Win Friends, Kill Enemies: An Unyielding Call for Warrior-Diplomats in Modern Warfare
Phillip W. Williams Jr.
If the armed forces of the Western democracies are to support Allies from the Third World, is our force posture truly oriented toward enhancing their autonomous combat capability, or are we constrained to explicitly taking part in the fighting, simply because our weapons and ancillaries are not effectively transferable.1
-- Thomas P. Rona
Throughout 2004, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom I commanded a Civil Affairs Team from the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion. It was already my second tour in a still burgeoning war having already served a year in a remote corner of Afghanistan immediately after 9/11. In Afghanistan we were completely unconventional with beards, civilian clothes and isolated locations. For that tour my first team became known as Coalition Humanitarian Liaison Cell Seven, or more commonly as “Chiclet 7”. In Iraq we were officially designated as Direct Support Team 2, Bravo Company, 489th Civil Affairs Battalion, call sign “Titan”, and on the door of our team room I posted a homemade sign that summed up our mission which read: “Win Friends, Kill Enemies!”
There was a time when any effort toward Civil-Military Operations (CMO) was more often seen as a post-combat consideration. After all, the motto of Civil Affairs is “Secure the Victory”, a phrase originally designed to imply that once the victory had been attained that CMO would be initiated to solidify the situation on the ground. But over time, and by necessity, CMO has grown to encompass operations throughout the full spectrum of war: all the pre-, post- and inter-combat phases. A second look at the word “secure” in Webster’s Thesaurus indicates that it can also be synonymous with “acquire, attain, and assure”. The motto doesn’t need to change, but the persistent view of it does. CMO then should be looked at as another means to “acquire the victory”, and in order to put that to full effect there has to be a professional view of Civil Affairs soldiers as both warriors and diplomats.
The uncomfortable truth that many in modern western society do not want to face is that war, by its very nature, will kill people and break things. However, in the midst of that truth is a second truth that many seem to forget: Namely, that the United States of America, more so than any other nation, expends great resources to develop and implement the means of mitigating the effects of the first truth on noncombatants and infrastructure in the war zone. No other nation in the history of the world has so earnestly sought to conduct military operations while simultaneously striving to minimize the killing and breaking. It is a monumental struggle. No small thing by any means. And yet, there is not even a debate as to whether or not that second truth should be pursued. A complete victory requires a full-spectrum approach that by necessity engages the host nation at every level. But until the bullets stop flying the stage for victory must also by necessity be set by the warfighter, who must in turn have skills that accomplish the requirements for both fighting and diplomacy.
CMO can be accomplished by both conventional and Special Operations Forces (SOF). But drawing from the full list of SOF Imperatives 2 one can see that SOF soldiers are uniquely trained and capable of developing the deep inroads into the civilian centers of gravity that highly detailed and successful CMO require. During the course of the Global War on Terror SOF soldiers have lived as immersed in the culture and fabric of all theaters of operation as anyone in uniform can.
In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the conduct of current warfare has never had more negative effects than the oppression and degradation that both the Afghan and Iraqi people endured before we arrived. 3 This is a fact that was witnessed firsthand by many who entered each theater in the early stages of each respective conflict and was faced with what pre-existed the US invasion. In Afghanistan my Civil Affairs Team - Alpha (CAT-A) arrived in Konduz Province in early 2002 to be collocated with one Special Forces Operational Detachment – Alpha (SFODA) and augmented by what was then referred to as a Tactical Psyop Team (TPT) and an Air Force Tactical Air Control Party Specialist (TAC-P). With an average of no more than twenty-one personnel on station we were jointly assigned the northeastern portion of the theater in which to conduct operations and spent the better part of that year removed from any other Coalition forces or infrastructure – literally living among the Afghan people in what became known as our “safehouse” in the middle of the town of Konduz. Konduz was known as the breadbasket of Afghanistan due to the fertile river basin in which it sat. But Konduz had also been the frontline between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban for years and had long been a Taliban stronghold in the North. The siege of Konduz was one of the Talibans last gasps in the initial combat operations that secured the country and was viewed in micro-detail on the international news networks. As a result of the Taliban’s rule in Konduz what was once a beautiful and thriving town with a large productive factory complex and surrounding farmland, some running water, paved roads and electricity had been reduced to an Afghan version of the old west from 19th century America. Nothing worked anymore. But it was less the effects of combat and more the effects of the Neanderthal Taliban that broke the back of Konduz and the rest of Afghanistan.
What we see in ISIS today is matched in its brutality by the Taliban of pre-9/11 Afghanistan. As a quasi-governmental entity the Taliban ruled by force and subjugated by deprivation. As a matter of public policy, the Taliban logic extended to such things as the need to take over a girl’s school for a military barracks because females were not considered worthy of education. They decided that the grain silos from which thousands of Afghans received much needed rations were better suited as their arms and ammunition storage facilities thereby creating unnecessary famine. This was a regime that would rather remove the walls of existing needed structures and use the bricks for something else, as opposed to making new bricks like Afghans had done for centuries. And most notably, I have known Afghans who could tell from experience of beatings, torture, maiming and execution in the public squares without so much as a modicum of a trial.
