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Handbook 10-51
July 2010

Chapter 3



Operational Design for ISAF in Afghanistan: a Primer   Julian D. Alford and Scott A. Cuomo

The Use of Airpower in Combating Terrorism in Iraq   Staff Maj Gen Qaa'id K. M. Al-Khuzaa'i, Iraqi Air Force

Predator Command and Control: An Italian Perspective   COL Ludovico Chianese, Italian Air Force

Operational Design for ISAF in Afghanistan: a Primer

Julian D. Alford and Scott A. Cuomo

Reprinted with permission from the 2nd Quarter 2009 issue of Joint Force Quarterly.

Afghanistan is at a tipping point, and the next 12 to 18 months will prove decisive in determining the country's future. This has become the view of many scholars, politicians, diplomats, and military leaders around the world. To tip the scale in favor of defeating the insurgency and thus toward improving stability and governance in Afghanistan, the international community will significantly increase the diplomatic, military, and economic resources dedicated to these efforts in the coming year. Part of this resource increase involves expanding the ranks of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) by adding at least four U.S. Brigade Combat Teams and potentially thousands more troops from other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries. The primary purpose of this article is to provide an operational design for how these units should execute a counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign once on the ground. This design accounts for the doctrinal principles of Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, yet adapts these principles in light of the current situation in Afghanistan and the hard lessons learned while fighting the insurgency over the years.

The Mindset

Counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan have to involve a great deal more than fighting insurgents. They must also include combating terrorists, criminals, warlords, and drug lords; mitigating sectarian and inter-and intratribal conflict; and curtailing government corruption while building governmental capacity and setting the conditions for reconstruction and development. Accordingly, ISAF units must be ready to fight sporadic, high-intensity engagements, often of short duration, and simultaneously to combat criminals and terrorists using police or constabulary tactics. These same forces must also be prepared to operate as armed social workers while facilitating reconstruction efforts, and as referees when coordinating governance development efforts among warring religious, ethnic, tribal, and governmental factions.1 This type of warfare is contrary to what most, if not all, we, as ISAF, have been prepared to execute. If we are going to succeed, the force has to understand the differences between our training and the realities on the ground in Afghanistan.

We must also focus on the word succeed instead of win in this campaign, because success is ultimately tied to the will of the Afghan government and people-the only ones who can truly "win." The definitions of these two words have important distinctions. Succeed means "to make good, thrive, prosper, flourish, or progress in order to accomplish a favorable aim or outcome." Win means "to acquire, be victorious, or triumph as a result of a fight."

At the operational and tactical levels, the distinction implies that we must design our operations with the Afghan people as the focus of effort. They are the center of gravity in this campaign; thus, the prize on the Afghanistan battlefield is the mind of the population. Some have argued, based on Joe Strange's model for analyzing potential centers of gravity in war2, that the will of the populace is not the center of gravity, but rather is merely a critical objective for both sides. We caution strongly against this thinking. The simple fact is that the will of the Afghan people is the key to our success. We can eliminate 1,100, 1,000, and even 10,000 insurgents but will still fail if we do not succeed in the battle for the people's will. On the other hand, if we succeed in winning the public over, it is also highly likely that, without firing a single bullet, the enemy's numbers will rapidly drop from 10,000 to 1,000 to potentially fewer than 100 insurgents. This is the mindset that must be instilled in all ISAF personnel, from the most senior leaders to the most junior Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen. To succeed in the battle for the people's will, we must commit to attacking the problems within Afghanistan across all lines of operation, using the political, economic, social, informational, and military elements of our nations. The military element of operational design requires a significant mindset shift in our military establishment. Although ISAF leadership should not (and could not) be responsible for executing the nonmilitary elements of the overall COIN strategy, it is responsible for playing a supporting role, and must be prepared to temporarily fill the void in the development of governance and reconstruction, particularly at the district and village levels.

The question now is whether ISAF can adjust its organization, training, and most importantly its corporate mindset to succeed in Afghanistan. We think the answer is yes, if the leaders of our militaries understand, support, and lead units to implement the operational design described herein. The importance of unity of purpose and closely coordinated methods of operation cannot be overstated. Tactical operations in COIN will often have a much greater impact on the operational and strategic outcomes of the campaign than will tactical operations in a conventional war. ISAF units employed incorrectly or in a disjointed manner, or focused on the wrong objectives, will create far more adversaries and problems than they will ever eliminate and thus will negatively impact our efforts to defeat the insurgency.

Force Composition

Due to the nature of the Afghanistan operating environment, ISAF units must work as a single, cohesive force, intimately partnered with Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The force required under this single unit is a combination of light infantry, artillery, and logistics units working in concert with specialized forces such as intelligence, civil affairs, psychological operations, human terrain teams, military police, explosive ordnance disposal, and engineers. Rotary-and fixed-winged aviation assets must also provide support as an integral part of the team. This force will normally operate under a single infantry battalion task force and will be assigned a single area of operation (AO). These types of forces are general purpose forces (GPF). Above the battalion task force level, all regiments, brigades, and regional and theater level command headquarters must operate under a single concept of operations and must establish objectives, coordinate actions, apportion and control terrain and boundaries, and allocate or aggregate resources as required between and among the GPF. Finally, special operations forces and other governmental agencies must also play a vital role in the operational design, and these units must synchronize their efforts with the GPF.

The importance of selecting a light infantry battalion as the base force deserves further clarification. Conventional mechanized and armored formations are often counterproductive in conducting COIN, particularly in Afghanistan.3 These forces often have a mindset that connects them to their equipment and the firepower it delivers. They are frequently predisposed to vehicle-mounted (that is, road-bound) patrols to enhance their speed and survivability-both intuitive qualities of mechanized forces. Unfortunately, this approach only further separates them from the population, while also playing into one of the enemy's strengths: ambushing road-bound vehicle units. One Russian journalist who embedded with Soviet forces in Afghanistan frequently from 1979 to 1989 described a major reason for the Soviet military's failures: "During the 9 years of war we were constantly separated from the country by 8 millimeters of bulletproof glass through which we stared in fear from inside our armored carriers."4 We can ill afford to repeat past mistakes. If the majority of our mechanized units do not reorganize into light infantry forces, trading their vehicles for good pairs of boots, they will quickly become a detriment to one of the main requirements in COIN: connecting with the population. In AOs that support vehicle movement, there is, however, a need for a motorized and potentially a mechanized task force held in reserve. All AOs must also have a heliborne reserve, and these forces must be available at the regimental/brigade level.


The operational design framework rests on five essential and sequential tasks: understand, shape, secure, hold, and build. While our GPF understand, shape, secure, hold, and build, they must concurrently assist the Command Security Transition Command- Afghanistan (CSTC-A) advisor in organizing, training, and operating with the ANSF. Finally, the GPF must develop the ANSF to a point where they are capable of largely independent operations.

To understand is to gain an intimate knowledge of the human and environmental dynamics impacting the campaign, particularly within a unit's AO. To orient to the challenges in our AOs, we must first work to understand not only our enemy, but also the history, culture, traditions, and languages of the Afghan people. Simply studying enemy tactics, techniques, and procedures will leave us with a limited understanding of our AOs. We must also understand the family, clan, tribe, or community organization, and must know who now wields and who has historically wielded power in these groupings if we are to maximize the decision making processes. Additionally, all ISAF units must map the human terrain so they can understand issues and actions from the many perspectives of the Afghan population. We must recognize that we will never fully understand what it means to be an Afghan, but through daily contact with Afghans, we can gain a critical appreciation for their values. This routine contact will engender trust and mutual respect over time.

Shaping an AO is the ability to influence and inform the perceptions, allegiances, attitudes, actions, and behaviors of all players in the AO before we move in to secure it. Shaping operations that influence the population are human activities requiring personal contact. The base unit commander, who will likely be at the battalion task force level, must have the ability to anticipate, recognize, and understand the strengths, vulnerabilities, and opportunities available in his AO to shape successfully. Without understanding or, more specifically, without mapping the human terrain so we know who wields power in our AOs, we will never maximize our ability to shape operations. It implies a less confrontational approach, like a policeman handling an uncertain but potentially hostile situation.

Clearing implies a destructive or escalatory mindset and may be suited in limited situations, but is more appropriate for warfare against another state army. When the GPF secures an area, it must be done discreetly and with precision. Killing insurgents is not the main objective. Large unit clearing sweeps and the heavy use of firepower are detrimental to effective COIN operations, as these tactics sometimes create fear and anger in the populace, prevent the establishment of normalcy, and sometimes demand revenge in the Afghan society. These results are often the goals of the insurgents.

Securing an AO means to gain possession of an area's key terrain in order to deny its use to the enemy and also to provide security for the population. We intentionally say secure instead of clear. To secure is "to gain possession of a position or area, with or without force, and to prevent its destruction or loss by enemy action."5 To clear, on the other hand, is "the removal of enemy forces and elimination of organized resistance in an assigned zone, area, or location by destroying, capturing, or forcing the withdrawal of enemy forces that could interfere with the unit's ability to accomplish its mission."6 Securing is a more appropriate mindset for COIN in Afghanistan. The GPF and ANSF must have a plan when they secure an area to establish an accepted rule of law, provide basic public safety, and create links between the people and a government they accept as legitimate. Securing an area is best done with tactical units at the platoon and company level, partnered with ANSF, whose actions are coordinated with adjacent units and commanded at the battalion level acting as the base unit. The "base" unit is the largest unit whose leader is in direct and continuous contact with the population. This unit is the most important formation in COIN operations because it is generally the element that has the greatest impact on protecting the population and is where practical problems arise and are usually solved.7

Holding an AO means that we and the ANSF are present and intend to remain until a legitimate local government is ready to provide security and governance. Both the people and the insurgents must truly appreciate the extent of this commitment; otherwise, the people will never feel safe, and the insurgents will have continuing ability to influence the population. Demonstrating this level of commitment requires the GPF, along with the ANSF, to live and operate among the Afghans. If the ISAF and ANSF team only interacts with the population during cordon and search, vehicle checkpoints, and raid operations, it fails to understand the center of gravity in Afghanistan. Large "secure" bases far from the population are arguably good for force protection and maintaining a "Western" quality of life for our troops, but these remote bases are counterproductive to accomplishing objectives. Living and operating out of such facilities creates an "us versus them" attitude between the GPF and population. It also inhibits the GPF and ANSF from gaining the human intelligence required to succeed. Simply put, the GPF and ANSF must "hug" the population to protect them. This means we must eat and sleep in the villages and towns without displacing a single family to build the relationships required to physically and psychologically separate the insurgents from the people.8

Building an AO means maintaining a safe environment for the people and the local government so both can pursue their political, social, and economic goals. At the tactical and operational levels, ISAF building efforts must be focused on facilitating popular support for the district and provincial governments through the clan, sub tribal, tribal, and/or village leadership, and providing an atmosphere for political reconciliation. One of the first functions we must accomplish to establish this atmosphere is to identify who the past and current informal and formal leaders are in our AOs, which, once again, requires mapping the human terrain.9 We must then work with the local leadership to develop a legitimate rule of law and help to enforce the laws. Afghanistan has a signed national constitution that is the primary source for the rule of law. However, there are also more traditional rules of law, such as tribal or village jirgas. While not officially sanctioned by the national government, jirgas have long served as an accepted rule of law in specific areas. One of ISAF and the international community's main challenges in the future is to assist Afghans in integrating national laws with provincial, district, and in some cases village and tribal laws. That said, ISAF units should leverage the experience of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), along with the many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that have operated in Afghanistan pre- and post2001, to help with all aspects of the building stage. We must appreciate that we might have to serve as a supporting effort to UNAMA, and even to NGOs, when it comes to tasks such as enabling elections and major infrastructure projects.

