Small Wars Journal

Area Security During COIN: Flashback 1969

Bing West, author of The Village, The Strongest Tribe, and The Wrong War, wrote this paper while working at RAND.  This 1969 paper summarizes West’s three years in Vietnam fighting and analyzing as a grunt at the Rifle Company and Combined Action Platoon Level.  Bing’s bottom line is that village militias can be melded into a robust security system.

In the shadow of President Richard Nixon’s announced withdrawal of U.S. forces, West was arguing that defeat would follow unless the Government of Vietnam adapted and Area Security Program.  In 1969 he identified a critical problem – the Government’s identification with the villagers as the the “nub of the problem”.

The villagers were neutral, not disposed toward the Viet Cong – but afraid of them.  Based on years of patrolling with Combined Action Platoons whose membership included village militias (mostly farmers), West became convinced that the villagers would stand up against the Viet Cong if the Government created a system of security linkages.

If you substitute the nation of Afghanistan wherever Vietnam is mentioned, the lessons for today’s Village Security Operations (VSO) / Afghan Local Police (ALP) are uncanny.