The Asymmetric Warfare Group: Closing the
"Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation
Enduring Freedom (OEF) have shown that insurgencies can arise
out of regime change and can hinder follow-on stability operations.
The current enemy has adopted asymmetric strategies and tactics
that enable it to mitigate U.S. strengths. U.S. forces must adapt
to the new strategic environment and develop proficiencies that
counter these tactics." Army Strategic Planning Guidance
This article outlines the vision and mission
of a new Army organization, the Asymmetric
Warfare Group (AWG), currently being formed to enhance Army and
joint force commanders' abilities to confront and defeat current
and future asymmetric threats.
For more than two decades, U.S. joint military
organizations have thoroughly dominated the conventional battlefield.
In conjunction with special operations forces (SOF), conventional
forces have propelled the nation to military superpower status through
unmatched combat, technical and power-projection capability. Every
new or improved capability, however, no matter how dominant, brings
with it a whole new set of inherent vulnerabilities. A smart, resourceful
enemy will seek out those chinks in his adversary's armor and attack
them with asymmetric means. Today's conventional forces, although
more agile and lethal than their predecessors, remain vulnerable
to such attacks when the enemy finds capability gaps to exploit.
The Asymmetric Warfare Group has been created to focus on this challenge
and bring to bear a holistic application of intelligence, training
and technology to defeat both current and future asymmetric threats.
The stunning victories in the 1991 Gulf War,
Afghanistan and in the major combat operations phase of Operation
Iraqi Freedom are clear examples of the U.S. military's ability
to overmatch conventional competitors. Opponents and would-be opponents
simply cannot match the lethality, speed and reach of U.S. joint
forces. This dominance, however, creates the incentive for adversaries
to level the playing field by seeking adaptive tactics, techniques,
procedures and weaponry in an asymmetric approach. A stark example
of this is the current threat posed by improvised explosive devices
(IEDs) in Iraq. With a relatively small amount of resources-access
to common electronic components and military ordnance and basic
electronic and demolition skills-insurgent terrorists can build
devices that literally have the capability to destroy the most prominent
conventional warfare systems-Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.
The fact that more than 50 percent of the casualties in OIF result
from IED attacks is a sobering reminder of the effectiveness of
Using asymmetric tactics, adversaries attempt
to exploit their ability to hide in plain sight and attack U.S.
forces in ways that are unconventional, unexpected and that turn
the U.S. Army's own operating techniques against itself. Examples
of these vulnerabilities are readily apparent. The reliance on vehicle
road movement creates many opportunities for roadside bombs, for
instance. Attempting to avoid such insurgent tactics by ferrying
troops via helicopter between bases creates alternate opportunities
for attacks on aircraft. Consolidating soldier services in one location,
like a large dining facility, enhances physical security but also
presents unique target opportunities.
Some of our adversaries are not bound by the
laws we value and which regulate U.S. military actions. They strive
to exploit worldwide press coverage of visual effects, civilian
casualties and our purported weak national will in order to distort
the truth and to undermine U.S. national resolve and the resolve
of foreign partners. Attacks, often in the form of bombings, rogue
mortar attacks and kidnappings, serve to highlight the challenge
conventional forces face in not only protecting themselves but also
the indigenous population against insurgent cells, who are principally
armed with patience, ideological fervor and resourcefulness. Insurgent
attacks are often able to achieve local advantages, which taken
separately are not operationally significant, but which when executed
as part of an overall campaign of terror and intimidation have the
capacity to generate operational or strategic effects.
Contributing to the significant effects of
these asymmetric attacks are the enemy's demonstration of continuous
innovation and adaptability. He studies U.S. actions and reactions
and, because of his size, flexibility and lack of accountability,
is able to change his techniques rapidly. As a result, conventional
units lacking the ability to quickly identify asymmetric tactics
and devise effective countermeasures may intentionally or unintentionally
change mission focus from killing the enemy to protecting the force.
Given a long-term global war on terrorism,
the current lack of a clear, peer competitor, and the relative success
of and access to resources for asymmetric techniques, it is safe
to assume that all U.S. forces-conventional and otherwise -will
face threats of this nature well into the future. Defeating or minimizing
the effects of these attacks is proving essential to achieving U.S.
national strategic objectives.
As a result of the increased terrorist use
of IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, then Army G-3 Gen. Richard Cody
directed the creation of the Army IED Task Force in October 2003
to assist in coordinating and synchronizing the wide variety of
ongoing efforts to mitigate the rising threat of IEDs. Initially
attacking the problem along three lines of operation-threat specific
intelligence, focused training and integrated technology-the task
force reached out to a variety of organizations across the Army
and the Department of Defense, working to get the best solutions
in place. Some expertise already existed in the force structure.
