contingencies in Megacities and Sub-Megacities

Military Contingencies in Megacities and Sub-Megacities

Authored by Dr. Phil Williams, Mr. Werner Selle

165 Pages / Published December 2016

Published by the Strategic Studies Institute

Urbanization is one of the most important mega-trends of the 21st century. Consequently, the possibility of U.S. military involvement in a megacity or sub-megacity is an eventuality that cannot be ignored. After elucidating the nature of urbanization and developing a typology in terms of smart, fragile, and feral cities, we give consideration to the kinds of contingencies that the U.S. military, especially the Army, needs to think about and prepare for. Understanding the city as a complex system or organism is critical and provides the basis for changes in intelligence, recruitment, training, equipment, operations, and tactics.

Find this article on the Strategic Studies Institute Website

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What an Army Megacities Unit Would Look Like

What an Army Megacities Unit Would Look Like

Authored by John Spencer

Published March 8, 2017

Published by the Modern War Studies Institute at West Point

The complexities of megacities and the dilemma of military operations within them have been studied by the Army since 2013. Operations in urban terrain more broadly have been studied multiple times before that. Wargames, conferences, writing contests, tabletop discussions, and experiments have been conducted. But not much has actually been done with the fruits of these efforts.