• Thanks for stopping by. Logging in to a registered account will remove all generic ads. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

The Asymmetric Warfare Group

Fusaki

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
0
Points
410
T6 posted this link over at LF.  I think it deserves a spot here too.

http://www.army.mil/aps/08/information_papers/prepare/Army_Asymmetric_Warfare_Group.html
Asymmetric Warfare Group

What is it?
The Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG) is a special mission unit reporting through 20th SUPCOM to the Army G-3/5/7. The unit consists of military Service Members, Department of the Army civilians and contractors, and has an authorized strength of 377 total personnel. Every member of the AWG is carefully screened and selected for unique attributes and operational experience using a nominative process and modified personnel management procedures. AWG mitigates strategic and operational near-term risk by anticipating emerging and future asymmetric threats and enabling capability-gap solution development. It also serves as a change agent providing key observations for senior leaders and informing policy and resource decisions. These observations are assessed and disseminated through globally-postured advisory assistance elements in support of Army and Joint Force Commanders to stimulate adaptive behavior and benchmark best practices and battlefield innovations from across the force. The Asymmetric Warfare Group provides operational advisory assistance to Army and Joint Force Commanders to enhance the combat effectiveness of the operating force and to enable the defeat of asymmetric threats. AWG key tasks include:

-Support Army and Joint Force Commanders by advising and assisting predeployment and in-theater forces

-Deploy and sustain AWG forces worldwide to observe, assess, and disseminate information with regard to asymmetric threats

-Assist in the identification, development, integration, and transition of material and non-material solutions for both offensive and defensive countermeasures

-Influence culture to form a more innovative and adaptive force

-Assess, select, and train unit members

What is the army doing?
AWG observes and collects information about the evolving asymmetric operating environment by providing operational advisors to deployed and deploying forces in support of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). From this vantage point, AWG serves to inform senior leaders on the evolving conditions that may require short-term policy and resource allocation decisions. AWG also directly informs institutional systems to enhance their ability to meet the requirements of the current and future environments. Finally, AWG assists commanders to develop awareness about adaptations in the way both friendly and enemy forces fight, train, and develop leaders, tactics, techniques and procedures. This awareness is translated into action through direct input into ongoing combat operations and the training programs of deploying elements, both active and reserve.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
As the AWG reaches full operational capability, the Army will continue deploying AWG teams globally to assist in the transformation of Army units, enabling faster identification and targeting of enemy vulnerabilities.

Why is this important to the Army?
The Asymmetric Warfare Group is the Army’s focal point for identifying critical asymmetric threats and enemy vulnerabilities through first-hand observations. This allows the AWG to influence the Army’s capability for rapid adaptation to the evolving threat environment across the entire Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel and Facilities (DOTMLPF) spectrum.

The AWG, to me, sounds like a pretty switched on idea. The US Army has given a small group of Tier 1 guys the resources to zip around world, figure out what the newest insurgent tactic is, and then move the "big army" through the OODA loop faster in order to defeat it. This is their full-time job.

In 1RCR in 2004, we weren't allowed to wear Camelbaks in the field because they weren't issued.  The AWG seems to be at the polar opposite of that mentality.  Very progressive. Very new school. Very cool.
 

tango22a

Full Member
Reaction score
0
Points
210
Wonderbread:


Maybe you should have painted or bleached the camelbacks White.....Then they should have been suitable for wear!!


Cheers,

tango22a
 

Arctic Acorn

Full Member
Reaction score
0
Points
210
Seems like a neat idea; it needs police advisors (not MPs, but civilian police), and as long as it has good State Department buy-in it could have some use. Also, they'd have to be pretty linked-in to the US training system, in order to insluence TMST training.

That said, standing up a group like this should not be an excuse for the "No Camelbaks Allowed" crowd to keep on with that mentality. While you may have a high-speed group who can deploy into theatre do all the stuff this group is supposed to accomplish, it won't matter a whit when the rest of the "Green Army" gets on the ground, with commanders still stuck in a conventional mindset. That said, has this gotten better with the US? I'm 3 years out of date at this point.

 

Big Red

Full Member
Reaction score
0
Points
160
0tto Destruct said:
Seems like a neat idea; it needs police advisors (not MPs, but civilian police), and as long as it has good State Department buy-in it could have some use. Also, they'd have to be pretty linked-in to the US training system, in order to insluence TMST training.

Why would it need civilian police advisors? Of course they are linked into the US training system, the guys in AWG are IN the military or recently seperated from it...

0tto Destruct said:
While you may have a high-speed group who can deploy into theatre do all the stuff this group is supposed to accomplish, it won't matter a whit when the rest of the "Green Army" gets on the ground, with commanders still stuck in a conventional mindset.

