Counterinsurgency: What is it  and why is it difficult

Counterinsurgency: What is it and why is it difficult PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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COIN and the Spectrum of Conflict. Armies generally classify wars as either conventional' or irregular', ie high/medium or low intensityArmies direct most of their attention towards high-intensity warfare, although since 1945, only 12% of all wars can be classified as high/medium intensityArmies

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Counterinsurgency: What is it and why is it difficult

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2. COIN and the Spectrum of Conflict Armies generally classify wars as either ‘conventional’ or ‘irregular’, ie high/medium or low intensity Armies direct most of their attention towards high-intensity warfare, although since 1945, only 12% of all wars can be classified as high/medium intensity Armies frequently fail to correctly identify the type of war in which they are actually engaged An American general discussing Vietnam: ‘I’ll be damned if I permit the United States Army, its institutions, its doctrine and its traditions, to be destroyed just to win this lousy war.’

3. What is Counter-Insurgency? British Army Field Manual Part 10 Counter Insurgency Operations: ‘Counter-insurgency (COIN): Those military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological and civil actions taken by the Government to defeat insurgency.’

4. General Sir Frank Kitson ‘The first thing that must be apparent when contemplating the sort of action which a government facing insurgency should take, is that there can be no such thing as purely military solution because insurgency is not primarily a military activity. At the same time there is no such thing as a wholly political solution either, short of surrender, because the very fact that a state of insurgency exists implies that violence is involved which will have to be countered to some extent at least by the use of force.’

5. British COIN The Six Principles of Counter-Insurgency (worked out over 80 years of difficult trial and error) Political primacy and political aim Co-ordinated government machinery Intelligence and information Separating the insurgent from his support Neutralising the insurgent Longer term post-insurgency planning

6. Political Primacy and Aim ‘Once the possibility or probability of an insurgency has been established, the government should immediately analyse the type and implications of the movement, then decide how to stop, neutralise or reverse the consequences of the insurgency. . . The government should formulate long-term political aims, backed by political and economic initiatives; these in turn will be supported by a counter-insurgency plan involving the police, the armed forces and any locally raised militias, home guards and other auxiliary forces. . . Master plan will differ from country to country, taking account of local circumstances and types of insurgency.’

8. Co-ordinated Government Machinery ‘Unified effort is necessary for success. . . Ideally, the government should give one person overall responsibility for the direction of the government campaign; this allows differences of opinion between agencies to be resolved by an impartial Director.’ [War by Committee]

10. Intelligence and Information ‘Good intelligence is perhaps the greatest asset for a government combating an insurgency. . . . Without it, security forces work in the dark: random offensive operations produce nothing positive and generate negative reactions amongst the local population and international community. . . It takes time and effort to develop knowledge of the country: its ethnic composition, culture, religions and schisms; the political scene and party leaders; clandestine political organisations and their undercover armed groups; the influence of neighbouring states and the host nation police and Special Branch should be the prime agencies for providing information and intelligence, although the best source is a member of the insurgency itself.’

12. Separating the Insurgent from his Support ‘Separation attempts to deny insurgents information, logistics, recruits, safe bases and popular support. . . Physical separation is key, but equally important is a co-ordinated attempt to win the psychological battle for “hearts and minds” (closely linked to the government’s need to retain legitimacy). . . Separation methods include: intelligence to identify cells; security force protection for residents and informers; gradual spread of government control by the oil slick method [pacification]; curfews and searching of persons leaving their houses for work; and patrols, ambushes and vehicle checks.’

14. Neutralising the Insurgent ‘The selective destruction of insurgents is the area in which overt government security forces will have the most obvious impact (not as likely as most commanders would prefer). . . This is the area in which an army can function at its best and should focus for COIN training; the aim should be to defeat the insurgent on his own ground using enough, but no more, force than is absolutely necessary.’

16. Other Armies? Australia—developed a sophisticated doctrine by 1965, only to have fundamentals change France—developed a sophisticated doctrine, but too politicised due to Algeria (Guerre Revolutionnaire) USA—developed a sophisticated doctrine, but military did not feel it was as valid as ‘true war fighting’

17. Division in Battle Pamphlet No. 11 Counter Revolutionary Warfare ‘The conduct of operations at even quite low levels will generally be directed by joint civil/military committees. The military aim at times become subordinate to political or psychological necessities which temporarily assume overriding importance. . . Since the essence of a counter-insurgency campaign is to win back the support of the people for the established government, the importance of building up an intelligence organisation that will provide information about the insurgent movement, its leaders, policy and intention is paramount. . .without good intelligence political and military decisions can not be soundly based.’

19. Why is it difficult? Armies draw incorrect conclusions—US military and Vietnam Armies turn their back on difficult conflicts Armies try to impose their own ‘doctrine’ on future conflicts Lack of support from various civilian organisations

20. Douglas Blaufarb ‘The US military, in particular the army, has not acknowledged any degree of error in Vietnam. . . and has dismantled the centres and training programs that might keep alive in some corners of the system a commitment to the notion that COIN calls for some modification of the prevailing wisdom of “find em, fix em and fight em. . . . [T]he lessons which are our only return for all the blood and fortune that was spent [in Vietnam] will stand us in good stead, provided only that we finally have understood and digested them.’

22. Michael Hennessey ‘Many in the US military [had] come to regard the basic concepts of counterinsurgency doctrine as fatally flawed or directed toward truly unobtainable goals.’

24. Andrew Krepinevich ‘The result [of US policy in Vietnam] has been [that] instead of gaining a better understanding of how to wage counterinsurgency warfare within the unique social, economic, political, and military dimensions comprising that form of conflict. . . . [T]he Army has learned little of value.’

25. Robert Komer ‘Of course insurgencies did not stop occurring. Moreover, a decade after the fall of Saigon, there has been a modest revival of US interest in COIN. . . . But we still do not seem to have profited by many of the operational lessons so expensively learned in Vietnam. . . . [T]hose who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’

27. General Maxwell Thurman ‘The military education system does not prepare officers adequately for such activities [OOTW] or equip them with the in-depth knowledge . . . to be able to co-ordinate the activities of [a counter-]insurgency team.’

29. John Nagl ‘The US Army has failed to form a consensus on the lessons of Vietnam and has not accepted the idea that revolutionary war requires a qualitatively different response from the conventional warfare it knows so well how to fight.’

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