Working at the local level to stimulate the economy and to improve basic services for the people must also be a priority during the building stage. To this end, monies in the hands of the base unit commander and the ability to immediately use them to enhance peoples' lives are critical assets in Afghanistan. Young-and middle-aged men who are unemployed for even a limited time represent discontent on which the insurgency can capitalize.10

Partnering with the ANSF

Organizing, training, and operating with the Afghan National Army (ANA), Afghan National Police (ANP), and Afghan Border Police (ABP) are essential tasks for ISAF's general purpose forces in this COIN campaign. We must avoid performing any operation if we are not partnered with an ANSF unit. We must also resist the inclination to build the ANSF using a Western model. Additionally, we must assist the ANSF in taking the lead in the campaign even before we think they are ready. Much of this transition will have to be carried out while the ANSF are engaged with the enemy and living among the population. This said, ISAF must come to grips with the realization that we cannot succeed alone. The ANSF must play a decisive role to facilitate the Afghans' trust in their nation's security forces. This will be at least a 10-year mission that will require patience, significant resources, and ongoing international support.

To begin, we must focus on continuing to build an ANSF that can deal with the internal threats to the sovereignty of Afghanistan. The ANSF, specifically the ANA, must be organized, equipped, and trained to fight the insurgent threat. The ANA must be a light, highly mobile GPF that can operate dispersed in platoon- and company-sized formations. We need not develop an ANA that can fight another state army. That is a mid- to long-term goal the Afghan government will move toward at an appropriate time. We must help the ANSF develop an air force that can provide fire support, medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), and heliborne Quick Response Force (QRF) capabilities. Thus far, the ANA is the one bright spot in the ANSF, but with only one-third of the Kandaks (battalions) possessing a capability milestone 1 (CM 1) status,11 the ANA still requires many years of partnering, mentoring, and support.

In conjunction with ANSF tactical training and employment in combat, ISAF must accelerate and heavily fund programs to bring ANA personnel to NATO military academies and war colleges. Furthermore, NATO-staffed professional military schools of shorter duration are needed in greater numbers in Afghanistan to gain momentum in the development of the ANSF professional officer corps. A strong officer corps capable of independent operations is vital to combating the enemy in Afghanistan. To repeat, this is a 10-year fight at a minimum, and a captain at a NATO school today will likely play an instrumental role in ultimately defeating the insurgency. Simultaneously, ISAF must significantly increase efforts to develop the ANP and ABP, which are frequently viewed as corrupt, incompetent, and loyal to warlords. An additional challenge is that there is virtually no viable criminal justice system in Afghanistan, which further undermines confidence in the central government and cripples legal and institutional mechanisms for the ANP and ABP to use in prosecuting insurgents and criminals. Establishing a legitimate judicial structure at the national, provincial, and district levels is not a task for ISAF, but it is nonetheless essential if a legitimate, nationwide rule of law is ever to be implemented in Afghanistan.

While waiting for this judicial structure to be created, ISAF must still make developing and operating with the ANP and ABP a top priority and work with the Afghan government to ensure that these units have fortified police stations and border outposts, local jails, armored vehicles, a nationwide command and control system, and embedded ISAF military and contractor trainers/mentors. Even before taking these steps, ISAF must work closely with the Afghan Ministry of the Interior to assist in recruiting, organizing, and training a professional ANP and ABP force. After all, at the local level, an area does not have true security until it has a legitimate local police force that is of and for the people. These police forces must also have the ability to secure essential facilities and critical infrastructure such as government buildings, financial centers, electric power installations, water and sewage treatment plants, schools, main roads, and highways. The police forces, with backing from the local leadership, must be heavily funded with handsome salaries and supported with top equipment to lure any militias and low-level insurgents into an alternative, lucrative, and legitimate profession. It is critical to remember that only a local police force can gain the trust of the local populace and penetrate a community thoroughly enough to gain the intelligence needed to destroy the insurgents' infrastructure permanently.12

Professional Advisor Force

Once the ANSF are equipped, trained, organized, and on the verge of being able to conduct independent operations, ISAF must pull back its GPF and transition to an advisor-only force that works closely with CSTC-A to provide logistics, fire support, MEDEVAC, and a QRF until Afghan forces can furnish these services. This marks a shift to an indirect approach by ISAF at which time the ANSF will take the lead and truly become the main effort in the campaign. The GPF base unit commander on the ground must make the assessment as to when the posture of the ISAF unit must change, and when having more overt ISAF units becomes a liability rather than an asset, as "over-partnering" can be detrimental to success. This judgment-based decision is made as the overall situation enters a "gray zone." Yet in spite of its prolonged state in time, this period will serve as the operational tipping point to the final success of the campaign. In this gray zone, ISAF units become less visible, less intrusive, and less restrictive to the population while the ANA and, more importantly, the ANP and ABP begin to provide the primary elements of security.

The transition to the indirect approach, using a professional advisor-only force, facilitates the major drawdown of ISAF units. This will in turn posture the force for the inevitable prolonged COIN mission, and this indirect approach will likely facilitate long-term NATO support.

In this gray zone and for the remainder of the conflict, ISAF will likely have to increase its advisor requirement, selection criteria, and support for CSTC-A. At this stage, ISAF's advisors will serve as its decisive element. Accordingly, it is of even greater importance that this force be comprised of career officers with combat experience. This force must be regionally and culturally aware and possess a desire to immerse itself within the ranks of the ANSF, providing advice and support at the brigade, battalion, company, and even the platoon and police station levels.

The Afghan government and ANSF, supported by the ISAF advisor force, will win in the long run by proving their legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people. Through professional training, sound military and policing advice, and robust support, the advisor force will assist the ANSF in driving the insurgency to lower and lower levels of violence while the insurgents' political will erodes. When the population looks exclusively to the legitimate government for protection and services, and the ANSF are operating independently, all ISAF military units can be withdrawn from the theater.

Problems to Solve

Success in these areas will set the conditions for ISAF to address three problems that have plagued the COIN effort for years. First, ISAF must focus on creating legitimate and productive village- and district-level governments. Only by providing tangible services and meeting real needs at these levels will the national government gain legitimacy-and then credibility-in the eyes of most Afghans. Unfortunately, poor governance, in part due to the absence of security, has plagued the counterinsurgency effort to this point, especially in the eastern and southern provinces. Polls consistently show that the lack of roads, electricity, and potable water is the main concern of the population, particularly in rural areas. Also, the majority of Afghans believe that corruption is a serious problem, and nearly two-thirds think it is increasing. In particular, the majority of Afghans believe that government officials profit from the drug trade in the eastern and southern provinces.13

This leads to the second major problem, drugs. The Afghan National Development Strategy states that narcotics are the single greatest threat to the country's future and security.14 Immediate eradication, however tempting it may be, is not the answer. ISAF must start by securing the population in the most important areas that produce these narcotics, and then over time ISAF, with the help of the government, can wean farmers off poppies and to a lesser extent cannabis. This should be done by bringing farmers back to agriculture as it existed prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979. While poppy fields provide a livelihood for farmers, they are also a substantial source of income for the insurgents in eastern and southern Afghanistan. ISAF and the government have made serious mistakes in the past by attempting to implement poppy crop eradication programs without providing an alternate source of income. Worse, past eradication efforts were attempted without securing the people first, which led to prime recruiting seasons for the Taliban. The intricate relationship among narcotics, security, economic development, political reform, and the social aspects of COIN operations is readily apparent in eastern and southern Afghanistan. While poppy production is viewed as a national security problem by both the government and ISAF, it is now a critical part of the socioeconomic fabric of many eastern and southern provinces. Great care must be taken to address the issue, lest the coalition continue to alienate the population and drive more farmers and harvesters into the sphere of the Taliban. Alternate crops such as fruits, nuts, and spices may provide a solution; however, poppies are easy to grow and provide the highest return. For ISAF to fix this problem, it must first secure the population and then work with the government to move to an alternative economic solution. This solution must be agricultural-based and subsidized in the near term, and it must provide development in hydroelectric power, irrigation systems, and roads for the long-term growth of the licit agriculture sector.

The third and arguably most complex problem for ISAF and the government is that insurgent groups have established sanctuaries in Pakistan. These groups have often obtained external assistance from a global jihadist network, including players with a foothold in Pakistan, such as al Qaeda. These groups have also acquired support from tribes and criminal organizations there.15 For the time being, ISAF must accept that it alone can do little about the sanctuaries on the Pakistan side. What ISAF and the ANSF can do is "poison the water" for the insurgents on the Afghan side of the border instead of worrying about "spearing the fish" on the Pakistan side.

