Sunday, June 16, 2013

Building A Nation, One Village At A Time (VSO in Afghanistan and my commentary and excerpts on Army Activities in Underdeveloped Areas Short of Declared War in 1961)

The first half of the article is an overview of village stability operations (VSO)  at the team village level.

Excerpt describing the future of SOF in Afghanistan post-2014:

“The Village Stability Operations mission will go away in December 2014,” says the man who created the program, Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc, deputy commanding general of Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan. “We are planning for that very closely with our Afghan partners. We see that as a very doable objective.” 
Bolduc, who rushed back to his office at a base in Kabul from a local police ceremony in the eastern city of Mihtarlam because of threatening weather, says the plan is to turn the keys over to the Afghans. They will be “fully in control, of the training, logistics, sustainment, education, pay, and quality control of the Afghan Local Police.” 
Though the White House and Pentagon have yet to say how many troops will remain beyond 2014, when President Barack Obama wants most U.S. forces out of Afghanistan, Bolduc has a vision for what special operations forces will be doing. 
“Our role will be two-fold,” Bolduc says in an interview. 
The first will be ensuring that regional training centers, like the one run by the 7th Special Forces Group team, “are functioning properly. We will do that for a period of time.” 
The second role will be “mentoring here in Kabul at the national level, for both the deputy minister of security as well as the commander of the Afghan Local Police. That's what I see.” 
But while the author means well here but I cannot believe that USSOCOM really means to conduct VSO around the world.  I think a lot of US country teams and Host Nations might be put off by the idea that US Special Forces will be coming into the HN to conduct VSO. 
Called Village Stability Operations, it's a classic role for special operations forces and one that could work in different places around the world as Special Operations Command headquarters in Tampa develops a new global doctrine for those forces.
I would also point that a traditional part of Special Forces doctrine has always been the conduct of Remote Area Operations from which the concept of VSO comes but unfortunately the last time I can find it in any SOF doctrine is from 2007 but this concept has been part of Army SF doctrine since the 1960's:
Remote Area Operations. Remote area operations are operations undertaken in insurgent-controlled or contested areas to establish islands of popular support for the HN government and deny support to the insurgents. They differ from consolidation operations in that they are not designed to establish permanent HN government control over the area. Remote areas may be populated by ethnic, religious, or other isolated minority groups. They may be in the interior of the HN or near border areas where major infiltration routes exist. Remote area operations normally involve the use of specially trained paramilitary or irregular forces. SF teams support remote area operations to interdict insurgent activity, destroy insurgent base areas in the remote area, and demonstrate that the HN government has not conceded control to the insurgents. They also collect and report information concerning insurgent intentions in more populated areas. In this case, SF teams advise and assist irregular HN forces operating in a manner similar to the insurgents themselves, but with access to superior combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) resources. (From FM 3-05.202 Foreign Internal Defense 2007.)
We should keep in mind that there is no silver bullet/holy grail once size fits all template which is why I challenge the idea that we will be conducting VSO around the world.  I hope that is not what USSOCOM means.

As an aside I would offer this 1961 document, Army Activities in Underdeveloped Areas Short of Declared War by Brigadier General Richard G. Stilwell.  What we are talking about today in terms of a Global SOF Network as well as the whole concept of regionally aligned brigades is not new.  This is a pretty detailed review of what was going on in 1961 within the Army around the world and what the possibilities were for supporting US national interests in "underdeveloped areas short of declared war."Excerpt from page 1-3.  The 4.1 MB 71 page document can be downloaded at this link:

3. In essence, General Decker envisaged the employment
of selected military personnel and units as a "transmission belt" _
communicating, at the grass roots, Army know-how and community
of aims. Three major purposes tobe served by U. S. military

a. To give impetus to the employrrlent of military
talent and resources in ways contributing to the political stability,
economic betterment and social' progress of the country concerned _
subject to the proviso that capability to perform assigned combat
missions not be degraded. (The public works of Bolivian engineer
units are representative of this category. ) 
b. To heighten the effectiveness of indigenous
military and paramilitary forces in insuring against the development
of dissident factions; or in dealing with armed insurg'ency, should it
erupt. (Programs undertaken in Laos and proposed in South Vietnam
are examples. ) 
c. As the complement to the foregoing, to accelerate
the development of indigenous military and paramilitary capabilities, to
include support mechanisms, for conducting subversion or guerrilla
activities, in contiguous Communist territory. ,(We have already
developed such units in Taiwan and South Korea. )

