The Right Tool for the Job
Recently, a story was published indicating that the US military will now train rebel Syrian elements due to ineffective training by the CIA. While the story does not provide specifics regarding what the CIA training consisted of or fell short in, if CIA "foreign internal defense" (FID) efforts focused on the same things US Special Forces (SF) does, which seems to be small-unit tactical level "shoot 'em in the face" efforts, then perhaps it is time for conventional military advisors focused on higher level functions: advising on command-and-control (C2) and staff organizational skills that can develop the host-nation (HN) ability to conduct short and mid-term operational planning, logistics management / forecasting, and overall staff coordination needed to support organized combat efforts extended across time and space.
While this might seem like heresy to some (many?) to say such things, the FID efforts of US Special Operations Forces (SOF), including CIA, appear to place greater emphasis on direct-action kinetic fights, with HN forces "along for the ride", VS developing HN C2 capabilities and staff functionality focused on self-sufficiency (I got a taste of this during my stint as a contractor supporting US SOF in Afghanistan). As one retired SF guy put it, "We don't join SF to be on staff..." which I understand. However, it seems that greater emphasis needs to be placed on staff activities like planning, coordination, and overall management and less on “shoot-‘em-in-the-face” efforts. The recent fall of Ramadi has been attributed to a “lack of good planning by the (Iraqi) military”, which I feel supports my position.
Special Forces and CIA FID advisors certainly have their place. But the development of staff capabilities can be better supported by conventional troops, mainly senior officers and NCOs, with extensive experience on staffs. This can be accomplished by using an organization discussed previously on SWJ: advisor teams built from Training Support Battalions. The current technique uses the Regionally Aligned Brigade (RAB) concept to provide advisory forces for foreign troops. But if current “hot-spots” become dangerous enough to warrant the intervention of conventional US combat troops (as Iraq very well may), those units must be well-trained to operate together, which the current RAB model interferes with by taking key leaders away from their organizations for advisory missions, degrading their collective operational capabilities.
By using training support teams already organized as small training / advising elements to execute such FID duties, we can have the necessary advisory elements engaging the HN forces in the appropriate areas (leadership, C2, planning, organizing, coordinating) while our combat brigades and its leaders focus on their primary area of expertise: breaking things and killing bad guys. We have the organizations in our inventory to do host-nation “advising”….let them do it, and keep our combat troops focused on combat training and, if necessary, combat duties. The right tools for the right job.
Morgan Smiley is a retired US Army officer currently working in Saudi Arabia.