What are the motivations of insurgents? What the motivations of the Counter-insurgents? Has violence become necessary? Why or why not?
It is these questions that guarantees that no two situations will be the same. That’s not to say that lessons cant be learned or that strategies cant be applied with equal or better success, however one shouldn’t forget that they can also be applied with a negative impact to the mission or to the entire campaign. Insurgency and counter insurgency are very fluid. Song and dance. It is a chess game played by the higher in command, and a checkers game played by the ground level soldiers, rebels, police, etc.
Insurgencies are products of the negligence of a Governmental or an otherwise powerful group of people, or perhaps a power vacuum. They are made up of an Underground, Auxiliary, and the Guerrillas. They all work together to accomplish a common goal, most likely the overthrow of a Government or pushing a hostile group out of an area or country.
The underground operates in enemy dominated areas providing intelligence on the enemy, conducting propaganda operations, assassinations, espionage, etc.
The auxiliary is the most important part, and the key to a successful insurgency. They operate like the Underground and mirror each other very closely. The auxiliary will provide shelter, food, medical care, and intelligence for the Guerrillas and the Underground. In this they are highly static. However they have more freedom of movement to gather intelligence, conduct nonviolent movement denying operations, distribute and create propaganda, provide smuggling and supply routes, sabotage, etc. It is for these reasons that the Auxiliary is the most dangerous to the Counter-insurgents. They are the life blood of the insurgency, and thus is the hardest of it to kill.
The Guerrillas are the men who do most of the fighting. They conduct guerilla operations against the enemy in question. These are anything that kills or denies the enemy movement, or destroys the enemies morale. I.E.D.s, hit and run ambushes, snipers, political assassinations are all tools of the Guerrillas, but not limited to them.
A successful insurgency must be able to deploy and use these three arms to attack, disrupt, report on and propagandize the enemy to sway the civilian population. You do this by denying the enemy, disrupting his operations, killing the enemy’s men, destroying his morale, propagandizing his mistakes and your successes, and making the enemy incompetent (or appear so.) The Insurgency’s strongest and most important weapon is its Auxiliary, while the enemy’s is his ability to dominate the physical area. The civilian population is, for the most part, the focus of both sides. It can help both sides tremendously, or cripple them.
However, what the Insurgency does, the Counter-Insurgents must do better. If an insurgency is trying to deny the Counter-Insurgents movement, supplies or information, the CI must do it. Failure to do so makes the CI look incompetent, and thus is a political and strategic victory for the insurgency. On the other hand, the CI’s ability to deny the insurgents will make the insurgency look incompetent and force them into the open. Regardless, once the victory in question has been achieved, the victor then propagandizes it and sways the local population. For example, the Tet Offensive in 1968 during the Vietnam war was a military success for the US, and a political defeat. The “insurgents” took advantage of the US media and swayed the US population with coordinated attacks on US and South Vietnamese targets. To many the US military appeared incompetent, and news footage of dead countrymen greatly exaggerated this. While the contrary is true, this swayed the US population to want to end the war. North Vietnam won in the end.
The Counterinsurgent’s job is the hardest to achieve. He must enter an area that is most likely hostile to him, then change the local populace’s opinion of him and the insurgents, then create a local Governmental force that he must temporarily control, and finally continue all manner of operation until the insurgents disappear, give up or are forced into the open and destroyed. Meanwhile the insurgency is propagandizing his every move, killing/attacking him, denying him, infiltrating him and feeding him false information. Think of it like going to a new high school, where you must make friends with most of the school, while constantly getting bullied and beat up, having rumors started about you by a group of people that most of the school likes or loves.
The Counter-Insurgents must put the well being of the local population as the number one objective. They must convince the locals they are the winning side, they can provide protection and the local populations best interest is served in co-operating with them. The insurgents must do this also. The CI must run a network of intelligence 24 hours a day. It will focus of insurgency members who plan, facilitate and operate.
The CI must also never kill an insurgency member unless they have to, which they will use to further convince the locals that they are more competent. Victories with little if any violence will play into CI hands by making them appear competent and protective, especially so because they do not need to use violence. They also avoid making more insurgents this way.
The CI must cut off the insurgents from the population, and to do so nonviolently eliminates a vast majority of strain than a violent, enemy-centric strategy would create. The successful CI use the local population to hardwire the insurgency out. The locals force the insurgents out into the open, or forces them to disappear.
To do all this, the CI must understand the civilian population, its culture, customs, history, etc. From this comes the first stage of drawing up a clear mission statement and a strategy: the post conflict power structure. A people with a history of oppressive governments will be liberated, set up to run their own government which will guarantee them peaceful existence. What state is there to build? How compatible are we to the local population, and thus the Government we will create and interact with? What states have proven effective and viable, and are compatible with the locals? Is there any evidence this will work? These are questions that must be asked as well, because they will help form the CI’s mission statement and goals. Once this is cemented and a clear, concise goal is created, the CI must prepare for the task ahead. On the Insurgents part he must know the enemy and his strategies to overcome and defeat them.
