Six Requirements for Success in Modern Counterinsurgency

Six Requirements for Success in Modern Counterinsurgency

Martin Myklebust and Tom Ordeman

Abstract

In recent counterinsurgency operations, Western military forces have been slow to adapt, and slow to adopt lessons learned in comparable prior conflicts. By undertaking a detailed study of two such conflicts – the Algerian Revolution of 1954-1962, and the Dhofar Rebellion of 1970-1976 – six overarching lessons for success and failure in COIN operations were revealed. In the following essay, these lessons are detailed, informing recommendations for both policy-makers and warfighters engaged in future conflicts of these and other comparable types.

Introduction

With the end of the Cold War, the United States and its allies found themselves in possession of unparalleled conventional military prowess based on the combination of professional military forces and revolutionary advances in military technology. As a result of Western military interventions in such theaters as Latin America (Grenada 1983, Panama 1989), the Persian Gulf (1991, 1998), the Horn of Africa (1992-1995) and the Balkans (1995, 1999), forces opposed to the West have largely shifted their methods away from conventional warfare. Unable to close with and defeat conventional forces on a traditional battlefield, state and sub-state actors have adopted both ground tactics and overall strategies increasingly reminiscent of such insurgencies as the Soviet-Afghan and Vietnam Wars. In recent years, asymmetric conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have proved challenging for Western forces whose doctrine and equipment have been carefully optimized for potential conflicts against other conventional armies, and whose societies have a low tolerance threshold for long, costly campaigns.

Of course, insurgency is an ancient method of engaging in the Clausewitzian clash of wills between one group or another. From Rome's campaigns against the Celtic and Germanic tribes, to the imperial British operations during the Anglo-Afghan and Boer Wars, history is rife with examples of clashes between armies and insurgents. Although such classic examples may provide lessons within the Clausewitzian "logic" of war, the fluid "grammar"[i] of warfare directs strategists to focus their examinations on modern counterinsurgency (COIN) campaigns - both successful and unsuccessful - to evaluate the critical elements a COIN force must employ in order to prosecute successful COIN campaigns.

With these factors in mind, this study consider on six major requirements for successful COIN operations in a modern context. Specific examples illustrating these six requirements derive from two specific case studies. As an example of success, the relatively neglected 1970-1975 Dhofar Rebellion in Oman has been chosen. France's unsuccessful 1954-1962 Algerian campaign provided an apt case study in COIN failure. While numerous COIN campaigns would have been relevant, the conflicts in question offered clear, distinct examples to illustrate the six critical requirements for modern COIN success.

This analysis has been informed by a variety of classic and contemporary sources on the topic. These included military doctrinal literature, academic sources on both insurgency and specific conflicts, and the writings of recognized insurgent and guerrilla leaders of the recent past. Inter alia, together with Sun Tzu's admonition to "know the enemy and know yourself"[ii], Clausewitz's “trinity”, and his guidance on understanding "centers of gravity",[iii] especially informs the observations below.

The core philosophies informing this analysis are derived from the concept of population-centric COIN, and the Maoist model of guerrilla warfare/insurgency. Population-centric COIN, as espoused by such strategists as David Galula, David Kilcullen, and David Petraeus, involves fighting the insurgency not by focusing on killing insurgents themselves; but rather, by assisting the host nation government (HNG) in meeting the economic, security, and political needs of the population, thus denying the insurgent the popular support necessary to continue the insurgency.

Meanwhile, the Maoist model of guerrilla warfare/insurgency establishes a methodology marked by undermining the sitting government through guerrilla or terrorist attacks, gradually building strength through a constantly growing support base within the population, and eventually replacing the sitting government once enough strength has been amassed. Population-centric COIN encompasses the current COIN doctrine within Western militaries, while many non-Communist insurgent groups have adapted the Maoist system (and, to a lesser degree, the Guevaran "Foco" theory) to fit their own objectives.

Overview of Case Studies

By 1954, close to a million of pieds-noirs (ethnically Europeans), lived in Algeria. A colony since 1830, Algeria was by definition a part of France by 1954. As Algerian nationalism rose and increasing unrest among the population created tension, the pieds-noirs felt abandoned by the administration in Paris. The war was complex; it was another bloody chapter of French decolonisation, the French forces experienced resistance of magnitude, and France risked a coup d’état. While our illustrations focus on the insurgent movement of the Front de la Libération Nationale (FLN, also known colloquially as "fellagha", Arabic for "bandits") and the general revolutionary insurgency movement in Algeria, it is the case that the parallel movement among the pieds-noirs themselves constituted a form of insurgency that further complicated the situation in Algeria.

As the Algerian War was drawing to a close, another insurgency was arising in the southern Omani province of Dhofar. The conflict accelerated in 1970 when provocateurs from the neighboring communist state of South Yemen, armed and trained by Moscow and Beijing, played upon Dhofari discontent stemming from the reign of Sultan Said bin Taimur. The resulting insurgency of the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Arabian Gulf (and later, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman) - known colloquially as the "adoo", Arabic for "enemy" - threatened to put the Strait of Hormuz and a strategic Western ally in the Soviet orbit - nine years before the unexpected Islamic Revolution in neighboring Iran would further jeopardize the key energy shipping lane. The British intervened to help the heir, Sultan Qaboos, to depose his father, after which Omani forces - assisted by Britain, Imperial Iran, Jordan, and Pakistan - embarked upon a unified campaign of development, modernization, COIN, and reconciliation.

Requirement #1: A Credible Local/Host Nation Government Counterpart

"Success in counterinsurgency (COIN) operations requires establishing a legitimate government supported by the people and able to address the fundamental causes that insurgents use to gain support. Achieving these goals requires the host nation to defeat insurgents or render them irrelevant, uphold the rule of law, and provide a basic level of essential services and security for the populace."

- FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5 Counterinsurgency Field Manual, 2006[iv]

Insurgencies are built upon popular grievances with the HNG. HNGs that are seen as illegitimate, corrupt, or ineffective contribute to passive or active support for insurgents from among the local populace. If the HNG is seen as legitimate, fair, and effective at addressing the basic needs and grievances of the populace, the insurgency will not receive the recruits, logistical support, and popular approval it needs to succeed.

Algeria: A Host Nation Identity Crisis

Contrary to Tunisia and Morocco, former French colonies which were granted sovereignty in March of 1956, Algeria was regarded by the French government and people as an integral department of France. "L’Algerie, c’est la France!" was a well known and frequently stated notion that defined French political strategy of the 1950s. Thus, instead of handling the challenges alongside a host nation, the policymakers approached the campaign as an internal governance issue within the French state. There was, therefore, a disconnect between the French policymakers' perception of Algeria, and the contemporary concept of a "host nation" within the classical model of an intervention between states.

The French had a certain situational awareness in relation to tendencies within the Algerian government, but not when considering political movements in the more critical rural areas; these became the heartland of the FLN. The FLN defined its war, with its precision and skills, aimed at two fronts: the French authority and the Algerian people.[v] The result was that both the European French government, and the local Algerian government, lacked credibility with the local populace.

The Algerian War came at a difficult time in French history. Poor French administration of the country and its resources in the aftermath of defeat in Indochina resulted in grave effects on the war in Algeria. The French political and military establishments suffered in economic terms, as well as in public opinion and related force endurance, all of which are critical to success in COIN operations.

Owing to these factors, the French government chronically underfunded development and governance programs in Algeria and repeatedly failed to deliver on promises of economic and social reforms, further undermining French credibility among the pieds-noirs as well as the indigenous populace. French efforts to pacify Algeria were further complicated by the ill-fated 1956 Anglo-French operation in the Suez Crisis.[vi]

While the French government and its local counterpart lacked this credibility, the FLN enjoyed widespread credibility among the local populace. Despite numerous setbacks and missteps on their part, the FLN narrative became increasingly resonant among the indigenous population with every excess committed by French troops.

Dhofar: Eliminating Questions of Legitimacy

Sultan Said bin Taimur was universally unpopular in Muscat and Oman, which were treated as two different political units. A great deal of the animosity among the Dhofaris and the rest of his subjects stemmed from his austere administration of the nation, combined with the particular marginalization of Dhofar in national affairs.

With British support, Sultan Qaboos deposed Sultan Said in in July of 1970, eliminating the argument of regime illegitimacy. Sultan Qaboos immediately established the unified Sultanate of Oman to eliminate the political distinction between the capital and the interior. Sultan Qaboos was also half Dhofari himself, complementing his existing lineal mandate with an ethnic and regional legitimacy.

Perhaps as critical to the success of the COIN campaign was Sultan Qaboos' training and experience. As Sultan Said's sole heir, Sultan Qaboos learned civil administration from the British, trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and served in West Germany as an officer with the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). Upon his accession, Sultan Qaboos embarked on an aggressive campaign of modernization, development, and reconciliation to eliminate the grievances fueling the insurgency.[vii]

Sultan Qaboos' perceived legitimacy as a monarch and growing credibility as a governor and administrator were critical to the success of the ensuing COIN campaign. At present, he not only remains in power, but remains widely popular amongst the citizens of Oman.

Requirement #2: A Coherent Mission and Operational Mandate

"The government must have a clear political aim: to establish and maintain a free, independent and united country which is politically and economically stable and viable."

- Sir Robert Thompson, Defeating Communist Insurgency[viii]

Insurgencies exist due to particular conditions that are unique to each conflict. A COIN campaign must be designed to address the specific conditions that inspire insurgents and their supporters to initiate and continue the conflict. Counterinsurgents should avoid "mission creep", i.e. the assignment of additional goals beyond the immediate mandate of ending the insurgency. This often requires knowledge of the human terrain in order to understand which solutions are appropriate to the local populace, and which are beyond the scope of the counterinsurgent's mission and resourcing.

A Constantly Changing French Mandate

The Algerian uprising became a protracted war, composed of many intricate stages. While the war shifted directions as time passed, French forces did not manage to meet these changes in a satisfactory way. During the war new sets of insurgent modus operandi emerged, forcing the COIN force to adapt. The conduct of COIN turned progressively more complex, and new FLN tactics imposed changes on French strategy.

Besides the tactical aspects of adapting military doctrine, French relations with neighbouring states affected their campaign in Algeria. One example of this was the arrest of FLN leader Ahmed Ben Bella, which took place in the absence of any preferable alternative. Instead of an assassination (which had been ordered), Ben Bella was arrested, revealing the FLN relationship with Morocco.[ix] This, in turn, soured relations between France and Morocco at several levels, making it more difficult to accomplish strategic goals such as controlling the flow of FLN personnel and resources in the border regions.

Regarding a viable exit strategy, the French intervening forces had little relevant experience from which to draw. This deficiency influenced the campaign long before one could see an end to it. As David Galula notes: "lack of doctrine and experience in what to do after a military operation, among other things, precluded a clear-cut French success".[x] Even though it will always be complicated to plan and predict the time frame for any military operation, a thorough analysis of possible exit strategies is necessary.

These factors, combined with those mentioned above with respect to host nation credibility, led to frequent shifts in both military and political strategies, resulting in a constant revision of objectives and a progressively less coherent mission. As the French could never settle on a clear vision for an end state in Algeria, a long-term strategy for reaching that end state became impossible. This failure on the part of the French policymakers played a direct factor in the 1961 mutiny among French forces.

By contrast, the FLN mission and mandate was coherent and simple: to expel France from Algeria.

Setting Realistic Goals in Dhofar

The Sultan's of Oman's Armed Forces (SOAF), with supporting forces from Britain, Pakistan, Imperial Iran, and Jordan, shared a unified mission. A whole of government approach was applied to address specific civil grievances with development and improved local and national governance. This was combined and closely coordinated with the military objective of detaining and reconciling Dhofaris, killing hardcore insurgents, and interdicting insurgent logistics. The COIN mandate was simple, specific, and carefully coordinated.

As Ian Gardiner notes, the mandate in Oman was not to turn Dhofar into the equivalent of a British county. Instead, the unified COIN campaign set goals that were both realistic given the available resources, and appropriate to the location in question. Mission creep was avoided:[Sultan Qaboos] may not have been democratic but he was accountable in an indirect way. The lesson of what happens when you are not responsive to your people's needs had been taken fully on board. Sultan Qaboos was a benevolent autocrat who, with the freedom of action that his victory allowed him, has gently but surely advanced his country on a liberalising course towards more directly accountable government. We were not expecting instant democracy to emerge out of the victory on the jebel. But we knew that Qaboos would slowly ease things forward at its own pace.[xi]

The SOAF and allied forces enjoyed the benefit of a specific, unified mission that balanced the capabilities and duties of those involved to undermine the insurgency in an efficient, effective, and permanent manner. This unity of effort and simplicity of purpose proved critical to their ultimate success.

Requirement #3: Control of the Physical and Human Terrain

"Twenty counterinsurgents per 1000 residents is often considered the minimum troop density required for effective COIN operations; however as with any fixed ratio, such calculations remain very dependent upon the situation."

- FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5 Counterinsurgency Field Manual, 2006[xii]

"Conduct toward the civil population ought to be regulated by a large respect for all the rules and traditions of the people of the zone, in order to demonstrate effectively, with deeds, the moral superiority of the guerrilla fighter over the oppressing soldier."

- Ernesto "Che" Guevara, "Guerrilla Warfare", 1961[xiii]

"[T]he strongest weapon which the mujahedeen enjoy - after the help and granting of success by God - is popular support from the Muslim masses in Iraq, and the surrounding Muslim countries. So, we must maintain this support as best we can, and we should strive to increase it[.]"

- Ayman al Zawahiri, letter to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, 2005[xiv]

"I don't get intelligence off a satellite. Iraqis tell me who the enemy is."

- General James N. Mattis, USMC

Insurgents thrive on freedom of movement, which is facilitated by knowledge and control of the physical terrain, and ability to benefit from the human terrain. In order to succeed, counterinsurgents must have a large enough force to deliver security in urban and rural areas. The counterinsurgent force must also have a strong familiarity with the human terrain. This requires the counterinsurgent force to build relationships with the local populace in order to gather information while providing the local populace with a non-abstract alternative order to that of the insurgent force. A crucial corollary to the physical terrain includes mobility, provided in the modern operating environment (OE) by helicopters and surface (ground or water) vehicles that are appropriate to the OE (mountain, desert, jungle, etc.). Crucial corollaries within the human terrain include social knowledge of language, culture, local individuals and groups, and the relationship of individuals and groups to one another.

A French – Algerian Culture Gap

Prior to the war, the accepted status quo in Algeria was defined by an overarching security vacuum, owing to poor French provision for security forces and law enforcement personnel. As stated previously, French situational awareness of the political and security situation in Algeria, particularly in the rural heartland of the FLN, suffered from French complacency owing to their longstanding presence.

The size and features of the physical environment, and the number of security force personnel required to cover a single préfet adequately, was immense; in fact, it was well beyond the grasp of the handful of security personnel provided by the French authorities. A security vacuum was, therefore, inevitable. As such, this aspect of the Algerian security situation clearly play a central role in understanding the difficulties that were to come.[xv]

The French forces’ lack of "own" security personnel in the Algerian countryside resulted in sparse access to intelligence-valuable indications in the early stages of the campaign, despite reports of escalating unrest from Algerian police. Basic procedures of intelligence collection and processing were not followed,[xvi] and the counterinsurgency began on the wrong foot, never to recover.

Complex physical environments in the OE characterised and affected French COIN operations. Even though many French policymakers and troops knew the Algerian geography, it was all very different from Indochina. Algeria's mountainous heartland, long coastlines, and urban environments offered a set of treacherous challenges. As such, Algeria became "a different war". Sophisticated French forces were forced to abandon new, specialized tactics and equipment developed after World War II, and return to traditional light infantry disciplines such as patrolling and scouting in order to cope with the challenges in the Algerian OE.

Control of the physical and human terrain is a zero sum game. Because the COIN force failed to control either, the FLN were able to influence both deeply.

Securing Territory, Securing Support

Though constrained by logistics and manpower in Oman, the SOAF and its allies were able to deploy enough personnel to control the physical terrain. With a combination of native Omani soldiers, Baluchis recruited from southwest Pakistan, and an officer corps consisting primarily of seconded British officers, the SOAF consisted of four main regiments that were able to rotate in and out of combat operations in Dhofar. Control of the physical terrain included providing security for villages, conducting targeted patrols to disrupt adoo operations, and establishing fortifications to disrupt adoo supply trains. These controls denied the free use of the physical terrain to the adoo.

The SOAF simultaneously targeted the human terrain. A deliberate "hearts and minds" campaign included such measures as medical and veterinary services, increased access to education, infrastructure projects, and economic investment. Adoo who surrendered were offered both amnesty and the opportunity to join the Sultan's payroll as members of the regional militias, known as the "firqat". British forces assigned by the MoD or seconded to the SOAF learned to speak Arabic, learned and respected local customs, and embedded with the SOAF, either as seconded personnel or as advisors. The COIN forces nearly all spoke the local language fluently and practiced Islam, or spoke the local language adequately and respected the local culture. As we shall note later, this campaign was in direct contrast to the philosophy and conduct of the insurgents.[xvii]

By controlling the physical terrain with appropriate tactics and equipment, and by controlling the human terrain with appropriate civil affairs and cultural knowledge, the SOAF and their allies were able to undermine popular support for the insurgency.

Requirement #4: An Effective System of Logistics

"In counterinsurgency, there is frequently no distinction between forward and rear, especially when logistic bases form a hub and spoke system. In an era of 360° resupply operations, logistic troops have to be appropriately trained to enable them to ‘fight logistics through’; they must be as capable as their teeth arm counterparts."

- British Army Field Manual Volume 1 Part 10, Countering Insurgency, 2009[xviii]

"The guerrilla soldier must never forget the fact that it is the enemy that must serve as his source of supply of ammunition and arms."

- Ernesto "Che" Guevara, "Guerrilla Warfare", 1961[xix]

Regardless of whether or not insurgents are supplied by a foreign patron, insurgent forces will seek to raid counterinsurgent supplies, and to disrupt counterinsurgent operations. Effective logistics is critical to counterinsurgent success. This includes vigorous force protection for supply trains and logistical storage depots to mitigate the risk of insurgent attempts to destroy or acquire supplies.

Enabling Insurgents with Poor Interdiction

As a result of the longstanding French settlement of most of North Africa, Algeria's economy and infrastructure were relatively well established, and force had been utilized there before. Despite this fact, the COIN force experienced a lack of resources, hampering their ability to operate effectively. Even though the short distance to France was favourable, the features of the OE, with all its specific challenges, became a limitation for the French forces in terms of resupply and effective tactical communication. The COIN campaign suffered from the French government's failure to resource the military, civil affairs, and governance efforts.[xx]

On the other hand, and owing to the French failure to control the physical and human terrain, the insurgents possessed sufficient freedom of movement to maintain their momentum: lightly equipped, and able to move as civilians, the FLN possessed the ability to move personnel and materiel among the civilian populace. They experienced the advantages of a "classic" insurgency.

Interdiction and Efficiency

The SOAF enjoyed logistical success on two different fronts.

First, the SOAF's own logistics were carefully managed. Contrary to modern campaigns, the COIN campaign in Dhofar had a limited budget. Limited supplies were carefully coordinated by meticulous supply officers and delivered primarily by Bell 214 and Westland Wessex helicopters, and by Short SC.7 Skyvan airplanes, to remote outposts that were typically inaccessible by road. Supplies were appropriate to the conflict, and distributed to allow troops to operate effectively despite often austere conditions.

The SOAF simultaneously conducted effective interdiction and denial operations against PFLOAG/PFLO logistics. Patrols disrupted adoo supply movements, while the establishment of the fortified Hornbeam, Damavand, and Hammer Lines running from the coast into the mountains made adoo logistical transportation increasingly difficult as the conflict continued. The SOAF also made expert use of both land mines and pre-registered indirect fires targeting to disrupt known adoo supply lines. As a critical element of foreign support to the PFLOAG/PFLO was weapons and materiel, the inability to move these supplies reliably severely hindered the insurgents' efforts.[xxi]

Requirement #5: Control of Information, Effective Information Operations

"However, despite all of this, I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our Umma. And that however far our capabilities reach, they will never be equal to one thousandth of the capabilities of the kingdom of Satan that is waging war on us. And we can kill the captives by bullet. That would achieve that which is sought after without exposing ourselves to the questions and answering to doubts. We don't need this."

- Ayman al Zawahiri, letter to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, 2005[xxii]

Insurgents counter numerical inferiority with information, often inaccurate information, which is critical to influencing the sentiment of the local populace. COIN forces must actively counter this effort. This includes disseminating information about insurgent crimes and excesses, being prepared to immediately dispel insurgent accusations or claims of victory.

An Information-Conscious Adversary

The FLN possessed a well-developed and structured network for spreading information and propaganda, both in rural and urban environments. Even though these activities were expensive, the FLN managed on sparse resources. A well-known characteristic of asymmetric warfare, solid information operations demand money. Besides all the other expenses the Algerian insurgents had to manage, they were able to conduct efficient information operations (IO).[xxiii] By combining IO with guerrilla tactics and the utilization of terror as an instrument, the Algerian insurgents achieved an unbeatable grip on both rural and urban areas of operations.

FLN tactics fed into an overall strategy of safeguarding their own information, collecting critical information about French forces, and controlling the narrative among the populace. In terms of addressing challenges tied to information operations, the Algerian insurgents utilized specific organizational frameworks and, critically, operational security, making it difficult for the French to map insurgent networks. One example was the FLN tactic of insulating their personnel: each operative knew only the identity of his immediate senior, and his two immediate subordinates, in order to prevent one operative's detention from disrupting the entire network. FLN operatives were also known to use noms de guerre.

In modern COIN operations, the conduct of information operations is not unfamiliar. In modern Afghanistan, the Taliban have managed to utilize the same kind of dynamic combination of insurgency disciplines.[xxiv]

The French, for their part, tried to counter this tendency. L'organisation Rurale et Urbaine (ORU), the rural and urban organisation, constantly worked on a unified effort towards securing the cornerstone of an insurgency: winning the people. By targeting the villages at its residences, e.g. in the mountainous, densely populated areas in Kabyla, the French intended to address the locals.

Failure to control the physical and human terrain contributed to an overall French failure in the realm of information, including intelligence collection and narrative control. Owing to frustration from seeing both that the insurgents had a solid grip on the populace, and that it was difficult to distinguish between insurgents and innocents, the French turned to extreme measures.[xxv] These measures created a negative spiral of effects which became impossible to reverse. By employing intimidation and torture, the French compromised fragile intelligence collection processes – and lost the support of both the Algerian populace and the international community. In all actuality, the French likely lost the war at that very point.

Winning Hearts and Minds

In Oman, the SOAF and their allies excelled in two key aspects of information operations: collection of intelligence, and dissemination of information.

While signals intelligence was limited, aerial intelligence of both the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) and of Dhofar itself was accomplished by using English Electric Canberra PR9 light bombers re-tasked for aerial photography. Of much greater importance was human intelligence (HUMINT), which was available from the cooperative populace, and from co-opted former rebels who were intimately familiar with both the physical and human terrain. These former rebels were folded into the aforementioned firqat militias, and operated as auxiliaries and scouts in support of the SOAF itself. Of critical importance in the HUMINT effort was the ability of not only the native Omani SOAF personnel, but also of the seconded British personnel, to speak Arabic.[xxvi]

Also of great importance was the ability to control the narrative among the populace. SOAF psychological operations efforts successfully highlighted adoo reprisals against the local populace while simultaneously showcasing the Sultanate's development campaign, notes former British Army veterinarian Andrew Higgins.[xxvii] Of great importance was the SOAF's success in publicizing the atheist nature of the adoo's Marxist ideology, a critical incongruity in a region dominated by devout adherence to Ibadhi Islam. British personnel attributed unit successes to the local national forces in order to build trust in the national institutions, as well as esprit de corps among the Omani military personnel.

While military doctrine appropriately separates intelligence and information operations, the key lesson from Dhofar was the overall control of information: reliable HUMINT and other forms of intelligence were cultivated and applied with stunning success, while the IO campaign controlled the narrative and gave the Dhofaris the moral and intellectual justification to support the COIN forces.

Requirement #6: An Ineffective/Illegitimate Insurgent Force

"Because guerrilla warfare basically derives from the masses and is supported by them, it can neither exist nor flourish if it separates itself from their sympathies and cooperation."

- Mao Tse-tung, "On Guerrilla Warfare", 1937[xxviii]

"We don't want to repeat the mistake of the Taliban, who restricted participation in governance to the [Taliban] and the people of Kandahar alone. They did not have any representation for the Afghan people in their ruling regime, so the result was that the Afghan people disengaged themselves from them. Even devout ones took the stance of the spectator and, when the invasion came, the amirate collapsed in days, because the people were either passive or hostile. Even the [Taliban] themselves had a stronger affiliation to their tribes and their villages than their affiliation to the Islamic amirate or the Taliban movement or the responsible party in charge of each one of them in his place. Each of them retreated to his village and his tribe, where his affiliation was stronger."

- Ayman al Zawahiri, letter to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, 2005[xxix]

"No war is over until the enemy says it's over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote."

- General James N. Mattis, USMC

Insurgents are prone to ineffectiveness. This can take many forms: goals or beliefs that are inconsistent with the values of the local populace (Dhofar Rebellion), foreign insurgents attempting to insert themselves into local matters (Anbar Province, Iraq; Afghanistan), or disproportionate violence (Anbar Province, Northern Ireland). COIN forces must be prepared to seize opportunities provided by the insurgents themselves.

A Blueprint for Insurgency

The French COIN force got many things right in Algeria; however, its adversaries were extremely well organized and funded. The FLN became such an effective movement in conducting an insurgency that its model has been followed by other groups eager to achieve similar outcomes.[xxx]

The FLN became famous for employing three different disciplines of theatre control. First, it employed guerrilla warfare as a technique, with all of the standard operational procedures specific to that style of fighting. Second, it used terrorism as a tool of political influence. Third, it established a parallel political administration (sometimes referred to as a "shadow state") while the war was ongoing.

The narrative component of the FLN insurgency was so strong that all central parties of the organisation were convinced that victory, and by that an independent government, would prevail.[xxxi] This, in turn, led to the pre-planning of a critical strategy to achieve the desired end state; in fact, “desired” is a misnomer, as the FLN nurtured an organizational philosophy in which its victory was inevitable. During the war itself, this political consciousness among many echelons of the insurgency made the movement even harder for the French forces to defeat.

The Doomed Adoo

Ian Gardiner makes the following generous concession about the PFLOAG/PFLO:

The real success of the 'losing side' lies in the extent to which, through their efforts and their sacrifice, they forced their opponents to adjust their own attitudes and approaches in order to beat them. By this yardstick, the Dhofaris were hugely successful. They forced the removal of a hated ruler and brought about the transformation of their country in a way which even the most farsighted of them could not have imagined in 1965.[xxxii]

At the same time, none would consider the adoo to have "won" in any military or political sense of the word. At the outset of the Dhofar Rebellion, the PFLOAG/PFLO enjoyed an advantage which, in all fairness, should have been decisive. In mid-1970, the war was theirs to lose. The COIN force of the SOAF and its allies waged an effective COIN campaign, but its success was due in large part to adoo failures and missteps.

Typical of insurgents, and particularly insurgents of the revolutionary Communist model, the adoo were keen on dominating the populace through fear, repression, and violence. As mentioned previously, the adoo also deprived themselves of legitimacy by subscribing to a supposedly "universal" ideology that was politically, socially, and economically incompatible with the traditional culture of the local populace. The adoo also failed on a more tactical level; for example, poor weapons maintenance (particularly of grenade fuses) contributed to their stunning defeat by a mere handful of British and Omani personnel at the Battle of Mirbat in 1972. The insurgents also failed to adapt their tactics, as well as their overall strategy, to undermine the COIN campaign waged by Sultan Qaboos and his allies..

Had the adoo adopted a more moderate ideology and less brutal methods - for example, an Arab nationalist model like the ones that took hold in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Libya in the decades prior - the monarchy may very well have collapsed, with devastating results for the Omani people. Instead, the adoo undermined their own agenda with their brutality and incompatible philosophy. In a few short years, Sultan Qaboos and his allies were able to overcome the seemingly insurmountable disdain for Sultan Said amongst the populace.

Strategic Observations and Additional Best Practices

In addition to the six requirements already listed, there are several additional "best practices". While these do not meet the "requirement" level for successful modern insurgency, there are historical examples in which these tactics, techniques, and procedures contribute significantly to the likelihood of success in COIN campaigns.

First, clear understanding of the salience and applicability of the Clausewitzian Trinity is necessary. Contrary to the assertion of such prominent COIN commentators as Martin van Creveld and Ralph Peters[xxxiii] that insurgencies undermine the Clausewitzian Trinity, the rise of sub-state actors is a mere caveat. The Clausewitzian Trinity remains accordingly legitimate with respect to the political establishment, military, and population of both the host nation and, in the case of military coalitions, the nations sending forces to participate in the conflict. The caveat answering this criticism exists merely to note that sub-state actors - who are typically attempting to overthrow and replace the sitting government - must also establish a stable Clausewitzian Trinity between insurgent political leadership, combatants, and their potential host nation constituency. HNG forces must maintain the support of the host nation populace, and military assistance (MA) forces must maintain the support of their own populace - support which was notably absent the longer the French were in Algeria.

Second is a caveat to the need for a COIN campaign to focus on achieving support from the host nation populace. While the people in the rural areas of a state are often dependent on predictable agricultural outcomes, they are also the most exposed to insurgents’ use of force. The case of an insurgency from below emphasizes the value of training and arming local manpower in order to prevent insurgents from establishing control over the rural population.[xxxiv]  Such an initiative at grassroots level is favourable in many ways as seen throughout this study. It is also worth noting that this will not succeed without regular support from a major armed force, as the French supported the harkis in Algeria and the Sultan's Armed Forces supported the firqat in Dhofar. As both Mao and modern Western military doctrines agree, guerrillas and/or irregulars are not an end unto themselves, but rather, a predecessor or adjunct to a capable HNG regular force.

Third is the constant need to remember and reiterate a clearly defined strategy, in close connection with and adapted to the desired political outcome. Mainstream media sources are often keen to highlight when politicians or commanders discuss a "political solution", inferring from such statements that the use of military force is a mistake. Instead, such statements merely restate that military force is a tool of policy, and is applied to secure political objectives. By its very nature, the use of military force represents the application of coercive means which are, in theory, directed toward political ends.

The nature and character of most military organisations is known to be distinctive in comparison to other professional organisations.[xxxv] The fact that these organisations are hierarchical by nature represents both possibilities and limitations in terms of ability to change and adapt to complex tasks, like those associated with COIN. While the greatest strengths may be a clear chain of command and a disciplined organisation, they may pose limitations in terms of adapting to unexpected scenarios and modus operandi – in the short term. As is clear in this paper, the utilisation of special operations forces (SOF) is often successful due to their ability to work independently over time. The question is, however, how to conceptualise such qualifications in a larger setting? As these case studies demonstrated, flexibility and non-traditional turnover are both demanded in order to succeed in COIN campaigns. In the case of military units, this is very much a question about the soldier or leader and his or her qualifications. In terms of succeeding in COIN, John Nagl [xxxvi] points out that the sub-level commanders, often distant from their home base due to provincial efforts, must be trusted and given authority to command their troops in a manner that is effective in their OE. This may involve specialists leaving sophisticated capacities and conducting foot patrols to get a grip on the local conditions, as well as functioning as “intelligence sensors”. To do this in an effective manner over time, higher echelon leaders need to state a coherent COIN doctrine that takes the aforementioned requirements into account, and rely on their subordinate leaders to implement this, and to stick to it in the long run. The will and ability to adapt is crucial for any actor involved in COIN operations. No matter what the starting point will look like, change in modus operandi will likely be required over time (fighting an insurgency is extremely time consuming). While the ability to adapt military organisation will vary from actor to actor, it is paramount to identify when the culture for a flexible organisation is established, and how to overcome institutional culture at a later stage. A challenge here is that despite a will to change, the ability to change is not there: certain trends are so deeply rooted that they are hard even to detect.[xxxvii] Only by creating doctrinal frameworks that accommodate flexible approaches toward small wars and creating a military organisational culture that denies groupthink phenomena can actors approach the requirements for successful COIN operations.

In traditional Western military doctrine, the perception of the commander’s intent is clearly defined. Any initiative or effort from a military force is tailored to meet specific demands, to produce a desired outcome.[xxxviii] Further on, in more demanding environments than the regular military OE, interaction between the planning phase and execution phase of operations is crucial.[xxxix] Only by managing this dynamic environment and trust in officers can one succeed in the COIN environment.

Last, there is a need for an appropriate balance between the use of conventional forces and SOF. A topic unto itself, many modern campaigns have relied heavily on SOF and, out of convenience, often employed them in missions outside their normal specialties. French forces in Algeria made little use of SOF elements (apart from the use of Foreign Legion paratroopers as shock troops), in part because the concept was in its infancy at the time. By contrast, British forces in Oman relied heavily upon the Special Air Service, but these forces were used for a narrow mission set, rather than as a one-size-fits-all solution to every challenge. In modern conflicts, the elite and adaptable nature of SOF units has been treated as license to apply them as an all-purpose "multi-tool", rather than as a "scalpel", within a wider conventional order of battle. As a best practice, this temptation should be avoided.

Conclusions

In conclusion, these case studies and the lessons they provide suggest four underlying points.

First, conflict will continue, both in the Middle East and elsewhere. In many of these conflicts, one or more participants will continue to operate as insurgents. In 2001 and 2003 respectively, lessons from prior COIN campaigns - both successful and unsuccessful - were not readily accessible, and leaders were slow to study them and adopt their readily available lessons. In future conflicts, COIN-based or otherwise, a repeated failure to apply these lessons in the early stages of an engagement will cost lives and undermine efforts to bring about a timely and sustainable end state.

Second, both case studies are apt examples of contemporary events producing a long-term effect. The Algerian Revolution contributed to decades of political violence, a lengthy civil war, and the rise of Islamist terrorism that continues to impact North Africa. The successful campaign in Dhofar had the opposite effect, and Oman has been spared the uprisings and sectarian violence of its neighbors. Regardless of a particular political or religious ideology, this focus on the long-term ends must inform the actions taken by decision-makers, regardless of the type of conflict in which they are engaged. In short, COIN efforts taken in the present day produce lasting impacts, for good or for bad.

Third, COIN campaigns are most often associated with conflicts that have "gone hot", so to speak - this is to say, they are perceived as a type of war because they are undertaken when other efforts have failed. Recent global events - most notably in Mali and Algeria - indicate that, in potential problem areas, the old adage that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" can also be applied to COIN. COIN-based solutions to violent conflict can and should be applied wherever possible to latent conflicts in order to prevent them from breaking out into insurgent conflicts in the first place.

Finally, the Clausewitzian "logic and grammar" bears one last mention. The coalitions in Afghanistan and Iraq have fought their engagements differently according to a new "grammar" of warfare, but their success and failure rest on the same principles that lost Algeria for the French, and saved Dhofar for Oman.

Bibliography

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Duquesne, Jacques; "Pour comprendre la guerre d'Algerie". Perrin, Paris 2001.

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Peterson, J.E.; Defending Arabia; Croom Helm, Ltd.; Beckenham, Kent; 1986.

Thesiger, Wilfred; Arabian Sands; Penguin Classics; London; 1959.

Thompson, Sir Robert; Defeating Communist Insurgency; Chatto & Windus; London; 1966.

White, Rowland; Storm Front: The Epic True Story of a Secret War, the SAS's Greatest Battle, and the British Pilots Who Saved Them; Corgi; 2011.

About the Authors

Martin Myklebust is a former Norwegian Army officer. He served one tour supporting ISAF operations in Afghanistan. His research focuses on the collaboration between terrorist and criminal networks.

Tom Ordeman, Jr. is an American risk management specialist. In addition to several positions in training and risk management in support of several DoD commands, he spent fifteen months forward-deployed as an antiterrorism advisor in Kuwait.

Both are members of the Strategic Studies postgraduate program at the University of Aberdeen in Aberdeen, Scotland. The authors wish to acknowledge the significant assistance of Mr. James Wyllie.


[i] von Clausewitz, Carl; On War, Book VIII: Plan of War, Chapter 6B: War as an Instrument of Policy; http://www.clausewitz.com/readings/OnWar1873/Bk8ch06.html#B

[ii] Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter III: Attack by Stratagem.

[iii] von Clausewitz, Carl; On War, Book IV: The Combat, Chapter 9: The Battle; http://www.clausewitz.com/readings/OnWar1873/BK4ch09.html

[iv] FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5 Counterinsurgency Field Manual; Headquarters, Department of the Army; Washington, D.C.; 2006; Chapter 6: Developing Host-Nation Security Forces.

[v] Duquesne, Jacques: "Pour comprendre la guerre d'Algerie". Perrin 2001. p. 93.

[vi] Horne, Alistair; A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962; New York Review of Books; 2006, chapters 4 and 7.

[vii] Higgins, Andrew; With the SAS and Other Animals: A Vet's Experiences During the Dhofar War 1974; Pen & Sword Military; South Yorkshire; 2011.

[viii] Thompson, Sir Robert; Defeating Communist Insurgency; Chatto & Windus; London; 1966; pages 50/51.

[ix] Burleigh, Michael; Blood and Rage – a Cultural History of Terrorism; Harper Press; 2008. p. 17.

[x] Galula, David; Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice; Praeger: 2006. p. 84.

[xi] Gardiner, Ian; In the Service of the Sultan: A First Hand Account of the Dhofar Insurgency; Pen & Sword Military; Barnsley, South Yorkshire; 2007.

[xii] FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5 Counterinsurgency Field Manual; Headquarters, Department of the Army; Washington, D.C.; 2006; Chapter 1: Insurgency and Counterinsurgency.

[xiii] Guevara, Ernesto; Guerrilla Warfare; 1961; Chapter 3: Guerrilla Tactics.

[xiv] al Zawahiri, Ayman; Letter from al Zawahiri to al Zarqawi; 2005, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/CTC-Zawahiri-Letter-1....

[xv] Galula, David; Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice; Praeger: 2006. p. 34: "... the territory was notoriously underadministered on the eve of the insurgency, not because the civil servants were incompetent but rather because the bureaucratic establishment had no relation to the size of the country and its population."

[xvi] Galula, David; Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice; Praeger: 2006. p. 35.

 

[xvii] Gardiner, Ian; In the Service of the Sultan: A First Hand Account of the Dhofar Insurgency; Pen & Sword Military; South Yorkshire; 2007; Kindle edition, location 1533/4322.

[xviii] British Army Field Manual, Volume 1 Part 10, Countering Insurgency; 2009; Section 5: Logistics

[xix] Guevara, Ernesto; Guerrilla Warfare; 1961; Chapter 4: Warfare on Favorable Ground.

[xx] Galula, David; Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice; Praeger: 2006. Page 65. Galula points at relevant aspects of ways of administration and logistics in times of peace and war, and how this reperesented challenges for the French forces in COIN operations.

[xxi] Monick, S.; Victory in Hades: The Forgotten Wars of Oman 1957-1959 and 1970-1976, Part 2: The Dhofar Campaign 1970-1976; Scientia Militaria, South African Journal of Military Studies, Vol. 12, Nr 4; 1982; p. 2.

[xxii] al Zawahiri, Ayman; Letter from al Zawahiri to al Zarqawi; 2005.

[xxiii] Galula, David; Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice; Praeger: 2006. p. 9: "the FLN budget at its peak amounted to $30 or $40 million a year, less than the French forces had to spend in two weeks."

[xxiv] Kilcullen, David; The Accidental Guerrilla; Hurst & Company, London: 2006. p. 49.

[xxv] Faligot, Roger et al: “Histoire secrete de la Ve republique”. La Decouverte, Paris. 2007. Page 41: Remy Kauffer on commandos using torture in Algeria.

[xxvi] Gardiner, Ian; In the Service of the Sultan: A First Hand Account of the Dhofar Insurgency; Pen & Sword Military; South Yorkshire; 2007; Kindle edition, location 595/4322.

[xxvii] Higgins, Andrew; With the SAS and Other Animals: A Vet's Experiences During the Dhofar War 1974; Pen & Sword Military; Barnsley, South Yorkshire; 2011.

[xxviii] FMFRP 12-18 Mao Tse-tung on Guerrilla Warfare; Headquarters United States Marine Corps; Washington, D.C.; 1989 (original publishing 1937); Chapter 1: What is Guerrilla Warfare?

[xxix] al Zawahiri, Ayman; Letter from al Zawahiri to al Zarqawi; 2005.

[xxx] Connelly, Matthew; A Diplomatic Revolution; Oxford University Press: 2002. p. 279: "when the ALN marched in a victory parade through their main base in Morocco, Nelson Mandela was there to see them, having come to learn revolutionary strategy and tactics... And when they finally entered Algiers in triumph, Yasser Arafat was in the crowd cheering. ... Soon, Algiers became known as the "Mecca of the new revolutionaries".

[xxxi] Jacques Duquesne; "Pour comprendre la guerre d'Algerie". p. 95.

[xxxii] Gardiner, Ian; In the Service of the Sultan: A First Hand Account of the Dhofar Insurgency; Pen & Sword Military; Barnsley, South Yorkshire; 2007.

[xxxiii] Peters, Ralph; The New Strategic Trinity; Parameters; US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Carlisle, Pennyslvania; 1998; pp. 73-79.

[xxxiv] Quinn, Joe and Fumerton, Mario A.; Counterinsurgency from Below: The Afghan Local Police in Theoretical and Comparative Perspective; NATO/ISAF; 2010; http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/caat-anaysis-news/counterinsurgency-fro...

[xxxv] Neilson, Gary; Results: Keep What's Good, Fix What's Wrong, and Unlock Great Performance: Crown Publishing, New York. 2005.

[xxxvi] Nagl, John; Learning to eat soup with a knife: Counterinsurgency lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 2002.

[xxxvii] Nagl, John; Learning to eat soup with a knife: Counterinsurgency lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 2002. p. 219.

[xxxviii] FM 5-0 The operations process; Headquarters, Department of the Army; Washington, D.C; 2010: 2-90: Here the field manual clearly states what the commander’s intent must comprise to meet the demands, as well as describing success criteria in ongoing operations.

[xxxix] Alberts & Hayes: “Planning – Complex Endeavours” The Command And Control Research Program, Washington, D.C.; 2007, Page 144.

 

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Comments

@Bill C.: Your comments suggest to me that you haven't actually read our article. Regardless, your comments betray some profound misunderstandings of the campaigns in Algeria, Afghanistan, and Dhofar, only the latter of which actually employed a population-centric COIN strategy incorporating the six items we discussed. I take issue with your attempts to dismiss our work, and the work of some of the best strategic thinkers of the last century, by citing examples that are both out of context, and unrepresentative of the matters under discussion.

@Madhu: In order, I will attempt to be brief, and fail miserably:

1. I'll have to respectfully disagree with Cohen and Hammes. As we learned from the example of General McChrystal, an occupying power can just as easily fire the incompetent; the corrupt are a bit more difficult, but that assumes that the only method of applying leverage is to fire someone. FM 6-22 could be of equal relevance as FM 3-24/MCWP 3.33-5 in such circumstances.

2. There's a lot of wisdom in your comments about COIN and American history. I hesitate to think how much more effective American foreign policy might be if more public figures had undergone the program that Martin and I are about to finish. For a variety of reasons perhaps best discussed elsewhere, America and other Western nations do a poor job of connecting the use of force at the tactical and operational levels to the achievement of strategic, which is to say "political", goals.

3. With regard to Democratic Peace Theory, the negative impact of this flawed theory in both the American domestic context, and in the context of the host nations in which we have chosen to intervene, can't be overstated.

4. I'll have a look at the paper you cited that compares Dhofar and El Salvador. I don't mean to ascribe this sentiment to you, but I regularly get the impression that many COIN critics think that COIN advocates are advocating force-free approaches. I've always gotten the impression that the reputable COIN advocates are advocating approaches that use plenty of discriminate force, discriminatory application of force being less common in conventional operations. (It seems cliche to even say that, but it's amazing how many anti-COIN sycophants have come out of the woodwork since the Petraeus scandal.)

5a. I continue to take a bit of umbrage with the observations about Galula, but I also feel compelled to defend him a bit. The fact of the matter is that neither the French in Algeria nor the Americans anywhere else have implemented the system Galula described. Anyone who cares to read Horne's A Savage War of Peace will know that part of the French failing was that didn't apply much of a system at all, nor did they even stick to just one non-system long enough for it to work or fail. One could make similar observations about Vietnam, Iraq before 2007, and Afghanistan at present - for example, ISAF is currently being overseen by its fifteenth commander in twelve years. By contrast, the mandate and strategy in Dhofar were fairly straightforward and consistent, and they were supervised by only two commanders (Brigadiers Jack Fletcher and John Akehurst) during the course of a seven year campaign.

5b. Granting for the sake of arguments the reviewer's remarks about rigidity and a lack of critical thinking on the part of the U.S. military, I have a hard time crucifying a long-dead Frenchman for those sins, particularly when he at least had the presence of mind to put a body of work out there in the first place. Perhaps the question, then, is not so much Galula's own legitimacy. Rather, perhaps one ought to ask what has prevented the legions of smart people who work directly or indirectly for the DoD from either solving these problems directly, or from at least adapting the collective wisdom of Galula and other COIN theorists to the specific circumstances of Afghanistan and Iraq. I'm tempted to opine about this, but I'm a JFCOM refugee so consider the source.

6. As for your questions on social science models, I would once again point to the agreement and operational diversity of the numerous authors we cited. It seems as if the six items we noted, among others, are specific enough to focus efforts on, while being general enough to be tailored to individual conflicts.

thedrosophil:

The examples that I have cited (Algeria and Dhofar), these certainly cannot be considered to be out of context and not representative of the matters under discussion.

One should suggest, I believe, that there are other important factors that may need to be considered and discussed (an Item No. 7 so-to-speak?), these being:

a. That the political objective of the UK would seem to have been similiar to wants, needs and desires of the Dhofar population.

b. Whereas, the political objective of France would seem to have run counter to the wants, needs and desires of the population of Algeria.

This issue of the compatibility (or lack thereof) re: the goals of the various parties involved, this likewise having some significant bearing on the different outcomes of these and other such endeavors?

Something to consider and, if found to be relevant/persuasive, something to be taken on-board and addressed somehow and somewhere within your work and the work of others?

You didn't fail miserably. This has been incredibly helpful.

Janine Davidson made a similar point in a CATO session about the Kaplan book The Insurgents, she (paraphrasing) stated that COIN wasn't really tried in Afghanistan or something like that.

If no one has really implemented Galula's system successfully, then why all the raves? At best, you have a theoretical proposal that never seems to be implemented properly no matter who tries across time and space. Perhaps that should tell us something?

And if it was never properly implemented, how does anyone know it's any good?

I stand by my point on sovereignty, we are attempting to negotiate a SOFA and troop numbers. We wouldn't have to do that if we were actually running the place. Colonial administrators or outright occupations had options and used techniques that we can't or shouldn't use given the current norms of our society.

On the Dhofar paper, I am thinking something else. I am thinking territory and placement of troops and what they should do, which I know is your point too.

If we say that the population is most important and you pull back to city centers, that will work with an urban insurgency but maybe it won't with a rural insurgency or an insurgency with a close relation to a sanctuary?

I mean, I don't know. I'm just trying to figure things out.

@Madhu: I meant that I failed miserably at being brief. :) Some more thoughts.

1) To me, the implementation of Galula's system specifically, and population-centric COIN generally, goes back to your invocation of the old adage "too many cooks in the kitchen". Prior to Petraeus' assumption of command in '07, which followed shortly after the publication of FM 3-24/MCWP 3.33-5, it was tough to get any of the "cooks" to even admit that we were fighting an insurgency in the first place. At the time, there were Army leaders who thumbed their nose at COIN; with the 2011 withdrawal from Iraq, the pending withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Petraeus scandal from a few months ago, many of the same critics have been coming out of occultation. (Some arguments, such as those of the aforementioned Colonel Gentile, demonstrate sincerity and intellectual merit; others, I think, are little more than conventional warfare/combined arms snobs, who would do well to read pages 279 to 281 of Colin S. Gray's 1999 work Modern Strategy.) As I noted previously, I think that FM 6-22 is every bit as relevant to recent challenges as FM 3-24/MCWP 3.33-5 - for example, I'm still stunned that General Casey was made CSA after General Petraeus relieved him in Iraq, but that's another rant for another time. We have witnessed plenty of failures of leadership and implementation in recent years that do not, I think, justify a knee-jerk backlash against the theorists in question.

2) As for the raves about Galula, I personally think that Galula's theories make a lot of sense, and have been effective where implemented; at the very least, one can give him credit for having a body of work to draw from. As I alluded to earlier, I could go into painful detail on how badly the prophets of "Transformation" dropped the ball in the 1990's (and how they could have been working on doctrine to effectively wage the types of low intensity conflicts that many were predicting at the time), but the fact of the matter is that even Vietnam took place after Galula's stint in Algeria, and neither a body of experience nor a body of doctrine emerged from that conflict. By comparison, I've read Guevara's "treatise" on guerrilla warfare a couple of times, and I'm stunned by how infantile and scattered it is - I've repeatedly noted that Mao is to Guevara as Dante Alighieri is to Dan Brown. Assuming for the sake of arguments that Galula is on the level of Guevara/Brown, a proverbial Mao/Dante has yet to emerge to provide a superior alternative. When the only real theorists you have are Galula, Thompson, and Callwell, and they all seem to agree with one another, it's incumbent upon the critics not only to provide a cogent argument for why the theorists are wrong, but to provide an alternative. "Combined arms", "just don't do COIN at all", and regurgitations of Douhet don't count as alternatives.

3) We'll have to agree to disagree on the sovereignty issue. At best, one could make an argument that sovereignty was transferred back into Afghan and Iraqi hands too early. We didn't negotiate SOFA or troop numbers with the Taliban or the Bath Party; instead, we occupied Afghanistan and Iraq as the policy-makers saw fit, with the force levels and rules of engagement that policy-makers saw fit. Ricardo Sanchez was fired, and Stanley McChrystal was fired. One could also note the various other types of COIN campaigns in which the same aspects are applicable - for example, the British campaign in Northern Ireland, or the Colombian campaign against the FARC, both of which are closer to the Algerian example. I see the point you're trying to make, but my personal opinion is that it's a difference without a distinction, as well as an oversimplification.

4) One of the things I'm researching for my dissertation is adequate troop proportions in the Dhofar campaign. The Dhofar Brigade numbered about 10,000 troops, which included air and naval assets. Dhofar is about halfway between Anbar Province and Helmand Province in square mileage, but with a much smaller population (census data simply doesn't exist, but I've extrapolated a 1970 Dhofari population of about sixty thousand; Helmand and Anbar are currently estimated at 1.44M and 1.56M, respectively). Perhaps our hosts will be interested in publishing some or all of my work once it's complete.

5) Regarding the question of city centers or rural areas, I think this ties back into the idea that every insurgency is different. For example, to contrast Afghanistan and Iraq (which are good corollaries for Dhofar and Algeria): the centers of gravity in Afghanistan/Dhofar are rural areas, while the centers of gravity in Algeria/Iraq were urban areas. In 2009/'10, when General McChrystal announced the decision to withdraw from rural positions (one notable example being OP Restrepo), I immediately knew that McChrystal had completely misunderstood the war and needed to be replaced immediately. (Controversial independent journalist Michael Yon came to the same conclusion for different reasons, but McChrystal was only relieved because of the PR damage suffered by President Obama from that bogus Rolling Stone article.) The Algerian and Iraqi campaigns, on the other hand, required a strong rural element to address arms smuggling and infiltration by foreign insurgents, but the center of gravity was the Iraqi cities, as Iraq's populace is comparatively educated and urban. Part of the solution in Iraq was to take the bulk of combat troops out of the FOBs, and embed them with Iraqi troops and police in joint security stations that were more reminiscent of police precincts than traditional garrisons. As it stands, the Taliban were able to successfully resurge after their initial defeat because ISAF did not effectively control the physical or human terrain: Taliban supply lines were not interdicted, Taliban maneuver was not disrupted, too few troops were deployed to provide security for the rural populace, and the development campaign was neither appropriate to the people's needs nor sufficiently resourced.

6) Regarding this item:

The Taliban cannot win unless they eventually control the cities and villages of Afghanistan. The mountains lack people and resources. -

commenter (P Mansoor) to the thread to "Secure the Cities First?" from the "Vault".

So that was always the argument, wasn't it? Given the nature of AfPak (the granularity of its position within the larger rubric of theoretical discussion), how much the "mountains" mattered?

I personally disagree with Mr. Mansoor's appraisal. The Afghan populace lives in "a thousand Alamos" spread throughout the country, while Afghanistan's cities are relatively sparse. The Taliban derived its membership and strength from disillusioned rural Afghans, not from the urban populations in Kabul, Herat, and Mazar E Sharif - Mullah Omar's capital wasn't even Kabul, he governed from Kandahar. And you don't need resources from the mountains, the whole point is that the mountain borders are porous, allowing arms and supplies to be imported from Pakistan and, to a lesser degree, Iran. (One could also cite the sociological theories of ibn Khaldun, though that applies more directly to Arabs than to Islamic societies generally.) The Taliban doesn't need supplies and fifty borderline kafir recruits from Kabul when they can get ten devout and dedicated recruits from greater Pashtunistan and smuggle supplies across the Durand Line, a border that they don't acknowledge in the first place. There's nothing you can scrounge in the mountains that you couldn't buy in the bazaar in Peshawar or Quetta. (If you're looking for a good read, Brigadier Ian Gardiner's book about his experiences in the Dhofar Rebellion is worth its weight in gold, and one of the things he recounts is the method whereby the SOAF disrupted PFLO(AG) logistics along the non-securable Omani/South Yemeni border.)

7) Regarding this item:

And it seems to me that the bet was placed on securing the population over prioritizing "the mountains", if you see what I mean.

The thing is, it's not either/or. This comes back to our point about controlling the human terrain and the physical terrain, both of which feed back into one another. If the COIN force doesn't control the physical terrain, the insurgent enemy will be able maneuver and resupply itself, which will allow it to undermine the relationship between the COIN force/HNG and the populace (which must function in order to deny logistical support and recruits to the insurgent enemy). If the COIN force doesn't control the human terrain, they will lack the necessary intelligence to deny maneuver and interdict enemy logistics. Sanctuaries are, in essence, areas in which the enemy controls the physical and human terrain (or else, the physical and human terrain are neutral) - hence their danger.

I'm not sure you know what you've done by replying to me, I am an indefatigable commenter because I am fascinated by the subject.

I will not stop if there is something I want to discuss. If I were you, I'd back away slowly, this will end up a blog discussion tar pit with the likes of me.

On the other hand, maybe the discussion will help you a little with your dissertation :)

We are not so far apart on some issues, I remember that Michael Yon piece very well and I remember thinking the pull-back confusing. That is why I brought up the Peter Mansoor comment that I stumbled across accidentally, it seemed strange to me to dismiss the proxy war and rural aspect of the insurgency.

On Galula, or Thompson, or C.E. Callwell - there is a historical record in each case and historical controversy over "what really happened" based on such records as are available. Also, there are two sides to a conflict and we need to know what the other side thought.

I wasn't born in the US, my ancestors were some of the peoples pacified by the great small warriors of yesteryear. I can assure you, narratives or causal explanations differ based on perspective, but you know this, I'm sure. Newer and newer scholarship is changing some of the understanding of what happened.

If a small wars theorist writes a memoir or how-to manual based on personal experiences and extrapolates lessons from that experience, then the academic is obliged to search for evidence supporting the assertions of the theorist. This is the minimum standard in ANY academic field. Assertions cannot be taken on faith.

No, the first step is to do what I suggested earlier, study the records of the conflict as completely as possible. What if they were wrong and misinterpreted what they did? What if they exaggerated? What if they lied?

On sovereignty, you haven't mentioned Karzai. Clearly, we are not able to do exactly what we want, even if we run roughshod at times. And his government is a source of corruption itself. So, I don't disagree with your point about turning over power too early but our desire to have an alliance with others (NATO) may make holding on to certain roles difficult. This is a reality that cannot be wished away. There is a consensus structure to alliances and I doubt we can make them more efficient in practice, or, rather, the enormous effort required outside an eexistential conflict is not going to happen. Human beings are what they aare.

Our civilian governments cycle and each administration brings its own ideas to the table so even if the military wants to synchronize, our system itself makes it difficult. The US wasn't built to occupy or colonize other nations. Our system will always have trouble with this because of the cycle of elections.

It takes a lot of time and money to pacify a country and colonial powers justified the pacification because they wanted a captive market for European goods or they wanted to extract resources from the colony.

The math doesn't work out for us, the security benefits versus the cost is not in our favor. We spend too much money for too little benefit.

And in Afghanistan, we weirdly paid for both the counterinsurgency and insurgency, especially the proxy support next door. That is the part that will likely puzzle future historians, I wager.

Douglas Porch has a book coming out on the them of how many of these "thankless" small wars, as Calwell described them, ended up bankrupting the Empire eventually.

And now you are going to say I am misunderstanding things but what is really happening is that we are trying to cover too many topics in a blog comment section :)

So, I should shut up and if I return to this comment section tell me to cut it out because I don't have time.

I would love to read any more papers that you might publish here.

PS: Oh, I screwed this comment up. You and I are talking apples and oranges so I'm not sure this is working. I don't view the basic problem in tthe AfPak region the way most people around here do so it become difficult for me discuss this. I have a different framing of the issue for American interests.

Sorry about the double post. I am thinking about the following blog comment conversation:

The Taliban cannot win unless they eventually control the cities and villages of Afghanistan. The mountains lack people and resources. -

commenter (P Mansoor) to the thread to "Secure the Cities First?" from the "Vault".

So that was always the argument, wasn't it? Given the nature of AfPak (the granularity of its position within the larger rubric of theoretical discussion), how much the "mountains" mattered?

It seems to me the larger politico-military strategy for dealing with that aspect (which the military doesn't control) relied on confindence in powers of persuasion toward sanctuary that were perhaps misplaced.

So what should a military do when faced with this larger strategic picture?

And it seems to me that the bet was placed on securing the population over prioritizing "the mountains", if you see what I mean.

You didn't fail miserably. This has been incredibly helpful.

Janine Davidson made a similar point in a CATO session about the Kaplan book The Insurgents, she (paraphrasing) stated that COIN wasn't really tried in Afghanistan or something like that.

If no one has really implemented Galula's system successfully, then why all the raves? At best, you have a theoretical proposal that never seems to be implemented properly no matter who tries across time and space. Perhaps that should tell us something?

And if it was never properly implemented, how does anyone know it's any good?

I stand by my point on sovereignty, we are attempting to negotiate a SOFA and troop numbers. We wouldn't have to do that if we were actually running the place. Colonial administrators or outright occupations had options and used techniques that we can't or shouldn't use given the current norms of our society.

On the Dhofar paper, I am thinking something else. I am thinking territory and placement of troops and what they should do, which I know is your point too.

If we say that the population is most important and you pull back to city centers, that will work with an urban insurgency but maybe it won't with a rural insurgency or an insurgency with a close relation to a sanctuary?

I mean, I don't know. I'm just trying to figure things out.

@Madhu: Specifically regarding Galula, I would note that while we studied Galula, my own knowledge of Algeria came primarily from Horne's "A Savage War of Peace", and Martin drew from a variety of other sources in both French and English. With regard to a more holistic approach, I agree completely. The challenge arises from the wealth of case studies from which to draw, and the intricate detail of each from which one could draw salient lessons - which was, in large part, why we were eager to include a broad spectrum of theorists, sources, and practitioners in order to broaden the focus that has, in recent years, been focused solely on current and recent campaigns in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. One could write a five hundred page tome incorporating Algeria, Dhofar, Malaya, Northern Ireland, Anbar, the Arab Revolt, Cuba, the Soviet-Afghan War, Chechnya, Balochistan, and many others; but, given that few have read the 282 pages of the COIN manual, I expect its readership would be sparse.

@Bill c.: I would counter your sentiment with one of the citations in the article about the Dhofar campaign:

"[Sultan Qaboos] may not have been democratic but he was accountable in an indirect way. The lesson of what happens when you are not responsive to your people's needs had been taken fully on board. Sultan Qaboos was a benevolent autocrat who, with the freedom of action that his victory allowed him, has gently but surely advanced his country on a liberalising course towards more directly accountable government. We were not expecting instant democracy to emerge out of the victory on the jebel. But we knew that Qaboos would slowly ease things forward at its own pace."
- Ian Gardiner, "In the Service of the Sultan"

In my opinion, much of the counterproductive mission creep in Afghanistan and Iraq has revolved not around population-centric COIN theory, but around Democratic Peace Theory - the idea that the solution to all COIN conflicts is to impose a democratic system upon the populace. There are some theoretical benefits to this approach, as a population with direct say in its affairs has less motivation to support a violent insurgency promising transformation of one sort or another. A big challenge is that our idea of "democracy" is based upon concepts like religious pluralism, protection of minorities, rule of law, and universal education; elections without these national institutions is not democracy as we know it, nor is democracy itself a guarantor of peace.

The French made this mistake in Algeria, while the Dhofar Brigade pursued a much more pragmatic and realistic agenda in Dhofar. As such, Dhofar was a case study in which, to use your rubric: a. the United Kingdom, b. in pursuing its political objective (ending the insurgency and preventing societal transformation and incorporation of Dhofar/Oman into the Communist sphere of influence) c. did not substitute its own economic, security, and political goals/needs d. because their wants, needs, and desires were compatible with those of the population. The beauty of Dhofar as a case study (and Algeria as a contrast) is that the victory in Dhofar proved that fundamental social and political upheaval (which, as you noted, often causes further conflicts) is not a prerequisite for success in population-centric COIN. I believe that this is part of why ISAF and MNF-I have struggled so much: instead of finding out what Afghans and Iraqis cared about most (in Dhofar it was security, veterinary care for livestock, wells, and a handful of other basic civil affairs/infrastructure provisions that had been eschewed by Sultan Said), ISAF and MNF-I have largely been playing a guessing game stemming from poor intelligence collection and narrative control, limited access to the human terrain, and insufficient and/or inappropriate resourcing and mandate to secure the physical terrain.

Thus, should we say that population-centric COIN, as espoused by Galula, Kilcullen and Petreaus; that this type of COIN is appropriate only in those cases in which:

a. The political objective of the foreign intervening power is the same as

b. The wants, needs and desires of the local populace?

For example: As in the case of the British intervention in Dohfar where, as you suggest, both the United Kingdom and the people of Dohfar did not want to see the state and society of Dohfar (1) radically transformed along communist political, economic and social lines and (2) incorporated in the communist sphere of influence.

In all other cases (for example: as in the cases of France in Algeria and the United States in Afghanistan?), population-centric COIN, as espoused by Galula, Kilcullen and Petreaus, this type of COIN must be seen as grave error. This, given the fact that:

a. The political objective of the foreign intervening power(s) -- to radically transform these states and societies along modern western political, economic and social lines and to incorporate these entities into the western sphere of influence -- these objectives being seen as running counter to

b. The wants, needs and desires of the indigenous populations?

From the introduction:

"Population-centric COIN, as espoused by such strategists as David Galula, David Kilcullen and David Petreaus, involves fighting insurgents not by killing the insurgents themselves, but rather, by assisting a host nation government (HNG) in meeting the economic, security and political needs of the population, thus denying the insurgents the popular support needed to continue the insurgency."

The problem with this theory, yesterday and today, would seem to be that:

a. The foreign assisting nation (for example: the USA today or the former USSR yesterday),

b. In pursuing its political objective (state and societal transformation and incorporation) by other means (war),

c. Tends to substitute its (the foreign assisting nation's) economic, security and political goals/needs

d. For the often very different and/or diametrically opposed wants, needs and desires of the population.

This often being, in fact, the "root cause" of conflict.

Thus it would seem unlikely that one might either (1) prevent insurgencies or (2) defeat them by, essentially, pouring more fuel (unwanted political, economic and social change) on the fire. (Thereby, ensuring the continued and ever-expanding support of the insurgents by the population and, indeed, the support of the populations of other states and societies who have similar problems/concerns re: the political objective of the foreign nations [see "b" above].)

@Madhu: Martin may come from this with a slightly different perspective, so I'll be interested to see what he has to say. My own thoughts on your items is as follows.

1) As with any other conflict, policy-makers should be determining the desired political outcome and doing their part of the "applying", while warfighters should be following policy-maker guidance for the BOTG "application".

2) As with any conflict, the approach should be appropriate to the conditions specific to the conflict in question. I think the point of the statement is to note that we will continue to see insurgency and pre-insurgency approaches from irregular enemies, and the population-centric COIN approach will be necessary in both active and latent conflicts. This contrasts with the desire by some pundits to treat capabilities such as armor or airpower as a one-size-fits-all substitute to addressing the politics on the ground.

3) As noted, our methodology was to evaluate the theories on both the counterinsurgent (Thompson, Galula, Petraeus, Kilcullen) and guerrilla (Mao, Guevara, Zawahiri) sides of the spectrum. Martin may have a different viewpoint on this, but I thought we both saw it as being fairly consistent with the recent ideas of "population-centric COIN". In my view, part of our shared observation is that the theory is sound, but recent execution in Afghanistan and Iraq (and obviously Algeria from 1954-1962) has been problematic in the six key areas that we noted.

4) For evidence, I would point to the conflicts we studied. An early draft of the paper listed additional case studies in successful COIN (Malaya, Northern Ireland, post-2006 Anbar) and failed COIN (Arab Revolt, Cuban Revolution, Soviet-Afghan War, Chechen Wars, present day Balochistan). Any of these case studies could have been swapped with Algeria and Dhofar to illustrate the points we've discussed. We chose Algeria and Dhofar because they were good illustrations of the opposite ends of the spectrum we were discussing, and because those were two of the conflicts with which we were most familiar.

@davidbfpo: I think part of the strength of our approach has been to look at the writings of Mao and Guevara (the latter, of course, being best used to balance uneven table legs). I'd venture to say that if a theory/approach is broad enough to apply in East Asia, Central/South America, and the Middle East, then its application is likely broad enough for application in AfPak, Africa, the Caucasus, the Balkans, etc.

@Ned McDonnell III: I'm largely in agreement with your thoughts. Regarding the Rwanda example, my inclination is to look at it from the strategic level. The question would be what an appropriate political outcome would look like, and how best to achieve it. A big piece of that would have obviously been security. Western armies are great at securing locations (when properly resourced - the Clausewitzian Trinity is a cruel mistress); for a variety of reasons, Western policy-makers are less adept at marrying the application of force to the achievement of specific, coherent political goals. Hence, our observation about a coherent operational mandate.

R/Tom

To all participants in the discussion,

Thank you for valuable feedback and interesting thoughts on the subject of our paper. Here I will comment on the points where Tom included me in the train of thought. Other views expressed in relation to the paper we wrote are, in my point of view, already dealt with in an adequate and interesting way. Still, I add these points to underline my point of view in the general discussion.

I will here present some opinions on the points that Tom presented on July 12.

1) I believe our paper (as well as Tom’s reply on the topic) is quite clear when it comes to the point of policy-makers and the military commanders and how they follow guidance. Ever since the beginning of our excellent year at Strategic Studies, the fragile, but still so basic relationship within the Clausewitzian Trinity has been central. As Tom underlines in the response, I agree with him on the ‘applying’-part. This is argued for in the paper. But still it is always interesting to keep in mind that even though all can agree on the ‘applying’ of policies to the boots on the ground, it will rarely be like that in the long run in the field. That is why we discussed this in the section on ‘best practices’ and the ‘willingness to adapt’ in which I believe is relevant at all times, no matter how well the mission analysis is done.

2) and 3) In terms of this ability (and will) to adapt, point 1) and 2) over lap to a certain degree. What Tom express regarding ‘the approach should be appropriate to the conditions specific to the conflict’ is a highly relevant topic in which I support. In terms of the nature of most military units, the dynamics of the application needed is a crucial point, often a pitfall to ‘mission creep’. Plus, this is also part of the reason why a focus on the subject of population-centric COIN emerged in the paper. Both Tom and I have during the work with the paper had a certain respect for and seen the value of the application of strategic intelligence (with all its sensors and platforms) in this context. If an intervening actor can understand the focal points of the complex terrain of intelligence, it will be easier for the military decision-makers to apply the political intent of the COIN campaign.

4) No further comment.

As noted, our methodology was to evaluate the theories on both the counterinsurgent (Thompson, Galula, Petraeus, Kilcullen) and guerrilla (Mao, Guevara, Zawahiri) sides of the spectrum. Martin may have a different viewpoint on this, but I thought we both saw it as being fairly consistent with the recent ideas of "population-centric COIN". In my view, part of our shared observation is that the theory is sound, but recent execution in Afghanistan and Iraq (and obviously Algeria from 1954-1962) has been problematic in the six key areas that we noted.

Oh, I see. Then I misunderstood the article. I respectfully disagree. The US in the vast majority of cases cannot ensure the requirements and even if we could, the costs likely outweigh the benefits.

The execution has been problematic because the theory isn't sound, especially for a republic such as the US conducting alliance warfare via a third party according to 21st century norms.

French defense researcher Gregor Mathias compares each of the eight steps of Galula's theory set out in Counterinsurgency Warfare with his practice of them as described in his writings and, now for the first time, in the SAS archives and those of Galula's infantry company and battalion. The study shows that Galula systematically inflated his operational successes to match his theoretical scheme, and that he left field problems unresolved, causing his work to unravel almost immediately when he left his command. Mathias concludes that, however heuristically fruitful Galula's theory might prove for U.S. COIN doctrine, it must be interpreted and implemented under the caveat that it was not successfully field-tested by its author.

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/deconstructing-galula

The theory, even if sound, is not applicable in the vast majority of cases for the American military. How can it be? We are working through a third party, insurgency may not even be the main issue for the US, and to look at the historical record through the memoir of one man without examining other sources seems insuffiently rigorous, IMO.

And if insurgency is the main issue for the US, then we need a variety of methods to potentially apply, it can't all be population-centric.

In general terms I would deconstruct the manual as it is now and break the singular link that it has with a certain theory of state building (known as population centric COIN). Once broken up I would then rewrite the doctrine from the ground up with three general parts: 1) would be a counterinsurgency approach centered on post-conflict reconstruction; 2) would be a counterinsurgency approach centered around military action to attack insurgent sources of military power (sometimes referred to as counter-terror or CT), but not linked to an endstate of a rebuilt or newly built nation state; 3) would be a counterinsurgency approach -- perhaps call it COIN light -- that would focus largely on Special Forces with some limited conventional army support conducting Foreign Internal Defense (FID).

The trick with this revised manual would be to present doctrinal alternatives for the U.S. Army when it goes about the countering of insurgencies and conducting stability operations with teeth. The trifecta trick would be to treat these three methods of countering insurgencies as operationally equal; that is to say, we would move away from the dogmatic belief currently held that anytime an insurgency is fought it must be of the population centric (FM 3-24, aka state building) persuasion, and that methods of CT and FID are subsumed within it and hence are seen as "lesser" operations. To reemphasize the key here is operational equality of the respective three.

- Gentile at Best Defense blog

http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/11/15/gentile_how_i_would_revi...

Nice article for discussion. Much appreciated.

@Madhu: A few more thoughts, and then if you want it I'll let you have the last word.

Oh, I see. Then I misunderstood the article. I respectfully disagree. The US in the vast majority of cases cannot ensure the requirements and even if we could, the costs likely outweigh the benefits.

The execution has been problematic because the theory isn't sound, especially for a republic such as the US conducting alliance warfare via a third party according to 21st century norms.

I think that the theory (or at least the majority of it) is sound, it's our execution that has been mixed. For example, to draw a comparison between the campaigns in Dhofar and Afghanistan, let's consider our point on coherent mandate.

In Dhofar, the mandate was to stop the insurgency and stabilize Oman. This was accomplished with a military campaign to deny the insurgents' ability to maneuver and interdict their logistics, a psychological operations campaign to undermine the insurgents' legitimacy, and a civil affairs campaign to address the grievances that were fueling the insurgency in the first place. Sultan Said was deposed (or abdicated, depending on whom you ask) and his son, Sultan Qaboos, acceded and rules as a benevolent despot to this day. Goals were realistic, and commensurate with the costs that both Oman and Britain were willing to pay in order to achieve them. All of this is entirely consistent with the theories in question. It was also consistent with what you describe as "alliance warfare via a third party according to 21st century norms."

By contrast, the mandate in Afghanistan should have been to topple the Taliban and stabilize Afghanistan. Instead, the Afghan mandate has been subject to mission creep, none more incoherent than trying to force a square democracy peg into a round Afghan hole. (If you want to look at a theory with glaring flaws, Democratic Peace Theory should be at the top of your list.) Instead of reinstalling the Afghan monarchy, Mohammed Zahir Shah was intentionally reinstalled as the last king of Afghanistan, and the monarchy died with him in 2007. Our efforts to deny insurgent maneuver, interdict insurgent logistics (South Yemen being a pretty apt Dhofar corollary to Pakistan and/or Iran in the Afghan theater), undermine insurgent legitimacy, and address popular grievances have been aggressive, but ultimately ineffective for a number of reasons. Afghanistan has been, at best, a mixed bag with respect to execution of the theories of which you're critical. Similar observations could be made about Iraq.

The theory, even if sound, is not applicable in the vast majority of cases for the American military. How can it be? We are working through a third party, insurgency may not even be the main issue for the US, and to look at the historical record through the memoir of one man without examining other sources seems insuffiently rigorous, IMO.

I'm honestly not sure which "third party" you keep referring to. GIROA? My perception is that we're working with GIROA, but American troops are still on the ground doing much (probably most) of the heavy lifting in both combat and non-combat operations. Regarding your assertion that COIN theory is "not applicable in the vast majority of cases for the American military", I don't see how that's supported by the evidence available. The American military has conducted either COIN, or something close to it, in nearly every conflict it has fought since 1991 with the exceptions of Operations Desert Fox and Odyssey Dawn. That includes Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, OEF-TS, OEF-HOA, and OEF-P. The Army is currently shifting itself to engage in Regionally Aligned Force operations, which can only responsibly be described as "pre-emptive COIN".

I also take issue with the assertion that we've approached the topic through the "memoir of one man" (Galula). In fact, as noted in our bibliography and throughout our essay, our research drew from a variety of theorists, as well as a variety of works specific to the campaigns in Algeria, Dhofar, and the other campaigns I mentioned in my previous response.

And if insurgency is the main issue for the US, then we need a variety of methods to potentially apply, it can't all be population-centric.

I have the utmost respect for Colonel Gentile, who has had the fortitude to say things that ought to be obvious (mainly about the continued need for combined arms proficiency). That said, the cited passage strikes me as an oversimplification, based in part upon a long-standing desire by mainstream Army leadership to eschew COIN (which is challenging) in favor of combined arms operations that don't deal with politics or host nation populations - (which is comparatively easy). Where I personally differ with you and Colonel Gentile is not over disagreements about Galula, but over disagreements about Clausewitz. It is the duty of the political leaders in Washington to determine strategy based upon political goals, and then to properly resource, direct, and empower military leaders to accomplish those goals. In Afghanistan and Iraq, as in Algeria and Dhofar, that involved a unified effort to counter protracted insurgencies. Clausewitz asserts that the political element is supreme, and we have seen throughout history that an army can win militarily and still lose the war. Criticize Galula all you want, and perhaps rightly so; the French lost in Algeria, which makes the Galula's popularity about as counterintuitive as the sheer volume of references to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq in the 2006 FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5. That said, Galula agrees with Thompson, Petraeus, Mattis, Kilcullen, Mao, Guevara, and Zawahiri (as cited in our article) that in an insurgency, the population is central to whether the insurgent or the counterinsurgent wins. As such, population-centricity must be the foundation of any effective COIN campaign.

All of that being said, I think you make a valuable point with your earlier statement about "conducting alliance warfare via a third party according to 21st century norms"; however, I would look at it from a different angle. To compare Dhofar and Afghanistan once more, the Dhofar coalition consisted of Oman, the United Kingdom, Imperial Iran, Jordan, and "Omani" troops recruited from Pakistani Baluchistan, all of which brought important capabilities to the fight and worked closely together toward a unified, realistic goal under central leadership. By contrast, Afghanistan involves a laundry list of NATO and non-NATO allies, often with non-complimentary or even competing strategic goals, which has forced America to compromise in various ways and undermined the overall campaign effort. (I expect that the Regionally Aligned Forces concept currently being pursued by the Army is, in part, an effort to circumvent these challenges in future campaigns.) Alliance warfare (as consistent with 21st century norms about "legitimacy", "multilateralism", and a variety of other buzz words) has seemed to hinder rather than facilitate success in operations such as these. This doesn't lead me to question the application of COIN theory to alliance warfare; rather, it leads me to question whether alliance warfare is a necessary or effective manner of achieving American strategic goals in the first place. This raises questions as to whether "alliance warfare" should be the norm, or whether future America should be prepared to act unilaterally in pursuit of its strategic goals in the absence of international unity.

We could also get into a deeper discussion of the cost/benefit issue that you raised, and while I would not that the Dhofar campaign was both consistent with the theories we've been discussing and conducted at a fraction of the comparative cost in blood and treasure of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, these are all issues for another discussion.

Thanks again for your challenging response. (And hopefully Martin will jump in here at some point.)

R/Tom

Rereading my comments, I can see that they are confusing. Let me clarify:

1. By "third party," I really meant that we are not sovereign, we are working with another government ((as you stated.) And yet, there are elements of an occupation too. We removed a government and helped to install a new one. That seems very different to me from the colonial nature of Algeria or even the preservation of status quo in Dhofar.

A.A. Cohen in his book on Galula has the following Thomas X. Hammes quote:

You hit the fundamental problem with an expeditionary power using Galula. His book is written for the domestic power. It is based on creating legitimate government. If you are the domestic power, you can simply fire those who are incompetent or corrupt.

http://www.amazon.com/Galula-Writings-Officer-Defined-Counterinsurgency/...

2. When I say, "we cannot do," I should have said, "we have not had success attempting," because I believe US history shows our ability to do these sorts of interventions is hampered by our very nature of government. Too many cooks in the kitchen. Only a truly existential conflict can iron these domestic differences out.

3. Your points about Domestic Peace Theory are intriguing. I started a Council thread here some time back on modernization theory and population-centric counterinsurgency. I will have to add your comments to that thread!

http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=15993

Finally,

4. Dhofar is an interesting case study but it seems different scholars approach Dhofar from different lenses:

This paper analyzes the uses of force in two successful counterinsurgency (COIN) campaigns to delineate under what conditions the use of military force serves the state’s strategic ends, and under what conditions it hinders them. The conventional wisdom prescribes the strictly limited use of force in COIN. Historically, however, successful states have used considerable force, including massive force and including the targeting of civilians. I argue that successful counterinsurgency requires using force selectively: to punish and deter, for denial, and to show resolve. Further, I sketch the conditions under which each type of force is likely to achieve state political ends, and under what conditions it is not. The cases are the British-led campaign in Dhofar, Oman, 1965-1976, and the U.S.-backed campaign in El Salvador, 1979-1992.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1644451

What a wonderful intellectual exercise. I cannot thank the authors enough.

I found the following book review (PRISM) of the Mathias book I linked earlier but I lack the background to know if is a good assessment:

Through the years, there have been minimal challenges to Galula’s claims of his reported successes. He remained unchallenged throughout the U.S. war in Vietnam despite the fact that the RAND Corporation incorporated his work into its study to establish a COIN doctrine for that conflict. With his contemporary rediscovery, he went largely unchallenged until recently. This book represents the most concerted effort in questioning his claims and ideas. We must continue to challenge our assumptions in stability operations writ large. We cannot simply apply Galula’s “eight principals” of Counterinsurgency Warfare to any given operation. But this is what we have ostensibly done in Iraq and Afghanistan given the undeniable influence of Galula’s work on Field Manual 3-24. Take the example of “force ratio” in the manual where there is an actual minimum ratio force for success in COIN operations across the board. Such simplistic constructs, which have been used in a “plug and play” fashion, have hamstrung critical thinking in Iraq and Afghanistan. This search for a blueprint solution is emblematic of the historic rigidity in U.S. doctrine.

http://www.ndu.edu/press/galula-in-algeria.html

I think this is where I become confused because I lack either a social/political science or military background. Did the military follow a "plug-and-play" construct and do social science models inadvertently encourage such thinking?

What does it mean to have "laws" of counterinsurgency? How can any social science model be divorced of context and how does one "do" context when it comes to military doctrine? This is where I need the help of people with practical experience.

Now see, this is why I like to hang out here. The subjects are important, the tone is civil and I always learn something.

What a nice response. I don't want a last word and I need to think about all that you have presented (again, thank you) so I'll just throw a question out to the "audience."

When someone talks about "classic" or "semiclassical" COIN work (as mentioned in another article around here) what does that mean? Why are they considered classic? What do contemporaries and other information show about these classical works and their assertions?

Since I am always mentioning Galula, I'll use his example. He wrote about his experiences with--and study of--small wars, and then ascribed certain outcomes to certain behaviors of the counterinsurgent.

For his Algerian experience, what do contemporaries say? What do field records say? What do opponents records, such as they are, say? What does other evidence "say" about causal links to counterinsurgent action and insurgent behavior? That's what I meant by viewing the information in a more holistic way. I'm sure people have done this but where can I find these studies?

Tom,

Thank you for a thoughtful and respectful response to the three of us. I find your arguments to be compelling. Thank you for laying out a framework that works. Good luck in your studies.

Ned.

I would like to thank the authors for this well-written and thought provoking article. Well done.

But what does the following mean in terms of third party support for a government (if it fits into a larger national policy)?

COIN-based solutions to violent conflict can and should be applied wherever possible to latent conflicts in order to prevent them from breaking out into insurgent conflicts in the first place.

1. Who exactly should do this "applying"?

2. Are there non-COIN based solutions that may be applied to violent conflicts? Again, who should do the "applying"

3. What definition of COIN-based are we using?

4. What evidence supports the assertion that applying these methods--once defined--can solve the basic problem--once defined?

And so on.

Stephen L. Melton's article pairs nicely with this article for discussion:

http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/aligning-fm-3-24-counterinsurgency-...

PS: For discussion and not really directed at the authors, but the lumping of Afghanistan and Iraq together seems often to lead toward looking at historical conflicts that prioritize a sort of Middle East orientation. For AfPak or some parts of Africa, etc, are there different or better models to understand contemporary processes leading to non-state/state actors as possible threats? I think Admiral Stavridis recently wrote an WP oped that was interesting in that regard. I guess I'm really asking "what aspect of an insurgency should we be concerned with?"

Excellent comparison of two 'small wars', one actually was small, the other Algeria was big.

One wonders if the 'six requirements' can be readily applied to other contemporary 'small wars'.

Agreed: interesting, thoughtful and well-documented article. Too long for my agèd brain and the thick celtic cranium that covers it. As I was reading (most of) the article, I wondered if one of the problems large military forces have in these situations is a tendency to view Special Forces as conventional war on the cheap.

Big forces fighting each other tend to diminish the importance of idiosyncratic factors. One problem that COIN forces may be rubbing up against are other, older conflicts that re-surface during the opportunistic disorder of civil conflict.

That is to say, by way of example, that had the West framed Rwanda as an insurgency and tried to intervene in support of the government of the assassinated president, ¿would the historical magnet of Hitu and Tutsi (I think those are the names) conflict have trumped the best laid COIN plans and communications of an otherwise legitimate peace-seeking government and its allies?