CAN WE DO COIN?….Are 15-month combat tours too long? Definitely. How about 12-month tours? Phil Carter thinks even those are too long, and prefers the 7-month tours mandated by the Marine Corps. This prompted me to ask on Friday, “Are 7-month tours consistent with the learning-curve requirements of counterinsurgency?” Over the weekend, Phil answered:

This is a great question. The short answer is no, not by a long shot.

Counterinsurgency requires detailed knowledge of the human, geographic, political and social terrain, and it takes time to acquire that knowledge. I’d say it became effective around the fifth or sixth month of my tour as a police adviser in Iraq. Arguably, advisers, commanders and troops operating outside the wire should serve longer tours in order to develop and cement their relationships, and capitalize on them.

Phil suggests that deploying units back to the same areas instead of rotating them through different areas on every tour might help, but his overall conclusion is, “It’s a real dilemma.” Short tours don’t give you enough time to learn the ground and the people, but long tours eat up the troops. There’s no good middle ground.