Admittedly, this reality does not sound promising. It is important, though, for ISAF commanders to understand the realities, complexities, and opportunities available on the Pakistani side of the border. The new president, Asif Ali Zardari, is the widower of the late Benazir Bhutto, killed by the Pakistani Taliban in December 2007. President Zardari has expressed his commitment to defeating extremism, to include taming extremist madrassas and eliminating training camps that support the Afghan (and Pakistani) insurgency from within Pakistan.16 He has also backed his words with deeds. Recent army operations in the Bajaur tribal region demonstrated President Zardari's seriousness, as his army destroyed an insurgent stronghold that had long served as a gateway into Afghanistan's Kunar Province. Multiple tribes within Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas have also shown a desire to fight the Taliban movement.17 Internationally, the Saudi Arabian government has begun to pressure the Taliban to begin political negotiations with the Afghan and Pakistani governments.18 The main takeaway for ISAF commanders concerning Pakistan is that developments over the past year on both sides of the border have provided an opportunity to deliver a significant blow to the insurgency. The number one action ISAF can take to enable this blow is to secure the people in Afghanistan's eastern and southern border provinces. This will, in effect, trap thousands of insurgents inside Pakistan, where the new COIN efforts of the Pakistani government can defeat them.

Securing Afghanistan's eastern and southern provinces is no small task. These regions are where the Taliban first established itself in Afghanistan, where it is often strongest, and where it has longstanding relationships with tribes just across the border. One possible approach to securing these regions is to increase ISAF and ANSF presence in a way that embraces the Pashtunwali code. Approximately 45 percent of Afghan society follows a conservative Islamic ideology and adheres to a strict code known as Pashtunwali. This code exists within most of the Pashtun ethnic group, which predominantly lives in eastern and southern Afghanistan and also stretches into Pakistan. The fundamental tenet of Pashtunwali is an honor code that amounts to an unwritten law of the people that guides individual and collective community behavior. Pashtunwali represents a set of moral codes and rules of conduct that impact the daily lives of many Afghans to a greater degree than the tenets of Islam. It promotes self-respect, independence, justice, hospitality, revenge, and tolerance. The use of violence to defend the honor of oneself, the family, or tribe, to the death if necessary, is one of the most significant aspects of Pashtunwali.

The Afghan government, with support from ISAF, should use this code to recruit young Afghans, through traditional village ties, into ANSF units. ISAF should launch an intense recruiting campaign that promotes honor and service to oneself, family, and tribe by belonging to a legitimate local police force, ABP, or ANA. Closely tied to this initiative, ISAF and the ANSF should also work closely with and protect district, village, and tribal leaders and mullahs to gain support in using the Pashtunwali code of honor to bring young Pashtun men into the ANSF. The enemies of Afghanistan are using this same code to recruit young fighters into the insurgency. ISAF must support and promote the tenets of Islam together with the Pashtunwali code to beat the Taliban to the punch for this support. The code and the young fighters who fiercely adhere to it may just be the true center of gravity of the Afghan COIN campaign.

The question remains whether the International Security Assistance Force can develop and implement the appropriate operational design to succeed in Afghanistan. We think it can, but a significant corporate mindset shift is needed first. This shift requires recognition of the human and environmental imperatives of Afghanistan and of the fact that ultimately, the Afghan government and its security forces must win the conflict. This campaign is a prolonged struggle that can only be successful with greater investments in talent, time, and treasure by NATO and the rest of the international community. ISAF must first focus on securing and gaining the support of the people instead of hunting down and killing insurgents. At the same time, capacity-building for the government, starting at the local level, and developing the Afghan National Security Forces require significantly greater resources. Only when success grows in these two vital missions will the Afghan people believe they have a legitimate and credible government that, with ISAF support for a limited period, will offer them a brighter and more honorable future than the insurgency. The basic mechanism of conducting counterinsurgency can be summed up as build or rebuild a political machine from the population upward.19


1 J. Kilcullen, "Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency," Marine Corps Gazette, October 2007, 59-61.

2 Joe Strange and Richard Iron, "Understanding Centers of Gravity and Critical Vulnerabilities," available at " cog2.pdf".

3 Lester M. Grau and Ali Ahmad Jalali, The Other Side of the Mountain (Quantico, VA: USMC Studies and Analysis Division, 1995); Lester M. Grau, ed., The Bear Went over the Mountain (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1996); and Lester M. Grau and Michael A. Gress, ed., The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002), provide numerous examples of the disadvantages encountered by Soviet mechanized and armored units when fighting insurgents in Afghanistan. Coalition forces have relearned similar lessons since 2001, and many who have served in Afghanistan over the past 7 years believe that the insurgents' tactics, techniques, and procedures are primarily designed to kill coalition forces when mounted in vehicles.

4 Artyom Borovik, The Hidden War: A Russian Journalist's Account of the Soviet War in Afghanistan (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990), 12.

5 Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication (MCDP) 1-0, Marine Corps Operations (Washington, DC: Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps, September 27, 2001), C4-C5.

6 Ibid.

7 David Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (New York: Praeger, 1964), 110-111.

8 Tentative Manual for Countering Irregular Threats: An Updated Approach to Counterinsurgency (Quantico, VA: Marine Corps Combat Development Command, June 7, 2006), 25.

9 For a cultural operator's guide to understanding and identifying informal and formal power structures in societies, see Paula Holmes-Eber and Barak A. Salmoni, Operational Culture for the Warfighter (Quantico, VA: Marine Corps University Press, 2008), 155-166.

10 Tentative Manual, 31.

11 CM 1 status implies an ANA unit assessed as fully capable of conducting operations at the battalion level and below, while still requiring ISAF's combat enabling support.

12 Tentative Manual, 68-70; and also see F.J. West, The Village (New York: Pocket Books, 1972), for a detailed description of how U.S. Marines, combined with local indigenous forces, destroyed the insurgent infrastructure in a village in Vietnam.

13 The Asia Foundation, "Afghanistan in 2008: A Survey of the Afghan People," 2008, 15-23, available at " afghanistan/2008-poll.php".

14 Afghan National Development Strategy: An Interim Strategy for Security, Governance, Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction (Kabul: Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, n.d.), 94-98.

15 Seth G. Jones, Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, vol. 4 of RAND Counterinsurgency Study (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2008), 37.

16 Ron Moreau, "Good Intentions," Newsweek, September 9, 2008, available at "www.newsweek. com/id/158092".

17 "Pakistan Tribesmen Fight Taliban, Al Qaeda," CBS News, September 13, 2008.

18 Faiza Saleh Ambah and Candace Rondeaux, "Saudis Held Talks between Taliban, Afghans," The Washington Post, October 22, 2008, A13.

19 Galula, 136.

The Use of Airpower in Combating Terrorism in Iraq

Staff Maj Gen Qaa'id K. M. Al-Khuzaa'i, Iraqi Air Force

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2009 issue of Air & Space Power Journal.

Nations have used their air forces to fight conventional wars and combat insurgents. Most air force planning, training, and preparation have depended upon a conventional view of warfare, and air forces have proven effective in such conflict. A nation with a strong, effective air force would likely win battles if it properly employed that force during planning, target selection, and execution of combat roles such as strategic bombing, air superiority, and close air support (CAS), as well as in support operations such as airlift, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Air forces have used various types of aircraft, satellites, and other platforms to perform these conventional roles, and powerful nations have become extremely skillful at using conventional airpower. For example, the United States military has distinguished itself by producing decisive effects by means of air and space power at the desired time and place in the conventional wars it has fought.

Counterinsurgency (COIN) warfare, however, is another matter altogether. According to Dr. Thomas Searle, "We are very good at conventional warfare. Too bad that isn't enough any more. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military quickly defeated enemy conventional military forces and brought down hostile regimes. Afterward, however, counter guerrilla operations did not fare so well."1 So the US Air Force (USAF) found itself unprepared for this new phenomenon, known variously as terrorism, guerrilla warfare, or COIN-depending upon the various labels/euphemisms given it by politicians, military people, or others. This type of warfare differs from that which the United States and other countries have encountered in such places as Vietnam.

Those of us in the old Iraqi Army experienced COIN warfare in northern Iraq, where a dictatorial regime attempted to put down Kurdish rebels fighting for their legitimate rights. The Kurds fought honorably and targeted those who opposed them-that is, the Iraqi Army. They did not hurt innocent people or use the cowardly tactics of today's terrorists. In that struggle, the Iraqi Air Force (Iraqi AF) undertook reconnaissance and CAS missions, but Saddam Hussein sent weapons of mass destruction against the Kurdish town of Halabja and other places in Iraq. Therefore, we should not be surprised by the practices of his remaining thugs who now use the vilest and most cowardly means available to kill the innocent.


In the last few years of the twentieth century, new enemies appeared-those who threaten civilization and seek to spread terror and commit genocide. Lacking a particular objective or clear ideology, they exploit people whose primary concern is making money. This much is clear to us, based on what these enemies have done in Iraq. They have an Islamic identity and use Islam to justify their actions, yet they besmirch this faith-the religion of love and peaceful coexistence, which abides by the tenet "There is no coercion in religion."

These enemies differ from those involved in the insurgency and rebellion movements that emerged after World War II-"limited wars" in which air forces participated very effectively. Communist rebels employed guerrilla warfare and insurgencies-old forms of conflict-whether their ideology was Communism, Marxism-Leninism, or Maoism. Superpowers openly backed and sponsored these generally well-organized and well-run rebellions, but the new enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan consists of a group of criminals, thieves, rebels, and terrorists similar to those in Colombia and the Philippines. Although several definitions and names have emerged for terrorism, the variety found in Iraq has proven distinctive. I regard as terrorists those who adopt abominable and backward sectarian ideologies, terrify and kill innocent civilians, destroy civilization, and create instability, havoc, chaos, and lawlessness in order to gain money and privileges.

