Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Unconventional Warfare Now

Unconventional Operations to the Rescue
(Part One of the Lily Pad Strategy)
by Paul E. Vallely, U.S Army, MG (ret)

Most Americans desire an effective change in the US war strategy and the wider global war against Islamic extremists and nations supporting them. President Obama, Secretary, Robert Gates and the Generals and Admirals must deliver it by placing experienced unconventional warfare leaders in charge of the war effort.

Since forcibly removing Al Qaeda and the Taliban in just 34 days in the Fall of 2001 with 100 Special Op Forces and Air Power and Saddam Hussein removed from power in 2003, the U.S.-led coalition Forces has been unable to achieve a take home Victory.

While many Americans recognize the conflict in Afghanistan is not going well and changes need to be made, there is substantial disagreement at the national level on a military strategy. The U.S. is seriously considering adding more conventional forces. Sending an additional 40,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan under current military strategies will be unlikely to make much difference. Excessive and restrictive rules of engagement must be lifted and rules for engagement built into the local Commander’s Operational plan to allow maximum power to be brought to the battle. As well, “Boots on the ground in Afghanistan” really mean Afghan boots on the ground.

Unlike US/NATO troops, the adversaries in this war do not carry arms openly, wear uniforms or insignias, and abide by other laws and customs of wars specified in Geneva conventional and protocols. They instill fear in military opponents, village leaders and local populations through use of suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, kidnappings and beheadings. And they disguise themselves as civilians and hide among civilian populations with weapons stored and discharged from mosques, schools, hospitals, market-places, private residences and public roads.

To prevail, the U.S. has to transition from a conventional to an unconventional war footing and make the enemy pay a heavy price for their despicable tactics. The US must use “proxy forces”. "If you support me, I will destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda," Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum told The Washington Times in an interview at his northern stronghold. "I don't want to be a minister, not even the defense minister. I need to be with my soldiers. Give me the task and I will do it." Other ethnic leaders have made similar offers, but their support is problematic. Gen. Dostum is one of Afghanistan's most notorious warlords -- a Russian-educated former defense minister who turned against the Soviet Union in the 1980s but became a key figure in the Russian-backed fight against the Taliban a decade later. The tribal leaders with support are the only ones that can turn the tide of the war and not the central government in Kabul. As well, there can be no sanctuaries in Pakistan for the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

In Iraq and elsewhere, traditional troops, weapons and tactics are less useful than tools of influence, covert operations, and intelligence brought to the battlefield by special operators working harmoniously with indigenous forces and local populations. The prime objective is to create a climate of fear within enemy ranks that breaks their will to continue the armed insurrection.

Joint special operators (from all military branches) are also trained in local cultures and languages making it easier for them to embed in local populations and Afghan security forces and collect information which in turn may be used to “hunt and kill” hostile forces.

Forget about Nation Building until the enemy is defeated.

The action continues to meet resistance throughout DOD’s conventional warfare ranks, their industry partners, and congressional allies. The U.S. active duty military force consists of 1.4 million troops of which only about 50,000 are elite special operators, with only several thousand deployed to Afghanistan. Many military professionals prefer to have special operators continue in a supporting, not leading role.

Immediately after recently assuming his new post, Gates correctly stated that the U.S. must win in Iraq or face a “calamity” that would “endanger Americans for decades to come.” Since the fall of Baghdad, the U.S. has had the will to win but not the right strategy. It’s imperative that the U.S. transition quickly to an unconventional war strategy the war will be lost. The new “Lily Pad Strategy” must evolve now. There will be more published on this new out-of-the-box- global war-fighting strategy…….

Paul Vallely, MG U.S. Army (Ret) is Chairman of the Stand Up America USA and Save Our Democracy Now Projects and co- author of “Operation Sucker Punch” and “Endgame".

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