5. Two major premises have conditioned the findings. 
a. The first is that the activities under survey (the
unconventional, unorthodox, paramilitary, military assistance by
another name, or whatever) are simply auxiliary weapons within the
total array of U. S. power resources and that they are effective only
when applied in coordination with those other resources. The articulate
proponents thereof notwithstanding, they representa complementary
rather than an alternative means. Moreover, as is the case with
all other power resources, they can be properly applied only in the ,
wake of a prior enunciation of clear and constant objectives sought
vis-a-vis any area or country. 
b. The second is that it is the operative policy of
the Executive Branch to exploit fully the potential of the U. S. Army
to improve the overall capability of indigenous armed forces to deal
with problems of internal defense. This premise is consistent with
the demonstrable, indeed urgent" needs of the world situation today;
it is likewise consistent with the statements of Our Chief Executive.
If the premise is erroneous, then the proposals for gearing for a
substantially higher level of activity are meaningless; the difficulties
whlch have been attributed to growing pains may in fact be deliberate
roadblocks; and the shortcomings noted within the Army are of no
c. The corollary to the second premise is that the
,Army can divert appreciable numbers of its best personnel to these
activities without derogation of its other missions and functions. Only
individuals of exceptional skill, motivation and leadership ability can
properly perform the training, guidance and related tasks involved _
in an alien environment and remote from supervision. Our rolls, of
course, include such personnel aplenty but they are filling key positions
elsewhere. My unsupported estimate is that they can be released from
' current assignment, as required; and that our tr'aining system can '
spawn adequate replacements.


Tampa Tribune
June 16, 2013
Building A Nation, One Village At A Time
By Howard Altman, Tribune staff

CHARKUSA, Afghanistan - Shortly after 1 p.m. on a searing hot, dusty day, three armored trucks begin a trip out beyond the security of the 12-foot concrete walls surrounding their military base.
Just before the convoy turns onto a rutted dirt road into bad-guy country leading to the village of Charkusa, an alert sounds on the radio.

“IED. East of the Delta canal,” a voice crackles.

Inside one of the trucks, nicknamed “Batman,” five troops have wordlessly heeded the pre-mission warning from the team sergeant.

“Buckle up. Most casualties come from lack of wearing seat belts.”

With four team members strapped into seats and a fifth standing in the machine gun turret on top, the soldiers adjust their helmets and settle in for the bumpy ride.

For all the men and women working in this group, the “A Team” of the Florida-based 7th Special Forces, it has already been a tense 10 days.

An Afghan Local Police leader they've worked with, Sultan Mohammed, was gunned down by the Taliban. The assassination was retribution, and a warning to others. Days later, four U.S. soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device near the base.

Now it's time to visit the checkpoint Mohammed patrolled, in the province where the Taliban was born — one of the most restive places in Afghanistan. The plan is to drink some tea with the commander there and find out what he needs.

“The ALP are very centralized,” says the A Team captain before climbing into the lead truck. “Once the head falls off, the rest of the body is likely to fail.”

During the next several days, the team will visit with dozens of Afghan Local Police leaders in several villages across two districts, each leader with a different level of skills, interests and commitment.

Along the way, members of the A Team will help determine in what shape the U.S. leaves Afghanistan. Their mission reflects the motto “you can't surge trust” — a reference to the wave of additional troops sent into battle in both Iraq and Afghanistan and coined by Adm. William McRaven, who heads the Special Operations Command in Tampa.
The clock is ticking on them.

More than a decade after American forces arrived with their NATO allies, hunting the masterminds of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the A Team and teams like it have just 18 months to make sure the Afghans are ready to defend themselves.

The armored trucks used by the team are named “Batman,” “Joker,” “Bain” and “Riddler,” “because it's easier to remember those names than the serial numbers,” says the team sergeant. The military keeps secret the names of commandos in the field.

The team is setting off on what has become the last major U.S.-led objective. While special operations and conventional forces are now serving in an advisory role on most combat missions, they are still taking the lead on programs to train Afghan security forces.

The small team of commandos and support staff who left the base in Kandahar are working with Afghan villagers to make sure the local population can resist the Taliban once the majority of U.S. and NATO troops pull out next year.

The goal is to create a patchwork of areas across the country where indigenous forces — made up of members of the local tribes and clans — make it difficult for insurgents to operate.

Called Village Stability Operations, it's a classic role for special operations forces and one that could work in different places around the world as Special Operations Command headquarters in Tampa develops a new global doctrine for those forces.

In this case, the nearly three-year-old program is designed to teach the Afghans security, governance and development. It is seen as a success by U.S. military leaders and by many Afghan government leaders, too.

It is not without its problems.

Some of the 22,000-plus Afghanistan Local Police have brutalized villagers. They have turned on their U.S. trainers and even each other with deadly force. And there was initial objection to the program from the government of President Hamid Karzai, who feared that the local commanders — now armed and trained by commandos — would become warlords uncontrollable by the nation's capital in Kabul.
About a half hour after leaving the base, the armored trucks stop in front of a compound surrounded by 15-foot-high mud walls in a valley about a half mile from a row of jagged rock hills.

After a few last-minute instructions, the A Team gets ready to dismount. Slowly, the rear doors of the trucks open.
(Continued at the link below)

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