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Chapter 2

Urban Environment

3From a planning perspective, commanders view cities not just as a topographic feature but as dynamic entities that include hostile forces, local population, and infrastructure. Planning for urban operations requires careful IPB, with particular emphasis on the three-dimensional nature of the topography and the intricate social structure of the population.

FM 3-0

Of all the environments in which to conduct operations, the urban environment confronts Army commanders with a combination of difficulties rarely found elsewhere. Its distinct characteristics result from an intricate topography and high population density. The topography's complexity stems from the man-made features and supporting infrastructure superimposed on the natural terrain. Hundreds, thousands, or millions of civilians may be near or intermingled with soldiers-friendly and enemy. This second factor, and the human dimension it represents, is potentially the most important and perplexing for commanders and their staffs to understand and evaluate. The intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) process remains unaffected by urban areas (see FM 34-130 and Appendix B); this chapter provides information essential to the conduct of the IPB for an urban environment.

Although urban areas possess general similarities, each environment is distinct and will react to and affect the presence and operations of Army forces differently. A tactical technique effective in one area may not be effective in another area due to physical differences, such as street patterns or the type of building construction. An Army policy popular with one urban group may cause resentment and hostility in another due to diverse cultural differences. All difficulties potentially exist, but they increase the complexity for Army forces operating in urban areas. These difficulties range from conventional military forces to disease and starvation (see Chapter 3) to a pervasive media-often acutely present in intricate combinations. Thus, commanders at all levels make extraordinary efforts to assess and understand their particular urban environment to plan, prepare for, and execute effective urban operations (UO).

A Complex Environment
Urban Terrain
      Multidimensional Battlefield
      Broad Urban Patterns
      Lesser Street Patterns
      An Urban Model
Urban Society
      Potential Center of Gravity
      General Population Size
      Group Size, Location, and Composition
      Leadership and Organization
      Interests and Actions
      Interaction, Influence, or Control
      A Cycle of Effects
Urban Infrastructure
      Separate Parts of a Whole
      Structures and People
      Impact on Future Operations
      Resource Intensive
      Communications and Information
      Transportation and Distribution
      Economics and Commerce
      Administration and Human Services




2-1. Urban areas vary depending on their history, the cultures of their inhabitants, their economic development, the local climate, available building materials, and many other factors. This variety exists not only among urban areas but also within any particular area. The ever-changing mix of natural and man-made features in urban areas present commanders with some of the most difficult terrain in which to conduct military operations.

2-2. Although urban areas possess similar characteristics, no two are identical. The sprawl of Los Angeles, for example, bears little physical resemblance to New Delhi. Societal characteristics most significantly affect each area's uniqueness and complexity. While complex, information about the terrain, its potential effects on operations, and how it changes over time may be determined with some degree of certainty. However, the human dimension is much more difficult to understand and assess, particularly its effects on military operations. Like any environment, the side that can best understand and exploit the effects of the urban environment has the best chance of success.

  Figure 2-1. Keys to Understanding the Urban Environment

2-3. Whether a large metropolis or a small village, each urban environment has an identifiable system of components that constantly change and interact. This "system of systems" consists of the terrain, the society, and the infrastructure that links the two (see Figure 2-1). (These categories highlight the key aspects to understanding the urban environment and will be used throughout the manual; however, the civil-military operations (CMO) discussion in Chapter 9 provides an alternate method for categorizing and assessing the effects of civil considerations in any operational environment.)

2-4. These systems are not separate and distinct categories but rather overlapping and interdependent. Thoroughly analyzing these elements, along with the other factors of mission, enemy, weather, troops and support available, time, and civil considerations-

  • Contributes to commanders' situational understanding.

  • Potentially lessens the number and cost of close combat engagements.

  • Allows them to develop courses of action that apply appropriate resources against decisive points.

2-5. In stability operations and support operations, this understanding allows commanders to engage and dominate the decisive points critical to maintaining peace or restoring normalcy to the urban environment. Although each system is categorized into subordinate components or subsystems, commanders often "step back" and visualize each system, the complex urban environment, and their area of operations (AO). This "systems thinking" aids commanders in uncovering key relationships and intersections that can help reveal centers of gravity (COGs) and decisive points.

2-6. To comprehend the urban environment and its components to the fullest extent possible, commanders carefully integrate and employ special operations forces (SOF)-to include psychological operations (PSYOP) and civil affairs units-and a myriad of other human intelligence (HUMINT) assets and regional, language, and cultural experts. The societal aspects and integrating infrastructure will challenge commanders' assessment and understanding. These aspects will also require greater dependence on nonmilitary and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and host-nation agencies for their information, knowledge, and expertise. This last consideration requires commanders to develop effective techniques and procedures for coordinating and interacting with these agencies.



2-7. Although complex and difficult to penetrate with many intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets, the terrain is the most recognizable aspect of an urban area. Truly understanding it, however, requires comprehending its multidimensional nature. The terrain consists of natural and man-made features, with man-made features dominating; an analysis considers both. Buildings, streets, and other infrastructure have varied patterns, forms, and sizes. The infinite ways in which these factors can intertwine make it difficult to describe a "typical" urban area. However, these elements provide a framework for understanding the complex terrain in an urban area. Furthermore, man-made features significantly affect military systems and soldiers, and thus tactics and operations. General effects on urban operations are discussed in this chapter. Specific effects on battlefield operating systems (BOS) (see Chapters 5 and 9) and the range of operations (see Chapters 6, 7, and 8) are interwoven throughout the manual.



2-8. Urban areas present an extraordinary blend of horizontal, vertical, interior, exterior, and subterranean forms superimposed on the natural relief, drainage, and vegetation. An urban area may appear dwarfed on a map by the surrounding countryside. In fact, the size and extent of the urban battlespace is many times that of a similarly sized portion of natural terrain. The sheer volume and density created by urban geometry can make UO resource intensive in time, manpower, and materiel.

2-9. Like natural disasters, UO can radically alter the physical character of the urban terrain in ways not experienced in other environments. They may cause (either intentionally or not) uncontrollable fires or the loss of electricity. A power outage can cause flooding (especially in subsurface areas) by shutting down pumping stations. Entire buildings may be destroyed, eliminating reference points and leaving large piles of rubble. Additionally, buildings and other urban structures, damaged but not destroyed, can still be effective obstacles and possible booby traps. Their weakened construction and unstable structure increase the risk of injury to soldiers and civilians moving within them. (Engineers often determine whether the buildings can support occupation by Army forces or civilians.) The likely presence of toxic industrial materials (TIM) can create additional obstacles.

