U.S. Army Special Forces Unconventional Warfare Training Manual November 2010

TC 18-01

  • 97 pages
  • Distribution authorized to U.S. Government agencies and their contractors only
  • Foreign Distribution Restriction
  • November 2010


1-1. The intent of U.S. UW efforts is to exploit a hostile power’s political, military, economic, and psychological vulnerabilities by developing and sustaining resistance forces to accomplish U.S. strategic objectives. Historically, the military concept for the employment of UW was primarily in support of resistance movements during general-war scenarios. While this concept remains valid, the operational environment since the end of World War II has increasingly required U.S. forces to conduct UW in scenarios short of general war (limited war).

1-2. Enabling a resistance movement or insurgency entails the development of an underground and guerrilla forces, as well as supporting auxiliaries for each of these elements. Resistance movements or insurgencies always have an underground element. The armed component of these groups is the guerrilla force and is only present if the resistance transitions to conflict. The combined effects of two interrelated lines of effort largely generate the end result of a UW campaign. The efforts are armed conflict and subversion. Forces conduct armed conflict, normally in the form of guerrilla warfare, against the security apparatus of the host nation (HN) or occupying military. Conflict also includes operations that attack and degrade enemy morale, organizational cohesion, and operational effectiveness and separate the enemy from the population. Over time, these attacks degrade the ability of the HN or occupying military to project military power and exert control over the population. Subversion undermines the power of the government or occupying element by portraying it as incapable of effective governance to the population.

1-3. Department of Defense Directive (DODD) 3000.07, Irregular Warfare, recognizes that IW is as strategically important as traditional warfare. UW is inherently a USG interagency effort, with a scope that frequently exceeds the capabilities of the DOD alone. There are numerous, uniquely defined terms associated with UW (Figure 1-1, page 1-2). These terms developed over the years from various military and government agencies, as well as the academic world. Many of the terms used to define UW appear to closely resemble one another and most are found in Joint Publication (JP) 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, or JP 3-05, Doctrine for Joint Special Operations.

1-4. The following chapters contain vital information for U.S. forces. In addition, there are four appendixes. Appendix A provides an example of an area study, Appendix B gives an example of an SF area assessment, Appendix C contains a sample program of instruction for resistance forces, and Appendix D details SF caching.


1-14. Conditions must sufficiently divide or weaken the organizational mechanisms that the ruling regime uses to maintain control over the civilian population for the resistance to successfully organize the minimum core of clandestine activities. It is extremely difficult to organize successful resistance under a fully consolidated government or occupying power with a strong internal security apparatus. Despite the general dissatisfaction of the society, the resistance has little chance of developing the supporting infrastructure it needs to succeed. Planners need to recognize the significant differences in the ability of different elements to exert control over a population. A recent foreign occupier does not have the same ability as an indigenous long-standing dictatorial regime that has had years to consolidate power.


1-15. The population must possess not only the desire to resist but also the will to bear the significant hardships associated with repressive countermeasures by the government or occupying power. Populations that the regime subjugates or indoctrinates for long periods are less likely to possess the will required to sustain a prolonged and difficult struggle. Populations living under repressive conditions generally either retain their unique religious, cultural, and ethnic identity or begin to assimilate with the regime out of an instinct to survive. Planners need to distinguish between the population’s moral opinion of their “oppressors” and their actual willingness to accept hardship and risk on behalf of their values and beliefs. Populations recently overtaken by an occupying military force have a very different character than those that have had to survive for decades under an oppressive regime.

1-16. Information activities that increase dissatisfaction with the hostile regime or occupier and portray the resistance as a viable alternative are important components of the resistance effort. These activities can increase support for the resistance through persuasive messages that generate sympathy among populations.

1-17. In almost every scenario, resistance movements face a population with an active minority supporting the government and an equally small militant faction supporting the resistance movement (Figure 1-2). For the resistance to succeed, it must convince the uncommitted middle population, which includes passive supporters of both sides, to accept it as a legitimate entity. A passive population is sometimes all a well supported insurgency needs to seize political power. As the level of support for the insurgency increases, the passive majority will decrease.


