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By nature, most LIC will occur in undeveloped Third World countries. Economies of the countries involved are limited and most probably fragile. An important concern becomes how to support the operation with as little disruptive impact as possible on the local economy.

Existing CSS doctrine deals primarily with conventional operations in mid & high intensity conflicts. Commonly accepted support infrastructures may not exist locally. The ability to deploy necessary support packages are limited. Other avenues of support such as contracting, local procurement, and equipment rentals may have dramatic unforeseen consequences on the local economy. Distances between the U.S. and the host country and between the port of entry and the operational area combine to lengthen normal supply delivery times.

Lessons Learned

  • Compile detailed estimates for all classes of supply before the operation.
  • Conduct a pre-deployment site survey with logistics personnel.
  • Do not make assumptions about the quality of materials and the presence of necessary components; i.e., additives for aviation fuel.
  • If non-standard procurement actions are anticipated, make an analysis of their impact on the local economy and on the OPSEC program.
  • Countries/Vendors may not share U.S. standards of sanitation for food items.
  • Deploy well qualified procurement specialists as part of an advance party.
  • Combat PLLs are critical; consider environmental factors (dust = filters, sharp rocks = tires) to increase quantities.
  • Plan for redundancy of critical equipment to offset decreased repair and resupply capability.
  • Plan for worst case medical supplies to cover emergencies or operations which may escalate.


Inherent in most LIC Operations is restraint on the use of firepower and violence. This concept is transformed into rules of engagement (ROE) at the tactical level. Instant response, combatant identification, junior leader execution, political volatility, and local customs add complexity and dimensions to ROE not normally encountered in conventional operations. Leaders and soldiers are often not trained for and are unfamiliar in dealing with this concept of restraint, no matter how well it is articulated. It can also rapidly and dramatically change, leaving soldiers confused if not properly prepared.

The consequences of violating ROE escalate quickly into the world arena. This fact, together with difficulty in transforming the ROE into an instantaneous decision/response, make them a priority for careful development and concentrated training.

Lessons Learned

  • ROE must be well written in terms that soldiers can understand. Outline them in a positive manner through the commander's intent, stressing how they contribute to mission success.
  • ROE are an immediate priority for rehearsals and situational training exercises (STX).
  • Include nontraditional members of the Battle Staff, Chap, JAG, Civil Affairs, & PSYOP. Encourage them to apply their functional skills in developing, training, and maintaining ROE.
  • Ingrained soldier skills; battle drills; i.e, immediately return fire if fired upon, will often be counterproductive.


LIC Operations are often joint with the possible incompatibility in communication equipment, Standard Operating Procedures, and Communications/Electronics Operating Instructions. Rapid communications (internal & external), often to the National Command Authority, will be the lifeblood of the operation.

Lessons Learned

  • Conduct detailed commo planning before deployment and coordinate across the entire task force.
  • Plan for liaison officers with required commo & CEOI to overcome problems with inter/intraservice operations especially during short missions.
  • Redundant equipment provides for slower repair and the ability to monitor additional nets.
  • Coordinate for common user nets and power requirements which could simplify unnecessary redundancy during deployment.
  • Distribute common message formats and reports well in advance and rehearse if possible. (JINTACCS)
  • Clearly define time sharing and procedures for critical nets, especially Satellite Communications-Facsimile.


IPB for LIC Operations is critical but differs in many respects from techniques used for the conventional battlefield. Non-military information, i.e. civilian trends, is as important as operational information. Doctrinal templates for guerrillas, surrogates, and narcotics production facilities do not exist. Different collection techniques and entirely different background information is required. HUMINT, Counterlntel, and interfacing with the host country are critical. Additionally, the ability to access and utilize national level assets may be an integral part of the mission.

Lessons Learned

  • Interagency cooperation is absolutely essential. Establish rapport and exchange LNOs early.
  • Evaluate intelligence requirements early on.
  • Train personnel in force protection requirements and the use of non-standard and national level assets (especially HUMINT).
  • Make provisions to interface with host country intelligence sources (military & civilian).
  • Determine what information is suitable for exchange with host country forces and the processing requirements.
  • Make everyone in the task force knowledgeable of intelligence collection requirements.
  • Cultivate local nations as intel assets, but always remember OPSEC and maintain a healthy skepticism.
  • Identify language qualified soldiers.
  • Civil Affairs units may not be available.


SOF units are area oriented and often conduct recurring missions into the same area of operations. They can provide a great deal of information to conventional units and can often conduct mutually beneficial operations. Their language training and knowledge of local customs can be invaluable in establishing contact and maintaining rapport with government forces or the local populace.

Lessons Learned

  • Establish contact with the SOF unit responsible for the area of operations.
  • Use their institutional memory and current operations to update the intel data base.
  • Coordinate for mutual support operations.
  • Request area orientation training by SOF.
  • Discuss oplans of conventional forces: ensure they dovetail with SOF to avoid duplication of effort. Plan/coordinate SOF augmentation of conventional forces for combat and non-hostile operations.
  • The Security Assistance Organization (SAO), if present, can also be a major source of institutional knowledge and advice.


Any perception of the "ugly American" will immediately interfere with operational success. U.S. Forces must not reinforce negative propaganda with a superior attitude and harsh treatment of local citizens. Improper conduct (rowdiness, drinking, approaching women) will have a poor effect on the populace. This detracts from the efforts of legitimacy by taking away from U.S.-host country credibility.

Lessons Learned

  • Be aware of the local cultural perception of U.S. presence: To exploit and dominate. Often the host nation will demonstrate their independence from the U.S., even when the interests coincide.
  • Civil Affairs personnel are critical. Deploy with a language qualified 5-5 section.
  • Go out of your way to treat local military as equals. Train soldiers in insignia recognition.
  • Soldiers must understand that one incident can destroy rapport which took years to build.


Engineer construction projects play a major role in LIC by assisting our allied governments to develop a strong infrastructure, which in turn, builds economic growth and stability. Some examples of engineer projects include road and airfield construction, well drilling, and humanitarian projects such as school and hospital construction or renovation.

Lessons Learned

  • Order materials early in the planning process.
  • The planning staff must be mobilized early and stabilized through the duration of the project.
  • Quality assurance is vital. The reputation of the U.S. and host country relies on sound design and construction to standard.
  • Quarry opns demand careful planning and execution for successful horizontal construction.
  • Construction standards must be clearly understood (U.S. vs. host nation) early on. Foreign contractor performance varies widely.
  • Base camp and worksite security is paramount to force protection. Consider host nation support.
  • Contractors must provide tech advisors to deploy with leased commercial equipment.

These are merely a few lessons learned which apply to LIC. Future bulletins will include more detailed tactical subjects.

Table of Contents
Operational Categories of Low Intensity Conflict

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