Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Fighting Small Wars In The New Century

The offering of inducements manifestly does little to improve the political trajectory on the ground. All wars are ultimately decided by the re-distribution of political power and that is in turn decided by the bargaining power that each of the belligerents brings to the negotiating table. This essay argues that the same unifying hedgehog idea, annihilation, is equally applicable to countering insurgencies and is the only available mechanism to resolve the complexity we face. Annihilation can be aggressive operations to destroy the military capacity of the insurgents or to deny insurgents the opportunity to apply its military capacity to the population. Both are paths to the establishment of control over the operating environment. There will be a time when reconstruction and other aid will begin to produce dividends and that time will be marked by the establishment of security.

Link to paper here.

COIN a la carte

Kilcullen on elements of COIN being used to counter the narcotics war:

* Law enforcement
* Military operations
* Intelligence sharing: ... The United States has reportedly helped Mexico create and run two intelligence “fusion cells” aimed at tracking down cartel leaders.
* Whole-of-government approach: ... In 2009, the State Department, with input from eight other agencies and departments, published the U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Guide.
* “Emergency” extradition procedures

Friday, 9 December 2011

GVN Village Pods

Global Volunteer Network has come up with an interesting concept: the GVN PoD.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

One Team’s Approach to Village Stability Operations

One Team’s Approach to Village Stability Operations
by Rory Hanlin

Journal Article | September 4, 2011 - 11:55pm, Updated: September 13, 2011 - 05:30am

"If you have seen one VSO, you have seen one VSO."

This paper is an effort to demonstrate my team’s approach to VSO using the principles and TTPs that numerous articles have recently highlighted in the July-September issue of Special Warfare Magazine.


...progress along the VSO shape-hold-build-transition/expansion model is inhibited by 3 key factors: a defunct system of governance, a divided population, and an under-developed economy based in subsistence farming. These factors collude to form a survivalist culture with a zero-sum worldview.


Fascinating article.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Historical Lessons on Local Defense in Counterinsurgency

Formalizing the Informal: Historical Lessons on Local Defense in Counterinsurgency
by Matthew P. Dearing

Journal Article | December 1, 2011 - 11:04pm

In September, Human Rights Watch released a scathing report on the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a paramilitary institution under control of the Minister of Interior and being trained by US Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan. ... These lessons suggest that paramilitary groups require: 1) supervision from state sponsors; 2) broad and deep cutting institutional reach; and 3) support from path dependent models.


...First, even in environments of "softened sovereignty," the vast majority of paramilitary groups are organized by, or with consent of the state in order to act as a force multiplier and an economy of force in support of military or law enforcement operations. While state-sponsored militias are supportive of the state, they also represent a form of contentious politics that use violence as a means to "protect the established order as opposed to overthrowing it."

Second, David Kilcullen suggests that in an insurgency, when the state is facing an existential threat, authority "flows away from civilian leaders at the level of the central or national state, toward local armed leaders, and toward the village or tribal level." Such leaders are empowered with legitimacy from the state; they are "embedded" within the local social system, and are given increasing authority as the conflict persists. These cases provide examples of weak states, facing intra-state war, attempting to quell insurgency in areas that were alternatively governed. Its important to keep in mind a major difference between these cases and Afghanistan, that is, liberal peace theory did not play a part in the state-building efforts such as it has in Afghanistan.

One of the first lessons is the role of the state as a supervisor and supporter of local capacity-building initiatives.

A second lesson is that national paramilitary organizations should be incorporated into broad umbrella institutions that represent civic objectives and enable legitimate controlling processes over diverse violence wielders.

A third lesson is the historical role of paramilitarism in areas of alternative governance.

A final lesson is based upon planning for future operations. ...there will be greater reliance on paramilitary organizations and the value they provide as local state-builders.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Will the Return of Ethiopia’s Military to Somalia Destroy al-Shabaab or Revive It?

Will the Return of Ethiopia’s Military to Somalia Destroy al-Shabaab or Revive It?
Muhyadin Ahmed Roble

Just 40 days after Kenya’s military intervention against the militant al-Shabaab group began in Somalia there are indications that the Kenyan effort may become part of a joint operation with African Union and Ethiopian military forces to eradicate terrorist elements in the Horn of Africa. The African Union has backed the Kenyan invasion of southern Somalia and has also invited the Ethiopian army to join the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), currently consisting of military contingents from Uganda and Burundi.


Muhyadin Ahmed Roble is a Somali journalist who writes for The East African, AfricaNews and Eurasia Review as a correspondent based in Nairobi.

How Afghanization Can Work

How Afghanization Can Work
Linda Robinson, Adjunct Senior Fellow for U.S. National Security and Foreign Policy
December 2, 2011

Option 1: Big COIN

* maintain the 68K US troops + as many NATO troops as possible
* counterinsurgency campaign
* successful so far
* non-viable: NATO reluctant
* zero-sum environment: funds spent on military efforts will sap funding available for civilian development assistance

Option 2: Counterterrorism

* counterterrorism is rarely effective as a freestanding approach and tends to produce negative political effects when wielded unilaterally.

Option 3: Afghan-led Counterinsurgency

The most desirable approach is one that puts Afghanistan firmly in the lead of its own counterinsurgency and nation-building effort, with the United States and international partners and donors in support. ... To paraphrase T.E. Lawrence, it is far better that those facing the insurgency do it themselves, however poorly.

What would an Afghan-led counterinsurgency campaign look like?

* Afghan forces would take over in all but the most conflicted areas of the country. * * The U.S. and allied support to the Afghan counterinsurgency should be almost exclusively focused on the south and east where the Taliban insurgency is strong, and in particular Kandahar and the eastern "P2K" provinces (Paktia, Paktika, and especially Khost).
* A very small node can remain in the west in Shindand
* the same can be done in the critical Salang Tunnel corridor in the north.
* reduced dramatically to a few high-level officers
* The command for training Afghan security forces should be primarily manned by Afghan trainers.
* Most of the troops would be embedded advisers, largely from the special operations community but augmented by conventional forces that are selected and trained for the mission.
* focus on supporting community defense and police, which have been egregiously neglected throughout the war.
* Eighty-eight of 265 Afghan police units in key areas (PDF) currently have no mentor at all.

How many U.S. forces would be required to support this "small COIN" option?

* A robust effort could be mounted with forty thousand troops, declining to twenty thousand or fewer as the Afghans become more proficient.
* embedded advisers
* about half of the personnel would provide support. Distributed operations in Afghanistan require substantial air lift, combat aviation, ISR, and logistics support
* the best way to defeat the ubiquitous buried bombs is foot patrols and Kawasaki all-terrain vehicles for off-road travel

How long would the United States have to support a twenty-thousand-strong COIN effort?

It is hard to say, but not longer than a decade, and the numbers would progressively decline to a few thousand as Afghans gain experience and as the insurgency shrinks. As the insurgency weakens, the current talks, best described as "pre-negotiations," are likely to gather steam as fighters realize the government will not collapse. The end of the war is likely to come a piece at a time, as insurgent factions peel off and reject the authority of Taliban leaders ensconced in Pakistan.

Is there a precedent for such an approach?

* El Salvador, Colombia, the Philippines
* El Salvador in the 1980s with fifty-five Special Forces trainers plus a robust country team with USAID, State, and intelligence officials who were dispersed around the country.

Center for Advanced Defense Studies

Having read Operation Dark Heart, I looked up the author's new home, the Center for Advanced Defense Studies.

Looks interesting.

Review of the book to follow.