Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Time to amend FM 3-24?

The counterinsurgency manual issued in December 2006 was good as far as it went, but with the passage of more than two years we are seeing reports from the field that amount to calls for deviations from it. I noticed a couple in an article by Maj. Thomas Sills in the new issue of the ...

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586092_090506_ricksB2.jpg

The counterinsurgency manual issued in December 2006 was good as far as it went, but with the passage of more than two years we are seeing reports from the field that amount to calls for deviations from it. I noticed a couple in an article by Maj. Thomas Sills in the new issue of the Army's Military Review, which isn't as good as it was a couple of years ago, when it was essential, but still manages to bring it occasionally.

Sills notes that the manual advocates issuing identification cards. But the unit he was in didn't do this, for common-sensical reasons having to do with the overall priority of protecting the population. He notes that, "the local population residents needed false ID cards without Sunni-sounding names to avoid being harmed at National Police checkpoints or being targeted for kidnapping by Shi'a extremists."

Also, he found a problem with FM 3-24's recommendation to place local police in the lead, because of deep and warranted local distrust of those police.

The counterinsurgency manual issued in December 2006 was good as far as it went, but with the passage of more than two years we are seeing reports from the field that amount to calls for deviations from it. I noticed a couple in an article by Maj. Thomas Sills in the new issue of the Army’s Military Review, which isn’t as good as it was a couple of years ago, when it was essential, but still manages to bring it occasionally.

Sills notes that the manual advocates issuing identification cards. But the unit he was in didn’t do this, for common-sensical reasons having to do with the overall priority of protecting the population. He notes that, “the local population residents needed false ID cards without Sunni-sounding names to avoid being harmed at National Police checkpoints or being targeted for kidnapping by Shi’a extremists.”

Also, he found a problem with FM 3-24’s recommendation to place local police in the lead, because of deep and warranted local distrust of those police.

Both points made me think the manual probably needs a section on the sensitive issue of how to protect the people from your local allies. From what I have heard, this is also part of the problem in Afghanistan, where police corruption is so extreme as to be punitive. Do you read me, Centcom? 

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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