Urban Warfare

Urban warfare can take many forms, from guerrilla attacks to militia patrols to gang violence, but fighting in cities and towns — where civilians are at risk and combatants can hide more easily — is markedly different from combat in a more open or defined theater of operations. Determining how to assess enemies, mount a defense, and protect civilians is a focus of urban warfare research at RAND.

  • Research Brief

    The Battle for Baghdad: Institutionalizing Army Lessons for Urban Combat

    This brief recounts the U.S. Army's efforts in the Iraq War, especially in Baghdad, and offers lessons learned and recommendations to enable leaders and soldiers to be better prepared in future conflicts.

    Jul 3, 2019

  • A U.S. Army medical helicopter flies over the Army's 3rd Infantry division's convoy on its push towards Baghdad, Iraq, April 3, 2003, photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

    Report

    Lessons Learned from the Battle for Baghdad

    A review of the U.S. Army's efforts in the Iraq War, especially in Baghdad, offers insights and recommendations that could help leaders avoid the same mistakes in future conflicts. One important lesson is that DoD war plans need to include actions to ensure long-term stability.

    Jun 12, 2019

  • U.S. Army Soldiers conduct actions on an objective during a training scenario at the Asymmetric Warfare Training Center, Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, Feb. 23, 2018, photo by St. Randis Monroe/U.S. Army

    Commentary

    Urban Legend: Is Combat in Cities Really Inevitable?

    Future combat will take place in dense urban areas and likely in megacities. These are the new “truths” that are taking hold in the U.S. military. But before going all-in on optimizing for urban operations, the U.S. military should take a deep breath and think carefully about future operations within the context of the National Defense Strategy.

    May 7, 2019

  • Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from Israeli fire and tear gas during a protest against the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border in the Gaza Strip, May 14, 2018

    Commentary

    Five Thoughts on Jerusalem, Gaza, and What's in Between

    Dozens of people have been killed and over 2,000 injured in protests in the Gaza Strip along the border with Israel. Continued clashes are expected until the fundamental problems of the strip are solved, including the governance vacuum, the Palestinian Authority-Hamas rift, and the conflict with Israel.

    May 15, 2018

  • Research Brief

    Lessons from Israel's Wars in Gaza

    This brief summarizes a RAND report that explores lessons that the U.S. Army and the Joint force can draw from Israel's military operations in Gaza from 2009 to 2014 and how Israel adapted to hybrid adversaries in complex urban terrain.

    Oct 18, 2017

  • Israeli soldiers training for urban wafare

    Commentary

    Five Lessons from Israel's Wars in Gaza

    After a decade of operating against Hamas in Gaza, the Israel Defense Force has learned many lessons about urban warfare against hybrid adversaries. The last confrontation teaches five basic lessons that apply well beyond Gaza.

    Aug 3, 2017

  • An Israeli tank drives near the border as it returns to Israel from Gaza, August 3, 2014

    Report

    Lessons from Israel's Wars in Gaza

    The Israel Defense Force had to evolve to meet an adaptive and determined hybrid adversary during its wars in Gaza. The U.S. Army and the joint force can learn from the IDF's challenge of balancing intense international legal public scrutiny and the hard operational realities of urban warfare.

    Jul 26, 2017

  • Report

    Reimagining the Character of Urban Operations for the U.S. Army: How the Past Can Inform the Present and Future

    Provides a historical analysis of how militaries have deployed light and mechanized infantry with armored forces during close urban combat, to identify the comparative advantages and costs of this warfighting approach and lessons learned.

    Mar 13, 2017

  • Syrian army soldiers inspect the site of a two bomb blasts in the government-controlled city of Homs, Syria, on February 21, 2016

    Commentary

    A New Kind of Battlefield Awaits the U.S. Military — Megacities

    Megacities are urban areas that seep into one another and have more than 10 million inhabitants. To counter violent non-state actors operating in megacities in the future, the U.S. military will have to be able to piece together a comprehensive and actionable intelligence picture, and under enormously challenging circumstances.

    Apr 6, 2016

  • Soldiers particpate in an urban combat exercise

    Report

    The 2008 Battle of Sadr City: Reimagining Urban Combat

    Coalition forces' defeat of an uprising in Sadr City helped consolidate the Government of Iraq's authority, contributing significantly to the attainment of contemporary U.S. operational objectives in Iraq.

    Jan 15, 2014

  • Egyptian convoy at the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt

    Blog

    Gaza: Hard Fighting Looms Without a Broader Peace Strategy

    The United States and Israel should capitalize on Egypt's active role in mediating a cease-fire and thus revisit initiatives like the Arab Peace Initiative, which in the new regional strategic environment may be the best hope of reviving the moribund peace process before it is too late.

    Nov 20, 2012

  • Research Brief

    Urban Warfare: The 2008 Battle for Sadr City

    The authors identify factors critical to the coalition victory over Jaish al-Mahdi in the 2008 Battle of Sadr City and describe a new model for dealing with insurgent control of urban areas.

    Apr 9, 2012

  • News Release

    Israeli Mistakes Against Hybrid Adversaries Serve as Cautionary Tale for U.S. Military

    A review of recent Israeli military conflicts indicates the United States may be ill-prepared for "hybrid" warfare against state-sponsored adversaries who have a modicum of training and small force numbers, but possess advanced weapons and enough expertise to challenge the U.S. military.

    Jan 19, 2012

  • Report

    Israeli Mistakes Against Hybrid Adversaries Serve as Cautionary Tale for U.S. Military

    A review of recent Israeli military conflicts indicates the United States may be ill-prepared for "hybrid" warfare against state-sponsored adversaries who have a modicum of training and small force numbers, but possess advanced weapons and enough expertise to challenge the U.S. military.

    Jan 19, 2012

  • Report

    The 2008 Battle of Sadr City

    The authors identify factors critical to the coalition victory over Jaish al-Mahdi in the 2008 Battle of Sadr City and describe a new model for dealing with insurgent control of urban areas.

    Aug 17, 2011

  • Report

    Underkill: Scalable Capabilities for Military Operations amid Populations

    The U.S. military is ill-equipped to fight extremists who hide in populations. The use of deadly force can harm and alienate the people whose cooperation U.S. forces need. To solve this problem, a new RAND study proposes a ''continuum of force.''

    Mar 10, 2009

  • Commentary

    Could Mexico Fail?

    The lawlessness along the Mexican border has gone way beyond a local crime wave: there has been a dramatic increase in armed robberies, not by lone gunmen but by heavily armed gangs. Kidnappings and homicides are way up—and not just murders but beheadings.... It is starting to look like a terrorist campaign, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Feb 13, 2009

  • Commentary

    Afghan Progress Spotty but Hopeful

    As NATO's role in Afghanistan was debated in Bucharest recently, the bad headlines continued rolling in. And yet, on the ground, there is equally compelling evidence that the efforts of the international community are making a difference, write Obaid Younossi and Peter Dahl Thruelsen.

    Apr 29, 2008

  • Commentary

    U.S. Should Take Advantage of Improved Security in Iraq to Withdraw

    Because security in Iraq is improving, the United States now has a chance to achieve the best realistic outcome of its unfortunate invasion and occupation: extricating the bulk of U.S. forces without making things worse, writes David C. Gompert.

    Dec 2, 2007

  • News Release

    RAND Recommends U.S. Military Adopt Consumer Marketing Strategies to Reach Iraqi and Afghan Civilians

    RAND Recommends U.S. Military Adopt Consumer Marketing Strategies to Reach Iraqi and Afghan Civilians.

    Jul 17, 2007