1-22. A genuine willingness to collaborate and cooperate with the United States must exist within the leadership of the indigenous force. It is unrealistic to expect a leader to relinquish control of his forces to the United States. In general, insurgent leaders expect to retain authority and control over their forces while benefiting their cause by collaborating with the United States. Tailored, persuasive messages targeting key leaders and groups may increase their willingness to accept U.S. support.


1-23. Successful movements must have compatible objectives and an ideology that binds their forces together. Organizations bound through some commitment other than common ideology—such as forced conscription or hired mercenaries—typically are only marginally capable over a protracted period. Armed groups may find a common bond in ethnicity, religion, or tribal ties. Elements can use persuasive techniques and messages emphasizing commonalities to unite different groups for a common cause. Once the groups unite, other messages can reinforce unity by building morale, reinforcing organizational cohesion, and emphasizing mutual goals.


1-47. U.S. forces can use MISO as part of ARSOF capabilities or in conjunction with other USG capabilities to reduce the need for military force. When military force is necessary, Soldiers conduct MISO to multiply the effects of the operations. Specifically, MIS elements—

  • Determine key psychological factors in the operational environment.
  • Provide training and advisory assistance to insurgent leaders and units on the development, organization, and employment of resistance information capabilities.
  • Identify actions with psychological effects that can create, change, or reinforce desired behaviors in identified target groups or individuals.
  • Shape popular perceptions to support UW objectives.
  • Counter enemy misinformation and disinformation that can undermine the UW mission.


1-48. CA personnel augment the SF headquarters (HQ) by providing expertise in civil-military operations
(CMO). Although CMO plays a small role in resistance operations, planning CMO early in the campaign is
critical. CMO efforts can play a significant role in—

  • Mitigating the suffering of the population during resistance operations through humanitarian assistance (HA) efforts. (Forces must conduct CMO and HA efforts in a manner that does not link the population to the resistance effort, thereby bringing the retaliation of adversary forces.)
  • Planning mobilization of popular support to the UW campaign.
  • Analyzing impacts of resistance on indigenous populations and institutions and centers of gravity through CA inputs to intelligence preparation of the operational environment (IPOE).
  • Providing the supported commander with critical elements of civil information to improve situational awareness and understanding within the operational environment.
  • Assisting in stabilization postconflict.
  • Assisting in the demobilization and transition of former resistance forces postconflict.


2-1. Resistance generally begins with the desire of individuals to remove intolerable conditions imposed by an unpopular regime or occupying power. Feelings of opposition toward the governing authority and hatred of existing conditions that conflict with the individual’s values, interests, aspirations, and way of life spread from the individual to his family, close friends, and neighbors. As a result, an entire community may possess an obsessive hatred for the established authority. Initially, this hatred will manifest as sporadic, spontaneous nonviolent and violent acts of resistance by the people toward authority. As the discontent grows, natural leaders, such as former military personnel, clergymen, local office holders, and neighborhood representatives, emerge to channel this discontent into organized resistance that promotes its growth. The population must believe they have nothing to lose, or more to gain. Key to transitioning from growing discontent to insurrection is the perception by a significant portion of the population that they have nothing to lose by revolting and the belief that they can succeed. In addition, there must be a spark that triggers insurrection, such as a catalyzing event that ignites popular support against the government power and a dynamic insurgent leadership that is able to exploit the situation. Figure 2-1, page 2-2, defines words critical to understanding resistance movements.


2-76. Special networks are responsible for providing information to the population, against the will of the controlling regime. This information will bolster the will of the population to support the insurgent cause, undermine the legitimacy of the regime or occupying power, and undermine the morale of enemy security forces. Guerrilla forces may produce and distribute bootleg radio broadcasts, underground newspapers, Internet sites, and rumor campaigns. Guerrilla propaganda networks also draw new recruits to the movement. The networks may also coordinate with sympathetic elements outside the country to raise international favor and support. The resistance or insurgent leadership must have a degree of communication with the propaganda network to produce a coordinated effort.