For example, in their role as Army masters of mobility, the U.S.
Army Engineer School espoused tenets of assured mobility (protect,
predict, prevent, detect and neutralize) that provided an effective
paradigm for identifying, categorizing and integrating solutions
to address the expanding problem of IEDs.
The task force set about finding and developing
solutions that could rapidly and effectively be applied to counter
this pervasive threat. Forensic and technical analysis of IED sites
and residue by teams proficient in explosive ordnance and technical
exploitation provided valuable information to help soldiers, battle
staffs and commanders to understand, predict and counter IEDs before
and during operations. (Recent improvements in this area are helping
to get left of boom and actually target the bomb makers themselves.)
Focused awareness training conducted by members of the task force
in theater and at home stations gave soldiers better situational
awareness and practical training experience and helped to change
the training at combat training centers. Finally, partnerships with
the acquisition community, research and development labs, combat
developers and highly innovative organizations like the Rapid Equipping
Force helped to quickly identify, develop and deploy advanced and
emerging technologies to detect and neutralize IEDs and increase
Facilitated by the task force's focused efforts,
a combination of better individual and vehicle protection, awareness
training, command focus and the smart application of technology
has reduced the casualty rate per incident by more than 30 percent,
despite an increasing use of IEDs in theater. Parallel initiatives,
within both the Army and joint community, have contributed significantly
to mitigating other asymmetric threats currently menacing U.S. forces
in theater. The Training and Doctrine Command-sponsored Counter-Strike
Task Force is addressing the threat posed by insurgents' use of
mortars against forward operating bases. Other special focus teams
have addressed up-armoring of vehicles as well as the threat posed
to helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft by insurgents armed with
The initial successes achieved by the task
force and its partners, as well as an overriding need for a coordinated
department-wide effort, led Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
to approve, on July 12, 2004, the establishment of the Army-led
Joint IED Defeat Integrated Process Team (IPT). The establishment
of this team is the clearest recognition that although the threat
of IEDs primarily affects ground-based forces, the solutions to
address this particular asymmetric threat exist in all U.S. services
and agencies. Organized around the existing Army IED Task Force,
this group assumed the mission of pulling together all counter-IED
efforts within the Department of Defense. The IPT identifies, prioritizes
and resources materiel and non-materiel solutions from across the
services and DoD in coordination with interagency and international
partners. The original Army task force, now augmented by joint service
staff officers and NCOs, continues to accomplish the counter-IED
operational mission as the Joint IED Defeat Task Force while also
providing necessary support to the IPT.
Despite U.S. conventional military superiority
and successes in the effort to stem asymmetric attacks, the ability
of our current adversaries to innovate and rapidly adapt their techniques
continues to highlight gaps in U.S. conventional force capabilities.
While the extent of these capability gaps varies based on the type
of organization, training and combat experience, the general subjects
listed below represent some focus areas that will affect quick,
integrated responses to the threat of asymmetry and help to fill
• Adequate knowledge of indige nous cultures
and availability of skilled linguists.
• Broad training and application in information
• Forward-deployed technical and human
• Investigative skills to analyze, understand
and exploit enemy vulnerabilities.
• Intelligence processes better tailored
to targeting a constantly changing, decentralized adversary.
• Procedures to rapidly disseminate lessons
learned and quickly adjust training.
• Streamlined acquisition and fielding
The experiences and training path of the Army
over the last several decades have prepared it well in many ways
for the rigors of the global war on terrorism. U.S. Army education
systems are the envy of every army; its noncommissioned officer
corps is simply unmatched; and U.S. Army combat training centers
are first-class. The enemy we face, however, requires that we continue
to change and modify our approach to ensure we can accomplish the
missions assigned. As current modularity efforts are demonstrating,
changing and growing Army organizations to instill a culture of
innovation and adaptability are key to this effort.
T o this end, the Army began organizing the
Asymmetric Warfare Group in January 2005, with a targeted initial
operational capability by midyear. The AWG will become a lead organization
in providing the conventional force with global perspective and
expertise in full spectrum training, planning and execution of countermeasures
to asymmetric warfare. It will help to alleviate the need for the
creation of ad hoc task forces to address theater-specific threats.
Like most Army units, the AWG will be organized for continuous operations,
capable of deploying quickly and able to operate in multiple simultaneous
areas of responsibility. The AWG will focus on current and evolving
asymmetric threats to U.S. forces in order to devise countermeasures
(training, procedures and technology) to these threats and deny
potential enemies the ability to exploit gaps in U.S. capabilities.
