Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Counterinsurgency 101

Welcome, class.

You are in Counterinsurgency 101. This is an introductory level course in the principles and implementation of a strategy to counteract insurgency. In this class, you will learn how to identify an insurgency, how to develop a plan to counteract that insurgency, how to defeat the insurgency, and how to leave the host nation in a position where it can keep its boots on the throats of the bad guys.

First and foremost, please understand this. When you are running the counterinsurgency (COIN), the insurgents are BAD GUYS. They are not "freedom fighters." They are not romanticized rebels. They are people whose sole intent is to destabilize a lawful government and either force concessions from that government or seize power.

If you do not agree that the insurgents in Iraq are BAD GUYS, then you are in the wrong class. You need to go see Ms. O'Donnell in Room 69, where she is teaching "Propaganda 205: Enabling Terrorists."

There are two books that you will need to read in order to pass this course. They are: Pacification in Algeria: 1956–1958, David Galula, and US Army Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency, LTG David H. Petraeus. These two publications, collectively, now serve as the Pentagon's Bible on conducting COIN ops.

Ok, I'm not so arrogant that I believe I'm capable of lecturing anyone on how to conduct COIN. Truth be told, I would be a "B" student at best in courses taught by either Galula or Petraeus. General Petraeus, by the way, happens to be the theater commander for Multinational Force: Iraq. He is a scholar warrior, having earned a Ph.D from Princeton and having led a successful COIN operation in Northern Iraq. The Senior Civilian Advisor to MNF-Iraq is David Kilcullen. Read his blog post here.

There are five overarching requirements for successful COIN operations:

  • U.S. and Host Nation (HN) military commanders and the HN government together must devise the plan for attacking the insurgents’ strategy and focusing the collective effort to bolster or restore government legitimacy.
  • HN forces and other counterinsurgents must establish control of one or more areas from which to operate. HN forces must secure the people continuously within these areas.
  • Operations should be initiated from the HN government’s areas of strength against areas under insurgent control. The host nation must retain or regain control of the major population centers to stabilize the situation, secure the government’s support base, and maintain the government’slegitimacy.
  • Regaining control of insurgent areas requires the HN government to expand operations to secure and support the population. If the insurgents have established firm control of a region, their military apparatus there must be eliminated and their politico-administrative apparatus rooted out.
  • Information operations (IO) must be aggressively employed to accomplish the following:
  1. Favorably influence perceptions of HN legitimacy and capabilities.
  2. Obtain local, regional, and international support for COIN operations.
  3. Publicize insurgent violence.
  4. Discredit insurgent propaganda and provide a more compelling alternative to the insurgent ideology and narrative.
As you watch developments in Iraq over the next several months, watch how closely US operations follow this guidance.

We are not in the middle of a war in Iraq. The war is over. Our side won. Nor are we an occupying army in Iraq. Iraq is a sovereign state with a duly elected government. The government of Iraq is not opposing our presence in their country. Ergo, it is not an occupation. What we are engaged in is a classic counterinsurgency. The only question left to be resolved is whether the Scholar Warrior was brought on board too late.