Operationalizing the Gant Approach in Afghanistan

BruceR offers some typically thoughtful suggestions for operationalizing Maj. Jim Gant’s “One Tribe at a Time” approach, which I tore to shreds here, but have since seen increasingly mentioned as playing a major role in the Obama administration’s strategy discussions. Here’s Bruce’s jumping off point:

You can’t rebuild Afghanistan using Gant’s methods, true, but I thinkit’s really being looked into more as another method of keeping theenemy hopping in areas where a sustained government or ISAF presence isuneconomical at present. And that’s not a totally crazy idea. If the alternatives are Predator strikes and SOF kinetic ops involvingblack-painted helicopters and door-kicking, Gant-type teams could evenbe the more economical way of keeping the Taliban from settling down inan abandoned area.

He then discusses two requirements for making a limited application of Gant’s proposal work.

I guess the takeaway, and what the Obama plan will reportedly emphasize, is that there isn’t one single approach that will work across the country, and even if there were, we don’t have the resources to implement it. So it pays to try out different approaches in different areas. That’s probably the weakness of COIN as doctrine, which comes across as monolithic groupthink. But the doctrine in its current incarnation evolved from the operational environment in Iraq, where local commanders had the space to improvise tactically on the ground.

So as Bruce suggests, within the “inkspot” areas, a more hierarchical chain of command is probably necessary. But outside of them, highly autonomous small teams might be a better way to take advantage of the potential for spontaneity and initiative.