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Foreign Command of US Forces in Combined Theatre Operations

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The Clinton administration has raised several signals that it intends to adopt a policy of allowing United States combat forces to be placed under the command of a foreign officer in multinational actions. With the significant draw down of US military forces over the past several years, the United States must review its commitments to multinational organizations and military actions which stem from those commitments. The United States is renewing its commitments to international organizations because they are currently the best choice for controlling the violence between states. Due to this renewed commitment the US is forced to examine whether that commitment extends to allowing foreign command over US forces. In any coalition or joint operation there are significant challenges to overcome. When the US considers placing US forces under foreign command these challenges must be faced directly. The Persian Gulf War provides an excellent combined combat experience from which to examine these challenges in four primary but related areas. These areas are unity of command, cultural and religious differences, interoperability, and politics. Command is possible in each of these-areas through a variety of formal and informal relationships. Finally, our examination of command relationships in the Persian Gulf War serves to highlight fundamental questions the United States must analyze before assigning forces to foreign command. These questions stem from the areas of the political objectives to be achieved, the mission, qualifications of the proposed commander, interoperability, and setting forth the successful end point to an operation. These factors serve as guideposts for evaluating any possible decision to assign US forces to a foreign commander.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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