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PhD THESIS Academic Year 2009-2010 Colonel Alexander Alderson The Validity of British Army Counterinsurgency Doctrine after The War in Iraq 2003-2009 Supervisor: Professor E R Holmes November 2009 © Cranfield University 2009. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright owner Abstract  This thesis analyses whether the British Army’s doctrinal approach for countering insurgency is still valid in the light of the war in Iraq. Why is this important?

Insurgency remains a prevalent form of instability. In the absence of a major conventional threat to British security, it is one which is likely to confront the Army for the foreseeable future. If British doctrine for counterinsurgency has been invalidated by the campaign in Iraq, this will have profound implications for the way the Army approaches, and is organized, equipped and trained for counterinsurgency in the future.

If the doctrine is found to be valid, another explanation has to be found to account for the conduct and outcome of British operations in Southern Iraq between 2003 and 2009.

Using historiographical techniques, the thesis examines the principal influences on extant British doctrine, developed in 1995. It analyzes the principal British manuals, the influence on doctrine of the campaigns in Malaya and Northern Ireland and the theories of Sir Robert Thompson and Gen. Sir Frank Kitson in order to distil a ‘British Approach,’ against which both doctrine and the campaign in Iraq are judged. It examines the course of operations in Southern Iraq to determine the validity of Counter Insurgency Operations, and uses the U.S. Army’s experience in developing and applying new doctrine in Iraq in 2007 and 2008 as a comparator. The thesis concludes that there was a dichotomy between theory and practice: British doctrine provided a valid theory for counterinsurgency, yet British commanders followed it only in part to achieve, at best, mixed results. Conversely, U.S. commanders applied their new doctrine, based on British theory, to great effect. While British doctrine may be valid, the issue was the extent to which it had been assimilated.

–  –  –

The idea for this thesis stemmed from a presentation I gave to Headquarters MultiNational Force-Iraq in March 2004 as it prepared to move to Baghdad from Camp Doha in Kuwait. I was a member of the directing staff at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, and the presentation was about British counterinsurgency doctrine. To prepare for it, I spent a weekend at home reading Army Field Manual Volume 1 Part 10 Counterinsurgency Operations and writing the script. What struck me from the whole experience was not that the Commanding General in Kuwait challenged the idea that his forces in Iraq faced an insurgency – “Damn it, we’re warfighting!” – but how well constructed and well-written the Field Manual was. The main outcome of this exercise was, as events transpired, that I actually read the Army’s counterinsurgency doctrine.

As I have discovered, I was, and remain in a minority.

First, I wish to acknowledge the wonderful encouragement and support provided by Richard Holmes, my supervisor. This has been a very difficult task to complete. Not only was the war in Iraq unpopular from the start, but the setbacks and difficulties the campaign experienced has challenged many assumptions and perceptions within and of the Army. Richard’s advice and guidance has helped me strike the right balance between assessing the doctrinal approach, which should have underpinned the campaign, and the conduct of the campaign itself. Many of my friends and colleagues had six years of their lives consumed by the campaign; one hundred and seventy-nine British servicemen and women died in Iraq. All their sacrifice, I humbly acknowledge.

From the start of my research, Brig. (Retired) Gavin Bulloch, the author of Counter Insurgency Operations, has been both a tremendous source of information and a great supporter. He was instrumental in writing the Army’s doctrine in the 1990s, and it owes him greatly for his careful research and his skilful writing. Gavin provided the definitive view of how the Army developed its doctrine following the Bagnall Reforms, and our many talks and discussions about counterinsurgency field manual were crucial to this thesis. I greatly appreciate our work together and acknowledge that without his help, my research would be incomplete.

At the same time, Dr. Daniel Marston has been both a friend and an ally as we uncovered the startling lapse in educational focus on counterinsurgency befell the Army since 1997. We poured over doctrine, shared and tested ideas, and saw some of them put into action in Iraq. He reviewed and helped me with every chapter, and they are all the better for his clear sighted understanding of counterinsurgency. Most of all, however, it has been Dan’s advice, guidance, encouragement and friendship, in Warminster, Oxford and Iraq, for which I am most grateful.

A great many busy senior officers gave up a great deal of time to answer my questions.

