Situation Report

Army, SOCOM Create New Landpower Group

A report card on the surge, Poll: Americans support nuking terrorists, Obama’s Pentagon peeps defend his record, and more.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of FP’s Situation Report, where free speech is always a good thing. Follow me @glubold or hit me anytime at

The Army and Special Operations Command are starting a new strategic land-power cell. The brand-new initiative, known only to a small group of planners thus far, is the brainchild of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and will take shape over the next few months. The group, which will also include the Marines, is designed to fuse the military’s land cultures, from the conventional land power of "Big Army" to the people-oriented skills of Special Forces to technology and cyber efforts. Ultimately, the planning cell could include general officers from each of the major land components, Situation Report is told.

By creating a group focused on integrating those pieces, military strategists believe they can make more effective use of land power — especially at a time when ground forces, after more than 10 years of war, are perceived to have fallen out of fashion in the hallways of the Pentagon. Ultimately, the effort could have implications for military doctrine, for the integration of conventional and specialized forces, and even for acquisition, according to an individual familiar with the nascent group.

The group’s formation is bound to be controversial for the perception it will create at a time of a major budget crunch and the move to Asia – in effect, that the land forces are looking to lobby for more resources and influence But the individual familiar with the group pushes back on the notion that this is anything more than the ground forces taking a strategic approach to working better together.

"The Strategic Landpower initiative is intended to harness the lessons learned over the past decade of population-centric warfare, retain what worked, and then determine what that means for land forces going forward," the person told Situation Report. "Understanding the relationship between people, technology and the environment will improve our efforts to shape the environment in positive ways that prevent war, just as it should allow us to make lasting process in future conflicts if we have to fight."

If it sounds like ground guys will be camping out and singing Kumbaya, remember that for the last decade, particularly in the early years of Iraq and Afghanistan, the ground components’ individual elements have worked largely in ad hoc fashion, without understanding each other’s culture or even knowing when the other was operating on the battlefield. This has led to frequent clashes. For example, Special Operations Forces have shown up to operate within a conventional unit’s "battle space" without informing them first, and conventional units have tracked targets unaware that another ground unit was gathering intelligence from the same target and saw it as a smaller piece in a much bigger battlefield puzzle.

"It was like, ‘Hi, nice to meet you,’" the individual familiar with the group said.

That person was quick to insist that the cell is not an Army effort to counter Air Sea Battle — the Air Force- and Navy-focused plan created under the auspices of 91-year old Pentagon futurist Andy Marshall in response to a rising China. Army and Marine officers charge that Air Sea Battle is costly and expensive and have poked holes in some of its assumptions. Although Air Sea Battle relies heavily on air and naval power, the Army has a role in it and doesn’t begrudge the plan, we’re told.

Odierno is expected to announce the formation of the group formally by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, did the surge work? There were four components that needed to work if the surge in Afghanistan, now over, was to work, writes Rajiv Chandrasekaran on FP: Karzai had to be a willing partner, the Pakistani government had to crack down on insurgent sanctuaries, the Afghan security forces had to step up, and the U.S. had to commit to Afghanistan’s future, in the form of troops and money, for years ahead. Rajiv looks at each of those pillars. He doesn’t draw his own conclusion, but points to Kael Weston, who appears in Rajiv’s recent book and argues that Obama should have pledged to a ground force, whatever it was, for a decade; that it was more the length of commitment than its size. Afghanistan, Weston often told Rajiv, is more of a marathon than a sprint. Rajiv: "The surge was a sprint. And America got winded too quickly."

Ahmadinejad’s position on a number of things, in advance of his U.N. speech this morning. The Iran Primer primes the pump.

Direct from the Crazy Poll Results Department: Americans accept torture creep. A new poll via YouGov shows that a quarter of all Americans are willing to use nukes to kill terrorists. Amy Zegart on FP: "[T]he poll numbers suggest that Americans have become more hawkish on counterterrorism policy since Barack Obama became president." Here’s another surprising result:

In October 2007, a Rasmussen poll showed that 27 percent of Americans surveyed thought the U.S. should torture prisoners captured in the fight against terrorism, while 53 percent said it should not. But in this new YouGov poll, 41 percent said they would accept torture, while only 34 percent said the U.S. should not. And support for assassinating terrorists has grown from 65 percent in a 2005 poll to 69 percent today. More results and analysis here:

Former Pentagon officials turn Obama attack dogs. Three former officials from Obama’s Pentagon, including Michele Flournoy, Colin Kahl and Doug Wilson, are all working for the Obama campaign now and, as E-Ring’s Kevin Baron terms it, "each walked their own line between policy and partisanship" at a Washington breakfast yesterday. The normally reserved Flournoy poked holes in Mitt Romney’s national security rhetoric, even highlighting some of his "bloopers" on Syria and his "distasteful" response to the unrest in the Middle East.


No Rest for Unrest


The Pivot

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