Is There a Deep Fight in a Counterinsurgency?
Is there a deep fight in counterinsurgency
op- erations? Based on our experience as planners in Combined Joint
Task Force 180 during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) IV in Afghanistan,
we say, "Yes." Our previous military education and training
taught us that depth on the battlefield was physical in nature.
Field Manual 3-0, Operations, states that
"depth is the extension of operations in time, space, and resources."1
This is a decidedly linear construction of the battlefield based
on industrialized warfare between conventional enemies. Because
little has been written about the deep battle in an insurgency environment,
this article examines depth in the non- linear battlefield and how
planners might develop operational effects to defeat insurgencies.
A New Environment
The Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) operating
environment is both nonlinear and noncontiguous. The enemy has no
national borders or traditional infrastructure. Doctrine concerning
the concept of deep battle describes "areas used to shape enemy
forces before they enter the close area."2
Doctrinal writers envisioned a hierarchically structured enemy system
with a conventional force that predominately defined success as
defeat of its opponent on the battlefield. Application of military
force in depth against a conventional en- emy creates physical and
electronic isolation and removes flexibility from the enemy's command
structure. Also, depth has a predictable relation- ship to time.
Hierarchical enemy forces defined distance between echelonments
and maintained military systems with known capabilities. Thus, the
doctrinally defined deep area of the battlefield constitutes a location
and predictable time structure that enable a commander to develop
the close fight to his advantage by attacking high-payoff targets.
High-payoff targets are critical nodes in the
deep area that if attacked successfully will paralyze the enemy
and set him up for a knockout blow in the close battle. Critical
nodes in conventional warfare that provide this paralyzing effect
(operational shock) include logistics depots, transportation nodes
such as railyards, and command and con- trol centers.3
But the enemy in the GWOT does not have a traditional infrastructure
to support his forces and, therefore, no deep areas that fit the
traditional understanding of the term. This leads to two questions:
Does the contemporary enemy have a deep area? and how do U.S. forces
achieve the paralyzing effect of operational shock in this environment?
Without a clear conception of deep operations in an insurgency,
military planners might attempt to defeat it using tactical solutions
where operational-level answers are required.
The Insurgency Deep Area
The classic insurgency has a deep area in the
traditional physical sense as well as in the psycho- logical or
cognitive sense. Physical depth in an insurgency plays an important
role in providing logistics and refuge to insurgents within a contested
population or space. These physical deep areas are also the support
zones that insurgents use to recruit, plan, train, and conduct psychological
operations. Denying such areas to insurgents can produce an operational
effect reducing the insurgents' future capabilities and options.
The characteristics of the enemy system's depth
are substantially different from a nation-state's con- ventional
force. Traditional targets that might create an operational effect
in an insurgent's physical deep area are usually dual-use. Insurgents
use the same communication nodes, avenues of approach, and shelter
used by the population that friendly forces are trying to positively
influence. Traditional targeting with remote sensors and joint fires
typically does not meet the basic cost-benefit analysis test, so
ground forces capable of discerning the enemy from the population
must do the targeting.
Deep areas can also be contiguous to the contested
area or hundreds or thousands of miles away. The irrelevance of
political boundaries to an insurgent becomes a strength, while a
nation-state's strict adherence to them becomes a constant tactical
vulnerability. For example, the Kosovar Albanians conducted their
most effective fundraising and information operations against the
Serbian Army through an active diaspora in Switzerland.4
During OEF IV, planners faced a similar problem. Most of the enemy
systems' critical functions took place in the provinces of Waziristan,
Baluchistan, and other areas in Pakistan and in difficult-to-reach
areas in Afghanistan. Creating effects in these areas often required
intra-agency support primarily found at combatant command headquarters.
History provides several examples of how to
approach an insurgent's physical deep area. Government forces, from
U.S. Army General George Armstrong Custer's Seventh Cavalry to French
colonial forces in Africa, have used the flying column to conduct
raids against food stores and massed insurgents. This primarily
tactical approach to the insurgent's deep area relies only on military
force and attempts to bring decisive firepower against an enemy,
but it denies prolonged contact to government forces. Such an approach
to an insurgent's deep area has little long-term effect because
government forces do not create a permanent presence or influence
with the population.
By the late 19th century, French colonial forces
in Africa began to understand the requirement to gradually and permanently
remove the insurgent's deep area. French colonial forces introduced
the concept of progressive occupation and economic penetration combined
with the use of military force and political and economic instruments
to permanently change the condition of the insurgent's deep area.5
U.S. Army forces used a similar approach at the turn of the 20th
century during the guerrilla war in the Philippines. The Army used
"attraction" and "chastisement" in the insurgent
deep areas by combining deliberate civic action such as road construction,
education, and improvement of local security forces with the occupation
of villages and raids against key leaders.6
While the concept of physical depth in an insurgent
system has been clearly articulated during past military campaigns,
the understanding and targeting of cognitive depth is rarely found.
Cognitive depth is not defined in terms of space, but in terms of
extended time and how insurgents adapt to friendly forces. Understanding
how insurgents adapt in time is necessary to properly link friendly
force tactical actions to operational effects and the strategic
Cognitive depth has its theoretical foundation
in the concept of spatial depth and the area of influence. When
spatial depth and time had a predictable relationship, an area of
influence provided commanders and planners with the critical tool
of anticipation, which played an irreplaceable role in the science
of decide, detect, deliver, and assess against conventional enemy
forces.7 However, insurgent forces are
more complex than conventional forces, so anticipation has lost
much of its usefulness.
