Small Wars Journal

Indigenous Forces and Sanctuary Denial

Sat, 02/09/2008 - 2:38pm
Indigenous Forces and Sanctuary Denial

Enduring Counterinsurgency Imperatives

by LTC Robert M. Cassidy

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This article examines the twin imperatives to employ indigenous forces and to deny sanctuary in order to succeed in counterinsurgency. It examines American counterinsurgency doctrine from the Vietnam era and from the current era to glean enduring tenets for these two essential components of any counterinsurgency campaign. The article concludes with a distillation of some best practices for using indigenous forces to deny sanctuary and suggests some operational concepts for denying sanctuary in this long war.

Download interim version of article as PDF

About the Author(s)


Thinker (not verified)

Wed, 02/20/2008 - 3:45pm

I enjoyed reading this essay and am further curious what the author considers essential to winning these wars. Seems there may be a significant difference between employing a successful counterinsurgency effort and a driving to a successful resolution to the conflict.

The essay points to the need to isolate insurgents from military aid, both internal and external, and to that end conducting cross-border raids to expunge enemy support nodes. What this suggests is that while it may be politically unfeasible to go after the support state directly, victory can be achieved by defeating the surrogate force, even when necessitating entry into the support/host state territory. My view is that offense is better than defense, and fighting insurgents rather than their backers counts as defense. What does the author think of this assertion? Should we consider taking the fight through guerrilla proxies to the enemy host states? Seems that a host enemy state presented with a sustained internal problem would be consumed with that challenge rather than affording attention and resources on a non-state surrogate force. In other words, give the host state a taste of its own medicine, for it is bitter.

Perhaps a mix of surrogate and host counterforce strategies can win the day?

Harka (not verified)

Sat, 02/09/2008 - 6:48pm

A well focused and descriptive essay. US and others experiences well established. I think that integrate theirs recommendations in a "comprehensive approach" from both political and strategical perspectives could runs. By the way, I suggest that nobody shouldn't forget the "harkis" history: they fought for French principles and objetives and they lost theirs lives and families...