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Low-Intensity Conflict And The Marine Air-Ground Task Force
CSC 1992
SUBJECT AREA Warfighting
Title:   Low-Intensity Conflict and the Marine Air-Ground Task Force
Author:  Major C. E. Kirkley, United States Marine Corps
Thesis;  The Marine Air-Ground Task Force is ideally suited for
employment in "hot Spots" where forces are required quickly, but
without excessively intruding politically, economically, or
Background: Low-intensity conflict is anticipated by defense experts
as the most prevalent form of warfare that the United States will be
faced with in the future.  The breakup of the Soviet Union has left a
vacuum where regional conflicts will be bloody affairs.  This threat,
and the insurgencies that are currently on going in a number of
countries, leave the world a very dangerous place.  The Marine
Air-Ground Task Force, forward deployed on naval shipping, provides
the National Command Authority a flexible response. In order for
Marines to prepare for low-intensity conflict, they must first
understand the complexities of the different situations and operations
that might be encountered in a low-intensity conflict situation.
This paper examines the four activities (peacekeeping, insurgency/
counterinsurgency, terrorism, and peacetime contingency operations)
which may be found in a low-intensity conflict.  The types of
missions, principles, and considerations that will have a significant
impact on Marine forces in each activity are explored.  Finally, the
capabilities of the MAGTF are discussed in regard to the types of
missions it may be assigned.
Recommendation:  That Marine Air-Ground Task Forces continue to
enhance their capabilities to engage in low-intensity conflicts
through education and thorough, realistic training exercises.
	LOW-INTENSITY CONFLICT AND THE MARINE AIR-GROUND                                                                                           TASK FORCE
Thesis Statement.  The Marine Air-Ground Task Force is ideally suited
for employment in "hot spots" where forces are required quickly, but
without excessively intruding politically, economically, or
I.   	Low-Intensity Conflict Background
II.  	LIC Operations
     	A.  	Peacekeeping
     	B.  	Insurgency
         	1. 	Description
         	2. 	Phases of an Insurgency
     	C.  	Counterinsurgency
     	D.  	Terrorism
     	E.  	Peacetime Contingencies
         	1. 	Noncombatant Evacuation Operation
         	2. 	Show of Force
         	3. 	Strike Operations
         	4. 	Humanitarian Assistance
III. 	Peacetime Contingency Operation Principles
IV.  	Stability Operations
V.   	Limited Objective Operations
VI.  	Marine Air-Ground Task Force Capabilities
     	Since World War II and the development of nuclear deterrent, the
United States has been successful in averting a major war between what
was the superpowers.  While deterrence has worked at the higher
level of the spectrum of conflict, war and resort to force at the
lower level (low-intensity conflict) has not been deterred   With the
dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States is the only true
superpower.  But even this superpower status has its limitations.
Although the Soviet Union posed a threat to the free world, it also
provided a certain degree of stability.  In its absence, a vacuum has
been created in which the use of arms in regional conflicts will be
commonplace in addition to the insurgent movements that already
threaten certain countries.
     	Low-intensity conflict (LIC) is considered by most defense experts
to be the most prevalent form of warfare the United States will face
in the future.  The expeditionary nature of the Fleet Marine Force,
embarked aboard naval ships, provides a significant capability to the
National Command Authority to respond to LIC situations.  Most areas
of the Third World where U. S. forces are likely to be deployed for
LIC missions are accessible by sea and can be supported from sea-based
platforms.  Sea-based options can also avoid many of the political,
economic, and security problems associated with stationing U. S.
forces in country.  This makes the Marine Air-Ground Task Force
(MAGTF) ideally suited for employment in "hot spots" where forces
are required quickly, but without excessively intruding politically,
economically, or culturally.
     	LIC is qualitatively different from the kinds of wars for which
the United States armed forces have traditionally prepared.  LIC calls
for intrinsically indirect operations in support of objectives which
are political, economic, or psychological in nature.  Operations in
LIC are likely to be dominated by non-military considerations and will
routinely have a heavy political-military focus.  Numerous constraints
will be faced by decision makers, both civilian and military, as a
unique and unpredictable situation unfolds.  LIC may be protracted and
often undeclared.  U. S. military power will be provided, at least
initially, through security assistance which can include training,
advisory help, logistics support, and the supply of essential
equipment.  Combat units do not play the primary role. The emphasis is
placed on combat support and combat service support capabilities such
as intelligence, logistics, medical, engineering, and civil affairs.
