Counterinsurgency Field Manual

Monday December 18, 2006

The United States Army and the United States Marine Corps released a new counterinsurgency field manual, FM 3-24/ MCWP 3-33.5. The manual, authored by a team of Army and Marine Corps writers, is designed to fill a doctrinal gap, as it has been 20 years since the Army and 25 years since the Marine Corps last published doctrine on the subject. With the United States engaged in counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Philippines, it is essential that Soldiers and Marines have a manual that provides principles and guidelines for these kinds of operations. This manual--grounded in historical studies and informed by contemporary experiences--fills that need.

The new manual pursues a general approach to counterinsurgency, not one aimed specifically at any of the ongoing operations. It provides a broad overview of insurgencies through history to the present time, noting that every insurgency has a unique context and its own set of challenges. One cannot deal with former Saddamists or Islamic extremists the same way one would have fought the Viet Cong, the Moros, or the Tupamaros. Nonetheless, even today's highly adaptable insurgencies remain wars amongst the people, employ variations of standard themes, and adhere to some elements of a recognizable campaign plan. The manual therefore addresses the common characteristics of insurgencies and takes into account issues of religion, ethnicity, and tribal relationships, examining these factors as motivations for the insurgencies the United States confronts today. Additionally, it discusses the impact of contemporary developments such as suicide bombers, urbanization, and new information technologies.

Aimed at commanders and staffs at the battalion level and above, the new manual strives to provide those who will carry out a counterinsurgency campaign a solid foundation on which to build. One of the primary emphases of the manual is the importance of learning counterinsurgency and ensuring that our forces are part of learning institutions that continually evaluate the circumstances of a particular campaign and adapt their actions to defeat the adversaries they face.

The manual notes that while the purpose of our Army and our Marine Corps is to fight, our ground forces have, throughout our history, been called on to perform additional tasks, particularly during counterinsurgency operations. As described in the manual, counterinsurgency operations are a mix of offensive, defensive, and stability operations, conducted along multiple lines of operation. The new manual explains that Soldiers and Marines conducting counterinsurgency operations thus need to be prepared to carry out a mix of both familiar combat tasks and tasks that are more often associated with nonmilitary agencies, with the focus varying depending on the local situation.

Finally, the manual makes clear that conducting a successful counterinsurgency campaign requires a flexible, adaptive force--one that can both fight and build--led by agile, competent, culturally astute leaders. As the guidelines and discussions provided in the manual explain, counterinsurgency operations, inevitably, are exceedingly difficult and complex; indeed, they represent the "graduate level of warfare."

The materiel included in the Counterinsurgency manual will be used to educate Army and Marine Corps leaders, to prepare for future operations, and to inform other U.S. government agencies and our allies on the intricacies of countering this aspect of irregular war.

To view or download the Field Manual 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5 click here.

For those with AKO access, it can be downloaded by clicking here.

Can also be viewed via the USMC Website.

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