In the Spring of 2002, as an extension of the US military, the SOF elements in Konduz worked hard to see, among other projects, the renovation of several girls and boys schools, the complete rebuilding of the Konduz Provisions Warehouse and grain silos, the establishment and recognition of a representative democracy at the grass roots level, and the improvement of the quality of life for a people who had lived hand-to-mouth for years. One of the poignant highlights of that effort was to see kites flying in that first post-Taliban Spring. I remarked about the number of kites visible from the roof of my Team’s “safehouse” in the center of Konduz City to one of my interpreters and was taken aback at the response. He smiled and said, “But sir, you do not understand what they mean. Flying kites is a traditional thing for Afghan children. But the Taliban had outlawed it for years. Seeing the kites means that the Taliban are gone.” All aspects of the CMO effort were engaged during a time that the best of conditions were labeled as “semi-permissive” for US Forces. In actual fact all of the CMO efforts committed by my team in Afghanistan took place in conjunction with long-range patrolling, combat operations, and a complete reliance upon tactical resupply by air while living in austere conditions.
It was much the same story in Baghdad. My second CAT-A arrived for the latter half of Operation Iraqi Freedom I (OIF I). Attached to an Infantry Battalion under the 1st Armored Division and later to the 1st Cavalry Division we were smack in the middle of Baghdad City’s Rusafa, Sadr City, and Adhimiyah Districts. In our area of operations were such visible landmarks as Baghdad City Hall (the “Aminat”), Baghdad University, The Martyrs Monument and the now famous Firdos Square where the image of Saddam’s statue being torn down has been immortalized. Bordered by the Tigris River and the Green Zone to the Southwest, the slums of Sadr City to the Northeast, and the northwestern portion of the restive district of Ahdamiyah to the Northwest our Team’s area of operations contained an estimated one-third of Baghdad’s then five million residents.
Once again, the mission was not to fix what the current combat operations had broken near so much as to fix what the Baath party had neglected or broken themselves. No pre-war western sanctions created the conditions in the slums of Baghdad. 4 The clear evidence will show that during those same years of sanctions that Saddam built lavish palaces for himself. Monolithic statues and huge graphic representations of the “greatness of Saddam” stood in stark contrast to the urban decay that continued to mount under the alleged benevolent rule of Saddam Hussein. In many areas sewage filled the streets and courtyards ankle-deep due to cracked and outdated sewer lines. In the Sheik Omar slum one broken water main dribbled into the street as the only source of potable water for thousands of residents in that area of the slum. And on many residential streets pirated power lines hung like spider webs just above the vehicles driving through. Yet Saddam spent his money on visual reminders of his egomania while his people suffered.
But it was more striking to talk to the people and hear firsthand again of the tales of abuse and fear. Our chief base of operations was the former Iraqi Olympic complex where Uday Hussein beheaded members of the Olympic team for not winning medals. Just outside the wire was a large building where my interpreter informed me anecdotally that Qusay kept young women in his rape rooms, many of whom were found there pregnant when Baghdad was liberated. On one combat operation in the Al-Tib neighborhood I was told by an Iraqi man of the day that he was in a local restaurant when Uday Hussein brought a tiger from the Baghdad Zoo and set it loose in the restaurant just to see what would happen. And I cannot count the number of people who asked for help finding family members who had been taken away for reasons unknown by Saddam’s secret police and never heard from again.
Afghanistan and Iraq, while different in many respects, shared some very sobering similarities. Both had a population and an infrastructure that had been degraded and abused to the point that hope was a word without application. In both cases, CMO efforts were mounted in the midst of ongoing combat operations to work closely with civilians in battlespace. It was like watching an entire populace wake up from a bad dream. As a whole the population was blinking their eyes in the light of a new day and trying to get their hands around the completely foreign concepts of freedom, democracy, self-determination, and civil liberty.
All of this to lay the groundwork for an axiom of warfare as conducted by western societies and notably the United States: that the US does more to win friends in the midst of killing enemies than any nation on earth. The perceived justness of a nation’s intent to conduct war has not historically been accompanied by a determination to rebuild the country with whom that war is fought. The United States has brought that change to bear on the landscape of modern warfare. Warrior-Diplomats are an effective force multiplier and completely in line with the SOF Imperatives. CMO is the conduct of “warrior diplomacy”.
Counterinsurgency is nothing more or less than armed social work, an attempt to redress basic social and political problems (while being shot at). This makes CMO a central counterinsurgency activity, not an afterthought. CMO is the restructuring of the environment in order to displace the enemy.5
-- John Ubaldi
Historical vignettes related to CMO are available prior to World War Two such as the period of southern reconstruction after the American Civil War, The establishment of civil-military government in the Philippines following the insurrection, or the post-war government in Europe in the immediate days after World War I. But the true formalization of CMO and the formation of actual CA units began as a prelude to the invasion of Europe in the Second World War.
Initially CA in World War II dealt solely with the relations between the U.S. Army and the host nations and Allies with whom U.S. troops interacted. A rather inauspicious start to what would later become a part of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command (USASOC), the first “CA” units resolved differences and mitigated damages between the U.S. Army and local citizens in England and Ireland during the build-up of U.S. forces there in 1941.