LIC is an umbrella term comprising four often-related activities:
peacekeeping operations, insurgency/counterinsurgency, peacetime
contingencies, and terrorism counteraction. (5:1-1)  To understand
where the MAGTF "fits in", we must first understand the types of
activities that the MAGTF may be faced with.
     	Peacekeeping operations are military operations conducted in
support of diplomatic efforts to achieve, restore, or maintain peace
in areas of potential or actual conflict.  There are nine general
principles which govern involvement in peacekeeping:
     	(1) Consent.  The willingness of the disputing states or the host
nation to an international peacekeeping effort.
     	(2) Neutrality.  Countries providing peacekeeping forces should
be neutral in the crisis for which the force is being created.  At the
operational level, this principle is exemplified by an attitude and an
atmosphere of impartiality.
     	(3) Balance.  There must be a geographic  political and
functional representation in the peacekeeping structure and
particularly in the peacekeeping force.
     	(4) Centralized Control.  This applies at the interface between
the peacekeeping force and the international body authorizing the
     	(5) Concurrent Action.  Political activity which closes the
disagreement between the two adversaries serves to strengthen the long
term objectives.
     	(6) Unqualified Sponsor Support.  Once the international body has
authorized the action, the peacekeeping structure is permitted to
perform-its functions and tasks without undue hindrance.
     	(7) Force Integrity.  All elements of the force are important in
accomplishing the mission.
     	(8) Freedom of Movement.  The entire peacekeeping force and its
components should have guaranteed freedom of movement.
     	(9) Self-Defense.  Peacekeeping weapons are used only in self-
     	Peacekeeping operations require commanders to position their
forces in potentially hostile environments.  To be effective and
maintain their security, the peacekeeping force must maintain their
impartiality.  The control of violence in peacekeeping operations
requires a combination of observation, surveillance, supervision,
patrolling, investigation of complaints, negotiation and mediation,
and information gathering.  When U. S. forces are deployed to impose
peace as part of a multinational force, the operations that are
executed are better described as peacemaking.  Peacemaking missions
differ from peacekeeping in several ways.  While the ultimate
objective may be to maintain peace, the initial phase in peacemaking
is to achieve it.  Peacemaking is often unilateral, with possibly
some consent from those who would benefit, and is imposed by the
peacemaking force.  Peacemaking operations are aided significantly by
early humanitarian assistance and public information programs aimed at
the international community and the belligerents in the conflict.  In
peacemaking the goal is to make the transition to peacekeeping as
rapidly as possible. (5:4-1)
     	Insurgency is an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a
constituted government through use of subversion and armed conflict.
Counterinsurgency consists of those military, paramilitary, political,
economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by a government to
defeat subversive insurgency.  Both insurgency and counterinsurgency
are struggles within a society for the support of the people. (15:13)
Insurgency is possibly the most "complicated" and least understood of
all the possible situations in which Marines may find themselves.
Every insurgency is different and unique in its own way.  In order
to have a general understanding of insurgency, further examination is
     	Insurgencies owe a great deal to the circumstances in which they
are conceived, and as new causes of unrest arise with fresh
aspirations for change, revolutionary methods will be developed and
tailored to meet the needs of the movement.  The main characteristic
which distinguishes campaigns of insurgency from other forms of war is
that they are primarily concerned with the struggle for men's minds.
Circumstances which revolutionaries might manipulate to cause unrest
could be nationalism, racial or religious differences, extremes of
wealth and poverty, or governmental corruption.  The ultimate aim of
an insurgent organization is to overthrow a government or force it to
do something it does not want to do.  The insurgent movement must
first have the backing of a proportion of the population.  Insurgents
rely to a considerable extent on the people for money, shelter, food,
and information. Insurgents build a program in which violence is
carefully balanced by political, psychological, and economic measures.