David Kilcullen, who wrote “Counterinsurgency“, created what are known as the “28 Articles of Counter-Insurgency”.
Here is a brief overview:
1.) Know the Turf- People, topography, economy, history, religion, culture. Become an expert on the area. Know every road, field, population group, leader and grudge.
2.) Diagnose the Problem- Who are the insurgents? What is driving them to do the things they do? What makes their leaders? How do you mobilize the Locals to your cause? Do they have motivations? The CI must discuss with their men, and trust them.
3.) Organize for Intelligence- The CI intelligence will mostly come from operations, and the operations will drive the intelligence. For this reason an intelligence section must be organized, and linguists necessary. The CI smartest men will be in the intelligence section.
4.) Organize for inter-agency co-operation- The CI men must be trained for this. The local population will most likely be scared of gear and guns, so it must be learned how not to scare them.
5.) Travel light and harden your combat support service- The insurgents will be traveling and fighting light, so a culture of the same must be enforced on the CI’s men. Speed and mobility. Make sure that the CI can reach back and call for support. The CSS may do more fighting than the patrols, so it is imperative to train them equally.
6.) Find a political adviser- The CI must find a political and cultural adviser from the local population whose mission will be to help shape the enviroment.
7.) Train the squad leaders and trust them- Counter-insurgency is a squad level war, and whoever can bring combat power to bare first will win. The CI squad leaders must be trained to act intelligently. Focus on marksmanship, patrolling, security and basic drills. SL who fail will be replaced.
8.) Rank is nothing, Talent is everything- Any of the CI men who are naturals at Counter-Insurgency will be put in important positions.
9.) Have a game plan- Develop a mental picture of how you want it to play out. For example: “Establish dominance, build local networks, and marginalize the enemy.” Make sure to have easy transitions between phases, in case of setbacks.
10.) Be there- Establish your presence first and foremost. Live in close proximity to the local population. The CI must be seen as real people that can be trusted.
11.) Avoid knee jerk responses- Get facts first. Violence isnt guaranteed to be insurgent activity. The CI will be goaded into making mistakes.
12.) Prepare for a handover- There is a possibility that the Insurgency will not be solved in one tour. When a CI’s tour ends, all intelligence must be organized and distributed.
13.) Build trusted networks- Hearts and minds, the locals best interest is with the CI, and that the CI can protect them.
14.) Start easy- The CI mustn’t go straight for the Insurgents throat. Provoke a showdown or focus on the local population. Start from secure areas and work your way outward.
15.) Seek early victories- Show dominance early, and win any type of victory.
16.) Practice deterrent patrols- The CI will flood an area with numerous small patrols that co-operate. Deploy Blue-Green patrols: Humanitarian patrols in the day and hunt the enemy at night. One to Two thirds of the CI men should be patrolling at all times
17.) Prepare for setbacks- The CI mustn’t lose heart when/if mistakes are made and failures occur. Local commanders must be given lee-way to adjust to things.
18.) Remember the global audience- The CI will create and control good relationships with media
19.) Engage the women, fear the children- Women will be targeted through social ad economic programs, the women must be won. Children will be avoided, they are a propaganda risk for the insurgents.
20.) Take stock regularly- The CI will develop social, informational, military and economic metrics regularly. This will show indications of success or failure over time.
21.) Exploit a single narrative- In the competition to mobilize public support, a single narrative must be created. This is a simply told story or expression that explains the people. For example: Use a nationalist viewpoint to expel foreign insurgents.
22.) Local forces should mirror the enemy- The CI will be working closely with local forces, and they should be equipped, move and organize like the insurgents with the CI’s supports.
23.) Practice armed civil affairs- The CI must focus on meeting the local populations basic needs, while maintaining and updating area surveys. Surveys help to identify the local’s needs.
24.) Small is beautiful- Local populace programs must be small, this way they are cheap, lowkey and sustainable. The CI can add new programs at will.
25.) Fight the insurgents strategy- Insurgents often go on the offensive, going in for the kill rarely helps the CI. The CI will fight the strategy instead.
26.) Build the solution- Stay focused, the CI will not react on the desire to kill and insurgent. Defection > Surrender > Capture > Kill. The CI can the propagandize this.
27.) Keep extraction secret- The insurgents and local population will know when the CI will be leaving, the CI will keep specifics under wraps. The insurgents will use this as an opportunity to win public support back.
28.) Maintain the initiative- If the insurgents are reacting to the CI, the CI has the initiative, and vice-versa.
As I said at the beginning, insurgency and counter insurgency is fluid. It is an information and propaganda war, and strategies will be molded per the situation.
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Who else is reading this Counter Insurgent M.O. and immediately thinking of Alex Jones? I know I am.