Taji Center Stresses Counterinsurgency Mission
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 22, 2006 The Counterinsurgency Center for Excellence here was established last year to help units adapt to and train for the war against terror in Iraq as it is fought today, which is much different than it was 2003, 2004 or even 2005.
"There is a different nature of operations now," said Army Lt. Col. Pete Cafaro, the center's deputy commandant. "Some of the units were here at the beginning when they were fighting their way to Baghdad. Now that's not the fight. Now what we're trying to do is train the Iraqis so they can assume their own battlespace."
Leaders of American and coalition units attend the weeklong course at the center, which is the brainchild of Army Gen. George Casey, commander of Multinational Force Iraq. Brigade commanders, battalion commanders, company commanders and senior staff -- including noncommissioned officers -- come to the center for counterinsurgency instruction. Each class has about 40 students.
Students attend the course when they come to Iraq for their pre-deployment site survey, Cafaro said. "Then they have more chance to get back to their units and change their training regimen to stress things they will need to do once they move to their area."
Because the unit leaders know the areas they are going to, the center tailors training to unique requirements they will face. Leaders from units already in place come and discuss challenges they face and tactics, techniques and procedures they have found work. The units can also discuss the personalities of the people involved and cultural aspects of the situation that are important to the new unit.
The course starts with the fundamentals about counterinsurgency, Cafaro, a Special Forces officer, said. "Then we move to discussing foreign internal defense, which is the task of basically helping a country establish security within its own borders. That, of course, is the challenge the Iraqi government has."
The 31-member instructor/facilitator team then brings on topics unit leaders need to be thinking about to transition from theory to actual exercises, training and operations. Part of this is the relationship among units on the ground, military transition teams, and Iraqi units. Cafaro stressed that training Iraqi army and police units is the top priority for coalition units.
The center will often have transition team members and Iraqi officers discuss the process and challenges ahead for the units.
Specialized areas of instruction include the intelligence cycle pertaining to improvised explosive devices. "We discuss the latest trends in IEDs and how the intelligence cycle works and where they can go for information," Cafaro said.
Unit leaders also learn about detainee operations. It is not enough to just say a suspect is a terrorist, Cafaro said. Detainees will end up in court, so the course discusses having the right evidence in the right formats to prosecute suspects.
On the intelligence side, the center stresses getting intelligence analysts into lower levels in a unit. "Most of our information is coming from the bottom up, not the top down," he said. "The intel analysts need to be closer to that source, so units are learning that they need to beef up their S-2 (intelligence and security) sections and push them down to company or even platoon level.
The course also encourages units to "get out of the vehicles and walk," Cafaro said. "That is the best tactic in counterinsurgency warfare."
In addition, center leaders discuss information operations and the need to inform the populace of the government's efforts on their behalf.
The instruction also stresses Iraqi culture and history. "This helps the students understand why things are the way they are," the colonel said. "It helps them understand some of the different segments of the population and their religion. Finally, it helps them understand that things that are important to us may not be important to the Iraqi culture and vice versa.
"For example, we put a large stock in out identity as Americans," Cafaro continued. "The Iraqi starts with himself, goes to his immediate family and works out from there. Given what they've been through, it's understandable that they don't have a lot of love for a national government. When you are dealing with the Iraqis you have to take that into consideration."
For each class, senior coalition leaders speak of the campaign plan. "You are hearing it directly from the leaders," Cafaro said. "It helps the units understand their places in the plan and why what they will do will be important to the overall strategy."
With the growth of the Iraqi army, the center is sponsoring mobile training teams that provide the instruction to Iraqi army units at their stations.
Cafaro said the biggest challenge facing the center is to change the mindset of the people attending the course. He called the course's students "hard-charging officers and NCOs" who are the best in the world at applying a traditional military solution to a situation.
"But counterinsurgency is about changing peoples' perceptions and getting them to buy into a situation," Cafaro said. A traditional military answer is often the wrong answer in such a situation. "For counterinsurgency to work you have to get the people involved," he said.
The center strives to get leaders to think "outside the box." Escalation of force is one example. "We try to get people not to take counterproductive actions," Cafaro said. "Force protection is very important, don't get me wrong, but there are certain things you can do that are not helpful, like the escalation of force. Let's really think about, 'Do we have to shoot our weapons to warn people?'
"If we have to, then fine. But the nature of what you are doing is not winning you any friends," he said. "The idea is to try not to create more enemies. If we do escalation of force and it results in some needless casualties, then you haven't created a lot of support for what we're trying to do."