More on exploiting seams . . .
Last week, The Adventures of Chester posted a Quick Thought on Exploiting Seams. Two examples of this phenomenon are taking place: 1. The Triangle of Death: Since Saddam was deposed last spring, US units have had varying and different areas of operations (AOs) throughout Iraq. The First Marine Expeditionary Force for example, started the stabilization period in the southeast part of the country, basically from not far outside Basra all the way up to Al Kut and the Tigris in the north, and Najaf and Karbala in the west. Now, on its second deployment, I MEF is assigned al-Anbar province, and parts of Babil province in the central and western portions of the country. Usually an entire Army division is responsible for Baghdad, and -- I believe -- often reinforced with an armored cavalry regiment or other attachments. The point is this: The Triangle of Death, currently the focus of our attention for Operation Plymouth Rock, lies right along the boundary between whatever division is occupying Baghdad (1st Cav Div?), and I MEF to the southwest. The Triangle of Death straddles a seam -- a unit boundary. This has likely been the case for the entire war. Could this have something to do with the unpacified nature of the area? When responsible for a given area of operations, it is easy to concentrate on what is in the center, and not the periphery. This is human nature. But much interesting activity can take place on the periphery. Take the US-Mexico border region as one example. These hybrid areas in international borders are where much conflict and trade take place. The same activity levels can be observed in the borders of an area of operations of a given military unit -- though not always. If Babil province, or northern Babil province, now makes up 70-80% of the AO for the 24th MEU, then this problem has been recognized. Dedicating an entire unit to the policing or defeating of the forces that exist along one seam -- and then reinforcing it with at leat two battalions of attachments -- is a sign that our commanders are aware of these issues. 2. With the upcoming rotation of military forces into and out of Iraq, we find an example of a time-based seam (for those worried about opsec, don't worry, this is pretty basic stuff):
As they launch their second large-scale rotation of troops for the war in Iraq, U.S. commanders are trying to minimize the upheaval that the first changeover caused a year ago--a tumult critics say puts more troops at risk while contributing to the loss of U.S. control over several important Iraqi cities. . . Others say the changeover last January contributed to the loss of important cities that once had been relatively calm and even showed promise of supporting the American effort and the interim Iraqi government. That's because the incoming troops did not have the time to absorb from their departing counterparts what tactics worked best, critics say. Mosul, for instance, was quickly stabilized by the Army's 101st Airborne Division shortly after the spring 2003 U.S. invasion. Officers there helped stage early local elections and launched ambitious reconstruction projects. As the 101st neared its departure date in late 2003, however, violence began to escalate, and it grew worse as the 1st Infantry Division took command of the area . . . Much the same happened in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. It was tense but generally under control a year ago. But with the departure of the 82nd Airborne Division and the arrival of Marines last spring, the city experienced escalating violence . . .When one unit replaces another, it can create a time-based seam in defenses, or even in aggressive offensive operations. A final quote, from Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1: "Warfighting":
As the opposing wills interact, they create various fleeting opportunities for either foe. Such opportunities are often born of the fog and friction that is natural in war. They may be the result of our own actions, enemy mistakes, or even chance. By exploiting opportunities, we create in increasing numbers more opportunities for exploitation. It is often the ability and willingness to ruthlessly exploit these opportunities that generate decisive results.