Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts, Politics and Current Events

Why we need more advisers

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Lt. Col. John A. Nagl is a leading experts on U.S. counterinsurgency operations. Authoring and contributing to several recent books on the topic—Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife and The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual—Nagl has been instrumental in promoting an alternative to conventional counterinsurgency strategy: increasing the U.S. military’s advisory role to foreign forces, and “[empowering] our partners to defend and govern their own countries.” In an op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times Nagl takes a look at the ongoing conflict in Iraq and offers his advice on how “to [successfully] shift of the combat load from American forces to the Iraqi and Afghan armies.” Nagl writes:

First, United States military and civilian leadership must recognize that resources to support this major shift in strategy have to be re-routed from our regular forces. Left to themselves, the military services will inevitably neglect advisory efforts to sustain conventional forces.…
Second, shifting the burden from our forces to Iraqi and Afghan troops will call for close coordination between our civilian leadership and commanders in the field. Even as American combat forces draw down in favor of adviser-supported local armies, American combat support in the form of firepower, intelligence and logistics will continue to be crucial…
Third, the United States’ success depends on the willingness of the Iraqi and Afghan armies to fight with tenacity and skill. Soldiers of both countries are good fighters when well led. But we’ll let them down if we don’t send more and larger teams to embed with locals.
Finally, the American people must continue to be patient. In the 20th century, the average counterinsurgency campaign took nine years. The campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to run longer, and other commitments loom in this protracted struggle against Al Qaeda and its imitators. Bitter experience has long recognized that only local armies can ultimately prevail in counterinsurgency operations.

Read the rest of the article on the NYT website.
Also read the preface from Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife or Nagl’s foreword to the Counterinsurgency Field Manual.