Monday, 22 October 2012

Military needs to equip for COIN

From a speech by General Sir David Richards at the IISS (back in 2010):

3. Defence must respond to the new strategic, and indeed economic, environment by ensuring much more ruthlessly that our armed forces are appropriate and relevant to the context in which they will operate rather than the one they might have expected to fight in in previous eras. Too much emphasis is still placed on what Secretary Gates calls ‘exquisite’ and hugely expensive equipment. 4. - Our Defence establishment has not yet fully adapted to the security realities of the post-Cold War world and this complex and dangerous new century. US defence analyst David Wood recently described the US defence budget as encrusted with an "we've always done it this way'' convention and strategic choices attuned to the last century. - Operating among, understanding and effectively influencing people requires mass - numbers - whether this is ‘boots on the ground’, riverine and high speed littoral warships, or UAVs, transport aircraft and helicopters. They have to be able to fight but this is no longer sufficient. No nation is any better than the US in this respect and nearly all are far worse. 5. If one equips more for this type of conflict while significantly reducing investment in higher-end war-fighting capability, suddenly one can buy an impressive amount of ‘kit’. Whilst, as you will hear, I am emphatically not advocating getting rid of all such equipment, one can buy a lot of UAVs or Tucano aircraft for the cost of a few JSF and heavy tanks. 6.  - Can we take the risk? Well we have to take risk somewhere or run the far greater one of trying with inadequate resources to be all things to all conflicts and failing to succeed in any. Why this area of traditional state on state war though? - Having learnt the lessons taught by AQ, the Taliban and many other non-state actors, and thought how to exploit them perhaps on an ‘industrial’ scale, why would even a major belligerent state choose to achieve our downfall though high risk, high cost traditional means when they can plausibly achieve their aims, much more cheaply and semi-anonymously, using proxies, guerrillas, economic subterfuge and cyber warfare?

Even the generals are saying it.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Fabius Maximus's COIN reading list

Two lists by Fabius Maximus: one on the failure of COIN and the other on insurgencies against foreign armies:

Posts about COIN:
  1. More paths to failure in Iraq, 16 December 2006 — Myths about COIN in Iraq
  2. 28 Articles: a guide to a successful insurgency against America, 7 May 2007
  3. Is COIN the graduate level of military hubris?, 30 July 2008
  4. COIN as future generations will see it (and as we should see it today), 1 July 2010
  5. COIN – Now we see that it failed. But that was obvious before we started (when will we learn?), 6 December 2011
  6. COIN, another example of our difficulty learning from history or experience, 7 December 2011
  7. “COIN of the Realm” – reviewing one of the books driving our strategy in the Long War, 18 March 2012 — Review of Nagl’s How to Eat Soup with a Knife
  8. A look back at the madness that led us into our wars. How does this advice read 6 years later?, 26 June 2012
The history of foreign armies fighting local insurgents:
  1. How often do insurgents win?  How much time does successful COIN require?, 29 May 2008
  2. Max Boot: history suggests we will win in Afghanistan, with better than 50-50 odds. Here’s the real story., 21 June 2010 — Boot discusses 7 alleged victories by foreign armies fighting insurgencies.
  3. A major discovery! It could change the course of US geopolitical strategy, if we’d only see it, 28 June 2010 — Andrew Exum (aka Abu Muqawama) points us to the doctoral dissertation of Erin Marie Simpson in Political Science from Harvard.  She examines the present and past analysis of  counter-insurgency.  This could change the course of American foreign policy, if we pay attention.
  4. A look at the history of victories over insurgents, 30 June 2010
  5. COINistas point to Kenya as a COIN success. In fact it was an expensive bloody failure., 7 August 2012

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Powerful South Sudanese military leader dies

Historians describe Matip as a man driven more by ambition during the war than by ideology. 
He was "the quintessential freebooter, willing to ally himself with God or the devil, depending on which would supply him with the resources to sustain his panache and his private army," Sudan historian Robert O Collins wrote. 
One of his main interests during the war was protecting and developing a "small trading empire" based on cattle and sorghum in the areas near Bentiu, capital of Unity State, according to historian Douglas Johnson.

Drone strikes work

Patrick B Johnston from RAND concludes that decapitation works:
My study of leadership decapitation in 90 counter-insurgencies since the 1970s shows that when militant leaders are captured or killed militant attacks decrease, terrorist campaigns end sooner, and their outcomes tend to favor the government or third-party country, not the militants.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

When economies are commodity-intensive

Estimating this more formally in a recent report, we find that an economy’s growth typically becomes more ‘commodity intensive’ when it reaches per capita GDP of around $3,000 (in constant purchasing power parity 2011 dollars). At that point demand for commodities typically takes off. Conversely, we find that commodity demand tapers when economies reach per capita GDP of around $20,000.