2-10. Commanders in other environments normally address the depth, breadth, and height of their AO in terms of two areas: airspace and surface. In an urban environment, they broaden their scope to include supersurface and subsurface areas (see Figure 2-2). Although spatially separated, each area may be used as an avenue of approach or mobility corridor, line of communications (LOC), and engagement area.

Figure 2-2. The Multidimensional Urban Battlefield
Figure 2-2. The Multidimensional Urban Battlefield


2-11. Supersurface and subsurface areas magnify the complexity of the urban physical environment. Commanders consider activities that occur outside buildings and subterranean areas (the external space) as well as the activities that occur unseen in buildings and subterranean systems (the internal space). The internal space further challenges command, control, and intelligence collection activities and increases the combat power required to conduct UO. Commanders develop methods to help themselves, their staffs, and their subordinate commanders and staffs to represent and visualize the multiple dimensions. Such dimensions can change rapidly simply due to continued urban growth or, as described earlier, the effects of nature and UO themselves.



2-12. Aircraft and aerial munitions use the airspace as rapid avenues of approach in urbanized areas. Forces can use aviation assets for observation and reconnaissance, aerial attack, or high-speed insertion and extraction of soldiers, supplies, and equipment. Some surface obstacles, such as rubble, do not affect aviation assets. However, buildings of varying height and the increased density of towers, signs, power lines, and other urban constructions create obstacles to flight and the trajectory of many munitions (masking). These obstacles can limit low-altitude maneuverability in the urban airspace. Excellent cover and concealment afforded enemy gunners in an urban area increases aviation vulnerability to small arms and man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), particularly when supporting ground forces.



2-13. Surface areas apply to exterior ground level areas, such as parking lots, airfields, highways, streets, sidewalks, fields, and parks. They often provide primary avenues of approach and the means for rapid advance. However, buildings and other structures often canalize forces moving along them. As such, obstacles on urban surface areas usually have more effect than those in open terrain since bypass often requires entering and transiting buildings or radical changes to selected routes. Where urban areas abut the ocean or sea, large lakes, and major rivers, the surface of these bodies of water may provide key friendly and threat avenues of approach or essential LOCs and, therefore, may be a significant consideration for Army commanders. As such, amphibious and river-crossing operations may be an integral part of the overall urban operation.

2-14. Larger open areas-such as stadiums, sports fields, school playgrounds, and parking lots-are often critical areas during urban operations. They can provide locations for displaced civilians, interrogation centers, and prisoner of war holding facilities. These areas also can afford suitable aircraft landing and pickup zones and artillery firing locations. They can provide logistic support areas and aerial resupply possibilities because they are often centrally located.



2-15. These areas include the internal floors or levels (intrasurface areas) and external roofs or tops of buildings, stadiums, towers, or other vertical structures. They can provide cover and concealment; limit or enhance observation and fields of fire; and restrict, canalize, or block movement. However, forces can move within and between intrasurface areas creating additional, though normally secondary, avenues of approach. Rooftops may offer ideal locations for landing helicopters for small-scale air assaults and aerial resupply. First, engineers analyze buildings for their structural integrity and obstacles. Such obstacles include electrical wires, antennas, and enemy-emplaced mines (although personnel may be inserted by jumping, rappelling, or fast roping from a hovering helicopter and extracted by hoist mechanisms). Some rooftops are designed as helipads. Roofs and intrasurface areas may also provide excellent locations for snipers; lightweight, handheld antitank weapons; and MANPADS. They enable top-down attacks against the weakest points of armored vehicles and unsuspecting aircraft. Overall, elevated firing positions reduce the value of any cover in surrounding open areas and permit engagement at close range without risk of immediate close assault. This area (and the subsurface area) requires commanders to think, plan, and execute ground operations vertically as well as horizontally. In this latter regard, UO share strong similarities with mountain operations (see FM 3-97.6).



2-16. These areas are subterranean or below surface level. They may serve as secondary and, in fewer instances, primary avenues of approach at lower tactical levels. When thoroughly reconnoitered and controlled, they offer excellent covered and concealed LOCs for moving supplies and evacuating casualties. They may also provide sites for caching and stockpiling supplies. Subsurface areas include the subways, tunnels, sewers, drainage systems, cellars, civil defense shelters, and other various underground utility systems. In older cities, they may include ancient hand-dug tunnels and catacombs. Both attacker and defender can use subsurface areas to gain surprise and maneuver against the rear and flanks of a threat and to conduct ambushes. However, these areas are often the most restrictive and easiest to defend or block. Their effectiveness depends on superior knowledge of their existence and overall design. Army commanders may need to consider potential avenues of approach afforded by the subsurface areas of rivers and major bodies of water that border urban areas. This particularly applies when operating as part of a joint task force (JTF) task organized with SOF or when opposing a threat with similar capabilities.



2-17. Four major urban patterns can influence UO (see Figure 2-3). Central to two of the patterns (satellite and network) is the hub or dominant urban area or pattern around which outlying urban areas or patterns radiate. (A segmented urban area, because it tends to be a larger urban area, can often be a hub.) In offensive and defensive operations, the hub serves as a pivot or strong point; as such, it often becomes a major obstacle to an attacker. If the attacker chooses to bypass the urban area (hub) located along his axis of advance without first isolating the area, he may expose his flank to attack from the hub as well as dependent urban areas or subordinate satellite patterns. Because the focus of stability operations and support operations is on people, commanders understand the value and influence of the hub to the economic, political, or cultural well being of the surrounding area. Whether or not a hub, commanders must remember that urban areas are not islands; all are connected to the surrounding rural (and other urban) areas through fluid and permeable boundaries and LOCs.

Satellite Pattern


2-18. This common pattern consists of a central hub surrounded by smaller, dependent urban areas. LOCs tend to converge on the hub. The natural terrain throughout this pattern is relatively homogenous. Outlying areas often support the principal urban area at the hub with means of reinforcement, resupply, and evacuation. In some instances, they may serve as mutually supporting battle positions. Commanders should consider the effects of the outlying urban areas on operations within the hub, and, conversely, the effects of operations within the hub on outlying urban areas. Information operations (IO), for example, targeted primarily at the hub of a satellite pattern may subsequently influence outlying urban areas and achieve necessary effects without having to commit specific resources to these areas.

Figure 2-3. Broad Urban Patterns
Figure 2-3. Broad Urban Patterns

Network Pattern


2-19. The network pattern represents the interlocking of the primary hubs of subordinate satellite patterns. Its elements are more self-sufficient and less supportive of each other, although a dominant hub may exist. Major LOCs in a network extend more than in a satellite pattern and take more of a rectangular rather than a convergent form. Its natural terrain may vary more than in a single satellite array. Operations in one area may or may not easily influence, or be influenced by, other urban areas in the pattern.

