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Thread: Why Is the American Military So Bad at Teaching Others How to Fight?

  1. #1
    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    03 Aug 03

    Why Is the American Military So Bad at Teaching Others How to Fight?

    I think it is far beyond needing a special training corps and maybe looking at what a third world nation needs and how people in the developing world go about things. The Soviets were able to leave behind a functioning DRAAF with MiG-21s and Su-22s, a large tank park and lots of artillery backed by militias (sort of like Syria today) - we form very large lightly equipped motorized constabulary forces. Not small well trained armies which the economy could support but in the case of Afghanistan too big to be supported and merely increasing the number of sorta trained guys for militias once the pay cheques stop.

    Iraqis, in mostly Humvees and pickup trucks, complained about the lack of heavy weapons in facing ISIS and more TOWs have been given to the Syrian MB then the ANA.

    Yeah one can blame leadership, in officers and units we paid lots of money to have trained, and so forth but that on is own is a cop out.

    As well armed terrorists forces can bring ATGMs and manpads to the game today maybe we nerd to rethink the model.

    House panel to study foreign military training efforts
    By Leo Shane III, Staff writer 11:50 a.m. EDT October 19, 2015
    Afghan National Army

    (Photo: Najim Rahim/AP)

    The House Armed Services Committee is looking into the Defense Department's foreign military training programs in response to what the panel’s chairman sees as mounting frustrations over the mixed results of recent efforts.

    Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said the oversight work will include a series of public and closed-door meetings with Pentagon officials in the days to come. The first hearing will be Wednesday, with views from outside experts on the successes and failures of the current work.

    “We can’t do everything ourselves, so somebody has to be out there helping us to do it,” Thornberry told reporters after a recent hearing on U.S. operations in Afghanistan. “So we’re going to try and work with others.”

    At that hearing, Army Gen. John Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told lawmakers that even with a focus in recent years of training local security personnel to take over the fight, those forces are still years away from being able to operate completely on their own.

    “The Afghan National Army and police have repeatedly shown that without key enablers and competent operational-level leaders, they cannot handle the fight alone in this stage of their development,” Campbell said, an assessment that elicited sighs from committee members.

    “Ultimately, I'm convinced that improved leadership and accountability will address most of their deficiencies," Campbell went on. "But it will take time for them to build their human capital.”

    His comments came just one day before the White House abandoned its efforts to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels in the fight against Islamic State militants, an effort that has produced only a small number of trainees.

    Thornberry said he wants his committee’s work to focus on a broader view of the training efforts, bringing in historical examples to find ways to improve the current initiatives.

    “I was surprised when Gen. Campbell said we’ve been training the (Afghan) army for the last eight or nine years, but the (Afghan) air force only for the last three. Why did we wait so long?” Thornberry said. “Maybe we were so absorbed in defeating al-Qaida that it has taken that long.

    “I don’t think it was malfeasance, but there are legitimate frustrations.”

    On Oct. 15, President Obama announced plans to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan longer than he had previously promised, in large part because “Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be.”
    Yeah I know it is slate...
    Why Is the American Military So Bad at Teaching Others How to Fight?
    The task goes far beyond what U.S. soldiers are trained to teach.
    By Fred Kaplan

    When the invasion of Iraq triggered an insurgency, a civil war, and the collapse of social order, Colin Powell coined the “Pottery Barn rule” about military intervention: “You break it, you own it.” In the wake of President Obama’s Oct. 15 announcement that 5,500 U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan through the end of his term, I hereby proclaim the “Hotel California rule,” after the last line of the Eagles song: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”*
    Fred Kaplan Fred Kaplan

    Fred Kaplan is the author of The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War and 1959: The Year Everything Changed.

    Obama’s decision—a reversal of an earlier plan to pull out entirely from Afghanistan by the end of his presidency—was made well before the Taliban’s assault on the northern town of Kunduz, which raised doubts about the Afghan army’s ability to defend the country by itself.

    Senior administration officials say that, back in March, Obama ordered the Pentagon to conduct a review of how many U.S. troops would be needed to sustain counterterrorism operations in the region. The answer turned out to be 5,500, spread out on three bases (in Kabul, Bagram, and Kandahar), a calculation that Obama endorsed before the Taliban seizure of Kunduz, though that attack (and the Afghan army’s eventual retaking of the town, with U.S. assistance) sealed the deal.