- From the excellent blog beyondbrics in the Financial Times

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

We're doing Somalia the wrong way round

Ya gotta love Paul Collier and ya gotta love Foreign Policy.

Once the ruler had a tax system, he had an interest in growing the economy, which in turn called for basic economic infrastructure and the rule of law. At some point, provoked by this taxation, people came to demand political representation, and the state embarked on a long journey toward inclusivity. This is how modern Europe emerged, consolidating from thousands of proto-states into today's handful of modern states, all of which are more or less centralized and inclusive. 
In Somalia, the West is putting the cart before the horse. The first step is decidedly not to build imitations of representative government. Rather, it is to encourage the emergence of monopolies of organized violence at the local level. Even without international support, this is already happening. Somaliland and Puntland are proto-states in Somalia's north, while the transitional government, in reality if not aspiration, is a proto-state around Mogadishu. Conforming to the history of state-building, these three proto-states do not like each other, and they have demonstrated it in armed clashes. But such competition can be healthy. It provides the impetus for taxation, which eventually provides the incentive for development.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Role of median age

While youth are important in making revolutions happen, older people make it successful.

...political demography research shows that countries with very young age structures are prone both to higher incidence of civil conflict and – most relevant to the outcomes of the Arab Spring – to undemocratic governance. ... The difference in outcomes across the region, according to Richard Cincotta, can be attributed to the fact that as age structures mature, elites become less willing to trade their political freedoms to autocratic leaders in exchange for the promise of security and stability.  
...the initial events following the uprising in Tunisia that quickly spread across the region played out in a neatly linear fashion. Among the five countries where revolt took root, those with the earliest success in ousting autocratic leaders also had the most mature age structures and the least youthful populations. 
In Tunisia, with a median population age of 29, one month passed between a fruit seller’s self-immolation and Zine El Abedine Ben Ali’s flight to exile. In Egypt and Libya, where median age is close to 25 years(identified by Cincotta as a threshold when countries are at least 50 percent likely to be democratic), Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gaddafi took three weeks and eight months, respectively, to lose their titles. Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen (median age 17), took one year to be convinced to formally resign, while in Syria (median age 21), the 15-month uprising continues to be brutally repressed by Bashar Assad’s forces.

Report from Zabul province

It is hard to say why, but this was a more-interesting-than-average, highly readable report from the coalface. I've never heard of Zabul province, have you? I think that might be the point. Apparently it's the Missouri of Afghanistan.

Of note:
In Tarin wa Jaldak, we met with the shopkeepers in the bazaar and their primary concerns were the process for opening new shops and taxation. That’s a success—they were not fearing for their lives. In Suri, a part of Shinkay District, property values have risen due to the American troops stationed nearby. 
And here is the lesson:
The Afghan paradox is that while reality here can be infinitely granular, differing almost from village to village, the whole picture counts too. Places like Zabul are impoverished because they are ungoverned, but they are also ungoverned because they are impoverished. Security is weak in such provinces because the central government remains a disaster, and the central government remains a disaster because these provinces have no security.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Afghan villagers take up arms against Taliban

Al Jazeera covers the formation of the 'National Uprising Movement,' a group of fighters from four villages who have banded together to fight the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan.

H/t: The Long War Journal

Friday, 22 June 2012

Positive Afghanistan report

Despite signs that the Taliban’s influence is spreading throughout Afghanistan, international military efforts over the last 12 months have not been fruitless, as changes on the battlefield are becoming visible. This can mainly be attributed to prolonged ISAF/ANSF operations against the Taliban’s (and other anti-government elements) logistic chains and, more importantly, their mid-level commanders. These commanders, with their years of tactical experience, are crucial to the Taliban’s battlefield strategies, and their loss has significantly affected the Taliban's ability to continue the same level of intensity and effectiveness that characterized their campaigns from 2009-2011.
TOTAL Taliban/Anti-Government Element (TB/AGE) incidents(Includes all types of attacks, intimidation, abductions, extrajudicial killings & assassinations): 
2011: 10103 - 2012: 5198 A decrease of 41%
IEDs Total: 2011: 5133 - 2012: 2269 A decrease of 55%
Successful IEDs: 2011: 1789 - 2012: 889 A decrease of 50%
Failed IED Attempts: 2011: 3344 - 2012: 2269 A decrease of 32%
Direct Attacks: 2011: 3510 - 2012: 1787 A decrease of 41%

