Army, Marine Corps unveil counterinsurgency field manual

By Michelle GordonDecember 15, 2006

Army, Marine Corps unveil counterinsurgency field manual
An understanding of the people and culture of the host country is an important aspect of counterinsurgency. Here, 1st Lt. Jeff Harris (center) and Capt. Robert Erdman explain to Sheik Ishmael Kaleel Gomar Al Dulayani what was found in houses belongin... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Fort Leavenworth, Kan. (Army News Service, Dec. 15, 2006) - The Army and Marine Corps released a new field manual today to provide guidance to ground forces in order to achieve success in current and future counterinsurgency operations.

Collaboration on the new manual, FM 3-24, "Counterinsurgency," began in 2004. It had been 20 years since the Army published a formal field manual devoted to counterinsurgency operations, and 25 years since the Marine Corps published its last manual on the subject.

"When we went into Iraq we had doctrine for counterinsurgency, but it was based on our experiences in El Salvador during the 1980s," said Dr. Conrad Crane, US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks. "It wasn't set for large-scale Army involvement, so in 2004 we developed an interim field manual to fill the gap and we began working on a permanent, updated version."

Crane described insurgency and counterinsurgency as two sides of an internal war, emphasizing that the terms are not new.

"They are basically two forces, both fighting for legitimacy," he said. "Insurgents try to seize power and overthrow the government, and counterinsurgents try to hold on to power and order. Both insurgency and counterinsurgency have been around for thousands of years - long before the current conflicts."

In addition to providing guidance for current operations, the new manual discusses historical approaches to counterinsurgency taken by American forces. It also highlights the importance of continually evaluating the circumstances of a counterinsurgency campaign so forces can adapt their actions.

"We have to understand the people and culture of the host country to determine the problem," Crane said. "Counterinsurgency is complex and this doctrine only establishes guidelines for forces to apply. It's not a book of cookie-cutter solutions, but it does contain a lot of good ideas, historical lessons and insights."

The manual notes that although the military's purpose is to fight and win the nation's wars, today's Soldiers and Marines conducting counterinsurgency operations need to be prepared to perform additional tasks - not just kill or capture insurgents, but to be nation builders, assist in the rebuilding of infrastructure, and facilitate the establishment of local governance and the rule of law.

"There are a number of new, ground-breaking changes between this manual and the previous edition," Crane said. "It doesn't de-emphasize combat operations, but when we're trying to achieve the legitimacy of a host-nation government, our military has to be able to accomplish non-military operations, such as repairing broken sewer lines and building relationships with the local people."

According to Crane, counterinsurgency operations are a mix of offensive, defensive and stability operations and in order to be successful, our forces need to be to be adaptive and flexible.

"Our adversaries are constantly watching what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "They're adapting and drawing insights and they're going to make us fight this different kind of war. This manual is not a solution for Iraq or Afghanistan, but it will prepare Soldiers and Marines for where we are going in the future and the enemies we will face."