This terrorism in Iraq has enjoyed secret support from a number of nations and well-known people, including non-Arab regional powers as well as Arab states and personalities, in an attempt to export terrorists to places outside their own borders. Tellingly, we hear that a person who kills innocents and stirs up instability in neighboring Arab or non-Arab countries is a terrorist but that one who does the same thing in Iraq is a mujahid. Other neighboring countries have additional motives, such as their fear of emerging democratic trends in the Middle East. The United States and its allies promoted democracy in that region after suffering terrorist attacks of the sort espoused by the rogue regimes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. As for those who lost their absolute authority and illicit privileges after the fall of these regimes, they aim to tear apart the fabric of the state by any means possible, including the manipulation of simple criminals who only want to earn money, regardless of its source, and who take refuge among ordinary citizens and then target them. Elusive as fish in the water, these terrorists constantly change their tactics, making them difficult to catch, but they lack discipline and are less proficient with advanced weapons than many Cold War-era rebels. For the most part, terrorists in Iraq fall into four categories:

  • 1. Members of al-Qaeda-people who have adopted vile, heretical ideas and have veiled themselves as Islamists.
  • 2. Baathists-Saddamists who lost their former privileges and power.
  • 3. Members of the Islamic militias who call themselves "Shiite Islamists" and receive support from Iran and some Arab nations interested in keeping America involved in a guerrilla war inside Iraq. They may also fear the growing trend of democracy in that country, considering that form of government a threat to their existence, future, and position.
  • 4. Terrorists pushed into Iraq by other states under the pretext of participating in a jihad but actually exported to remove the threat they represent to those nations.

Events Following 11 September 2001

The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States alerted the world to a new type of terrorist aggression that will stop at nothing and can strike anywhere. Shocked by this horrifying criminal deed, the world realized that no government could continue to defend the rogue regimes that had supported terrorism, particularly those of Saddam and the Taliban. On the basis of these developments, the United States proceeded to mobilize the world's media and undertake a military response to bring down these foes, after which Libya and North Korea softened their stances. The US military encountered no difficulty in bringing down Saddam, aided by the discontent of the Iraqi people, who had no will to fight and no desire to sacrifice themselves for a lost cause and a government that neither represented nor appealed to them. Because even the Baathists lacked conviction, we saw no well-known commanders fighting bravely and dying in battle; indeed, not a single prominent military commander fell in battle alongside his unit. Everybody thought of running away because no one believed in Saddam, who in fact was one of the first to flee, fearful of dying at the gates of Baghdad or at one of his palaces. For this reason, Iraq presented an easy target for the US military. During this battle, the USAF undertook many aerial missions, including strategic bombing, air strikes, air superiority, CAS, and other operations in coordination with ground forces. Transport planes effectively provided air bridges for moving units and carrying out other logistical missions. Other aircraft engaged in all types of reconnaissance.

The USAF achieved excellent results, bringing down Saddam and the Taliban, but a new phase emerged that featured insurgency operations, terrorism, and instability aimed at preventing the restoration of government authority. The paucity of intelligence, inaccuracy of target selection, and general ambiguity of this operational environment have created problems for air and space forces in Iraq. Who are the terrorists? What are their objectives? Their practice of blending in with civilians complicates efforts to locate and deal with them, particularly for the USAF-not that it has performed poorly; it simply lacks a clear vision of the battles being fought. This problem has led to many mistakes and has contributed to a negative psychological reaction on the part of the news media. In short, the situation in Iraq requires particular weapons; accurate, reliable intelligence; and ground/air coordination on all levels, particularly the lower ones, in addition to communications and liaison capabilities.

A lack of clear objectives, inadequate doctrine, and insufficient proficiency in carrying out necessary counterterrorism missions limits airpower's role in Iraq. Military forces have a problem figuring out how air and space power can contribute to operations that do not involve a major battle. Airpower found itself confined to air transport, maintenance of air bridges, reconnaissance, and other supporting roles. Helicopters, used extensively in Iraq, suffered heavy losses because they fly at low altitudes, presenting an easy target for terrorists deployed in hidden areas hard to discern from the air. However, aircraft did execute a number of effective missions, and remote-controlled planes undertook reconnaissance and bombardment of selected targets, especially in battles involving Najaf as well as Fallujah and other Anbar areas. Nevertheless, served poorly by an inadequate intelligence apparatus and inaccurate target selection, the USAF mistakenly bombed many civilian areas. Later on, airpower's role began to expand in terms of involvement in and adaptation to battles, and intelligence began to improve. The air strike against the criminal al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi represented a crowning achievement of this development and coordination; furthermore, it reflected noticeable changes in the use of helicopters and remote-controlled aircraft at night.

Terrorists and Their Methods

By 2007 the terrorists' objectives had become abundantly clear. On the whole, they wanted to create instability by attacking oil installations, oil pipelines, electrical power stations/power lines, and the country's infrastructure in general. They also attacked civilians and residential areas with car bombs, explosive belts, and booby traps, assassinating persons randomly or according to their names or tribal affiliations. In addition, they struck army camps and air bases with mortars and Katyusha rockets, attacked convoys moving along highways, and set up false checkpoints. Moreover, these terrorists, who also deal in the drug trade that operates in the region, undertook an armed rebellion in Fallujah and Najaf, seeking protection in the midst of civilians. Currently, we see the same activities in the northern province of Mosul and the southern province of Basra, as well as in the relatively inaccessible mountainous areas of Afghanistan.

The Role of Intelligence in Combating Terrorism

The actions of insurgents differ in five substantial ways from those of combatants engaged in conventional war: "time, civilian-military ‘duality,' tactics, logistics, and centers of gravity."2 In Iraq, in particular, terrorism differs from that seen elsewhere by virtue of the despicable actions perpetrated, the targets attacked, the terrorists' melting away among civilians, and their forcible use of civilian houses during operations or skirmishes. These factors underscore the importance of assembling accurate intelligence, and airpower offers an important means of such information gathering. Additionally, reliable intelligence enables an air force to perform its missions effectively with the necessary accuracy in terms of time and place. No planning for any military operation-whether in the air, on land, or at sea-can be successful without exact information concerning the enemy, terrain, and so forth. When we combat terrorism, intelligence increases in importance. In my opinion, it becomes three-quarters of the battle. Without proper targeting data, the army and its firepower stumble, accomplishing nothing; people die; and many resources go to waste. The right information, however, allows us to use less force and effort to conduct decisive attacks against terrorist targets-and suffer fewer casualties in terms of lives and equipment. Thus, by taking the initiative, we could weaken the morale of terrorists and strengthen that of our forces.

Fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, remote-controlled aircraft, satellites, and balloons can play effective roles in gathering information by means of surveillance and reconnaissance. In spite of its small number of aircraft and limited capability, the Iraqi AF has contributed to this effort by undertaking praiseworthy reconnaissance missions involving the detection and pursuit of oil smugglers, thereby helping ground forces realize their objectives. However, we have not yet attained the level to which we aspire in terms of gathering generally accurate information and intelligence. This is true not only of the Iraqis but also of the coalition forces throughout Iraq. For example, many times Iraqi and coalition forces have gone after targets and either found nothing or arrived too late-and our aircraft have erroneously hit the wrong targets. In the meantime, terrorists strike Baghdad's Green Zone, the center of government and location of foreign embassies, hitting important headquarters and bases with relative impunity. They assail these targets from nearby areas within shooting range of coalition and Iraqi forces, despite our balloons and other means of detection. So our monitoring system remains ineffective, and our intelligence apparatus unsuccessful, insufficient, inaccurate, and unable to ascertain and combat the methods of the terrorists. Clearly, all parties should address this dilemma in terms of means, methods, personnel, management, command, and completion of missions without wasting time and effort.

Despite the aforementioned circumstances, we have seen a fair amount of progress in both American and Iraqi intelligence, in the methods utilized by coalition forces, and in their cooperation with air forces to eliminate al-Zarqawi and other terrorist leaders. Similarly, the Iraqi AF has benefited from US military aid and training in modern US reconnaissance aircraft capable of sending information and aerial images-night and day, under various weather conditions-to ground stations, units, and planes that conduct air strikes. Furthermore, we are encouraged by the willingness of individuals in "awakening councils" throughout Baghdad and the provinces to inform Iraqi and coalition forces about the terrorists' movements. Nevertheless, much work remains in terms of enhancing the capabilities of coalition forces and the Iraqi AF, improving training, and clarifying doctrine.

Future Horizons

Major Kenneth Beebe, USAF, notes that "the lack of doctrine has nothing to do with the lack of airpower's and space power's applicability [to COIN but that] decisions on the types of weapons systems procured can and should be influenced by COIN doctrine."3 Certainly airpower plays important roles, including surveillance, reconnaissance, CAS, and supporting communications. But these roles will not attain the desired performance level without clear doctrine, which requires distilling lessons from experience, thoroughly examining them, incorporating them into training through special counterterrorism programs, conducting exercises, writing pamphlets and publications, and tapping the experience of senior field commanders who have combated terrorism and experienced all of its features. So we have to revise the training system and give sufficient attention to counterterrorism operations in terms of practical exercises and theoretical studies that include the methods, procedures, and art of conducting battle movements. Importantly, we must prepare the entire force because the new Iraqi military does not yet possess sufficient expertise in the type of warfare now waged in Iraq.

Air Force Doctrine for Combating Terrorism

After examining terrorist methods, we should know what we need in the air forces of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the coalition-or in any other air force expected to combat terrorism. The first requirement that comes to mind-selecting the necessary weapon systems-derives from adopting a counterterrorism doctrine and then implementing it. If we rule out the role of air defense at this stage, particularly for the Iraqi AF, we will tend to acquire aircraft meant to provide CAS, including not only helicopters but also reconnaissance and remote-controlled planes equipped with systems for communicating with ground units. Aircraft would operate in accordance with an easy, automated, well-known system and would require joint planning and coordination with land units at multiple levels-that is, with battalions as well as higher commands. As Dr. Searle reasons, "Because of the decentralized nature of counter guerrilla operations, we need to push air-liaison elements (real air planners, not just enlisted tactical air controllers) down to lower ground headquarters."4 This policy would apply to both the USAF and Iraqi AF. Once both air forces effectively integrate with each other via command and control systems and possess communications gear suited to controlling and guiding aircraft from the ground or from helicopters, all parties will need to adhere to the new operating doctrine.

Coordination with US Airpower

We need effective coordination, joint cooperation, and dynamic interaction between the USAF and the Iraqi AF on the one hand, and between the Iraqi AF and US Army aviation on the other. We must do this in order to provide the necessary facilities for conducting battles, exchanging intelligence, conducting domestic and foreign training, providing logistical support, and performing search and rescue operations. Since the Iraqi AF still lacks these capabilities, it is not fully effective at combating terrorism. Coordination is essential because we are all fighting the same worldwide battle against a common enemy-international terrorism.