    Three factors shaped the decision. First, in September 2014, one day after he was sworn into office, Afghanistan’s new president, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, signed a “bilateral security agreement” permitting U.S. and NATO forces to remain in his country after the international combat mission expired at the end of that year. (Ghani’s predecessor, Hamid Karzai, had refused to sign the agreement.) On a subsequent trip to Washington in March, Ghani asked Obama to keep the troops there for longer still and promised to form a more inclusive, less corrupt government in Kabul.

    Second, with Ghani’s assurances in mind, Obama ordered the Pentagon review on the U.S. military presence, asking those conducting it to look at Afghanistan not so much as this country where we’d been fighting a war for 13 years but, more, as one of several partners in a global counterterrorism strategy—in this case, against the Taliban, al-Qaida remnants, and ISIS jihadists who had begun to pop up in the area.

    Once any foreign military commitment is made, it doesn’t take much to get troop levels up to 5,000 or so. An officer in the Pentagon, with experience in special-operations forces, calculates that a couple thousand are needed for counterterrorism operations, a couple thousand to continue training and advising the Afghan army, a thousand to staff a headquarters, and close to a thousand for “force protection”—that is, for armed forces whose job is to defend the other U.S. military personnel.

    The third factor, which does hang over the now-almost-14-year-old war in Afghanistan (and which plays a big part in the “Hotel California rule”), is that the American military is not very good at training indigenous armies in countries facing threats from within and without. (See also South Vietnam and Iraq, among others.)

    Military training is more complicated than many realize. True, the Taliban, al-Qaida, and ISIS don’t require advanced training for its recruits, so, it’s often asked, why should the Afghan or Iraqi army? But the two tasks are different. Insurgents can attack at a time and place of their choosing; if met with force, they can withdraw and attack someplace else. By contrast, armies defending the government have to be strong and ready everywhere, or they need to have the means to move quickly from one place to another.

    So training is not just a matter of teaching soldiers how to shoot straight and maneuver on a battlefield (which American trainers do well). If the goal is to turn the fighting completely over to the local armed forces, then training must also involve teaching them how to conduct and call in air strikes, gather intelligence and apply it to tactical operations, move soldiers rapidly from one area to another (which involves flying helicopters or small transport planes), resupply soldiers when they’re deployed far from the base (logistics), and plan operations on a strategic or theater-wide level.

    To do all these things goes well beyond the abilities of American infantry or special-operations forces assigned to a training mission. In other words, the way we currently train, it may never be possible to make our client-armies completely self-reliant.

    John Nagl, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, has long called for the creation of a special advisory corps—units whose sole task would be to advise, train, and assist foreign military forces. These advisers would come to a war zone not only with combat skills but also with fluency in the local language and culture. They would help the local senior officers set up and operate a headquarters. They would help senior officials do the same in the ministry of defense. And, as Nagl envisions it, they would not only train troops on a base but also embed with small units of these troops on the battlefield.

    The Taliban, al-Qaida, and ISIS don’t require advanced training for its recruits, so why should the Afghan or Iraqi army?

    Nagl’s idea never found favor among his military or political superiors when he first pushed it 10 to 15 years ago. The generals were opposed because they didn’t want to divert good soldiers from traditional combat missions, especially with the Army’s ranks already shrinking. Some politicians paid lip service to the idea, but ultimately they acceded to the brass—and those who looked more closely were uncomfortable with the fine print. The idea of embedding American advisers with local troops evoked grim memories of Vietnam—and Nagl was acknowledging explicitly that, in the sorts of unstable countries where these advisers were likely to be deployed, they would have to stay embedded and advising for a long, long time.

    Few American politicians, officers, or ordinary citizens have any appetite for embedding the current teams of American advisers alongside Afghan troops (or Iraqi troops or Syrian rebels) in combat, and for very good reason. But Nagl may have a point: It’s very difficult—it might be nearly impossible—for the local troops to win, if the advising and assisting stops halfway.

    Then again, there are other reasons for the failure of training, and they have little to do with the lack of a specialized American advisory corps. In several of the insurgency wars we’ve joined in the past several decades, the local elites—who sign on to be our allies—are corrupt or incompetent at running their countries. The local soldiers feel little loyalty to their commanders or their leaders, while the insurgent rebels are very energized by their cause. No matter how well Americans—or any outsiders—might train and advise such soldiers, they are unlikely to win because they have no desire to risk dying while fighting.

