Street Smarts: Unconventional Warriors in Contemporary Joint Urban Operations   [open pdf - 3MB]

U.S. Army Special Forces (SF) has historically conducted Unconventional Warfare (UW) in the remote, rural, under-developed regions of the world. This thesis analyzes the relevance of UW to contemporary joint urban operations (JUO) during Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) and Stability and Support Operations (SASO). America's pre-eminence on the conventional battlefield, and the asymmetric advantages cities offer, should compel adversaries to engage us on urban terrain. Despite this observation, current doctrine inadequately prepares our forces for MOOTW or SASO in cities. Modernization efforts focus predominantly on improving high-intensity combat skills, and developing technological combat-multipliers. During MOOTW and SASO casualties, collateral damage, and political consequences can rapidly erode public support; conventional combat operations may entail excessive political risk. Forces trained for unit maneuver warfare are not sufficient for stabilizing politically charged conflicts short of war. Unique capabilities, training, and experience conducting UW makes SF ideally suited for conducting JUO in this arena. A case study of U.S. involvement in Bosnia-Herzegovina demonstrates the unique capabilities SF provides commanders, not otherwise available in the extant force structure. This thesis advocates using UW to counter urban, asymmetric threats, and concludes with a recommendation for developing amplifying doctrine for conducting UW in urban areas.

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