Terror War Demonstrates Need to Update Doctrine
Terror War Demonstrates Need to Update
By Donna Miles, American Forces
Washington D.C. -- (AFPS)
April 20, 2004 -- Current military doctrine needs an overhaul to better address
the challenges confronting U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, the commander of
the 18th Airborne Corps told the American Forces Press Service last week at the
corps headquarters at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Lt. Gen. John R. Vines accepts the 18th Airborne Corps and
Fort Bragg colors from Gen. Larry R. Ellis, commander of U.S. Forces Command, at
his change of command ceremony at Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 26, 2003. Vines said
current military doctrine was not written with operations such as Afghanistan in
Photo by K.
Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, commander of the Defense Department's largest
warfighting organization, said current doctrine falls short in addressing the
circumstances in which U.S. troops operate in Southwest Asia.
"We are so far beyond where the doctrine is in terms of how we operate that
the doctrine can only be a broad guide," Vines said. "Doctrine was not designed
with Afghanistan in mind. So consequently, what was written at (the Army's
Training and Doctrine Command at) Fort Monroe or the Special Warfare Center (at
Fort Bragg) or some other place didn't envision the complexity of what we are
This complex, non-linear battlefield has little resemblance to the Cold War
model on which much of today's doctrine is based. Vines said it frequently
provides no clear-cut distinctions between phases of warfare under way or the
types of troops conducting operations. Also, U.S. military forces interact
regularly with a wide range of noncombatants, including various U.S. government
elements, nongovernmental organization representatives and groups representing
the host country's central government.
"Our doctrine does not adequately address the control of this," said Vines,
who commanded Coalition Joint Task Force 82 and Combined Joint Task Force 180 in
Afghanistan from September 2002 to October 2003.
Vines said doctrine assumes what he calls "the old paradigm" that warfare is
conducted one phase at a time — with stability operations that include building
schools and digging wells kicking off only after combat operations have ceased.
"The reality is that in a single piece of battle space, we might have three or
four phases going on simultaneously," he said.
Military doctrine also fails to address adequately the heavy use of different
special operations forces or the integral association between conventional and
special operations forces on the ground, he said. Over the years, an "artificial
barrier" developed between the two forces, Vines said, but that in reality, they
work side by side, complementing each other's capabilities.
He said this mix of conventional and special operations forces as well as
militia have proven to be "extraordinarily effective" in Afghanistan.
Vines said doctrine needs to address another battlefield complexity better
than it does: the presence of a wide range of parties, most of them
noncombatants. These include not just local civilians, but also representatives
of nongovernmental organizations and interagency teams that are part of the U.S.
government. In Afghanistan, Vines said, coalition forces also work with the
Afghan National Army as well as militia members who received favored status by
the Afghan government because they supported President Hamid Kharzai in fighting
"So occasionally, figuring out who you are dealing with becomes the
challenge," said Vines. "You have to determine, does this militia have the
support and authorization of the government? It isn't always easy to do."
Vines said he expects the way operations are being carried out in Afghanistan
and Iraq to have a big influence on future operations. Ultimately, they too,
could be incorporated into future doctrine. These include a wide mix of aviation
units flying in the same battle space, the integration of Reserve and National
Guard units into missions, and the use of special operations forces to do things
he said "I'm not even sure their founders 60 years ago could have visualized."
One shortcoming Vines said needs to be addressed better is information
operations — the ability of U.S. forces to use information to win the hearts and
minds of the local population.
"If their only information comes from a mullah who is preaching hate against
Westerners, Christians, Americans, the coalition, and that is their only source
of information, then they will accept it at face value," Vines said. "So we have
to put the facts out in a way that they say, 'Listen, the neighboring village
was rebuilt, there has never been a road here before, and now there's a road.'
Then they see the value of working together to rebuild their country."
Vines said mastering information operations will go a long way toward
influencing people "to lay down their weapons and quit fighting and rebuild
their country." But for now, he said, "We don't do that nearly as well as we