Small Wars Journal

It Takes a Village to Raze an Insurgency

It Takes a Village to Raze an Insurgency by Daniel R. Green - Defense One

Over the last few years, the U.S. military’s special operations community has changed the way it approaches counterinsurgency. Along with direct action — think Navy SEALs helicoptering in to find Osama bin Laden or Army Green Berets clearing buildings of insurgents —Special Operations Forces are now much more prone to work with indigenous security forces, empowering them to fight on their own behalf. Instead of security being something done to local populations, it is increasingly something done with them.

This dramatic shift is largely an outgrowth of a rising view within the U.S. military that however effective unilateral U.S. combat operations may be against terrorist and insurgent groups, these “victories” will only be temporary absent a viable local partner who is motivated to fight. But this approach isn’t focused simply on raising local security forces, it also requires confronting an insurgency’s political strategy as well as participating in modest state-building efforts.

This turnabout in SOF strategy took place for many reasons, but a central factor was lessons learned in fighting the Taliban. After years of combat in Afghanistan, Special Operations Forces began to realize that relentless clearing operations were unsustainable; for security to endure, local communities had to be involved and participate in their own defense. Special Operations Forces also discovered that Afghan villagers were motivated by a variety of reasons to join the Taliban insurgency, many of which had nothing to do with the Islamist movement’s religious ideology. Some villagers joined due to tribal and village frictions, others because they were disappointed by the Karzai government, were intimidated into joining, or were simply seeking a steady paycheck. The Taliban itself continued to exist because the Afghan state was either too weak to defend local communities or too overbearing, preying on its own people and alienating many from their government. What was becoming clear to SOF was that the United States and the Afghan government had to confront the Taliban insurgency holistically, addressing its political, tribal, and economic aspects as well as its military wing while undertaking modest efforts to nurture the Afghan state and ensure that it governed justly. In a sense, the United States had to use the Taliban’s structure and strategy against it…

Read on.


From our article above:

"The Taliban itself continued to exist because the Afghan state was either too weak to defend local communities or too overbearing, preying on its own people and alienating many from their government."

Over at the "Deciphering the Taliban" thread, however, the reason which appears to be given -- as to why the Taliban continues to exist -- was/is that the Taliban are seen, by many (most?) local populations, as better representing, and indeed better meeting/serving,

a. The political, economic, social -- and especially the value -- wants, needs and desires of the majority of the Afghan people. And not as it were:

b. The perceived -- as diametrically opposed -- political, economic, social and value wants, needs and desires of the foreigners/the U.S./the West.

(As an acknowledgement of the common "serving us," rather than "serving them," characteristic of foreign interventions -- which the Afghan people seem to [a] be exceptionally familiar with, [b] object to vehemently and [c] darn sure seem to know how to counter, consider the following:


History suggests that states undertake foreign interventions primarily in pursuit of national security interests rather than through a desire to build capacity for independent and competent governance in other countries per se.

END QUOTE… -- see the second paragraph.)

Thus is it, for example, with a similar understanding -- of how the majority of the Afghan people see THEIR interests (national or otherwise) -- and not ours -- that we might best comprehend why:

a. The Taliban continues to exist? And, likewise, why:

b. Such things as VSO and ALP are not likely to change this/are not likely to "raze this insurgency?"

Dave Maxwell

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 1:44pm

Or we could just go back to what was in Special Forces doctrine for Foreign Internal Defense up until 2007. Rather than coming up with new concepts we should turn to what has worked in the past. Of course we started doing this in the spring of 2002 but were never allowed to develop the concepts more thoroughly until someone created the Village Stability Operations and Afghan Local Police briefing in 2008 or or 2009 (but those were not original thoughts to those who know the doctrine).


Remote area operations are operations undertaken in insurgent-controlled or contested areas to establish islands of popular support for the HN government and deny support to the insurgents. They differ from consolidation operations in that they are not designed to establish permanent HN government control over the area. Remote areas may be populated by ethnic, religious, or other isolated minority groups. They may be in the interior of the HN or near border areas where major infiltration routes exist. Remote area operations normally involve the use of specially trained paramilitary or irregular forces. SF teams support remote area operations to interdict insurgent activity, destroy insurgent base areas in the remote area, and demonstrate that the HN government has not conceded control to the insurgents. They also collect and report information concerning insurgent intentions in more populated areas. In this case, SF teams advise and assist irregular HN forces operating in a manner similar to the insurgents themselves, but with access to superior combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) resources.
(From FM 3-05.202 Foreign Internal Defense 2007.) (NOTE: No longer in current FID Doctrine)