Monday, December 11, 2006

How to Win a Guerrilla War

This is a reprint of T.X. Hammes article originally from Nov. 25 in the WaPo. I'm frankly surprised that my local communist rag chose to print it. Hammes doesn't really give you much on the title theme, but he does tell you a bunch of resources on getting actual resources to read on the topic. I already have all of the books he mentions, and I have looked up many of the articles. There is an especially good reference to multiple articles at the Small Wars Journal.

Hammes does give some perspective relevant to the present conflict in Iraq, which I have stated before, but it's nice to have affirmation from a professional.
But complicating our problem today is the fact that insurgencies are no longer the unified, hierarchical organizations that the Chinese, and later the Vietnamese, developed from the 1920s to the 1960s. Rather, they are loose coalitions unified only by the desire to drive out an outside power. All elements of the insurgency know that when the outside power is gone, they will fight a civil war to resolve their differences. Learning to adjust is the key to success in counterinsurgency. Conventional military weakness forces insurgents to be adaptable, so defeating them requires coherent, patient action – encompassing a range of political, economic, social and military activities – that can only be executed by a team drawn from all parts of government. You don’t outfight the insurgent. You outgovern him.

This was one of the real sources of frustration during my brief tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. The United States had clearly failed to learn from previous insurgencies. We were focused on killing insurgents rather than providing security and governance. Fortunately, we’re now showing signs of learning – thanks to some smart people who are both practitioners and students of counterinsurgency.
The "outgovern" part is pretty telling. It is also the major failure for the US policy so far. It didn't start down the government role at the beginning and was slow to get started. I'd say it still is falling behind, unfortunately due to the present man in control of the Iraqi government. The military also didn't refocus in a timely manner, though that is a major judgment call. They did go from an active combat phase against a fairly sizable, if not capable, military force. In the best Monday morning quarter back style, it appears that the military didn't shift to counterinsurgency operations in a timely manner and things have been sliding around to the worse for it.
Journal articles offer another rich vein of enlightenment on the conduct of counterinsurgency. In “Best Practices in Counterinsurgency,” in the May-June 2005 issue of Military Review, Kalev I. Sepp, a former Special Forces officer and now professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, studied 51 recent counterinsurgencies to develop a list of 12 “best practices” common to all successful ones, and nine “worst practices” of the unsuccessful ones. Sadly, in Iraq, the United States scores below 50 percent on the first and above 50 percent on the second.
The Sepp article he mentions I believe is here. You can also see a slide presentation that appears to go along with the article that is linked on the Small Wars Journal link above. Sepp goes into the various things that need to be done, and they are telling for what the US hasn't been doing, or in reality has been having a great deal of difficulty getting in place. Here are some of them:
Human rights. The security of the people must be assured as a basic need, along with food, water, shelter, health care, and a means of living. These are human rights, along with freedom of worship, access to education, and equal rights for women.
I always wonder about this one. It must be one of the hardest parts due to being the easiest thing to attack from the point of the insurgency. They don't have to necessarily supply human rights, but they can destroy the infrastructure that provides the means of living that the coalition attempts to provide. It always strikes me as odd that the people in the regions that lose these means of living don't hold the insurgents more to blame.
Law enforcement. Intelligence operations that help detect terrorist insurgents for arrest and prosecution are the single most important practice to protect a population from threats to its security. Honest, trained, robust police forces responsible for security can gather intelligence at the community level. Historically, robustness in wartime requires a ratio of 20 police and auxiliaries for each 1,000 civilians.
This one has been especially difficult. The insurgents have been using the police forces against the people, and between the fake police uniforms and the infiltration of the police forces, not to mention the sectarian violence perpetrated by the police, this has been a real mess. Part of a solution would be to use the military in this role and rotate them periodically to different areas to ensure that they don't become an entrenched problem. The problem with that is that they don't become familiar with an area and understand who belongs and who doesn't, making them less effective. Using police from the locality that they patrol isn't a good idea because it will allow entrenchment of sectarian police who won't work to secure all of the population, but bringing outside police won't solve that problem either. Very difficult problem.
Population control. Insurgents rely on members of the population for concealment, sustenance, and recruits, so they must be isolated from the people by all means possible. Among the most effective means are such population-control measures as vehicle and personnel checkpoints and national identity cards.
This is another extremely difficult problem, especially in Baghdad. The Sectarian conflicts as well as tribal conflicts have populations directly adjacent to each other. The insurgents use these zones to attack and then hide. They attack the US military and neighboring sects. These attacks prolong the fighting and continue to stir up sectarian violence which causes the human rights issue to be aggravated. I can see why in many of the insurgencies in history why the political powers took to segregating populations and placing them into "concentration camps." That's sounds worse than it was in reality. These mostly enabled law enforcement to clearly understand who belonged and who didn't and allowed for controlling the populations supplying the insurgents. This clearly isn't possible with Baghdad. Several million people aren't readily segregated.
Political process. Informational campaigns explain to the population what they can do to help their government make them secure from terrorist insurgents; encourage participation in the political process by voting in local and national elections; and convince insurgents they can best meet their personal interests and avoid the risk of imprisonment or death by reintegrating themselves into the population through amnesty, rehabilitation, or by simply not fighting.
It appears this process has been somewhat more effective, but the integration of more of the Baathists back into the political and governmental processes is still an issue. It has been making more headway as of recent times with the allowance of more Baathist civil servants. Unfortunately, many of the insurgents are foreign and have no interest in becoming part of a solution to fix Iraq.
Counterinsurgent warfare. Allied military forces and advisory teams, organized to support police forces and fight insurgents, can bolster security until indigenous security forces are competent to perform these tasks without allied assistance. In the U.S. Armed Forces, only the Special Forces (SF) are expressly organized and trained for counterinsurgent warfare and advising indigenous forces.
The US military has been better at this, but I'm still of the opinion that they aren't doing so well due to any ability to hold the regions they clear. Special Forces have been a large contingency in Iraq as in Afghanistan. It is difficult to understand their effectiveness due to the greater secrecy usually attributed to their actions.
Securing borders. Border crossings must be restricted to deny terrorist insurgents a sanctuary and to enhance national sovereignty. Police and military rapid-reaction units can respond to or spoil major insurgent attacks. Special-mission units can perform direct-action operations to rescue hostages, and select infantrymen can conduct raids.
The border control issue on the other hand has been poor. Especially with the issue of Iran and Syria both being parties who would gladly see the US fail in the region. The large border regions would require a large contingency to patrol, but with the UAV technology, you'd think this would be easier.
Executive authority. Emergency conditions dictate that a government needs a single, fully empowered executive to direct and coordinate counterinsurgency efforts. Power-sharing among political bodies, while appropriate and necessary in peacetime, presents wartime vulnerabilities and gaps in coordination that insurgents can exploit.
I'm not very up-to-date on this topic. I know that the politicos have been clawing at getting a say on how operations are run in Iraq, and with the Iraq Study Group results it has gotten worse. From what little I have gleaned, Bush has empowered Abizaid to have a great deal of control on this, but without better information, it is hard to know how well this has been accomplished.

There is more of course, especially the section on failures in historical counterinsurgency. The Hammes Op-Ed does provide a list of good resources if you're interested in the topic.

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