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

International conflict triggers and potential conflict points resulting from food and water insecurity

A Workshop Report by Future Directions International:

Over the next 40 years, there is a high probability of a global food and water crisis. This will result from population pressures, an increasing shortage of fresh water and a decline in access to arable land. The result will be demand exceeding supply due to competing interests, including environmental pressures, poor governance, high levels of food wastage, pre- and post-harvest losses and inadequate research.
All these factors will put upward pressure on the price of food. Unfortunately, those most affected are the least able to afford price increases.
There have been tensions between, and within, states over access and control of food and water. The signs of an impending crisis suggest these tensions will increase.
This paper summarises the conclusions reached during a series of workshops conducted by FDI over the last 18 months, including the recent workshops on conflict points held in March 2012.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Most successful contingent in Afghanistan

from The Simple Truth? Securing the Population as a Recent Invention by Sergio Miller in the Small Wars Journal.

The most successful region has been the Italian-Spanish Regional Command West (measured by incidence of violent acts, civilian and security force deaths, and reconstruction). Why have the Italians and Spanish succeeded where the rest are floundering? ... Neither contingent has attempted to ‘secure the population’ (or start gun fights with local fighters, as the British did so disastrously in 2006). The opposite has been the case. The last time the British were in Herat they became embroiled with the locals and destroyed a number of the city’s historic towers, an act of cultural vandalism that has not been forgotten. The Italians and Spanish were never going to follow that route. Instead, both have deliberately maintained a low profile, away from Afghan civilian centres, and both have focused on training and reconstruction. It has paid off.

Irregular Warfare, Village Stability Operations and the Venture Capital Green Beret

at Small Wars Journal by EM Burlingame:
And there are three overriding truths driving this IW [Irregular Warfare, of Globalisation, not of the Cold War]: investors are more powerful than nation states; stateless actors are more effective than standing armies; and, stability means employment.

The Platoon Leader's Fight: Lessons from Maiwand

Excellent article in the Small Wars Journal by Alexander Frank.

This point needs to be quoted in full:
Train your men for flexibility
The single best training you can do is squad-level situational training in which your squads get hit from multiple directions by direct fire mixed with IEDs or suicide bombers. After defeating the ambush, have a large group of civilians come up to them while they are evacuating their casualties. The transition between direct fire and dealing with non-combatants will be key. To add more realism to it, make it a force-on-force. Task one of your squads with conducting the ambush and one to reacting to it. Grade both squads at the same time.
Read the rest of this paragraph:
...There should at least be one person devoted to intelligence full time, and one person devoted to money and politics full time in every company.
This is what at bottom you're doing:
...the basis of governance is a consistent set of enforceable rules that bring stability, security and order to people’s lives. People will kill for it and Afghan leaders will need your help if they are going to achieve it...

Numbers count and other things

from Waging COIN in Afghanistan: An Interview with Col. Robert M Sandusky

...The first thing you adapt is your thinking and doctrine and then you try to get the equipment more suitable for the war you are currently waging...
...The Soviets failed not because they had too many troops but because they employed too few in waging the wrong kind of campaign...
...counterinsurgency is not in itself a strategy, but a methodology for undermining or mitigating the insurgents and their effects. You can do counterinsurgency continuously, but you may not achieve success if you don’t have a strategy to which that is linked...
...I was always intrigued by the CORDS program ... [f]rom Vietnam the US military should have learned the imperative in counterinsurgency for a command and control structure that was capable of unifying and integrating indigenous and allied military forces, paramilitary organizations, both military and civilian effort...

Friday, 15 June 2012

Preventing Conflict: Interagency Village Stability Operations Model

A report from the Col. Arthur D Simons Center for Interagency Cooperation (The Simons Center) by Matthew Denny self-described as:

This essay explores village stability operations (VSO) in Afghanistan as an “innovative, low-cost, and small footprint” method of achieving U.S. security objectives. New strategic guidance from the Department of Defense (DoD) calls for such measures as a means to fight and win America’s wars, prevent conflict, and shape the security environment.
Promoting stability in failed or failing states is a national security interest of the U.S. and their regional partners, as failed or failing states provide opportunities for transnational crime, terrorism, and other destabilizing activities. VSO in Afghanistan serves as a template for interagency efforts in dispute resolution and fostering relationships with local governements, and provides a conceptual framework to achieve a shared understanding among interagency partners to address both conflict and state fragility where it matters most—at the local level.
The concept of Afghan VSO has a wider application for other interagency efforts to prevent conflict and promote stability in failed or failing states. VSO facilitates coordinating interagency efforts to build local governance capacity and to link the community to the Afghan government.