Linear Pattern


2-20. Potentially a subelement of the previous two patterns, the linear pattern may form one ray of the satellite pattern or be found along connecting links between the hubs of a network. Most frequently, this pattern results from the stringing of minor urban areas along a confined natural terrain corridor, such as an elongated valley, a body of water, or a man-made communications route. In offensive and defensive operations, this latter form of the linear pattern facilitates developing a series of strong defensive positions in depth, effectively blocking or delaying an attacking force moving along the canalized terrain.

Segment Pattern


2-21. When dominant natural terrain, such as a river or man-made features (canals, major highways, or railways), divides an urban area, it creates a segmented pattern. This pattern often makes it easier for commanders to assign areas of operations to subordinate commanders. However, this pattern may fragment operations and increase risk to an operation requiring mutual support between subordinate units. Still, the segmented urban areas may allow commanders to isolate threats more easily in these areas and focus operations within segments that contain their decisive points. Although an integral part of the whole (the urban area), each segment may develop distinct social, economic, cultural, and political characteristics. This social segmenting may benefit commanders faced with limited assets to influence or control the urban populace. After thoroughly analyzing the society, they may be able to focus IO and populace and resources control measures against only specific segments that affect decisive operations. Commanders may need only to isolate other segments or may need to just monitor for any significant changes in the attitudes, beliefs, or actions of the civilians located there.



2-22. Lesser patterns in the urban area result from the layout of the streets, roads, highways, and other thoroughfares. They evolve from influences of natural terrain, the original designer's personal prejudices, and the changing needs of the inhabitants. Street patterns (and widths) influence all BOS; however, they greatly affect maneuver, command and control, and combat service support. (In some portions of older Middle Eastern urban areas, the labyrinths of streets were designed only to allow two loaded donkeys to pass each other; tanks are too wide.) Urban areas can display any of three basic patterns and their combinations: radial, grid, and irregular (see Figure 2-4).

Figure 2-4. Basic Internal Street Patterns



2-23. Societies of highly concentrated religious or secular power often construct urban areas with a radial design: all primary thoroughfares radiating out from the center of power. Cities with this design may signal an important historical aspect in the overall analysis of the urban society. Terrain permitting, these streets may extend outward in a complete circle or may form a semicircle or arc when a focal point abuts a natural barrier, such as a coastline or mountain. To increase mobility and traffic flow, societies often add concentric loops or rings to larger radial patterns. Unless commanders carefully plan boundaries, routes, and axes of advance, their subordinate units' movement or maneuver may be inadvertently funneled toward the center of urban areas with this pattern resulting in congestion, loss of momentum, and an increased potential for ambush or fratricide.



2-24. The most adaptable and universal form for urban areas is the grid pattern: lines of streets at right angles to one another forming blocks similar to the pattern of a chessboard. A grid pattern can fill in and eventually take over an original radial pattern. Grid patterns often appear to ease the assignment of boundaries for subordinates units. However, commanders also consider how the natural terrain influences operations and the establishment of control measures. They also consider the influence of the buildings and other structures lining these streets, such as their height and construction, before assigning boundaries and developing other control measures.

2-25. Describing boundaries and phase lines by easily recognizable features is as important in urban areas as elsewhere. If available, natural features are a better descriptor than man-made features that may be altered or unrecognizable. When Army forces work closely with local law enforcement agencies, commanders may not need to assess the effect of street patterns on the assignment of boundaries. Instead, commanders may assign boundaries overlaid on existing administrative boundaries used by local law enforcement agencies to increase interoperability and aid in unity of effort.



2-26. In most urban areas, regardless of the original intent, plan, or vision, existing street patterns emerge from successive plans overlaid one on another. Some are well planned to fit with previous plans while others a haphazard response to explosive urban growth. The result may mix patterns. Urban engineers and planners may specifically design irregular patterns for aesthetic reasons (as in many suburban housing developments) or to conform to marked terrain relief. Irregular street patterns may alert commanders and analysts that the underlying natural terrain may exert greater influence over operations than in other portions of the urban area. Finally, irregular street patterns make the movement and maneuver of forces less predictable.



2-27. Throughout the world, urban areas have similar form and function. In form, urban areas contain like characteristics, readily divisible into distinct sections or areas. Functionally, they tend to be the centers of population, finance, politics, transportation, industry, and culture. While urban areas may be modeled by several different means, Figure 2-5 illustrates the general forms and internal functions. Some forms and functions may overlap. For example, high-rise buildings are located in core areas as well as in outlying areas and may be used for residential purposes. With the rapid urbanization associated with developing nations, the areas displayed in this urban model often manifest themselves less clearly there than in developed nations.

Figure 2-5. An Urban Model
Figure 2-5. An Urban Model


2-28. This analysis helps to determine, in general terms, potential advantages and disadvantages each portion of the urban area may have toward accomplishing the urban operation. However, construction materials and methods can vary drastically. Commanders identify specific building types and construction and understand weapons effects on them. If a commander desires precise effects, the chosen munitions or weapons system must be sufficiently accurate, capable of penetrating the target structure (without exiting the other side), and achieve effects within. Often noncombatants, critical infrastructure, or protected targets are in the vicinity. Commanders may need to determine if the surrounding walls or structures will sufficiently absorb or negate the blast or thermal effects of the weapon. Regardless, understanding the structure of buildings in the urban AO allows commanders to determine the best means to accomplish the mission.



2-29. The core is the heart of the urban area, the downtown or central business district. Relatively small and compact, it contains a large percentage of the urban area's shops, offices, and public institutions. Often, it houses the headquarters for commercial and financial activities and contains important cultural, historical, and governmental buildings. These activities prefer the core because of its accessibility. As the focal point of the transportation network, residents find the core the easiest part of the urban area to reach. It normally has the densest concentration of multistory buildings and subterranean features (underground parking garages, underground shopping centers, and basements).

2-30. High-rise buildings, varying greatly in height (possibly 50 stories above ground and four stories below ground), make up the cores of today's urban areas. Buildings routinely abut one another, with little or no setback from the sidewalks. Building height and density (except in outlying high-rise areas) often decreases from the core to the edge of the residential areas, while the amount of open areas frequently increases. Modern urban planning allows for more open spaces between buildings than found in the cores of older urban areas. Most core areas have undergone constant redevelopment resulting in various types of construction. Commonly, brick buildings abound in the oldest part of the core; framed, heavy-clad structures in the next oldest part; and a concentration of framed, light-clad buildings in the newest part. The outer edge of the core, the core periphery, has ordinarily undergone less change than the core resulting in buildings of uniform height (commonly two to three stories in towns and five to ten stories in larger urban areas).

