A COIN Question

A COIN QUESTION….The Army recently announced that combat tours in Iraq will be reduced from 15 months to 12, but Phil Carter writes that this still isn’t enough:

Many soldiers I know are literally green with envy over the Marines’ shorter seven-month tours, which are modeled on the Marines’ practice of floating combat units abroad for six-month-long cruises. The Army used a similar model during the peacekeeping deployments of the 1990s.

….A 12-month combat tour is a different story….The combat-stress literature suggests there is a finite limit to the quantity of combat an individual can experience before he/she breaks down and becomes “combat ineffective.” For sustained major combat operations, like Guadalcanal or the Hurtgen Forest, that figure is 60 days or so. We don’t know exactly what the figure is for sustained counterinsurgency operations of the sort practiced in Baghdad or Baqubah. But there is a limit.

OK, but here’s a question for Phil: are 7-month tours consistent with the learning-curve requirements of counterinsurgency? I’ve heard frequently that one of our problems in Iraq, even with 12-month tours, has been the constant churn of new troops and new commanders into an area, which requires several months after each rotation to build back the trust and relationships put in place by the previous unit. So are we in a Catch-22, where short deployments cause too much churn for COIN operations to be successful, while longer deployments cause too much troop stress for COIN operations to be successful?

This, by the way, comes from Phil’s new home at the Washington Post. If you haven’t changed your bookmark yet, Intel Dump is now at:


It’s worth being on your daily reading list.