However, the planning and execution of Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, opened the eyes of General Dwight D. Eisenhower to the importance and role of CA in the actual Theater of Operations. In reflecting on Operation Torch General Eisenhower stated that:
… he was deeply impressed by the importance of Civil Affairs/Military Government, which he readily understood embraced "providing government for a conquered [or liberated] population," and that this included the supervision and direction of "public health, conduct, sanitation, agriculture, industry, transport, and a hundred other activities, all normal to community life." He recognized that the task for the Army was new and difficult, "but vastly important, not merely from a humanitarian viewpoint, but to the success of our armies." He insisted that civil affairs/military government in a combat theater of operations must be under the control of the theater headquarters. In assessing the accomplishments he wrote: "…in spite of natural mistakes it [the new job] was splendidly done. We gained experience and learned lessons for similar and greater tasks still lying ahead of us in Italy and Germany."6
Thereafter CA gained increasing, albeit often grudging, prominence in the planning of Operation Overlord, the invasion of Europe. In January 1943 considerations for Overlord brought to the planner’s attention that a post-conflict Europe would be replete with civilian needs and a vacuum of governance. In February 1944, soon after the formation of the Supreme Headquarters Allied European Forces (SHAEF) a special staff section designated as G-5 and headed by a two star general was formed for the purpose of planning and overseeing CA functions in the European Theater. The European Civil Affairs Division with four subordinate Brigades formed soon thereafter and Civil Affairs was off and running. Civil Affairs soldiers ensured the transition from Nazi occupation of sovereign European countries and German governance to a post-war democracy. In doing so, aside from actual government functions, the CA specialists focused on reestablishment of critical social services, medicine, and infrastructure. As pundits cry for speed in the establishment of the new Iraq today history clearly shows that the effective establishment of post-WWII democratic Germany took time with the actual final draft of the German Constitution taking six years to develop from the end of the War.
The Korean War coming so soon on the heels of WWII barely gave the U.S. military time to catch its breath before getting spun up for the next fight. And once again, formal CMO was put in place. LTC Bryan Groves in his article of February 2006 quoted the comments of C. Darwin Stolzenbach and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger regarding the effectiveness of CA in the Korean War: According to Stolzenbach and Kissinger,
. . . the first civil affairs efforts were in the fields of public health, welfare and sanitation, for the purpose of preventing disease, starvation, and unrest. In the winter of 1950-51 the movement of several million refugees threatened interference with the use of vital communication lines. Later still, removal of civilians from combat areas and their subsequent care and disposition were deemed necessary, not only for humanitarian reasons, but as a security measure as well.7
Civil Affairs troops worked throughout the Korean War and its aftermath to stabilize and secure the population and infrastructure of South Korea. Still in place today the CA assets oriented toward Korea have no choice but to lay on the planning and contingencies for a possible future reunification of the two Koreas - a possibility that demands incredible future resources to stabilize a starving North Korea.
In 1961 the Vietnam conflict was fairly new to the United States. In the conflicts and actions conducted by the U.S. military from WWII until the Vietnam era CA had been largely seen as something that took place after the conclusion of combat activities. That changed in Vietnam. Prior to the days of large scale conventional units being deployed to Southeast Asia U.S. Special Forces (SF) were already there. Those SFODAs assigned to Laos were designated as White Star Mobile Training Teams with the purpose of training friendly Laotians into an effective fighting force. In doing so they did not simply teach military skills, they also conducted what was then referred to as “civil assistance”. LTC John T. Little, a White Star commander said this to his men:
In an insurgency situation, the guerrilla is dependent on a sympathetic population. Counter-guerilla operations must, therefore, have as one objective winning the populations cooperation and denying the enemy their sympathy. …the sky is the limit in what you can achieve. You cannot make a new Laos in one day, but it only takes one day to start. Now is the time to start beating the enemy at his own game – the winning of men’s minds, emotions, and loyalty to the concepts that motivate us: freedom, justice, individual human rights, equality of opportunity, and a higher living standard.8
The Battalion to which my Team was assigned in Operation Iraqi Freedom had the Northwest sector of of the District of Sadr City as a part of our area of operations. But Sadr City proper, with its millions of impoverished citizens in slum like conditions, was the battlespace of an adjacent Brigade Combat Team. But we were close enough to watch Apache attack helicopters making gun runs on Sadr City streets. On one particular night we pulled out our night vision gear and watched for a half hour or more as an AC-130 Spectre Gunship lit up targets on the far side of Sadr City in pass after pass. And the majority of the mortar attacks endured by our FOB had their point of origin just across Army Canal Road which was the border between Rusafa District and Sadr City. Knowing the conditions in Sadr City I had wondered on several occasions how any beneficial CMO could be conducted there. So the day I arrived at Division Main and met the young Captain who led the CAT-A for Sadr City I asked him that very question. With a deadpan look and no zeal at all in his voice he just shook his head and said, “We just expect to get shot at every single day.” I just nodded in agreement and we changed the subject. But I couldn’t help but notice from his uniform that he was Airborne and Ranger qualified. He was obviously trained to do things other than CMO, but yet here he was drawing funds for reconstruction projects in one of the hottest spots in the entire Global War on Terror. He appeared to be a contrasting set of skill sets, but in reality he was uniquely suited for his particular assignment.
