Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Is the Army too focused on COIN?

West Point’s Col. Gentile says so. This officer in Afghanistan indicates no: That task is more difficult because the 1/12 battalion hasn’t exactly had a terrific rotation in Afghanistan. "We’ve been asked to do a lot of different things," says Major Korey Brown, the battalion’s executive officer. "They detached us from our brigade, which is ...

MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images
MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images

West Point’s Col. Gentile says so. This officer in Afghanistan indicates no:

That task is more difficult because the 1/12 battalion hasn’t exactly had a terrific rotation in Afghanistan. "We’ve been asked to do a lot of different things," says Major Korey Brown, the battalion’s executive officer. "They detached us from our brigade, which is headquartered in eastern Afghanistan, and sent us out here to Zhari district to be storm troopers — that’s what General Vance called us — and that’s what we were trained for, that’s what we like to do.To find, fix and finish the enemy." But the mission changed with the arrival of General Stanley McChrystal, as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in the summer of 2009. "It’s not about how you engage the enemy so much now. It’s how you engage your district governor," says Brown. "That’s a huge change for guys like us — call us knuckle draggers or whatever, but we weren’t trained to do COIN."

West Point’s Col. Gentile says so. This officer in Afghanistan indicates no:

That task is more difficult because the 1/12 battalion hasn’t exactly had a terrific rotation in Afghanistan. "We’ve been asked to do a lot of different things," says Major Korey Brown, the battalion’s executive officer. "They detached us from our brigade, which is headquartered in eastern Afghanistan, and sent us out here to Zhari district to be storm troopers — that’s what General Vance called us — and that’s what we were trained for, that’s what we like to do.To find, fix and finish the enemy." But the mission changed with the arrival of General Stanley McChrystal, as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in the summer of 2009. "It’s not about how you engage the enemy so much now. It’s how you engage your district governor," says Brown. "That’s a huge change for guys like us — call us knuckle draggers or whatever, but we weren’t trained to do COIN."

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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