AWG advises and embeds with conventional units in theatre, not just in training.
 

Fusaki

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
0
Points
410
I should add that the AWG comes up from time to time in other threads on LF.

More than once, it's been in the "show your fighting loadout" thread, where guys post pictures and reviews of the armour, load carriage, and rifle set-up they are currently using in theatre.  In the course of a review, a guy will say something along the lines of "Well, I had my gear set up like this, but these AWG guys came in to train us and suggested that we try doing it like that."  The AWG seemed to be pushing guys to thin out their kit to increase mobility.  "Shoot less, aim more" seems to be the latest catchphrase. 

I think that advice reflects  the realization that the insurgent strategy has been to instigate the coalition into heavy-handed responses that alienate us from the populace, then use their relative speed and mobility to zip away while taking few casualties themselves.

I think, here, we have one example of how the AWG has been prodding the US Army to adapt, right down to the level of individual squad members.  In the AWG thread on LF, there has been mention of how members of the AWG would sit around the table with coy comds and staff officers and offer their insight at that level as well.

It's interesting stuff.
 

tomahawk6

Army.ca Legend
Reaction score
62
Points
530
The only way AWG works is that the AWG advisors/mentors are trying to help not to show a unit up.
 

Arctic Acorn

Full Member
Reaction score
0
Points
210
Big Red said:
Why would it need civilian police advisors? Of course they are linked into the US training system, the guys in AWG are IN the military or recently seperated from it...

AWG advises and embeds with conventional units in theatre, not just in training.

I think civilian and police advisers are key to a COIN/aysemmetric approach. If you look at the campaign plans for both ISAF and in Iraq, security operations is only one line of operation. A force in theatre (NATO-EU-AU force or a robust Host Nation military) means that you are likely to win almost every engagement against an insurgency, but you can still lose the war. One of the biggest issues in Afghanistan (the current state of their government being #1) is the lack of a robust and credible police force to maintain rule of law.  Being in the military it's easy to be biased and inflate our own importance, but once the conventional war is over (is there even is one) the importance of our role should lessen to allow the Host Nation and civilian/police elements sort things out.

Here's a link to a great presentation on COIN concepts by David Kilcullen: http://babylonscovertwar.com/Analysis/COIN-Kilcullen%20Small%20Wars%20Center%20of%20Excelence%20Semainar.pdf

In practice this doesn't often happen, but we're not going to kill/capture our way to victory. (Sri Lanka could be cited as a noteable exception, but I don't think the Tamil Tigers are as dead as the current government claims, and I think they way they went about it sewed the seeds of a future insurgency).

Further, just because this group is ex-military or still serving doesn't mean they have any influence whatsoever in the Training System. I understand that the Theatre/Mission Specific Training they do in the US is fairly current for defeating current insurgent TTPs at the tactical level, but the underpinnings of the system are still (I believe) based in a conventional mindset. Some services do it better than others (I understand the USMC appear to be doing a lot of good stuff in Helmand right now), but it won't do a lot of good for a small aysemmetric-savvy group or advisors with jammy kit to advise guys who only know (and were trained) to behave like a bull in a china shop. Embedding in theatre isn't a bad idea, however I do see scope for misemployment in that case. Some of this is personality dependant obviously, but I clearly remember seeing an OC on my tour using CIMIC/PSYOPS assets attached to him as an excuse not to engage the local populace in a meaningful way (CIMIC: you pay out the claims for any damage my company does on farms/fields. "PSYOPS, tell these guys if they don't tell me where the Taliban are I'll make their town look like Pashmul")

Worst-case scenario, I know, but still a mindset some of our commanders have.
 

Infanteer

Moderator
Staff member
Directing Staff
Donor
Reaction score
4,104
Points
1,160
0tto Destruct said:
One of the biggest issues in Afghanistan (the current state of their government being #1) is the lack of a robust and credible police force to maintain rule of law.

There is a "rule of law" to uphold there?  "Rule of law" takes a lot more then police.

but we're not going to kill/capture our way to victory. (Sri Lanka could be cited as a noteable exception, but I don't think the Tamil Tigers are as dead as the current government claims, and I think they way they went about it sewed the seeds of a future insurgency).

....except for the Viet Cong in South Vietnam, or the Philippine Insurrection, or the Riel Uprising.  History is replete with examples of insurgencies being defeated with the kill/capture of guerrilla forces by competent leadership (the heart of any counter-insurgency effort); FM 3-24 fans just conveniently forget them when they swing their "hearts and minds" schtick.
 