The point here is that CMO is not a function of post-combat operations anymore. To be truly effective in today’s war the combatant commander must take into account the vast number of civilians that often occupy his area of operations. Mission first…the skillful application of maneuver, mass and firepower are the foremost consideration in combat. But they are not the only consideration. Maneuver, mass and firepower will always be impeded by the presence of civilians and the issues those civilians bring to the battlefield. For that reason the U.S. military has an entire set of planning considerations known as “non-lethal effects”, one of which is CMO. There is no ideal profile of a Civil Affairs soldier but the fact is that to conduct CMO effectively there has to be an equal balance of soldier and aid worker. CMO is a multi-faceted job in which the CA soldier builds a somewhat schizophrenic resume. One minute you are shooter and the next minute a diplomat. On any given day a Civil Affairs soldier is also a construction contractor, a governmental aide, a trainer, a bearer of humanitarian assistance, a safeguard of innocent civilians, a pay agent, and a mediator. The individual CA soldier has to be someone who is skilled and imbued with what the US Army has dubbed the “warrior ethos”. At the same time that CA soldier has to be able to recognize the time and place to change his tone and become “approachable”. There is obviously a fine line there and that fine line is walked every single day by those who are tasked with Civil Military Operations. CA soldiers, in the military lexicon, serve as “force multipliers” meaning that they enhance the military effort by creating an effect bigger than themselves. So to effectively shape the maneuver commander’s battlespace, at any level, requires consideration of the civilians in the area of operations. This requires: 1. an ability to competently and confidently navigate the battlespace; 2. A SOF warrior who will maintain a proficient level of combat efficiency and; 3. The ability to meaningfully develop real relationships with civilians that have a mutuality of interest and a bond of trust. If the SOF soldier can accomplish these three then CMO will be a force multiplier. 9
A clear indication of the many hats that CA operators must wear came in March of 2004 while my CAT-A was in direct support of Task Force Spartan, 1/36 Infantry, of the First Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division in central Baghdad. On the morning of the sixteenth the records reflect that the Spartans were in the final planning and preparation phase for a Brigade sized Cordon and Attack mission in the restive Ahdamiyah District of Central Baghdad. A Cordon and Attack is essentially a large scale flushing of enemy opposition in a confined area. Elements of the unit cordon the area sealing off all routes in and out of the targeted area. Once the cordon is set the maneuver elements move in and sweep the area searching out and destroying any enemy resistance. My CAT-A was put on notice that Civil Affairs participation was expected and I had already conducted my own team level planning and submitted the CA portion as an annex to the Spartans Operation Order.
But we had other business to attend to first. Just two days prior our Team had intervened to assist an elder Imam at a very central and important Sunni Mosque. Young Wahabi extremists had interposed themselves in this Mosque and were threatening the older leader. On the sixteenth our Team crossed the Tigris River to the Green Zone and met with Dr. Sayeed of the Ministry of Religious Affairs at the Coalition Provisional Authority. He was given the evidence of the Wahabist action and promised to follow up. Switching gears, the Team made its way through the Green Zone to the finance office to make the necessary coordination to draw funds for the renovation of a local elementary school. The records reflect that we then spent the remainder of the early afternoon practicing immediate-action combat drills with special emphasis on dismounting our vehicles in the not so unlikely event that a grenade was dropped in what were then open topped unarmored Humvees. On the afternoon of the sixteenth I attended the final leaders rehearsal for the impending Cordon and Attack which had been dubbed Operation Iron Promise. Following the rehearsal, I gathered the Team and issued the Team level Operations Order and sent each member to finalize all Team and individual gear for what promised to be a very long night.
Operation Iron Promise was one of the largest operations planned to date since the invasion a year prior. Intelligence and common sense both showed Adhamiyah to be the insurgents District of choice at that time. For the Brigade to commit all of its Battalions to this Operation signified the extent to which enemy activity was believed to be imbedded in that area, and the Spartans had been tapped as the Brigade main effort. The Battalion moved to the cordon area with a mechanized Infantry Task Force comprised of Bradley armored fighting vehicles, M-1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks and any number of Humvees. The CA element moved with the maneuver elements house-to-house for six hours until the mission ended at 0330. Upon returning to base the CAT-A Team Sergeant directed the squaring away of all team gear while I attended the after-action review with the Battalion leadership. And then, with just a few short hours of rack time the CAT-A changed hats again to engage in one of our key functions of assistance to the new Iraqi Government at the local level. On that same calendar date as Operation Iron Promise the Team accompanied the Battalion Commander to the Rusafa District Advisory Council meeting. During the meeting topics discussed included necessary vaccinations for children in the area; a presentation of the Transitional Administrative Law which would pave the way for the new Iraqi Constitution; telecommunications systems proposed for Baghdad; and discussion on how to accommodate the needs of several thousand high school students who had not been able to finish school due to the outbreak of the war. In 24 short hours my Team had done everything from mediate religious dissent to applying humanitarian aid to participating in one of the largest combat operations since the Fall of Baghdad.