Their encouragement to examine a war in which they had all played a part, and all of whom acknowledged that we had often struggled to find the right answer, was crucial.

They were always frank, open and direct in explaining their part in the campaign and their conclusions. Lt. Gens. Jonathon Riley and Bill Rollo, and Maj. Gen. James Everard have been particularly helpful. I owe the greatest thanks, however, to Lt. Gen.

Sir Graeme Lamb, who not only played a strategically pivotal and strangely unnoticed role in Baghdad in 2007, but has also been a staunch supporter of my work and an ally ii at court. He took me to Baghdad when the pressure in Basrah was at its height and the U.S. Surge was underway in Baghdad, he opened doors for me with our U.S. allies, and provided priceless insights into the campaign at its pivotal moment. If that was not enough, after Baghdad, he cleared the way for me to complete a Defence Fellowship at Oxford to finish this research, where I studied with Professor Hew Strachan and the Changing Character of War programme. Hew was the sounding board for many ideas, particularly those concerning the development of doctrine, and he helped me to keep the thesis set in a broader historical context.

Col. Richard Iron was instrumental in developing the plan to retake Basrah in March

2008. He offered me sage advice and encouragement, both while we served together in Iraq in 2007-08, and since then as this research has developed. Lt. Col. Jan Horvath, U.S. Army, is a fellow student of counterinsurgency; his encouragement, friendship and exemplary service in Iraq where he taught COIN for eighteen months, were an inspiration. We both co-chaired the UK-U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Doctrine Working Group in 2005-06, as the two armies revised their respective manuals, and it was through Jan that I had the opportunity to meet those who kept the flame of COIN alive in the U.S., and those who rekindled it through FM 3-24, and its application in Iraq.

Many friends and colleagues at the University of Oxford, in particular Professors Neville Brown, Sir Adam Roberts, and David Robertson, listened to my developing ideas with remarkable patience, and Mansfield College’s Senior Common Room was both welcoming and inquisitive about their soldier in their midst. I also gratefully acknowledge the support and friendship of Col. Kevin Benson, Howard Body, John Cooper, Russ Glenn, Marcus Good, Brig. (Retired) Iain Johnstone, John Mackinlay, Brig. Gen. HR McMaster, Steve Metz, John Nagl, Mark O’Neill, Col. Dan Roper, and Chris Schnaubelt. Closer to home, Rhys Jones, at the Joint Services Command and Staff College Library, Shrivenham, provided superb help, steering me through the archives to track down material and doctrine, and running to ground many dusty, longlost references.

None of this would have been possible without the support and forbearance of my family. Kirsty, Kate, Lucy, Robbie and Harry put up with my constant absences on duty, and they kept things going when writing ate up time and opportunities at home. I am not sure that becoming accidental counterinsurgents is fair compensation, but I am sure that I could not have done this alone.






List of Tables

List of Figures


1 Introduction

1.1 Defining the Problem

1.2 What is Doctrine?

1.3 Defining Insurgency and Counterinsurgency

1.4 The British Approach to Countering Insurgency

1.5 What is the Problem?

1.5.1 Did the Army have relevant doctrine and did it understand it?.................. 8 1.5.2 Iraq: Did Theory Translate into Practice?

1.6 Methodology

1.6.1 Knowledge

1.6.2 Historiography

1.6.3 Organizational Culture

1.6.4 Sources

1.6.5 Participant Observation

1.7 Literature

1.8 Structure

1.9 Contribution

2 Doctrine

2.1 What is Doctrine?

2.2 Doctrine in Historical Context

2.2.1 Field Service Regulations

2.2.2 Revising Doctrine and Refining Principles

2.2.3 Inconsistencies in Assimilation, Application and Development.............. 41 2.3 The Bagnall Reforms: Re-Developing the Army’s Doctrine