2-31. Generally, offensive operations focused in core areas (even when effectively isolated) will require greater resources-particularly manpower, time, and information-than in many other parts of the urban area. Mounted maneuver often proves more difficult in core areas because of fewer open areas, buildings closer to the streets, and more civilian vehicles. Rubbled buildings in central core areas (especially high-rise buildings) become greater obstacles to mobility as they can collapse on and easily block thoroughfares. Rubble piles can afford excellent covered and concealed positions for dismounted threat forces. Consequently, commanders use more dismounted forces as part of their combined arms operations. Conversely, the core may be critical to urban defensive operations, particularly older areas of heavier construction that afford greater protection. Despite potential difficulties, the core area may be key to accomplishing many stability or support missions since it houses much of the human activity that occurs in the urban area.

Industrial Area


2-32. Industrial areas often develop on the outskirts of the urban areas where commercial transportation is easiest (along airfields and major sea, river, rail, and highway routes). These areas will likely displace farther from the core and residential areas as urban planners recognize the potential threat of TIM. The dispersed pattern of the buildings provides sufficient space for large cargoes, trucks, and materiel handling equipment. These areas may provide ideal sites for logistic bases and maintenance sites. While older, heavier-clad structures may be found, new construction consists of low, large, flat-roofed factory and warehouse buildings with large parking areas and work yards. These structures generally have steel frame and lightweight exterior walls. Multistory structures usually have reinforced concrete floors and ceilings.

2-33. Toxic industrial chemicals and other TIM may be transported through an urban area (by rail, barge, truck, or pipeline) or found stored throughout. However, larger concentrations will exist in industrial areas, and their presence should concern Army forces operating near them.

2-34. Each year, over 70,000 different chemicals are produced, processed, or consumed globally. An estimated 25,000 commercial facilities around the world produce, process, or store chemicals that have a legitimate industrial use yet are also classified as chemical warfare agents. Many other chemicals (not classified as weapons) may still be sufficiently hazardous to pose a considerable threat to Army forces and civilians in urban areas as choking agents or asphyxiates, flammables or incendiaries, water contaminants, low-grade blister or nerve agents, or debilitating irritants. These chemicals can be released either accidentally or deliberately. On 2 December 1984, nearly 40 tons of methylisocyanate used to produce pesticides leaked from a storage tank at Bhopal, India, killing thousands and injuring hundreds of thousands. Figure 2-6 contains a small sampling of other toxic industrial chemicals along with their industrial or commercial usage that commanders may encounter in an urban area. The most common chemicals that pose a risk to Army forces are highly toxic irritant gases such as ammonia, chlorine, hydrogen chloride, and sulfur dioxide.

Toxic Industrial Chemical

Industrial/Commercial Uses


Commercial Refrigerant, Fertilizer and Food Production, Petroleum, Explosives, Other Chemicals


Semiconductor Industry

Boron Trichloride

Organic Catalyst, Soldering Magnesium

Boron Trifluoride

Chemical Catalyst, Aluminum Refining

Carbon Disulfide

Industrial Solvent, Dry-Cleaning, Agriculture, Petroleum, Electroplating


Potable Water, Disinfectants, Metal Treatment, Plastics & Rubber


Plastics and Rubber

Ethylene Oxide

Industrial Alcohols, Fumigant, Industrial Sterilant


Uranium Processing, Rocket Fuel


Plastics, Fertilizers, Preservative/ Corrosion Inhibitor, Fungicide and Germicide, Pesticide, Pharmaceuticals

Fuming Nitric Acid

Fertilizers, Explosives, Metal Processing, Pesticides, Rocket Fuel

Hydrogen Bromide

Chemical Industry, Pharmaceuticals

Hydrogen Chloride

Fabrics, Semiconductors

Hydrogen Cyanide

Pesticides, Other Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Electroplating

Hydrogen Fluoride

Glass Production, Chemical Catalyst

Hydrogen Sulfide

Metallurgy, Agricultural Disinfectant


Dyes, Pharmaceuticals, Herbicides & Insecticides

Phosphorus Trichloride

Metallurgy, Pesticides and Germicides, Gasoline Additive

Sulfur Dioxide

Paper, Food Processing, Ice Production, Disinfectant, Leather Processing

Sulfuric Acid

Fertilizers, Petroleum, Iron and Steel Production, Battery Electrolyte


Electronics, Other Chemicals

Figure 2-6. Toxic Industrial Chemicals and Their Industrial or Commercial Uses


2-35. Standard chemical defense equipment may not protect against (and chemical detection devices may fail to detect) many toxic industrial chemicals. Therefore, the risk to soldiers operating near the chemicals may increase. Commanders vigilantly identify these potential hazards, carefully consider them as part of their overall vulnerability analysis, factor the analysis into their risk assessment, and execute necessary contamination avoidance measures. Any assessment includes the chance that toxic industrial chemicals may be deliberately released by a threat to gain advantage or accidentally released by friendly actions (see FM 3-21 and FM 3-14).

Outlying High-Rise Area


2-36. High-rise areas consist of multistoried apartments, commercial offices, and businesses separated by large open areas, such as parking lots, parks, and individual one-story buildings. High-rise buildings are framed, light-clad construction with thin walls of brick, lightweight concrete, or glass. The automobile, mass transit systems, and improved road networks encourage these areas to grow and function further from the urban core.

2-37. Similar to the urban core, units given the mission to clear these areas, or even portions therein, will need more resources-most notably personnel and time-to accomplish their mission. Commanders should consider courses of action that isolate these entire areas, multiple sections within these areas, or even individual buildings before assigning tasks. The tasks could rapidly drain a unit's resources or unhinge other portions of the major operation. When defending, commanders who can integrate these areas in the defense will present the attacker with similar resource problems and may be appropriate in a defense to delay. However, defending commanders ensure that the defense is arranged so that this portion cannot be easily isolated and bypassed. Defensive positions in structures may require extensive reinforcement due to light-clad construction.

Residential Area


2-38. Residential areas can be found dispersed throughout the urban area; however, large suburban areas (or sprawl) normally form on the outskirts. Residential areas often consist of row houses or single-family dwellings set in a grid or ringed pattern in a planned development project. Yards, gardens, trees, and fences usually separate the buildings in a residential area. Modern residential construction is often of light-clad, framed wood construction, or brick. The combined population of surrounding suburban areas often far outnumbers that of the urban area proper. Specific suburbs tend toward homogeneity based on ethnicity, religion, economics, or some other social aspect. Commanders locate and analyze these areas to determine their impact on operations-often the most critical importance is the people located there (see the subsequent discussion in this chapter on the urban society).

