One of the military's top counter-insurgency experts said this morning that M-ATVs are not the best solution for most counter-insurgency uses since they are closed and inhibit interaction between soldiers and the locals.
But Col. John Agoglia, director of the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute in Kabul, said he didn't think buying hundreds of M-ATVs was a mistake since the US and allies must use them in areas where they just don't have enough troops to handle the Taliban and friends. Agoglia trains US troops, allies, Afghan National Police and Afghan Army troops in counter-insurgency operations.
"I'm not a fan of totally enclosed vehicles," the colonel said, adding that commanders do need a mix of vehicles -- Humvees, heavily armored M-ATVs and, I assume, donkeys when there's need. But the need for M-ATVs is clearly sharper in those areas the US and its allies have let lie fallow for most of the last seven years. As the Marines boost their numbers it would seem a logical step for commanders interested in the best COIN approach to start using more Humvees and other open vehicles.
Given the enormous financial commitment of the US to the M-ATV in awarding a $1 billion contract to Oshkosh for 2,244 M-ATVs, the colonel's comments would seem to raise basic questions about just how many M-ATVs should be built. At least the Army and Marines should keep in close touch with commanders on the ground and experts such as Agoglia as troop number increase in Afghanistan.
I also asked Agoglia about the COIN aircraft that Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz has said his service may need to buy. Schwartz has also mentioned the idea of creating a COIN air wing, though we haven't heard much about this lately.
"Probably the best COIN aircraft are helos," said the colonel. "They allow you to move people all over the battlefield and with highly accurate targeting sensors" they can really provide excellent firepower as well.
Then I followed up and asked him about propeller aircraft. He praised props for the "psychological effect from loitering" over an area. He also gave a big thumbs up to the much easier maintenance for their ease of maintenance.