2.3.1 The Doctrine Hierarchy

2.3.2 Theatre Instructions

iv 2.3.3 Reviewing and Revising Doctrine

2.3.4 Re-Establishing the Army’s Philosophy

2.3.5 ADP Operations: Bridging Philosophy and Practice

2.4 Doctrine Writers and Writing Doctrine

2.5 Doctrine Networks

2.6 The International and Domestic Context

2.6.1 The RMA

2.6.2 The Future Army and its Effect on Doctrine

2.7 Antithesis: The Difficulties of Writing Retrospective Doctrine

2.8 Effective Doctrine: A General Framework for Analysis

2.8.1 Acceptability with the Target Audience

2.8.2 Endurability

2.8.3 Contemporary Relevancy

2.8.4 Suitability as Educational Material

2.8.5 Accessibility and Manageability

2.9 Conclusion

3 Counter Insurgency Operations

3.1 Doctrine for Counterinsurgency: Counter Insurgency Operations (1995)..... 74

3.2 Principles

3.3 A Concept of Military Operations

3.4 The Tenets of Counter Insurgency Operations

3.5 Developing Counter Insurgency Operations

3.6 Adapting the Doctrine Writing Process

3.7 Revising Counter-Revolutionary Operations (1977)

3.8 Revising the Principles of Counterinsurgency

3.8.1 Co-operation

3.8.2 The Law

3.8.3 Minimum Necessary Force

3.8.4 Political Awareness

3.8.5 Popular Support

3.9 Developing New Principles for Counter Insurgency Operations

3.10 Counter Insurgency Operations: Effective Doctrine?

4 The Evolution of British Counterinsurgency Doctrine

v 4.1 1923: Duties in Aid of the Civil Power and the Principle of Minimum Force

4.2 Gwynn and Imperial Policing

4.3 1934: Notes on Imperial Policing

4.4 1949: Imperial Policing and Duties in Aid of the Civil Power

4.5 The Malayan Emergency: Crystallizing Counterinsurgency and Formalising Campaign Doctrine

4.6 1957: Keeping the Peace (Duties in Support of the Civil Power) and the Malayan Influence

4.7 1963: Keeping the Peace – Separating Insurgents from Their Support........ 111 4.8 1969: Counter-Revolutionary Operations – Doctrine’s Expanding Torrent 112

4.9 Robert Thompson, Malaya, Defeating Communist Insurgency and CounterRevolutionary Operations

4.10 General Sir Frank Kitson and Low Intensity Operations

4.11 The Influence of Northern Ireland

4.11.1 Developing Doctrine in Northern Ireland

4.11.2 Introducing the Army’s Doctrine to Northern Ireland

4.11.3 Applying Doctrine on Operations

4.12 Distilling the British Approach to Counterinsurgency

5 British Operations in Iraq 2003-2009

5.1 Warfighting and Nation-Building

5.2 The Honeymoon Ends

5.3 Peace Support Operations and the Sadrist Uprising

5.4 Elections and SSR

5.5 Early U.S.-UK Tensions

5.6 The Counter-IED Campaign

5.7 Drawdown, Surge and Operation SINBAD

5.8 Transition and Repositioning

5.9 Case Study 1: Summer 2007, 4 RIFLES and Basrah Palace

5.10 Provincial Iraqi Control in Basrah and Operation Charge of The Knights 161 5.11 Conclusions

6 British Counterinsurgency Doctrine: Practice against Theory

6.1 The First of all Strategic Questions: Peace Support or Counterinsurgency? 176

6.2 Characterizing the British Approach and the Campaign in Iraq

6.3 Principles

vi 6.3.1 Political Primacy and Political Aim

6.3.2 Co-ordinated Government Action

6.3.3 Intelligence and Information

6.3.4 Separate the Insurgent from his Support

6.3.5 Neutralize the Insurgent

6.3.6 Long-Term Post Insurgency Planning

6.4 Continuity

6.5 Command and Control of the Campaign

6.6 The Ink Spot Method

6.7 Education and Training: Learning and Adapting

6.8 Revising Counterinsurgency Doctrine

6.9 Conclusions

7 The U.S. Army in Iraq: Theory and Practice

7.1 Section I – The Role of Doctrine in the U.S Army

7.1.1 The Reaction to Vietnam and Its Effect on Doctrine

7.1.2 Training and Doctrine Command

7.1.3 The Rise to Dominance of FM 100-5 Operations and AirLand Battle.. 214 7.1.4 Turning Away from Counterinsurgency and Ignoring Vietnam............ 215 7.1.5 The Impact of the War in El Salvador

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