2-39. In offensive and defensive operations, commanders determine whether operations pose an unacceptable physical risk to civilians. If so, they may have to relocate civilians to a safer area, perhaps another residential area. If not, commanders may implement a "stay-put" policy for that area and attempt to isolate the effects of the operation from them. During support operations, residential locations may be the initial focal point for operations since most of the permanent population is located there.

2-40. This area also contains a relatively recent urban phenomenon known as shantytowns. These areas are commonly on unoccupied, low-value land in and around many urban areas in underdeveloped countries. Shantytowns may contain over 50 percent of the total urban population. They usually lack streets and public utilities. The lean-to structures tend to be irregularly laid out, connected by walking paths, and made of any scrap material available: lumber, brick, sheet metal, cardboard, cloth, or vegetation. The random arrangement of structures, the absence of formal street naming and numbering, and often the lack of easily identifiable buildings and terrain create challenges. These challenges include navigating, coordinating, and transmitting accurate information and intelligence. Depending on the operation, the temporary nature of the structures can also mean that mobility can be either more or less restricted than other sections of the urban area. A military force may easily knock down and traverse structures without affecting mobility at all. However, their destruction may cause unacceptable civilian casualties, in which case mobility becomes more restrictive as the narrow paths often do not accommodate vehicular traffic. Similarly, the makeshift materials inhibit weapons effects less than many other parts of the urban area built more solidly. A tank round, for example, may go much farther and injure many more noncombatants than in an area where the primary building material is stone. Regardless, commanders consider the effects of their operations in this area, to include vehicles and weapons, as the weak structures increase the risk of fratricide, civilian casualties, and large, rapidly spreading fires.

Commercial Ribbon Area


2-41. Commercial ribbon areas are rows of stores, shops, and restaurants built along both sides of major streets that run through and between urban areas. These same types of areas often develop along the roads that connect one urban area to another (strip areas). The buildings uniformly stand two to three stories tall (about one story taller than the dwellings on the streets behind them).



Figure 2-7. Key Aspects of the Urban Society2-42. Although intricate, understanding the urban terrain is relatively straightforward in comparison to comprehending the multifaceted nature of urban society. UO often require Army forces to operate in close proximity to a high density of civilians. Even evacuated areas can have a stay-behind population in the tens of thousands. This population's presence, attitudes, actions, communications with the media, and needs may affect the conduct of operations. Homogeneity decreases drastically as the size of the urban area increases. Commanders take into account the characteristics of a population whose beliefs and interests vary based on factors. Figure 2-7 lists the factors. Civilian populations continually influence, to varying degrees, operations conducted in an urban area. Thoroughly understanding these societal aspects and avoiding "mirror-imaging"-overlaying one's own values and thought processes on top of the person or group one is trying to assess-will help to accurately anticipate civilian actions and response.



2-43. A COG during an urban operation, particularly in stability operations and support operations, may be the civilian inhabitants themselves-specifically their behavior. However, supportive behavior is generally an advantage in any type of operation. Correspondingly, neutral behavior toward friendly forces is an advantage over hostile behavior. To influence or control their behavior, commanders first understand the society's complex nature and character. Second, they understand and accept that every military action (or inaction) may influence the relationship between the urban population and Army forces, and, by extension, mission success. Lastly, they understand that Army forces may play only a supporting (but essential) role as part of an integrated and synchronized multiagency effort focusing all aspects of national power. With this awareness, commanders can take one or more actions:

  • Coordinate and plan operations.

  • Implement effective programs.

  • Take the immediate action necessary to maintain support of a friendly populace, neutralize or gain the support of hostile or neutral factions, or do any combination of these activities to achieve precise effects and accomplish the mission.

Without this understanding, commanders increase the risk that their actions, particularly concerning the urban population, may not have the intended and necessary effects.

2-44. Although the factor of civil considerations takes on added significance in UO, it is just one that commanders evaluate. Sometimes it may be the most important factor to consider as a COG. At other times it may be the least important as to be almost negligible. Its importance is not constant; it changes over time (like all factors). At the beginning of the operation, civil considerations may not be essential to mission accomplishment, but as the operation progresses this factor's importance to success may increase. In other circumstances, the opposite may be true. Overall, commanders consider three objectives regarding the civilians of the urban area:

  • Minimize their interference with urban operations. In offensive and defensive operations this means moving them away from combat operations. In all operations, it often requires centralizing them in one or more locations.

  • Maximize their support of Army, joint, and multinational forces and government agencies.

  • Observe the necessary legal, moral, and humanitarian obligations.



Figure 2-8. Urban Areas by Population Size2-45. Urban areas are commonly classified according to the general size of their population instead of landmass. Figure 2-8 lists categories of urban areas with their defining population.

2-46. These categories are useful to establish commonality and standardize terms that shape ideas, discussion, and concepts. Smaller populations usually suggest homogeneity among the inhabitants. Homogeneity can make consensus or compromise easier to achieve because fewer opposing viewpoints exist. Given this homogeneity, effects of change are more certain and often easier to determine. However, homogenous does not mean identical. If major social divisions do exist (either physical or ideological), commanders can more easily determine those divisions and their fundamental causes with smaller populations.

2-47. As urban areas expand, the urban patterns begin to blur and the social complexity increases. For example, as satellite patterns continue to grow, the LOCs between a central hub and outlying urban areas may develop and begin to assume a linear urban pattern. Simultaneously, a hub and outlying urban areas may continue to expand until they merge into a single, large metropolis. On a larger scale, a network pattern can grow and unite as a single megalopolis. This growth physically unites smaller urban areas but cannot force conformity of needs and beliefs. It also increases the physical and social complexity of an urban area.



Figure 2-9. Simplified Analysis of Urban Society2-48. Understanding how specific elements of the urban society affect operations (and vice versa) normally begins with analyzing their size, location, and composition (see Figure 2-9). Because commanders must minimize civilian casualties, size and location (without regard to composition) are important initial demographic considerations. After determining the presence and numbers of civilians relative to decisive points, commanders can then decide whether civilian proximity and density represent a significant risk to their mission-refugees clogging LOCs, for example. If civilians are the primary focus of the operation, as in many stability operations and support operations, this same analysis may help to determine decisive points. In this analysis, commanders consider that urban areas, on many levels, are in constant motion. The densities of circulating people and other traffic often vary according to the time of day, such as rush hours and market times. In planning urban operations, commanders may need to consider the timing or rhythms of population and vehicular movements in the urban area.

