Combined Action Program – The United States Marine Corps embedded squads of Marines with local village militias as part of the Combined Action Program (CAP) implemented in I Corps during the Vietnam War. The combining of the Marine squad with a small group of Popular Forces (PFs) was designed to return villages to South Vietnam government control and limit the ability of the Viet Cong to influence the villagers, gather intelligence, collect taxes (rice), and reduce their freedom of movement in the area of operations.
Bing West wrote The Village describing the mission of the Combined Action Platoons and the fight at ground level for the ‘hearts and minds’ of the villagers. Many of his observations provide lessons for the current counterinsurgency fight in Afghanistan.
The concept of local village defense forces in Afghanistan is not new. In 2010 the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) rolled out the Village Stability Operations (VSO) program and the establishment of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) in an attempt to establish government control of key villages and districts in strategic areas in Afghanistan. This program was strongly supported by the NATO Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan (NSOCC-A) and its Special Operations Forces teams from the Navy SEALs, MARSOC, and Army Special Forces.
Since the 2014 the U.S. and NATO troop levels in Afghanistan have significantly diminished and support to the VSO and ALP programs has been reduced. The ALP is now run by the Ministry of Interior. It has been a program of mixed results – providing security for some of the population while also acting as a predatory actor for other parts of the population.
In December 2017 the Afghan government announced the establishment of the Afghan Territorial Army (ATA). This local security organization is controlled by the Ministry of Defence – a less corrupt and more professional security institution when compared to the Ministry of Interior.
The Village provides a description of how counterinsurgency is conducted at village level. It illustrates the positive impact that embedded advisors working with local defense forces can have in fighting guerrillas.
“SWJ Book Review of “The Village” – Lessons for Afghanistan”, by John Friberg, Small Wars Journal, April 17, 2018. Read the book review of The Village.