US report analyzes SLW, says ground troops essential; IAF failed

Posted: May 3, 2010 by Jonathan Boyko in Hezbollah, IDF, Israel, Terrorism
Tags: , ,

Riding IDF's Merkava tank. Preparing for next war? In a study issued by the USAA [US Army], the Army claims Israeli doctrine failed during the Second Lebanon War. The doctrine of using strong Israeli Air Force attacks, says the report, failed to produce results. Furthermore, the study says, the Israelis learned their lesson – that strong ground forces are essential to minimize civilian casualties and combat the enemy:

"Finally, heavy forces — based on tanks and infantry fighting vehicles — are key elements of any force that will fight sophisticated irregular opponents, because they reduce operational risk and minimize friendly casualties," the report, released on April 9, said.

A key finding was that Israel’s air combat doctrine has been ineffective against either Hamas or Hizbullah. The report asserted that air strikes must be combined with a significant infantry and armor component to minimize the insurgency use of civilian shields.

"The single most important change in the IDF between the 2006 Second Lebanon War and the recent operation in Gaza was the clear understanding by senior Israeli political and military leaders that ground operations are an essential component of military operations," the report said. "They no longer believe standoff attack alone, principally by air, can create success. Thus, from the beginning, it was a given to Israeli political and military leaders that ground forces would have to fight in Gaza — putting troops on the ground was a necessary precondition to achieving their military and political objectives."

(Israel Behind the News)

AS SAD AS it is to admit, the report is correct. Israeli military brass still has trouble discerning between the need to train soldiers for conventional warfare, and units capable of counter-insurgency. The two tasks are significantly different, keeping the soldiers trained for both would both make training insufferably long, and cause much confusion in “gray area”, where it is unclear whether the army fights insurgents or a small army, such as HizbAllah.

Thus, the IDF’s decision to emphasize ground forces since 2006, was a correct one. A tank can hit with more precision than an F-16. Yes, the F-16 is farther from the danger, but wars can’t be won from the air, with enemy hiding in underground bunkers.

The IDF has a tough job to reassess itself and put the resources where the future is – ground-based military systems, anti-tank rocket protection, and logistics. The IAF should not be dismissed, but it should be understood that its primary role is to protect the skies – not to level buildings in Gaza.


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