The success of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan is forcing Western military planners to reconsider long-term strategies and learn how to fight a new kind of war, a think tank reported on Tuesday.
US technological superiority is hamstrung in battling terrorists and insurgents because suicide bombings and other forms of attack cannot be beaten by traditional battlefield tactics, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said in its annual report on the world's military.
"The enemy has found operating terrains where the United States is unable to bring conventional superiority to bear," institute director John Chipman said.
"That is not to say that the precision technologies and networked communications ... do not have a role to play, but not necessarily in the way initially envisioned by planners," he added.
Chipman said strategists who maintained a cold war mentality until the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks needed to update their thinking again. Wars between two clearly defined sides were being superceded by what the think tank called "conflict ecosystems."
In such situations, "a piece of territory is not the key objective but rather the whole environment, including the collective mind of a population requiring soldiers simultaneously to execute combat tasks alongside reconstruction and humanitarian efforts," Chipman said.
He said forces with experience in such irregular warfare, like the US marines and the British and Australian armies, were likely to have an easier time adjusting than the more conventional US army.
The IISS report said that the US was reconsidering its strategy for maintaining military strength because of the strains created by postwar troubles in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Pentagon will have to take account of those struggles, and the huge US budget shortfall, when it releases the Quadrennial Defense Review military plan to Congress early next year, the IISS claimed.