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MOUT and urban counterinsurgency (and CM)

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Branching out a post from my Ramadi thread into a separate topic. It's partly general interest, but will also include musings on how CM handles urban combat and urban terrain. I promise not to use the Ignore button lol.

On 5/26/2017 at 7:47 AM, LongLeftFlank said:

Been on the road this week, but hope to finalize WICKED WEDNESDAY this Ramadan weekend, insh'allah. 

In the meantime, this short piece is a bit wonkish, but does echo some of my own past observations that outside 'medieval' backwaters like A'stan, the focal point of modern (counter)insurgency today seems to be urban areas, not mountainous strongholds.

Now can an insurgency with an urban poor/middle class base truly take power? Mao (and Ho) didn't think so, but Che Guevara did. And in a modern wired, mobile world are the distinctions between peasant and urban day labourer blurring?


Urban warfare necessitates decentralized, fast-paced, small-unit operations. And junior commanders capable of operating independently are essential.... [while] some of the non-state groups fighting in cities are increasingly using quasi-conventional military tactics and weapons such as antitank guided missiles and longer-range rockets, some of the most effective tools states employ in urban combat – such as Special Operation Forces and psychological warfare – resemble classic guerrilla tactics. 

True, rural insurgencies have not vanished altogether. But looking at today’s conflicts, it is no accident that the emblematic names that come to mind are those of cities like Aleppo, Homs, Mosul, Gaza, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Sana’a. As David Kilcullen urges, it is “time to drag ourselves – body and mind – out of the mountains.”


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Now for our reading pleasure comes a new 217 page (2017) RAND study: "Reimagining the Character of Urban Operations for the U.S. Army" 


RAND conducted a historical analysis of the ways in which militaries have deployed light and mechanized infantry during close urban combat.... in urban warfare, the local drivers of conflict, the tactical firing positions of urban dwellings, the will of the civilian population, or the neighborhood itself, can become the Army force’s greatest ally or worst foe.

Case studies include: Mogadishu, Grozny, Fallujah, Sadr City and Baghdad.

Edited by LongLeftFlank
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Brother Erwin, this is for you! 

In his book 'Out of the Mountains' [2013], David Kilcullen outlines several scenarios in which conflicts could require military action: 
• Humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, or noncombatant evacuation operations . . . that escalate into conflict.
• When governments are giving long-term assistance (sending military advisors, special operations forces, law enforcement support, or civilian development aid) to cities that are experiencing conflict . . . [and] foreign advisors [are] being kidnapped, held for ransom, or used as bargaining chips in local conflicts, and . . . special operations forces [are] having to go in and rescue them.
• Peacekeeping or peace enforcement. . . . Even where policymakers’ intent is to resolve a conflict, monitor a truce, or police a cease-fire, putting peacekeepers into an urban conflict zone amounts to laying out an attractive array of targets for terrorist groups, local insurgents, street gangs, organized crime, or just commercial kidnapping networks, and this can force peacekeepers into combat at short notice.
• In conventional state-on-state war. . . . more or less hypothetical cases of war with China, North Korea, or Iran—involve urbanized terrain, coastal cities, and constricted littoral sea space.
• Increasingly dense networks of connectivity among cities and populations across the planet, expeditionary operations (where the military goes overseas to fight) may bring retaliatory attacks in home territory—most probably, again, in major cities—that will draw public safety organizations and military forces into lethal situations in urban areas. There have been several instances where members of immigrant communities engaged in attacks against Western cities— either ordered or indirectly inspired by nonstate armed groups in their countries of origin. . . . an increasing threat that we might call “diaspora retaliation."

Hmm, anyone up for a Medium sized Diaspora Retaliation PBEM?

Edited by LongLeftFlank
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Coincidentally I've just knocked up a Mercenary Company core file, partly inspired by the various discussions in the 'Interesting Scenarios' thread (and partly by the desire to test the firepower of the Barret M-82 on some old Soviet tanks).....My thinking being that most authenticity issues can be avoided when 'non-state-actors' are the focus of the scenario.