The population as a whole is likely to be the target than solely the.
government.  Persuasion or coercion will be commonly used.
Insurgencies will normally be protracted.  The insurgent leaders
recognize that military action will succeed only when the revolution
is supported by the people.  As a result, revolutionary leaders will
promote local political objectives, exploit local grievances, and use
propaganda and economic pressures designed to mobilize popular support
and direct it against the government. (15:31)  Revolutionary war
(insurgency) takes place in three distinct phases:
     	Phase I.  Pre-Revolutionary Phase/Passive Stage/Strategic Defense
Stage or Latent and Incipient Phase.  This phase is designed to expand
the party organization and establish the infrastructure on which the
revolution can develop.  Action may at first be covert and take years
to accomplish.
	Phase II.   Insurgency Phase/Active Phase/Strategic Stalemated
Guerrilla Warfare.  The aim throughout this phase is to consolidate
popular support, enlarge the areas under rebel control, discredit the
government, dishearten its supporters, weaken its forces, and demon-
strate that the revolutionary movement is capable of providing an
alternative ,and better government.
     	Phase III.  Limited War Phase/Counter Offensive Stage/ War of
Movement.  This final phase starts when the balance has swung in favor
of the insurgent forces.  Mobile warfare begins in which regular
fighting units, which can be as large as regiments and divisions,
operate from insurgent controlled areas.
     	In counterinsurgency, there is no such thing as a purely military
solution, just as there is no purely political solution.  Counter-
insurgency, or foreign internal defense, is based on the premise that
the host nation is responsible for the development and execution of
programs to prevent or defeat an insurgency.  A full range of measures
must be taken by a nation to promote its growth and protect itself
from subversion, lawlessness, and insurgency.  The primary objective
is a level of internal security that permits economic, political, and
social growth through balanced development programs. (15:143)  It is
directed towards both the population and the insurgent.  There are
three elements to a counterinsurgency strategy: social mobilization,
balanced development, and neutralization.  Social mobilization
includes all activities to motivate and organize the population in
support of the government; balanced development attempts to achieve
national goals through balanced economic. political and social
development; and neutralization includes all lawful activities to
disrupts disorganize, and defeat an insurgent organization.  Although
no two insurgencies will be the same, the following principles, when
adapted to a particular situation, provide an easily understood basis
from which to begin planning:
     	(1) Intelligence.  Accurate and timely intelligence in an
insurgency is critical. The insurgent may blend in with the local
population and nearly impossible to detect.  The intelligence effort
must be a joint venture involving the military, police, special
branches and the government.
     	(2) Collocation of Military and Police Headquarters.  To
successfully defeat an insurgency, the military and police must
together plan and conduct joint operations.
     	(3) Use of Minimum Force.  Indiscriminate use of force may
alienate the population instead of gaining their support.
     	(4) Adequate Mobile Reserve.  In LIC, there are no front lines or
rear areas.  Therefore, a mobile reserve is critical to countering
insurgent strikes in the assigned area of responsibility.
     	(5) Relevant Training.  In addition to the standard basic
training and military skills training that is received, units must
undergo specialized training in LIC and the theater environment prior
to deployment.
     	(6) Communications.  Good, reliable communications is critical.
Not only within the military unit, but also with local police and
government officials.
     	(7) Public Relations.  Insurgents capitalize on propaganda;
therefore, the government and military must have a program established
to counter any effects that the insurgents might have in this regard.
     	(8) Areas of Responsibility.  Continuity is critical in a
counter-insurgency situation.  Military forces must be intimately
familiar with the people and the terrain in their area to be
     	Insurgency situations are unique and constantly changing.  The
principles discussed above, when adapted to a particular situation,
will allow commanders to apply proper tactics and techniques.