2-49. Commanders determine the composition of, or the identifiable groups or organizations within, the civilian urban population. Groups may be categorized by race, religion, national origin, tribe, clan, economic or social class, party affiliation, education level, union memberships, age, gender, occupation, or any other significant social grouping. Physical and ideological overlaps (and divisions) often exist between groups. Overlaps may provide early focus for analysis and suggest ways to affect more than one group simultaneously. In some cases, groups may have radically different ideologies but are (or can be) united by a single characteristic. Commanders understand the intricacies of "who does what to whom." Such understanding furthers identifying the urban society's sources of power, influence (both formal and informal), and decisive points that hold the keys to controlling or protecting this potential COG. (See also the discussion of competing power structures in Chapter 3.) Commanders have expert, detailed, and current knowledge and information to avoid developing simple formulas of social interaction that may actively mislead and add to a flawed course of action.



2-50. Commanders also understand how authority and responsibility is held or shared within and between each of the identified groups. For groups to exert meaningful influence, leadership provides vision, direction, and organized coherence. This leadership can be a function of personality as well as organization. Some groups depend on a charismatic leader to provide cohesion. Others de-emphasize individual leadership and provide redundancy and replacement in decisionmaking. Others combine elements of both these types of leadership and organization. Based solely on personality, a leader may centralize power or, while still being in ultimate control, decentralize decisionmaking and execution to subordinates. In contrast, a single person may head a group while a ruling council actually makes and executes policy. Groups centered on one leader (which may or may not be the officially designated leader) can often produce decisions and initiate actions rapidly but are vulnerable to disruptions if key personalities are removed or co-opted. Groups with shared or redundant leadership take longer to make decisions yet are more resistant to change and outside influence.


4Somali Proverb

2-51. Identifying and analyzing groups also helps commanders focus on specific segments of the urban society to determine their beliefs, needs, and agendas. It also helps commanders determine how those interests motivate groups to future action (or inaction)-previous patterns of activity are critical in this regard. This analysis seeks to determine why groups (and their leaders) act as they do. Commanders consider political, economic, cultural, and religious factors in this analysis. These factors affect all groups to some extent and often provide the basis for their beliefs, needs (actual or perceived), and subsequent behavior. Size and location considerations also apply to each group to help determine to what extent its beliefs or ideologies, needs, and actions may impact the urban operation. However, size and proximity may not accurately indicate actual or potential capabilities. Individuals, small groups, and groups located some distance from the actual conduct of the urban operation may be able to influence large portions of the population. These individuals or groups may have a capability disproportionate to their size and proximity-especially against objectives that are not terrain oriented (as in the case of many stability operations).



2-52. As shown above, commanders cultivate an understanding of a group's-

  • Size, location (and proximity to operations), and composition (to include leadership and organization).

  • Interests.

  • Capabilities.

  • Potential actions (intent) and their effects-if any-on operations.

Then they can develop or modify courses of action as appropriate. Certain courses of action may be needed to improve the interaction between Army forces and civilians (and between other agencies) to accomplish common goals. Others may be needed to influence favorable support, stabilize neutral groups, or neutralize hostile groups. Still others may require more forceful means to control and protect civilians. The latter can include establishing buffer zones and restricted areas; setting up checkpoints and roadblocks with other travel restrictions, controlling rations; enforcing curfews; inspecting facilities; conducting internment and resettlement operations; or maintaining a "stay-put" policy.

2-53. Commanders remember that many measures will require significant resources that may initially be beyond the capabilities of the Army force to impose and enforce. (Where possible, commanders should attempt to use local law enforcement to accomplish controlling activities.) The other elements of the environment, terrain and infrastructure, may fragment efforts and make it difficult to consistently impose controls throughout the urban area. A careful assessment of the urban society's interests (beliefs, needs, and agendas) is essential before implementing any populace and resources control measures. Otherwise, inappropriate controls may only aggravate the situation. Finally, an appropriate course of action may require no specific action towards the urban society. In most cases, training and discipline, grounded in cultural understanding and sensitivity, will help mitigate many potential adverse effects resulting from military-civilian interaction. Soldier training should also include learning basic commands or phrases in the most common language to their AO. (Commanders should review FM 3-15 and FM 3-19.40 for additional civilian control measures and considerations.)



Figure 2-10. UO—Society Cycle of Effects2-54. Since the urban society is so dynamic and the relationship between various elements of the society so complex, commanders continually assess how their operations will affect the society's interests and intent and vice versa. Specifically, they assess how effectively their measures improve interaction with, influence of, and control over civilians' (see Figure 2-10). There is always a difference between intended and actual effects of a specific course of action. Nowhere is this more prominent than dealing with the urban society. This cycle of effects frustrates assessment during UO. Therefore, commanders continuously monitor these effects to make decisions and modifications while planning, preparing, executing, and transitioning UO. Initially certain aspects of the society, such as religion, may not affect the operation. However if the threat successfully shapes the perceptions of the urban populace that Army forces are biased against them (or at least critical segments are affected by propaganda), this element may become extremely important. In this instance, the urban commander may need to adjust his IO (to include PSYOP), public affairs (PA) activities, and CMO to counter this propaganda while diverting other combat power to control the populace.



2-55. Urban infrastructures are those systems that support urban inhabitants and their economy. They link the physical terrain to the urban society. Destroying, controlling, or protecting vital parts of the infrastructure can isolate a threat from potential sources of support. A threat force operating in an urban area may rely on the area's water, electricity, and sources of bulk fuel to support his forces. This is true particularly when his bases or facilities are physically located in or near the area. Isolating this threat from these sources may require him to generate his own electricity and transport his own water and fuel from outside the urban area. To transport supplies, the threat may rely on roads, airfields, sea- or river lanes, and rail lines. Controlling these critical transportation nodes may prevent the threat from resupplying his forces. The control of key radio, television, and newspaper facilities may isolate him from the urban populace (another potential source of support).



2-56. Commanders understand that destroying or disrupting any portion of the urban infrastructure can have a cascading effect (either intentional or unintentional) on the other elements of the infrastructure. Yet, they may be able to gain an operational advantage while minimizing unwanted effects. Commanders can seize or secure an essential facility or structure by using precision munitions, electronic disruption of communications, or SOF and conventional ground forces. To gain this advantage, commanders will rely more on the expertise of engineer and civil affairs units, local urban engineers and planners, and others with infrastructure-specific expertise. After understanding the technical aspects of the area's systems, they can develop the best course of action.



