Jim Kouri
War on terrorism: defining "hybrid warfare"
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By Jim Kouri
September 17, 2010

Intelligence sources tracked Nur Mohammed and two armed insurgents to a field in Kabul province's remote Musahi district. After careful planning to ensure no civilians were present, coalition aircraft conducted a precision air strike on the insurgents.

A security force confirmed that Nur Mohammad and his two associates were dead. The security force also found automatic weapons, grenades and bomb-making materials.


Senior Pentagon officials recently testified before the U.S. House of Representatives that current and future adversaries are likely to use "hybrid warfare" tactics, a blending of conventional and irregular approaches across the full spectrum of conflict.

In addition, several academic and professional trade publications have commented that future conflict will likely be characterized by a fusion of different forms of warfare rather than a singular approach. The overarching implication of hybrid warfare is that U.S. forces must become more adaptable and flexible in order to defeat adversaries that employ an array of lethal technologies to protracted conflicts such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Within the United States and its territories such as Puerto Rico, Guam, etc. this will necessarily entail training federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

Department of Defense officials have discussed the need to counter the threats that U.S. forces could face from non-state- and state-sponsored adversaries, including computer network and satellite attacks; portable surface-to-air missiles; improvised explosive devices (IEDs); information and media manipulation; and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive devices.

In light of references to "hybrid warfare" by senior military officials and possible implications it could have for DOD's strategic planning, Congress requested that the General Accountability Office examine whether DOD has defined hybrid warfare and how hybrid warfare differs from other types of warfare, and the extent to which DOD is considering the implications of hybrid warfare in its overarching strategic planning documents.

Senior military officials in recent public testimony asserted the increased likelihood of U.S. forces encountering an adversary that uses hybrid warfare tactics, techniques, and procedures. However, DOD has not officially defined hybrid warfare at this time and has no plans to do so because DOD does not consider it a new form of warfare.

Rather, officials from the Joint Staff, the four military services, and U.S. Joint Forces Command reported that their use of the term hybrid warfare describes the increasing complexity of future conflicts as well as the nature of the threat. Moreover, the DOD organizations differed on their descriptions of hybrid warfare.

For example, according to Air Force officials, hybrid warfare is a potent, complex variation of irregular warfare. U.S. Special Operations Command officials, though, do not use the term hybrid warfare, stating that current doctrine on traditional and irregular warfare is sufficient to describe the current and future operational environment. Although hybrid warfare is not an official term, analysts found references to "hybrid" and hybrid-related concepts in some DOD strategic planning documents; however, "hybrid warfare" has not been incorporated into DOD doctrine.

For example, according to some officials, hybrid was used in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Report to draw attention to the increasing complexity of future conflicts and the need for adaptable, resilient U.S. forces, and not to introduce a new form of warfare. The military services and U.S. Joint Forces Command also use the term "hybrid" in some of their strategic planning documents to articulate how each is addressing current and future threats, such as the cyber threat; however, the term "full spectrum" often is used in addition to or in lieu of hybrid.

© Jim Kouri

 

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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)

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