CA plays a role in conflict prevention and in addressing the root causes of conflict— both of which are key elements of U.S. foreign policy and of the National Security Strategy that will be critical in the New Normal environment. As a community that is trained in understanding foreign cultures, socio-economic dynamics, and governance structures, CA forces are uniquely positioned to recognize and assess the “push” and “pull” factors of violent conflict and instability. Further, CA forces deepen that understanding by building and sustaining relationships with host nation and non- state partners, and proactively engaging in activities such as supporting local governance, education and employment programs, and elevating moderate voices in civil society through active engagement. Therefore, CA forces are uniquely positioned to help the U.S. military and civilian stakeholders prevent conflicts before they start.10
-- Vera Zakem and Emily Mushen
Preserve the Record
During Operation Iraqi Freedom II, from the Spring of 2004 and well into 2005 the US Army’s First Cavalry Division was in Baghdad. “The First Team” was commanded at that time by then Major General Peter Chiarelli. Within a year of returning from his stint as the Combatant Commander of the world’s largest heavy Division he received his third star and returned to Iraq as the Commander of the Multi-National Force – Iraq. (MNF-I) LTG General Chiarelli was a proponent of CMO in his area of operations and made that clear by including CA operators in every facet of his command. He went on to articulate that proponency in an article in Military Review entitled, “Winning the Peace: the Requirement for Full Spectrum Operations”. In the article General Chiarelli identifies what he and his planners labeled as the five key lines of operations that would guide all military activity under his command. They were: 1. Combat Operations, 2. Train & Employ Security Forces, 3. Essential Services, 4. Promote Governance, and 5. Economic Pluralism. Three out of five lines of operations were not specifically security related. They dealt with civilian needs in the Area of Operations. How well the populace was able to pump water, flush sewage, maintain electrical power, govern itself and apply the rule of law, and to what extent the economy of Baghdad was growing were considered measurable indicators of battlefield achievement. In the closing paragraphs of his article on Full Spectrum Operations Major General Chiarelli stated The US military is built to create secure conditions. But true long-term security does not come from the end of a gun in this culture; it comes from balanced application of all five lines of operation... 11
The SOF community must not lose sight of the contributions made in the realm of CMO. At all levels, from Theater Command to the boots on the ground CA soldiers have contributed overwhelmingly by engaging in warrior diplomacy. The experiences of each CA soldier are important cogs in the machine for training successive generations of CA soldiers. The lessons learned from missions past are recorded in multiple texts but too often are disparate in their availability. It is imperative that the memories of engagements be memorialized for future generations of CA soldiers to draw from and placed within a confine of easy reach. After-action reports, daily sitreps, and oral histories should be compiled frequently to preserve the record. Students in CA training should be tasked with reviewing and reporting to their peers of the techniques, tactics and procedures that are gleaned from those records, and then engage them in the physical sense in real-world training scenarios.
By way of example I recently reviewed situation reports filed by my own team. On August 29th, 2004 my CAT-A supplied direct support to Delta Company of Task Force 2-162 (the “Volunteers”) for Operation Warehouse in North Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, known to us then as Zone 22. The direct quote from my sitrep stated the following:
2. HIGHLIGHTS OF CMO ACTIVITIES OVER THE PAST 24 HOURS: (UPDATE)
ON 290900AUG04 CAT-A 2 PROVIDED DIRECT SUPPORT TO TF 2-162 FOR OPERATION WAREHOUSE IN ZONE 22. THE INTEL SUPPORTING THE OPERATION STATED THE FOLLOWING:
AN IRAQI POLICE OFFICER REPORTED TO 272 MP CO THAT HIS UNCLE, AN IRAQI POLICE COL AT RUSAFA WAS KIDNAPPED BY THE MAHDI MILITIA AND TAKEN TO AN ABANDONED WAREHOUSE VIC MB4750 9750 IN ZONE 22. THIS WAREHOUSE USED TO BE A GOVERNMENT BUILDING AND NOW HAS SQUATTERS LIVING THERE. THE IP OFFICER STATED THAT THIS IS WHERE THE MAHDI MILITIA TAKES ALL THEIR HOSTAGES AND USES THE BUILDING TO STOCKPILE AK-47'S, RPG'S, AND MORTARS. THE BUILDING HAS A COMPANY SIGN SAYING SOMETHING TO THE EFFECT "AL SADR HUMAN HELP." THE IP OFFICER ALSO STATES THAT THERE ARE IRANIANS FUNDING THE ARMS BEING STORED THERE AND THAT THE FACILITY IS WELL GUARDED
CAT-A 2’S MISSION STATEMENT WAS AS FOLLOWS:
…PROVIDE CA DIRECT SUPPORT TO THE MANUEVER COMMANDER TO MINIMIZE CIVILIAN INTERFERENCE AND DECONFLICT CIVILIAN ISSUES AS THEY ARISE IOT ALLOW THE MANUEVER COMMANDER FREEDOM TO DEVELOP HIS BATTLESPACE.
Operation Warehouse in Zone 22 was an example of how CA soldiers can directly support the maneuver commander in shaping a battlespace during actual combat operations. The targeted objective that day in August 2004 consisted of three separate and very large warehouse/storage compounds belonging to the Iraqi Ministries of Health, Commerce and Trade respectively. The Volunteers had already fought pitched battles in the area in recent weeks with the most significant being the battle at Jameliah Power Station in which the Volunteers Alpha Company had come under direct attack from all sides by large numbers of Moqtada Al-Sadr’s Shiite Mahdi Militia. The battle lasted for several hours and the ranks of the Mahdi Militia were severely depleted as a result. The Volunteers fight at Jameliah was a classic example of the quality of U.S. troops and their ability to fight in urban terrain. And it was still on the minds of members of both sides of the fight as we rolled into the objective area for Operation Warehouse on August 29th.
It was believed that aside from the strong potential for enemy fighters that there would be a large number of civilians inside each of the objective compounds. If there is a civilian present then CA soldiers have a job, and in a city of over five million the job security for CA was very high. In order to maximize the CAT-A’s effect I split the team into three elements: two CA soldiers manning crew-served weapons remained with the vehicles at the command post and two teams of two CA soldiers, each with an interpreter, accompanied the maneuver element’s search teams on the objectives. Delta Company, immediately upon entering the area, established a secure cordon using Bradley Fighting Vehicles attached from the 2/7 Cavalry and Delta’s own M1114 uparmored Humvees with crew-served weapons. Once the cordon was established nothing was allowed in or out. It was quickly verified that several hundred civilians were locked in, most of whom were in Objective 1, a huge warehouse complex consisting of ten or more basketball gym sized storage facilities, administrative offices, and service buildings. This was a potentially huge combat detractor and distraction for the maneuver commander. In order to mitigate the problem I set my Team Executive Officer, Captain Greg Peters (pseudonym), on the task of crowd control with his section of the Team. For several hours Greg personally searched, segregated and safeguarded hundreds of civilians at an ad hoc assembly area that he designated. It helped that his interpreter was Yousef, a six-foot three Iraqi bodybuilder who was the biggest one-man I had ever been around. When Yousef got on the bullhorn and told all civilians to line up in an orderly fashion and submit to being searched they tended to listen.
While CPT Peters and his element dealt with keeping the civilians out of the maneuver Commanders way and ensuring that no armed insurgents were hiding in their midst, I took Sergeant Bob Bingham (pseudonym) and our interpreter, “Sammy”, with the main search elements moving through the warehouses. It was incredibly hot that day and there was an equally incredible amount of space to search. Along with the main search element we worked our way through warehouse after warehouse. The intelligence reports regarding weapons caches and hostages were turning out to be dry holes but it was obvious that this area was under Sadr’s influence based on the large amount of Sadr propaganda that was discovered. At some point during the search the ground elements met enemy contact.
Several explosions, believed at the time to be mortar rounds, occurred inside the cordon area the closest of which landed approximately 150 feet from my position at the time. At approximately the same time my interpreter let me know that an Iraqi man claiming to be the director of the warehouse complex was extremely agitated and demanding to know what the intent of the mission involved. His tone was more than just concern and more akin to obvious disdain. This was a combat operation. The sensitivities of the local populace are not always of paramount concern during a mortar attack. But for the moment the situation was stabilized and it was an obvious opportunity to deconflict a civilian issue that had the potential to create great unrest in the days to come. Sergeant Bingham, Sammy and I engaged the director and assured him that if there was no enemy activity headquartered in his facility that he could expect to return to business as usual. But in no uncertain terms we informed him that the large amount of Sadr propaganda materials being found were a problem that would not be allowed to continue. He then stated that he would have to make a “report to the Ministry of Trade on the effects of the mission”. The statement was made for the obvious purpose of implying that he would paint the Volunteers in a negative light despite the fact that no collateral damage had occurred. I immediately headed that off at the pass. To his surprise, after checking with the mission commander, I pulled my cell phone out right there in the middle of the operation and placed a call to one of my contacts who happened to be the U.S. liaison to the Ministry of Trade (MoT) in the Green Zone. While the Director looked on I gave the liaison officer on the spot information of the mission, the intent, and the status. The phone call was punctuated by the sound of small arms fire in the background. The MoT liaison in turn gave me the local number to his Iraqi counterpart in the MoT which we then called, and through my interpreter we related the same information. Both men were pleased to receive the call and were given my own contact information should they have any questions in days to come. The Directors face was priceless as he watched the wind get completely sucked out of his sails. That was one civilian issue out of the way.
The sporadic small arms fire continued off and on, interspersed by shots fired from a Bradley’s main gun at an insurgent bearing an RPG who appeared on the outskirts of the perimeter. The company sniper team had assumed an overwatch and acquired several targets as insurgents probed the perimeter. A van attempted to run through the cordon at one point and was stopped by a hail of small arms. In all seven enemy fighters were known to have been killed during Operation Warehouse. But in the midst of it all CMO took place nonstop. Aside from working through any number of civilian related issues, searching and segregating hundreds of civilians, and searching the grounds, the CAT-A also photographed all of the facility guards and cataloged their weapons. We’ll never know for sure how much effect our presence had but the feeling at the time, on the Team and from the Volunteers, was that CA soldiers had made a difference. The closing comments for sitreps are often reserved for the personal opinions of the author. My report that day concluded with the following:
TEAM CHIEFS COMMENTS: FROM A CMO STANDPOINT I FEEL THAT CAT-A 2 WAS A VERY EFFECTIVE PIECE OF THE OPERATION. EACH OF THE TEAM MEMBERS WAS ACTIVELY ENGAGED THROUGHOUT, AND THE NUMBER OF CIVILIANS ON SITE, AND THE RESULTING ISSUES THEY PRESENTED MADE OUR PRESENCE A NECESSITY. ONE SOP THAT WAS BEGUN ON THIS MISSION THAT WILL BE CONTINUED IN ALL FUTURE DS MISSIONS IS THAT OUR INTERPRETERS HAD BULLHORNS WHICH MADE CROWD CONTROL IN A LARGE AREA MUCH EASIER.
It is likely that there are hundreds of vignettes similar to Operation Warehouse involving the thousands of CA soldiers who have engaged in warrior diplomacy since the onset of the post-9/11 conflicts. SOF soldiers, by virtue of their assessment/selection and training are geared toward relationships far more than conventional forces. Within SOF is the longstanding and well-earned reputation for warfighting by the direct action (DA) specialists such as the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, Special Forces and the Navy’s Seal Teams. But the tactical proficiency of Civil Affairs soldiers must be commensurate with that of their SOF peers. They must be warfighters of the highest caliber and yet also have a relational, or diplomatic, skill set to complement their warfighting skills. 12 Failure to emphasize CA training and development in this manner would be an omission that would serve to degrade future US capability to effectively conduct CMO and thereby relegate for naught what CA soldiers have literally fought to prove for the past fourteen years – namely that CMO is most effective when it is employed at all levels of conflict: pre-, post- and inter.
CMO Must Include Inter-SOF Capability
Further promoting the view of CA assets being SOF mission capable also leads to the conclusion that CA operators must be able to operate in any given environment and to do so in an inter-SOF, interagency, and joint capacity. CA soldiers would do well to conduct broadening assignments by exchanging time with other non-CA SOF elements to gain the requisite level of understanding that must be present for the conduct of inter-SOF operations between CA and peer SOF soldiers.
A short time after 9/11 the 489th CA Battalion augmented by elements of the 401st CA Battalion, was activated for duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In the opening weeks of 2002 our Teams had been given mission assignments, the majority of which involved being located hours from any other Coalition presence. My six-man CAT-A developed strong bonds and close working relationships with our partner SFODA. With no other Coalition forces for six hours in any direction we operated in what became known as “austere conditions”. We grew beards, wore civilian clothes, ate local food, drove civilian vehicles and occasionally rode horses, and generally lived off of the local economy. What supplies we did have from the military side were initially parachuted in via tactical airdrop, and later by tactical airland operations at night at a former Soviet airstrip outside of town. There were no big bases to live on or from which we could draw our support. The two Teams lived side by side in two very small walled compounds in what we came to call our “safehouses”. All communications with higher headquarters were made through encrypted satellite communications. As such we relied on each other in all manner of ways, not the least of which was operational. By late June of 2002 both Teams had been together for several months and had developed what we felt was a unique way of doing business. So on June 29th when Major General Altshuler, the then overall commander of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, made his way out to our area he was briefed fully on our work. He was told that the ODA had provided invaluable security assistance to a number of CA missions to help in the establishment of the new Afghan Government or in reconstruction projects…that the CA Team had developed civilian contacts in the community which had in turn benefited the ODA as they developed sources of intelligence for their operations…that the ODA’s engineer Sergeant had provided assistance when a technical view of a potential bridge project was needed…that both Teams operated together on night resupply missions …that the CAT-A had provided security to the ODA’s raid on a suspected Taliban criminal…..all of which met with approval. But most notably MG Altshuler seemed intrigued with the way the two teams patrolled together:
Our area of operations had until just recently been the front lines between the Northern Alliance led by General Ahmad Shah Masood, and the Taliban. Konduz, Taloqan and some of the larger towns in the Northeast had been assessed fully, but no one knew about the outlying areas. As such, one of the developed missions for our CA Team was to venture off the beaten path to assess the villages about which nothing was known. But knowing nothing about them meant that we knew nothing about whether there were Taliban holdouts in some of those same villages, not to mention foreign fighters, drug runners, or just plain criminal elements. We determined to know what was out there in villages like Sanduq Say, Gharaw Qaslaq, Dehana Dewairan or Arab Qadoq to name a few. For the CA side, to effectively accomplish our mission, we needed a clear picture of the quality of life, medical conditions, access to potable water, minefields, crop production, schools and demographics of the area. The ODA wanted specifics on security issues, enemy activity, historical movements of enemy forces in the area, known Taliban sympathizers, and weapons caches. To make this happen we developed a joint patrolling method in which we would approach a new village as one Team, set out security, and ask to speak with the elders of the village. Typically, either myself, or Major Bill Manson (pseudonym), my CA Teams second in command, would initiate conversation with the elders of the village, and on more than one occasion we were told that we were the first westerners ever seen in those locations. After introductions the conversation would steer to the information that was needed for the CA Team to begin planning humanitarian assistance for that area. We made it a point to make no promises on the first visit but made sure that the elders were informed of our intent and what had been accomplished for other villages in the region. At that point, once the ice had been broken, we would introduce the Team Leader for the ODA and ask the elders to assist him with issues related to security. By the CA Team having made a favorable and non-threatening impression with the elders the transition to more serious discussion with the ODA was much easier and the villagers were often more willing to talk about enemy activity.