2-57. Hundreds of systems may exist. Each system has a critical role in the smooth functioning of the urban area. Simple or complex, all systems fit into five broad categories (see Figure 2-11). Commanders analyze key facilities in each category and determine their role and importance throughout all phases of the urban operation. This analysis considers each infrastructure system individually and in relation to others to determine an appropriate course of action toward it.


 Figure 2-11. Urban Infrastructure

2-58. As depicted in Figure 2-11, each element of the infrastructure consists of both a terrain (physical) and human component. For example, the physical component of the electrical segment of the energy infrastructure consists of power stations, substations, a distribution network of lines and wires, and necessary vehicles and repair supplies and equipment. The human component of this same segment consists of the supervisors, engineers, linemen, and electricians who operate the system. Commanders understand and recognize the physical and human components in their assessments.



2-59. Destroying or incapacitating of any of these elements may impact future operations and inhabitants of the urban area. Destroying urban infrastructure during initial phases of an operation may require commanders to assume responsibility for repair, maintenance and clean up, and operation of those same facilities later. Although exceptions will exist, commanders cannot destroy or significantly damage the infrastructure of a foreign urban center during operations and expect the population to remain friendly to US or allied forces. Still, support from the urban society (albeit of increased importance in UO) is only one factor that commanders weigh while developing appropriate courses of action.



2-60. Requirements to protect, restore, or maintain critical infrastructure may divert substantial amounts of resources and manpower needed elsewhere and place additional constraints on subordinate commanders. Civilian infrastructure is often more difficult to secure and defend than military infrastructure. The potentially large and sprawling nature of many systems (such as water, power, transportation, communications, and government) make their protection a challenge. Yet, the infrastructure of an urban area can provide commanders with essential logistics and combat service support. Therefore, the initial expenditure of time and other resources may be necessary to support concurrent or future operations. Legal considerations, however, may affect using the infrastructure and acquiring the urban area's goods and services. Commanders, their staffs, and subordinates (often down to the individual soldier) know their limits concerning Army authority to commandeer civilian supplies or equipment to facilitate mission accomplishment (see the legal support discussion in Chapter 9). In stability operations and support operations, the safeguard or restoration of critical urban infrastructure for military or civilian use may be a decisive point in the overall operation.



2-61. This system is comprised of the facilities and means to transmit information from place to place. It includes-

  • Telecommunications, such as telephones (to include wireless), telegraphs, radios, televisions, and computers.

  • Police, fire, and rescue communications systems.

  • The postal system.

  • Newspapers, magazines, and other forms of print media.

  • The human interaction that conveys information.

Perhaps more than any other element of the infrastructure, communications and information link all the other elements in an interdependent "system of systems."

2-62. Urban communications and information systems can serve as an alternate for both friendly and threat forces and can be easily secured with civilian, off-the-shelf technologies. Threats may make use of commercial systems intertwined with legitimate civilian users, making it unpalatable to prevent use of these assets. Forces can also use these systems to influence public opinion, gain intelligence information, support deception efforts, or otherwise support IO.

Increasing Impact of Computers


2-63. In many urban areas, computers link other elements of the urban infrastructure. They link functions and systems in the urban area and connect the area to other parts of the world. This latter aspect creates important implications for commanders of a major operation. Operations involving this cybernetic function may produce undesirable effects on a greater scale than initially intended. For example, commanders may be able to close or obstruct an urban area's banking system; however, this system may impact the international monetary exchange with unwanted or even unknown effects. The authority to conduct these types of IO will often be retained at the strategic level.

5Whoever coined the phrase 'Theater of Operations'

Pervasive Media


2-64. The media is central to the communications and information infrastructure and a critical operational concern. Compared to other operational environments (jungles, deserts, mountains, and cold weather areas), it has more access to urban operations. This is due largely to airports, sea- and river ports, and major road networks; ready access to power sources and telecommunications facilities; as well as access to existing local media structures. Hence, media presence may be pervasive and IO even more critical to success in UO than operations in many other environments.

2-65. A Complex Relationship. A complex relationship exists among information, the public, and policy formulation. Although the degree and manner in which public opinion shapes government policy are uncertain, negative visual images of military operations presented by the media can change political objectives and, subsequently, military objectives. As important, media reporting can influence civilian activity in an urban AO to either the advantage or disadvantage of the commander.

2-66. Induce Cooperation Through Credibility. Commanders do not control the media; however, they monitor the flow of information that the news media receives and subsequently reports. Consequently, commanders plan and execute PA operations that will induce cooperation between the media and Army forces. Successful relations between urban Army forces and the news media evolve from regular interaction based on credibility and trust. More information is usually better than less, except when the release of such information may jeopardize security and the success of the operations and threaten the safety of soldiers. However, commanders cannot simply withhold information to protect the command from embarrassment. They consider media interests as part of the normal planning process and work to ensure that information presented to the news media is accurate, timely, and consistent with operations security. Since the media will likely arrive in the urban area before the conduct of operations, early deployment of PA assets may be critical. Commanders synchronize PA activities with CMO and PSYOP. Such action eliminates duplicated effort and ensures a unity of purpose consistent with the IO concept of support (see Chapter 4 for more details involving IO and PA during UO).

2-67. Failure to provide sufficient information can hamper a commander's ability to conduct the mission. Poor relationships with the media can result in inaccurate and even biased reporting. Such reporting can cause a public reaction that influences the ability to achieve operational objectives. During the Russian 1994-95 battle against Chechen separatists in Grozny, for example, the Russian military refused to communicate with reporters. The media reported primarily from the perspective of the Chechen rebels. This encouraged both local and international support for the rebels. It also allowed the Chechens, who lacked sophisticated information systems, to use the media to broadcast operational guidance to their forces. (During their second Chechnya campaign of 1999-2000, Russia learned this lesson well and the Russian view of the war dominated domestic public opinion.) On the other hand, successfully engaging the media can serve as a force multiplier. The Army's open and responsive interaction with the media during peacekeeping operations in Bosnian urban areas helped to explain the challenges and successes of Army forces in the Balkans to the public. This helped maintain domestic, international, and local political support for NATO operations and, with a successful command information program, helped maintain soldiers' morale.



2-68. This element of the infrastructure consists of-

  • Cableways and tramways.

  • Networked highways and railways to include bridges, subways and tunnels, underpasses and overpasses, ferries, and fords.

  • Ports, harbors, and inland waterways.

  • Airports, seaplane stations, and heliports.

  • Mass transit.

  • Trucking companies and delivery services that facilitate the movement of supplies, equipment, and people.

