November 1, 2010  

COIN’S Real debate

I agree with very much of what Nadia Schadlow has written [“A False Dichotomy,” September AFJ]. The COIN versus “high-intensity only” choice is a great academic debate, but in reality, commanders and soldiers on the ground are adapting operations effectively. Here in Afghanistan today, U.S. units partnered with Afghan National Army units to demonstrate the Army’s ability to understand the operational environment they’re operating in and do what is necessary to win. The real debate is really at the policy level — when is the U.S. Army called out to defend its interests? The answer to this question is the critical one because how you answer it shapes how you structure the Army.

I’ve said it in past letters to AFJ, but “we buy our doctrine.” I’ll now adjust that a bit and say “you buy the Army you wanted to fight with yesterday.” With budgets likely to decrease over the next years, how the Defense Department allocates its resources depends on what it wants (wanted?) the Army to do.

But already, different viewpoints such as the “alternate QDR” depict scenarios vastly different than what the so-called “COINistas” would have one believe are the central theme of the future. So I’d offer — don’t worry about the ability of Army operational commanders to adapt to the complex environment they’re in; let’s have a real debate on the nation’s security strategy and the allocation of declining resources to implement it.

— Army Col. Howard Arey, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (Regional Support)