Arctic Acorn

Full Member
Reaction score
0
Points
210
Infanteer,

Rule of law does take more than police, and security operations are fundamental to provide the foundation for rule of law to be established. But it's the police and a credible government that have to make that self-sustaining, not the military.

On the kill/capture thing: By itself it isn't going to solve all the issues, neither will a purely hearts and minds approach. Kill a HVT, and someone will always be around to take over. While conflict in the Philippines was almost purely military, even after putting thousands in internment camps (and other tactics which would be completely unacceptable today) the capture of General Aguinaldo and his agreement to peace terms was a temporary solution. Malval carried on for another year until he was pressured to surrender (again, using tactics that would be unacceptable by todays standards). Even then, the remaining irreconcilables carried on for another 10 years, until they were rounded up by the Philippine Constabulary. Killing/capturing leaders by itself is a temporary solution at best.
 

Infanteer

Moderator
Staff member
Directing Staff
Donor
Reaction score
4,104
Points
1,160
0tto Destruct said:
On the kill/capture thing: By itself it isn't going to solve all the issues, neither will a purely hearts and minds approach.

Ok - just checking.  Some are convinced that all it takes is "clear, hold, build" and you can COIN your way through anything.
 

Arctic Acorn

Full Member
Reaction score
0
Points
210
Well, the Clear, Hold, Build thing is pretty much the over-arching idea, but no one group (international or host nation Police, Civilian, Military) can do all three effectively (other than clearing, and unless it's done a certain way).
 

Infanteer

Moderator
Staff member
Directing Staff
Donor
Reaction score
4,104
Points
1,160
"Clear, Hold, Build" is a tactic - to say it is the overarching idea is creating a "strategy of tactics" (to quote Col Gentile).  The overarching idea should be a strategy that is informed and reacts to policy, of which "clear, hold, build" is a tactical option that can be employed if the situation dictates.

Unfortunately, one doesn't get that from reading the latest counterinsurgency manuals.
 

Arctic Acorn

Full Member
Reaction score
0
Points
210
Found a neat article on the guy. I admit I was getting a bit worn out waiting for his actual views/points (which are are halfway through, the rest was buildup). If I'm reading right, his position is:

- The US did the COIN thing before the COIN pam came out. I accept that. It wasn't cut from whole cloth, and it was informed by a number of years of experience in Iraq, as well as the experiences of a number of COIN thinkers from a number of time periods and nations.
- The Pam didn't fix the issues in Iraq, nor did the 'Surge'. I don't disagree with this. The extra boots on the ground probably didn't hurt though.
Clear, Hold, Build, is a neoconservative plot to use the military to conduct social engineering on societies in line with American interests (which is an extension of the Bush Doctrine). This I have an issue with. While I personally think Iraq was a horrible idea (bashed out before, on other threads, so I propose we not get into it here), any mission currently in place today (UN, AU, or NATO) involve an integrated group of international partners working in a failed/failing state, with the legitimately elected host nation government to influence an outcome in accordance with international and humanitarian law. Clear, Hold, Build is generally a key tactic to facilitate the ability for the host nation to be able to stand on its own, so international forces can eventually leave. It requires a new way of thinking, and requires all three elements (police, civilian, and military) to expand its horizons a little bit and learn a modified way of doing business. Is that a bad thing? Does a facility with COIN precepts mean that we're ignoring the importance of being good at conventional operations? I'd say that the focus has changed in the past decade, based on necessity, and that isn't a bad thing.

Last point on Col Gentile - I read a fair bit about what he's against (COIN, Neoconservatives, the Bush Doctrine, the fact that he was doing COIN before the US Army officially said it was 'cool'), but I didn't see what he was really for. If Clear, Hold, Build is a bad thing, what to him is a good thing?

As I see it, within the school of modern military thinkers you're going to have the hard-core COIN folks, who were raised in that context due to current conflicts, study past examples, and believe in it whole-heartedly. That is the lens by which they see current conflicts. Right now, we need them and because of the current global climate (and the theatres we operate in) they're in ascendancy.

If, at some point down the road NATO ever becomes involved in a conventional war, there's lots of people who have more conventional mindset who will come back into vogue. However, at some point a lot of skills learned from COIN (the importance government/governance structures, the requirement to assist in the development of a robust and credible host nation security forces, and the need to work with civilian agencies...or at least learn to agree to not work at cross-purposes) must not be lost from our skillset. Like it or not, but while we do a large part to set the conditions for success, political solutions tend to be the longest-lasting, and we can't leave until the local cops and soldiers can function. We have to know how to support that, and a purely conventional mindset is not the best way to accomplish this.