Coordination among Iraqi Forces

The Iraqi AF needs more effective coordination and liaison at all levels with forces that specialize in combating terrorism, as well as with ground forces. More precisely, we require forces capable of moving quickly after receiving accurate intelligence, utilizing helicopters or ground vehicles, depending on the circumstances. This calls for coordination as well as the use of advanced aerial equipment and wireless communication. For example, to protect the pipeline between Kirkuk and Mosul, we need to station well-trained forces at a nearby base and employ reconnaissance planes and other sensors to patrol and monitor this area. Such platforms would send confirmed information about terrorist movements to ground forces, who would then conduct a quick analysis and relay it to troops located at the aforementioned base; they in turn would fly to the suspected locations via helicopter to attack the terrorists, killing them if they resist or attempt to flee.

Raising another subject worth mentioning from the viewpoint of individual safety and security, I believe that my experience in Iraq confirms that the military forces, police, and guards who protect oil pipelines and other vital installations should not come from the local population or area. The fact that they are well known to others could subject them and their families to threats and even death, a fate that has befallen many people. Additionally, despite the large numbers of security forces assigned and the small enemy presence, certain local police forces and army soldiers in various sectors have clearly proven ineffective-witness the destruction of installations, pipelines, and electrical power lines as well as the poor performance of police forces in the provinces of al-Diwaniyah, Basra, and other areas in Iraq.

Role of Air and Space Forces in Combating Terrorism

Air and space forces can effectively combat terrorism if they have modern technology and very advanced aircraft flown by expert, well-trained pilots. Examples include conducting reconnaissance and air strikes with remote-controlled aircraft equipped with night vision equipment and precise aiming instruments capable of locating the target, distinguishing it, and accurately hitting it in all types of weather. This would go a long way toward destroying the morale of terrorists. Coalition forces in Iraq have already used these planes. Regarding this matter, Dr. Searle suggests that "we . . . bring our space-based concept down to the counterguerrilla level by deploying persistent aerial [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] platforms that provide similar wide-area coverage focused on the specific signatures of these weapons. The air platforms could take the form of tethered blimps, unmanned aerial vehicles, or manned aircraft. Whatever the system, it would have to provide the location of the enemy weapon that fired."5

We should use light, simply constructed ground-attack aircraft such as T-6s or L-39s. The T-6s, for example, "proved their worth as superb counterinsurgency aircraft in French, British, Portuguese, and South African hands for decades after World War II. The T-6s were cheap and readily available. Their slow speed and long loiter time made them excellent aircraft for observing artillery fire or for spotting small terrorist bands from the air and marking targets for strike aircraft."6 In addition to their good maneuverability and the accurate, modern weapons and targeting systems they carry, such planes are better suited for these missions than are the expensive ground-attack aircraft that fly at supersonic speeds yet require much maintenance and fuel.

These light planes-equipped with navigation and targeting instruments effective during day/night and all weather conditions, weapons such as advanced laser-guided missiles and cannons, and systems enabling contact with ground units-would prove formidable in the fight against terrorists. We need reconnaissance planes able to withstand Iraq's desert climate and able to operate from short, unpaved runways. We also need light, easily maintained turboprop transport aircraft equipped with both side and rear doors and capable of carrying at least 40 soldiers, taking off from short, hastily constructed runways, and functioning under conditions that complex aircraft cannot tolerate.

Light attack helicopters can serve as effective counterterrorism platforms, provided they are maneuverable and can function in unusual environments and weather characteristic of desert and mountain areas. They should feature suitable weaponry and communications systems compatible with those possessed by ground units, sufficient space to transport antiterrorism forces, and enough mobility/flexibility to concentrate the needed volume of firepower. Furthermore, we must review our methods of using helicopters in Iraq in order to learn from errors that have led to casualties among both coalition forces and civilians.

I have barely touched upon the subject of communications systems, but during my past four years in the new Iraqi AF, working with the USAF, I have seen the importance of communications in command and control as well as in directing fire at the enemy. Moreover, effective command of units and good planning are impossible without a communications system capable of consolidating control of the air effort in coordination with ground units and antiterrorist forces. We must establish control between units carrying out operations and those conducting air defense. (We envision taking appropriate steps that will soon make the latter completely available in Iraq.) Further, we must emphasize close ties among ground, air, and naval forces via capable liaison officers (something needed in the IqAF and perhaps to some extent in the USAF) and conduct exchanges of such officers with their US counterparts at all levels, offering them special training and determining their role in the counterterrorism fight. Additionally, air controllers, who must become skillful and capable in their work with antiterrorism forces, need training in the system of frontline air control capable of communicating with aircraft and directing them to their targets in the battle arena.

We in the Iraqi AF still suffer from shortages of air bases, logistical support, infrastructure, and personnel. The USAF should help us solve these problems and rapidly build up the Iraqi AF so that it can take the initiative in combating terrorism and relieve the burden on the USAF by assuming many of the missions that it currently performs. Because of the importance of personnel to airpower, we must create innovative mechanisms for encouraging people to volunteer for the Iraqi AF and must use the media to support this effort by conducting an awareness campaign throughout the country. We should establish safe and secure recruiting centers so that we can attract more volunteers who meet the criteria and qualifications specified in our regulations.

Practical and Theoretical Training

We must have joint training with ground and antiterrorism forces, as well as training and cooperation with coalition forces, in order to exchange experiences and benefit from the superior expertise of the USAF in combating terrorism on all levels-from the training of pilots and technical personnel to positions in high command. I believe that IqAF personnel should be trained for the next four years outside Iraq until we prepare a complete group of specialists to work in our Air Force Academy so that it can do its job. At that point, we will have sound training in Iraq that will produce expert pilots, technicians, and specialists. In terms of exchange of expertise, however, elements of the IqAF should still participate in training exercises conducted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other military organizations.


The use of airpower in combating terrorism requires us to think in new ways, employ new tools, and cooperate more fully. This unique mission calls for doctrine that facilitates the efficient employment of airpower. We must determine the most effective weapon systems for the task at hand. Small fixed-wing aircraft and light attack helicopters can ensure the relevance of airpower in this new mission. To attain strategic and tactical effectiveness, we must hone command and control functions among all branches of the US, coalition, and Iraqi forces to allow rapid coordination, joint cooperation, and dynamic interaction for airpower. Coalition and Iraqi forces should conduct ongoing joint exercises and personnel exchanges to refine tactics, improve procedures, and stay abreast of evolving terrorist methods. USAF personnel should also benefit from the experience of local air forces and their development, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, in order to be able to carry out their assigned missions. This will prove helpful to the USAF because terrorism is a worldwide enemy whose activities cross all national borders.

*Editor's note: This article is an abridged version of the one published in the Fall 2008 issue of Air and Space Power Journal-Arabic, available at


1. Dr. Thomas R. Searle, "Making Airpower Effective against Guerrillas," Air and Space Power Journal 18, no. 3 (Fall 2004): 13,

2. Maj Kenneth Beebe, "The Air Force's Missing Doctrine: How the US Air Force Ignores Counterinsurgency," Air and Space Power Journal 20, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 30,

3. Ibid.

4. Searle, "Making Airpower Effective against Guerrillas," 17.

5. Ibid., 20.

6. James S. Corum and Wray R. Johnson, Airpower in Small Wars: Fighting Insurgents and Terrorists (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2003), 431-32.

Predator Command and Control: An Italian Perspective

COL Ludovico Chianese, Italian Air Force

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2008 issue of Air & Space Power Journal.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Italian Air Force flew its new Predator fleet in support of combat operations. The Predator, an American-made, medium-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used for surveillance and reconnaissance, has a range of up to 400 nautical miles and can fly at altitudes up to 25,000 feet. Cruising at a speed of 70 knots, it can loiter for hours over targets.1 Even though Italian Predator operations generally have been considered successful, some issues still need solving in order to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. Changes in the character of air warfare are occurring now, and the Italian Air Force must adapt to them. During that service's Predator operations in Iraq, most problems originated in the command and control (C2) structure, reflecting a lack of strategic doctrine, an incomplete application of basic doctrinal principles, and an inadequate level of operational command. In this article, the author compares his knowledge of the Italian Predator operation-derived from his experience as the Italian air component commander from December 2005 to April 2006 in Tallil, Iraq-with doctrine as well as past and present US Predator operations. After a brief overview of the significance of doctrine and C2, the article then introduces Italy's Operation Antica Babilonia (Operation "Ancient Babylon") and describes the C2 structure for the Italian Predator, pointing out the main problems encountered during operations and proposing some final recommendations to stimulate, develop, and integrate a strategic vision and policy for Italian UAVs in future expeditionary and national missions.

The Significance of Doctrine

The word doctrine has different connotations. For many people, it recalls lofty and arcane discussion by theorists and academicians that offers little to average military personnel trying to operate down at the unit level. The US Air Force points this out very well in its basic doctrine manual, warning us against settling for the rules of thumb so often used in operations.2 Instead, we must capture the accumulated body of knowledge, consciously and formally incorporating it into doctrine, which consists of fundamental principles by which militaries shape their actions in support of national objectives and, on operational and tactical levels, in support of the commander's intent.3 Ideally, all major operations are based on a campaign plan that reflects doctrinal principles and tenets derived from the "accumulated body of knowledge" mentioned above. But in some instances, the Italian Air Force has not followed these almost obvious recommendations, performing some military operations with neither a precise doctrinal strategy in mind nor a strategic directive-or simply without completely applying appropriate basic principles and tenets of doctrine. By way of accounting for this situation, historian Frank Futrell suggests that airmen, not known as prolific writers, have "developed an oral rather than a written tradition."4 Additionally, some leaders believe that "adherence to dogmas has destroyed more armies and cost more battles than anything in war."5 In fact, bad doctrine overly bounds and restricts creativity, and if "not properly developed, and especially if parochialism is allowed to creep in, doctrine will point to suboptimal solutions."6 In the case of Italian Predator operations in Iraq, no strategic doctrine existed for UAVs in general or for Predators in particular. Although the first two reasons may have played some role, the main reason for not having such guidance was the lack of previous experience with this specific asset and insufficient time to develop sound, timely doctrine. Even if UAVs are no longer considered a technical innovation in the United States, where research and development related to these aircraft are significantly advanced, they represent a significant leap forward for the Italian Air Force. But an air force needs more than advanced technology to provide effective capability. After purchasing Predator technology "off the shelf," Italy's air service rapidly fielded it in Iraq before developing a strategy or doctrine for employment. Predictably, its Predator force suffered the consequences, learned many valuable lessons, and should profit from this experience.

