June 24, 2009:
A fundamental element in improving ground operations in analyzing past battles, what went right and what went wrong. The U.S. Army Center for Lessons Learned has been around since the 1980s, and U.S. commanders use it determine what works in combat and what doesn't. This is more important than ever in the 21st century, where urban combat and counter-insurgency conflicts dominate. In urban warfare and counter-insurgency, the potential for mistakes to be made is exponentially larger than in conventional, large-scale warfare.
Instead of hogging their experts, the US Army is taking the data collected and analyzed at the CALL (Center for Army Lessons Learned) and supplying it to the Iraqi Army in hopes that the Iraqis can use the info to more efficiently finish off the few remaining terrorist groups. This is more than just a gesture of goodwill. In fact, under the recently signed US-Iraq Security Agreement, the US is required to share information and findings from the CALL with the Iraqi Army in order to better improve its combat effectiveness.
CALL is divided into several major sections. The first collects data from previous engagements, by interviewing and visiting with units in the field. This section is tasked with discovering issues and areas of needed improvement in doctrine, training and readiness. The Analysis Section deals with evaluating the data collected and assessing the methods needed to improve effectiveness and combat efficiency. Finally, the Information Integration Section is responsible for processing and distributing the suggestions and findings from the previous two departments.
The CALL is sometimes seen by other branches of the Army as a group of desk-bound analysts, but their suggestions and changes implemented in counter-insurgency and urban warfare tactics played a major role in maximizing the effectiveness of the troop surge in 2007-2008.
Without something like CALL, doctrine and tactics rarely change. On-site CALL troops have visited nearly every single major combat zone in the Iraqi theatre, including Nasiriyah (where the bitterest battles of the war's conventional phase were fought), Mosul (which remains a hotbed of terrorism), and Basra. CALL soldiers have also spent significant time with Iraqi Special Forces and are an integral part of the development process for the country's military and police. Major issues and problems that have been dealt with include recruitment, infiltration by insurgent militias, vehicle checkpoint procedures, and imposing law and order in the previously totalitarian state.
Despite the withdrawal of US combat troops, CALL is still required to stay in Iraq and keep in close contact with the Iraqis to help them further develop and improve their armed forces. Without their help, it is unlikely that the Iraqis will be able to get a handle on things themselves.