Attacking an Insurgency
Insurgent forces usually do not present the
immediate, observable reaction to a stimulus or tactical effect
that friendly forces like to create. So how does a friendly force
produce a desired effect on an insurgency's psychological or cognitive
depth if insurgent forces do not present an immediate, observable
reaction? Insurgent forces do what complex biological systems do
to survive-they adapt. Friendly forces should focus less on the
enemy's immediate physical reaction and more on how insurgents adapt
in order to seek a new advantage or repair damage to their critical
leadership, population, or logistics assets.
In Afghanistan, planners attempted to identify
second-tier insurgent leaders so that in the event friendly forces
successfully removed key insurgent leaders in an area, they could
immediately increase the priority of effort against second-tier
leaders before the insurgents could solidify their command and control.
Anticipating the insurgents' adaptation to the loss of key leaders
and then acting immediately created a greater effect on the insurgency
in the area. We also identified villages that provided support along
critical avenues of approach. If we denied the enemy a set of infiltration
avenues, how would the insurgency react? Which villages and tribes
would become of greater importance? Affecting cognitive depth does
not produce a re- action, but it mitigates insurgent leaders' options
before they are presented with the need to adapt.
If we understand cognitive depth, we can develop
ways to paralyze the insurgent system or produce operational shock.
Colonel John A. Warden III, an architect of the Persian Gulf War
air campaign, introduced his Five Rings Model as a methodology for
successfully attacking and paralyzing a conventional enemy system
in depth.8 An adaptation of this model
depicts tangible targets that together constitute depth in the insurgent
Leadership is central to both conventional
and insurgent forces because it provides direction for continued
resistance. An insurgency is a contest for the sympathy of a population
because the population provides logistics support, intelligence
on government targets, and protection within which to hide or disperse
when necessary. The insurgency requires energy in the form of resources,
and the insurgent generates resources through fundraising and other
financial activities to purchase materiel, information, and manpower.
The outer ring of the model contains fielded forces of insurgent
fighters and terrorists. These rings represent the insurgency's
depth and provide a path to defeating it.
Using Joe Strange's U.S. Marine Corps University
model for developing an operational center of gravity, we can determine
tangible targets and create lines of operation through which friendly
forces can paralyze the insurgency.9
The critical vulnerabilities (CVs) represent the entry point or
targets along the line of operation. Attacking each CV simultaneously
in an unrelenting fashion denies the enemy the critical requirements
(CRs) and critical capabilities (CCs) he needs to sustain the fight,
thus shocking the system and collapsing his operational center of
gravity. For example, an operational center of gravity in a hypothetical
insurgency might be a sanctuary within a sympathetic population.
Denial of sanctuary would theoretically cause the insurgency to
wither because of an inability to establish a safe base of operations.
But, how do we develop a way to deny that sanctuary? The answer
lies in identifying the enemy's depth.
Sanctuary to move weapons, personnel, and ammunition
unhindered is contingent on the critical requirement of having freedom
of movement within the sanctuary. Insurgent leaders facilitate freedom
of movement by using multiple communication devices, the combination
of which constitutes a linked network. Also, the network operates
within a sympathetic population that enables it to establish the
critical capability and requirement. The leaders, communication
network, and population represent critical vulnerabilities. Targeting
them for destruction, disruption, and influence forms a line of
operation that can produce shock in the enemy system by denying
freedom of movement (a critical requirement), thus, denying him
the critical capability of moving weapons, personnel, and ammunition
This line of operation paralyzes the enemy's
ability to move freely through a safe base of operations by simultaneously
and relentlessly attacking his critical vulnerabilities. The element
of simultaneity reduces the ability of insurgent leaders to adapt
to the assault on their system. Thus, critical vulnerabilities are
physical targets in the cognitive realm that represent depth in
an insurgency and, ultimately, form a path through which we can
Anticipating Enemy Adaptation
The planner must remember that developing an
operational concept is not a unique event or tactical action. Planners
must devise campaign plans that anticipate enemy adaptation and
develop appropriate actions to prevent it across time. Only then
will a linked series of tactical actions conducted simultaneously
and relentlessly by various assets over an extended period accomplish
operational and strategic objectives.10
This constitutes deep battle and cognitive understanding of the
operational art in fighting a counterinsurgency; it is how planners
in the contemporary operating environment (COE) might develop a
concept to defeat an insurgent enemy.
In a counterinsurgency, there is a deep fight.
However, current Army doctrine does not provide a theoretical understanding
of the deep fight or a methodology for fighting it. History provides
vicarious experiences that planners in the COE can study to learn
how to fight and win the physical deep fight, but insurgent depth
is also contingent on the elements of time and adaptation. While
historical examples remain applicable, today's military planners
must understand the nature of the insurgencies the Army faces. Planners
must develop tangible solutions and campaign plans to defeat insurgents
in the deep battle.
1. U.S. Department of the Army
Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations (Washing- ton, DC: U.S. Government
Printing Office, 2001), 4-17.
2. Ibid., 4-26.
3. James J. Schneider,
"A New Form of Warfare," Military Review (January- February
4. Eve Gerber, "Who
Is the Kosovo Liberation Army?" Slate, 23 April 1999, on-line
at <http://slate.msn.com/id/1002637/>, accessed 17 May 2005.
5. Douglas Porch, "Bugeaud,
Gallieni, Lyautey: The Development of French Colonial Warfare,"
in Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age,
ed. Peter Paret (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1986),
6. Brian Linn, The Philippine
War (Lawrence: The University Press of Kansas, 2000), 197-203.
7. Shimon Naveh, In
Pursuit of Military Excellence (London: Frank Cass Publishers, 1997),
8. John A. Warden III,
The Air Campaign (Lincoln, NE: toExcel Press, 2000), 145-46.
9. Joe Strange, Centers
of Gravity and Critical Vulnerabilities (Quantico, VA: Marine Corps
University Press, 1996), 1-4.
10. FM 3-0, 2-3.
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