Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Thursday | June 19, 2003

The Problems of rear area security

Rear Area Security

In the selection and organization of security forces, despite the usual difficulties, the main emphasis must be placed on the high quality of personnel and equipment. No partisan-infested area can be cleared and rendered permanently safe by a force composed of old men who are equipped with foreign weapons and a few rounds of ammunition. If such security units fail to accomplish their mission, they are likely to become the laughing-stock of an inherently antagonistic population and their ineffective operations will have the result of strengthening the resistance of the enemy


It did not take long until word was passed among the divisions on the line that the fighting against the partisans for the protection of rear communications was often more severe and resulted in larger numbers of casualties than actual combat at the front. Many a division brought to the rear for rehabilitation and there, as a sideline so to speak, employed in antipartisan operations, requested after a short time to be relieved of such duties and permitted to return to the front. This reaction alone should well support the contention that the front-behind-the front is a theater of operations in its own right. No longer is it appropriate to treat this zone as a stepchild or to regard it merely as the zone of communications in the traditional sense.

Any commander who is determined to conduct an active defense against partisan bands must of necessity accept the idea of committing regular combat forces in occasional mopping-up operations of partisan-infested areas.

Constant patrolling activity must be maintained not only on the main highways but also along the side roads. Occupied areas are to be kept under close surveillance at all times through a regular network of interlocking patrol posts. But even such patrols will only serve their purpose if at least some of their personnel are acquainted with the country and able to obtain information and reports from the local inhabitants. Therefore the careful selection and judicious employment of men who are familiar with the terrain, the language of the people, and the enemy's military tactics are among the principal prerequisites for the success of an active defense.

Commanders of village strong points or of local security units are to be granted complete authority for local antipartisan operations. This will enable them to take aggressive and successful measures immediately at the appearance of partisan bands, and obviate any lengthy and time-consuming inquiries or requests to higher headquarters. Small motorized forces must be available for the rapid pursuit of the enemy. Partisans operate at great speed; they appear on the scene, complete their mission, and withdraw again to their hideouts. Once they have disappeared into the woods, it is practically impossible to pick up their tracks.


It is clear, nevertheless, that there must be another solution to the entire problem of rear area security. In modern warfare even an active defense based on the combined efforts of combat troops and security forces cannot assure the complete elimination of partisan activities


The only all-inclusive solution to the problem of rear area security seems to lie in the actual pacification of occupied enemy territory. In every country under military occupation there are people in all walks of life whose most ardent desire is the return to peace and normalcy, not to speak of those among them who for personal reasons are willing to support the policies of the occupying power. Cultivating their friendship, assuring them of one's peaceful intentions, and restoring the safety of their homes, their work, and their subsistence are the best guarantees for real security in the rear of the fighting troops.

News of good treatment travels just as fast as reports of bad treatment, and most people will decide quickly and intelligently what kind of treatment they prefer.


Now, this comes from a widely available historical manual on anti-guerrilla operations. I could tell you what it covered, but that would take all the fun out of it.

The question is not who wrote it, a quick Google will reveal that, but what it means for US troops in Iraq. The reason this document was written was due to the failure of the country's forces to follow these guiidelines. What it does say, clearly, is that the operations against guerrillas can be worse than regular combat

Steve Gilliard

Posted June 19, 2003 03:17 PM | Comments (31)


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