Applyig John Boyd’s Patterns of Conflict on War in Afghanistan

Main point of Boyd’s presentation is following:

One should operate at faster tempo than opponent and get inside his OODA loop, causing confunsion

This can be achieved through generation of rapidly changing environment and distorting adversary’s observation of it. Guerrilla warfare is basically based around it, denying opponent knowledge of where guerrilla forces are, as well as where and how will they strike. That can be partly denied to them through usage of manned aircraft, UAVs, and satellites in surveillance capability. However, due to the fluid nature of anti-guerrilla warfare, friction must be reduced to minimum; ideally, infantry platoons would be deployed individually, and each would have its own surveillance system under direct operational control of platoon itself. Platoons would also call in air support as required.

Further, Boyd makes a point that one should deny adversary capacity for independent action as well as opportunity to survive on his own terms – or at all. This is one thing that NATO forces in Afghanistan are failling to do: while NATO controls the cities, Taliban have near-free rein in the countryside. But Taliban, like any other classic guerilla movement, are dependant on support of people from countryside, which NATO does not control. Thus, NATO is making a fundamental strategic mistake by not restricting opponent’s capacity for independent action; infantry platoons should be moved from (in this situation, strategically irrelevant) cities, and into the countryside; especially since 75% of Afghanistan’s population lives in the countryside. Instead of few large troop concentrations, troops should establish numerous smaller posts and garrisons – Taliban usually move in platoon-sized formations or smaller, so these would not be in danger of being overrun. Light troops should be used to mount hit-and-run attacks against Taliban targets; troops in question can be light infantry, bycicle or light helicopter troops, depending on situation. This also ties in Boyd’s observation of superior mobility as an important asset.

Attacking enemy’s plans should be paramount; as guerrilla, as stated before, relies on support of local populace – not only for supplies, but also for intelligence and similar – action should be taken to alienate populace from Taliban. First, drones should not be used for assasinations, as such usage regularly claims disproportionate number of civilian casualties. This is especially devastating in the rural areas, as families there tend to be large and coherent. If there is need to kill off Taliban official, mission should be carried out by sniper teams. Second, soldiers should establish rapport with local populace. One way to do that is to make soldiers actually help civilians with everyday duties, help them to better organize their lives, and generally become a part of the local community – which includes soldiers simply talking to them. Talking, as in easy conversations you have in bars. (You can find a good blog article on that here). Local populace is usually a recruiting ground for guerilla, but if done correctly, it can also be of great help for Coalition forces in the area – providing information on terrain, terrorist’s movements and other forms of intelligence. Third, guerilla itself should be infiltarted to gain intelligence. And in guerilla warfare, importance of intelligence cannot be overstated: it is very easy to hit wrong target, or to receive incorrect or incomplete information, thus jeopardizing entire OODA loop. This is also way to unmask Taliban’s operations. Taliban don’t stand a chance against regular military in direct confrontations, so they have to be drawn out in the open. Further, special forces teams should use guerilla’s own tactics against them: there is precendent for that from World War II, where German elite Brandenburg division used guerilla tactics against Partisans in Yugoslavia. According to the Partisans themselves, only reason it did not manage to inflict serious, or crippling, damage was its lack of personnell.

Communications with outside world should be cut, so guerilla has no way of getting required supplies, and possibly reinforcements.

Due to the nature of terrain and warfare, troops should only carry bare minimum of needed supplies with them, leaving anything not needed in base, much like Brandenburg special forces division, as well as 7th and 13-th SS mountain divisions did in WW2. On command level, low-level commanders should be given only absolutely required instructions.

But in the end, most important thing to do in countering the Taliban is to deny them the recruiting grounds. As such, political and economic effort should be made in stabilizing not only Afghanistan, but the region as well. Boyd also notes importance of propaganda; as discussed above, troops should be encouraged to tie in with community. Aside from procuring valuable intelligence, it is even more important so that locals accept foreign troops as a friendly – or at least not hostile – element. Further, local troops should be traied, but trained well; half-trained, unmotivated militia can easily prove detrimental to the effort. Troops fighting against guerilla should keep on the offensive, to deny enemy chance to establish itself.

However, as success of any guerilla depends on them identifying with people – and vice-versa – socioeconomic situation should be improved to deny guerilla recruiting ground. Government should be competent and have minds of its people first and foremost on its mind (an impossibility if government is neoliberal). Corruption should be punished, and Government should provide a visible care for the people, to destroy any moral high ground guerilla could claim. Without doing that, there can be no victory, since guerilla war is in essence a moral conflict. Clear goal of rebuilding the Afghanistan should be set, and pursued, for only a stable society can guarantee peace; and that means US will have to abandon neoliberal philosophy.


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