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Red Team “Two sides to every Story”

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By Lieutenant Colonel John Nelson, USA

     Three years ago, I was one of the first graduates of the Red Team School at the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies (UFMCS), located at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The Red Teaming course is relatively new to the Army, but the concept of an advisor to the commanding general has been around since the time of Napoleon.
     The concept of the Red Team requires members to see through multiple lenses; in the case of Iraq, looking at a situation from the perspective of the people or the Government of Iraq, as well as the enemy. The role has been effectively used in both government and business, but until recently, the Army had no doctrine or recognized education available to implement the capability in its operational and strategic units.
     The director of UFMCS, Col. (Ret) Greg Fontenot, asked me to head up the Red Team in December 2008. Being from outside the 25th Infantry Division, I was in an ideal position to do my Red Teaming job - to think outside the box, to ask the question why, and to often just listen.
People who work together tend to think the same after a while. Staffs can get tunnel vision in complexity of dynamic operational environment. My team was a fresh set of eyes to look at the problems and plans, and just ask questions as to why, or how, they came up with their ideas. Red Teaming is an iterative process with the staff to question the assumptions of our plans and examine how our actions will be perceived by Middle East culture we are in, or even our own society back home.
     Red Teaming provides the commander with an independent capability to fully examine concepts, plans, and operations from partner, local populace and adversary perspectives. The Red Team approach can provide an understanding of the opposition through their cultural eyes.
Multi-National Division – North has been the main effort for the fight in Iraq, as Mosul has been one of the last strongholds in the country for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The Division staff was focused on the lethal fight. Part of Red Teaming is to look at the issue from the side of the culture, the people of Iraq as well as the enemy. Sometimes you find them one in the same.
     I started to look for what we were missing - what was the cause of the fight, where were the support networks, how did the enemy get their money? What I discovered astounded me, and I think it is the greatest challenge for this country and the reconciliation of Iraq.
     Much of the violence that still remains today is based on ethnosectarian violence. The Sunni/Shia civil violence was ignited with the 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. The aftermath has been the displacement of an estimated 1.6 million Iraqi people within Iraq, who are now classified as Iraqi Displaced Persons.
     The Iraq war itself created a group of refugees that fled the country. More than two million of the former Bathe Party members fled to neighboring Syria and Jordon. These groups of IDPs are the former military leaders, political leaders, teachers and others who ran the cities and infrastructure, the heart of the country. The next group of IDPs was formed due to the former Iraqi government’s tyranny. Minority Displacement of various religious groups, as well as the Kurds to the North, number around 1.1 million.
     The facts are sobering: four million Iraqis, one out of every eight, are displaced. Of those, 2.8 million - 20% of the population – are displaced inside of Iraq. The IDP situation creates masses of people who might otherwise live lives as normal citizens in Iraq and places social and economic stresses on Iraq’s ability to govern.
     Displaced people held in IDP camps, or even those relocated to ethnically different neighborhoods, increase the chances of poverty and insecurity. These are key factors in the recruiting efforts used by external insurgent organizations, as well as grass-roots insurgent movement and criminal groups.
     Of the internally displaced, vulnerable groups to terrorist recruiting are the 1.7 million widowed women and orphaned children. This group has no means of support other than hoping the tribal system in Iraq takes them in. Many of the suicide bombers are women, and children are being paid to throw grenades.
     This kind of warfare is not defined in terms of victory and the defeated as in the past conflicts, but it is instead frequently dependent on managing the effects of complex socio-cultural issues, such as IDPs and the relationships between Kurds and Arabs, Shia and Sunni, in a non-lethal framework.
     One of the great advantages of the Red Team is we are independent thinkers who have the ability to travel throughout the Division’s area of responsibility to gather information for the commander and his staff. Red Team is seeing both sides of the story, to ask the question why, and give the people and their culture a voice.

About the Author
Lieutenant Colonel John Nelson is a resident of Lenexa, Kansas and a member of the Kansas Army National Guard, 35th Inf. Div., at Ft. Leavenworth Kansas. LTC Nelson is on military leave from his civilian job with Northrop Grumman at the Battle Command Training Program in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. He is currently deployed with the 25th Inf. Div., Multi-National Division – North in northern Iraq as the Deputy Officer of the Division Red Team in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


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