    This was certainly the case when Iraqi soldiers—trained by America’s finest at a cost of billions—fled after the first gunshot when attacked by ISIS marauders in Mosul. In the same sense, the fate of the Afghan National Army will depend less on the thoroughness of American training than on the degree to which President Ghani cleans up Karzai’s corruption. Back in late 2009, when President Obama sent more troops to fight in Afghanistan, the senior U.S. officers—including Adm. Mike Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. David Petraeus, who was commander at the time—testified that, if the corruption persisted, the Taliban would win, no matter how many American troops joined the fight. The same is true now.

    For all these reasons, President Obama has been leery of military adventures. He sent more troops to Afghanistan, giving his commanders a chance to try out a new war strategy; when it didn’t work as quickly as they said it would, he withdrew the troops and ended the combat mission. He has decided to keep 5,500 trainers, advisers, and counterterrorism forces in Afghanistan for longer than he’d originally expected because the new Afghan president wants them there, signed a treaty to keep them there, and committed to run an inclusive government—and because the Afghan army isn’t ready to go it alone. The premise is to leave it up to the next American president to decide whether the commitment is still worth the effort. But there should be no illusions on one point: The Afghan army won’t be ready to go it alone for a long time and the United States isn’t prepared to make it otherwise.

    Correction, Oct. 20, 2015: This article originally misquoted the last line of the Eagles song “Hotel California.” It’s “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave,” not “You can check out anytime you want.” (Return.)
    Last edited by troung; 22 Oct 15, at 04:19.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

  2. #2
    Senior Contributor Stitch's Avatar
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    I actually read "The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War" about a year ago; unfortunately, the "regular" Army has a lot of inertia, and I'm afraid Petraeus didn't get very far with his COIN strategy (except for a few of his disciples, like McMaster).

    The US Army is REALLY good at teaching other armies how to fight like they do. Unfortunately, most armies can't fight like the US Army can; they simply don't have the resources the US Army does, which is probably why the Russian army does a better job of that. Parts of the Russian army are used to getting by on slim resources, and are good at utilizing the resources that are available to get the job done.
    "There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you're not there any more." -Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge

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    I discussed this Shek and others on a Facebook site the other is what I said.

    "How much of this is also based on the 2 countries which were mentioned are tribal societies with artificial national identities?

    Was Biden's idea back a decade ago to allow Iraq to move to a confederation with 3 autonomous regions the right path? Tribal loyalties tied to known leaders would make for more effective fighting forces than what we got.

    Would we have greater success within a single, contiguous ethnic/tribal group?"

    That is in response to the specific article. In each instance we were dealing with an artificial construct of a nation with no national identity and no national will.

    Now, that said, I would say the US has been successful in building militaries post WW 2. But in the instances where we were successful we had strong local partners who wanted to grow their democracy and society.

    US SPEC OPS works well with indigenous groups in training them for low spectrum operations.

    So these are the 2 ends of the spectrum.

    As for the equipment...we just have not built on the scale as the Soviets did. They may have out built us in tanks and small arms and artillery pieces and fighters.

    But we have a) outbuilt them across the board from a quality standpoint. I'll stack an M60A1 RISE Passive against a T-62 M60A3 against a T-64 twice on Sundays and an M1A1...well enough said. b) And we sure have built a shitload more cars, refrigerators, stoves, New Balance running shoes, basketballs, monster trucks and a whole lot more consumer goods.

    They built guns...we built guns AND butter.
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
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    Senior Contributor SteveDaPirate's Avatar
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    The US does just fine training others at the tactical level. However, at the strategic level, the question is whether you've got a partner that shares the same interests as you, and the answer is generally no. We like training a professional army that serves the country. Most of our partners like an army that will serve the ruling party. Thus, rather than optimizing performance by selecting and promoting the best officers, they select and promote the most loyal officers as insurance against a coup. However, when optimizing for internal security, that means that you're suboptimizing performance in external security.

    The same interesting misalignment question is why your run into equipping issues. Providing a capability that will be used in a way counter to our interests, whether it's to suppress political opposition within the country or to threaten an external neighbor, is often the reason that you see some mismatch in equipping. Syngman Rhee and Korea in 1949 and 1950 is a great example of this - providing capability to defend again a potential North Korean armor threat (something we missed until it was too late) would have provided capability for Rhee to start the Korean War first.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Damn we need the like button back. +1 each to When and Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by citanon View Post
    Damn we need the like button back. +1 each to When and Steve
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
    Mark Twain

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