'US learns from Lebanon war failures'

'Washington Post': Pentagon has dispatched teams to interview IDF officers who fought against Hizbullah.

2nd lebanon war cool 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
2nd lebanon war cool 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The US Department of Defense has dispatched a dozen teams to interview IDF officers who fought against Hizbullah in the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006 to learn from the failures of the campaign, the Washington Post reported Monday morning. The paper also said that the US Army and Marine Corps had arranged a succession of multi-million-dollar drills to simulate battles against enemies similar to Hizbullah guerrillas. "I've organized five major games in the last two years, and all of them have focused on Hizbullah," Frank Hoffman, a research fellow at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico was quoted by the Washington Post as saying. The newspaper went on to say that the 34-day war highlighted a rift among US military leaders, with some wanting to alter the US military so that it would be better prepared for wars like those being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and others worrying that such a change could leave the US vulnerable in a more conventional military campaign. "The Lebanon war has become a bellwether," said Stephen Biddle, a senior official at the Council on Foreign Relations who has advised Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, according to the newspaper. "If you are opposed to transforming the military to fight low-intensity wars, it is your bloody sheet. It's discussed in almost coded communication to indicate which side of the argument you are on." The report went on to say that US military experts were surprised by the destruction that Hizbullah inflicted on IDF armored columns using sophisticated anti-tank guided missiles. The newspaper cited a study by the Army's Combat Studies Institute that concluded last year: "From 2000 to 2006 Hizbullah embraced a new doctrine, transforming itself from a predominantly guerrilla force into a quasi-conventional fighting force." It also cited another Pentagon report warning that Hizbullah forces were "extremely well trained, especially in the uses of anti-tank weapons and rockets" and that "they well understood the vulnerabilities of Israeli armor." The Washington Post said that many top US Army officers also believed the war's outcome illustrated the price of focusing too much on counterinsurgency wars, particularly "occupation duty" in the Palestinian territories. "The real takeaway is that you have to find the time to train for major combat operations, even if you are fighting counterinsurgency wars," said one senior military analyst who studied the Lebanon war for the Center for Army Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The newspaper also said that US generals had used the Lebanon war to garner support for multi-billion-dollar weapons programs and that a 30-page internal Army briefing, prepared for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior Pentagon civilians, had highlighted how the US$159 billion Future Combat Systems, a network of ground vehicles and sensors, could have been used to dispatch Hizbullah's forces quickly and with few US casualties. "Hizbullah relies on low visibility and prepared defenses," one slide in the briefing reads. "FCS counters with sensors and robotics to maneuver out of contact." However, the paper said critics believed the Hizbullah threat was being inflated by officers determined to return the US Army to a more familiar past, built around preparing for conventional warfare. They also said the US studies had focused almost exclusively on the battle in southern Lebanon and ignored Hizbullah's political role and ideology. "Even if the Israelis had done better operationally, I don't think they would have been victorious in the long run," said Andrew Exum, a former Army officer who has studied the battle from southern Lebanon. "For the Israelis, the war lasted for 34 days. We tend to forget that for Hizbullah, it is infinite."