     	"Kill one, frighten ten thousand."  This precept from Sun Tzu's
teachings, has become one of the most significant threats that
nations must deal with on a day-to-day basis.  Terrorism is the
unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against
individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or
societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological
objectives.  Terrorist groups are generally categorized as nonstate
supported, state supported or state directed.  Terrorist attacks can
be classified by their immediate objective:
     	(1) Recognition
     	(2) Coercion
     	(3) Intimidation
     	(4) Provocation
     	(5) Insurgency support
A terrorist group may pursue one or all of these objectives by using
the tactic of assassination, bombing, hostage taking, hijacking,
kidnaping, raids, sabotage, hoaxes, or the threatened use of chemical
or biological weapons.  It may be only a short time before terrorists
will have access to nuclear weapons, creating a whole new hazard.
Terrorists attack targets that are vulnerable, have a high psycho-
logical impact, produce significant publicity, and demonstrate the
government's inability to protect the population. Terrorism counter-
action focuses on intelligence, threat estimation, operations
security, personnel security, physical security, military police and
interior guard countermeasures, and crisis management counteraction
operations. (5:3-0)
     	Peacetime contingency operations are politically sensitive
military operations characterized by the short-term, rapid projection
or use of forces in conditions short of conventional war.  They may
include actions such as raids, noncombatant evacuation operations
(NEO), rescue missions, shows of force and demonstrations, or other
limited uses of force. (5:5-1)  Such operations may be necessary when
the security situation in a country has deteriorated to a point where
the host government cannot or will not fulfill its responsibility for
the safety of U. S. nationals.  Contingency operations are conducted
across the spectrum of conflict; but, when performed in LIC, the
requirement to deal with political or other nonmilitary aspects of the
operation increases significantly.  Military forces utilized in a
peacetime contingency operation do so as an instrument of foreign
policy.  Accordingly  military efforts must be coordinated with
diplomatic and economic initiatives to ensure unity of effort.
Specifically, military forces may be assigned to conduct the
following missions:
     	(1) Noncombatant Evacuation Operations.  NEOs are conducted to
relocate civilian noncombatants in a foreign nation from locations
that are threatened by hostile action.  Normally U. S. citizens are
only evacuated, but host nation and third country personnel may be
     	(2) Shows of Force.  Forces forward deployed throughout the world
show U. S. resolve and commitments.  The sustainability of the force
is the most critical planning factor.
     	(3) Strike Operations.  Strike operations are the most overt use
of force in conditions short of war.  Operations may be to recover
U. S. personnel and property or to conduct a punitive action to
support political and diplomatic measures.  Intelligence is especially
critical in strike operations.
     	(4) Humanitarian Assistance Support.  This type of operation is
conducted to provide relief to victims of natural disasters normally
at the request of the host nation.  Logistic support is the primary
concern in humanitarian assistance.
     	Peacetime contingency operations are complex and generally
unanticipated.  Logistical requirements may dominate the mission and
can present significant demands on service and joint supported forces.
Command relationships are normally more complex because of their
unique force requirements and the peculiarities of political-military
considerations.  Restrictive rules of engagement may hamper the
security of the force.  The following principles are inherent in
all peacetime contingency operations:
     	(1) Military efforts must be coordinated with diplomatic, media,
and public relations initiatives.
     	(2) National objectives must translate into clear, concise
military objectives.
     	(3) Detailed and flexible planning is critical.  Clear lines of
command, control and communications must be established.
     	(4) Minimum force is normally applied at the decisive point,
although overwhelming force may be necessary at certain times.
     	(5) Planning for logistical support must be comprehensive.
     	(6) All personnel in the unit must be aware of the importance of
their mission and the sensitivities involved.
     	Low-intensity conflict is a unique situation.  The Marine
Air-Ground Task Force is a viable and flexible tool offering varying
degrees of force to counter a low-intensity threat.  In LIC, MAGTFs
can execute stability operations to assist friendly or allied
governments to maintain internal stability and to ensure public
welfare, and limited objective operations to achieve specific
objectives through the application of calculated combinations of
military force.  Two major differences set these operations apart. In
limited objective operations, the use of force is planned from the
beginning. (16:16-1)  In stability operations, it is a contingent
self-defense measure.  The mission objective in a limited objective
operation usually is clearly expressed in military terms. In a
stability operation it often is not. Stability operations may include
the following:
     	(1) Presence.  Presence includes joint and combined exercises and
show of force missions.  Operations will consist of exercises that
simulate wartime operations and improve the level of joint and
combined training.  Show of force missions are intended to show
American resolve.