Command and Control of Airpower: Doctrinal Basics

In the realm of doctrine, C2 has always been considered an important issue for military organizations and leaders. A vital and integral part of war fighting, it requires careful planning and execution in order to be effective. In the beginning of Italian aviation history, the famous air theorist Giulio Douhet wrote that "the war in the air is the true war of movement, in which swift intuition, swifter decision, and still swifter execution are needed. It is the kind of warfare in which the outcome will largely be dependent upon the commander."7 Indeed, Italians in Iraq learned what Americans had experienced in Serbia, just seven years before, as noted in the Air War over Serbia Report:

In the air war over Serbia, command and control worked well at the tactical level. For example, the rapid re-targeting of attack aircraft against targets detected by the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle was innovative and quite successful. At the operational and strategic levels, however, Air Force leaders repeatedly noted two dominant problems. The first was that command and control structures and coordination procedures were overlapping and confusing. The principle of unity of command must be reinforced in future training, doctrine, and operations.8

The Italian Air Force experienced surprisingly similar problems in Iraq. That service could have better exploited American lessons learned with Predators to compensate for its lack of experience with this asset, especially in the C2 architecture, since US forces have operated UAVs in general and Predators in particular since 1995.9

At an even higher level, each military leader should be able to apply C2 principles and tenets universally since they are considered common knowledge. Unity of command, for example, "ensures concentration of effort for every objective under one responsible commander."10 Simplicity calls for "avoiding unnecessary complexity in organizing, preparing, planning, and conducting military operations."11 One must also prioritize air and space power, thus assuring that demand for air and space forces will not overwhelm air commanders in future conflicts.12 But these abstract principles require an operational capability to put them into practice. Gen Ronald R. Fogleman, former US Air Force chief of staff, once said that "a commander without the proper C2 assets commands nothing except a desk."13 Effective C2 becomes possible only by dedicating significant resources for equipping, training, and exercising C2 operators; thus, US Air Force doctrine directs commanders to "ensure their people are fully proficient at using designated C2 systems when performing wartime duties."14

Antica Babilonia: Italy's Debut in UAV Operations

Italy's involvement with the multinational forces in Iraq began on 15 April 2003 when Franco Frattini, minister for foreign affairs, addressed Parliament on the government's intent to support the military coalition in Iraq. About a month later, Defense Minister Antonio Martino instructed the military to plan the deployment of a national contingent to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483. The resulting military operation, known as Antica Babilonia, began on 15 July 2003, consisting of an Italian joint task force formed around an army infantry brigade.15

At that time, Iraqi Freedom had just "ended major combat" and had started security, stability transition, and reconstruction operations.16 Combined Joint Task Force 7 in Baghdad included two US-led multinational divisions in north and northwest Iraq, a Polish-led multinational division in south-central Iraq, and a British-led multinational division in southeast Iraq. By 15 May 2004, coalition forces had organized into two commands, Multi-National Force-Iraq as the operational command, and Multi-National Corps-Iraq as the tactical command, with Italy's participation described by a national operational directive.17 For Antica Babilonia, three Italian general officers assumed key positions in the Baghdad headquarters.18 A sector within the British multinational division was assigned as an area of responsibility (AOR) to the Italian joint task force, commanded by a fourth Italian general.19

Unfortunately, the end of major combat did not mean that peace had returned to Iraq. The Italian 3,000-soldier contingent, based in An-Nasirya, the capital of Dhi Qar province, faced violent conflict between US-led coalition forces and insurgents.20 For the most part, Antica Babilonia focused on stabilization operations, security-sector reforms, training, and nation-building measures.21 Deployed forces and assets underwent adjustments according to the changing threat. Land forces were augmented by a joint air task group of two helicopter squadrons and, since January 2005, by a UAV squadron equipped with RQ-1 Predators for surveillance and reconnaissance missions.22

Predator Command and Control Architecture: A Complicated Puzzle

The following observation, found in a US joint publication on multinational operations, certainly applied to Antica Babilonia: "No single command structure meets the needs of every multinational command but one absolute remains constant; political considerations will heavily influence the ultimate shape of the command structure."23 Italy, however, did not always keep in mind the principle of simplicity when it established the Predator C2 system. In fact, it opted for a model that allowed for coalition employment of its forces but also ensured national control, particularly for key assets (fig. 1). Drawing on its experience with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Italy used the latter's doctrine to define its command relationships. For example, the Italian Capo di Stato Maggiore della Difesa (defense chief of staff) always wields operational command (OPCOM), the highest level of command in the military hierarchy, comparable to combatant command in the US military. His functions are similar to those of the US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, although the Italian officer has command authority over the service chiefs. The defense chief of staff in Rome retained OPCOM of the Italian forces deployed to Iraq. The following command relationships applied:

  • Tactical Control (TACON): "the detailed and, usually, local direction and control of movements or manoeuvres necessary to accomplish missions or tasks assigned."24
  • Operational Control (OPCON): "authority delegated to a commander to direct forces assigned so that the commander may accomplish specific missions or tasks which are usually limited by function, time, or location; to deploy units concerned, and to retain or assign tactical control of those units. It does not include authority to assign separate employment of components of the units concerned. Neither does it, of itself, include administrative or logistic control."25
  • OPCOM: "authority granted a commander to assign missions or tasks to subordinate commanders, to deploy units, to reassign forces, and to retain or delegate operational and/or tactical control as he or she deems necessary. . . . It does not include responsibility for administration."26
  • Administrative Control (ADCON): "direction or exercise of authority over subordinate or other organizations in respect to administration and support, including organization of service forces, control of resources and equipment, personnel management, unit logistics, individual and unit training, readiness, mobilization, demobilization, discipline and other matters not included in the operational missions of the subordinate or other organizations."27

Graphic showing diagram of UAV and helicopter command and control in Antica Babilonia. (Adapted from Direttiva Operativa Nazionale COI-O-153-R [Roma: Comando Operativo di Vertice Interforze, April 2005]

Figure 1. UAV and helicopter command and control in Antica Babilonia. (Adapted from Direttiva Operativa Nazionale COI-O-153-R [Roma: Comando Operativo di Vertice Interforze, April 2005].)

OPCON of most Italian forces, however, was transferred to the British commander of Multi-National Division-Southeast in Basra. The Predators represented a significant exception to this command relationship in that the Comandante del Comando Operativo di Vertice Interforze (COI) or chief of the permanent joint task force retained OPCON of those UAVs as a national-only asset, made available to the coalition on an excess-availability basis. The COI and his staff plan, prepare, and direct joint military operations and exercises for the defense chief of staff. The COI does not deploy from his location in Rome but can deploy a theater joint task force with OPCON of assigned assets.28

In Antica Babilonia, the chief of the permanent joint task force retained Predator OPCON, unlike that of helicopters, for all missions within the AOR, exercised through the national contingent commander, who also commanded the Italian joint task force on the coalition side and represented unity of command of the Italian contingent through a dual-hatted arrangement. Even though the same person holds these positions (national contingent commander and commander of the Italian joint task force), the remainder of this article uses the terms separately to indicate the chain of command (national only for national contingent commander, coalition for Italian joint task force) under discussion.

On the other hand, missions requested by other Italian national agencies and the coalition, if not in direct support of the Italian contingent, required case-by-case direct approval from the chief of the permanent joint task force, who exercised OPCON directly over Predator operations. The air component commander, head of an air-forward command element acting both as tasking authority for the Predator squadron and coordinating agency with Iraqi Freedom's combined air operations center (CAOC) in Al Udeid, Qatar, exercised TACON of the UAVs.29 Although helicopters and UAVs were part of the same joint air task group of the Italian joint task force, the former fell under TACON of the joint air task group commander but the latter under TACON of the air component commander.30 The commander of the joint air task group also exercised ADCON over the UAV personnel.

In summary, the Italian defense chief of staff assigned the mission and tasks (under his OPCOM authority) to a different subordinate commander-the COI commander or chief of the permanent joint task force-in order to deploy a joint task force in Iraq. The chief of the permanent joint task force then delegated OPCON to the joint task force commander, except for Predators. Figure 1 shows the dual-hatted relationship of the Italian joint task force on the left of the diagram (representing the coalition chain of command) and the national contingent commander on the right of the diagram (representing the Italian chain of command). US Air Force doctrine calls for caution when "multi-hatting" commanders because doing so could distract them from focusing on the right level of war at the right time. On the other hand, not multi-hatting a commander may degrade unity of effort, which, as we will see later, occurred in the case of Italian Predator activities at the tactical level.

Unity of Command and Unity of Effort

Unity of command is a principle of war.31 As stated before, such concepts are not always taken into consideration, as was the case with Italian Predators in Iraq. Figure 1 shows that the Predator squadron had two separate lines of authority: a relationship with the commander of the joint air task group (ADCON) and one with the air component commander (TACON). Despite having a single commander at the operational level-the national contingent commander/commander of the Italian joint task force-in practice, this double relationship meant that two different tactical commanders existed for the same UAV squadron. This apparently minor issue turned out to be one of the main sources of C2 problems.

Presumably, the original rationale behind this structure entailed having a single commander for all air assets (commander of the joint air task group). But when Predators were "plugged in" to what was a joint helicopter squadron in 2005, headquarters in Rome required a national-only line of command and introduced the air component commander.32 While the air component commander exercised TACON over the Predators, the joint air task group commander had responsibility for their administration and support. This arrangement often caused friction.

In 2005 official quarterly reports from Italian air component commanders to their superior command in Italy showed continuous evidence of confusion, rivalry, and overlapping authority between officers appointed as air component commanders and joint air task group commanders.33 Personnel assigned to the UAV squadron frequently referred their problems either to the air component commander or the joint air task group commander, without really understanding who was responsible for what. The national operational directive lacked sufficient detail to distinguish between the authority of the joint air task group commander and air component commander. According to that directive, the joint air task group commander was responsible for providing all daily support to personnel and for filing efficiency reports for every single Italian aviator deployed in Tallil, Iraq, except the air component commander. He commanded a full staff, which enabled robust support in ensuring the execution of his decisions.

