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Posted on Apr 23, 2008 in Tactics101, War College

Tactics 101: 026. Cordon and Search Operations

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

Obliviously the type of terrain and nature of the threat will dictate the inner and outer cordon location and method. Planners must also consider the type of construction searchers will encounter among dwellings when conducting cordons in built-up areas. The graphic below portrays the outer cordon in an urban environment. The inner cordon consists of isolating one of the buildings to be searched. What’s important to remember is to establish positive direct-fire control measures between forces of the inner and outer cordon.

 Urban Cordon

Below you see a graphic showing the Inner Cordon (surrounding #1) and the Outer Cordon (#2-8).


Inner Cordon

When establishing cordons in a more rural area the same factors of detailed fire-control measures apply. The graphic below illustrates an outer cordon using the key terrain surrounding a village in the center. Again, the inner cordon consists of isolating the specific search area within the village.

Cordons in a rural environment


Tacticians must carefully consider the sequence of establishing the outer and inner cordons. Like most combat operations there really is not a cookie-cutter solution. Planners must consider all METT-TC (Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops available, Time, Civilian considerations) factors in deciding the timing of events. If the outer cordon is in place too early it could alert the search area and compromise the mission. The same is true with establishing the inner cordon first. If the operation is in a hostile area with the inner cordon established first, the threat could react and cut off the inner cordon before the rest of the friendly force is in place. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan contend with this dilemma in almost every circumstance. Near-simultaneous establishment of the inner and outer cordons seems to be the trend but is extremely difficult to pull off. Imagination is the only limit when it comes to cordons. Given the right terrain and threat situation aircraft and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) have been effective in augmenting cordons. Although these force multipliers are incapable of “holding” terrain they can provide early warning and bolster the security forces in achieving an effective cordon.

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1 Comment

  1. This was an outstanding help to my classes on CS. Thanks for publishing this peice.