3-34. MISO can enhance the effects of these supporting efforts. They can increase actionable intelligence obtained from key segments of the population through persuasive messages that increase sympathy and support for the resistance movement. Information on rewards and other messages can persuade target groups to aid the evasion and recovery of isolated personnel. In addition, MISO can assist in building local networks that provide support for incoming invasion forces by consistently emphasizing the benefits of supporting the UW effort and highlighting the negative aspects of the enemy government or occupying power.

3-35. In a general-war scenario involving a pending conventional force invasion, planners synchronize combat operations around an undisclosed D-Day. For operations security, planners do not tell SF personnel or resistance forces the specific time and date of D-Day, which makes synchronization particularly critical and challenging. Planners may choose a defining date or event, such as the anniversary of a civil disturbance, to motivate the guerrilla force and increase popular support for operations. Careful selection of the D-Day can have significant psychological effects on UW operations. SF HQ coordinate notification procedures and the amount of advance warning they require with theater HQ before the infiltration of SFODAs. Resistance forces require time to notify and assemble their forces, recover equipment, and move into position. Resistance forces must accomplish these tasks without the benefit of secure technical communications gear and without alerting enemy forces. Based on the expectation of liberation by invasion forces, the resistance can assume the risk associated with initiating more offensive operations than is normally permissible. When properly coordinated, these offensive operations can have a devastating disruptive effect on an adversary’s combat capability. However, if the resistance initiates its efforts too early, they will alert enemy forces and possibly initiate retaliation. If the resistance initiates its efforts too late, they may not have the required effect to be of value.

3-36. In a limited-war scenario, this phase still consists of a campaign of guerrilla warfare and subversion, but forces execute them in a slightly different manner. Combat operations generally do not focus around a single culminating D-Day event. Forces conduct these operations over a protracted period of time, with the intent of slowly eroding enemy strength and morale. Guerrilla attacks and acts of sabotage and subversion drain the hostile power’s morale and resources, disrupt its administration, and maintain the civilian population’s morale and will to resist. By repeatedly attacking multiple and widely dispersed targets, the resistance organization confuses, frustrates, and demoralizes hostile forces. Such attacks force the hostile power to divide its reaction and reinforcement capabilities. This slowly creates an increasing demand on the enemy to spend a disproportionate amount of strength to maintain its existing state of control over the population. In either a general-war or limited-war scenario, advisors ensure that resistance activities continue to support the objectives of the U.S. unified commander, mindful that resistance objectives are rarely identical to those of the United States.

3-37. Some planners assume the goal is to enable resistance forces to transform and equate to additional conventional infantry units. It is the responsibility of the SF HQ to ensure that campaign planners understand the capabilities and limitations of the resistance forces, as well as the associated advantages and disadvantages.


3-110. The Hague Conventions of 1907 prohibit the improper use of the enemy’s uniform, such as wearing the enemy’s uniform while engaged in combat. It permits some use of the enemy’s uniform, but it is difficult for personnel to discern the proper use. Although wearing the uniform while engaged in actual combat is unlawful, U.S. forces may wear it to allow movement into and through the enemy’s territory. U.S. policy states that Soldiers may use the enemy’s uniform for infiltration behind enemy lines. However, Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions prohibits this and other uses of the enemy’s uniform. An enemy nation party to Additional Protocol I may consider the use of its uniform by U.S. forces as a war crime.


3-111. Use of civilian attire by U.S. forces in any military operation is a sensitive matter that can only be undertaken IAW all relevant regulations and policies. U.S. forces should closely coordinate with their legal advisor in the use of nonstandard uniforms or civilian clothing in any military operation. Many of the principles regarding the use of enemy uniforms apply to the use of civilian attire in military operations as well. Wearing civilian attire while engaged in actual combat is unlawful; however, U.S. forces may wear it to allow movement into and through the enemy’s territory. Under the Geneva Conventions, the failure to use a “fixed sign recognizable at a distance” could factor into a nation’s decision to deprive captured U.S. forces of POW status. Further, if an enemy nation can deem such use treachery, it may consider the use by U.S. forces of civilian clothing in military operations as a war crime and take remedial action.

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