I'd be up for a PBEM if you want LLF.  B)

Edited by Sgt.Squarehead
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That's the problem with you perfectionists lol.  Why not just use one of the existing urban maps?  To me they all look about the same - esp when one gets down to ground level views.  Don't really care if a mosque is in the wrong place.  It's about giving a feeling for a similar situation.  One has to accept that one cannot make a totally accurate 1:1 sim in CM2.  Why get hung up about that?

Actually, that's another reason many gamers (like me) won't design maps.  Most of us don't care about all those details for an entertainment game and then have to deal with endless criticisms from detail junkies about how some "building is located 50 feet in the wrong direction, and doesn't have windows on the north side" etc.  

Have total respect for those like you who seem to enjoy creating maps and missions.  But you have to appreciate that many/most of us don't enjoy spending our time doing the same things that you do.

Edited by Erwin
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You'd certainly know why there are no 8km x 4km maps if you had tried to build one & that's a fact.....I hate mapping and prefer to tweak existing maps to my particular requirements every time, those who have performed this arduous and complex task on my behalf in advance have my eternal gratitude.

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Yes, it was VERY time-consuming doing an 8Km x 4Km for an Afrika Korps campaign - and that was with the MUCH easier CM1 editor.  Spent months on it to get maybe 2/3 done.  That's a reason I soured on doing any such designs ever again.   Hence my admiration for you and your colleagues.

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Not me fella, as I said, I just tweak existing maps to my tastes.  ;)

This, I think, is pertinent to the main matter at hand:   https://warisboring.com/just-how-many-civilians-are-we-comfortable-killing-in-war/

Apologies to LLF for the deja-vu, some of the discussion here closely parallels topics we've covered while plotting my Mosul effort.


Edited by Sgt.Squarehead
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Before I can scream at Dan, he tells me the artillery is coming from our Regimental Headquarters far outside the city. And he says, calmly, “I’m headed to the roof to get it shifted off you.”

I throw the handset back at Nick. I feel forty-six sets of eyes on me. There is a strange quiet. We’re pressed shoulder to shoulder and I can hear all of us breathing. It’s as if the insurgents and us all anxiously await the next artillery salvo to land. Far away, I hear a single gun shot, an insignificant pop. After it, all hell breaks loose again, as if sound and time were trying to divorce one another. We press into the wall but our ears don’t hurt, no dust consumes us. I poke my head up. About a hundred meters away, the artillery impacts land among the insurgents’ positions.

I grab the radio. “Nice shooting!” I tell Dan.

A different voice meets mine. “Get a Corpsman to the high-rise!”

Edited by LongLeftFlank
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Some very good discussion on the divergence between MOUT theory and practice in these links:

1. Here's what the vets say.... 


An overemphasis on training for close quarter combat (CQC), or close quarter battle (CQB), in recent years has resulted in its overuse in combat, often in situations where more appropriate options exist. Platoon by platoon, the Army is learning the hard way how hazardous it is to fight room to room against a well prepared and often suicidal opponent. We can no longer afford to learn the lesson individually.

The whole stack concept is for barricaded subjects in a controlled area and in which the bad guys are contained. It doesn't appear that we have that luxury very often in Iraq.... we must not become enamored with SWAT TTPs that are designed to handle a particular threat, and one which we certainly would not encounter in a high-intensity environment.

Our "secure a foothold" rehearsals had squads stacked up in neat lines, preparing to make entry from the street or alleyway. "What are you going to do when you have a machine gun aimed in on a principle direction of fire down the street?"

... infantry squads/platoons quickly learned to first identify enemy positions and then moved to isolate/overwatch while calling in tanks, air, D-9s, CAAT, LAR, Bradleys, etc. to reduce before Marines moved into clear. It's in the latter clearing process that CQB skills should be emphasized and employed.

... using on-line tactics makes the enemy's job easy and falls right into his preferred strategy: attrit U.S. forces at range and then fall back through pre-made tunnels, jumping from roof-to-roof or over gates, etc as U.S. forces close and then to continue this pattern until you run out of room, at which point you execute your pre-determined E&E plan and live to fight another day.... Ackerman's experiences demonstrate the validity of urban night infiltration tactics as his platoon successfully infiltrated roughly 300 meters behind enemy lines and proceeded to wreak havoc on the enemy at first light when the enemy attempted to expolit what they perceived to be our predictable on-line attack preference shortly after the sun comes up in the morning.  

