By Major John P. One of the legs of the Army special-operations-forces triad, Civil Affairs, continues to deploy persistent elements into austere environments throughout the world and to operate in, around and near the operational ecosystem of violent extremist organizations, or VEOs. The 95th Civil Affairs Brigade sends civil-military support elements, or CMSEs, to identify vulnerabilities that can lead to the propagation of extremist groups in the Sahara. A company of linguistically and regionally trained Francophone specialists of the 91st Civil Affairs Battalion are currently deployed to West Africa.

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By Maj. Malian and Senegalese military forces rehearse infiltration and extraction maneuvers alongside special operations forces and European partner nation military forces with CV Ospreys from the 8th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla.

The U. Photo by Sgt. Kieran Cuddihy. With the prospect of grand scale nation-building projects like Afghanistan and Iraq unlikely in the near future, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the United States should narrow its focus to smaller projects geared toward training indigenous troops and foreign security sectors to maintain their own national defense concerns.

The idea of acting against terrorist insurgencies by, with, and through indigenous militaries and law enforcement organizations had to be explained to many. To deny the terrorist groups environments where they can exist, recruit, and train requires long-term planning and even longer-term execution in order to succeed. For now, it also remains somewhat offstage, while the direct action, combat phase continues in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and, to a limited extent, in Iraq.

In a little more than a year, however, the indirect approach will be center stage and the only overt method of conducting the campaign against terrorist organizations. By then, the United States will have largely completed drawing down in Iraq and will begin the drawdown in Afghanistan.

Ironically, after that, the war, or campaign, will also become more of a global activity. As more emphasis will be placed on finding ways to act indirectly and simultaneously in several areas of the world, the mission of U. USSOCOM has long been the advocate of coordinating and synchronizing counterterrorism plans because most of those plans entail use of SOCOM forces to either conduct operations or to train partner nation forces.

Other participants from the U. Over the five years, participation grew to well over 1, people cramming into SOCOM meeting rooms to discuss ways to conduct CT around the world.

It was three years ago, in fact, that one of the conclusions of the GSC recommended that the indirect approach become accepted as the main effort in what was then called GWOT. A key fear is that as AQIM al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb expands, its criminal and insurgent operations will continue to destabilize the fragile governments of heavily Islamic North Africa, much as it has in Mali.

In its essence, the slide describes the lines of action moving from the friendly side required to attack terrorist organizations from two angles. The top lines of action in green depict the indirect approach, where acting on the environments, the indigenous government and its population. Iraqi Special Operations Forces Convoy Security Course graduates respond to a simulated improvised explosive device during one of the four demonstrations performed at the graduation ceremony in Baghdad, Iraq.

The course trained the soldiers in weapons-handling procedures for close fire, quick reaction to ambushes and improvised explosive devices and vehicle maneuvering. Army photo by Specialist Eric Haupt. The red, direct lines of action were on top and the green lines below. Olson ordered the chart flipped to emphasize that the green lines are primary and more important to defeat violent extremist movements.

He also has said that to complete the mission will require many things, chief among them to develop experts in other cultures, similar to T. Lawrence of Arabia. Also welcoming particpants, Brig. Mark Clark, the SOCOM director of operations, stated that this 10th Global Synchronization Conference had been scaled down from the 1, people attending the last couple of conferences to less than participants. This was done so the group would be more likely to produce actionable recommendations that could be presented to the three- and four-star levels for decisions, resource allocation, and execution.

He added that without such solid results, SOCOM would have to consider that hosting future conferences would be of doubtful value. As the representatives from other agencies presented briefings, the seemingly simple lines of action in green on the chart became more and more complex. The simplicity of the CONPLAN campaign slide does not show the level of difficulty and time-consuming nature of the indirect approach compared to the direct action lines of action seen in red.

As direct action implies, the lines of action are simple and emotionally satisfying. An Afghan national army truck conquers a small mountain during a route recon patrol through the hills of Farah province, Feb.

Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command were conducting a combat reconnaissance patrol through a mountainous region. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt.

