A Surge of Advisers
Retiring Army Lt. Col. John Nagl — look for him in a forthcoming installment of ‘The Rise of The Counterinsurgents’ — has an op-ed in The New York Times reiterating an idea he put forward last year: the need for an institutionalized corps of counterinsurgency advisers to foreign armies.
Doctrine — a standard enumeration of the purpose of a military organization and how it will accomplish its goals — is still nonexistent for the adviser mission. Organization is inconsistent, for example, with most Afghanistan teams consisting of 16 soldiers with no medic, while most Iraq teams contain 11 soldiers, including a medic. The fact is, both types of teams are too small for the tasks they have been assigned, and many consequently have been augmented on the ground by regular troops on an ad hoc basis.
This is simply because not enough advisers are being produced — just 5,000 per year. We are going to need ever more experienced, trained advisers as the size and complexity of the Iraqi and Afghan police forces and armies grow and as the combat burden increasingly shifts to them.
Part of the problem is institutional. The United States military’s ability in battle is unmatched, but we have a spotty history in terms of helping allies fight for themselves. Advisers who live and fight with a struggling “poor cousin” local army often do their dangerous and sometimes frustrating work out of sight of the brass, and it can be a career-killer for ambitious young officers.
It’s an interesting proposal especially in light of the Iraqi Army’s poor performance in Basra. More from me on that in… oh, a couple of minutes.