WASHINGTON – Drawing on its successes and failures in Iraq, the military is completing a new counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes working with and protecting civilians, defense officials said Thursday.
The Army and Marines have jointly written a new field manual that is to provide commanders with a framework for thinking about counterinsurgency missions — explaining what they are, what to expect and how to operate in such environments.
The new doctrine is scheduled to be completed this month and released next month, senior defense officials said Thursday.
A draft of the manual stresses the importance of work that troops are already trying to do, with mixed success, in Iraq. It emphasizes the importance of nonmilitary solutions, such as promoting economic development and making sure basic services are restored, as a way to deprive insurgents of support. It also urges interaction with the population and standing up local security forces as quickly as possible.
"What we are learning is that counterinsurgency requires a comprehensive approach," said Lt. Col. Lance McDaniel, the main Marine Corps writer of the manual. "Protecting the people may be the ultimate priority, but you have to do other things, too."
Criticism of the Iraq campaign has included that it has cost thousands of civilians their lives and alienated many Iraqis by using heavy-handed tactics against the population, as well as failing to sufficiently get water, electricity and other basic services back in order.
"We want our soldiers and Marines to be savvy in going into these complicated environments ... see what the problem is first ... recognize that it might not always be a kinetic (combat) approach that's most valuable," McDaniel said, adding that many of the ideas in the manual have come from troops coming out of Iraq.
The New York Times, which first reported in Thursday editions that the manual is near completion, quoted experts who question whether the Army and Marines have enough troops to carry out the new doctrine effectively while also preparing for other threats.
"The Army will use this manual to change its entire culture as it transitions to irregular warfare," retired Gen. Jack Keane, a former acting Army chief staff, told the Times. "But the Army does not have nearly enough resources, particularly in terms of people, to meet its global responsibilities while making such a significant commitment to irregular warfare."