Nicholas Pilch. Indirect action, conversely, requires patient perseverance. To change the environments by strengthening local governance, to convince people that terrorism is an illegimate method of political action, and to separate populations from the insurgencies will all take time, and positive changes are hard to measure. Indirect action transforms the targeted government and the views of many of its population in order to end the ability of terrorist groups to win followers or gain financial support.

How to measure these changes and how to maintain popular support and congressional funding support occupied much of the discussions at the 10th GSC. The pros and cons of the direct and indirect methods were also much on the minds of the participants. The indirect approach removes the U. The United States, in these cases, must remain far in the background to enhance further the sovereignty and legitimacy of the host government.

Phase 3 usually encompasses combat operation while Phase 4 has become better known in Iraq and Afghanistan as the exit strategy of standing up indigenous security capability so that U.

The indirect approach and Phase Zero intend to make Phases 1 — 4 unnecessary and can make future nation-to-nation conflicts less likely for the United States as terrorist insurgents are countered and less likely to gain control of their targeted nation-states.

GSC participants agreed there are many positives if the indigenous militaries perform the kinetics of disruption of extremist organizations. Getting the U. Bluntly put, Islamic countries must do the necessary killing of terrorists, and that will help combat the perception of an American war on a religion.

Therefore, even though the indirect approach will take longer to get the targets, it will result in less popular support for extremist ideologies, perceived legitimacy of indigenous governments by their populations, and a lessening of international terrorism support.

Discussions at the GSC also revealed many of the pitfalls of executing the indirect approach as seen from the seat of government in Washington, D.

In one country that was fighting narco-terrorism, as an example, it took eight years of U. The long process won congressional support, but it was not always easy, and some funds were earmarked for other U.

Additionally, problems persist in the execution of the indirect approach in that a number of countries have poor records or poor reputations with respect to protecting the human rights of their own citizens. For the U. Synchronization across DoD also includes consideration of the general purpose forces, the services, and what they are doing to conduct training and equipping of partner nations as well.

Recently, the conventional services have improved their ability to train and equip partners in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. Indeed, building partner capacity is the exit strategy, and the services must accomplish it in order to conduct an orderly withdrawal.

GSC discussions of these programs centered on which countries best could use the aircraft that result, and whether those countries will need financial help with acquisitions. In general, these programs will arrive at about the time the need for the aircraft becomes more apparent. Here again, sustaining U.

Restrictions on the export of advanced technologies will likewise require modernization. His words exhibit a strong influence on the coming need of working by, with, and through our partner nation militaries:. Coordinated changes in export restrictions will clear the way for the kind of partner nation equipping strategies many of the GSC participants recommend. Such actions usually remain classified until deliveries occur, but coordinating the arrival of equipment to the time of training requirements and prospective operations in up to 40 different countries discussed at the GSC will require robust ability across the GCCs, the conventional services, and the whole of government.

The relaxation of restrictions is the beginning of a process of equipping partners that looks to last long into the future and encompassing many adjustments to facilitate the campaign against extremism. Clearly, the same can be said in fully synchronizing counterterrorism efforts just in DoD, and much further to go in achieving a whole-of-government approach. SOCOM began this process somewhat alone five years ago, and has now achieved an organizational enterprise that has gained the attention, and qualified support, of the DoD and other U.

These recommendations concerned governmental policies that need adjustment in the areas of counterterrorist finance and in tracking illicit networks. One working group recommended actions needed to improve partner training in non-standard rotary wing or NSRW.

In simpler language, this means training partners in flying helicopters that are not in the U. There were also recommendations for senior-leader coordination on several crosscutting, interagency issues that will get attention from NCTC, the National Security Council, and other governmental departments in Washington.

When asked whether the Global Synchronization Conference will continue to meet at SOCOM every six months, the answer came back as a statement of qualifiers. That decision will come at a later date. When the indirect approach takes center stage, its actors will be well-rehearsed and ready to take their starring roles. Francis M. Beaudette, Commander, U. Sharing Options:. Facebook Comments. Your source for trustworthy defense news Read more about our mission info defensemedianetwork.

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