2. For contrast, here's the FM theory, with lots of diagrams, including a paragraph on S2's favourite, Breaching.... 


The best way to enter, ROE permitting, is to make our own hole through the wall. Next best is a window, doors being least preferred. If the friendly and enemy-held buildings are adjoining, "mouseholing" with demolitions is preferable. Otherwise, AT4s, LAWs or other munitions should be used from the safety of our own building, rather than going out into the open to emplace explosives by hand. An effective technique, and one used by Chechens in Grozny in 1994, is to task-organize "rocket teams" under an NCO. Using pair or volley technique, a breach can be rapidly made and provide the enemy the least time in advance as a warning. Hollow-charge weapons in general are not designed to breach walls and one may not be enough. High explosive warheads (such as those in the AT8, SMAW, and Carl Gustav) have better ability to breach masonry. Main gun rounds from tanks are very effective.

Our casualties in the assault itself will be proportional to the intensity of enemy fire, its accuracy, and how long our assault teams are exposed to enemy fire. Suppressive fire and smoke together minimize the intensity and accuracy of enemy fire. The breaching fundamentals SOSR (Suppress, Obscure, Secure, Reduce) will assist us here. Smoke grenades draw fire; at a minimum, we can expect the enemy to shoot blindly into the smoke cloud. Speed of movement and breaching minimize exposure times. Assault teams must move fast and stay dispersed. If possible, do not stack outside the entry point. Get inside as quickly as possible. 

I hope this is interesting. 

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"Going through the door works, but if you can take the corner of the building off with a Bradley, tank, or truck, you established a breach in a direction the occupants just aren't oriented in." [harder to do with walled courtyards]


"We almost learned the hard way that routine becomes deadly. In early 2007, the threat changed inside the target house. The enemy learned not to fight directly. Instead, they would rig the entire house to blow.

For a time, we mastered the art of battle drill six. We lived by the mantra that "slow is smooth and smooth is fast." My teams could flow through a town seamlessly.

During clearance operations in the DRV, I chose an abandoned home to strong point. To date, we had cleared over 400 homes. Given the location and vantage point, it was key terrain. The location seemed ideal. It was all too inviting. Unfortunately, the enemy identified it as well.

After we secured the house, I had a platoon inside establishing our defense and a platoon outside consolidating. Still something felt odd about the house. In the past 48 hours, we had lost 4 paratroopers to a suicide bomber and discovered an EFP production facility. 

An alert NCO continued to search discovering a wire hidden under a rug leading to a hidden basement. Inside the basement, the receiver flashed connected to over 1000lbs of explosives. Thankfully, the det cord was flawed. I would have lost at least 15 soldiers. Another unit was not so lucky and lost 10 soldiers.

Afterwards, we adopted the crawl approach to clearing.

There is no golden egg with TTPs in sustained COIN. BD6 is not a thing of the past. The key is to be erratic, innovative, and decisive. Sometimes you storm the house; sometimes you call TPTs for surrender; sometimes you blow the house up. As long as you are anything but predictable.

We mastered a similar TTP for driving- always change the tempo. Sometimes we bounded; sometimes we sped; sometimes we crawled. "


" Those TTPs are designed to limit loss of life of non-combatants while RAPIDLY securing a target. The lives of the assaulting element come a distant second to the above mentioned factors.

Now take your deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. Is there ANYTHING in ANY house that you ever stepped foot into that is worth dying over?

Short of the answer "an American Hostage", your answer should be negative."

Edited by LongLeftFlank
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7 minutes ago, sburke said:

Speaking of Mout, what news are you getting there on Marawi?

As with the Bohol attack, it seems like a half assed desperation move by the Maute brothers. Seems the intent, besides publicity, was to provoke an overreaction by the Army that would re-radicalize the other militias. It doesn't seem to be working; most Muslims here don't feel oppressed day to day (just poor), and don't feel a pressing need to convert or kill their equally poor infidel neighbours. They won't inform on their radicals for fear of retaliation, but otoh they aren't sending their sons to volunteer, in spite of rumours about poor folks enlisting for a 10000 pesos a month and a bag of rice.