During Major General Altshulers visit I described this joint patrolling method to him and the success we had seen with it. “That’s it!” he said and slapped the table. “That’s what I’m talking about. That’s the way we ought to be doing business. I want that to be included in the revisions being made to CA doctrine.” That moment was one of those that made all the deprivations affiliated with our remote mission seem worth it. Our team was one of less than a dozen that operated in this manner in remote locations across Afghanistan at that time. With combat operations still ongoing Civil Affairs soldiers in austere conditions conducted CMO that not only benefited the civilians in the area but did so in conjunction with other non-CA SOF elements.
Relationships are the Key, Civilians are the CMO Center of Gravity
....we did not, and still don't understand the regressive, parasitical, unreasonable presence of tribal Islam - the black hole in Iraqi and Arab cultures that consumes their best and most positive energies. Because of our blindness, we find ourselves fighting an enemy we do not see, comprehend, or even accurately identify.13
-- Steven Vincent
In Civil Military Operations (CMO) civilians are the center of gravity. There has never been a war fought that did not affect civilians. There has never been a battle that did not disrupt civilian lives. But by and large civilians have often gotten the last look from the planners. That is completely understandable on the one hand because wars are fought, not talked. As noted earlier the first truth of warfare is that people will die, and things will get broken. But the US military, more so than any other, works to mitigate the damage to civilians. No military in the world spends as much time, effort and expense to lessen the effects of war on the civilian populace in the area of operations. But it cannot be overlooked that civilians are not brick and mortar reconstruction projects. Civilians are not governments, or laws, or medical interventions. Civilians are just folks who are relational by nature. The heart of CMO has to be a focused attempt at establishing relationships in the midst of conflict from which come reconstruction projects, the rule of law, democracy, and stability. Relationships make things happen.
At the risk of sounding disingenuous, any good salesman will tell you that knowing your clientele beats a cold call any day. CA Operators have to be relational in their approach to their mission. In order to truly help the combatant commander shape his battlespace there must be a concerted effort to get out of personal comfort zones and out into the red zones…where the people are. In 2002 my CAT-A and our partner SFODA and attachments were the only Coalition military in the Northeastern Provinces of Afghanistan. Based in Konduz we spent a great deal of time developing the key relationships that were vital to not only our business as soldiers, but to our own survival. On one particular night I received a message from the Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force (JCMOTF) in Kabul that I was to take whatever steps necessary to arrange a meeting first thing the next morning with Provincial Governor Latif. The ODA Team Leader CPT Don Roberts (pseudonym), had received a similar message to arrange a meeting with the Warlord in our area, General Daud.14 But relationships can make things happen. Together we were able to go, at night, to the personal homes of Governor Latif, General Daud, and the local garrison commander General Mirallam. This was no small thing. But our relationship with each made it possible. The next morning, with our teams and embedded Mujahideen guards posting security, CPT Roberts and I stood on the tarmac at a former Soviet air base while a Russian made helicopter landed the Deputy US Chief of Mission from the US Embassy in Kabul for a meeting at General Dauds headquarters with the local Afghan leaders. I remember wondering at the time, “what is going on with my world? I couldn’t write a movie script like this.” But it was the relationships that brought the meeting together.
The intrinsic properties of combating insurgents and terrorists networks demand keen attention to the political realm, not just martial activities.15
-- Thomas H. Henriksen
Relation building is the secret ingredient to the success of CMO. At the heart of every interaction in the battlespace is the question of trust and the need for keen understanding. A warrior diplomat cannot for a minute sacrifice the warrior side of his charge but must also be tuned to the intricacies of relation building even when the civilian populace doesn’t always seem on board. In his review of US foreign policy during the post-9/11 years Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld candidly assessed the great heights and abject lows that he witnessed. In his view relations must be built mutually without predisposition and without an imposition of perfection: “It seems to me that we should use judgment and balance. We should not expect perfection and we should not expect other countries to be exactly as we are today, because we weren't as we are today over much of our history. What is important is to look to see in which direction countries are moving, and hope that they're moving in a positive direction and encourage that, rather than judging that they are not perfect, criticizing them, and causing them to reverse course and move backward, rather than continuing forward, even if at a pace we consider too slow." 16
An Unyielding Call for Warrior Diplomats
Taking Secretary Rumsfeld’s view down to the micro, or tactical level, involves engagement of the local populace where they are and how they are. It means that CA soldiers conducting CMO must not assume their role to simply be the great benefactor, or one of a trickster who leads a populace like a pied piper. Real relationships must be forged in respect and with the understanding while we differ that we can still accomplish great things. Combine that relational respect with the tactical proficiency of a SOF soldier and CMO can reach its full potential.