Innovation and War:
Military Operations in Afghanistan
and Iraq
James Russell
Department of National Security Affairs
Naval Postgraduate School
June 2010
Outline

Project
Background
• Iraq, Afghanistan

Focus on
empirically built
cases of units as
they conduct
operations.
Up Front Punch line



Analysis of US military operations in Iraq
and Afghanistan show organizations that
can quickly adapt, change, and innovate
while closed with the enemy.
Nonsense to suggest that insurgents are
somehow more creative, flexible, and
adaptive.
I’m not arguing that this wins the war!
Basis for This Statement?

172nd SBCT,
Ninewa
Province
/Mosul, 20052006
3rd Battalion, 6th
Marine
Regiment; 1st
Marine
Battalion, 7th
Marine
Regiiment, Al
Qaim, 20052006
4-14 Cavalry
Group, Rawah,
Western Anbar,
2005-2006
Unit Locations
2/28 Brigade
Combat Team;
1/1 Brigade
Combat Team,
Ramadi,
Anbar, 20052007; 1st
Battalion, 37th
Armored
Regiment; 2nd
Battalion, 7th
Marine
Regiment
(both attached
to 1/1 in
Ramadi, 20062007)

Iraq cases of
empirically built
cases of 9 Army
and Marine Corps
battalions in 0507.
Chronicle fieldlevel adaptive and
innovative
processes.
Findings from Iraq Research

Organizations developed new, indigenous organizational
capacities.
• Dialectical process that cannot be described solely as topdown, or bottom up – though execution process is generated
organically.
• Innovation is the end product of a series of linked processes
that builds organizational capacities that deliver outputs that
didn’t exist before the unit arrived.

New capacities required modification to organizational
structures.
• S-2 shops, non-kinetic effects working groups, JIATFs.
• New small unit tactics to disrupt insurgent ops.

Units gradually built new SOPs to operationalize new
capacities.
• Census Operations.
• COP construction.
• CMO and IO integration into lethal/non-lethal targeting.
Other Iraq Inferences

Role of doctrine miscast by security
studies theorists:
• Capstone operational doctrine is foundation
to innovation; lack of specific COIN doctrine
not important in these cases.


Informal doctrine important tool.
Organizational hierarchy operates
differently in war than in peace – no
surprise, but…
• Ad-hoc org structures; flattened
organizational hierarchy; authority driven
down the chain of command; informal
relationships a great source of organizational
productivity; embrace of systems-based
based perspectives to understand second
and third order effects of actions as a guide
to decision-making.
Innovation and Adaptation in
War: The Case of 4/25 in P2K
Saba
Musa Khel ri
Qal
and
ar
Nadir
Dow Shah Man
man Khot dozay
dah
i
Tani
Sper
a
Jaji
Maida
n
Bak
Mat
un
Tere
Zayi
Gorb
uz
4
#
Zerok COP
FOB Munoz
FOB Orgun-EFOB Tillman
FOB Boris
FB Lilley
FOB Curry
4/25 Adaptation – the Good

4/25 Board of Directors – A Campaign Plan!
• AID, Agriculture, State, BDE Commander
• Attempt to involve other USG elements in the
stabilization/COIN effort

Immense array of additional organizational/TF
support – the alphabet soup approach
• Human Terrain, PRT, Law Enforcement Program, ADTs,
JIEDDO, SOF, Intell orgs of every stripe to help in
targeting, detainee ops., all built through ad-hoc, JIATFtype organizations.


This is one model for how to organize diverse
organizational components conduct stability
operations in modern era.
Military remains provider and enabler….
TF Yukon Leadership
Yukon Board of Directors
DoS
James Story
Team Khowst
USAID
Louis Coronado
USDA
DoD
Gary Domian
COL Howard
Team Paktya
Team Paktika
• DoS
Sarah Groen
• DoS
Genevieve Libonati
• DoS
Trevor Boyd
• USAID
Teresa Miller
• USAID
John Koogler
• USAID
Daniel Weggeland
• USDA
Feridoon Mehdizadegan
• USDA
Vacant
• USDA
Carolin Clarin
• BSO
LTC Stephen Smith
• BSO
LTC Rob Campbell
• BSO
LTC Clint Baker
LTC Pete Minalga
• PRT
CDR John Pestovic
• PRT
LtCol Carlos Halcomb
• ADT
COL Brian Copes
• ADT
COL Jim Moore
• PRT
CDR Tim Cauthen
The Case of 3-509 in
EPaktika




Significant initiative at BN
levels to structure their
own operations.
Organizing for the fight.
Driving responsibility
down the chain of
command – IO, survey
data collection.
Tactical organizational
complexity that mirrors
command level.
Zerok COP
FOB Munoz
FOB Orgun-E
FOB Tillman
FOB Boris
FB Lilley
FOB Curry
Districts
9
Sq KM
6204
-About the size of the big island of
Hawaii
Population
~300,000
125 KM of Border with Pakistan
PAKMIL Checkpoints
51
Initiative Spotlight:
1-501 Sub-Governor Budget Pilot Program
1. Targets the legitimacy gap at the District
2. Provides Government with a simple
means to improve the community
3. Record keeping, dispute resolution, and
consultative processes codified in
documents
4. Employs the local community and
fosters a sense of ownership
Preliminary Conclusions from
Iraq and Afghanistan
Research



Process of battlefield innovation is complex mix
of top-down, bottom up process: dialectic in
nature.
Afghan: top down guidance and doctrine shape
approach, but significant variation on unit basis,
just like Iraq.
Iraq parallels: units get it, upper- mid- and lower
levels all get it. Educated, experienced work
force.
• Organizations extremely flexible to build new output
capacity.

Organizational learning happens but is
idiosyncratic; doctrine does not smooth this
process.
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Military Operations in Afghanistan and Iraq