New York TimesFor the first time in decades, the Army has issued a field guide to counterinsurgency warfare, an acknowledgment that the kind of fighting under way in Iraq may become more common in the years ahead. The Army field manual on counterinsurgency operations is the first since the early Vietnam era, and the first ever intended for the kind of regular Army units now embroiled in battles in Iraq, as opposed to the Special Operations forces who have taken the lead in previous counterinsurgencies. Under orders issued in February, the manual was prepared on an accelerated basis by the Combined Arms Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and was distributed to all officers, in Iraq and elsewhere, beginning last month. An introduction says the "aftermath of instability" in Iraq that followed the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime underscored the need for an updated Army guide to counterinsurgency warfare. Until now, formal American military doctrine for fighting insurgencies has been so limited that many Marines were deployed to Iraq with copies of the Marine Corps' "Small Wars Manual," issued in 1940. The most recent Army guides on the subject, written principally for Special Operations forces, were prepared in 1963 and 1965, in the early stages of the Vietnam War. Like the Army, the Marine Corps is also updating its manual. The new Army guide contains instructions on such matters as searching a family car and setting up a hasty checkpoint. Other passages address the role played by "transnational insurgents," like the foreign fighters in Iraq, and emphasize the role of intelligence, rather than Vietnam-era search and destroy missions, in finding insurgents. The guide also includes a stark warning about the dangers of prolonged counterinsurgency operations, saying that the longer American forces take the lead in such efforts, the greater the resentment they breed among the host-country population. "A long-term U.S. combat role may undermine the legitimacy of the H.N. government and risks converting the conflict into a U.S.-only war," the manual says, using an abbreviation for host nation. "That combat role can also further alienate cultures that are hostile to the U.S." In some ways, military officials said, the guide just reflects tactics, techniques and procedures that troops in Iraq and Afghanistan already use, such as armoring vehicles against improvised explosives. But for a hierarchical organization like the Army, the distribution of the guide is a sign of the importance being attached to the issue. Army officers who have recently returned from yearlong duty in Iraq applauded the doctrine, but said its methods were nothing new to field commanders, who have been employing and refining such tactics for months. The guide's distribution in October came nearly 18 months after the Iraq insurgency began in May 2003, following President Bush's declaration of an end to major combat operations. Army officers have acknowledged that the Army was ill-prepared to contend with the new environment. "The important point here is that the Army has again, a bit late, recognized the importance of counterinsurgency, and is working to improve its capability to fight and win low-intensity conflicts," said an Army officer who recently returned from Iraq and demanded anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue. The document is unclassified, but the Army has limited its distribution to Defense Department personnel, "to maintain operations security," the document says. A copy of the document, dated October 2004, was posted Thursday on a Web site run by the Federation of American Scientists. Officially, the document is a "field manual interim," a new designation that allows the Army to accelerate its normal schedule for preparing doctrine. The guide's principal author, Lt. Col. Jan Horvath of the Army, said in a telephone interview that it was completed in just five months; the Army usually insists on developing new doctrine over a period of three years. "The stunning victory over Saddam Hussein's army in 2003 validated U.S. conventional force T.T.P.," the document says, using an abbreviation for tactics, techniques and procedures. "But the ensuing aftermath of instability has caused review of lessons from the Army's historical experience and those of the other services and multinational partners." According to the field manual, known as F.M.I. 3-07.22, the impetus for its creation "came from the Iraq insurgency and the realization that engagements in the Global War on Terrorism (G.W.O.T.) would likely use counterinsurgency T.T.P.'s." It says its purpose is to review "what we know about counterinsurgency" and to explain "the fundamentals of military operations in counterinsurgency environment." Even before the document was published, military officers said that the Army's main training centers at Fort Polk, La., and Fort Irwin, Calif., had begun to consider lessons and comments from soldiers engaged in the Iraq counterinsurgency. One purpose for the manual, Colonel Horvath said, was to update archaic language and concepts. The "Small Wars Manual," which many Marines carried to Iraq, includes sections on the "management of animals" like mules, and assertions like a warning that mixed-race societies are "always difficult to govern, if not ungovernable, owing to the absence of a fixed character." The Army did issue a manual in 1990, F.M. 3-20, on the subject of military operations in low-intensity conflict, and that document included a section on counterinsurgency. But Colonel Horvath said that his commanders, including Lt. Gen. William Wallace, a top Army commander during the invasion of Iraq who now heads the Combined Arms Center, had found it to be inadequate. Senior Army officials said that events on the ground in Iraq and in Afghanistan made it clear months ago that the service had to revamp its doctrine for fighting insurgents. "We needed to update the counterinsurgency doctrine," General Wallace said in an interview in late summer, as the document's authors were putting on the finishing touches. "That hadn't been looked at since the post-Vietnam era." General Wallace, who commanded the Army's V Corps during the Iraqi war, said that Army authors worked closely with the Marine Corps and with the British military, which has extensive counterinsurgency experience in places like Northern Ireland. But General Wallace cautioned that successful counterinsurgencies required calibrating the right degree of force with economic development and political institutions. "We've got to strike the right balance," General Wallace said. "Security has to be there for the economy and government to work. But having an economy and government is essential for security."
November 13, 2004
For the First Time Since Vietnam, the Army Prints a Guide to Fighting InsurgentsBy Douglas Jehl and Thom Shanker with Eric Schmitt
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company