On the other hand, although the air component commander had only one officer and one warrant officer directly supporting him, he exercised full authority over Predator missions and tactical command over personnel involved in them, from planning through execution. The authority of the air component commander, typically functional in nature, was often misinterpreted by some operators and sometimes by the two commanders themselves, especially in overlapping activities involving both supporting and operational tasks such as management of the intelligence exploitation cell, distribution of imagery-intelligence products, and management of technical personnel. This slowed decision-making processes, and personnel appeared generally confused and sometimes even reluctant to speak up about problems. For example, in May 2006, when an Italian UAV crashed due to a malfunction, there was no specific, detailed plan for its emergency recovery.34 Although analysts had predicted the problem in previous months and despite intensive effort to lay down plans and procedures, lack of a decision about who had approval authority prevented agreement on a final plan.35

Because of the location of the joint air task group commander and air component commander under separate chains of command, unity of effort required a strong working relationship and a shared sense of mission. The two commanders eventually committed to daily meetings in Tallil to solve issues related to UAV C2, but one should not consider this a permanent fix. Competition for resources, lack of understanding of aircraft capabilities, and competing mission priorities could destroy even the most cordial arrangement.

One must not leave the effective C2 of precious air assets to chance. Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, tells us that "unity of command ensures concentration of effort for every objective under one responsible commander. This principle emphasizes that all efforts should be directed and coordinated toward a common objective."36 AFDD 1 also calls for centralized control and decentralized execution to assure concentrated effort.37 During World War II, the Allies learned from their mistakes and adapted their doctrine accordingly:

As Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Eisenhower invoked new doctrine by insisting upon a single air commander reporting directly to him. The Allied campaign in North Africa during World War II began with air power parceled out to various commanders. . . . The limitations of this arrangement quickly became apparent, particularly during the battle at Kasserine Pass. During the 1943 Casablanca Conference, Roosevelt and Churchill approved a new command structure that centralized control under an airman. This new concept quickly found its way into Army doctrine: "Control of available airpower must be centralized and command must be exercised through the air force commander if this inherent flexibility and ability to deliver a decisive blow are to be fully exploited."38

The above example draws its lessons learned from one of the largest conflicts in history, whereas the Italian air effort in Iraq drew support from a relatively small number of helicopters and Predators (10 and four, respectively). Unity of command, unity of effort, and simplicity constitute fundamental principles of war that one must apply across the range of military operations and at all levels of war.39 The Italian Predator operation should not have been an exception to this basic doctrine.

Consequences of Misplaced Operational Control

OPCON of the Italian Predators during Antica Babilonia resulted in several problems, such as inappropriate employment in relation to their capabilities and characteristics, slower decision-making processes, and confused target prioritization.40 Simply "falling in on" the existing joint task force clearly showed a lack of operational innovation. For instance, the headquarters of the joint task force would request UAV support with little or no advance notice in response to the immediate tactical needs of ground troops, as if the Predators were an air-defense asset ready to be "scrambled." This practice probably resulted from the Italian joint task force's familiarity with the Pointer, a man-portable, low-altitude, short-range small UAV. However, a Predator, unlike a Pointer, needs at least one hour of ground checks, so by the time it reaches the area of operations, it is too late to meet the immediate intelligence requirements of ground forces. This procedure initially caused significant problems with the CAOC in Al Udeid because, although Italian helicopters did not not require inclusion in the CAOC's air tasking order, the Predators did. Predators, which usually fly at higher altitudes than helicopters, require air-traffic deconfliction. Failure to follow airspace-control orders and air-traffic procedures greatly increases the risk of a mishap with other aircraft flying in the same altitude block.

Because the CAOC included no Italian liaison officer, the Predator mission had no advocate and frequently lacked the information and coordination channels to make timely decisions. On several occasions, the author witnessed ineffective Predator missions because he could not obtain air-traffic deconfliction over busy areas such as Baghdad or last-minute changes to the air tasking order. Flights were sometimes cancelled at the last minute, result ing in frustration and wasted effort for both the Predator crews and the tasking agencies in Rome.

When broadcasting capability of satellite imagery became available and the chief of the permanent joint task force in Rome began to receive Predator imagery, strategic needs soon trumped tactical ones, and the C2 architecture appeared even more inappropriate than before. When, for example, other commands-such as the British in Basra or intelligence agencies in Rome-tasked specific strategic missions, only vague priority criteria existed to deconflict missions assigned at the tactical level. This situation forced the air component commander to seek clarification and case-by-case authorizations from Rome, a task made even more difficult by limited secure communications.

Since Predators originally "fell in" as an organic tactical asset under the deployed joint task force commander, no special mechanism was in place at higher levels of command to deal with immediate operational issues. There was no continuously functioning operations center with visibility or decisional authority over UAV missions in Rome, the source of many strategic Predator missions. One had to process necessary clearances during working hours, coordinate extensively with different offices, and-since no one was officially in charge-obtain authorizations from the highest levels. This resulted in confusion, frustration at all levels of command, a slower decision-making process, and unclear prioritization of missions. Additionally, some Italian joint task force commanders regarded Predators as a limited resource for the fulfilment of the Italian contingent's mission in Iraq, despite the significant expenditure of money needed to rent the satellite bandwidth required to fly strategic missions tasked by Rome.41 These examples demonstrate why we must take a fresh look at our doctrine and ad hoc C2, particularly the assumption that UAVs should remain under a land component commander deployed in-theater.

In doctrinal terms, Americans have never assigned Predator OPCON to a commander deployed into a theater. The Italian choice could prove dangerous because of the strong temptation to control these aircraft at the tactical level, which would prevent optimum employment and even abort operational innovation. In particular, one could conclude that Predators are too expensive if one uses them simply to watch what happens on the other side of the hill-a role for which Pointers and other kinds of UAVs have been specifically engineered. Imperfect understanding of the characteristics and missions of Predators could jeopardize the potential roles of UAVs in the Italian armed forces since their cost-effectiveness might appear insufficient. In the near future, technology will offer Italians better opportunities to link Predator imagery to a strategic headquarters in Italy or a CAOC anywhere in the world. UAVs may have an attack role, and their flights will require integration into a more complex and robust air effort-likely at a CAOC. One will understand and employ them as more than a tactical asset, but current Italian C2 relationships and capabilities are not up to the task. Learning how to command and control UAVs from a distance takes time and resources-improvisation is not an option.

Operational Control: An Examination of Alternatives

Ultimately, one develops doctrinal principles from real-world experience.42 In Iraq, the chief of the permanent joint task force chose to delegate OPCON of UAVs to the national contingent commander, who, in practical terms, served as the land component commander deployed into the AOR (air force personnel comprised only 3 percent of the total Italian force).43 This modus operandi -assigning OPCON of air assets to the deployed joint task force commander-has been used in every past Italian expeditionary joint operation, and the joint task force commander is usually an army officer. But since 1995 Americans have never assigned Predator OPCON to a deployed land component commander, and we should remember that US forces have accumulated more than a decade of operational experience with UAVs.

The first European deployment of US Predators occurred during Operation Nomad Vigil in April 1995 in support of Joint Task Force Provide Promise, based in Gjader, Albania. The joint task force's headquarters provided tasking through the Southern Region Joint Operations Intelligence Center in Naples, Italy. The NATO CAOC in Vicenza, Italy, performed the required airspace coordination.44 The second European deployment occurred in March 1996 for Operation Nomad Endeavor in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, with Predators based in Taszar, Hungary. Tasking came from a forward element of US European Command through the US National Intelligence Cell at Vicenza, Italy. OPCON of the Predators remained with European Command, and NATO's CAOC exercised TACON.45

One finds the same architecture in 1999 during Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, where the United States used Predators for the first time in the targeting role.46 Before Allied Force, Predators could transmit targeting imagery to their operators on the ground as part of the intelligence-collection network. During the Kosovo operation, the Americans invented new processes to exploit Predator data feeds with advanced technology and procedures for analysis. Doing so enabled review of Predator video in real time, and analysts immediately provided pilots with the location of mobile Serb targets. In Afghanistan and Iraq, tasking came from US Central Command's CAOC in Al Udeid, while imagery was centrally analyzed in the United States, where operators remotely controlled the Predator missions and received imagery via satellite communications.47 So, forward air-command elements exercised TACON only-limited to launching, recovering, and maintaining the aircraft; in none of these missions did the Americans delegate OPCON to a land component commander deployed in the AOR, as the Italians have done in Iraq.

This does not mean second-guessing Italian military planners since at the beginning of the operations, that was the only option available. In fact, until Predators reached full operational capability, one could broadcast their imagery only within the theater, so OPCON by any element outside the theater would have destroyed the usefulness of near-real-time imagery. Surprisingly though, even the attainment of full capability on 17 February 2006 changed nothing in the C2 structure, raising the question "Why?"48

One possible explanation is that the Italian Air Force has mainly deployed helicopters in past joint or combined expeditionary operations.49 Typically considered an organic asset of terrestrial units according to Italian Army doctrine, helicopters have always remained under the OPCON of the deployed task force commander since they better served tactical, rather than strategic, roles. Over the years, this has reinforced a doctrinal mind-set that if one had to deploy land forces, any air asset (usually helicopters) would come under the authority of a land component commander, who also headed the joint task force. So when Predators first deployed to Iraq, a lack of operational experience and the absence of Predator doctrine led planners to assume they could be managed just like helicopters; thus, the deployed task force commander exercised OPCON of these aircraft. Another plausible reason for this choice is that the Italian joint task force already included a reconnaissance, surveillance, and target-acquisition army regiment equipped with Pointer UAVs.50 The similar roles of Predators and Pointers may have led to the assumption that one could manage their C2 in the same way.