What I think is wrong are the puritanical folks (from both COIN and conventional sets) who fail to see the value in the other mindset, and cannot see the value in understanding the utility of the other approach. In the US, so much there is politically charged that it's hard to separate strategy (or tactics) from the political rhetoric.

Modified - Here's the article:

http://original.antiwar.com/vlahos/2009/05/06/gian-gentile-exposing-counterfeit-coin/
 

Infanteer

Moderator
Staff member
Directing Staff
Donor
Reaction score
4,104
Points
1,160
I'm with you on a lot of what you said.  Gentile is a pretty smart cat and frequently contributes to the Small Wars Blog; I think his critique of the "modern COIN narrative" and the FM 3-24 cult is pretty good, but I don't find as much substance in his follow up - I just needed to ensure I acknowledged his Parameters article.  The funniest thing about Gentile's complaints is that he says COIN is destroying conventional abilities - our COIN in Afghanistan was our first chance in over 50 years to exercise these abilities.

The problem with "clear, hold, build" is that it is not a way to facilitate the ability of a host nation to do anything of a permanent nature.  It breaks up concentrations of insurgents and turns security forces into village policemen and that's about it - somewhere, this linking of tactical tasks got turned into an all-encompassing a mantra about protecting the population.  Our doctrine says "clear, hold, build is the tactical approach to COIN" (the draft revision says this explicitly) - this is like putting out a PAM on battlegroup attacks saying "all battlegroup tactical success is through an envelopment".  Now, (and this is where I agree with Gentile) we've essentially painted ourselves in the corner; if the government asks what the military can do to support policy, all we can say is that "we'll clear, hold and build, garrison large numbers of soldiers in the hinterland, and hope the side we picked gets its s**t together - oh yeah, and we'll give them a national election too!".  Is that really a strategy?

I had a discussion with an SF Colonel in KAF who said that we've essentially "operationalized" this tactic and it's too phase based - the words are bandied about as metrics at various levels so often (village, district, province) that they aren't that useful.  The conception now is that all we have to clear to get to hold so we can get to build.  It's great that you are in the "hold" phase but what is the enemy doing?  If I'm in "build" and I get IED'd, am I back to "hold"?  In the habitually lame Canadian fashion, we've grafted on "Define" and "Shape" and "Exploit" to add more useless jargon to the mix.

Mark Moyar's focus on elites and leadership in his new book (and his qualitative evidence to back the claim) is, in my opinion, a much better way to approaching counterinsurgency.  Instead of developing infrastructure, we need to develop leaders.  We're not doing that when we say "it's the Afghan way".
 

Arctic Acorn

Full Member
Reaction score
0
Points
210
I think we're in violent agreement on a lot of what we're saying.  I wasn't over when we had our own COIN pam so I have little first-hand experience supporting operators trying to practice it. I was always under the impression that the flow of CHB (Tired of typing it again and again) wasn't something you do in a day; it took months, at best. It sounds like from your experience it was implemented in rapid succession (as in, tacked onto a clearence operation). To be clear, was this is case?

I always thought CHB is an attempt to set the conditions to allow the HN government/security forces to take over (the Clear and Hold bit), at which point we're supposed to step back and keep holding while the Build bit happens. After a long enough timeline, local forces take on the lions share of the Holding. For that to work though, there needs to be something to hold on to, and what is being built should (IMO) be built for and by the locals, not just be some Quick Impact Project. "Signature Projects" drum up support at home to a point (unless they're expensive), but if the engineers aren't there to maintain them, and the cops can't protect them, what is the point? This has been (and still is) a significant problem in many parts of the world.

You're absolutely right though...what do you do when the HN isn't ready, or is unwilling to do the right thing? Supporting effective leaders is far better than building something quick and dirty and walking away. It's kinda like the 'No peace to keep' thing...no governerors to govern? No police to serve and protect? I think conducting an effective counter-insurgency is predicated on having at least a marginally effective government, with a populace that is generally supportive (or at least benignly indifferent, and able to be influenced) to it. If that isn't there, do you run the risk of playing kingmaker in order to seek some level of stability (or even, continued legitimacy for your mission)? Perhaps that's the social engineering/bush Doctrine guys like Gentile are concerned about; I still think however that you can voice support those who follow commonly accepted humanitarian/human rights principles, but it's a hell of a lot harder to do in a society that subjucates half it's population (and especially when the elected government occasionally forget to do so).

Finally, spot on with the buzzwords..."shaping" was en vogue when I was over...if not for any functional purpose at least to appear as if you were serving one.
 

Fusaki

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
0
Points
410
This thread is expanding my mind.

