The US Army is literally planning to take its future operations to the streets of cities – including American ones. An Army report predicts that megacities – metropolises with populations of more than 20 million – will be the battleground of the future.
The next war could be fought against terrorists, criminal gangs or mobs in megacities like New York; Lagos, Nigeria; or Dhaka, Bangladesh, a report called Megacities and the United States Army: Preparing for a Complex and Uncertain Future, concludes. Gang activity, terrorism, political instability and civil unrest are among the threats the report prepared by the Chief of Staff of the Army’s Strategic Studies Group addresses.
There are 23 megacities in the world, including two in the US: New York and Los Angeles. Chicago will be a megacity by 2025, the report says. New York is featured prominently in the report.
“Megacities are growing so fast that it is becoming increasingly difficult for host nation governments to keep up with infrastructure and resource requirements,” the report states. “Drivers of instability are already present and in many places are growing by the day. It is inevitable that at some point the United States Army will be asked to operate in a megacity and currently the Army is ill-prepared to do so.”
In the future, terrorists and other bad guys might use mega cities like Mexico City or Cairo as a base from which to strike at the United States or its allies, the Army believes. The Strategic Studies Group says that it is only a matter of time before US troops are deployed to such a megacity.
“Operating from megacities allows hostile actors relative freedom of maneuver as they blend in with the local population,” the report states.
The Strategic Studies Group’s megacities team is conducting a one-year study into such urban warfare. Critics fear the strategies developed could be employed here in the United States against Americans.
“It is highly likely that megacities will be the strategic key terrain in any future crisis that requires U.S. military intervention,” the report says.
War in the Megacity
The report found:
- Large areas of some cities, including Sao Paulo, Brazil, are under the control of criminal gangs, not the government. A gang called the First Command of the Capital was able to paralyze Rio de Janeiro with a series of coordinated attacks in 2010. The Army is studying those attacks closely.
- Modern communication technologies such as cell phones give criminals, terrorists and other troublemakers the capability to launch coordinated attacks with military precision.
- The Army is apparently preparing for military operations in American cities like New York.
- The Army is concerned that natural disasters could shut down a city, allowing “hostile actors” to take charge — and it is preparing for such a contingency in the US and other nations.
The US Army is not the only fighting force considering the problem of megacities. The Australian Army has issued a Future Land Warfare Report that draws similar conclusions, saying a lack of basic resources could cause instability in cities.
“By 2030, almost half the world’s population will live in areas suffering severe water stress,” the Australian report states. “Competition for increasingly scarce resources can lead to both intrastate and transnational conflict. There is also potential for interstate conflict, although wars fought solely over access to scarce resources are uncommon in the contemporary world.”
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