Based on the considerations discussed so far, what would represent the most appropriate C2 architecture for Italian Predators in future expeditionary operations? First, the Italian Air Force should review its air doctrine from an expeditionary perspective and articulate a strategic vision for near-term and midterm UAV operations. It should incorporate current and future UAV capabilities and missions for supporting the joint force with near-real-time reconnaissance and surveillance and possibly target acquisition, as well as widely accepted doctrine on C2.51 Additionally, UAV units should support a single chain of command.52 The Italian experience in Iraq has confirmed what US doctrine recognized as early as 1993: when "UAV units are tasked to support more than one command . . . simultaneously, degradation of effectiveness can result."53

Second, UAV doctrine should also emphasize the appointment of a single air component commander, rather than two commanders, in order to grant better unity of command and simplicity. Deployed air units, typically a joint air task group, should remain subordinate to a single deployed commander with tactical command over all air assets and should receive a single air tasking order from the Italian air and space operations center (AOC), NATO CAOC, or coalition CAOC, depending on the nature of the conflict.

Third, doctrine should describe the roles of the national AOC and lay a foundation for determining the necessary capabilities and resources it requires.54 The US Air Force has dedicated tremendous effort to standing up its AOCs as a "weapon system" to support joint and coalition operations.55 For instance, it awarded a $589 million contract to Lockheed Martin Corporation to serve as the AOC Weapon System Integrator, evolving C2 centers to support net-centric joint and coalition operations worldwide.56 Although the Italian Air Force may have neither the requirements nor resources to go this far, it does need to carefully determine the AOC's role in the C2 of its UAVs, the ways in which it can play a role in better integrating UAV operations, and the resources it will apply toward the problem. Figure 2 provides a basic sample layout for future C2 architectures in expeditionary operations that assumes full connectivity with deployed UAVs: (1) a single, dual-hatted airman for helicopters (or other air assets) and Predators (unity of command and simplicity) and (2) Predator OPCON assigned to the Italian Air Force's joint force Air component commander in Italy and exercised through the AOC.

Graphic showing diagram of Suggested notional C2 structure for future UAV deployments

Figure 2. Suggested notional C2 structure for future UAV deployments

Giving OPCON of UAVs exclusively to the joint force air component commander will ensure command of air forces by an airman. The peculiarity of air assets in general, and Predators in particular, requires specifically trained personnel and consolidated experience in the C2 of the air domain-better achieved by an airman. AFDD 1 makes it clear: "The axiom that 'airmen work for airmen, and the senior airman works for the joint force commander . . .' not only preserves the principle of unity of command, it also embodies the principle of simplicity."57 As Predators and future UAVs move closer to Douhet's original vision, becoming a decisive asset in a "true war of movement," they will indeed require "swift intuition" and "swifter decision." It follows, then, that we must empower the joint force air component commander to both command and control.


Antica Babilonia was the first military operation with Predator UAVs for the Italian armed forces. Because the general trend in military aviation is toward unmanned systems, we must be ready. The Italian Air Force, in particular, must ensure that its unmanned-aviation technology is paired with sound, timely doctrine-starting with the fundamentals of C2.

If properly applied without overly bounding or restricting creativity, basic principles and tenets such as unity of command, unity of effort, simplicity, priority, airmen commanding airmen, and appropriate levels of C2 will offer a good starting point for future UAV doctrine. In the specific case of Predators, we should not limit lessons learned to Italian national experience. Rather, we must include other valuable perspectives, such as those of the Americans, since they have operated the same system worldwide for more than a decade. Our way forward will require not only an investment in technology but also an intellectual investment. As Douhet's proud successors, we cannot morally afford to ignore his teachings. For the Italian Air Force, the time to change is now.


1. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, s.v., "MQ-1 Predator," (accessed 8 February 2007).

2. Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 17 November 2003, 1.

3. Ibid., 3.

4. Quoted in ibid. 2.

5. J. F. C. Fuller quoted in ibid. 4.

6. Ibid.

7. Quoted in AFDD 2-8, Command and Control, 16 February 2001, 1. (This document was replaced by a new version as of 1 June 2007.)

8. Quoted in ibid., 13.

9. "RQ-1 Predator MAE UAV, MQ-9A Predator B," Global Security. org, 20 October 2006, security. org/intell/systems/predator.htm.

10. AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 20.

11. Ibid., 26.

12. Ibid., 32.

13. Quoted in AFDD 2-8, Command and Control, 43.

14. Ibid.

15. Ministero della Difesa, "Comando Operativo di Vertice Interforze (COI), Cosa è," 2003, http://www.difesa .it/SMD/COI/cosaè.htm.

16. On 1 May 2003, from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, Pres. George W. Bush declared major combat ended."President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended," The White House, 1 May2003, 05/20030501-15.html.

17. "Multi-National Force-Iraq," SourceWatch, 2 September 2006, =Multi-National_Force-Iraq. The national operational directive (Direttiva Operativa Nazionale in Italian) is the military directive describing the assigned mission and C2 relationship among units. Direttiva Operativa Nazionale COI•O-153-R (Roma: ComandoOperativo di Vertice Interforze, April 2005).

18. The three generals held the following positions: chief, coalition operations (Multi-National Force-Iraq), deputy commander ITSNR (Multi-National Corps-Iraq), and deputy commander (Multi-National Division-Southeast). Direttiva Operativa Nazionale COI-OPR-153-R. (Restricted) Information extracted is unclassified.

19. An Italian brigadier general was permanently appointed as deputy commander, Multi-National Division-Southeast. Direttiva Operativa Nazionale COI-OPR-153-R. (Restricted) Information extracted is unclassified.

20. Wikipedia: L'enciclopedia libera, s.v., "Guerra in Iraq" (see "Il coinvolgimento italiano"), http://it.wikipedia .org/wiki/Guerra_in_Iraq#Il_coinvolgimento_italiano (accessed 5 February 2007).

21. Direttiva Operativa Nazionale COI-OPR-153-R. (Restricted) Information extracted is unclassified.

22. Ibid.

23. Joint Publication (JP) 3-16, Multinational Operations, 7 March 2007, II-5.

24. NATO Standardization Agency, AAP-6 (2007), NATO Glossary of Terms and Definitions (English and French), 2-T-2,

25. Ibid., 2-O-3.

26. Ibid.

27. AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 93. The Italian armed forces refer to ADCON as comando gerarchico-typical of an airexpeditionary unit commander. Normally, this authority includes tactical command over operational units, so the Predator's case has been an exception.

28. Ministero della Difesa, "Comando Operativo."

29. For this operation, the term air component commander identifies the UAV (only) air component commander. His authority did not affect helicopter assets, which remained under a separate authority (commander of the joint air task group). The author was UAV air component commander from December 2005 to May 2006. Direttiva Operativa Nazionale COI-O-153-R.

30. The joint air task group (Reparto Operativo Autonomo in Italian) was based on an air force helicopter squadron for combat search and rescue and a dual-role (attack and mobility) army squadron. Ibid.

31. AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 20.

32. The joint air task group was based on two air force squadrons (one equipped with helicopters for search and rescue and the other equipped with Predators for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions) and one army squadron (equipped with attack helicopters).

33. The air component commander reported daily and quarterly to the Italian Comando Operativo Forze Aeree (COFA), based inPoggio Renatico (Ferrara), Italy. Commanded by the joint force air component commander, the COFA had only logistic support authority over Predators. Nevertheless it received quarterly reports from the air component commander and joint air task group commander, as the air force command.

34. Official news of the Predator accident was reported to the joint force air component commander in Italy in May 2006 at the COFA during a briefing by the air component commander on the post mission report. This information has also appeared in the quarterly Operation Antica Babilonia report, but details remain classified. On the Web, one can find general information in specialized international magazines. See "Italian Predator Crashes in Iraq,", 18 May 2006, http://www.air-attackcom/news/news_article/1617/Italian-Predator-Crashes-in -Iraq.html.

35. Author's participation in post mission briefings and experience drafting procedures for Predator recovery in Operation Antica Babilonia.

36. AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 20.

37. Ibid., 29.

38. AFDD 2-8, Command and Control, 5.

39. JP 3-0, Joint Operations, 17 September 2006, II-1.

40."Operazione Antica Babilonia," Air Component Commander Quarterly Report (Poggio Renatico: Comando Operativo Forze Aeree, May 2006).

41. Ibid.

42. AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 7.

43. Direttiva Operativa Nazionale COI-O-153-R (Roma: Comando Operativo di Vertice Interforze, April 2005).

44. "RQ-1 Predator MAE UAV, MQ-9A Predator B."

45. Ibid.

46. Statement of General John P. Jumper, Commander, United States Air Forces in Europe, 106th Cong., 1st sess., 26 October 1999, 99-10-26jumper.htm.

47. According to the author's experience in the daily UAV tasking process in Tallil, all Predator missions had to be coordinated with US Central Command Air Forces' CAOC in Al Udeid, Qatar, which disseminated the air tasking order after the appropriate air-traffic deconfliction.

48. "Operazione Antica Babilonia."

49. After World War II, Italian tactical aircraft have flown in joint and combined combat operations in only two cases: Operation Desert Storm (17 January 1991, the first combat mission since World War II) and Allied Force in 1999. "L'Aeronautica Militare Oggi: La Guerra del Golfo," Aeronautica Militare, 9 September 2002,; and Wikipedia: L'enciclopedia libera, s.v., "Operazione Allied Force" (see "La partecipazione italiana"), _Force#La_partecipazione_italiana.

50. Direttiva Operativa Nazionale COI-O-153-R.

51. Unlike the US Predator, the current version of the Italian Air Force's Predator lacks target-designation capability.

52. JP 3-55.1, Doctrine for Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Support for Joint Operations, 14 April 1993. Even if it is no longer current, this publication underlines some capstones and tenets that remain important, such as those in chapter 2, "Employment." See

53. Ibid.

54. The Italian AOC is presently embedded in a major command-the COFA (see note 33), colocated with NATO's CAOC 5 in Poggio Renatico, Italy. This means that the integration between the national and NATO C2 functions could also be enhanced for future coalition UAV operations if NATO's joint force air component commander and his AOC exercise OPCON.

55. The Air and Space Operations Center - Weapon System, AN/USQ-163 Falconer, for example, is the senior element of the US theater air control system. The cost of this program in 2004 was $26.982 million. See various unclassified exhibits regarding the Air and Space Operation Center - Weapon System, February 2005, http://www AirForce/0207410F.pdf.

56. John McHale, "ESC Awards $589 Million AOC Weapon-System Integrator Contract," Military and Aerospace Electronics, October 2006, cfm?article_id=275862.

57. AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, x.


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