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Switching over to the Russian experience in Grozny (RAND RR1602 paper linked above):

The very nature of urban operations creates complexities that demand rapid, low-level decisionmaking in both offensive and defensive operations. Perhaps the ultimate expression of this was in the first battle for Grozny, when Chechen rebels used small hunter-killer teams dispersed in ambush sites that restricted and canalized Russian maneuver. They took a heavy toll on Russian armor.

Local support for the well-understood plan for the defense of Grozny was key, as it made it difficult for the Russians to mass forces or fires.... 

The Chechen force had two months to prepare the city and they constructed a number of ambush points. The rebels had two defense lines, with the least-skilled personnel in the front. Snipers occupied roofs and upper floors of buildings, controlling distant approaches to specific intersections. They attempted to draw the Russians out into the street.... Snipers also could be found in trenches and under concrete slabs that covered basements. These slabs could be raised with car jacks when Russian forces approached, provide ambush firing positions, and then drop back down. The attacking Russian force struggled to discern what was merely rubble and what was a kill zone. . .

The Chechens used the trenches to move between houses and as sniper positions. As the Russian force focused on the tops of buildings or on windows, they were often attacked from the trenches, a sort of attack by misdirection. The Chechens stated that in the city they did not use body armor because it slowed them down, or tracers, which revealed their positions too precisely. . . .

Finally, the impressive mobility of the Chechen force included escape routes from firing positions, interconnected firing positions and again the sewer network to move about the city. Reportedly a computer in Grozny kept track of everyone in the city and other areas of Chechnya who reported in by radio. Russian forces especially feared the nighttime, when the Chechens would move against and reclaim abandoned positions. The Chechen force allegedly used chlorine and ammonia bombs, set oil wells on fire to obscure fields of vision and rigged entire building complexes with explosives....

The Chechens boarded up all first-story windows and doors, making it impossible to simply walk into a building. While trying to climb ladders or knock in doorways, Russian soldiers became targets for Chechen snipers positioned on upper floors. Reportedly the Chechens were divided into 25-man groups that were subdivided into three smaller groups of eight each that tried to stay close to the Russian force (again, “hugging” the Russian force as during the 1995 battle to minimize the Russian artillery effort)


In their organization for combat [second battle], the Russians had learned lessons from both their own World War II experience and from their enemy. They set up attack (“storm”) groups of 30 to 50 men and broke these groups into even smaller teams of a handful of men each. These smaller teams might include soldiers armed with an RPG, an automatic rifle, and a sniper rifle, and include two additional men armed with automatic weapons. Other storm group components included soldiers armed with Shmel flamethrowers, artillery and aviation forward observers, sappers, and reconnaissance personnel.

Combat in Grozny revealed the elevation limitations of tank and infantry fighting vehicle weapons in dealing with targets at ground level (e.g., basement windows) or from upper floors of multistory buildings. 

The Russians used air defense gun systems that could hyper-elevate in Grozny (i.e., ZSU-23-4s and 2S6s), but they were thin-skinned and vulnerable and became the target of choice for Chechen hunter-killer teams. The Soviets and then the Russians began fielding “hyperelevating, rapid-firing, medium-caliber weapons with explosive ammunition for medium-armored vehicles—rather than modifying tanks.... 

When tanks were brought into the city, they were there to follow and support the storm detachments rather than to lead. Armored vehicles moved through the city surrounded by the dismounted infantry of the attack group. The vehicles could thus effectively engage enemy snipers and automatic riflemen in the buildings that the attack troops could not reach, while being protected by the infantry.... 

... the federal forces relied heavily on fuel-air explosives and tactical missiles (SCUD and SCARAB).... these assets were used to attack fighters hiding in basements. Such fire strikes were designed for maximum psychological pressure—to demonstrate the hopelessness of further resistance against a foe that could strike with impunity....  

Edited by LongLeftFlank
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