Many of the tasks and capabilities associated with the current Joint
IED Defeat Task Force will migrate to the AWG, but IEDs will not
be the only threat it will address.
The centerpiece of this unit will be its people.
Staffed by seasoned warfighters and functional experts, the AWG
will be a center of excellence for innovative thinking and imaginative
implementation. A special assessment and selection program will
be used to identify personnel for this unit with the right skills
and aptitude needed for the mission. Military members will possess
recent and relevant operational experience. Civilian members will
provide the special skills that are not readily available within
the Current Force. Training for this unit will emphasize holistic
solutions, combining information, intelligence, training and technology.
The unit will develop broad linkages to a variety of DoD and other
interagency organizations working in related areas. Linkages to
the warfighter will be established through dedicated liaison teams
to functional and geographic combatant commanders.
The AWG, organized under a special table of
distribution and allowances, will have the flexibility to change
and modify, as the evolving mission requires. An Army combat arms
colonel will command the AWG and a command sergeant major, a deputy
commander and an executive officer will assist him. The AWG headquarters
will have a robust staff to ensure coordination, planning and execution
to accomplish its global mission. Particular to this headquarters
will be its charge to develop and maintain a joint common operational
picture (JCOP) for asymmetric threats. The staff will have an integral
trends analysis capability to assist in future threat prediction
and analysis. The headquarters will also be a focal point for international
coordination and cooperation on asymmetric threats.
In addition to a headquarters and headquarters
detachment, the AWG will initially include three subordinate squadrons,
each commanded by an Army combat arms lieutenant colonel and each
with a very specialized mission. The operations squadron will be
the face of the AWG to the deployed joint force and Army commander.
This squadron will provide the trained and ready teams that deploy
forward to collect, develop and disseminate tactics, techniques
and procedures (TTPs) and observations. Direct communications linkages
will ensure rapid information dissemination to the training base
and will help to inform development of procedural or technological
countermeasures. The operations squadron will be able to provide
liaison and staff integration with supported commands and will be
capable of assisting deployed units in the integration and training
of rapidly fielded countermeasures. A second operations squadron
is envisioned for long-term sustainment operations.
The primary mission of the training and assessment
squadron will be to provide tactical advisory training for predeployment
forces and to coordinate training of countermeasure TTPs and technology
with service and joint trainers and developers. The work of this
squadron will be directly informed by the efforts of the operation
squadron teams passing information from forward locations. In accomplishing
this task, the training and assessment squadron will leverage the
inherent capabilities of continental U.S.-based joint and Army lessons
learned processes, training centers and doctrine developers. An
important but secondary function for this squadron will be the selection
and training of unit members.
The concepts integration squadron will evaluate
ongoing operations to identify asymmetric gaps and required capabilities,
conduct program and concept development, and manage requirements
to close asymmetric gaps. Forward-deployed operations squadron teams
will provide the feedback to inform the efforts of this unit. The
concept integration squadron will also conduct liaison with the
technology and acquisition communities and coordinate item testing
and development of technology-related training materials.
The AWG must ultimately achieve a joint structure
to provide a true, complete and time-sensitive picture of the battle
space that includes all aspects of asymmetric warfare. All services,
not just land forces, are subject to asymmetric threats and, more
important, must possess capabilities for addressing current and
future asymmetric adversaries in a holistic fashion. Joint integration
will be achieved over time with initial service augmentation into
the AWG staff and, optimally, with full service integration into
the three squadrons discussed above.
Equally important to accomplishing the mission
of this organization are robust linkages to other organizations
that possess and can provide specific support to understanding and
developing countermeasures. Relationships with Army battle labs,
training centers and schools, research and development centers,
joint and service intelligence agencies and special mission organizations
are vital to full cooperation and defeat of asymmetric threats.
On occasion, the attachment or support of direct military organizations
to the AWG will be required to ensure that the right skills and
capabilities are working together in a synchronized fashion.
Asymmetric warfare as we are experiencing in
the current conflict is not just an operational anomaly; it is here
to stay. Conventional U.S. forces can expect to see these types
of threats in every future operation. Adversaries around the world
are carefully watching and studying the activities in Iraq as an
example of how they may confront conventional forces in the future.
The AWG was created to take a broader look
at current and evolving asymmetric threats to U.S. forces in order
to devise countermeasures to these threats and deny potential enemies
the ability to exploit gaps in U.S. capabilities. The success of
the AWG in accomplishing this mission will be crucial to ultimate
victory in the global war on terrorism and is a critical component
of future Army and joint forces operations.
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