The PDF of the report is here.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

James Traub from Foreign Policy with his on-going sort-of anti-drone campaign:

At best, drones are an instrument of policy, not a policy in and of itself. Critics of the Obama administration's emerging counterterrorism strategy in Yemen and elsewhere argue that the United States needs fewer drones, and more of something else. The question for this week is: What's the "something else"?

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Tribal elders "biggest hurdle" to Taliban

Khan said that the tribal elders posed the "biggest hurdle" to the rise of the Taliban and the imposition of sharia. The Taliban's solution was to liquidate the tribal leaders who opposed them. 
"In the struggle for sharia, the tribal elders of this area were the biggest hurdle for us," Khan said. "Some of the tribal elders fled the area and some of them were killed."

From an interview with Hafiz Saeed Khan, the Taliban's emir in Arakzai.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

At the pointy end of the bayonet conundrum

Graeme Dobell looks at humanitarian intervention in theory and practice

The moral from all this in considering the bayonet conundrum is mixed and conditional: when the military and morality merge at the point of intervention, muddle and morass can mingle in with the proper use of might.
He also looks at these:

Humanitarian Intervention and the United Nations
By Norrie MacQueen
Edinburgh University Press | $145.95
Can Intervention Work?
By Rory Stewart and Gerald Knaus
Norton | $29.95

Friday, 27 April 2012

Where should Australia invest in defence?

This 'Reader Riposte' by Alan Wrigley in The Interpreter struck me as somehow - I'm not sure how - important:
Are we to repeat this approach now that the unrewarding Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns — essentially political deployments — are pretty much behind us? The most relevant deployment in the past period was that to East Timor, yet when it came to action we lacked much of the logistical capacity needed, while a lot of other military matériel lay around.

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Real Jack Bauer

It has long been the contention of this blog that policing is the future of warfare. The ideal soldier of the future would be a policeman who is also a reservist.

Here's something on that very topic.

The Real Jack Bauer
by Louis DeAnda
Police forces have spent decades combating organised crime with well-practised techniques, but can the same tactics be the key to defeating insurgencies on the front line? Former police officer, federal marshal, and JIEDDO FOX team member Louis J. DeAnda tells Defence IQ how we need to take a holistic strategy to IED network attack...


Gamification is the wave of the future present.

Not one but two talks courtesy of TED:

1. Gabe Zichermann

and 2. Catherine Aurelio

Sunday, 25 March 2012

What Australian naval power?

Interesting thoughts on Australia's position at The Diplomat.

A more specific question re capability:
Riley Clendo (Facebook):What are the needs of Australia’s navy going forward? Do you feel it needs to develop anti-ship missiles to keep up with other nations in Asia? Do you feel it should base its strategic thinking on China's growing capabilities? What type of vessels and capabilities should Australia invest in?Culturally, the Royal Australian Navy is an heir to the Anglo-American tradition of sea-power: sea-control dependent on ever larger surface combatants remains the dominant – and, in my view, unfortunate – organizational preference. Bizarrely, at a time when Chinese submarine warfare and anti-ship missiles are improving at a rate out of proportion to Western forces’ ability to defend against them, Australia is undertaking a major upgrade of its surface fleet, with plans for three Air-Warfare Destroyers, two massive LHD amphibious assault vessels and a new fleet of over-sized frigates – all of which will require the Royal Australian Navy to concentrate its personnel rather than improving redundancy by dispersing them on a greater number of smaller, more stealthy platforms.
Canberra would, in my view, be far better served by emulating key aspects of China’s own sea-denial strategy, which blurs strategically defensive objectives with an offensive war-fighting doctrine to clear rival navies out of designated areas. That would mean using disruptive technologies to exploit Australia’s geographical advantages in ways that raise the costs and risks to hostile forces seeking to project air or land power in the vicinity of Australia’s air and maritime approaches or in the approaches to the archipelago to its north.
The basic ingredients, among other things, would involve: plenty of land-based air-power; a large, robust submarine fleet; advanced mine-warfare capabilities; a constellation of satellite, maritime surveillance aircraft and land-based radar; and, to the extent surface combatants remain secure and cost-effective, a fleet of Fast Attack Craft armed with high-speed anti-ship missiles.
Of course, a coherent force structure such as this would require a considerable increase in Australian defence expenditure. It would also demand a major overhaul of the administrative foundations of Australian defense policy, which is a quite parlous state at present. So, although it’s very important, I’m not holding my breath.
Raoul Heinrichs is Sir Arthur Tange Scholar at the Strategic and Defense Studies Centre, ANU, an editor at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, and Deputy Editor of Pnyx.