I'm a total n00b when it comes to this stuff, but I'm about halfway through The Accidental Guerrilla, so I guess you could say that I'm at least getting my feet wet in COIN theory.

Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but the vibe I'm getting from Kilcullen is that the local leaders are developed through the process of CHB.  I haven't read any of Moyar's stuff (or Gentile's, or much else for that matter), but what do these COIN counter-theories offer as an alternative?  I have the same question as Otto: what does Gentile suggest we do instead?  Also, how does Moyar suggest that we develop leaders, of not by actually putting them to work on developing infrastructure?

Another question, that may or may not be a new thread:

If you had to prioritize a COIN reading list, what do you suggest?  Do you think The Accidental Guerrilla was a good place to start?
 

Infanteer

Moderator
Staff member
Directing Staff
Donor
Reaction score
4,104
Points
1,160
0tto Destruct said:
I think we're in violent agreement on a lot of what we're saying.  I wasn't over when we had our own COIN pam so I have little first-hand experience supporting operators trying to practice it. I was always under the impression that the flow of CHB (Tired of typing it again and again) wasn't something you do in a day; it took months, at best. It sounds like from your experience it was implemented in rapid succession (as in, tacked onto a clearence operation). To be clear, was this is case?

No, not really.  However, we were in the "phase" rut - to the fact where it would influence courses of action.  The thing is, counterinsurgents are likely "clearing, holding, and building" all at the same time.  The other problem is that CHB has morphed into a concept that is intrisincally linked with "secure the populace" despite the fact that doing so may or may not be relevant to defeating the insurgents in the AO.

As well, and others can chime in, but I believe CHB has its roots in Galula, who wrote concerning main force communist insurgent units operating in the countryside - this clearly isn't the case in Afghanistan or a lot of other insurgencies.

If that isn't there, do you run the risk of playing kingmaker in order to seek some level of stability (or even, continued legitimacy for your mission)?

I'd argue that in COIN, good-governance is better than self-governance.  If we are going to own the purse strings and invest our own blood into someone else's problem, we need to ensure that we're not wasting it because "that's the way they do things here" or "we have to let them solve this" - all societies have their good leaders and their duds and a good counter-insurgent influences (or outright directs) this to his favour.

Edited: Clarity
 

Infanteer

Moderator
Staff member
Directing Staff
Donor
Reaction score
4,104
Points
1,160
Wonderbread said:
Another question, that may or may not be a new thread:

If you had to prioritize a COIN reading list, what do you suggest?  Do you think The Accidental Guerrilla was a good place to start?

I'd argue that your best place to start is to find a few histories of counterinsurgency campaigns and to read them and fill your crib sheet.  Don't find theory books that give you examples from campaigns they feel benefit the proposed theory, find objective campaigns that present the facts and note those facts.

Go to the older "doctrine" stuff - for some reason, doctrine started to get irrelevant in the 70s/80s and hasn't improved since then (it's pretty sad when the CLS has to order his subordinates to read doctrine).  Caldwell, Small Wars Manual, Kitson, etc.  They are all valuable when measured against the times they were written.

Some of the biggest problems with COIN is that it tends to be theorized in a vacuum.  A lot of COIN stuff out there is essentially tactical primer - all the good tactics in the world won't help if your strategy sucks.  As my SF friend said "it's great that you have your finger plugging the hole in the dam, but the water's about to come over the top."  Some basic reading in strategy is good - stuff like John Collins or Colin Grey.  Clausewitz is difficult, but essential.

When digging into theory, it's handy to know that there are a few "schools" of counterinsurgency and that these "schools" will present you history that fits the theory.  The three broad "schools" I've seen are:

[list type=decimal]
[*]"Enemy-Centric":  Argues that the essential element of COIN is to find and destroy insurgents.  Some of the older French authors and stuff from Vietnam fall into this; it's not too popular these days although it can be found in guys like Ralph Peters;

[*]"Population-Centric":  Argues that the essential element of COIN is to secure the populace from insurgent influence.  Very popular today and underpins modern doctrinal manuals.  Writers like Nagl and Kilcullen fall into this school; and

[*]"Leadership-Centric": Argues that the above two are important but useless if you don't get the right elites in society in your corner.  Somewhat new and not well known, it's put forward by Mark Moyar; I don't know of any others who fit into this approach.  At times, it seems like a dialectic synthesis of the first two approaches, which may be a good thing.
[/list]

When you read into theory, remember what school a guy comes from and try and find out how other explanations approach the same case studies.

I know this isn't a specific list and may not help you, but it should help tell you "how" to read.
 
Top