Similar to communications and information, this facet provides the physical link to all other elements of the infrastructure.

2-69. Army forces deploying into a theater of operations depend on ports and airfields; seizure of these assets may impact the projection of combat power. Once in theater, transportation and distribution systems in the urban area can contribute greatly to the movement of forces, maneuver, and logistic operations throughout the entire AO. Control of decisive points in this infrastructure may be important to the military operation and to the normal functioning of the urban area (and surrounding rural areas). Supplies traveling through the transportation and distribution system may be military-specific supplies (such as ammunition and repair parts) and supplies for both the military and urban population (such as food, medicine, oil, and gas). The system may also support the movement of military forces and the urban area's population (for which it was designed). Therefore, commanders of a major operation may have to develop innovative methods that limit the transit of threat supplies and reinforcements while facilitating the movement of their own resources and those of civilians'. This last consideration attempts to minimize hardship and promote normalcy in the urban area and will increase in significance as the need for legitimacy increases.

2-70. Most urban areas (particularly in developing countries) have two forms of transportation systems that exist simultaneously: a formal system and an informal or paratransit system. Large organizations, bureaucracy, imported technology, scheduled services, and fixed fares or rates characterize formal systems. Low barriers to entry; family and individual entrepreneur organizations; adapted technology; flexible routes, destinations, and times of service; and negotiated prices characterize the informal system. The informal system is more decentralized and covers a much greater portion of the urban area than the formal system. The informal transportation and distribution system often includes a waterborne element, is more likely to function through turbulence and conflict, and can extend hundreds of kilometers beyond the urban area. Accordingly, commanders assess both systems to establish effective movement control.



2-71. The energy system provides the power to run the urban area. It consists of the industries and facilities that produce, store, and distribute electricity, coal, oil, and natural gas. This area also encompasses alternate energy sources, such as nuclear, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal power.

2-72. Sources of energy may be tens or hundreds of miles away from the urban area itself. Therefore, commanders may exert control without applying combat power directly to the urban area itself by controlling or destroying the source (power generation or refinement plant) or the method of distribution (pipe- or power lines). With electrical energy that cannot be stored in any sizable amount, the latter may be the best means as most major urban areas receive this energy from more than one source in a network of power grids. However, control may be as simple as securing a power station or plant and turning off switches or removing a vital component that could later be restored. On the other hand, lengthy pipe- and power lines may compound security and protection of this element of the infrastructure.

2-73. The number of nations that have invested in nuclear power and nuclear research is increasing. With this increase, the potential for Army forces to operate in urban areas that include (or are near) these facilities also increases. Damage to one of these facilities and potential radiation hazards will present special challenges to commanders of a major operation. To safeguard friendly forces and civilians, commanders will need to employ a blend of peacetime and tactical nuclear contamination avoidance principles (see FM 3-14).



2-74. This system encompasses-

  • Business and financial centers to include stores, shops, restaurants, hotels, marketplaces, banks, trading centers, and business offices.

  • Outlying industrial and agricultural features to include strip malls, farms, food storage centers, manufacturing plants, and mills.

The latter elements also consist of the production and storage of toxic industrial chemicals used in agriculture (insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers), manufacturing, cleaning, and research (to include biological agents). (See concerns of TIM previously discussed under Industrial Areas.) Recreational facilities such as amusement parks, golf courses, and stadiums are also part of this element of the infrastructure. In their overall assessment of this area of the infrastructure, commanders consider the activities and influence of criminal organizations or elements.

2-75. A critical aspect of this area during operations may be the political sensitivity of US or allied industries investing and operating in a foreign country, particularly during stability operations and support operations. An enemy or a disgruntled civilian population may attack or disrupt commercial activities as a political statement against the US or our allies. Food production facilities also may assist commanders in Army food services and may be of critical concern during relief operations.



2-76. This broad system covers urban administrative organizations concerned with urban area's public health, safety, and welfare. It also includes many organizations and structures that provide the urban populace with its social identity. Together, it encompasses-

  • Governmental services that include embassies and diplomatic organizations.

  • Activities that manage vital records, such as birth certificates and deeds.

  • The judicial system.

  • Welfare systems.

  • Schools and universities.

  • Religious organizations and their churches and shrines.

  • Historic monuments and other cultural resources.

  • Hospitals and other medical services.

  • Water supply systems.

  • Waste and hazardous material storage and processing facilities.

  • Emergency services, such as police, fire, and rescue.

2-77. Losing many of these services often has an immediate, destabilizing, and life-threatening impact on the inhabitants of the urban area. In stability operations and support operations, numerous administrative and human services often rise to critical importance before all other elements. However, restoration of these services is often a lengthy civil-military operation.

6Seeing the Urban Area and Its Parts

The summer of 1944 confronted German General Dietrich von Choltitz with a dilemma. As military commander of greater Paris, he was to eliminate French Resistance internal to the city while defending against approaching Allied units, missions for which he had insufficient forces. Choltitz's situation was further complicated by Hitler's demand that he destroy the city, an action the general saw as needlessly destructive (and infeasible given his scant resources). Choltitz's seniors directed the preparation, and later the destruction, of Paris's 45 Seine River bridges. They were the only remaining crossing points over that waterway given Allied bombing of others outside the French capital. Premature destruction would trap German forces defending to their north, a second-order effect that Choltitz used to justify his disobedience of orders demanding the bridges' demolition.

The German general also recognized that some mission-critical elements were part of Paris's social rather than physical infrastructure: the leadership of the various resistance groups and the relationships between them. Choltitz understood that he lacked resources to defeat the many separate factions; he therefore chose the unorthodox (asymmetric) approach of accepting an intermediary's offer of a truce with these groups. Such an agreement provided some measure of the stability needed while Choltitz awaited promised reinforcements. Further, he realized that the resistance factions were by no means united in their goals. Communist elements sought a much different end than those looking toward a de Gaulle-led postwar government. A truce thus set the French Communists (who sought an uprising so as to legitimize their claims to power) against others trying to buy time until Allied forces arrived, forces that included Free French units supportive of de Gaulle.

Although his defense of the capital failed, Choltitz succeeded in harboring his available resources, reducing the effectiveness of the resistance organizations fighting his soldiers, and maintaining withdrawal routes for units north of the Seine. The German commander's analysis in support of these efforts was effective in part because of his insightful (1) identification of critical points that included elements of terrain, citizenry, and infrastructure; (2) understanding of the relationships between these parts; and (3) use of an asymmetric approach to address his lack of sufficient force to otherwise handle the densities that challenged him.


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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias