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Treating Islamic Violent Extremism as a Pandemic Super-Infection: Inverse Darwinist Operations Line of Operation Explained
Authors Note: This is a continuation of the article “Treating Islamic Violent Extremism as a Pandemic Super-infection” (http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/treating-islamic-violent-extremism-as-a-pandemic-super-infection). That article outlined a concept for defeating the Global Jihadi Movement (GJM) consisting of three Lines of Effort (LOE) and two Lines of Operation (LOO). Future articles will continue the process of explaining this concept. This particular article will explain the LOO known as Inverse Darwinist Operations. By following the concept for this LOO, the leadership of a Violent Extremist Organization (VEO) within the GJM will be set up for defeat.
The platoon had been laying there waiting for hours in the cold. Their mission was to disrupt enemy operations. Slowly two nervous enemy soldiers enter the kill zone looking left to right; they were the point element for a much larger main force that is was attempting to avoid contact. The noise was defining as the claymores exploded sending hundreds of steel balls into the kill zone. The thunder continues with bursts of small arms fire punctuated by the thud of SMAW-D rounds that could felt as much as heard. Tens of thousands of dollars of ammunition expended in less than a minute. Hearing the ambush the enemy main force melts back into the woods and moves to an alternate route ultimately reaching its destination 2 hours later than planned. Friendly units report successful disruption of enemy movement and death of an HVI Corporal Joe Snuffy leader of a four man 'Direct Action Cell' and one associate. Another overwhelming success achieved the unit goes back to its base.
The above is the conventional equivalent of our counterinsurgency targeting methodology. Technically speaking the enemy force was 'Disrupted'. However, the friendly forces actions prevent its ability to deliver a decisive blow. In short, by constantly, attacking the first available target the enemy force is never ‘Defeated’.
Clearly defining operational terminology is fundamental and due to the lack of proper terminology usage across the US military, I will take a second to create a common understanding. Of the terms most commonly misused, "Clear" and "Disrupt" are the most applicable to this concept. Both "Clear" and "Disrupt" mean more than showing up in an area for a few hours. They actually mean:
"Clear – A tactical mission task that requires the commander to remove all enemy forces and eliminate organized resistance within an assigned area."[i]
"Disrupt – A tactical mission task in which a commander integrates direct and indirect fires, terrain, and obstacles to upset an enemy’s formation or tempo, interrupt his timetable, or cause his forces to commit prematurely or attack in piecemeal fashion."[ii]
The major point to take away from these definitions is neither of these terms has a long-term effect. If you place your hand in one side of a bucket of water and move it as fast as you can to the other side, you have "Cleared" and "Disrupted" the water. However, the bucket is still full of water.
To win The Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), you must Defeat, Neutralize, or Destroy the enemy. Destroy is not appropriate in this conflict because it is focused on the major end items and personnel of your enemy not the psychological aspects of a ideology.[iii] However, the tasks “Neutralize” and “Defeat” are very appropriate with “Defeat” being the most suitable for the desired endstate.
"Neutralize – (Army) A tactical mission task that results in rendering enemy personnel or materiel incapable of interfering with a particular operation."[iv]
"Defeat – A tactical mission task that occurs when an enemy force has temporarily or permanently lost the physical means or the will to fight. The defeated force’s commander is unwilling or unable to pursue his adopted course of action, thereby yielding to the friendly commander’s will, and can no longer interfere to a significant degree with the actions of friendly forces. Defeat can result from the use of force or the threat of its use."[v]
The concept of treating the GJM as a super infection combines LOO/Es with the desired endstate of defeating the GJM, not just disrupting it. Whereas our current methodology over the last decade plus has been focused on disruption via what is commonly refered to as 'Whack-A-Mol'.[vi] A key component to the defeat methodology is the network focused LOO that uses operational patience to strike only when needed until the conditions are set to defeat the VEO in either its entirety or within a given a theater of operations.
The two prevalent targeting methodologies are D3A and F3EAD. In theory, they are supposed to be applied in a continuous circle that provides for consecutive operations by using the intelligence gathered during a previous operation see Figure 1.
Figure 1. High-Value Individual Targeting Process[vii]
For most units, this is not possible. The highly centralized command and control mechanisms used in the various theaters does not allow for this. For the vast majority of units after a mission is conducted an entirely new mission must be approved. Therefore, there is no ability to conduct strikes in a rapid sequence, and the most immediately exploitable intelligence often passes its latest time of intelligence value. As a result D3A and F3EAD going from being a circle to, at best, a series of contiguous line segments as represented in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Normal Operations Timeline
Thus even if the operation did disrupt the VEO, it has recovered by the time another operation occurs. Conducting operations in this way allows a VEO to accept disruption as a regular part of doing business and therefore it is not truly disruptive.
Super Infection Targeting Methodology
To review, the overall concept is to treat the GJM as a super infection. The concept consists of three LOEs and two LOOs see Figure 3. The three LOEs are predominantly nonlethal with the purpose of preventing the spread and acceptance of the GJM ideology. This infect inoculates a population within an area isolating the targeted VEO from popular support. Then there are two LOOs, one of which focuses on the cyber domain and the other predominantly on kinetic operations. This kinetic LOO is called the Inverse Darwinist Line of Operations (IDLOO). The purpose of IDLOO is to de-evolve a VEO's resistance to COIN operations by conducting lethal and non-lethal operations in a manner that causes the organization to promote leadership that is less competent, less aggressive, possess less OPSEC, and is less capable at Information Operations.
Figure 3. LOEs and LOOs Concept
IDLOO uses known epidemic vaccination percentages as a reference to determine a decisive point. It has been proven that the spread of an epidemic can be arrested if you achieve an effective vaccination ratio of 96%.[viii] The important word is effective; this effect can be achieved by vaccinating 30% of the population.[ix] Due to the different command structures used by various groups, a hard number for all groups is not possible. However, as long as the key association nodes are targeted, and a loss of 30-50% of a VEO's leadership is achieved in rapid succession then the VEO will at least be forced back to the latent incipient phase where the other LOEs designed to reduce the ideological influence and local support will prevent its recovery.
This LOO is accomplished in three phases; leadership capabilities assessment, chosen leader promotion via MILDEC and kinetic strikes, and lethal strike synchronization. To prevent a ‘Whack-A-Mole’ style approach targets will only be struck as a form of immediate lifesaving defense or to assist in degrading the capabilities and capacity of the VEO’s leadership. The flow chart in Figure 4 demonstrates the decision flowchart for performing kinetic strikes.
Figure 4. Targeting Flow Chart
Phase I: Leadership Capabilities Assessment
Phase I starts when a VEO is targeted for Defeat and ends after the full assessment of the target(s) and the immediate threat analysis is completed. Leadership capabilities assessments are a key component to this LOO. The steps are laid out in Figure 5. It is important to note that a target competence and position as a key node are more important than actual rank in the command structure. Once friendly forces identify a leader, the leader is rated on a scale of 1-10 with 10 extremely competent and aggressive and 1 being extremely incompetent or passive. After being placed in the link chart the importance of the target is based on its binding strength. If the target is critical to the linkage of various branches of a VEO, then the target is referred to as a key node (KN). Due to the carrying structures of different VEOs, an exact number of branches for a key node may be different.
Figure 5. Leadership Assessment Steps
Phase II: Chosen Leader Promotion via MILDEC and Kinetic Strikes
Phase II starts after the immediate threat decision and ends with the decision to execute the network-wide synchronized kinetic operations. It is during this phase that the network analysis is compiled and the leadership of the VEO is degraded. Only limited strikes are conducted and only to facilitate the advancement of incompetent leadership. It is important to note that every strike conducted during this phase may prolong the time needed to achieve the Decisive Point (DP). The KNs are mapped out and a strike plan to take out as many of the KNs as possible as quickly as possible is developed. The targeting flow remains circular in nature with targets and plans being constantly reassesses. Red on Red fighting is promoted during this phase. Additionally, as the DP is approached and synchronized with the other LOO and LOEs, the massing of combat power may begin.
Phase III: Lethal Strike Synchronization
Phase III starts with the decision to execute network-wide synchronized kinetic operations and ends when VEO leadership network is Defeated. Final synchronization with the Cyber LOO and containment LOEs is conducted. Combat power is surged to the theater. A key component of this phase is a shift from current C2 methodologies to a mission command methodology. The Higher command will synchronize target sequence, assign assets. Lower levels of command will finalize tactical plans with the assets assigned. After initiation of the sequence, release authorities are lowered to the GFC and follow-on targeting is approved by GFC’s next higher commander without using the current CONOP process. It is an essential task that operations not be slowed down by our current highly centralized command and control procedures.
The Inverse Darwinist Operations LOO is the kinetic arm of the concept. During most of the campaign, this LOO has a low operational tempo with just enough assets to conduct extremely limited strikes. Once the other LOOs and LOEs have reached the ability to prevent support from the populace and disrupt the communications and messaging of the targeted VEO, forces are surged. With KNs killed or captured, the VEO will be unable to coordinate operations. Continued strikes beyond the KNs will assist in making the VEO infrastructure unviable. At that point, it is up to the LOEs to prevent reconstitution of the VEO from the latent incipient phase.
[i] U.S. Army, ADRP 1-02: Terms and Military Symbols, November 2016, 1-16.
[ii] U.S. Army, ADRP 1-02: Terms and Military Symbols, November 2016, 1-31.
[iii] Destroy also implies you will accomplish victory by attrition, something not appropriate for an ideology supported by a civilian population as well as a military force.
[iv] U.S. Army, ADRP 1-02: Terms and Military Symbols, November 2016, 1-67.
[v] U.S. Army, ADRP 1-02: Terms and Military Symbols, November 2016, 1-26.
[vi] Gordon Adams, Richard Sokolsky, “The Pitfalls of a Whack-a-Mole Strategy Against ISIS”, Foreign Policy, May 28, 2015, Accessed March 29, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/05/28/the-pitfalls-of-a-whack-a-mole-strategy-against-isis/.; Bill Gertz, “For White House Counterterror Adviser, Media Attacks Are Latest Theater of Battle”, The Washington Free Beacon, February 27, 2017, Accessed March 29, 2017, http://freebeacon.com/national-security/white-house-counterterror-adviser-media-attacks-latest-theater-battle/; This is just two examples there are many more.
[vii] U.S. Army, FM 3-60: The Targeting Process, November 2010, B–2, Accessed March 29, 2017, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/3-60/fm3-60.pdf.
[viii] Nicholas Christakis, "Nicholas Christakis: How social networks predict epidemics", Video file, 17:54, TED.com. Posted by TED@cannes, June 2010, Accessed August 29, 2016, http://www.ted.com/talks/nicholas_christakis_how_social_networks_predict....
[ix] Gary Slutkin, "Gary Slutkin: Let's Treat Violence Like a Contagious Disease", Video file, 14:08. TED.Com. Posted by TEDMED, April 2013, Accessed August 29, 2016, http://www.ted.com/talks/gary_slutkin_let_s_treat_violence_like_a_contag....