     	(2) Humanitarian Assistance.  MAGTFs provide humanitarian assist-
ance in response to natural disasters, as a product of deliberate
bilateral agreement, and as civic action projects.  Humanitarian
assistance operations provide effective help while learning about the
people and preserving good will.
     	(3) Mobile Training Teams.  Mobile training teams (MTTs) provide
security assistance coordinated through the Department of State.  The
objective of MTT operations is to provide recipients an organic
training capability.
     	(4) Peacekeeping.  MAGTFs execute peacekeeping operations in a
potentially hostile environment, normally as part of a joint or
combined force.  The objective is to deter or contain violence.  Al-
though peacekeeping operations are a type of stability operation, such
operations can quickly escalate to open conflict.
     	(5) Security.  MAGTFs executing security operations protect U. S.
lives and property, protect a friendly government's integrity,
preserve treaty rights, and/or provide intelligence and other support
to improve host nation capabilities.  A joint or combined force
normally conducts security operations.
     	(6) Counterinsurgency.  MAGTFs conduct counterinsurgency
operations to help stabilize and assist in foreign internal defense.
MAGTFs counter insurgent threats through a combination of selected
combat, intelligence, psychological, and civic action operations
designed to destroy the insurgent's grip on the people.  The objective
is to shift the popular support away from the insurgents and toward
the legitimate government.  MAGTFs provide support through the local
government to improve the environment and deny resources to the
insurgents.  Counterinsurgency operations may escalate to limited
objective operations.
     	(7) Counternarcotics.  MAGTFs participate in counternarcotic
operations when directed by the National Command Authority (NCA).
Support may range from providing individual military skills training
to active participation in an interagency task force conducting
counternarcotic raids beyond U. S. borders.  MAGTFs may also provide
operational planning instruction and assistance to interagency task
forces, communications, transportation support, and conduct sur-
veillance and interdiction operations.
     	MAGTFs engaging in limited objective operations perform peacetime
contingency operations and counterterrorist operations.  In both
operations, the mission, duration, geographic area, and application of
force is constrained.  Limited objective operations do not include
pursuit and exploitation.  MAGTFs can perform six types of peacetime
contingency operations: raids, seizure of ports and airfields,
reinforce, protect or evacuate non-combatants, recover downed air-
crews, and hostage rescue.  In counterterrorist operations, MAGTFs
prevent, deter, and respond to acts of terrorism.  MAGTFs embarked
aboard ships can be tailored to support joint or combined operations
or, in extreme cases, to conduct unilateral counterterrorist opera-
tions.  The amphibious raid is the cornerstone of the MAGTFs counter-
terrorist capability.  The MAGTF conducts raids to destroy known
terrorist targets, recover hostages or sensitive material  or provide
a diversion in support of national counterterrorist operations.
     	Current concepts, doctrine, and MAGTF structure are well-suited
for the deployment and employment of Marine forces in a LIC
environment.  Embarked MAGTFs
     	- can precisely tailor forces ashore to the situation and quickly
adjust forces as required.
     	- can limit vulnerable and highly visible facilities ashore.
     	- can employ air and surface assets to insert forces into and
extract forces from locations with minimal dependence on established
shore facilities.
     	- have the organic sustainability and seabased support capable to
remain on the scene for an extended period.
     	- once ashore, are prepared to act as either a component of a
joint task force or to provide the nucleus for its headquarters.
     	The Navy-Marine Corps team provides great flexibility in
responding to low-intensity conflict situations.  The strengths of
this team are:
     	(1) Self-contained forces.
     	(2) Self-sustaining forces.
     	(3) Combined arms.
     	(4) Centralized command, decentralized command and control.
     	(5) Quick and effective mission accomplishment.
     	As long as the Marine Corps continues to build on these strengths,
the MAGTF will be capable of rapid, decisive, and efficient
discriminate use of combat power.  These capabilities make the MAGTF
ideally suited for employment in low-intensity situations where forces
are required quickly, but without excessively intruding politically,
economically, or culturally.
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