My own view is that some surface control is necessary: the ability to control the surface around RAMSI-style missions, for example, without depending on the United States. Just spend the money and have the option and maintain the tradition and maintain the broadness of capability for the day we wish we had it. But the point about sea denial and submarines is well made.

The pendulum may be swinging towards China's land-to-sea missiles, but that will not last forever and does not diminish the need for sea power projection capability. What it does is create a need to modify doctrine to take into account the current reality.

Let's be optimistic: we are still a regional power and want to be able to smack all other players down at will, not just maintain the ability to smack down attackers only.

Value of night operations

Quote by General Allen on night ops:

This last year we had about 2,200 night operations. Of those 2,200 or so night operations, in 90 percent of them we didn't fire a shot. On more than 50 percent of them, we got the targeted individual, and in 30 percent more we got the next associate of that individual as well...
In all of those night operations ... after 9,200 night operations, 27 -- 27 -- people were killed or wounded in night operations. That would argue for the power of night operations preserving life and reducing civilian casualties... 

H/t: Tom Ricks

Friday, 23 March 2012

Lesson #9: Better "planning" may not be the answer

...better plans don't guarantee success, because trying to do "statebuilding" in a deeply divided society is an immense challenge, and opportunities to screw it up are legion. As Minxin Pei and Sara Kasper of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concluded fromtheir study of past attempts of "nation-building," "few national understakings are as complex, costly, and time-consuming as reconstructing the governing institutions of foreign societies."
For example, having more troops on the ground might have prevented the collapse of order, but the U.S. army could not have kept a sufficiently large force (350,000 or more) in Iraq for very long. Morever, an even larger U.S. presence might have increased Iraqi resentment and produced an insurgency anyway. Similarly, critics now believe the decision to disband the Iraqi army and launch an extensive de-Bathification process was a mistake, but trying to keep the army intact and leaving former Bathists in charge might easily have triggered a Shi'ite uprising instead. Lastly, state-building in countries that we don't understand is inherently uncertain, because it is impossible to know exante which potential leaders are reliable or competent or how politics will evolve once the population starts participating directly. We won't know enough to play "kingmaker," and we are likely to end up having to prop up leaders whose agendas are different from ours.
In short, as Benjamin Friedman, Harvey Sapolsky, and Christopher Preble argue here, better tools or tactics are probably not enough to make ambitious nation-building programs are smart approach.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

A northern Uganda reading list

Another great source from The Blattman on the Lord's Resistance Army, along with a report from the ICG and what Obama's doing about it..

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Helpers in a hostile world: the risk of aid work grows

Some 242 aid workers were killed in 2010, up from 91 a decade before. Is 'humanitarian space' shrinking, or are aid groups spreading out to more conflict zones than before?

Friday, 10 February 2012

In Helmand, training Afghan Local Police is a challenge

KHAR NIKAH, Afghanistan — Inside a cold room surrounded by sand-filled Hesco barriers in the remote Gereshk Valley, British forces are teaching a group of young Afghan fighters how to protect their village from the Taliban.

But preparing a group of angry, illiterate Afghans to fight a deadly enemy that is regularly testing the British forces here in northern Helmand Province is a monumental task. The villagers who have opted to join the Afghan Local Police force in Khar Nikah mistrust one another, say they are not being offered much pay and complain that they need better weapons.


Local defense programs have become a vital part of military strategy in Afghanistan. The programs began after an incident in summer 2010 when dozens of rifle-toting farmers from Gizab, a strategically important area in Kandahar, drove the Taliban from their village. Following that successful local uprising, the United States was keen to replicate the model for village defense, and the United States has since sent in troops to train local villagers.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

MPRI: Civil

MPRI are an interesting-looking PMC "focused on preparing for peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions".

(H/t Bill Moore at Small Wars)

Job in Civil Affairs?

Check out the Civil Affairs Association's list of employers.

AHRLAC - Advanced High Performance Light Aircraft

Brilliant-looking reconnaissance/attack aircraft, designed and built totally in South Africa.

Paramount Group

Paramount Group has an interesting business, as is explained in this article:

For example, Paramount Group specialises in 'peacekeeping packages' tailored to help developing countries meet UN equipment, training and logistic requirements. According to the company's website, Paramount Group covers a niche in the market which US PMSCs often overlook: UN troop‐contributing countries which are eager to mount a battalion for UN deployment, sometimes motivated by the UN reimbursement system.

(H/t HuffPo).